Reconciliation As An Export?
At the New City Summit we discussed as a group the idea of planting cross cultural and reconciliation model churches in other countries. What do we have to offer to other countries, how could our model be good for them? I suppose the question would first be, is there any enmity anywhere but in the U.S.? Is there any racism, tribalism, or ethno-centrism that has resulted in alienation, hatred, and violence? I suppose we could just ask, is there life on earth? We are not pretending we have a franchise to sell, or that we have worked things out so well in our own congregations that we are now experts at reconciliation. We would be very foolish to continue an attitude of arrogance in missions. We can only offer the years of experience, our own struggle, or own sincere and broken attempts to live out the Gospel, and indeed even our mistakes and failures for others to learn from. We also come to other countries as learners, hearing their pain, and rejoicing in their victories. We have seen the blessing of God in the creation of New City Nairobi, and we have been excited in the work of the Lord among refugees and immigrants especially in St.Louis, MO. Several pastors of national groups want to go back to their own country and plant this kind of church. Is it possible? Can tribes and ethnicities that have hated each other, and tried to kill each other, ever come to peace and actually worship together? If God is in it no man can stop it. We do think this is a powerful model for countries all over the world. Not only that but so many churches and pastoral leaders in other countries have swallowed some bad stuff from American missions and religious opportunists. All the way from legalism, to prosperity Gospel, and leaving out justice and mercy. Can we believe that Christianity actually changed traditionalists and diverted them from taking care of their own widows and orphans in their communities? It seems that way, that churches around the world pick up the same bad habits (of American churches) of existing only for the Sunday service, or the enlargement of the building, or the care of the pastor. I know there were traditions that abandoned orphans and widows without any help from an American style Christianity, but isn’t it time to get the holistic Biblical message out to the world, and challenge everyone to effectively care for their own poor and give them tools to do that? I can’t say that we planned on this. It seems counter-intuitive for those who have been involved in the struggle for racial reconciliation and justice here in America to care about the hostility between groups in other countries. Why should we spend time, energy, and resources to care for the poor elsewhere when we are trying to be a prophetic voice about poverty and need here in our own country? Let me tick off a few quick answers: Jesus tells us (excuse me, but did you see the name Jesus?) we are to make disciples of all the nations, one of the best things that can happen to an American poor person is to see utter poverty in another country, people in other countries who have risked their lives to love each other in Christ across ethnic lines just might have something to teach us, the model of Christians joining together to help their poor and develop them with the resources they have also has things to teach us, and to inspire us. We no longer want “foreign” missions to be the antithesis of home missions, the demographics of world immigration and migration are too dynamic in this generation for us to maintain the old models. We have a fantastic opportunity to organically plant the church in all kinds of places, and to tell you the truth God seems to have been doing this without asking us to come up with the goals and a plan on how to do it before he started moving. For too long we have seen white churches in America be smug behind a large missions budget in which they sent out missionaries to nations where there were dark skinned people but had no love for those kind of people in their own city. For too long we have seen African American churches be smug behind their anger at the history of racism and not realize there were people worse off then themselves who desperately needed the witness of African Americans around the world, a people historically prepared to have a powerful moral story anywhere they might go. Multi-ethnic teams of reconciled folks are a powerful witness anywhere and everywhere. As the Lord brings nationals of other countries to us here in the U.S., and they rejoice in our kind of congregations, and ask us for help in their own country we will seek to do that through the network. The network can build and design teams from our various congregations and send them to help where they are invited or develop a relationship. Through disaster response, through longer term development, through encouragement of poor churches helping even poorer people we can show the love of Jesus around the world.