In this issue we examine the example of persecuted Christians in Egypt in witnessing to the gospel through forgiveness; we suggest why Christians should engage with supporters of the Gülen Movement; we ask why and how we should get involved in international student ministry; and we look at Polycentric Missiology: twenty-first-century mission ‘from everyone to everywhere’.
‘Throughout history, the Copts, the indigenous Christians of Egypt, have endured sporadic and sometimes intense times of persecution’, writes Wafik Wahba (Associate Professor of Global Christianity at Tyndale Seminary in Toronto, Canada). Nevertheless, they live in harmony with the larger community, contributing to its overall well-being. Many moderate Muslims enjoy amicable relationships with their Christian neighbours. However, growing traditionalist attitudes are creating increased tensions, with Islamists viewing the existence of other religious communities as a threat to Islam. As a result, Christians have often retreated into their own communities or emigrated. However, the extraordinary Christian response to the violent attacks that have taken place since 2013 has provided many opportunities for witness to the gospel and a renewed sense of mission to the larger community. Christians did not seek revenge; instead they extended forgiveness to those who murdered their loved ones. Media reported these attitudes of forgiveness. This powerful testimony to the gospel of love and forgiveness amid hatred is raising curiosity about the Christian faith. The global church is enriched by the faithful witness of many Egyptian Christians whose faith exemplifies the true meaning of hope. It is being reminded anew that at the heart of the Christian witness is a capacity to suffer for Christ. ‘The global Church is called faithfully to pray for the Church of the Martyrs, as the Christians of Egypt seek faithfully to live the gospel of love and forgiveness during times of suffering and persecution’, he concludes.
‘The Gülen Movement, or Hizmet, is today arguably the largest and most dynamic Muslim movement across the globe’, writes Peter Riddell (Vice Principal Academic at Melbourne School of Theology). Fethullah Gülen’s message to his supporters is to integrate their Islamic faith into their daily lives and instil this in their children through education. His approach is built on the concept of Temsil rather than Tebligh, of presence rather than proselytisation. The other core pillar of Hizmet activity is interfaith and intercultural dialogue. The Gülen Movement is reeling from the current campaign against it in Turkey. However, it has been a genuinely international movement for many years. As it struggles in Turkey, it may well flourish elsewhere. Christians can learn much from it. The success of a subtle Islamic values-based but non-Sharia focus on education to spread the message is evident. The movement speaks the language of the twenty-first century, yet reinforces traditional social and moral values. Its diverse activities, drawing on an incarnational approach of positive presence rather than overt preaching among the unconvinced, are compelling. Christians should engage with its supporters. There is much that both share in terms of a moral lifestyle, a values-based approach to the modern world, and a desire to please God. However, ultimately, the two messages are mutually exclusive in certain ways. ‘Yet these differences should not be allowed to prevent the formation of genuine friendships and meaningful and fruitful Christian-Gülen engagement’, he concludes.
‘The first world-wide gathering of International Student Ministry (ISM) leaders was convened in September 2017 as the Lausanne ISM Global Leadership Forum: Charlotte’17’, writes Leiton Chinn (Lausanne Catalyst for International Student Ministry, 2007 – 2017). The stage is now set for the ISM movement to grow deeper roots globally. God is sending the mission field to our campuses in the form of five million international students globally today, and a projected eight million by 2025. Although the strategic importance of ISM is obvious, church and mission leaders have often failed to see the tremendous potential for world missions to and through foreign students who are appreciative of hospitality and often open and curious while living abroad. They are also potential world leaders, nation builders, and transformation agents. Furthermore, Christian returnees can play significant roles in establishing the universal Church. Local churches are discovering how enriching it is to have a ministry among international students, while ISM can play a key role in the work of mission agencies and campus-based ministries. Most Christians are not ‘called’ to serve as long-term professional missionaries or as self-supporting ‘tent-maker’/BAM missionaries in another country. However, staying at home does not mean we cannot engage in cross-cultural, global ministry. ISM is one avenue for participating in world missions at home. ‘What is your context of ministry, and what next steps could you consider in exploring how your ministry might include ISM in its strategic plan?’, he asks.
‘The Edinburgh 1910 World Missionary Conference . . . was the birthplace of the modern ecumenical movement . . . leading to the formation of the International Missionary Council, the World Council of Churches, and the Lausanne Movement’, writes Allen Yeh (professor in the Cook School of Intercultural Studies at Biola University). In 2010, five major missionary conferences sought to be the successor to Edinburgh 1910. They are representative of where Christian missions today sees itself, in thought and praxis. Polycentricism is how mission is done today, in light of the shift of Christianity’s center of gravity to the Global South. Today, mission is ‘from everyone to everywhere’, so multiple conferences are needed. Mission conferences are where things start, and it is important to understand starting points. If the future of mission is polycentric, the entire global church needs to work together to bring the gospel to the nations. It has yet to fulfil Jesus’s high priestly prayer—to be unified in order to be a missiological sign and witness to the world. Ecumenism does not mean we compromise our theological integrity; holding to both unity and truth is the standard to which Jesus calls his church. Christianity continues to maintain its role as the largest religion in the world (though not the fastest-growing). However, even more so, Christianity is the most geographically widespread. ‘Unity in diversity is a much more important characteristic than speed of growth, ensuring that Christianity is poised for a strong future’, he concludes.
We hope that you find this issue stimulating and useful. Our aim is to deliver strategic and credible analysis, information and insight so that as a leader you will be better equipped for the task of world evangelization. It’s our desire that the analysis of current and future trends and developments will help you and your team make better decisions about the stewardship of all that God has entrusted to your care.
Please send any questions and comments about this issue to [email protected]. The next issue of The Lausanne Global Analysis will be released in March.
David Taylor serves as the Editor of the Lausanne Global Analysis. David is an international affairs analyst with a particular focus on the Middle East. He spent 17 years in the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, most of it focused on the Middle East and North Africa. After that he spent 14 years as Middle East Editor and Deputy Editor of the Daily Brief at Oxford Analytica. David now divides his time between consultancy work for Oxford Analytica, the Lausanne Movement and other clients, also working with Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), the Religious Liberty Partnership and other networks on international religious freedom issues.