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Western Christians in Global Mission: What's the Role of the North American Church?

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The 2014 Christianity Today Book Award of Merit Winner (Missions/Global Affairs) 2014 Outreach Magazine Resource of the Year (Also Recommended, Global Outreach) The world has changed. A century ago, Christianity was still primarily centered in North America and Europe. By the dawn of the twenty-first century, Christianity had become a truly global faith, with Christians in The 2014 Christianity Today Book Award of Merit Winner (Missions/Global Affairs) 2014 Outreach Magazine Resource of the Year (Also Recommended, Global Outreach) The world has changed. A century ago, Christianity was still primarily centered in North America and Europe. By the dawn of the twenty-first century, Christianity had become a truly global faith, with Christians in Asia, Africa and Latin America outpacing those in the rest of the world. There are now more Christians in China than in all of Europe, more Pentecostals in Brazil than in the United States, and more Anglicans in Kenya than in Great Britain, Canada and the United States combined. Countries that were once destinations for western missionaries are now sending their own missionaries to North America. Given these changes, some think the day of the Western missionary is over. Some are wary that American mission efforts may perpetuate an imperialistic colonialism. Some say that global outreach is best left to indigenous leaders. Others simply feel that resources should be focused on the home front. Is there an ongoing role for the North American church in global mission? Missions specialist Paul Borthwick brings an urgent report on how the Western church can best continue in global mission. He provides a current analysis of the state of the world and how Majority World leaders perceive North American Christians' place. Borthwick offers concrete advice for how Western Christians can be involved without being paternalistic or creating dependency. Using their human and material resources with wise and strategic stewardship, North Americans can join forces with the Majority World in new, interdependent ways to answer God's call to global involvement. In this critical age, the global body of Christ needs one another more than ever. Discover how the Western church can contribute to a new era of mission marked by mutuality, reciprocity and humility.


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The 2014 Christianity Today Book Award of Merit Winner (Missions/Global Affairs) 2014 Outreach Magazine Resource of the Year (Also Recommended, Global Outreach) The world has changed. A century ago, Christianity was still primarily centered in North America and Europe. By the dawn of the twenty-first century, Christianity had become a truly global faith, with Christians in The 2014 Christianity Today Book Award of Merit Winner (Missions/Global Affairs) 2014 Outreach Magazine Resource of the Year (Also Recommended, Global Outreach) The world has changed. A century ago, Christianity was still primarily centered in North America and Europe. By the dawn of the twenty-first century, Christianity had become a truly global faith, with Christians in Asia, Africa and Latin America outpacing those in the rest of the world. There are now more Christians in China than in all of Europe, more Pentecostals in Brazil than in the United States, and more Anglicans in Kenya than in Great Britain, Canada and the United States combined. Countries that were once destinations for western missionaries are now sending their own missionaries to North America. Given these changes, some think the day of the Western missionary is over. Some are wary that American mission efforts may perpetuate an imperialistic colonialism. Some say that global outreach is best left to indigenous leaders. Others simply feel that resources should be focused on the home front. Is there an ongoing role for the North American church in global mission? Missions specialist Paul Borthwick brings an urgent report on how the Western church can best continue in global mission. He provides a current analysis of the state of the world and how Majority World leaders perceive North American Christians' place. Borthwick offers concrete advice for how Western Christians can be involved without being paternalistic or creating dependency. Using their human and material resources with wise and strategic stewardship, North Americans can join forces with the Majority World in new, interdependent ways to answer God's call to global involvement. In this critical age, the global body of Christ needs one another more than ever. Discover how the Western church can contribute to a new era of mission marked by mutuality, reciprocity and humility.

30 review for Western Christians in Global Mission: What's the Role of the North American Church?

