John Piper’s Desiring God Ministries is concerned about what they call the “theological famine” in the global church. This post from the DG blog notes that some estimate that 85% of pastors have never had any theological education. One of the new groups to address this situation is Training Leaders International, which DG is partnering with. Here is the DG Blog’s description:
This ministry was born out of a desire to provide careful theological education to places where training is hard to come by. This ministry has brought together an outstanding board of well-known godly men to help the mission.
Training Leaders International equips young evangelical scholars to train church leaders where theological training is lacking or not available. Seasoned missionaries and cross-cultural teachers mentor young competent evangelical scholars who have the desire to teach but do not understand how to do so in a different culture.
The next sentence is important and exciting:
Every trip is done at the request of, in cooperation with, and in submission to local national leaders, theological institutions and churches.
This is an important trend: the idea that people who are privileged to have more resources, education, or other blessings don’t automatically know what’s best for the people that they serve. It’s a true partnership that treats the people being served with dignity and not simply as victimized or underserved. I discussed this trend a bit more here. Also, I posted some quotes from an article that discussed the disconnects that Americans can have when doing short-term missions here.
From his recent sermon, The Legacy of Antioch:
Meet the Global South
Let’s review the situation of the world today in regard to the spread of Christianity, and what this new term Global South means. The Global South refers to the astonishing growth of the Christian church in Africa, Latin America, and Asia while the formerly dominant centers of Christian influence in Europe and America are weakening. For example:
- At the beginning of the twentieth century, about 71 percent of professing Christians in the world lived in Europe. By the end of the twentieth century, that number had shrunk to 28 percent. 43 percent of the Christians now lived in Latin America and Africa.1
- In 1900, Africa had 10 million Christians, which was about 10 percent of the population. By 2000, the number of Christians was 360 million, about half the population of the continent. This is probably the largest shift in religious affiliation that has ever occurred, anywhere.2
- There are 17 million baptized members of the Anglican church in Nigeria, compared with 2.8 million in the United States.3
- “This past Sunday more Anglicans attended church in each of Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda than did Anglicans in Britain and Canada and Episcopalians in the United States combined.”
- “The number of practicing Christians in China is approaching the number in the United States.”4
- “Last Sunday . . . more Christian believers attended church in China than in all of so-called ‘Christian Europe.’”
- Kenya has more people in Christian churches on Sunday than Canada.
- “More believers worship together in Nagaland than in Norway.”
- “More Christian workers from Brazil are active in cross cultural ministry outside their homelands than from Britain or from Canada.” In other words, the churches of the Global South are increasingly sending churches.
- Last Sunday “more Presbyterians were in church in Ghana than in Scotland.”5
- “This past week in Great Britain, at least fifteen thousand Christian foreign missionaries were hard at work evangelizing the locals. Most of these missionaries are from Africa and Asia.”6
“In a word,” Mark Noll says, “the Christian church has experienced a larger geographical redistribution in the last fifty years than in any comparable period in its history, with the exception of the very earliest years of church history.”7
The West Is Not Done in Sending Missionaries
This is a great cause for Christians to rejoice in the sovereign grace of God. But what it does not mean is that the day of sending missionaries from our churches in the West is over. That would be a tragic misunderstanding of the situation. Partnership in mission with the Global South does not mean that all the unreached peoples of the world can be reached by people who are in the Global South. Don’t buy into the idea that we should send our money, not our people. That would sound very much like: “Let them shed their blood, not ours; we’ll just send money.”
The point of the sermon was this: “The Legacy of Antioch is that it was a mission church that became a sending church through the partnership of Barnabas and Saul, who in the end were sent out by the church to which they were sent.” Piper also highlights the need for Christian instruction after conversion:
In all your evangelism and church planting, don’t neglect to teach the converts and to take them deep into the gospel and build them up so they are stable and strong….
In other words, he would do what Barnabas and Saul did. They saw a great ingathering, and they taught and taught and taught. They strengthened the believers. They sank the roots of the people down deep. They brought stability. They built a foundation for missions.
All over the world (you read this in all the literature), the cry is for trained, strong, Bible-saturated leaders. What will your part be in raising them up?
Peter Leithart posts a quote from Vinoth Ramachandra about missionaries who stood up for local people. Since it’s a short entry in his blog, I’m passing on Leithart’s whole post:
Vinoth Ramachandra (Subverting Global Myths: Theology and the Public Issues Shaping Our World) acknowledges that there are “many shameful stories to be told of Western missionary complicity in colonial practices of domination,” but adds that “the more typical stories of missionaries and local Christian leaders in India, Africa or the South Pacific who courageously defended native interests and combated racist theories and stereotypes propagated by their fellow countrymen are missing from the anti-Orientalist corpus.”
Specifically: “From the initial commercial ventures of the East India Company to the heyday of the British Raj, colonial administrators were mostly hostile to Christian missionaries and made every effort not to interfere with local customs, religious beliefs and values. Ironically, and contrary to many anti-Orientalist writers, it was onlt when the Serampore missionaries and Ram Mohan Roy . . . convinced the governor, Lord Bentinck, that sati . . . had no authority in the sacred Hindu texts, did the British abolish the practice in 1829. . . . it is rarely mentioned that some British Christians in India such as C. F. Andrews were criticizing British racism and advocating full independence for India rather than dominion status within the empire long before Gandhi and the Congress Party took it up in 1924. So impressed was Gandhi himself by Andrews’s integrity that, in order to break the deadlock between Congress and the Muslim League, he made the remarkable proposal to the Viceroy Lord Mountbatten in 1947 that Andrews be appointed as the first president of independent India.”
As I mentioned in my book recommendations, missionaries were an important part of exposing King Leopold’s exploitation of the people of the Congo. Ramachandra’s book looks like an interesting one as well.