Welcome to the November issue of Lausanne Global Analysis, which is also available in Portuguese and Spanish, and English in audio format. We look forward to your feedback on it.
In this issue we examine mental health and trauma issues as an urgent mission priority for the church; we learn lessons from Taiwan on how to mobilise Christians for mission; we consider white culture and how its shapes the way we do global mission; and we explore social media and their potential in ministry to the unreached.
‘The global church is beginning to recognise mental health problems . . . as a major ministry priority’, write Gladys Mwiti (Founder and CEO of Oasis Africa Center for Transformational Psychology & Trauma) and Bradford Smith (Dean of Arts and Sciences and the School of Fine Arts at Belhaven University). We often think only of one-on-one counseling as the best approach. However, increasingly community-based approaches are being identified as essential; and churches, as communities of faith where people can find safety and help in times of need, can have a key role. Those with mental health problems comprise one of the largest mission fields for the church worldwide. Probably no segment of society worldwide better fits the description ‘the least of these’. Often a pastor is the first person a family calls when there is a mental health crisis. Yet, pastors often are reluctant or feel ill-equipped to speak about mental illness from the pulpit. A priority issue in global mental health is providing care to those who have experienced traumatic events. A theologically balanced approach acknowledges the reality of trauma and suffering and then embraces unique means of healing and living that enable post-traumatic growth through time. In his abundance, God has strategically placed churches to meet the needs of those with mental health problems including those suffering from the wounds of trauma. It is essential we continue to communicate that mental health is a high priority and work together to address it. ‘Addressing issues of mental health and trauma may be one of the most urgent, emerging priorities within the wholistic mission of the global church’, they conclude.
‘Christianity has seen much growth since it first reached the shores of Taiwan 150 years ago’, writes Ray Peng (chairman of the United Mission of Taiwan). Today there are roughly 4,000 churches around the island, along with numerous established Christian organisations, media and publishing companies, and highly regarded seminaries. However, there is still much work to be done towards fully responding to the Great Commission. While well resourced, the Taiwanese church has an inward-looking and insular mindset. We have faced considerable obstacles in mobilising Taiwanese Christians for mission. Nevertheless, to this end we have successfully connected churches, denominations, para-church organizations, missions organisations and individual Christians, making use of social media and information and communications technology. Furthermore, in Taiwan, we have a special niche to serve as a resource platform for the greater Chinese-speaking world. Over the last 20 years, we have experienced that the wave of cross-cultural missions is no mere slogan but something concrete. The progress that has been made has been a joint effort involving all potential stakeholders. Lecturers in seminaries, mission candidates, veterans on the field, intercessors, and even Sunday school teachers, all play a big part in transforming the church to be missional. We are eager to see an ‘ecosystem’ of missions coming from the global Chinese Church as a whole in the near future. ‘I want to invite you to join hands with us in the greatest endeavour, to wake up the sleeping churches around the world and finish the task ahead of us’, he concludes.
‘I would like to focus specifically on the impact of white culture on mission—on how it shapes the way we bear witness to Christ and his kingdom’, writes Daniel Hill (Founding and Senior Pastor of River City Community Church, Chicago). One of the reasons it can be difficult for those of us who are white to recognise the presence of white culture is that it has become the ‘normal’ by which we judge all other cultures. It is real, and if we do not learn to recognise it, white culture will remain the unchallenged norm by which all other cultures are evaluated in our missional efforts. However, normalising white culture pales in comparison to the deepest problem of all. We are created in the very likeness and image of God. However, the construct of race was built on a narrative that some human beings are more worthy than others, and whiteness is the pinnacle of the racial hierarchy. In order to move on, we need to learn to see white culture, increase our understanding of the intersection between the construct of race and the development of white culture, deepen our theological analysis of the construct of race, and examine the ways whiteness has shaped global mission. ‘We must constantly revisit our assumptions and approaches, and ensure that they are not being held captive by white ideologies. We must learn to break free from that captivity for the sake of bearing authentic and powerful witness to Christ and his kingdom’, he concludes.
‘As digital natives enter overseas ministry and even older generations become more familiar with online activity, the potential to find and impact people for eternity seems to be outweighing the risks’, writes Tim C (media professional). Some ministries leverage Facebook to find ‘people of peace’. While Facebook controls most of the social media market, Snapchat is largely unexplored in the ministry realm. YouTube is used by nearly a third of all internet users globally. By 2019, global consumer internet video traffic will account for 80 percent of all consumer internet traffic. These statistics are staggering when you think about the potential for reaching those who do not yet know about Jesus around the world. Even in remote offline areas, mobile devices have become commonplace. Christians engaged in outreach efforts are beginning to recognise the potential but many simply do not know where or how to start, and it is important to recognise that a social media strategy for outreach that works in one place could easily fail in another. As evangelicals around the world, my hope is that we can work to redeem more of this digital space. Kingdom outcomes are only just beginning to be evident here on earth. ‘We will never know the true impact in this life; and as with the rapid pace of technology, this article will feel dated in short order as followers of Jesus press on to experiment with modern tools at their disposal’, he concludes.
We hope that you find this issue stimulating and useful. Our aim is to deliver strategic and credible analysis, information and insight so that as a leader you will be better equipped for the task of world evangelisation. It’s our desire that the analysis of current and future trends and developments will help you and your team make better decisions about the stewardship of all that God has entrusted to your care.
We want to conclude by giving thanks for, and paying tribute to, Todd Johnson (Associate Professor of Global Christianity and Director of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary) who has stepped down from his roles as an LGA Contributing Editor and a member of the LGA Editorial Advisory Board in order to devote himself more fully to his work on the third edition of the World Christian Encyclopedia. Todd played a key role in the shaping and then launch of the LGA in 2012 and since then has been an invaluable source of ideas for articles, leads to authors, general guidance, and wisdom for us.
Please send any questions and comments about this issue to [email protected]. The next issue of The Lausanne Global Analysis will be released in January.