Better Together provides a space to share experiences with – and strategies for engaging – three critical global issues that PC(USA) global partners are challenging us to address together as the body of Christ. These three issues are 1) addressing root causes of poverty, especially as it impacts women and children; 2) sharing the Good News of God’s love in Jesus Christ; and 3) working for reconciliation in cultures of violence, including our own. The purpose of Better Together is to feed a conversation to shape concrete action strategies at the October 2012 “Dallas II: Better Together” consultation and beyond.
A reflection on witness, outreach, and growth from Jeff Ritchie.
Past as Prologue: I served as a Presbyterian missionary in Korea during a period (1980-89) when the Korean Presbyterian Church completed a 10-year movement to double their church, both in membership and in numbers of churches planted. From 1974-84 the Presbyterian Church of Korea went from 750,000 constituent members to more than 1,500,000 constituent members. During that same period the number of churches increased from 2500 to 4750. The “Double the Church Movement” succeeded!
It was a great privilege to participate in some small way in this effort that mobilized the whole church. I worked under the evangelism committee of the Chon Nam Presbytery in southwest South Korea, and in the two years in which I was involved in the “Double the Church Movement,” our presbytery started fourteen new churches, 7 rural and 7 urban.
Fast-forward to 2012--The New Movement: The Presbyterian Church (USA) has adopted a goal of establishing 1001 new worshiping communities over the next few years. Like the “Double the Church Movement” in Korea, this is not a programmatic slogan. Rather it is a call to mobilize the whole church for this task. As a member of The Outreach Foundation, a Presbyterian mission organization with a long history of partnership with Presbyterian World Mission in global evangelism and leadership development, I want our mission to be part of this new movement. So I ask the question: How can our global partners who are doing evangelism and establishing new worshiping communities in their cultures be a resource for the Presbyterian Church (USA) as it accepts the challenge of 1001 new worshiping communities?
A Call for Reverse-Mission: There is no doubt that the call to witness intends for American Presbyterians to join with and support global partners in their witness and in their formation of new worshiping communities. But we hear over and over again from Americans who develop relationships with global partners as they support those partners in mission that the faith of the global partner has challenged and deepened their own. In other words, joining with others for witness overseas has had an inspirational effect on our own people. My question is this: Can we take the inspiration received from our global partners when we are together in mission and turn it in action back home, action like forming new worshiping communities?
What could “mission stakeholders” do to light a fire that will blaze forth in 1001 worshiping communities in the Presbyterian Church (USA)? The Outreach Foundation has facilitated two ”reverse-mission” trips in the past three years to Brazil in which we immersed General Assembly and Presbytery staff (2009) and would-be church planters from Pittsburgh Seminary (2011) in church-planting movements in Manaus and Rio de Janeiro. We want to do more. Are there other mission stakeholders in—or beyond--our Presbyterian family who wish to accept this mission challenge? I think our global partners are ready to equip us for this audacious new work.