The Future of Missions Has Already Changed
We often hear that the “future of missions is changing.” After being in Cape Town I would propose a correction to say “the future of missions has already changed.”
The challenge for us in America is to quickly learn our new role in a global mission movement that has already changed. Can we follow the lead of missionary-sending churches from the Global South? Will we welcome the missionaries among the new immigrants coming to America? How must our current missionary efforts be adjusted?
21st Century: Missions by everyone to everywhere
A common refrain heard in Cape Town is that the 21st century will be a century of “missions by everyone, to everywhere.” That means that American churches will not be the only dominant sending church—we must also partner with the sending church from Nigeria, South Korea, China, Brazil, Kenya and many other countries.
As vibrant, reproducing churches in the global south begin to send missionaries, there will be new opportunities for us to partner with them to reach cultures and people groups we cannot access. Missionaries from Latin America are already finding it easier to gain entre to Muslim cultures, because their acculturation is less shocking, and they can often avoid the baggage of American identity.
Welcoming Immigrant Missionaries
As global migration patterns bring Christian missionaries to our own country as immigrants, we have the opportunity to partner with them to reach our own nation.
It also means that America will also be a receiving country, with missionaries coming here from other lands. If we open our hearts and our churches to the people God is sending us, Christianity in America will benefit greatly from the spiritual vitality of the global church.
Some missionaries coming to America do so intentionally, sent by churches in their homeland and supported by their earnest prayers for our nation. Many others come to America not as missionaries, but as refugees and workers. The vast majority of immigrants coming to America are Christian, and even though they are not intentionally missionaries to us, they will likely have the affect of helping to evangelize America.
In Cape Town the conversations among some American delegates focused on the implications of how the American church welcomes and responds to (predominantly Christian) immigration to the US. Welcoming, embracing and engaging this new missionary force could change the spiritual landscape of America.
I’ve heard several evangelical leaders observe that if at the end of the 21st century, American culture has been able to regain its Biblical foundations reflected in strong families, righteous living and just laws, it will be because of the influence of Christian immigrants who will have helped to save America.
The Great Commission Continues
Finally, in a century of “missions by everyone to everywhere” it also means that we are not off the hook. American Christians are still called to the Great Commission, to be missionaries in our own Jerusalem, to our nearby Judeas, to the people we consider Samaritans – those who are ostracized by our culture – and to the ends of the earth to the cultures and peoples who have not yet heard that Jesus Christ has come to cover their sins and connect them to God their creator.
Related Videos from Cape Town 2010
What is God’s Global Urban Mission? Tim Keller, Lausanne III
Communicating to Oral Learners, Lausanne III
Partnership with the Global South, David Ruiz, Lausanne III