By Peter Tarantal
Peter is the director of World Evangelization Network of South Africa.
In 1910 a very historic World Mission Conference took place in Edinburgh, Scotland. The conference was dominated by the Student Volunteer Movement with their slogan of “The World Evangelized in our Generation.” So much has happened in the last 100 years that we can be excited about and yet the task of world evangelization is still far from completed.
There are still approximately 28% of the world’s population that has yet to be exposed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Missions primarily consisted of the church in the West sending workers across the world. Much of what was happening then had to do with “from the West to the rest.”
In 1968, at another World Congress on evangelization in Mexico City, the term “missions on 6 continents” was first coined. There was a recognition that mission ought to be done everywhere and that the church all over the world had to be involved in reaching the nations with the Gospel.
The Global South
The growth of the church in what is known as the Global South has been nothing short of spectacular. The Global South is a term first coined by the United Nations and is now widely accepted in the political/economic world and in mission circles.
For our purposes, the Global South is a missiological term and refers to Africa, Asia and Latin America. The growth of the church has by and large taken place in previous “receiving areas.”
For instance, in 1900 there were reportedly 8 million Christians in Africa, today there are close to 500 million Christians. In China when the missionaries left in 1949, there were approximately 2 million believers, today the conservative estimate is 100 million. The Lord is certainly at work in building His church in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Two Examples of World Mission Vision from the Global South
I would like to illustrate the new enthusiasm for world mission emanating from the Global South by relating to two incidents:
1. In 1997, the Church in Pretoria, South Africa hosted the Global Congress on World Evangelization (GCOWE). Approximately 1200 from Africa met in a network called the Africa National Initiatives. Various missiologists and mission leaders gave input into the group to help them expand their mission vision.
During this time, the Joshua Project shared on the challenge of the groups still needing to be reached. As they shared they were urged to respond to the least reached in their various countries.
Upon their return to Kenya, the Kenyan delegation got together and made a commitment that never again would they go to a congress on world evangelization and hear that there are still at least 22 unreached people groups in their country. They launched an initiative called “Finished the Task.” By last accounts, all the groups have been engaged, with a number of churches already planted in these areas.
2. In 2006 there was a buzz around the Kenya College for Technology when 520 leaders met for a mission consultation (MANI) which was run by Africans, owned by Africans and where all the speakers were Africans.
There was such a sense that Africa’s time had come. An endearing image was the Macedonian Call by our brothers and sisters from Francophone Africa for the rest of Africa to come and help them in their Church planting efforts.
What does the growth of the Church in the Global South and the changing face of missions mean for world mission?
- We need to celebrate what God is doing around the world in building His Church.
- There needs to be a new recognition that the Church in the Global South is / has come of age.
- There needs to be respect for the leadership, however weak it may be in certain places in the Global South.
- There needs to be equal partnership between the Global North and the Global South. No one ever should dominate the global missions agenda. The Global North, because it has more financial resources should not dominate the agenda and neither should the Global South because they may have more people resources.
- Another implication is that in mission structures around the world the new reality of the changing face of mission need to be acknowledged.
One of the more exciting developments of late is that continental networks such as MANI (Movement for African National Initiative) and COMIBAM (Cooperacion Misionera Ibero Americana) agreed to partner with one another and to collaborate on certain key strategies.
Two of these are in the area of being involved reaching out to Europe as well as to the Muslim world. Due to its focus on relationships, these networks have also spearheaded initiatives to bring various networks from around the world together to fellowship with one another and to hear what God is saying to His Church.
In conclusion, there is a fresh wind of the Spirit blowing. This calls for a fresh approach to missions. Let’s not put Saul’s armour on David. With the growth of the Church in the Global South and the commitment that still exists by and large in the Church in the Global North, I believe that through key strategic partnerships, we will be able to do more that we have ever been able to accomplish. May this be so for the sake of the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.