Wednesday, February 02, 2011

hard questions about Christian mission

Every generation has challenges. One of the challenges for our generation is how we respond to the injustice of the past. Last Wednesday was Australia Day, which is a celebration of a nation with a history of dispossession of indigenous people. Sunday in New Zealand is Waitangi Day and the subsequent failure by settlers to honour that treaty.

This has implications for being Christian. We talk of a God of reconciliation who heals the past. How do such claims make sense for this generation?

In recent days I have been reading Remembering Jamestown: Hard Questions About Christian Mission, which explores how the church in North America might live in the face of historic injustice and mistreatment of indigenous people.

The final chapter is by Amos Yong, a theologian, Malaysian born, now working at Regent University, USA.  I have engaged in this blog previously his extraordinary book on Theology and Down Syndrome: Reimagining Disability in Late Modernity and also his excellent Hospitality and the Other: Pentecost, Christian Practices, and the Neighbor).

Yong argues that “it is important for us not to quickly forget the offenses that were part and parcel of the missiology” of the past. (163). He advocates a post-colonial theology of mission based on the many tongues of the Pentecost narrative.

  1. “As many tongues were empowered by the Spirit to speak about God’s deeds of power … so also are many languages required to bear witness to the glory of God today.” (164)
  2. This requires us to listen to many voices as a first move in mission.
  3. The expectation is that the encounter with those different than us will lead to “mutual transformation” of both parties (166).
  4. The many tongues of Pentecost assume a multiplicity of missionary modes of engagement, a diversity of approaches to being Christ today. “We need to creatively participate in the work of the Spirit to develop many more liturgical forms and other social practices that facilitate the healing and salvation needed to respond” to the past (166). (Anyone else hear echoes of the call to fresh expressions!)
  5. It expects a theology of hospitality in which Christians become not hosts, but guests. (Anyone else hear echoes of Luke 10? – for more on this go here and here and here and here and here and here)

Thought provoking stuff for all those who care about mission in Australia and New Zealand.

Posted by steve at 06:24 AM


  1. Hi Steve. I am hoping to explore hospitality and mission more as part of my masters. In an early assignment I summarized:

    “Shared food is central to both hospitality and mission, where listening to stories and sharing food begins to create egalitarian relationships as we begin to understand one another and enter into each other’s world. A commitment to missional hospitality that is self-giving requires “a costly reorientation of our lives” so that we can create space for others to experience the open arms of God in our relationship with them. Hospitality might include inviting the others around for a bbq as a portent of the eschatological great feast where hospitality and mission find their fulfillment in the embrace of God. Yet so much more than offering food, missional hospitality means opening our hearts, wallets and communities to give space for those unlike ourselves to find a place to stand, a kenosis that reflects the very nature of the triune God and God’s mission to reconcile the world to himself through Jesus.”

    Thanks for the challenge to consider not only the giving but also the receiving of hospitality as mission space.

    Comment by Nigel — February 2, 2011 @ 10:14 am

  2. It’s a pretty trendy theme.

    When you invite others around, you are still the host. You are extending hospitality not giving it. Fascinating to take this to the gospels, in which so much of Jesus expereince of hospitality was a guest, not host.

    Yong explores the hospitality not just of food. But also of shared community projects, or mutual dialogue. In these he sees the chance for Christians, especially Western Christians, to be guests – which is a whole new post-Christendom posture we have to learn


    Comment by steve — February 2, 2011 @ 10:20 am

  3. […] or Guests – what difference does it make? By SU Neighbourhood Outreach Reading this post on Steve Taylor’s blog, led me to thinking about how often we speak about the importance of […]

    Pingback by Hosts or Guests – what difference does it make? « SU Neighbourhood Outreach — February 20, 2011 @ 5:21 pm

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