June 9, 2011
McKnight: Why Don't We Care About Global Missions
Explaining the American church's silence around The Cape Town Commitment.
If you are an Urbanite then you know that last October church leaders gathered in Cape Town, South Africa, for the Third Lausanne Congress on Global Evangelization. It was the largest, most diverse gathering of Christian leaders in history. Our own Skye Jethani was there and reported from the event. One of the tangible outcomes of the congress was "The Cape Town Commitment"--a theological and missional document declaring our united focus as the church of Jesus Christ. In this post Scot McKnight asks why more people aren't paying attention to this brilliant and important work. His reflections are worth your time.
Having read the The Cape Town Commitment: A Confession of Faith and a Call to Action carefully, and believing it is the finest statement of the Christian faith with a view to God’s mission in this world that one can find today, I am amazed at the silence about the CTC. I’ve been asked why the silence. So, I offer these four reasons:
First, the silence about the CTC reflects America’s insularity and willful choice to ignore anything that is produced by Christians from other parts of the world. We talk universal church, we talk global church, and we participate in missionary work, but the lack of attention to this incredible unifying statement reflects that what comes from elsewhere belongs elsewhere. Perhaps I’m wrong.
Second, the silence about the CTC reflects American evangelicalism’s numbness about the vibrancy of gospel leadership in other parts of the world. We’ve got so much here, we’re worried about our problems, and we’re absorbed with our culture and consumeristic lifestyle to the degree that we are numb — and so we simply never awoke to the significance of the CTC and the Lausanne event in Cape Town.
Third, American evangelicalism has become tribal, and this silence reflects that what isn’t from our group isn’t important.
Whether we are conservative, moderate or progressive, whether we find our primary group to this association or that denomination, and some of this is shaped by internet tribal capacities, we are in a tribe and we pay attention to our tribe, and if our tribe doesn’t produce it, then it must not be important. Or if our tribe isn’t talking about it, it doesn’t matter. Folks, this is an evangelical ecumenical statement of global significance. It is trans-tribal and deconstructs tribalism into a mission and gospel unity.
Fourth, the silence reflects American evangelicalism’s lethargy about missionary gospel expansion. Yes, I said that exactly as I wanted: many today simply don’t think we need to spread the gospel or declare the gospel in other parts of the world. This is the impact of pluralism, and it is leading to a missionary malaise.
What do you think? Am I wrong? Is the CTC being discussed? Or is it being ignored? If so, why?