Monday, July 16, 2007

Third-World Missionaries Come Into Their Own

I'm back from our weekend camping trip. We had a great time! And what an intriguing article to come home to - the transcript of Chuck Colson's "Breakpoint" radio program today, entitled "Moving the Equator North."

If you're like me, you've been concerned and frustrated to read of the increasing immigration of religious peoples from the Third World into Europe. That can almost always be translated to read "the increasing immigration of Muslims." But not this time!

Colson's program highlights the Christian missionaries coming to Europe from nations in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. For many years, missionaries moved unilaterally from the Western, developed nations to those continents. But the tide is turning. Colson quotes from a new book by Phillip Jenkins,

As he writes in The New Faces of Christianity: Believing the Bible in the Global South, 60 percent of the estimated two billion Christians in the world live in Africa, Asia, or Latin America. By 2050, there will be an estimated three billion Christians, 75 percent of whom will live in what is the “Global South.”

But numbers only tell a part of the story. These Southern Christians have a much stronger belief in the authority of Scripture than their Western counterparts. As a Kenyan bishop said, “Our understanding of the Bible is different from them. We are two different churches.”

This belief in biblical authority produces the exuberant faith and the desire to share it that Europeans and Americans desperately need.

It also promises to change Christianity—and not just in the Global South. According to Jenkins, “as the center of gravity of the Christian world moves ever southward, the conservative traditions prevailing in the global South matter even more.”

After being "the senders" for so long, it is encouraging, in a way, to find that the people to whom we've been sending missionaries all these years have reached the point of taking responsibility, not only for their own churches, but for reaching out to those who desperately need the gospel. It is long past time for us to be supporting these national leaders in ministering, within their own nations and around the world.


Rebecca said...

Very interesting post, and very true. In fact this was practically the theme of my dh's seminary graduation, since the speaker was an African bishop who spoke about the re-evangelization of Sweden by missionaries from his country -- from churches originally planted by Swedish missionaries! It reminds me in a way of how the Irish Christians kept the faith alive during the years of the barbarian invasions of the Roman Empire.

Thanks for the link to my blog!

Thank you

Marcy Muser said...

Thanks Rebecca! I grew up as a missionary kid in Latin America, so this topic is near and dear to my heart. I'd never thought about it in relation to the Irish Christians, but I think you're right. The Lord always seems to provide a way for the church to survive somewhere, to keep the message alive and to spread the gospel again in succeeding generations.