Cross-culturally missional

I come from Africa. And I am still very African at heart, even though I have served on the Western mission fields for some years now. For the past six months, I have been involved in a network of churches teaching on ‘missions in the western world’ mainly to group of zealous and missionally charged-up Africans that seem to have a burning desire to reach out as missionaries to the West.

I have also spoken to a few  in inner city congregationswhere a significant percentage of their host community is African immigrants. It has been a very eye-opening experience to me. I have, on so many occasions, asked myself as to what it means to be missional, in a culture where where most of the churches are ‘racially’ homogeneous. (I use the word ‘racially’ with a great deal of caution here. What I mean is that you rarely find churches that will have a racial mixture that accurately reflects the mix of the races in the catchment neighbourhood).

 For my African audiences, this is a major stumbling block. Even though some of them have lived in the UK for more than a decade, I have come to a conclusion that they have no understanding of the culture of the British people that they want to reach out to. They still live in their African circles, go to African churches where they sing African songs, and preach the African way. Although they have been in the West for years, they have not crossed cultures.

Of course, there are serious problems on the other side of the coin as well. I have heard locals that have demonised anything African, from culture to theology.  

To such people, missional is a very hard word to explain. The main problem I have encountered is that they have solid-rock attitudes and opinions that in a way ‘demonise’ any culture that is not like theirs. Their own culture is what they believe to be ‘Kingdom Culture’. Anyone who wants to fellowship among them has to be like them, and embrace their culture.

The missional church will definitely have to rise above these barriers. God is no respecter of persons, and I would like to believe that this has to be reflected in Missio Dei as well. God reserves the right to send His people to whoever He wants. And it can be to a people group that you don’t like!

We need to seek ways that will bring the missional conversation out of the academy to local members of congregations.

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May 31, 2007 at 12:42 pm 1 comment

‘Missional’ vs ‘Mission-shaped’

The beginnings of my blogging, and please, don’t mind the amateur mistakes.

I have been following the conversation for some time now. I started off as a ‘Friend of Emerging’ and have gone through some major shifts lately, ending up where I stand today as a ‘Friend of Missional’. (When I figure out how to get the ‘logo’, you will see it at the top of the page). I say this not to imply that those who are on the emerging side of the conversation are not right. Missional just makes more sense to me. I also bear in mind the fact that some have opted to stand firm as only ‘Friend of Jesus’. As humble and logic as this seems, I think it misses the point of what is being said, because what is in question here is not whether being ‘Friend of Emerging’ displaces one’s being ‘Friend of Jesus’. Our concern here is the expression of our friendship with Jesus to the world.

I am on the missional side because I am convinced that missional is more than just a form of church, it is a behaviour and mindset of congregations that are practically trying to participate in Missio Dei, thereby going out to seek the lost, and not wait for them to come to church. As such missional does not necessarily need to be exclusive of the ‘other’ forms of church. It is simply a way of congregations expressing themselves as missionaries in their host societies. This then leads me to a conclusion that emerging can be missional just as good as the other forms. Even the Orthodox!

Here in Britain, the word missional needs to be defined whenever it is used in public. And after you have defined it 50 times, your own deacon will ask you what it means. And then you will realise they are beginning to get it. We have stuck with our missionary congregations and mission-shaped church. We find it much easier to understand missionary congregations. We just struggle when it comes to the practicalities of how a congregation can be a missionary. Mission-shaped goes a bit deeper. It implies a ‘deliberate’ shaping of a congregation with a focus on the mission of God. It is am intentional shaping, and therefore will involve an intentional formation of church life around mission.

Realistically speaking, the three terms mean the same thing. I would love to embrace missional as most of my friends have done. But the Brit in me draws me towards mission-shaped. So here I come. It is MISSION-SHAPED CHURCH.

February 9, 2007 at 10:52 pm 3 comments


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