There’s a question to toy with? Not as easy to answer as you may think? You may be thinking, “don’t you call yourself a missional theologian? Don’t you know?” Well, I know the question; I’m just not convinced that I can answer it?
The classic answers would be “taking the gospel to other countries”; “spreading the word”; “planting the church” or “preaching” are obviously valid enterprises.
In 1792 when William Carey sailed the ocean blue to India and in the subsequent century these were the definitions. 1792 up until 1914 is what Kenneth Scott Latourette called “the Great Century” (Ken was never that good at maths!) Up until the First World War, there was great confidence in the Western view of the gospel and of mission. How we are to achieve it was the question that the Edinburgh World Missions Conference was asking.
After the two greatest missionary sending nations (Germany and Britain) had spilled the blood of a generation on the fields of Flanders and France as well as many of the young men of their colonies (which they had evangelised) mission confidence began to wain.
Those benighted four years of slaughter questioned the right of European powers to teach the rest of the world how to live and what to believe. Not only had a generation of potential missionaries been shattered by the war but the very project was being doubted. Do Europeans know what the gospel is? Is their missionary project valid?
As an Evangelical, I trust in the gospel, but I don’t trust human endeavors, including missionary enterprise. We must be critical. We must reflect upon this enterprise in the light of the gospel. We must bring our missionary activity to the light of the gospel to allow it to be critiqued and interrogated at the foot of the cross.
This week I will be reflecting upon how we can do this in our current context. Do join in the debate!