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ted

    Western Christians in Global Missions What is the Role of the North American Church? Paul Borthwick Ted’s Summary This book seeks to answer the question “What is the role of the North American church in global missions?” Borthwick (rightly, I believe) is asking about the role of the church, broadly defined. It’s not a treatise specifically focused on the role of specific congregations. He also is not addressing the question “Why send missionaries?” This is a book with a lot of lists. Perhaps too man Western Christians in Global Missions What is the Role of the North American Church? Paul Borthwick Ted’s Summary This book seeks to answer the question “What is the role of the North American church in global missions?” Borthwick (rightly, I believe) is asking about the role of the church, broadly defined. It’s not a treatise specifically focused on the role of specific congregations. He also is not addressing the question “Why send missionaries?” This is a book with a lot of lists. Perhaps too many as it sometimes feels like it was written using outline software. The content, however, is superb. I often found myself thinking, “That’s exactly what I would be writing if this were my book.” Since I work in global missions I deal with many of the issues present in the book and thus it resonates with me. Overall I found this to be a good summary of what many mission agencies would want the North American church to know about partnering globally. I recommend this book for churches that are considering working with indigenous churches. Introduction Borthwick puts forth five observations about the world that provide a framework for understanding the changes that North American churches must face. There are 1) young, restless and uncertain, 2) non-White, non-Western, non-wealthy, 3) technologized and lonely, 4) conflicted about faith, and 5) migrated, globalized, and urbanized. [Ted's note: This is a comprehensive list of things that many have observed. I do wonder, however, if he doesn't deal enough with issues raised by Wuthnow in which the "global Church" paradigm is challenged. The continued dominance of Western Christians in global missions continues, in part because of the significant resource base in the West]. At the end of this chapter is a short section of reflection that is quite insightful. It makes the case we often only look at history for utilitarian purposes: we often use the information in an illustration or to bolster our own thinking and assumptions. Chapter 1 - State of the World This chapter is a reflection on the changing nature of our world. The author cites how we tend to react to these sort of changes in light of the biblical account of Caleb and Joshua. The bulk of this chapter is a list of nine "Great" changes or realities that are happening in our world. I won't list them all here but they mirror similar lists from Patrick Johnstone and others. [Ted's note: There is one factual issue I would raise with Borthwick. In discussing China he states that "China represents not only the fastest growing churches in the world, but also the country with the highest number of unreached peoples." I believe that both from a count of unreached people groups and a count of unreached people, India holds this distinction. Perhaps I am wrong]. In addition to what we would typically think about in a book on global missions Borthwick includes environmental concerns in his list of "Greats" that Christians must address. Borthwick sees disciplemaking as the core of the Great Commission [Ted notes: I think church planting, though not biblical language in a literal sense, actually is a better descriptor but he is saying the same thing for the most part]. Chapter 2 – An Appraisal of the North American Church Borthwick observes that many North American churches are sensing changes in how the Great Commission needs to be addressed in the world. He sees a number strengths in the North American church: generosity and wealth, optimism and a can-do attitude, experience and resources in training, multiculturalism and history in missions. Concerns that he notes include: struggles with the exclusive claims of the gospel, an incomplete view of globalism, and hostility toward America. On a local scale (within the church) he cites issues with the role of the local congregation in mission, disconnection with the poor, a lack of information, a propensity to oversimplify the world, a propensity to see