This is the fourth post in a series of articles on global ministry trends and issues presented by Dr. Greg Burch, Director of the Master of Arts in Global Development and Justice program and Chair of the Global Studies Department. You can read more articles from Dr. Burch on his personal site, The Burch Blog.
This week I’m writing from Seoul, South Korea, where I’m participating in an international conference that has pulled together mission scholars from all over the world. With every region of the world and dozens of countries represented here, one gets the sense that the mission of God is being fulfilled. South Korea in particular is a good place to write about indigenous ministries and partnerships. There are more than 20,000 Korean missionaries serving around the world today. The percentage of Christians (representing both Catholic and Protestant churches) in South Korea is at about 32% with over 7,600 churches in the capital city (Seoul) alone.
Globally we note a proliferation of indigenous churches, ministries and global partnerships. This is often referred to as the growth of the majority world Church (see J.D. Payne chapter 3). As noted by African scholar, John Mbiti, today the Church’s center of power does not remain in places like New York, but rather in cities like Manila, Philippines. More and more people around the world are engaging in global mission. It is estimated that nearly 35,000 American Hispanic churches are increasingly becoming involved in global missions. The following chart highlights just a sample of the growth of international missionary movements:
These statistics reflect those missionaries serving more than two years and represent Protestant, Independent and Anglican missionaries. They also do not reflect the numbers of those who might consider themselves missionaries, but are living internationally due to diaspora.
This proliferation of global involvement has changed the very nature of how we understand missions today. Bill Dyrness recently noted, “Missions is now mutual exchange among the multiple centers of influence and learning and resources traveling all directions…” (Borthwick 39). No longer can we refer to the United States as a missionary ‘sending’ country. The same can be said for many countries that have traditionally been ‘receiving’ countries of missionary involvement. Significant mission organizations that were once based in these receiving nations are now focused on sending out missionary candidates.
With these changes within global mission activities must also come a new order for partnerships. North American Christians and agencies must now consider sharing decision-making opportunities with those they traditionally considered ‘receiving’ nations. Pakistani missiologist, Michael Nazir-Ali, says “partnership in mission must mean partnership in the whole of mission. Churches in the global south need to be involved with the North in the identification and articulation of mission issues as much as in addressing them” (211).
Appropriate and contextual training will be needed for those going out to serve within multi-ethnic and international teams. Students of mission will need to understand the reality of multi-ethnic teams and global partnerships if they are to succeed. The training must include cultural sensitivity and competency in foreign languages (sometimes multiple languages). Preparing students for such action will need to be incorporated into new training courses in the U.S. and abroad.
Here at Multnomah, we continue to develop courses that will prepare students to engage with sensitivity with those from distinct cultures. This is needed in business, education, counseling, pastoral ministries and other degree paths, just as much as it is needed in Global Studies in today’s world.
Borthwick, Paul. Western Christians in Global Mission. Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2012.
Mandryk, Jason. Operation World. Colorado Springs, CO: Biblica, 2010.
Nazir-Ali, Michael. From Everywhere to Everywhere: A World View of Christian Mission. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock. 2009.
Payne, J.D. Pressure Points: Twelve Global Issues Shaping the Face of the Church. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson 2013.