Global Humility: Attitudes for Mission

posted in: Tony Thompson 0

Global Humility: Attitudes for Mission (McCullough, Andy)

As mentioned in a previous blog, I have found Andy’s book very helpful and would encourage people to read it.

Here are some more quotes, all relevant for us.

He is speaking from the perspective of being an outsider for most of his life, being a Greek Cypriot living in London and then Turkey.

He observes that most cultures see themselves as superior,

The English, for example, find Italians too emotional, Germans too serious but, by implication, themselves just right! Seeing yourselves as normal and others as extreme is an example of ethnocentrism – an in-built superiority of perspective.

Culture-crossing is about getting out of your story (where you/your people/your values play the main character), and getting into someone else’s story where they are the main character, and you realise you are just a cameo, your culture a caricature. It is to move from the centre of your story to the periphery of someone else’s. To become Robin to someone else’s Batman (or, more usually, to become the Joker or Poison Ivy – an enemy!). In your own view of the world, your people are the heroes. In another view, you are the villains.

Part of all cross-cultural conversation must be a desire to see the world from another’s perspective. Everyone is ‘us-centric’, but not everyone realises it!

As we seek to reach out to people of many different cultures in Luton, we need to recognise this.

He reflects on the sometimes unhelpful influence of other cultures on the church,

Paul’s being true to weakness, servant leadership, crossing cultures with humility, his desire to raise sons, not slaves, left his converts open to influence and control by powerful, influential global ministries. The same is true today. ‘I saw this on the Internet from America and we should do it here.’

He also sees dangers for us as the church in the west, e.g.

Sadly, crisislessness is a poor teacher. We assume routine is a right not a luxury, and we can get used to a degree of control over our lives that is globally and historically abnormal.

We often think that our weakness is as a result of the Fall, but what if it is essentially human? What if it is part of the image of God in us? What if God put vulnerability into us when he made us, even before the Fall?

We know that through the cross, Jesus is both Victorious King and Suffering Servant. That his victory is through suffering. Yet somehow, when we come to eschatology, we tend to de-couple these two again, with our focus being either on victory (Matthew 24:14) or on difficulty (Matthew 24:9). With Jesus, it is always both!

When we view the kingdom of God as a Hollywood movie or the American dream – a humble beginning, a struggle, gradual growth, then worldwide success – what are we missing? Is that really the story that Jesus and the apostles were telling?

Sobering, as is…..

In some places people are so used to the colonial masters calling the tune that they will back off and wait to be led.

We all have to overcome this, from both sides!

There are historical realities that can impact the present, e.g.

If many Arabs today will not trust a British person, the reason ostensibly is that: ‘You asked us to fight for you in the First World War, and promised us self-determination afterwards. We fought the Ottomans for you, and then you did not give us our independence. You lied to us.’ There is truth to this.

When the missionaries came to Africa, they had the Bible and we had the land. They said, ‘Let us pray.’ We closed our eyes. When we opened them, we had the Bible and they had the land.

He therefore says,

We can’t change our history, but we can, and must, allow it to humble us, create empathy and grace in us, to reform our world view to make us better servants of the gospel.

The Alpha course is contextual to questions British people are asking, so Alpha week one is ‘Christianity: Boring, Untrue, Irrelevant?’. The first question people in our Muslim city are asking is, ‘Christianity: Western, Political, Imperialist?’ and we have chosen to answer this from the Lord’s Prayer.

He has interesting things to say about leadership,

Bringing through local leaders from amongst unreached peoples is always a major spiritual battle. I do believe, however, that often our standard is too high.

The twenty-first century equivalent of ‘dressing the native converts in European clothing’ is the teaching of ‘leadership principles’.

So much of leadership seems to be about making better use of time or resources. For example: build a system of small groups in order to care for people more efficiently. However, in many places pastoring through a system does not work!

Perhaps churches in Turkey are small, not because of a lack of leadership, but because relational intensity is so high.

Task orientation One of the strengths of Western culture is a focus on the task at hand. Many, however, would argue that task-orientation has no place in the Church, which is primarily a relational context.

Task-orientated Christianity will not succeed in the Majority World, and probably is not appropriate anywhere.

Many leadership texts (Maxwell’s Indisputable Laws, Hybels’ Axiom, Covey’s Habits) presuppose a view of the world wherein there are universal or general principles, rules, laws that are always true. But this too is a uniquely Western perspective: there are many cultures where this is not how the world is perceived.

Ultimately, we must apply the Christian truth to all cultures.

Instead of the differences between the Gospels being an embarrassment, we affirm the fact that ‘the four gospels are four “contextualisations” of the one story [and] form an important piece of the total picture of how the Christian message is reexpressed for new audiences in the New Testament’.

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