Saying the world has changed may seem an understatement, an obvious one. But Paul Borthwick is a world-renown teacher and consultant on world missions, and this statement is the recurring theme of his book. He isn't referring to technology, nor culture per se. It's a declaration about global missions. And he ought to know, he has much experience to back it up .
While reading through his most recent book, Western Christians in Global Mission, I was both challenged and refreshed by his writing, research, and dialogue to western Christians involved in global mission, such as myself. As a cross-cultural missionary, I had a vested interest in reading this book and I was not disappointed.
I've already recommended it to others, and wrote a review on Amazon. But I wanted to make a recommendation here on my blog. The subtitle alone challenges the reader with a question too often unconsidered— What's the Role of the North American Church (in Global Mission)?
Having been a church planter in the US and trainer of church planters and leaders in SE Asia, this is a vital question to be answered. Mr Borthwick does this well in several ways.
He begins with broad views of the church in North America and the Majority World, and how they fit into the state of the world. He sees Nine Great changes in the world that are Great Challenges for the church worldwide (pages 33-60).
- The Great Transition— the worldwide church is primarily non-white, non-Western, and non-wealthy
- The Great Migration— there are vast movements of people from nation to nation
- 2 Great Divides— an Economic Divide and a Theological Divide
- 2 Great Walls— the first being a wall between the gospel "haves" and the gospel "have-nots," the second is the effect of environmental impacts on the poor.
- The Great Commission— the church has not done a good job making disciples, either in North America or the Majority World (making converts is not the same as making disciples).
- The Great Compassion— seeing beyond the need of salvation to see people in their need of many things for daily life (yet without causing a dependency).
- The Great Salvation— a personal worldview that serves as a reminder and motivation for going out into the world with the gospel.
- The Great Celebration— having vision for the celebration in heaven of every tribe, tongue, and nation worshipping Jesus.
The author goes on to give "An Appraisal of the North American Church." It is one I found to be both confirming and challenging. Then "An Appraisal of the Majority World Church." This was both refreshing and disconcerting, and it confirmed my thoughts that the great need in the Majority World (I call it MOTROW) is the need for sound equipping of leaders.
A good portion of the book is dedicated to seeing how to move forward to meet these changes and challenges. There are plenty of open-ended questions and penetrating insights given by Majority World leaders to foster discussion and consideration. The author adds stories of his own that give vivid insight into the learning curve presented in this book.
His extensive experience in many countries and continents with various leaders and people groups qualifies him to not only make statements, but pose important questions. He gets into specifics and provides practical queries and guidance.
I found myself agreeing over and over again with the points made and the challenges posed. Not only does Paul Borthwick make his case well and graciously, it lines up with my own observations from experience on the mission field for the past 20+ years, including 15 years as a resident in the Philippines.
I don't just recommend this book, I believe it is a must read for anyone in North America who wants to keep in step with God's plan for His Great Commission, especially western-culture missionaries.
A continuing theme throughout the book is, "The world has changed." So has the church worldwide, and the world mission movement.
America has a role, but it's not out in front taking charge, directing, and funding everything. It's in a partnership alongside Majority World missionary leaders.
I hope you'll take time to read and thoughtfully consider all that's presented in this book. The world has changed and it's waiting for us to catch up with it.