Clarence’s Clarion Call – God is a Missionary God
by Clarence Rempel, WDC Conference Minister
God who created the world in shalom is fully engaged in restoring the world to shalom. God deeply desires that each person be at peace with God’s self and that every people group find their peace in relationship with God. The Apostle Paul describes God’s missionary work this way –
The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth….From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. (Acts 17:24-28).
From where I sit in the middle of Kansas and the center of the United States, it is hard to see that God’s shalom restoration project is going well. I tend to be much more aware of the “isms” that seem to be dominating our lives – consumerism, individualism, militarism. We have been captivated by sex and sports. “I just can’t wait for Super Bowl Sunday!” As we descend into the deepening darkness of secularism and cynicism, it is hard to see the expanding light of the kingdom of God.
James Krabill, Mennonite Mission Network Executive, informed Perspectives, the global mission class currently meeting in Hesston on Monday nights, that in 1909 there were approximately 2000 Mennonite churches world-wide with an estimated 230,000 members. Today there are 1.7 million Mennonite Christians in the world. The overall growth of the Christian church in Africa has been similar:
Date Christians % of Population
1900 10 million 9
1950 34 million 15
1975 75 million 25
2000 360 million 50
The chart for China would be similar. It’s hard for us to see or even imagine this from a Western District Conference perspective where many of our missionary-sending churches of an earlier time are experiencing the discouragement of gradual diminishment.
That often maligned mission movement of the 19th and 20th century has brought God’s redeeming, reconciling, restorative work to the world in ways now quantified by fourteen years of exhaustive research by Robert Woodberry. Woodberry found that the stereotype of missions as a religious form of colonialism did not hold up. Protestant missionaries, not funded by the state, were typically very critical of colonialism and often at the forefront of exposing the cruelties of colonial domination.
He also found:
Areas where Protestant missionaries had a significant presence in the past are on average more economically developed today, with comparatively better health, lower infant mortality, lower corruption, greater literacy, higher educational attainment (especially for women), and more robust membership in nongovernmental associations. (Christianity Today, Jan/Feb 2014, p.39).
God’s shalom is expanding. The kingdom of Jesus Christ is growing. The light of goodness is growing brighter; the river of life is saturating the world. I may just be a drop of water in Kansas in God’s redemptive stream, but it is great to be a drop in God’s life-giving river.