Wanted: A GPS for Global Mission

I have discovered a friend to travel with in distant cities. She doesn’t require a plane ticket, or extra room at an inn or hotel. She helps me clarify where I am going and prepares me for strategic directional changes. She is not my wife! Her name is too long to pronounce, so I simply call her GPS.

She is a “global positioning satellite direction detector.” I simply plug her into my rental car, type in my directional address, and GPS guides me to where I am to go. The feature I most value is her ability to give me advance guidance. Several miles before I must turn she alerts me that I will “soon” turn. She is an able friend. We need something like this in global missions. Here’s what I mean:

It is time for the whole Church to reflect upon the fact
that the demographic center of Christianity has moved
from the West to the Global South and East.

I know a major “turn” is coming for the global evangelical movement. I am not clear when or even how it will occur—only that it will and should. The issue at hand is the realization that the demographic center of Christianity has moved from the “West” (North America/Europe/Australia) to the Global South and East.

Readers of Lausanne World Pulse are very aware of the trend lines. Christianity’s major growth is in the southern hemisphere and the Far East. Phillip Jenkins and others have written extensively on this issue. There are now more Christians in the southern hemisphere than in the northern. Since the nineteenth century the axiom of missions has been the “West to the Rest” of the world. That has changed. Now we know many Majority World countries are sending missionaries to the West. This shift is vital to the health of global evangelization, but the implications are vast.

I have more questions than answers, and look forward to the global dialogue to help find God’s when and how. I am hopeful this will find major focus in the Capetown 2010 Congress. Until then, here are some questions, and perhaps one insight. I am looking for a GPS to help guide my agency and those we influence as the “turn” comes.

  1. Since the demographic shift to the Global South is at hand, how do Western mission agencies and churches respond?
  2. Resources, both financial and human, have, in general, not shifted. When should they? More importantly, how should they?
  3. How does the Church in the West welcome missionaries from the Global South and East to re-evangelize our continents?
  4. What role is there for ongoing mission to the Global South and East from the West?

If I have any insights at this point, it is the following: The whole Church is in need of massive amounts of humility and spiritual discernment to make this turn. Humility and spiritual discernment will open the doors for clear God-honoring action. The West will need humility to admit we are not faith-driven people and that the Christian movement is declining nearly everywhere in the West. We need humility to cry out like the Macedonians did to Paul: “Come to the West and help us.” The Global South and East will need humility to walk rightly as the power and leadership of the global movement turns toward them.

Recently, someone gave an idea that can start us on this journey. What if those going to Capetown from the West prayerfully and intentionally seek to meet a colleague from the Global South or East with whom friendship, trust, and collaboration might begin? What if those relationships formed at Capetown become the first steps of implanting our own global shift?

I look forward to responses from this column from brothers and sisters around the world.

Dr. Lon Allison is executive director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois, USA. He also serves as director for the Institute for Strategic Evangelism at Wheaton College. He is co-publisher of Lausanne World Pulse.