Tuesday, February 28, 2006

A Conversation with Fuller Missiologist Ryan Bolger


Western culture is experiencing a significant cultural shift from modernity to postmodernity. Various social and spiritual movements have arisen in response to this cultural change. As one response, the emerging church movement has arisen within evangelicalism. This movement is distinctly different from both the contemporary church and seeker church movements, as well as traditional expressions of church. Postmodernism has also given rise to various expressions of new religions and alternative spiritualities. Ryan Bolger is a leading thinker and evangelical strategist in the area of contemporary culture and missions. Ryan is Assistant Professor of Church in Contemporary Culture at Fuller Theological Seminary. Along with Eddie Gibbs, he is the co-author of Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures (Baker Academic, 2005). Ryan was gracious enough to agree to an interview for this blog on important issues facing the church in the Western world. (Photo: Ryan Bolger [left], Eddie Gibbs [right]).

Can you tell us about your background and your perspective of research and analysis related to the emerging culture?

Hi John, thanks for hosting this conversation. I’m a native southern Californian – have lived in other places but always find my way back to LA. I’ve studied missiology, specifically mission to the west, under Wilbert R. Shenk, a student himself of Andrew Walls and less formally, of Lesslie Newbigin. In addition, I studied the church and church growth under Eddie Gibbs, the Donald McGavran Professor of Church Growth at Fuller Theological Seminary. It is at Fuller where I received a PhD in missiology. What I learned is that we need to think like missionaries in the West rather than simply as church members. We need to understand the culture and look to foster indigenous faith communities within that same culture. Again, nothing radical for missionaries, but very radical for the Western church. As I look at the West, I am most interested in those communities that engage the culture seriously, as missionaries do. I want to tell their stories in the hopes that it might inspire others to do likewise.

How would you summarize postmodernity in Western culture?

Modernity involved the birth of the secular project in the West – the loss of tradition, community, and the centrality of faith. Inherent to modernity is individualism, industrialization, the birth of the powerful state, the fragmentation of societies, to name a few. Postmodernity marks a significant change in all these realms. It marks the end of the secular project of modernity and the re-integration of spirituality and community into public life.

Is it important to make such a distinction between academic postmodernism and postmodernism as expressed on a popular level, and where have evangelicals tended to focus their discussion and critique?

I’m concerned with the social manifestations of postmodernity, not necessarily the arguments within the philosophical tradition. So, my interests are academic, but the parallels between the academy and the popular level are more obvious when you focus on the social realm. I do think there are parallels with the philosophical realm as well, but the connections are more difficult to demonstrate. Church-type evangelicals are taught to interact with culture based on philosophy, and so they will think in terms of an apologetic response to postmodernity, addressing issues such as the move away from foundationalism. Mission-type evangelicals will look to understand the culture -- not necessarily debate the culture. For missionaries, cultures just are. Missionaries do not look to change the culture as outsiders, but rather, after fostering an indigenous faith community from within, they may look to the new converts to transform the culture.

Is postmodernism something evangelicalism and mainline Protestantism should carefully consider as a cultural development for broader reasons beyond the issues of epistemology and absolute truth?

Definitely – postmodernity represents a new form of culture in our cities, connecting our artists, our spiritual people, our environmentally minded, and our youth. This is where evangelicals make their big mistake – thinking we need to argue with these people. We need cross-cultural mission training for regular Christians. Unless they have gone to the mission field, they just don’t have these sensibilities. They spend their time arguing from the outside rather than helping foster transformation from within.

Let’s talk about the emerging church movement. What is it, and how does it differ from the contemporary church or seeker sensitive models?

Emerging churches represent the first post-Christendom movement in Western clture. Christendom churches are attractional, meaning they look to attract people to their church within a churched culture, and this includes movements such as seeker churches, purpose-driven churches, Calvary Capels, Vineyards, not to mention all the traditional denominations. Post-Christendom churches do not see the church service as a primary connecting point with non-Christians. They look to embody their alternative way of life in the midst of the people in the culture – not in the church service. Again – not radical for missionaries but very counter-cultural within historically churched cultures such as the West. Emerging churches look to the life of Jesus as a source of life – not just his death and resurrection. So, hospitality, generosity, inclusion of the marginal, peacemaking, are very important to emerging churches. Emerging churches are truly postmodern – thus, they do not believe in secular space. They believe in spirituality in all realms, in all parts of culture, with all parts of culture, and with all kinds of people. For emerging churches, community is the glue – they would rather be a part of a community that had a service than a church service in hopes of creating a community.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Cross-Cultural Hermeneutics Course Aims: Why Are They Missing Elsewhere?

