Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Effecting change through reformation

Today is Reformation Day, when in 1517 Martin Luther pinned his 95 theses to the door of Wittenberg Cathedral. Countering the Roman Catholic hegemony of justification by works, Luther had rediscovered the glorious truth of grace and faith, as found in Romans 1:
"I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last"
For the emerging protestants, this was great news! Salvation is not in our hands, and even if it was we would be totally unable to grasp it because of our sinfulness. God took all the necessary steps to reconcile us to him through Jesus Christ.

The good news doesn't spread itself, yet its message is universal (Acts 4:12, John 1:4). The new technology of the printing press found a use in disseminating the Scriptures, as well as Luther's theses. Faithful Christians like Wycliffe translated the Bible into their own languages and suffered persecution and even death because of their work.

Some 250 years later, the western missionary movement kicked off with William Carey producing a convincing geography of the world's population, showing that the vast majority of people had never heard the name of Jesus. He himself dedicated his life to mission in India, and thousands more have followed his path since then.

This summer I came across a huge organisation that I'd never heard of before: Gospel for Asia. They argue that the most effective missionaries are intra-cultural not cross-cultural - although of course foreign missionaries must be sent if there is no indigenous church in a culture. They support thousands of native missionaries who between them plant 10 churches every day. Furthermore, because of the economics of the globalised society, it is hugely cheaper to support a native missionary than a western counterpart. A monthly donation of £20/$30 - which is what most of us spend on coffee or our mobile phone - covers around 30% of the total cost of a missionary family in India, Laos, Bangladesh, China, Thailand or other Asian nations with millions of unreached souls. The truth of the gospel, rediscovered nearly 500 years ago in Europe, has yet to reach nearly half the world's population. Let's get serious and get it sorted!

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