Moving beyond fundamentalism and evangelicalism in missions

Posted on February 21, 2012


I have a deep sense of excitement and anticipation about our missionary work in the South Pacific Islands. We’re on the cusp of something new and very vibrant (Radio, and organic church planting). Almost daily I’m gaining new insights from the books and blogs I read, and from my times of personal prayer.

Frank Viola’s blog – Beyond Evangelical is helping me a lot. Today he introduces an important essay “The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Evangelicalism” by Hal Miller.

The essay (here on Frank’s blog) explores cultural significance and short-comings of the fundamentalist movement and its successor, the evangelical movement. It explains much about the lack of effectiveness I see in much of our cross-cultural missionary efforts that have originated from those church movements.

In the South Pacific we see many sincere but fruitless attempts to plant churches that are rooted in these Western traditions (fundamentalism, evangelicalism, and various mixtures of these) into the non-Western cultures of the South Pacific Islands.

Hal Millar’s essay helps us see why these attempts have had so little impact. He writes, “Christianity is culturally relevant when it offers a qualitatively different society. Jesus called it “the kingdom of God.”

And, “Imagine a group of people gathering to help each other in the common task of seeing God’s kingdom incarnated in their work, in their families, in their towns, in their world, in their midst, and (rather than only) in their individual lives. This gathering is ekklesia. It will be relevant to its world because it lives the life of the kingdom in the world, not apart from it.”

This is exactly what we are seeing around our radio stations in the Islands. (Can radio really help change a nation?) And this is why I have a deep sense of excitement and anticipation about our future missionary work in the South Pacific Islands.

Hal Miller’s essay “The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Evangelicalism” is written to the church within our Western culture. As a missionary I would add the question –

Why do we continue trying to export Western church models that are increasingly irrelevant to non-Christians in our own context, and expect them to work in a non-Western context?

Hal Miller’s essay and other postings on Frank Viola’s blog – Beyond Evangelical are essential reading if you are concerned about the relevance of the church in today’s world.

Please let me know what you think about the essay.