Reverse Mission: A Discourse In Search Of Reality?
Issue: Vol 9 No. 2 (2010)
Subject Areas: Religious Studies
The text asks five questions regarding reverse mission. First, what is it? Secondly, is it actually being attempted? Thirdly, why “diasporic” attempts lag behind the rhetoric? Fourthly, why do “non-diasporic” attempts, on the other hand, have more chance of success? And lastly, what is the outlook for reverse mission in Europe? The concept of reverse mission is defined and it’s imprecision questioned. Attempts at diasporic reverse mission are then discussed, as well as reasons for their general failure. However, non-diasporic reverse mission, in various modalities, is also widespread. The advantages and disadvantages of this direct mission movement are analyzed, stressing the specific disadvantages that Pentecostals face in Europe. By far the most significant cross-cultural success story by global southern missionaries in Europe is in Ukraine, but there are many reasons for regarding Ukraine as exceptional rather than a foretaste of things to come. The article concludes that reverse mission via diaspora churches (to which disproportionate scholarly attention has been paid) is unlikely to work. Non-diasporic reverse mission (which deserves more research) is more promising, but even so faces huge obstacles and positive results are still few and far between (except in Ukraine). Over time, however, some success may be achieved; possible scenarios for such success in Europe are discussed.
Author: Paul Freston