Unreached Network

Resetting and Rebooting Mission: Reflections on Unreached21

By Nigel Ring and Susie Howe

‘Reset’ and ‘Reboot’ are words we hear frequently these days as we move through the Covid
pandemic and its consequences. We recognise there will be a ‘new normal’. Such
terminology could well be applied to the content we were exposed to at the excellent
Unreached Network ’21 Conference held online at the end of June.
The conference was privileged to have as its keynote speaker Dr Harvey Kwiyani from
Liverpool University. Harvey has a special interest in contemporary mission in Europe and
North America, including intercultural theology, migrations, and African Christians in the

Decolonising mission
Harvey opened our eyes to the rapidly changing profiles of Christianity and the church
across the world today, and the urgent need in mission to be aware of the different cultural
expectations and interpretations of Christian theology if we are to help people become
followers of Jesus. Recognising that over the past centuries, much mission accompanied
colonisation with all its trappings, we must break free of any sense of there being a unique
western interpretation and life-application of theology brought about by the spread of
Christianity in this way.
We learned that according to the World Christian Encyclopaedia, there is an on-going shift
of the centre of gravity of Christianity happening (much of which may be ‘cultural’ rather
than ‘born again’). For instance, Africa currently represents 26% of the world population of
Christians but this is forecast to rise to 45% by 2050. The centre of gravity is moving south.
English is the first language for only 10% of world Christians; nearly twice that number speak
Spanish! One thing is certain: the belief by some that Christianity is a white, English-
speaking religion is far from the truth. While Christianity is spreading worldwide, Europe is
the exception. Relationship with secularism in Europe is unique. It has become a dark

Migration as a vehicle for mission
Migrant populations are also changing. During many years of colonisation there was a major
outward flow from the ‘west’ to other nations. That trend is now reversed with a significant
impact on the church in the now-receiving nations. For instance, in London the immigrant
communities represent 14% of the population, but they comprise 60% of total church
attendance. Yet existing churches have not done well in welcoming and integrating these
newly arrived people and in embracing diversity. Hence, many new, monoculture churches
have been planted by diaspora groups. If we allow this trend of segregation to persist, we all
miss out from benefitting from the diversity of gifts that are represented in the different
parts of the Body of Christ and we demonstrate to the world a fractured church.

Diversity and Relationship
Harvey presented us with a new beatitude: ‘Blessed are those who embrace diversity for
they shall see the future’. He went on to say, ‘Homogeneity in the Church leads to slow
death. We have to mix the gene pool’. The tradition of exporting, say, English church life and                                                                     practice and pre-packaged western theology to another nation is a recipe for death. A clone
of an ‘English’ church in the heart of Africa is anachronistic. Our missiology must allow
people to live in the culture God has given to them and to create and share the theologies
that emerge from their specific contexts, which are gifts for the Body of Christ around the
world. As we give and receive our God-given, unique gifts, the Worldwide Church will be
enriched and will more faithfully reflect the ‘one new man’ that God intends. As Dr Harvey
warned, ‘The health of the Body depends on the exchange’.
Much of the rest of the Unreached Network Conference illustrated how God is at work
through his people in unreached nations and those living on the margins. Inspiring stories of
transformed lives were shared by those living and working on the cutting edge with
unreached people on our doorsteps and in regions across the world. Opportunities to join
with God in his mission in different nations were highlighted.
David Devenish is well known in Newfrontiers’ circles for his particular passion for cross-
cultural mission. His rich experience gave deep authenticity as he spoke on fostering a sense
of family in mission among the unreached and the need to learn what family means in the
culture that we are working into. So much of what he shared dove-tailed with what Dr
Harvey had taught, such as the importance of keeping in our vision the autonomous and
indigenous reproduction of culturally relevant churches.

Back to the Reboot!
During a passionate time of prayer, a word was shared at the conference that when it
comes to building diverse, multi-cultural churches, there is no room for tokenism. As Jesus
said in Matthew 9:16, we cannot stick a new patch onto old cloth. We need to allow the
Holy Spirit to renew the whole fabric and fibre of the Church.
The message came across loud and clear: we need to reset our thinking about mission. We
talk about mission as it was 200 years ago, but God is doing a new thing, and we need to
keep up with him! What does this mean for Newfrontiers? This is the key question for this
day that needs to be intentionally grappled with, prayed about and acted on across the
Newfrontiers Spheres. Let us yield to the working of the Holy Spirit. Let us ask him to change
our hearts and thinking. Let us pray that he will weave us together and create in us a new
pattern for our churches that will be rich and vibrant, like a beautiful tapestry that will
authentically show to those around us His intentions for mankind.

For Harvey Kwiyani’s two talks on Decolonising Mission, go here for Part 1 and here for Part 2.

For Harvey Kwiayni’s book Multicultural Kingdom: Ethnic Diversity, Mission and the Church, go here