Dr. Robert Priest of Trinity International University is teaching an intensive course at Salt Lake Theological Seminary this semester titled "Cross-Cultural Hermeneutics." I was intrigued when I first read the Course Aims section of the syllabus:

"Upon completion of this course each student should demonstrate increasing . . .

A. cognitive . . . .

1. knowledge of theoretical perspectives and research methods employed by scholars who study culture;
2. ability to read scholarly books on other cultures and societies with good comprehension of the vocabulary, concepts and theories assumed or implied in such writings;
3. ability to analyze the culture (customs, beliefs, rituals, symbols, etc.) of other people;
4. ability to understand and analyze the religion and world view of others, since it is in this area that the missionary hopes to effect change, and show how such an understanding can be helpful for the communicator of the gospel;
5. understanding of communication theory and of those elements of culture related to interpersonal interaction and to the communicative task (e.g. body language, symbols, media of communication, interaction styles, etc.);
6. ability to analyze those dimensions of culture which are related closely to the content of the Christian message (e.g. aspects of culture related to suffering and death, to conscience, guilt and shame, to sin and the moral order, to personal and social ethics, to forgiveness of the debt of sin, cleansing from the defilement of sin, to redemptive analogies, etc.);
7. ability to contextualize the gospel message and to contextualize one's ministry strategy in a fashion which is based on the authority of scripture but sensitively related to the social and cultural context because it is also based on an adequate understanding of the human ministry context.

B. affective . . . .

1. sensitivity and deep respect towards those of other cultures and races;
2. deep commitment to understanding the culture of the people to whom one is called;
3. commitment to communicate the gospel in ways that are culturally comprehensible and appropriate;
4. desire to see and affirm the good in other cultures;
5. humility by a comfortable willingness to learn and to be instructed by those to whom one is called and by a willingness to serve under the leadership of others;
6. self-control and patience, being slow to anger or frustration, under circumstances which will be trying and in cultural settings where misunderstandings are inevitable;
7. consciousness of his or her own ethno-centricity; and
8. flexibility and a willingness to constantly reassess and start over with new strategies and plans;

C. skill . . .

1. in the use of ethnographic methods--in conducting interviews and taking fieldnotes on observed events in everyday life--as a basis for gaining understanding of one's ministry context;
2. in intercultural interpersonal relationships;
3. in an ability to employ ministry skills in a culturally appropriate fashion; and
4. in an ability to communicate effectively in cross-cultural settings. "

These goals represent those common in missiology. To what extent do we see them desired, emphasized and utilized among American evangelicals working in the area of new religions and alternative spiritualities in the West? I don't see much of it. Why is this the case? Why does missiology seem to have lofty aims in its understanding and methodology but they seem sorely lacking in apologetic approaches? Should we not aspire to these worthy aims?

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Correct Knowledge and Doctrinal Minimalism

How much correct knowledge of God, Christ and the gospel is necessary for “genuine conversion?” The answer may not be so easy as we might think for those of us working missionally among adherents of new religions, particularly those sharing some affinities with Christianity.

This week I exchanged some emails with a Fuller student who is working on a religion project paper that compares missional contextualization in Islamic contexts with the development of a similar approach to Latter-day Saints. Our exchange was interesting as we integrated our experiences in LDS culture with the writings on Islamic contextualization, and then wrestled with the question of correct knowledge of God and disavowal of heretical knowledge. I thought it might be helpful to summarize some of our thinking here for others to wrestle with in their missional contexts.

We began with recognition of our cultural assumptions that might influence our thinking on this topic. As children of the Enlightenment and Modernity, we recognize that in the West we tend to understand knowledge, and doctrine, in abstract propositional ways, and to value knowledge as an end unto itself. By contrast, a more Hebraic understanding of knowledge tends to be more relational. As Westerners we need to wrestle with the issues and the biblical texts on their own cultural terms rather than imposing Western understandings of knowledge on the subject matter.

With due consideration of our cultural biases, we then considered the essence of the question as to how much correct doctrine is necessary for converts, especially in connection with heretical doctrine. Most evangelicals have some kind of doctrinal formula in mind, from the simple to the complex, but the assumptions upon which these formulas are based need to be reassessed in light of a fresh exegetical and missional engagement with Scripture.

