25 July, 2010

Disciples of All Nations? Colonization or Indigenous Churches?

When the Lord Jesus Christ gave the Great Commission at the end of his ministry, he charged the Apostles with "making disciples of all nations". It is interesting that he chose the word nations, instead of world. The word nation is "ethnos" which means ethnicities, people groups, cultures, or nations. He could have chose the word "cosmos" which would be a generic, "Make disciples of all the world." But Jesus chose "ethnos". He wanted disciples to be made of the ethos; not just in the cosmos.

This is significant in my own ecclesiastical context because at our last Synod, our global missions agency reported that the mission work in Southern Sudan has been released from the oversight of the RPCNA and has been organized as the RPCSS (Reformed Presbyterian Church of Southern Sudan). They are part of the Reformed Presbyterian global community; but they are an indigenous church. They are not a church that is colonized; but one that was made out of discipling the ethnos of the Dinka. Praise God!

Of course, this creating an indigenous presbytery (RPCSS) was not without controversy. We have a precedence of keeping oversight for much longer. We have a presbytery of the RPCNA in Japan, which is the result of missionary endeavor. Why not follow that same model in Sudan? WIth much love and respect for my brothers in Japan, the model that Jesus gave us was disciples of all ethnos; not disciples in all cosmos.

As early as 1919 the RPCNA was wrestling with the questions of colonization versus indigenous churches. The Foreign Mission Board reported to Synod in 1919, "In recent years there has been a growing conviction that the Chinese have been, to their hurt, allowed to think that Christianity is the foreigner's religion and not their own; that the foreign religion should be supported from without, and that they, at most, are to favor it with the patronage of accepting it, and helping to spread it merely as paid employees of a foreign organization. The missionaries have been gravely and prayerfully studying this problem." (Report of Synod, 1919).

May the Lord continue to have His Church wrestle with the issues of culture and church planting. And may the Church truly understand how Jesus wants indigenous churches made up of all the ethnos of the cosmos.

Lord, build your Church!

No comments: