On the Biblical-ness of Overseas Cross-Cultural Mission today.

I just finished Vincent Donovan’s Christianity Rediscovered and I must say that this is truly a thought provoking book. One of the segments that stood out for me was his comparison of overseas cross-cultural mission done today and that of Paul’s missionary journey. He highlights that comparing the two, mission today unlike Paul’s does not seem to have a definite end goal. Missionaries who enter countries have no idea when they intend to leave. Drawing on his own experience as a missionary in Africa, he highlights the fact that after a hundred years, missionaries are still in Africa trying to reach out to the same people group. I think that if he is right, there are implications in which we ought to approach this field of mission. Having a concrete exit strategy for instance would be one of them. In any case, here’s an excerpt from the book:

“We foreign missionaries have been in East Africa for more than a hundred years. We started off with two missionaries, like Paul, but when a hundred years had passed we were still here – 1,951 of us, counting only priests, with many generations of our predecessors dead and buried in this land.

Our original safaris from our homeland were much farther than St Paul’s from his, but once arriving at our destination, no single one of us has an area of work to cover anywhere near the staggering areas covered by St Paul. It would be closer to the truth to say that the areas covered by St Paul on each journey would closely approximate our present dioceses, in each one of which we have many foreign missionaries, anywhere from twenty to one hundred to a diocese. We won’t even mention the means of travel available to Paul and to us.

After one hundred years we still do not consider our work finished. New missionaries are appealed for, for this hundred year old work, and they are still coming.

There is something definitely temporary about Paul’s missionary stay in any one place. There is something of a deadly permanence in ours… Pastoral work, the tending of the Christian flock, by its very nature and definition will never be finished. But the work of evangelization (the biblical definition of missionary work) in any particular area, by its very nature, must be finishable, that is, it must be planned and carried out in such a way that it is finishable in the shortest possible time, not in some vague future, but now.”[1]

[1] Vincent J. Donovan, Christianity Rediscovered, 25th anniversary ed. (Maryknoll, N.Y: Orbis Books, 2003), 28–30.

 


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