Thursday, February 04, 2010

Perhaps we have been arrogant –continuing the discussion

I used to swim in this river every day.

I have been thinking about issues related to cross cultural ministry

Seven or eight years ago I read Rolland Allen’s classic The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church. Only later did I discover that many of the principles he argued for were adopted by BEM the mission my parents worked for. No wonder what he observed resonated!

One of the issues that Allen raises is the very paternalistic and often arrogant way missionaries , sent by the Church of England, treated indigenous peoples. He observes that the indigenous person was not often entrusted with significant leadership and churches/ministries rose or fell on the presence of the “white missionary”. In my observation the indigenous person was also expected to adopt all the “trimmings” of the English church as if somehow these were superior. Allen argues that this placed huge restrictions on the development of Christian ministry. I am not questioning the intent or the desire of these missionaries to see the gospel proclaimed and to guard the truth, in many ways they were just reflecting the colonial culture of the day. I know we all have blind spots too! I wonder though, is there a link between these sorts of attitudes and the establishment of many independent churches in Sydney?

As I have spoken with some ministers of independent churches, with backgrounds different to the white Ango culture, they are often frustrated with the “established” church. They argue that there are simply too many hoops, to many demands to do things in a "certain way" . As a result they would prefer just to go it alone.

Just wondering what do you think?


Pete said...

Actually working this issue through at the moment. We need to make a decision about whether we go independent or stay with a denom.

When I ask the denom leaders why we should stay the answers are vague: job security (which I am not convinced of), employment opportunities (?), 'being a part of the fellowship' (I catch up with the guys I want to now anyway), being a part of a historical society (??!), infrastructure (as an indie I can do that myself the way that works best for us), money (we haven't been given any from the denomin yet when we really needed it, so not likely to see any in the future).

The only real reason I can think of sticking with a denom is property (which we don't have and not likely to get in a hurry).

Roger said...

Sounds like a tough one.

two other thoughts.
I think denominations work best when they empower people for ministry and keep leaders accountable.

Interestingly Allen is not arguing that we should ditch denominations- just that they need to empower ministries not kill them by being over controlling and culturally insensitive.

My phone number is on our website under staff if you wanted to chat


Kamal Weerakoon said...

Hi Roger

Good, insightful comments.

Denominations are a blessing when they strengthen churches and individuals in the gospel. The way they can do that is through teaching, training, and admin support. Bible colleges, training programs, financial support, centralised, efficient admin, can do all of that.

Denominations become a curse when they serve themselves rather than others. That happens if the denominational leaders see the churches, and people in the churches, and serving them, rather than them serving the people and churches, and through them, serving Christ and his gospel.

I praise God for the Sydney Anglican denominational leaders, and pray that others follow their example.

Roger said...


I agree things have improved very significantly in recent times. I would be interested in any blind spots you might be able to identify.


Mike W said...

i wonder whether even the seemingly benign admin, infrastructure and training can still be a problem for some sub/cultures, even with the most servant hearted leaders. Often it seems to be assumed that these are culture neutral, when they are in fact tied to a particular culture. In a denomination that attempts and claims everyone in a geographical area (like the anglicans), this is a bit of a problem.

Roger said...


Thanks for dropping by. I have been on holidays so sorry for the late response. I think your observation is a helpful one.
We all have blind spots even at these more fundamental levels.

I guess in the end one of the questions that needs to be considered is what is reasonable to ask of someone from a different cultural background?

How much should they just adjust to the dominant cultures, expectations?