John Flett: Mission and Two World Wars

How many times do I have to say it? Go buy this book!

John Flett, The Witness of God: The Trinity, Missio Dei, Karl Barth, and the Nature of Christian Community (Eerdmans, 2010): 65.
The marked success of the Western missionary enterprise, coordinated with the failure of Western civilization evident in World War I, established a[n]...historical condition leading to the discovery of the church's missionary nature. Once missions had established Christian communities, what relationship did these younger churches have to the older sending churches? Complex infrastructure, paternalism, and fears concerning the leadership capacity of "native" Christians made it difficult for Western missions to relinquish governing control. World War II proved a boon in this regard. As missionaries found themselves interned, indigenous leadership assumed control over these "orphaned" missions. These historic missions became recognized as churches in their own right. The two world wars equally altered missionary leadership to the ineffectiveness of Christianity in the "sending" countries of the West. As Hartenstein suggests, "We have learned in these last years to think differently about the superiority of European culture. Every heathen throws our own words back into our faces." Missions could no longer draw on some imagined Western superiority. Indeed, they discovered a mission field in their own backyard. Geographical terms were no longer adequate to frame the missionary enterprise. Mission became something true for every church regardless of the particular location. The church does not have a mission, she is missionary.


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