Over the past 12 months, in small villages and towns in Africa and Asia, I’ve had the privilege to sit and listen to some amazing, humble women of faith. I’ve been inspired by their stories, courage and resilience. I’ve wiped tears from my eyes as they have shared their hopes and dreams for their local communities. These women represent the “typical” follower of Jesus in today’s rapidly changing world. They are female, non-white, living in the global South, experiencing poverty and lacking societal safety and proper health care.
All too often the voices of women like this can be easily ignored and yet they have so much to teach people like me in the affluent, western world.
By 2030 – now only seven years away – 70% of followers of Jesus will live in the non-western world. This highlights the ongoing, huge shifts in world Christianity and the international mission landscape
So, what do these shifts mean for organisations like the one I lead? What do they mean for western church leaders? Surely, it’s a call to humility! It’s a time to confess and turn from western arrogance and superiority complexes and any hangovers from the colonial past.
It’s a time to listen and to keep listening.
It’s a time to learn from our sisters and brothers in Africa, South America and Asia. To listen to CALD leaders in our local communities. To see the value and place of every voice, like the inspiring women I describe above and local born and bred leaders. From village pastors in the back blocks of Malawi, to emerging leaders in Myanmar, to church planters in mega cities in Brazil. It’s a time to double down on the development of local faith communities that are authentic in context. It’s a time to invest in local leaders and grassroots Kingdom initiatives.
The huge shifts we’re experiencing lead to opportunities for new collaborations and partnerships, a time to re-think western funding approaches, a time to open our hands and hearts to new approaches led by Global South leaders, a time for Spirit-led innovation.
I have far more questions than answers, but I am excited to grappling with these questions with my Baptist Mission Australia and Baptist World Alliance colleagues. Even more, it’s vital that we have the right voices at the table, it’s vital in situ we hear the voices of people not like me! I am humbled and excited when I have a conversation with a young global South leader and she or he talk partnership and courageously add “but new partnerships need to look different to they were in the past.” They do indeed! For such a time as this.
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