God as essentially pro-American, have too many options (missions becomes just one more program) and little understanding of suffering. He suggests that the North American church needs to listen better to the rest of the Christian world. Chapter 3 – An Appraisal of the Majority World Church This is another listing: this time it’s the strengths and weaknesses of the majorty. Strengths include: a zeal for the Lord, a zeal for missions, expectation that God will really work (faith) and a willingness to sacrifice. In the negative column he notes an abuse of power by leaders, an emphasis on conversion and not so much on disciplemaking, prosperity theology, and an absence of a broader view of societal transformation. After these appraisals Borthwick turns to some ideas that can help us move forward together. “This section is a call to listen.” Chapter 4 – Biblical Continuity The first suggestion he makes is to embrace the Biblical foundations of the global mandate. This chapter is predominately a reframing of the Great Commission, our need to be involved, and some ways that we can be involved with the whole church globally. Chapter 5 – A Posture of Humility While noting that missions history has many issues, Borthwick feels the way forward must begin with a humble posture. The “can-do” attitude of the West needs to be properly balanced with a servant attitude. African cultures, for example, don’t embrace assertivenes in the way it is seen in the West. Humility is often expressed in listening and learning. Chapter 6 – Purposefull Reciprocity Borthwick starts this chapter with a number of stories about Americans who see other countries as places where people have nothing to give. He states that one way to partner with people it not only to give but also to receive from them. Some practical suggestions include forming friendships not based on money but on friendship and letting others “take care of” you. He warns us that we must be careful not be utilitarian in our relationships. Chapter 7 – Sacrifice – Not Just Generosity When we are faced with the realities in which most majority world Christians live we need to respond sacrifically. Our sacrifice must go past this, though, and include personal sacrifice. Chapter 8 – Partnership Equality The author asserts that we often aren’t really interested in true partnership, at least that is the perception we are communicating. We often retain some sort of control in the relationship. This stems in part from coming into the relationship with a resource we have to give which leads to paternalism. Borthwick cites five types of paternalism (resource, spiritual, knowledge, labor and managerial paternalism). North American agencies will need to become more non-Western in their makeup. We must also look at the economics behind partnership that drive us. Spiritually, we must recognize that we are called to serve others. Chapter 9 – Listening to Our Non-Western Brothers and Sisters This is a summary chapter of sorts. Borthwick has been building up to it. He states that much of our partnering should be summed up in the phrase, “It’s all about relationships.” These relationships are dependent on a number of factors but listening is at the core. We must be their friends; learn from history and from their suffering. We must seek to understand their perspectives on theology and context. As they seek to assist the poor we must listen to their viewpoint on poverty. They want to partner but we must listen to what that mean to them and also let them advise us as we seek to serve cross-culturally. [Ted notes: There is a good warning here that “local theologies” are developing and will develop if we don’t integrate the church globally. These local theologies will create tribalism within the church if allowed to grow]. Chapter 10 – United Together – So That the World Might Know Unity in the scriptures is part and parcel of the Gospel message. Borthwick argues that we have an opportunity to be unified in reaching the world for Christ. He gives us four actions to do this: get to know the world, develop multicultural fellowships, view business as a Kingdom opportunity and get connected to the global church. Conclusion The concludes with a call to action. The author paints three pictures of the future: the US passing the baton, the US leading a parade, or the West and majority world creating a multicultural team. Clearly, Borthwick wants us to aspire to this last option.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Raffi

