Turning the Tables on Mission

It is thought that in the minds of many young people the concept of “mission” is old-fashioned, boring and represents an old, outdated mode of being the church. I would say however, that mission in the contemporary world is dizzyingly dynamic. Very few periods of history have seen the massive changes going on in the world church as we see today. The concept of change is definitely here to stay!

Turning the Tables on Mission
A recent book, edited by a good friend of All Nations, Rev. Israel Olofinjana examines how some of these changes are affecting the life and mission of the church in the UK. Turning the Tables on Mission: Stories of Christians from the global south is a fascinating book which challenges many stereotypes, and sometimes makes for uncomfortable reading as the British church. This book demonstrates that the future of British Christianity does not lie in the middle England, middle class, white church but in the Black African, Asian and Latin American churches. The average Christian in church on a Sunday will not be the same in 20-30 years’ time.

Would it be fair to say that churches and church leaders seem not to recognize this? Among many, there is still a colonial mentality that pervades the church. It could still be argued that the attitude is often that the British church does mission to other places, and it is not having people come from other places to help us in the UK. Olofinaja suggests that the UK church needs to learn humility and recognize that we need to learn from one another.

Also, Israel perceptively points out that “Western theology is not sufficient for issues that face our world today” (228). Traditional English theology does not answer questions that are being posed by society. Theologies from the global south are in a far better place to respond in contemporary Britain as they are theologies developed from a place of weakness and marginalization. Theology done from the centre of power cannot speak into the new situation that the UK church finds itself in. Has Western theology has assumed a privileged position for too long, finding that it no longer holds in the UK’s multi-cultural society?

This presents a challenge to All Nations, which we are well-placed to respond to. All Nations has been teaching students to challenge the Western hegemony on theology since the 1970s. All Nations library- the biggest mission library in Europe, has stocked books by Latin American theologians and others around the world since the mid nineteen seventies. Students from around the world regularly share their views in lesson times as they learn to consider different perspectives.

All Nations finds Rev. Israel Olofinjana’s new book extremely refreshing and relevant, and we would recommend it to the UK church as a must read. Here at All Nations we are committed to envision and equip the UK church for its mission. Please see our courses if you find this blog/book engaging or challenging, as our short courses and programmes may be ideal to give you the tools you need for you and your church to explore these issues further.


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