The worldwide missionary movement is no longer mainly Western. Back to Jerusalem is a prominent example of a missionary movement that developed apart from a connection to Western structures. Many Christians in the West rejoice when they hear about the work of these non-Western missionaries. Others express concern. Are they properly trained? Do they have member care in place? Do they know what they are doing?
Although it is good to ask critical questions, we must be careful that they are not motivated by a kind of protectionism. Sometimes the underlying assumption is that only the Western church can provide the proper training and has the proper structures to send out missionaries. I would argue that we have reason to rejoice that so many new movements join this great work, and that we would be wise to avoid trying to control the missionary narrative. After all, it is not ours.
A danger of developing missionary strategy is that we adopt a mindset that we have to make this happen. That we can somehow manage mission. That it is up to us to reach the world. When God then raises up a mission movement quite apart from any of our efforts, it can be considered a threat. Unless of course, we can bring it under our control somehow. And this can be easily done, because in the West we have the money, the infrastructure and the influence.
Mission leaders from the West can call a conference of local evangelists, pay their air fees, host them and bring their teaching, their methods and their viewpoints. Who could object to a free conference with great teaching? It is all done with good intentions, but how easy is it to forget to listen to the wisdom God has given them, and to just assume our methods will work in their context!
It is a challenge to come alongside and support, instead of absorbing new mission movements into our structures. But it is necessary, because the world needs the fullness of the grace that God has poured out on different churches. Each brings a richness of experience, wisdom and traditions that we could easily neutralise by forming them into our image. But if we learn to rejoice in and promote this God-given diversity, we can see the gospel reach into areas that the West has been unable to reach.
We also rejoice in the surprise. New mission movements are a powerful reminder that God is at work and we see only a fraction of what is going on. When we struggle, we can take comfort that the completion of his great commission does not just depend on the shrinking churches in the West. And we are put into our place, in a good way, by the Lord who is really in charge of his work.
And we rejoice, because God can use the energy of these new movements to encourage us and their dedication to challenge us. We would be wise to not only offer these new movements our support and strengths, but also be eager to build up by them, as we are by no means without weaknesses.
As Back to Jerusalem it is our desire to share the joy of what God is doing through this particular mission movement and stand with them, as we work together for that day when mission is no more.