Author: Mark Oxbrow, managing consultant for the CMS mission network.
The idea of a contextualised gospel and, as a result, an indigenous leadership which is busy at work in its own community – with global consequences, is at the heart of partnership. Paul Gupta of Hindustan Bible Institute puts it this way:
If the gospel is going to find reception globally, it will happen as the church encourages the contextualisation of the message, builds indigenous leadership, and releases them into the communities.
This is not a new idea. What we might call ‘the indigenous principle in partnership’ was clearly enunciated by Billy Graham at the original Lausanne Conference in 1974. Addressing delegates from what was then called the Third World, he said:
As national church leaders you must exercise your birthright and establish new church movements, mission agencies and parachurch agencies that represent indigenous identity.
That was more than thirty years ago but the challenge still remains. Indeed, Phill Butler in his recent book, Well Connected (2005), suggests that it is the challenge.
What is the church’s greatest challenge today? Lack of money, prayer, people? I’m convinced of one thing: the brokenness in the church, the divisions that abound, and our constant resistance to God’s design of restored relationships and practical unity is our greatest sin.
Can we honestly say to people who are not ‘us’ (our family, our folk, our church, our mission), ‘I rejoice that God is blessing you’. Unity is absolutely foundational to our witness. Going right back to the beginning we can overhear the words of Jesus of Nazareth spoken in Jerusalem about 29CE:
I pray that they may be one, Father! May they be in us, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they be one, so that the world may believe that you sent me.
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