To The New Asian Society of Missiology: Greetings from the West
Ralph D. Winter
In 1973, a third of a century ago, David Cho, Ph.D., invited several of us from the West to a meeting in Seoul, Korea which preceded the formation of the Asia Missions Association. On that occasion I presented a paper urging Asian mission leaders not to make the same mistake as Western leaders had made when the Foreign Mission Conference of North America shortly after 1900 had insisted that in God’s Kingdom only denominational mission boards were legitimate. My paper was entitled, “The Two Structures of God’s Redemptive Mission,” which spoke favorably of both “modalities” and “sodalities.” By now, of course, there are many American as well as Asian structures that are interdenominational.
Later, I often pointed out in my classroom teaching the shocking failure of the Western missions to understand the possibility and importance of Non-Western believers to form their own mission agencies. By now, of course, Non-Western agencies are very numerous and enthusiastic.
It would seem clear that Asian mission leaders have potentially a great advantage in being able to learn from the mistakes of Western agencies. If not, Asian mission leaders face the danger of making some of the same mistakes. One problem is that Western leaders may not know what their mistakes are, and thus cannot warn Asian leaders of what Western leaders did wrong. It is also true that not all Westerners agree about the various issues in missiology. Thus, the twelve “mistakes” of Western churches and agencies, as described below, must be understood to be merely my own best understanding. Note that they are not problems of the distant past. They are all contemporary problems. In any case, Asians will have to judge their validity.
Delivered at the 2007 ASM Forum in Bangkok. Used with permission
- The Mistake of Starting Bible Schools, Not Universities
- The Mistake of Only “Salvation in Heaven,” not “Kingdom on Earth”
- The Mistake of Congregations Sending Missionaries, Not Using Mission Agencies
- The Mistake of Whole Congregations in Direct Involvement, Not Professional Missions
- The Mistake of Insisting that Devout Followers of Jesus Call Themselves “Christians” and Identify with the Western Church
- The Mistake of Sending Only Money, Not Missionaries
- The Mistake of Sending ShortTermers, Not Long-Termers
- The Mistake of Not Understanding Business in Mission and Mission in Business
- The Mistake of Healing the Sick, Not Eradicating Disease Germs
- The Mistake of Thinking “Peace” Not “War”
- The Mistake of Assuming Science Is a Foe Not a Friend
- The Mistake of an Evangelism That Is Not Validated and Empowered by Social Transformation
I hope it is clear that I have not wanted to do more than point out what in my estimation are failings and shortcomings in the history of Western mission thinkers. My perspectives may be faulty. At least I have raised certain issues that Asian missiologists may also confront in their work. Furthermore, this must not be a one-way street. I hope that we in the West can learn from members of the Asian Society of Missiology as they share with us their own perspectives.
In 1972 I helped to start the ASM (American Society of Missiology, www.asmweb.org) and its journal, Missiology: An International Review. A few years later I helped start the ISFM (International Society of Frontier Missiology, www.ijfm.org) and the International Journal of Frontier Missiology. I have edited the latter for the last six years. It will be strategically helpful as Asian counterparts such as the Asian Society of Missiology arise and global sharing increases.
We of the West have already learned a great deal from you. We expect to learn a great deal more in the future. Thank you for this invitation to greet you in Christ’s name
Abut ASM (American Society of Missiology)
As the ecumenical professional association for mission studies in North America, the American Society of Missiology includes more than 600 academicians, mission agency executives, and missionaries in a unique fellowship of scholarship and mission. It seeks to 1) Promote the scholarly study of theological, historical, social, and practical questions relating to the missionary dimension of the Christian church; 2) Relate studies in Missiology to the other scholarly disciplines; 3) Promote fellowship and cooperation among individuals and institutions engaged in activities and studies related to Missiology; 4) Facilitate mutual assistance and exchange of information among those thus engaged; 5)Encourage research and publication in the study of Christian missions…
Abut IJFM (International Student Leaders Coalition for Frontier Missions)
The IJFM is published in the name of the International Student Leaders Coalition for Frontier Missions, a fellowship of younger leaders committed to the purposes of the twin consultations of Edinburgh 1980: The World Consultation on Frontier Missions and the International Student Consultation on Frontier Missions. As an expression of the ongoing concerns of Edinburgh 1980, the IJFM seeks to: 1) promote intergenerational dialogue between senior and junior mission leaders; 2) cultivate an international fraternity of thought in the development of frontier missiology; 3) highlight the need to maintain, renew, and create mission agencies as vehicles for frontier missions; 4) encourage multidimensional and interdisciplinary studies; 5) foster spiritual devotion as well as intellectual growth; and 6) advocate “A Church for Every People.”