The New Normal

North Americans in Missions, Part 1

We live in a changing world. In many ways, our world has already changed to the point where what is considered "normal" must be redefined.

There have been huge economic shifts such that by the year 2025, more than 20 of the world’s top 50 cities ranked by GDP will be located in Asia. In contrast, more than half of Europe’s top 50 cities will drop off the list during that same period.

While there are indications that majority world countries are growing wealthier and global poverty rates are decreasing, slum communities are still growing at nearly 3 times the rate of global population and United Nations projections suggest half the world will live in slums by 2050.

When Wycliffe’s Bible translation efforts began in the 1940s, there were 10 new starts a year at the most. Now, advances in technology have enabled over 75 new starts a year. As of the beginning of 2014, the YouVersion Bible app has been installed on over 125 million unique mobile devices around the globe in over 460 different languages.

Our world is changing demographically, too. Half of the global population is now under 25 years old, and one-third is under 15 years old.

People are moving like never before. Political regimes are rising and falling. Regional conflicts, poverty, and dramatic changes in environments are fueling migrations of people on an unprecedented scale. Human trafficking, sexual exploitation, and forced labor are increasingly putting women and children at risk across the globe.

Technology is bringing change to how we join in God’s global mission, too. When Wycliffe’s Bible translation efforts began in the 1940s, there were 10 new starts a year at the most. Now, advances in technology have enabled over 75 new starts a year. As of the end of 2014, the YouVersion Bible app has been installed on over 150 million unique mobile devices around the globe in over 700 different languages.

This new normal is found in the global church as well. The church in the Global South is on the rise and the Western church is declining. This past Sunday, it is likely that more Christian believers attended church in China than in all of “Christian Europe.” And it is likely that half the churchgoers in London were African or African-Caribbean.[1] There are more cross-cultural, long-term missionaries being sent from Asia, Africa, and Latin America than there are total from Europe and North America. India alone has more than 400 mission agencies!

The Lausanne 1974 Congress predicted that

The dominant role of Western missions is fast disappearing. God is raising up from the younger churches a great new resource for world evangelization, and is thus demonstrating that the responsibility to evangelize belongs to the whole body of Christ.

What does this new normal mean for us?

God desires both those in the West and those outside the West to not only come to know him, but to also take part in his global mission. God’s mission is an “all-play”. Throughout Scripture, it’s clear that God desires all who believe to become instruments of his mission. God used not only strong individuals and nations, but he often uses the weak and the poor in powerful ways.

God used not only the willing, but also unwilling players like Joseph, Moses, and Jonah. And even Israel in the midst of exile and suffering, is used by God in his mission to the nations. God uses people who never imagined that they would ever participate in his mission, because it’s an “all-play” mission. God has a part for every Christian in his global mission!

What's your part?

 

[1] Noll, Mark.  The New Shape of World Christianity. (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2009).

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