Unintended consequences

The one phrase I will take with me from this morning’s opening plenary of the Edinburgh 2010 Mission Conference is ‘unintended consequences’. Dana Roberts challenged delegates to take a long view of mission and to consider the unintended consequences following the Edinburgh 1910 World Mission Conference. She outlined these as the destruction of the churches of the near east, the suppression of the Orthodox churches in Soviet Russia, the growth of the Churches in Africa and Latin America, the  decline of the churches in Europe in the face of overwhelming secularism and indifference.

In his reply, Bertil Ekstrom, Executive Director of the World Evangelical Alliance’s Mission Commission, replied that in the face of such decline, the churches of Europe had to face honestly the need for repentance and a renewed commitment in their witness to Christ today. That’s certainly the case but I was interested in what the possible unintended consequences over the next century are likely to be.

Chatting with my neighbour after the presentation we were talking about the emerging forms of evangelicalism that are developing in parallel to the historic denominations. That’s a challenge for traditional mission agencies which in many instances look to particular evangelical champions who, in several instances, are quite critical of the emerging streams. How can mission agencies work with and draw upon the missional energy and vision of emerging churches and streams in a way that makes the best possible use of partnerships?

If the next century is to be a post-denominational future (and that’s a big ‘if’) then one unintended consequence of the missionary endeavour might be that traditional mission agencies fail to make the connect with these streams and movements and become a mere missiological sideshow. Direct church to church partnerships within Europe are increasingly common. Basic cross-cultural mistakes will be made. Individuals and agencies involved in cross-cultural preparation within the existing structures of mission agencies may increasingly need to take account of how to work at the church-to-church level.

There will be many more unintended (and unforeseen) consequences of mission passion and vision. God, in the name of Christ, and in the power of the Spirit, remains able to prompt and lead in such a way that we can sometimes be a part of the ‘new things’ that God is doing. Our task remains one of listening prophetically, speaking boldly, and acting in humility.

Explore posts in the same categories: Edinburgh 2010, emergent, emerging, europe, mission

3 Comments on “Unintended consequences”


  1. I wonder if you have read Dr David Bjork’s recent paper ‘Towards a paracletic model for mission’

    It speaks to this subject of why new non-denominational forms of mission are needed.

    • Gill Kimber Says:

      Stephen, I would really like to see that paper. Can you advise me how to access it? As you know, I am hugely influenced by David’s thinking.

  2. Gill Kimber Says:

    This is fascinating, Darrell – although we’re into the realms of speculation to a certain extent, it’s important to take a prophetic look at current trends. I think the church-to-church thing is the way to go, and keep trying to convince certain mission agencies that are near and dear to us accordingly! We must learn how to invigorate our churches to take mission as vital to our lives, and not leave it all up to the para-church agencies, tossing them a donation every now and again. Any suggestions?


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