"Can the West be converted?" Print
Wednesday, 02 July 2008 15:22
Written by Joe Waters
Sherry drew our attention yesterday to an interesting article from the most recent issue of Lausanne World Pulse, an evangelical journal dedicated to the study and discussion of world missions. As I was perusing this issue I came across a very interesting question that the great missionary and theologian Leslie Newbigin posed upon his return from the mission fields of India: "Can the West be converted?" Embedded in that question, of course, is not only the can, but also the how.

The whole bit:

Over two decades ago Lesslie Newbigin asked a question that has yet to be sufficiently grappled with. Returning from India (where he had served as a missionary) to his home in the United Kingdom, he discovered that the Western world was just as much a valid mission field as the India he had departed from, and that Christians needed to be thinking missionally in the Western context just as much as outside of it. This prompted him to ask the question, “Can the West be converted?” a query that has consumed the thinking of increasing numbers of church workers in the Western world. Sadly, as Newbigin surveyed missiological literature for application to the West he concluded:

The weakness, however, of this whole mass of missiological writing is that while it has sought to explore the problems of contextualization in all the cultures of humankind from China to Peru, it has largely ignored the culture that is the most widespread, powerful, and persuasive among all contemporary cultures—namely, what I have called modern Western culture.

With the global shift of Christianity’s growth from the Northern to the Southern Hemisphere, and the increasingly pluralistic and post-Christian nature of the West, the presence of the new religions and subjective life spiritualities may provide us with a context by which we can work through answers to Newbigin’s question and experiment with the development of new approaches at contextualization and new theologies for the rapidly changing Western world.

The whole article is here.