PARADIGM SHIFTS IN THE THEOLOGY OF MISSION
An extract from an essay submitted as part of studies requested by Fuller Seminary, USA.
This essay focuses upon the thesis of David J Bosch in his seminal book, Transforming Mission
and is written by doctoral student John B Clements, Llanelli, UK. © 2007.
A CONTEMPORARY ILLUSTRATION
THE DCI WORLD CHRISTIAN NETWORK
1. Background to the emergence of DCI World Christian Network
The work of "DCI Trust" began in the 1980's, the backside of a period of history Bosch describes as having shaken Western civilisation to the core. Globalisation is in full stride; poverty and inequality have never been greater across the earth; modernity is giving way to post-modernity. Within its European heartlands, Christendom is giving way to a secular multiculturalism, whilst in Asia, Africa and South America, non-western Christianity is gaining new converts, energy and confidence at astonishing rates. Thus, the forging of DCI's concerns and priorities has taken place in a period during which the world Christian mission movement has experienced both a growing urgency and awareness, as new technologies have allowed researchers and statisticians to investigate, analyse, assimilate and represent global trends with degrees of comprehension previously inaccessible- for example, in 1978 the global prayer-manual, Operation World, was first published; following which the evangelistically-resistant belt of the 10/40 Window was identified, focused upon and targeted- making the world's poorest, most neglected and most evangelistically unreached peoples visible, measurable and reachable, as never before.
2. Social transformation - the social impact of DCI Trust work
Against such a background, during the twenty-two years since its inception, DCI Trust has grown to represent an international, interdenominational community spanning five continents, touching people of over one hundred different nationalities. Its vocational work- answering the call to the lost, the last and the least- focuses mainly upon the poor within developing nations, empowering them through leadership-training, micro-loans, business-development and community-building projects.
Through networking with committed, indigenous, localised individuals who are proven, responsible leaders, DCI has contributed towards a vast, eclectic array of projects, including: buildings for churches, schools and families; computers, camels, cars, farms, seed-stock; medicines, operations; schools for children and adults; spectacles, tools, wheelchairs, workshops, bee-keeping, tree-planting, horticulture, home management, nutrition, HIV/AIDS training, fish farming, brick making, baking, disinfectant manufacture, tailoring courses, and skill training schools.
Within Indonesia, (1) DCI has partnered with Christian business people in the establishment of a small factory producing doormats, employing mainly Muslims and feeding profits back into the local church. In Burkina Faso, it has partnered with local people in the cultivation of a banana plantation, covering four hectares of dry, semi-desert land, producing local employment and a regular substantial harvest of this important cash crop.
Within Uganda,(2) its partnership in developing a self-reproducing goat bank has witnessed phenomenal growth and interest: a local pastor reports: "Goats are God's project number one in this war zone of Africa. The report about (the) goat project is spreading like bush fire and we are optimistic about the effects and the result to the poor community"
Within Aduku,(3) in northern Uganda, a village banking project begun with half-a-million Ugandan shillings in 2003 oversaw a series of micro-loans to widows and orphans-made so by war, terrorist violence and AIDS-resulting in the growth of the fund to two and a half million shillings, by 2006, with no business failures! Children there now receive an education for the first time. (4)
3. Missiological transformation
The mission praxis of DCI Trust and Network
DCI World Christian Network revolves around the central hub of its global internet site, which has recorded over 34 million hits, by over three million unique visitors, to its 3,000 pages, presented, at least partially, in 17 languages, all of which is offered free of charge. This web portal is used to disseminate news submitted by subscribers and visitors to the website. Regular updates concerning profiled projects and people are disseminated to subscribers via email newsletter.
The website details the strategies towards which the resources of DCI Trust are devoted, namely: promoting and facilitating biblical training centres or schools; a range of business for mission projects and evangelistic support focussing upon unreached people groups and neglected members of society. (5)
The DCI School - without - walls resources offers a series of educational outlines divided into six divisions of evangelism, missions, discipleship, money, leadership and church growth, plus instructions on how to start a low-cost school. Each of 85 total lessons includes elements ideal for small groups, including Bible memory-verses, discussion topics, homework, meditations, written diploma work, a biblical teaching and prayer prompts. Research has indicated that this format is ideal for use within developing nations where educational standards vary enormously, but where there is an insatiable hunger to learn. (6)
Business for Mission projects involve mainly micro-loans within Africa and India, through bank for the poor schemes, operated under the governance of a local committee, including the principal contact who has previously applied to the Trust for funding. The committee announce the availability, within a village or locality, of interest free or very low interest rate loans of $50 to $150. Schemes have a high rate of success, few loan defaulters and are regularly and easily reproduced in secondary locations. (7)
Christmas Parties for the Poor are a practiced, much-valued annual event, sponsored by DCI, in which members of some of the poorest and most neglected communities, in places such as Malawi, Uganda, Peru, Indonesia, Thailand, Papua, Kenya and India are invited, at Christmas time, to a party where they receive food and gifts of clothing, books and seeds; hear the Good News about Jesus and experience joyful music and dance. Pocock writes poignantly about such phenomena: "For all the efficiency of rapid communication and…border obliterating technology, personal relationships and simple acts of kindness may, in the end, constitute the best strategies- and they may have the most appeal in a post-modern era". (8)
DCI's organisational modus operandi is notable: it deliberately owns no buildings and pays no salaries; (9) all work is done on a voluntary basis, with workers responsible for their own funding. The central Internet hub is managed from a home-office; while up to forty contributors around the world, responsible for translating news and schools pages into 17 languages, work out of homes or cyber-cafés, without any form of monetary remuneration, often without ever having met Trust staff face-to- face. A small core of committed friends and supporters are responsible for the majority of financial contributions to the Trust's work.(10)
4. Theological transformation-the mission theory of DCI Trust
During its growth into a thriving network and movement, the Trust has developed a precise, post-modern, contextual theology of mission praxis, located within a series of instructions and teachings subtly scattered throughout the DCI website. This informal mission theory is supplemented by reference to developed, detailed teaching contained with the schools material.
