Turning the Tables on Mission documents the experiences of contemporary missionaries from the global south coming to the UK. Their candid, personal accounts challenge many stereotypes and form a rich resource for collective learning as we seek to grow a shared identity as the people of God in what is an increasingly complex and diverse society.
It was approaching Christmas 2004 when a young Nigerian entered the church I pastor in south east London. Little did I realise the impact this man would have on our church and my ministry. Israel impressed us with his humility, his Bible knowledge, his willingness to learn and his ability to teach. By 2007 we were pastoring the church together. Israel brought a confidence in the gospel that challenged us and moved us on. We changed the structures of our house groups, we became bolder in our sharing of the gospel, we became excited about digging deep into the Old Testament and applying the lessons to our lives. Israel and I learned to work together, to see things from each others perspective and respect other ways of doing church.
As I have read the stories contained in this book I have again been humbled and challenged. The stories of these modern missionaries are inspiring. Here are stories of men and women who had to combat racism and discouragement, and did so with humility, perseverance and a sure confidence in their God. These stories of God at work and faith in action should spur us all on, as together we pray, Your kingdom come, Your will be done here as it is in heaven.
'I commend this book to you.'
Reverse mission, as missionaries from other parts of the world pursue their vocation to re-evangelise Britain and plant new kinds of churches, is a hugely significant development that indigenous British Christians will be wise to welcome, interact with and learn from. This collection of stories and reflections is an excellent resource for such interaction and learning.
Turning the Tables on Mission: Stories of Christians from the global south in the UK is an important contribution to the growing body of literature exploring the changing face of Christianity in contemporary Britain. The influential role of Christians from the global south is proving to be one of the most significant and transformative elements in the British religious landscape. Yet while many studies treat world Christianity in isolation from British Christian networks, one of the great strengths of Turning the Tables on Mission is that it points to the increasing connections and shared identities between diasporic Christians in this country and British indigenes, demonstrating that we are increasingly observing a transformation within British Christianity rather than merely a foreign addition to it. Additionally, the volumes focus on the autobiographical stories of individual church leaders and planters offers readers rich and nuanced accounts of the motivations, desires and challenges that prompt this remarkable group of individuals.
There can be no greater need in an increasingly complex society than for the Christian Church to rediscover and renew its mission in the world. Being God's light, salt and leaven bespeaks an incarnational existence that does not settle for mere coexistence, but one that transforms its context. Any initiative that helps in this task is to be welcomed, and I particularly welcome Rev Olofinjanas bringing together of experts and practitioners from south and north to reflect upon the Church's mission and what one part of the body of Christ can learn from another as together we seek to bring the good news of God's salvation to our world.
On 15th September 2010 at the Evangelical Alliance UK Council meeting, following a short address by Bishop Wilton Powell (National Overseer, Church of God of Prophecy) and Pastor Agu Irukwu (Senior Pastor, Jesus House), there occurred what I can only describe as a powerful God moment. Men and women were on their knees responding to God and recognising His challenge to find a fresh expression of unity which crossed all ethnic divides. This was a call to unity in the midst of our diversity. A unity for a purpose, expressed in the great prayer of John 17:21, that the world may believe. The Evangelical Alliance, I trust, will never be the same. A One People Commission is now working to see this reflected in every area of our work.
This book tells some of the stories of a God movement which is impacting the church right across the UK. I thank God for the gift He is giving to us at this time.
These stories make fascinating yet challenging reading. The common thread is the certainty of a plea from the authors for the recognition of their calling, including culture, personality and difference. Their primary and genuine desire is to be obedient to God. There is also a call to partake in the work that God is doing and a recognition that both black- and white-majority churches and their leaders need to cast aside scepticism and learn from each other. As I read these stories, it was as if I was reading my own story, and no doubt countless people will feel the same. The challenge therefore is to listen to the integrity of these leaders. Let our hearts be transformed and, most of all, embrace enthusiastically the needs for mission here in Britain far more than overseas.
The number of Christians who have moved from the global south to the UK is growing all the time. Why have they come? What do they find? What is their impact? The answers are varied and complex, and the value of this book is in the telling of the personal stories of those who have made the journey. Each, naturally, is different, but all offer a wealth of insight. This is an invaluable resource to anyone seeking to deepen their understanding of reverse missionaries, cross-cultural mission – and quite simply, the language of spiritual friendship.
This is a very interesting and worthwhile text. The stories of men and women of faith coming from all over the world to witness and preach the gospel in the United Kingdom is a story that needs to be told, and this book is an important contribution in the telling of those stories. This collection forces us to reorientate our gaze and to see new and older ethnic minority communities in the UK as major assets to the church and society. For that reason it deserves to be read, discussed and shared.
The last 50 years has been a time of phenomenal change in Western society, and were not finished yet. During this period and to the present day, a quiet revolution is taking place. As the population in the UK has disengaged from the Christian faith, so the church of the global south has appeared in our midst. Have we the wisdom to understand what might be happening, and the humility to see that God is doing a new thing in our nation?
Israel Olofinjana has gathered together stories that capture the essence of a turnaround in our understanding of how mission is happening today. This book tells the stories of missionary enterprises that start in the places once seen as the great mission fields of the world, and have as their destination one of the great mission sending centres – the United Kingdom. Only God knows the future, but I believe the day is coming when our generation will be spoken of as the time when one of the great paradigm shifts in global mission took place.