    It was an eye-opening book for me, regarding the recent changes on Christian missions around the globe. The author has extensive knowledge of the various types of ministries and missions, and he gives examples as to how the American church can still play an important role, other than funding. The author also does not evade the mistakes the some missionaries made and were making. As a conclusion, the author stressed on one word: partnership on equal grounds (instead of the old system, where the do It was an eye-opening book for me, regarding the recent changes on Christian missions around the globe. The author has extensive knowledge of the various types of ministries and missions, and he gives examples as to how the American church can still play an important role, other than funding. The author also does not evade the mistakes the some missionaries made and were making. As a conclusion, the author stressed on one word: partnership on equal grounds (instead of the old system, where the donor [usually Americans] gets to say the last word].

  3. 5 out of 5

    Michael Vincent

    Borthwick gives us some good reminders concerning Christ's call to missions. Too often we look at the world and missions through an American lens. The Majority World wants to see more humility and relationships from the American Church. Sacrifice and commitment are still key in considering missions. We must work at developing true partnerships and trust those in other cultures to give leadership to God's work. This is a worthwhile read for anyone seeking to be more active and further understand Borthwick gives us some good reminders concerning Christ's call to missions. Too often we look at the world and missions through an American lens. The Majority World wants to see more humility and relationships from the American Church. Sacrifice and commitment are still key in considering missions. We must work at developing true partnerships and trust those in other cultures to give leadership to God's work. This is a worthwhile read for anyone seeking to be more active and further understand how we can help fulfill the Great Commission at home and overseas.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Travis

    Paul Borthwick's, Western Christians In Global Mission, is a fantastic introduction to the global church. I thoroughly enjoyed this read. Borthwick helped me to better understand the role of the Western Christian in the Global Church. He gave practical tips, helpful insights, and convicting exhortations. If your sitting in a western church today and you feel like there is more to missions than sending some money to a missions agency, then this book is for you! Paul Borthwick's, Western Christians In Global Mission, is a fantastic introduction to the global church. I thoroughly enjoyed this read. Borthwick helped me to better understand the role of the Western Christian in the Global Church. He gave practical tips, helpful insights, and convicting exhortations. If your sitting in a western church today and you feel like there is more to missions than sending some money to a missions agency, then this book is for you!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Steven

    This is a must read for those considering missions or just wanting to develop a much richer missionary mind set. Borthwick draws from years of experience and countless conversations with church leaders around the world. This book convicted me about my own views, challenged me to reach out and to be more active in missions personally. He also convinced me that I need to bring others with me.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Larry

    insightful, honest portrayal of what western missions has done well & where we need to wake up and partner with majority world, rather than continue to embrace the mission models of the past

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Brooker

    An insightful and ultimately optimistic look at the landscape of God's global mission and the role of the western Christians in it. Borthwick doesn't hold back on delivering much needed reproof for the arrogance that many western Christians have operated in while trying to serve in mission work globally. He systematically points out both the good and the bad, the strengths and the weaknesses, the ways in which we have much to learn and also the ways in which we have an opportunity to teach. As a An insightful and ultimately optimistic look at the landscape of God's global mission and the role of the western Christians in it. Borthwick doesn't hold back on delivering much needed reproof for the arrogance that many western Christians have operated in while trying to serve in mission work globally. He systematically points out both the good and the bad, the strengths and the weaknesses, the ways in which we have much to learn and also the ways in which we have an opportunity to teach. As a pastor I found this to be a much needed resource in helping form the strategy and plan for how our church plant will engage in the global work that God is doing. I loved the focus on relationship and how that is integral both to how partnership mission work really should be done, as well as how it is the mindset of so many parts of the Majority World.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Caleb Tseng

    Borthwick's book isn't as entertaining as hearing him in person. But then again, few books are. Borthwick calls the Western church primarily to humility, to listen and learn from the global church. If nothing else, this book is worth reading to escape the American-centric view of Christianity and to reveal the subtle idols of wealth, materialism, individualism, and intellectual snobbery. At it's core, this book is a celebration of the beauty of the diversity of the church, which hopefully we can Borthwick's book isn't as entertaining as hearing him in person. But then again, few books are. Borthwick calls the Western church primarily to humility, to listen and learn from the global church. If nothing else, this book is worth reading to escape the American-centric view of Christianity and to reveal the subtle idols of wealth, materialism, individualism, and intellectual snobbery. At it's core, this book is a celebration of the beauty of the diversity of the church, which hopefully we can open our eyes as Americans to see.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Matt Friedman

    An excellent introductory text - and, in spite of the title, should be read by both Western Christians and those in the Majority World. In fact, Borthwick encourages all, and pretty much spares no one - not even himself.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Zach Waldis

    This would be a great book for lay people or undergraduates. Borthwick makes the case that a global church is now a reality, and acting as if the "rest needs the west" is to simply fail to face facts and I agree. This would be a great book for lay people or undergraduates. Borthwick makes the case that a global church is now a reality, and acting as if the "rest needs the west" is to simply fail to face facts and I agree.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Ellie

