The question of the proper structures for mission has been a perennial one in mission studies, especially among Protestants,1 but recent African scholarship demonstrates new insights. During the colonial period, when there appeared to be a clear geographical separation between what the World Missionary Conference at Edinburgh in 1910 referred to the “home base” and the “mission field,” missions were differentiated from churches. They were voluntary societies or special interest groups sent out from home churches to places where there was perceived to be no church, or where the existing church needed specialist support of some kind. Structurally, churches followed a tradition of ministry, whereas missions were organized more flexibly to respond to varied needs. Their relationship to the home church varied. In the mainline churches in the USA, for example, they were administered by a mission board of the church, whereas the Anglican missionary societies had a looser affiliation to the Church of England. The “faith missions,” such as the China Inland Mission, which emerged from the 1860s, were interdenominational and so not directly accountable to any particular church or denomination.
After the Second World War, the concept of the geographical separation of church and mission was eroded. As nations became independent of the colonial powers, in ecumenical circles the “younger churches” were recognized as on a par with the “older” ones. What is more, each local church was considered to bear the responsibility for mission in its own region so that mission was said to be “in six continents.” Accompanying this geo-political change, was the rise of a theological concept of mission (missio Dei) that put the onus on the church to be missionary by its very nature. Asserting that “the church is the mission,” in the 1960s the International Missionary Council was merged into the World Council of Churches and particular attention was given to “the missionary structure of the congregation.” Ironically, as the Western ecumenically-minded churches scaled back world evangelization activities in favor of local witness, they nevertheless continued sending from the West to the rest in the form of humanitarian aid and international development. Christian relief and development agencies were much better funded than mission organizations but arguably even less accountable to churches.
While in ecumenical circles mission was increasingly ecclesial, in evangelical Christianity, especially in the USA, mission agencies that operated independently of churches rapidly increased as part of the growth of the non-profit or charitable sector after the war. Some of these continued evangelistic and church-planting missions, particularly in regions or communities that were perceived to be “unreached.” Tensions between church and “parachurch” in mission are reflected in the Lausanne Covenant of 1974 and were the subject of a Lausanne commission. It critically considered Ralph Winter’s argument that the complementary entities of church and mission were both biblical and also sociologically natural, and it produced a handbook on church-parachurch relations in 1983.2 However, from the 1990s in evangelical circles too the responsibility of local churches for mission was emphasized, especially through the concept of missional church and under the influence of missio Dei theology. Nevertheless, the two structures of local church and mission (or faith-based organization) persist in the twenty-first century, as seen in mission statements. The Cape Town Commitment (2011) of the third Lausanne Congress and the World Council of Churches mission statement Together Towards Life (2013) both refer to mission(s) as well as church(s), although the main reference in both cases is on the latter.
If world mission is looked at in the polycentric context of world Christianity, the situation is more complex. Western missions founded churches in the majority world that were expected to evangelize their locality. However, they tended to expect to continue the world mission themselves. Despite this, new churches founded missions as distinct from churches. For example, the Indian leader who addressed the Edinburgh conference in 1910, V.S. Azariah founded the Indian Missionary Society (1903) and the National Missionary Society (1905), and soon after its foundation in 1907, the Presbyterian Church of Korea began sending missionaries to different cultures in Korea and to other nations. While having mission agencies as well as churches is no longer a Western phenomenon, two ecclesial developments have complicated the two-structure model: migration and megachurches. These models can be illustrated from African examples.