The mission historian Andrew Walls speaks of the Ephesian moment when two different first-century cultures came together to experience Christ. In twenty-first-century Britain, particularly in our cities, we are in an Ephesian moment again. Now it is a kaleidoscope of cultures, but the words of Ephesians still hit the mark – the church is being built together in the Spirit (Ephesians 2:22). Embedding this theology in lived experience, these stories capture something of the growing pains of this moment. Originating in the global south, the contributors are honest about the challenges and struggles they have faced in coming to live in Britain, yet they also inspire as they testify to the reality of seeing God at work.
Overturning preconceptions about where mission is from and to, the voices we hear in this book may not be easy listening for British churches, but we need to tune in. Such voices make it plain that we have a lot to learn from each other.
This commendable publication provides a very engaging description and reflection on the formative journey of 12 contemporary pilgrims from the global south and their impact on the church in the UK. The stories offer some insightful models to aide our understanding of the call to mission and Christian leadership in our time, and in so doing present gentle challenges about how we embrace and demonstrate Gods purposes in and for our world.
Israel Olofinjana has produced a very valuable contribution to the debate about reverse missions. Among all the theory, he has written definitive empirical accounts of several pioneers. Their stories illustrate just what is involved in reverse mission, the challenges and the opportunities. There is much to learn from in this book, which both experienced pastors and those considering a call might consider carefully. This historic development in the British church scene possesses many admirable new initiatives. On the other hand, there is also much naivety, among both incomers who do not understand the British context, and indigenous leaders who unrealistically see this as the solution to dwindling congregations. Israel Olofinjana's own careful evaluative comments on the phenomenon helpfully guide us to make the most of the growth of new churches in Britain. He enables us to avoid falling prey to over-optimistic illusions, but without giving up hope for God's future move in revival in the United Kingdom.
Historians are currently rediscovering the importance and value of telling stories. The personal narratives compiled in this book are not only inspiring and thought provoking for those actively working in Christian ministry, but they are also a valuable resource for those of us who are seeking to understand and interpret the past, and to appreciate how migration and reverse mission are reshaping churches in the present-day United Kingdom and transforming their relationship to the wider world. They serve as a stimulus to academics and practitioners to work together to collect more such accounts and to draw out their implications and practical applications for the future.
David Bosch in his seminal book Transforming Mission refers to the many paradigm shifts that take place in mission, and what we see taking place now is one such example. Furthermore, he proposes that there is a pluriverse understanding of mission, and similarly there is a pluriverse flow of peoples taking the gospel from different parts of the world to other different parts of the world. What is possibly unique in these stories is that those coming to Britain and other Western nations do not carry with them the inherent belief that they are the carriers of a superior culture and faith, which was so much a part of Western missionary endeavours. Instead, many come reluctantly and unwillingly; they echo the words of the apostle Paul, who wrote, I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling (1 Corinthians 2:3). I pray that these stories will inspire and encourage us to not rely on who we are but on who God is, His power and wisdom, as we seek to make Christ known in post-Christian Britain.
The greatest need of the church, as we attempt to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century, is to engage with each other to propagate the good news to the peoples of the world. There is no greater context in which this can be facilitated than around the great commission of mission. The efforts of Rev Olofinjana and others in highlighting the transformational power of mission, particularly when carried out together, is commendable and an important contribution to the body of literature exploring the changing face of mission in postmodern Britain.
The vivid narratives of Christians from the global South in Britain that are documented in this book are a testament to the resurgence of Christianity in Britain partly through immigrant communities; the growing diversification of the British religious landscape; and the new agency and harbingers of the reverse mission process from the two-thirds world. These interesting tales are not simple stories in themselves, they point to ways in which we can begin to chart emergent theologies of immigrant Christian communities in Britain through personal life encounters, experiences and expressions. I warmly recommend it to all who are interested in understanding the complexity of contemporary Christian mission and transcultural encounters.
This book is far more than a collection of mini biographies. Each contributor not only shares their own spiritual journey with honesty and insight, but they also raise a range of thought-provoking analyses of topics related to vision for mission, the challenges of multicultural church, unity respecting cultural differences and the impact of prejudice and racism. Rev Olofinjana highlights and comments on these topics in his reflections throughout the book and has also contributed detailed historical research and references. It is therefore both academic and accessible because of its personal narrative style. It features a well-chosen selection of contributors whose faith, vision and resilience in the face of problems and experiences of God are inspirational. This book is relevant to both scholars and practitioners who want to understand more about the reality of reverse mission. It will also be a helpful companion for the ministers and missionaries from churches in the global south who will hear the call of God to come to Britain and help extend the kingdom of God.
Rev Olofinjana is one of only a few African writers engaged in the painstaking work of researching, documenting and charting the trajectory of Christianity both on the African continent and here in the UK, delineating the tensions and convergences in theology, spirituality and cultures. The value and significance of this work will only be realised as future generations seek to gaze retrospectively, attempting to find out what the Holy Spirit is doing in the present by understanding the past. This collection of first-person biographical accounts is another worthwhile contribution, and I welcome it as such!
News & Reviews
...the assumption that foreigners all come to the UK for economic stability and comfort is very much challenged, as we see people with good jobs and in a place they love, being...22 Aug 2018
The subject of reverse mission, that is, missionaries and pastors from a former mission field now ministering in Europe and North America is becoming a phenomenon that is attracting the attention of both academics and the media. The BBC documentary titled...22 Jan 2018
...mission in the contemporary world is dizzyingly dynamic. Very few periods of history have seen the massive changes going on in the world church as we see today.28 May 2017
Why are African pastors not writing theological textbooks or books that demonstrate they are reflecting on their church and history?4 Feb 2015