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06 December 2011

Global mission must adapt to a ‘messy’ world, says WEA

The Church must adapt to an increasingly "complex and messy world" with shifting cultures if it is to be effective in global mission, evangelicals from across the world have heard.

This was among the topics at the Mission Commission (MC) of the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) when it met for its 11th Global Consultation in Germany on 6-11 November. The theme was 'God's disturbing mission'.

Meeting at the Schönblick Conference Center near Stuttgart the 203 MC members from 42 countries looked at the developing complexity and diversity in the practice of global mission today. At the same time they recognised that mission belongs to God. The thought that God Himself might be behind disturbances in the mission agenda proved to be an invitation to seek God, read His word, strengthen relationships across diversity and bow in worship.

The reality of constantly renewing leadership was enacted as younger leaders led the consultation. Drawing attention to what is next, speakers from India, Lithuania, Russia, Brazil, USA, Sri Lanka, Rwanda, Kenya, South Korea, Sri Lanka and South Africa reflected the broad range of global perspectives.

Gordon Showell-Rogers, associate secretary general of the WEA, said: "In a fast-changing, globalised world, the Church needs to constantly learn how to hold onto eternal realities, and adapt to shifting culture: this conference did a great job of helping all present to think through how to do that better."

Other themes emerged during the week, including the challenge of developing adequate mission practice in and from contexts of complexity, uncertainty and change; and the reality of multiple approaches to mission and its practice.

Rob Hay, Redcliffe College principal, who was involved in organising the consultation, explained why he believes mission is so complex today. "The world is linked as never before with ease of travel, instant communications and mass migration," he said "This has brought a welcome diversity of voices into mission but it also means you have very diverse views. The combination of diversity and interconnectedness makes mission complex - and complexity often feels messy.

"In a complex and 'messy' world, we need a new approach to leadership - one that engages in collective sense-making and recognises the diversity of the world - enabling the diverse voices in mission leadership to respond effectively and appropriately in the days ahead."

The Mission Commission started 24 years ago to respond to the needs of national and regional mission movements around the globe. It has dedicated its energies to strengthening these continental and national entities, and promoting movements in nations that currently are not a significant part taking the gospel from every nation to every nation. Gordon says: "The Mission Commission is a deeply valued WEA service arm that is central to the WEA's identity because world mission is God's heartbeat."

The MC is governed by the Global Leadership Council (GLC), formed from its constituency. Peter Tarantal of South Africa was elected as the new Chair during the consultation.

Next May, the GLC will meet to review what arises from the consultation. Whatever the decisions made in the light of this, the WEA believes that this latest consultation stands as a reminder that mission depends on God's initiative and that He will use new and old senders to shape the future of Christian mission.

Looking to the future, Bertil Ekström, executive director of the MC, said: "We are on a journey together."