    I enjoyed reading this book although I did not agree with all of his theology or some of the random claims he made, such as "if you want to be a cessationist, don't travel!" It was a fast read with incredibly practical advice. I enjoyed reading this book although I did not agree with all of his theology or some of the random claims he made, such as "if you want to be a cessationist, don't travel!" It was a fast read with incredibly practical advice.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ike Unger

    Excellent read and such a great eye opener to understanding how the North American Church still plays are role in global mission, but it must adapt.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Luke Schmeltzer

    Some good practical examples but misses the mark a few times theologically.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Rod Innis

    I really did enjoy and learn from this book. I have met the author and he is a clear thinker and a good communicator.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Marcus

    Substance: 2/5 Readability: 5/5 Borthwick’s language, claims, and organization throughout Western Christians appeals well to my personal engineering background; I seriously appreciate and value the way his data and claims are presented. Overall, the work helps me look beyond North America to critically consider the future landscape of Christianity in ways I hadn’t. Western Christian’s emphasis on speaking from a platform of servanthood rather than power is applicable in all settings and not merely Substance: 2/5 Readability: 5/5 Borthwick’s language, claims, and organization throughout Western Christians appeals well to my personal engineering background; I seriously appreciate and value the way his data and claims are presented. Overall, the work helps me look beyond North America to critically consider the future landscape of Christianity in ways I hadn’t. Western Christian’s emphasis on speaking from a platform of servanthood rather than power is applicable in all settings and not merely in the context of missions. As North American “arrogance” negatively affects the way the nation participates in missions, personal arrogance can affect the local “missions movements” of day-to-day interactions in the workplace, church, and home. Borthwick’s emphases on humility, sacrifice, and intentional reciprocity also dramatically affect such daily interactions. For me, Western Christians is not just about North America becoming “successful” missionaries. It is about personal representation of Jesus Christ. Borthwick’s experience – coupled with the quantitative data throughout section one – made a powerful presentation that invites me to consider my own actions as an individual in North America. The question I have after finishing the book is, “How can I do my part to better anticipate the globalized future of Christianity in mind and deed?” Global Christianity approaches on the horizon, and Western Christians brings it a step closer into focus. Western Christians is a clear, organized, and bold work that challenges reader to consider the future of Christianity and North America’s place in it. As a reader, I knew where I was in his organization and progression. Claims were organized, stated, supported, dressed, and restated. As a reader, I am thankful! Few authors can sufficiently organize a thesis like Borthwick did. My only complaint is the sheer volume of “claims.” I felt less invited into considering the future of global Christianity and more simply felt like I read several “lists.” Finally, a critique. The author’s tone throughout the work was not constructive. His claims seemed too simple at times, and underneath the simplicity I found alarmist, reactionary language that seemed more “anti-American” than anything else. Borthwick had hoped to challenge his North American readers, but I feel at times only left them feeling guilty for being North American. I personally struggled with this, and fear that it comes at the cost of personal reflection and potential down the road. Too many books on missions leave the final pages in heavy conviction without an invitation to a solution. Conviction without recommended solution in a book is not repentance – it is guilt.

  16. 5 out of 5

    E.L.

    Hugely helpful in opening North American eyes to the state of the church in the Majority World, and the needs and places we can fill - neither sitting back and saying "Well, we are no longer relevant," nor charging in and taking charge with our Western perspective. On the negative side: I found the first half of each chapter to be excellent, and the rest to be merely hammering the point home - which gets exhausting and meant that the message was starting to lose its vitality by the time I finishe Hugely helpful in opening North American eyes to the state of the church in the Majority World, and the needs and places we can fill - neither sitting back and saying "Well, we are no longer relevant," nor charging in and taking charge with our Western perspective. On the negative side: I found the first half of each chapter to be excellent, and the rest to be merely hammering the point home - which gets exhausting and meant that the message was starting to lose its vitality by the time I finished; at times the message seemed to be less about servanthood and adapting to another culture and more about how bad the American culture appears to everyone else; the emphasis on using business/practical skills to assist with global churches is, no doubt, applicable to 90% of the readers, but it left me, as a fiction author, feeling like I have no useful place in the global church, no way to serve. I understand one can't cover every single aspect of servanthood and every possible way to help in one small volume, but I do feel something could have been mentioned about business and practical skills not being the only ways Americans can be part of the global church. Overall, a good read, and one that helped me have a deeper understanding of the Majority World, and the global church, but one that also left me feeling discouraged about being creative, and being American.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Haotian Xu