Rick Brown wrote an interesting article for the International Journal of Frontier Missions titled “What Must One Believe About Jesus for Salvation?” The article provides an interesting survey of relevant biblical texts, and his thesis challenges conventional formulas that speak of the necessity of certain doctrines equated with orthodoxy in Christendom, including the deity of Christ, Trinitarian theology, and a substitutionary atonement. Brown’s argument is worthy of careful reflection.

In addition to the question of knowledge of Jesus related to soteriology, we might also consider the broader question of conversion as it relates to worldview transformation. In our discussion we also considered an article by Paul Hiebert, also found in IJFM titled, appropriately enough, “Conversion and Worldview Transformation.”

For those more inclined toward more expansive definitions of orthodoxy as influenced by systematic theology, we might consider that missions has been called the “mother of theology.” Missiologist Gailyn Van Rheenen has used this term in his writings, and by this he means that the early church developed her theology primarily through the messy process of missional engagement with cultures, rather than through philosophical reflection in the form of systematic theology.

After considering these questions from a missiological perspective, and after engaging in fresh theological reflection, we came to the conclusion that some form of doctrinal minimalism is in order. It appears from the biblical evidence that a minimal amount of correct knowledge and doctrine was presented to and accepted by the “convert,” and our tendencies toward more extensive evangelistic formulas might be not only unbiblical, but also put the doctrinal cart before the horse. Rather than expecting potential converts to have more extensive and orthodox theological views, perhaps this is something that should be developed over time as individuals mature in the discipleship process.

And what of the question of the disavowal of heresy from converts? This too may be more difficult and messy than we had previously thought. The biblical texts seem to indicate an admixture of orthodoxy and heresy on the part of those in the covenant (whether Old or New), and while this is not ideal, and the discipleship process should strive toward a deeper and more accurate understanding, surely new converts should not be expected to disavow much of their doctrine and worldview prior to or immediately after acceptance of the gospel. This too might be viewed as a part of the lengthy process of discipleship and sanctification, and missionaries should give those under their discipleship care plenty of room for the Spirit’s working in human lives.

After these discussions I wondered whether it is possible that we have asked more than we need to of those considering the claims of Christ within new religions.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Considerations on An Islamic Cartoon

The topic of this post is one that stirs great emotions, both among Christians and Muslims. Any comments on such a topic are bound to be misunderstood, and before I get to the specifics of my comments in this post I need to make some introductory comments that I hope will fend off misunderstanding from conservative Christians.

First, I believe that military action is an important part of the war on terror. However, it should not be viewed as the only tool in our toolbag in responding to this complex international problem.

Second, I appreciate concerns about the frequent ridicule of Christianity in the popular media. I am saddened when Christ and the church are slandered, but this should not lead us to the conclusion that if the press treats Christianity this way then similar treatment of other religions, such as Islam should be tolerated.

Third, I recognize Islam in complexity and diversity, and I want to avoid simple black and white understandings and portrayal of this religion. We often hear two extremes, one claiming that true Islam is a religion of peace, while the other extreme claims that true Islam is a religion of violence. I believe that a balanced view on this topic is that Islam is both peaceful and violent, in its origins, historical development, and in current expressions around the world. Christians in the West might strive to represent the "two faces" of Islam (as James Beverley has described it), and also recognize that it is up to the Islamic people around the world to decide which expression of this religion will be the one that dominates in the twenty-first century. Christians should no more interpret what "true Islam" is historically or will be in the present than we would want Muslims tell us what true Christianity is. (A good place to start in reassessing this issue is the fine article by missiologist and missionary Dudley J. Woodberry, "The War On Terrorism: Reflections Of A Guest In The Lands Involved.")

Enough of the introductory statements and on to the present controversy. Unless you have no access to international news you are no doubt aware of the continued controversy in the Muslim world surrounding a cartoon apparently depicting Muhammad in an unflattering way. The cartoon has led to violence around the world and has contributed to international commentary on the specific issue, as well as general aspects related to Islam and the war on terror.

I recognize that a diversity of Christian responses have been offered to this issue, but the one I am hearing quite a bit is commented on above in my initial comments. Many Christians see the cartoon as "fair" in that if Christianity is fair game for ridicule, why not Islam? I think it is fair to say that the reason why more satire is not done in connection with Islam is because of fear of violent backlash from Muslims, something not normally associated with Christianity and surely not on the large scale as we are seeing now in Muslim countries. I've already provided my thoughts on this. Simply because Christianity is fair game for ridicule in the West does not mean other religions should be also. Perhaps Christians might hope for the Golden Rule to be applied by journalists to this issue. Treat other people's religions in cartoons and writing as you would have them treat your religion or spirituality.

