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Have you met a Reverse Missionary?


Churches in South Korea often display red crosses. In what is described as Reverse Missionary, South Korean Churches are sending missionaries to the West. Two churches side by side in Suwon, South Korea Credit: donut2D/Flickr/Creative Commons

Churches in South Korea often display red crosses. In what is described as the Reverse Missionary movement, South Korean Churches are now sending missionaries to the West. Two churches side by side in Suwon, South Korea Credit: donut2D/Flickr/Creative Commons

Recently, a young man named John Allen Chau traveled to a place that belongs to India, North Sentinel Island, where the natives attacked him and probably killed him, although some family members think he might still be alive. The North Sentinelese have a long history of killing anyone who visit their island, and it is likely that Mr. Chau is dead. The government of India bans all travel to the place, and now no one can recover the body, or even identify it.

Mr. Chau was a missionary, he went to the island to tell the natives about Jesus. His las name “Chau” might seem Asian, but he is from the U.S. Apparently his home is Vancouver Washington, on the north side of Portland Oregon, and I think he trained to be a missionary in Kansas.

His story, and his probable death, have generated some discussion, like ‘He’s crazy.’ and ‘Those Christians are colonial imperialists.’ and ‘Why do those island people need us to change their lives?’ Someone said to me “Those missionaries are so arrogant!”

So, is it possible that Christians who tell other people about Jesus are racist, and they talk down to people who they think are inferior?

Make that, inferior to us. Probably most people think that Christianity is a European or Eurocentric religion. The Protestant faith, for example, spread from northern Europe to colonies in North America and Australia and New Zealand, especially to places where English is spoken. From there, missionaries have traveled to third world countries and told less-fortunate people about Jesus.

Do you believe that’s true? John Allen Chau seems to fit that description, according to his critics.

The world is changing, and we don’t always see the new reality. Christianity is now a world religion, with more than four hundred million professed believers in Africa. The largest number of Christians in one country is in China, and one of the fastest growing Christian communities is in the Asian country of Nepal. Probably the majority of Christians today are not descended from Europeans.

In Canada, it was common to predict that Christianity was dying, as church attendance declined; but now many churches are growing. When I go to church on Sunday, I see large numbers of new immigrants, and not European immigrants. The people I see are from Asia and Africa and Latin America; the spiritual children of those missionaries who went out from here many years ago. If you watched news clips about the migrant caravans that traveled from Central America to the U.S. border, mostly in Tijuana, Mexico, you might notice scenes of prayer meetings. Latin America has huge numbers of Pentecostal Christians.

I also know there are many persecuted Christians in places like North Korea and Islamic countries. Saudi Arabia has expelled Christians from Eritrea, an African country. The Eritreans are there to work, but some promote Jesus.

And from all those Christians, we have “Reverse Missionaries.” I don’t like that name, because there are only missionaries and other Christians are my brothers and sisters, not my inferiors, but the new missionaries don’t fit the model of ‘us talking down to them.’ They tell other people about Jesus, and we might be the other people.

Where I live, we have missionary church planters from South Korea and Nigeria. I can look out my front window and see an African church, half a block away. One of my sons, with his wife, help with music in their own church, and sometimes they are asked to help in a local Nigerian church. They like going there, and they think it’s a great church.

Now, some journalists are writing about the “Reverse Missionary” movement:

Jesus said, if people were not allowed to praise Him, the rocks would cry out (Luke 19:40). I think we can expand that; if Christians in one place become silent, and lose their faith, others will speak. There is only one variety of Christian; from every part of the world.

In the Bible, the book of Daniel ends with some interesting words. “Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.” (Daniel 12:4) At the end of this age, many people will travel, and some knowledge will increase. Possibly that is what we see today; among those who travel are Christians who are not afraid to spread knowledge about God.

Has not the Lord Almighty determined that the people’s labor is only fuel for the fire, that the nations exhaust themselves for nothing? For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. (Habakkuk 2: 13 and 14)

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