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Ten Challenges to Resolve in Western Missions in the 21st Century

The 21st century is well upon us—and how the world has changed in just 18 years!  The world of Western, Protestant, Evangelical missions has also changed remarkably.  I have been involved in missions all my life, especially since my own first mission assignment in the mid-1980s.  The following reflections come out of the experiences and discussions I have had over the years.  As I am engaged in discussions about how to meet various needs in missions in my own circles, how to relate to supporting churches, and how to engage with nationals involved in Church ministry, I keep coming back to the following challenges in missions today.  In articulating these below, my hope is to help those involved in the discussion about steps to take in missions over the next few years in my own circles of ministry and to help others involved with similar discussions.
      1.Mission Agencies or Mission Societies?
A mission agency, I would suggest, functions like a temporary employment agency in that it (a…
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Christian Mission in the West: the Work of Christian Concern

Are you involved in Christian ministry and mission work in Western countries?

Christian Concern has a website with a variety of resources to help Christians negotiate the new challenges of the West's post-Christian culture.  Christian Concern  addresses the following issues of significance for Christians in the United Kingdom (but also relevant to other Western nations):

Church and StateFreedomIslamEducationFamily and Sexual EthicsLife and BioethicsEtc.
Christian Concern is engaged in responding to the culture's assault on Christians and the Church.  They do so with campaigns, literature, drafting legal amendments for Parliament, offering legal services and trying cases, providing instruction at their Wilberforce Academy, and offering current news.

Those involved in ministry and missions in the West would do well to follow the work of Christian Concern.  See online:  You will be able to subscribe to their newsletter as well.  They present a great…

Understanding Western Culture and the Church’s Mission, in 1,000 Words

For many centuries, Western culture was largely defined by the Church’s institutional and religious prominence.  The symbol of authority was the cleric, whether the village priest or the enthroned bishop.  Results were mixed, not because Christian faith was at fault but because it was often misrepresented, ignored, or even opposed by persons with power.  Even if some obviously errant convictions were held about science, failure was not because Scripture advocated the error but because erroneous interpretations were held.  The case of Galileo Galilei is a prime example: his scientific observation that the earth rotated around the sun was suppressed by ignorant men who believed that Scripture taught that sun revolved around the earth.  From a scientific perspective, this is a case of the Church dictating what is true of nature; from a Christian perspective, this is a case of the Church wrongly interpreting Scripture.  Yet scientists and Christians agreed: both affirmed the natural orde…

Should Orthodox Churches Re-baptize Individuals and Re-ordain Ministers Coming from Mainline Denominations?

What constitutes Christian baptism and ordination?  This question has arisen in a new way in our day as the once orthodox, mainline denominations have turned away from the true convictions of the historic, Christian Church.  To put the matter bluntly, if orthodox ministries, missions, denominations, and churches do not recognize the baptism and ordination of persons received into cultic groups such as the Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Unitarians, and Christian Science Church, we might well ask whether we should now accept once-orthodox groups that have jettisoned their beliefs and practices for new-fangled teachings that deny both Scriptural and Church authority.
To be sure, the Church has had various reasons to ask this question throughout its history.  Ulrich Zwingli addressed the issue of ‘re-baptism’ in response to the arguments of Anabaptists in the 16th century.  The Anabaptists called for adult baptism and did not recognise the baptism of infants as baptism.  (Thus, they did not…

The Half-Gospel and the Celebration of Christian Holy Days by Orthodox Evangelicals in the Post-Christian West

Let us imagine that some interdenominational, Protestant, and theologically orthodox group in the West has been given the task of hosting a conference to address the celebration of Christian holidays—holy days.  The task, we shall assume, is considered important for three reasons: (1) in the post-Christian, neo-pagan culture of Western countries, the non-Christian celebrations are taking over the festive practices of Christian holy days; (2) in the post-Christian West, the message of the Christian holy days is increasingly associated with abstract values that reduce the historical realities of Christian faith to mere metaphors for existential preaching; and (3) in the West, the culture has, over time, deformed wings of the loosely associated Evangelical movement such that there are those who actually preach a false or half-Gospel and fail to witness the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world.
As to the first reason, think of the celebration of Easter.  Firstly, this i…

When Marriage is No Longer Understood as a Moral Act

Is marriage a moral act?
Not all acts are moral acts.   I am using the term ‘moral act’ not in the sense that it is moral rather than immoral but in the sense that it is subject to moral definitions and is not simply amoral.  The distinction is between amoral acts and moral acts.  For acts to be moral acts, whether immoral or moral, we have in view moral actions, the moralcharacter of the actors, and the moral consequences.  We develop an entire ethic as a society that embraces views on actions, character, and consequences and which expresses them in its laws.  When, however, we remove the notion of an act being a moral act and still try to develop a morality around character and consequences, the results are very, very disturbing.  This is the case with Western society’s experiment with making marriage a mere act—an amoral act—while still holding to ethics of character and consequences around the issue of marriage.
Before examining this point in regard to marriage, let us take anoth…