We want to go far … together!

“if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” ~ African saying

I read Brian’s African Report with much interest. Strangely, he went south to Africa, I went North to Germany :-) I’m no Brian McLaren and have much less wisdom and insight to contribute *grin*. This humble chap has struck more than one chord in me with some of these reflections I’ll pick out. I thought I’ll just duet with them a little … (Brian’s words in bold, mine in italics)
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We talked about the gospel in a post-colonial setting. I truly believe that the way ahead lies for Christians in the global north (who face a postmodern transition) and those in the global south (whose transition is post-colonial) to be in close dialogue as partners. That dialogue began happening during our time together.

“Close dialogue” is going to be beautiful music. There’s a place for “debate” I suppose (dissonance and tension is part of music too). But, before we get at each others throats, it’s wise to listen with our ears and hearts, to learn even with so much “puzzlement” going on in our heards often sparked by “the other” and love in our words and deed the way we’re called to be.

That little remark on “the gospel in a post-colonial setting” indeed resonates more with us here (at least in Malaysia) as compared to “the gospel in a post-modern setting”. As a Malaysian (and Asian), I need to be more confident in working through how the Gospel is speaking into our context and articulating the way we’re wrestling withthe issues that confront us. There’s more work that needs to be done here especially at the local church setting to make time for the conversation on “the gospel in a post-colonial setting” vibrant.

I went to Africa with a hypothesis: that the conversation in America and Europe (and elsewhere) about the postmodern transition had a counterpart conversation in Africa – a conversation about post-colonialism. I come home very certain that these two conversations are part of one larger conversation, and that the larger conversation is the one worth having. This confirms my conclusions from similar experiences in Latin America over the last several years, and I hope to add Asia to my “research” in the next year or two.

“Your most welcome to come to Malaysia, Singapore is nearby, Brian!” :-)

I have also found a a kind of “freshness” in some of my conversations with a German pastor who’s serving in our denomination as a Theological consultant. On one hand, Asians need to rise up and be heard and of course communicate clearly what are our real concerns are (either we’ve been too busy or too silent or both!). On the other hand, we need to guard against a kind of over-reaction and isolate ourselves in our own worlds (which is increasingly impossible) Thus, I agree with what Brian says about finding ways to get Christian Leaders from the four corners of the earth talking

The next step is to try to find ways to get Christian leaders in the global north and south and east and west talking. There´s a saying in Africa: if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. I trust we can go far, together with these emerging leaders from the global south. We have much to learn from their faith, their vibrancy, their courage, and their experience. And perhaps we can offer them gifts in return.

I feel really blessed to be part of some events that encouraged this kind of “talking” whether it was the Asian Mission conference last year, or the little connection I’ve had with those working in the Lutheran World Federation and especially the recent Summer School (and of course the bonus of meeting up with Jason and Maggi). Just the last month alone in Malaysia there were two events which I believe is supposed to encourage such conversations namely the International Association of Missions Studies conference and WCC’s Faith & Order Commission Meetings. So, all these experiences make me feel the urgency for this kind of “close dialogue”. I’m grateful for these “not so frequent” chances offered to me some how … I’m sure God has his purposes in his divine wisdom for me to have these adventures (trying to sound “spiritual” here *grin* and yet I do believe He’s surely hup to something though I’m not too sure about the details!)

I guess, the challenge is how can we have something that’s more long term rather than just short term “highs”. And most important for me, is how can these conversations really get to the “grass root” level especially in some ways in the local churches and pastors. And then how can we involve emerging leaders from those in their late teens, to twenties and people like me in our thirties :-)

The modern western colonial gospel was a beginning, for them and for us, with many strengths and weaknesses; now we must press on together to learn what the gospel “after modernity” and “after colonialism” says to us and our changing, dangerous, hopeful, unpredictable, needy, glorious, and gifted world. All we do as a local church here at Cedar Ridge is part of a larger symphony that the Holy Spirit is conducting around the world. May the music be beautiful, to the glory of God!

I was really touched by Brian’s encouragement to Cedar Ridge (his church) and how what happens locally is part of what’s going on globally. That would be my prayer for our young congregation too …as well as every local church in Malaysia and beyond …

And I really agree with the saying Brian quoted … if we want to go far, we need to go together!
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