Notes from another country part 4
I’ve been leading a small Cornhill missions team this last week. We’ve been abroad somewhere hot and somewhere increasingly difficult to be a Christian. It’s probably not appropriate for me to say where (or necessary, even) because I don’t want to put believers at risk. But, as ever, my heart has been stirred and my faith has been challenged by being with believers from a different culture. For sure, other cultures have their blind spots – and they are painfully obvious. But, more to the point, being with Christians in another culture allows us to see our own blind spots more clearly. And it’s this I want to write about this week.
Colonial rule is a difficult thing to get your head around. At one level, you can always find things about it that were good; but you can always find things about it that were bad. Take Christianity. Colonial rule here opened a door for the gospel of which much was made, and there continues to be a harvest from works and efforts started 150 and 200 years ago. Good. But Christianity still carries the stigma of a western religion and, worse, the religion of the colonisers. That hinders the gospel as much as other things prosper it. In some places in this country, Christianity is profoundly un-national.
In broader terms, I’m embarrassed by our colonial past. Try as we might to make something of it (“it gave the country a decent judicial system”), the overall defence is not convincing. Worse still it is often something to be ashamed of. Thankfully Christians are forgiving and accepting. Many have long memories, often stretching back generations, but they do not hold grudges against individuals and we are warmly welcome. But with those who are not believers it’s another matter altogether. And so I’m convinced that continued western investment needs to be in local Christian people to raise up local leaders who will lead local movements. For example, I am increasingly convinced that there is more merit in a Western leader coming somewhere like this and spending a week with just ONE local leader, than speaking a conference for hundreds of pastors.
That’s a different kind of investment model that many churches (or their missions budgets) would be comfortable with. But I’m sure it has merit and needs some consideration. It also does away with the myth that we have all the answers to every situation.
Which is only another kind of colonialism really.