But I wonder whether we're missing the broader picture, both on this issue, and in the broader issues of the war on terror against militant Islam, and the culture clash between the West and the Islamic world. I was reading through Books & Culture recently and came across the title of a book that intrigued me: Why the Rest Hates the West: Understanding the Roots of Global Rage, by Meic Pearse (InterVarsity Press, 2004). InterVarsity is a sound evangelical publisher, and the title surely touches on an issue that we desperately need to think through on deeper levels than we have thus far considered. Booklist includes a description of the book on Amazon.com:
The root cause of non-Western nations' anger toward the West lies not in economics, religion, or foreign policy, church historian and business-studies teacher Pearse says, but in modern Western culture, which traditional societies see as barbarism. Specifically, they see in the West societies that forget ancestors, derogate religion, exalt triviality (sports, entertainment, fashion), endorse sexual shamelessness, deprecate family, and discard honor. Westerners are surprised to be called barbarians, because they associate barbarism almost exclusively with dirt and cruelty. To reduce Western surprise, Pearse probes the beliefs that eventuate in the qualities non-Westerners decry. Those doctrines include modern personal integrity (being "true to oneself"), human rights, progress, impartiality or equality of treatment, "imagined communities" (e.g., nation, class), and industrial efficiency. The practical consequences of these beliefs are social atomization; personal riresponsibility; dehumanizing impersonality; and other wounds to traditional families, communities, and conceptions of the person. Perhaps the West itself is dying of modernism through declining birthrates and increasing dependence on immigration in all Western countries. Westerners ought to become normal again, and Pearse urges revivals of belief and behavior in the West that more closely approximate those of "the Rest." This is no "fundamentalist" altar-call harangue, however, but possibly the best, most intelligent, most humane brief argument that the West, rather than the Rest, needs reform. - Ray OlsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
While conservative evangelicals who are not positively inclined toward either Islam, or critical self-reflection on American and Western culture, may be tempted to dismiss such a book, it sounds like it might raise important issues for us to consider. These issues are far more complex than portraits of "good vs. evil," and "freedom loving peoples vs. fascists." We're talking about clashes of culture that continue to impact us and our children, probably for decades to come. Christians are called to recognize that they are citizens of a Heavenly City, with their first allegiances being to the King and his Kingdom, rather than to certain national and cultural affinities. Can we use the occasion of international unrest over something so seemingly trivial as a cartoon to wrestle with criticism of our own culture with greater objectivity as members of the community of Jesus?

Unity in Diversity and the Mormon Puzzle

The Southern Baptist Convention's North American Mission Board produced an apologetic video on Mormonism a few years back titled "The Mormon Puzzle." The title of this post should not be construed as referencing this product, but instead I'd like to comment on the many pieces of a puzzle needed to respond properly in ministry to Mormons and Mormonism, as well as other new religions.

Yesterday in a conversation with a colleague I was reminded of how some evangelicals feel that when dialogical and missional approaches to Mormonism are advocated that other approaches, such as those that are largely apologetic in terms of responding to Mormon doctrine or history, are somehow being undermined or considered of no value. Unfortunately, this is an example of hearing something as either/or rather than both/and.

Paul wrote the early church and reminded them of their differing gifts and abilities which were to be valued and utilized for the Body of Christ. Although each Christian has differing gifts and performs different functions in the Body, all are necessary for all the needs of the Body. But the Body of Christ is not only gifted to serve itself, but also to serve the world. Extending Paul's analogy of the body beyond the church to service in the world, we should also recognize that many different gifts, abilities, personality types, and approaches to ministry are necessary and complimentary.

With this perspective in mind, those of us advocating dialogue with LDS leaders are not stating that this is the only approach or the best approach in an evangelical response to Mormonism. We are saying that this is an important part of an overall response, and one that can play an important part. Likewise, those of us advocating missional approaches, whether the Bridges approach of Salt Lake Seminary, team approaches in concert with a Christian mission agency, or missional congregation approaches in LDS culture, are saying that this too is an important aspect of evangelical approaches to Mormonism, but not the only piece.