DCI stands firmly within the evangelical "faith mission" heritage, with emphases upon faith; prayer; recognition and development of spiritual gifting; engagement in elements of spiritual warfare; motivation focussing upon God's glory, rather than escape from hell and a cultural sensitivity that places a strong emphasis on indigenous leadership and strategy. (11)
An open, relationship-centred approach marks the DCI movement as essentially post-modern, as typified by this introduction to the ministry. The movement has no formal leaders, (12) elders or written constitution other than the Bible. They work together in friendship, supporting each other in God's call to different kinds of lifestyle and mission. (13) This practical ecumenism is echoed in the warm welcome provided to Catholic visitors to the website, (14) as well as the discreet place given to the formal statement of belief (Nicene Creed), but above all through the opportunities provided by the website, encouraging readers to act out their own faith, supplemented by the experience and resources offered by DCI.(15)
Nevertheless, inside this velvet-gloved approach is a firm hand insisting, above all, on biblical standards of responsibility or stewardship from those who are offered partnership. They look for a woman or a man with proven honesty and with a vision for serving the poor, and who also has the necessary spiritual and administrative skills.
This focus upon leadership and community development through locally-initiated, managed and accountable training centres echoes a trend which Pocock describes as "an essential counterbalance for internetworking" ministries powered by new technology, if they are to avoid the dehumanising tendency of globalisation. Additionally, DCI's concentration upon biblical education constitutes a vital step towards transforming cultures towards a biblical worldview, something Miller considers an essential precursor to sustainable development. (16)
In this context, DCI's focus upon financial partnership and economic development is undergirded by a biblically-based philosophy that envisages the whole task of mission as broader than vocal evangelism. (17) For the poor, especially those receiving assistance, there is an emphasis upon "breaking the curse of poverty". Miller refers to a 'mindset of poverty'- and avoiding dependency through economic self-start initiatives. Thus, micro-loans are offered with the single, declared aim of creating genuine self-employment through micro-industries or working from home with the sole goal of being able to raise the owner and the workers to a place of self-sufficiency in life and enabling them eventually to be generous towards others. (18)
For the rich there is an emphasis upon generosity toward the poor, based upon the text of Deuteronomy 15.7-11; financial supporters of "business for mission" projects are encouraged to consider their giving to it as definite investments regarding which they should expect a return, made possible by the Lord's blessing, according to Luke 19.13ff. The concept of "Christmas parties for the poor" is based decisively upon the story in Luke 14. For those wanting to "go" or extend their mission activities there is a novel challenge, away from traditional fund-raising, towards prayerful friend-raising. and fund-releasing! (19)
The manner and format of DCI Trust's work and growth represents many of the trends being increasingly discussed within Christian mission books, blogs, newsletters and ministries, typifying the new approaches to collaboration in training, funding and networking increasingly required within a post-modern context. As such it represents an authentic, missiological, post-modern, intercultural Christian community involved in transforming the harsh reality of some of the world's most deprived communities. (20)
1 Bosch 400-08
5 Bosch 447-57; Pocock et al, 34-6, 161; Miller 25-7
8 Pocock et al, 41
9 This statement representing DCI's self-understanding as an organisation has largely been accepted uncritically: even though it is understood by the author that the Director of the DCI Trust is financially supported in his role, it is also understood to be neither in the form of an employment contract, nor guaranteed by the Trust and thus not a salary in a typical sense. More significantly, the funding of central Trust staff is not especially relevant to the use of DCI as an example of a post-modern missionary organisation: the larger context in which this "statement of self-understanding" finds itself is the movement spawned by DCI, rather than the central Trust itself. For example, the "movement" clearly operates effectively in multiple cultural, overseas, non-Western settings, where no salaries are paid, where financial gifts are used for wealth-creation projects amongst the poor, as elucidated within the text and as compared to, say, financial remuneration for pastoral work or evangelistic outreach (as is typical of much aid "from the West to the Rest"). This is by far the more remarkable aspect.
11,12 Bosch 447-57 Pocock et al, 34-6, 161 Miller 25-7 77 Whilst Dr Les Norman is clearly in the lead and responsible for setting the entire tone of the DCI Trust work via the website-and, in that sense, inarguably a leader-as noted above with respect to the issue of salaries, the wider context of the movement is the where the real point is made. For example: Bank-for-the-Poor projects and Mission Schools started entirely with DCI resources are not required (nor I believe, requested or encouraged) to incorporate the DCI name (except in providing credit as the source of teaching materials, for example). Local pastoral leaders, whilst being accountable to DCI for agreed use of resources received, remain entirely accountable to their own local leaders in respect to the detailed logistics of projects and certainly in all other regards of their lives and ministries. Thus, they are not encouraged to see themselves as DCI leaders, only partners-with-DCI in shared project work.
13 Bosch 467-74
14 Bosch 457-467
16 Pocock et al 2000, 43-4; Miller chapters 1 and 2
17 Bosch 409-20
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