Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Training Non-Western Missionaries

Occasionally I teach cross-cultural mission in the U.S.  I always enjoy it and hopefully I can be a help to the young men and women who have an eye on career missionary work overseas.  My focus, however, has been for over a decade, to teach non-Western missionaries.  The reason is two-fold.

First, each year there are fewer and fewer Western missionaries taking up the challenge of missions as a career.  The American church, especially, is much more focused on short-term mission projects.  There are some short-termers that are truly helpful and contribute to the overall spirit of the Great Commission.  These folks are usually highly specialized and fill a real need for the national church throughout the world.  With skills in building, digging wells or appropriate technology in developing countries, they work alongside the nationals or career people on the field.  These short-termers don’t seek cross-cultural training because they feel that, since they will only serving from 10 days to three weeks, they don’t need it.  In many cases they are right, but in other cases I feel they would be better off in both serving as well as understanding the experience of being in a foreign culture if they had even a one day seminar on the dynamics of culture.  Nevertheless, with the decline of career people serving and the emphasis on short-term missions my role in working with American missionaries is limited.

Second, and primarily, the reason I don’t teach in the U.S. is because what God is doing globally. 

Sam George, whose article, “Diaspora: A Hidden Link to ‘From Everywhere to Everywhere’’ in Missiology, January 2011, states that over the past five centuries there has been paradigm shift in missions.  The first wave of missions was the rise of the West, which he says coincided with the Protestant Reformation.  The second wave in missions was the rise of the United States, propelled by the modern day mission movement and WWII.  The third, and present wave, is the rise of the Rest, which is a globalized movement. 

In 1800, 5% of the Christian population lived outside of the West.  Today, two out of three people Christians in this world are outside of the West .  The Korean church sends out more missionaries each year than the all of the Western countries combined.  Nigeria, India and Argentina have an increasing global presence in missions.  It’s not difficult to see with these statistics that the heart of mission activity resides outside America.

The role of the career North American missionary, like me, is to facilitate this movement of global missions.  As a missiologist, with an emphasis on cultural anthropology, my role is to help the national church learn the dynamics of how to serve cross-culturally.  I believe there are many other Americans like me who can serve in this capacity.