This is a guest post from Patrick Nabwera, Kenyan Missionary to Mozambique:
Recognizing the shifts in Christianity to the global south (Andrew Walls, etc.), many are saying that it is Africa’s time for missions. This can mean two things. It can be a claim that Africa (along with Asia and Latin America) need to become the main players in missions while players from the “West” retire, give way, or merely become supportive. Some insinuate that current mission structures are outdated. Others feel like the only thing they need from the West is financial support. For those of us who prescribe to a theology of the kingdom where God has distributed his diverse gifts on all continents, this view is misguided. God expects every continent and people to put their gifts into the “mission basket”. Creation reminds us that all things belong to God. In serious war time, patriotic citizens give their all without caring what someone else is contributing. (This is only true for those patriots who love their country more than themselves, fame, and popularity—).
Saying that it is Africa’s time for missions can also mean (and this is my view) that it is time for the potential in Africa (personnel, resources, skills, ideas, strategies, and even the often “unbalanced or misunderstood spirituality”) to be added to the “missions basket”. This implies that everyone contributes fully to missions. It is not a question of some retiring while the others take over.
The main issue is that Africa has not yet taken full ownership and responsibility for missions. Some still feel that missions (especially pioneer missions) belongs to the West. This affects even the kind of missionary that Africa calls for today. In my view, missions can no longer be the idea of a Westerner who labors while Africans admire the heroic example of leaving her own country for the poor African. Rather, each foreign missionary shares the calling of reaching nations with his brothers and sisters in Africa. It is now a question of working together as a family of God without respect to color, economic background, technological differences, or anything that would bring disparity. When it comes to missions today, Paul’s counsel that there is no Jew, no Gentile, no man, no woman…but all are one in Christ is vital. I say that there is no African, no American…but all are one in Christ, following him in his mission to the nations.
As Christianity shifts to the global south, questions for African missions become:
- What does this shift mean for missionary outreach today?
- How can the growth of Christianity in the global south be channeled into the missionary movement?
- How can recognizing this growth empower Africa to move forward in missions?
- What other potential can Africa release towards God’s global mission?
- Are we satisfied with the number of Africans in missions–especially in pioneer mission fields?
- Might God not demand more from this continent?
My heart aches when I meet Africans who are suffering alone in missions. This isolation is especially tragic given rich resources that God has given Africa.
In sum, Christianity’s southward gravitational shift in should make every missions entity encourage and empower the church in Africa to take ownership and responsibility for missions.