    I met Paul personally at Urbana '12 and found him to be extremely affable. His book, detailed with hundreds of anecdotes and personal encounters with the "Majority" church, is a wonderful how-to guide for preparation for a life in missions work. There are some inconsistencies with his positions that worry me, however, such as: how can one bend to the realities of the globalized world, and at the same time maintain the vision of Peter/Paul and other early church-planters and missionaries? How doe I met Paul personally at Urbana '12 and found him to be extremely affable. His book, detailed with hundreds of anecdotes and personal encounters with the "Majority" church, is a wonderful how-to guide for preparation for a life in missions work. There are some inconsistencies with his positions that worry me, however, such as: how can one bend to the realities of the globalized world, and at the same time maintain the vision of Peter/Paul and other early church-planters and missionaries? How does the "local church" promote racial justice, while at the same time commit resources and manpower to global missions? Overall though, a useful first book to read that does a good job of positioning the work that Christians in the West have to do in the context of a changing world.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Trevor Bryant

    Borthwick sets a decent foundation of missions in his text, but seems unsatisfying at the end. The first half of his book is an overview of the global church and the Western church and where the church is headed; the latter half focuses on what the role of the Western church is in the increasing global world. Short answer: It depends. Long answer: This book. Most of what Borthwick has to say are things that should be obvious--be friends, allow them to serve you, be sacrifical, listen, reciprocate Borthwick sets a decent foundation of missions in his text, but seems unsatisfying at the end. The first half of his book is an overview of the global church and the Western church and where the church is headed; the latter half focuses on what the role of the Western church is in the increasing global world. Short answer: It depends. Long answer: This book. Most of what Borthwick has to say are things that should be obvious--be friends, allow them to serve you, be sacrifical, listen, reciprocate, learn the culture, etc.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    Nothing he said completely surprised me, but there were several good reminders. Things I "know" but don't practice. I thought Borthwick did a nice job with the book, but he was very polite. He made strong points, explained things politically correct, yada yada. His conclusion calls us back to the "Jesus Freak" era, challenging us to be more crazy for God. If his book would've been a little more crazy, maybe I would've enjoyed it more / been a little more compelled to action. Nothing he said completely surprised me, but there were several good reminders. Things I "know" but don't practice. I thought Borthwick did a nice job with the book, but he was very polite. He made strong points, explained things politically correct, yada yada. His conclusion calls us back to the "Jesus Freak" era, challenging us to be more crazy for God. If his book would've been a little more crazy, maybe I would've enjoyed it more / been a little more compelled to action.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Mike Reynolds

    http://www.thebravereviews.com/2014/1... http://www.thebravereviews.com/2014/1...

  21. 5 out of 5

    Marti Wade

    Drawing on numerous sources, makes sound case for the continued involvement of Westerners in world mission (alongside brothers and sisters from around the world). Lots of quotes, examples.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Gary Paulson

    The 2014 Christianity Today Book Awards: 2nd Missions/Global Affairs http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2... The 2014 Christianity Today Book Awards: 2nd Missions/Global Affairs http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2...

  23. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Murray

    A must read for anyone wanting to go into missions work. A good perspective about the North American Church and the Majority Church - very challenging

  24. 4 out of 5

    Rick Dugan

  25. 5 out of 5

    Cana

  26. 4 out of 5

    Renee Pitts

  27. 5 out of 5

    Stan

  28. 5 out of 5

    Nick

  29. 4 out of 5

    David Smiley

  30. 4 out of 5

    Paul

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