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