Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Presbyterian Outlook: Presbyterian mission in a flat world

Presbyterian Outlook: Presbyterian mission in a flat world -- free registration required to read the full article

Scott Sundquist writes in the first of a three part series on mission:
"History is not the story of those who “sense” there is a problem. We all sense that there are problems in governments, societies, and churches. Everyone knows it and everyone complains about it. History is marked by those who have the clarity to see when it is time to act, those who understand why we must act, and those who can then communicate how to act.

Very few Presbyterians are pleased with our denomination’s involvement in global mission at present. Very few people are pleased to know that at one time we had more than 2,000 full-time missionaries serving in the world (1959) and now we have fewer than 240. This is not a matter of theology or ideology. This is a general frustration with the present missional and cultural context in which we find our churches and ourselves. The world’s needs and the Gospel imperative both point to the obligation to move forward with greater innovation, participation, and creativity. This is not the time for a single prophetic leader to come forward and say, “This is the way.” This is the time when all men and women of goodwill, committed to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, hold hands and say, “Come, let’s all move forward together. Step in the river and let’s go to the promised land of mission.”

The promised land of mission is a place where Chinese, Koreans, Brazilians, Costa Ricans, Nigerians, and Kenyans are already there to greet us and welcome us. Our future in mission is led by our past faithfulness in mission. Mission today is messy, unorganized, and powerful. It is like the Holy Spirit of the living God: unpredictable, but powerful and transformative. In the words of New York Times reporter and commentator, Thomas Friedman, the missional world is “flat.” All people now have access to participation and innovation in mission. It is not just the number of adherents who are now heavily weighted to the South—thank you, Mr. Philip Jenkins—it is Christian mission that is basically a non-western enterprise with greater participation and access by second- and third-world Christians. ..."

Our future in mission is led by our past faithfulness in mission. God certainly works in amazing ways, and sometimes, to our way of seeing things, ironic ways.

The Great Ends of the Church were first proclaimed by the Presbyterian Church of North America nearly 100 years ago, at a time when the mission field was quite active in the Presbyterian Church. The first of these set the tone for what the Presbyterian Church saw as its reason for being: The proclamation of the Gospel for the salvation of humankind.

These Great Ends were adopted by the successor denominations, the United Presbyterian Church in the USA and our current denomination, The Presbyterian Church (USA). The General Assembly Council has adopted the six Great Ends as its mission statement.

Am I concerned that the earthly leadership in mission has moved out of the United States and Europe? Not at all! God, who is, after all, in charge, has called leaders in every time and place to carry on the work of the Church. It seems that we may now be called to follow the lead of our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world.

I am looking forward to reading Scott Sundquist's other articles in this series.

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