Although I am sometimes "heard" as disavowing apologetic approaches to Mormonism, let me state clearly that I believe this too has its place. Like the other pieces of the puzzle, this needs to be done carefully, and just as we might try to have high standards in dialogical or missional approaches, our apologetic bar needs to be high as well. We should strive to produce a balanced apologetic that is incorporated as part of an overall strategy for interacting with Mormons, and our apologetic must be contextually appropriate, and serve as a tool for a missional engagement with Mormonism.

Anyone who works with puzzles recognizes that they can only be completed if every part is utilized and plays a part in concert with the other pieces to make a greater whole. My hope is that evangelicals laboring among the LDS people can view themselves and others as valuable pieces of the puzzle being constructed by God. No part of the puzzle is exclusive, and all are needed to play their appropriate part. A few new pieces have been added in the form of dialogue and missions. Let's value all of the pieces and work together to complete the Divine mosaic.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Start Trek Conventions as Sacred Pilgrimage

I have been doing some reading on anthroplogy of pilgrimage to apply this concept to Mormon culture as it relates to the Mormon Miracle Pageant at Manti, and LDS temple openings. One particularly helpful book has been Intersecting Journeys: The Anthropology of Pilgrimage and Tourism, Ellen Badone and Sharon R. Roseman (eds.) (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2004).

One of the more interesting chapters in the book is "Pilgrimage and the IDIC Ethic: Exploring Star Trek Convention Attendance as Pilgrimage" by Jennifer E. Porter. The chapter begins by referencing the call from anthropologist Victor Turner for students of religion to take the science fiction genre seriously as "futuristic frameworks expressing mythic and liminal states and concerns." The various series making up the Star Trek franchise is then located within this genre as "one location in which to find religion in our society." The dots are then connected to the anthropological discussion of pilgrimage and secular tourism. Anthropologist E. Alan Morinis has stated that even secular journeys can be understood as pilgrimage "if made in pursuit of embodied ideals." Star Trek is known to embody the philosophy of its creator, the late Gene Roddenberry, which can be understood anthropologically as a sacred set of ideals that are then connected to the notion of pilgrimage at conventions, which for many fans function as sacred journeys.

I found this discussion fascinating at a number of levels. First, Roddenberry was well known as a Secular Humanist, and the original series articulated Roddenberry's vision for the future beyondand without religion. As the series progressed it changed with the times and with the new creative influences that came in touch with Roddenberry's project. But regardless of whether we are talking about Roddenberry's Humanist vision, or the postmodern spiritualities that can be seen in subsequent versions of the show, the entire franchise itself embodies a set of ideals that can be understood as sacred.

Second, while this chapter makes a distinction between secular tourism and religious pilgrimage, it also clearly makes a connection between the two, and notes that even visits to secular sites or space (understood geographically as well as in terms of community regarless of location) can fulfill a religious or spiritual dimension akin to religious pilgrimage found in more traditional religious expressions.

All in all this chapter was logical, and took me to places where this man had never gone before. (Sorry, as a Star Trek fan [the original series is the best!] I couldn't resist this closing with a nod to the original series' opening narration.)

Mormonism, Identity, Boundaries, Cultural Allegiance and Experience-Near Theologizing

In my continued reading for intercultural studies I came across a few sources that brought some missional thoughts worth stringing together. I pass them along for missional colleagues to think through with me.

The first pearl of the string comes in the form of an article by Armand Mauss titled "Identity and boundary maintenance: International prospects for Mormonism at the dawn of the twenty-first century," included in the book Mormon Identities in Transition, Douglas J. Davies (ed.) (Cassell, 1996). Mauss reminds us of the important concepts of identity and boundaries that are maintained and constantly negotiated and renegotiated by religious groups in response to surrounding culture. Mauss notes that during the last few decades Mormonism in North America has gone through a retrenchment process in response to negative perceptions of an assimilation process where the boundary between Mormonism and American culture had been blurred, threatening both the boundary and Mormon identity. Evangelicals involved in various forms of missional engagement with Mormon culture will need to remember the concepts of identity and boundaries, as well as the cyclical retrenchment process, as they engage Mormons at levels which threaten LDS uniqueness and identity.

