Learning from each other in the new urban world

I am reading Jared Looney’s Crossroads of the Nations: Diaspora, Globalization, and Evangelism (Portland: Urban Loft Publishers, 2015). In the first chapter Looney talks about the changing shape of mission, and how God has brought people from different cultures to the urban centres in North America (and the Western world). Looney recognises the benefit of the people of God learning from each other. Mission is no longer a one-sided affair, but a matter of mutual partnership.

Jared Looney’s Crossroads of the Nations

Here is a good excerpt.

We may incarnate an evangelistic presence among people from any number of nations, and we may also greatly benefit from partnerships with disciples of Christ who bring perspectives and experiences radically different from our own. The opportunity to “sit at the feet” of Christian leaders coming from radically different societies and cultures from our own should not be overlooked . . . Many of us whose cultural roots are in what has been the dominant culture in the West . . . have been accustomed to a society where Christianity had a dominant voice, and we built large institutions to preserve and protect our religious culture. However, many Christian migrants come from contexts that are clearly defined as non-Christian where they have been accustomed to living in a dominant culture without completely identifying with it. In many respects, Christian migrants may have much to teach the church in Western society about living transcendent of a mainstream culture that cannot be mistaken for being Christian . . . We may learn that we have some blind spots in determining our own cultural accommodation to ideological worldviews or values that seek to undermine the Gospel. We may at times be blind to them due to our immersion in our home culture even when that culture has compromised the Gospel of Christ. However, we live on the edge of an opportune time to refine our vision of Kingdom life through the experiences of brothers and sisters who come from foreign lands and teach us once again how to live as aliens and foreigners in our own country, as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven. (pages 31–32; emphasis added)

Having grown up in East Asia and having lived in Australia for more than two decades, I think Looney’s words are true. I want to make some brief comments here.

Early this year I had the privilege of teaching a class of students (mostly) from a part of the world where persecution was very severe. They are former refugees, and some of them lived in refugee camps for more than ten years. I might have advanced academic knowledge of the Bible. But I felt that they had much to offer to me and to the class because of their faithful walk with Jesus in their suffering.

These students are an inspiration to me.

In view of this, I would like to encourage my East Asian migrant friends in Australia (and in the West) that you can make a genuine contribution in this land that you now call home. Do not abandon what you learned in the past where Christianity was not a dominant culture, especially what you learned from your suffering, be it socioeconomic hardship or religious persecution. I would also like to encourage you to develop thoughtful discernment through prayer and careful Bible studies as you live in the West. Learn from Christians in the West, but at the same time be aware that some aspects of the faith and practices here have been shaped by its affluence, prosperity, and security, rather than by a cruciform existence that models after the Crucified Christ and risen Lord. It is not that one type of Christian is superior to another, but that we all need to discern what is good in light of the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

To my Aussie friends and others in the West, I want to thank you for the contribution you have made to Christianity. And I am grateful to those who brought the gospel to our countries of origin. But I also want to encourage you to learn from people of other cultures. Many of them have much to teach us about the love of Jesus because of their suffering and experience in Christ.