Learning from People We Teach

When we think about missions, what typically comes to mind? For most of us, we think of Americans or Westerners going to another country to tell people about Jesus. We think about sharing our journey with people who are less fortunate, less educated, less knowledgeable about God and the Christian faith. We think of imparting all that we know to people who don’t know as much.

In one sense, we are correct. For the past 300 years, Christians from the West have been going to share Christ with people in other countries of the world and we’ve been quite successful at it. But that’s part of the problem. We’ve been so successful that we unwillingly see ourselves as experts and people in other parts of the world as novices. This mindset has created a spirit of arrogance in the American church that must be addressed.

Our arrogance and success has blinded us to the fact that the most profound movement of God’s Spirit is taking place not in this country but in the very countries we believe we need to help, teach and set straight. Because we were instrumental to establishing the gospel in these places, we find it difficult to believe that Christians in Africa, South America and Asia have much to teach us. But they do. And the sooner we figure this out and humble ourselves to learn from them the greater degree of hope we have for the American church and the church in throughout the Western world.

We forget that the ancient roots of the Christian Church are not in the West but in Africa. We forget that we did not establish Christianity in the world; the church in the Middle East did. We forget that we in the West—and particularly in America—have come to the scene very late in the game. We didn’t invent how to worship; this was primarily established by Christians in vastly different places of the world.

I am convinced that the Church in America will never turn around until we humbly acknowledge the power of God in places where we have sent missionaries, until we humbly acknowledge that God is as involved and at work in developing countries as he is in our country, until we humbly acknowledge that people we have taught have much to teach us. Our attitude has the power to change the church…not so much there as here.