The second string on the pearl which can be tied directly to the preceding point is our tendency toward extraction evangelism approaches as it relates to Mormonism. I have commented on this previously, but by way of reminder, as we engage the religious other our tendency is to expect them to leave their subculture upon conversion, only to reinculturate them in an evangelical subculture, rather than to allow and facilitate indigenous expressions of Christian community drawn from their culture. This tendency toward extractional approaches may be a factor in the lack of interest many adherents of new religions express in Christianity which is often perceived as being counter-cultural in the sense of opposing virtually every aspect of the religious or spiritual subculture of the religious other. As Christian anthropologist Robert Priest has mentioned in another context, "The resistance aroused by such preaching may have little to do with resistance to the Holy Spirit and rejection of Christ, and a great deal to do with allegiance to one's own culture and society in the face of an invitation to a disloyal conversion to an alien culture."

The final pearl on the string has to do with a process of "experience-near theologizing." Priest, mentioned above, has contributed a chapter that describes this process for a book titled Globalizing Theology: Christian Belief and Practice in an Era of Global Christianity, Harold Netland and Craig Ott (eds.) (Baker, Forthcoming 2006). In the article, Priest contrasts experience-near theologizing with the approach of systematic theology, which has "historically employed the assumptions, categories, questions and methods of the disciple of philosophy," resulting in "experience-distant" understandings of theological truths. Experience-near theologizing is missional theologizing, which interacts with anthropology and the human sciences as dialogue partners, resulting in experience-near theology, or theology that is both context-sensitive in relation to cultures, but also draws upon concepts that are intimately related to the daily lives of those in a given culture. Priest notes that each form of theology "pushes the theologian in different directions." While systematic theology moves us toward "logical entailments, formal consistency, and abstract rationality," experience-near theologizing helps us to appreciate "actual lived experiences" that reflect biblical truths as well. Priest states that while there have been a few lone voices calling for the development of experience-near theologizing in missiology, much more work needs to be done.

I hope the reader considers both the importance of the individual pearls, and what the string might look like when they are all put together. Reflection on the individual elements as well as the entire string will be helpful to to those of us in missiological engagement with Mormon culture.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Newbigin and McGavran: Western Missional Insights from India

The other day I was reflecting on the various individuals who have influenced my perspective on missions in the West and it occured to me that two very interesting and important insights were born out of missions experiences in India.

The first important influence comes from Lesslie Newbigin. Newbigin is now infamous in mission circles for coming back to his native UK after serving as a missionary in India, only to find that the UK had become a major mission field itself in his absence. As a result of his observations abroad and at home, Newbigin wrote a number of insightful books and articles, including "Can the West Be Converted?" from the International Bulletin of Missionary Research. Newbigin's thought was, and continues to be, groundreaking. As Alan Roxburgh has stated, Newbigen recognized that, "The greatest challenge to Christian mission was now those very nations that had once sent missionaries around the world." In addition he also explored through his writings a theology of culture and ecclesiology informed by the insights of missiology. Newbigin's thinking continues to influence a number of Christians in the West, and he has been especially influential in the emerging church movement.

Another missionary with mportant missional insights for the Western world was Donald McGavran, known for work that helped launch the church growth movement. McGavran's insight was the recognition that churches planted by Western missionaries in India were mission stations rather than indigenous expressions of the gospel in local culture. Thus, these churches became "mission station" churches which were bastions of Western Christianity, culturally disconnected from the local populations, rather than indigenous people movements that drew upon aspects of local culture in the formation new expressions of church community. McGavran discussed these issues in his important book The Bridges of God (World Dominion Press, 1955).

These two individuals might be regarded as missional visionaries. Their thinking remains important and relevant to mission in the West and American post-Christendom. To connect the dots of relevancy to the twenty-first century Western church, Newbigin reminds the great missionary-sending nation of America that cross-cultural missions must also take place in our own neighborhoods. Missions is not just "over there;" more than ever it is "over here." With the shift in the center of gravity of Christianity to the Southern Hemisphere, Western Christianity might also reassess its contribution to world missions in this century.

The insight of McGavran should serve as a wake up call that just as the Western missionary church in India was culturally inappropriate in the local cultural context, so are most of our churches in America, whether Purpose-Driven, seeker friendly, Willow Creek, or whatever the model. Our forms of church subculture are foreign to the neotribal peoples (in terms of social identity) and subcultures of America, hence the need to be truly missional in the development of ecclesiological forms in this country.

As I continue to reflect on the insights of these missional thinkers I find it interesting that God gave these men important insights while they served cross-culturally in India. Their work serves as another indication of the immense value and application of cross-cultural missiology to Western Christianity in our changing cultural context.