First, the international migration which is an integral part of post-war economic globalization has produced new Christian diasporas and new forms of church in mission. The most well studied example is neo-Pentecostalism which, it is argued, is especially well adapted to develop in congregations the capacity for success in contemporary capitalism. One of its features – at least in Africa – is that, unlike Protestantism’s model of national churches, its denominations see themselves as transnational and international. By means of travel, and also by the use of various media, the congregations at home are closely connected with diaspora communities produced by global migration. These migrant churches are motivated toward personal and social transformation and to mission in their new locations in various ways (Adogame 2013: 145–89; Hanciles 2008: 324–49). Engaging earlier studies by Jehu Hanciles, Afe Adogame and others, Harvey Kwiyani argues that migrant churches in the West, although motivated toward its transformation, struggle with racism and other challenges. He believes they will be most effective in mission by forming partnerships with existing churches of the majority community (2014: 135–94). Such partnerships between indigenous churches and migrant ones were rare in the colonial period3 but are increasing today.
A second new way in which church and mission structures are integrated is the megachurch. Megachurches are now found in every continent and many operate internationally – having the capacity within themselves to support world mission activities globally. In a recent sympathetic examination of Mavuno Church in Nairobi, which is evangelical in origin, Wanjiru Gitau shows how a church formed mainly of millennials has turned them into “fearless influencers of society” to transform both country and continent (2018: 64). Moreover, these cosmopolitan Christians are spreading this vision across Africa and globally (2018: 136). So far, Mavuno has planted churches in five other African countries and in one country in Europe. Megachurches like Mavuno do not need to restructure to become missional; mission is integral to their identity.
These examples reveal how different times and circumstances call forth new ways of being church and of doing mission. The current intensification of globalization has brought about churches and denominations which are missionary by their very nature even without restructuring. There are churches on the move and churches without boundaries, as these African examples show.
This issue begins with two obituaries: one for the Danish-Norwegian Lutheran mission leader and scholar Knud Jørgensen and the other for the Indian Jesuit mission theologian Samuel Rayan. Six articles follow on a fascinating range of topics. They can be grouped roughly into matters of mission history, practice and theology. First, historically, this issue includes studies from Indonesia and Hong Kong. In the first case, Sukamto and his colleagues – Nina Herlina, Kunto Sofianto and Yusak Soleiman – examine the positive and negative impacts of the religious policies from 1965 to 1980 on Christianity in Indonesia. Government policies encouraged the indigenization of churches but at the same time Islamists were able to exploit them to suppress church building and evangelism. James Ellis’s article compares the architecture of two Anglican churches – St. John’s Cathedral and St. Mary’s Church – in colonial Hong Kong. Whereas the former was built in a colonial style that was alienating to residents, the latter has a more indigenous quality through the inclusion of Taoist, Buddhist and folk religious elements. Using illustrations, Ellis analyzes this example of material contextualization. Second, practically, Paul Sungro Lee describes how a missionary training program was developed in Asia and Africa which, through emphasis on small-group learning, biblical and non-Western worldviews, and incarnational mission produced a significant increase in the intercultural readiness of trainees. This in turn both made them more effective as missionaries and also reduced the stress they underwent in crossing cultures. Hans Morten Haugen questions the use of the term “Faith-based Organization” (FBO) on several grounds, including that it is not rigorously defined and that it “essentializes and compartmentalizes” religion. Nevertheless, he finds a continued use for it in some contexts while arguing that religion should be taken into account by all development actors. Third, theologically, Laura Chevalier reads the writing of two twentieth-century single female evangelical missionaries, Lillian Trasher and Dr. Helen Roseveare, in which their theology is expressed mostly through narratives of spiritual life. She finds that these “mamas on mission” understood mission in a way that motivated them to nurture local churches through solidarity and sacrifice. Christian Anderson explores Pentecostal theologian Amos Yong’s pneumatological re-imagining of mission theology which particularly encourages discernment of the Spirit beyond Christianity. While affirming of Yong’s work, Anderson is concerned that the criteria for discernment should be Christological and makes constructive suggestions to this end.
Another crop of book reviews, expertly curated by Dr. Atola Longkumer, follows these articles. The issue concludes with the call for papers for the 15th General Assembly of the International Association for Mission Studies to be held in Sydney, Australia, on 9–14 July 2020.