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Review of Review of James K. A. Smith, How (Not) To Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor

James K. A. Smith. How (Not) To Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2014. 148 pp. Paperback. $16.00.

Our secular age is “haunted” according to Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor in his monumental work, A Secular Age. How we came to inhabit such a world, filled with echoes of transcendence amid a “disenchanted” and immanent universe, is a complex phenomenon. Taylor offers a “zigzag account of causal complexity” (41) to explain the emergence of new conditions for belief. His unique third definition of secular (which he identifies with the label “secular3”) rejects the oft posited and tacitly accepted “secularization thesis.” It pushes back against an understanding that requires the subtraction of transcendent faith in the face of modern advances.

Taylor offers an original and prescient narrative that clarifies the clamor of subtle, pressing belief and unrelenting, inescapable unbelief, amid the chaos of the existential pressures of the Western world. He writes nearly 900 pages of sweeping intellectual and cultural analysis to elucidate his alternative narrative, “a genealogy of the secular and an archaeology of our angst” (ix)—900 pages that are at once intimidating, complex, and heavy.

Enter James K. A. Smith, another Canadian philosopher, who, in How (Not) To Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor, provides readers with an articulate and accessible entry point into the dense and nuanced thought of Taylor. Smith provides a “commentary on a book that provides a commentary on postmodern culture” (ix). He mediates and condenses Taylor for a broad audience; telling a story about a story. It is an “existential map” (2) for all who live in this secular age. Smith’s work is directed primarily towards, but not limited to, “practitioners”: from the pastor or church planter to the atheist or agnostic, and all manner in between. Smith moves beyond Taylor, reflecting on the importance of Taylor’s work for the church and for ministry, critically interacting with and drawing out pragmatic meaning. Hence the implied-action-required of “how (not) to be secular.” Smith makes practical the intellectual, relevant the historical.

Smith maps out Taylor’s argument, which answers the fundamental question, “Why was it virtually impossible not to believe in God in, say, 1500 in our Western society, while in 2000 many of us find this not only easy, but even inescapable?” (19). Smith begins by using contemporary novelists and popular music to articulate a nuanced sense of the “secular3.” His goal is to show what the haunting immanence and doubting transcendence that presses in on all who inhabit the present feel like. In the messy complexity of a world where what is “believable” has changed, a “society is secular3 insofar as religious belief or belief in God is understood to be one option among others, and thus contestable (and contested)” (22).

Here, the reader is provided with the first glimpse of Smith’s missional premise. The world has changed, and the church must first understand and then engage this change in order to be effective and faithful witnesses. However, the change that occured is not one we easily recognize, nor acknowledge. It is a change in the conditions of belief, this sense of the secular shaped by historical and cultural forces that undergirds the summary of Taylor that Smith offers. Smith’s Reformed (neo-Calvinist) theological position is apparent throughout this work, most notably in his defense of the Reformation over the more critical perspective offered by Taylor.

The first half of How (Not) to be Secular engages the “existential nature” (71) of significant cultural and philosophical shifts that occurred in the last few centuries. Smith focuses on how the conditions of belief changed, resulting in the emergence of “exclusive humanism” (22) as a viable option. The immense “cross-pressure” of innumerable beliefs caused the eventual “nova effect” (62) of fragilization and fragmentation. The latter half of the book fleshes out the implications of living in our doubting and haunted secular3 age amid the fragilization of belief. For Christians, this fragilization must be embraced in order to be authentic.

Smith’s work is vital to the church and its mission. His understanding of the nova effect and its impact on the contemporary world opens a new field of vision. It allows, argues Smith, for the emergence of the “spiritual but not religious,” which on the one hand is a substitute for faith and belief in traditional religion, while on the other reveals a desperate longing for something more. This can serve well as an entry point for contemporary conversations. Moving beyond the entrenched, standard didactic or evidential and certain response to those who believe differently, a thicker, fluid, and more experiential-based invitation may well offer possibilities. It is perhaps a matter of function over form, for it is often the form (of church or religion or apologetic) that is perceived as not enticing.

We are all secular, insofar as we live in a world where belief is contestable. This account of the present age that is “not concerned with what people believe as much as with what is believable” (19) helps us to understand that we are “caught between myriad options for pursuing meaning, significance and fullness” (62). And as Smith explains, if Christians are caught among these competing options, so too is everyone else. The “secular age” is, simply put, the suffocating air we breathe—the same air of Christians and those who believe otherwise alike.

Smith traces Taylor’s argument that the loss of an enchanted cosmos charged with transcendent meaning “that was open and vulnerable” (27) was replaced by a closed universe. An “immanentization” occurs, which gives rise to a new location of meaning, the individual mind (29). This results in a newly constructed social space, “the immanent frame,” which precludes transcendence and is emptied of intrinsic meaning. We live then in a closed, material world, where meaning and significance are determined by the immanent, the here and now. Smith aptly gives language to the malaise of inhabiting “a self-sufficient immanent order, even if we believe in transcendence” (93) and locates us within it. Christians are haunted by doubt. We feel the cross-pressures. However, if those who still believe in transcendence are haunted by doubt, those who believe differently are haunted by the ghost of a transcendent otherness being lost.

The question for the church and its mission then “isn’t whether we inhabit the immanent frame, but how” (93). This is a valuable perspective as the church seeks to find ways to “interpret” and engage the world, and itself. The faithful witness of the church must be critiqued against the allure of the immanent. Perhaps most significant is Smith’s critique of apologetics. In defaulting to “the modern apologetic,” which “excarnates” (or un-fleshes) Christianity, effectively removing experience in order to answer the new atheists, the church has lost focus. If we are to be faithful witnesses, listening, learning, and storytelling must become a part of our common vocabulary. Believers, and more specifically the church, need to appropriate an embodied narrative. Moving beyond mere acquiescence towards belief systems or argumentative apologetic postures, a contemporary form of “apologetics” must be rooted in experience, feelings, and imagination. Those who believe otherwise just may hear the echoes of transcendence. The secular3 age is existential. It is felt. It is experienced.

Smith’s work is essential. It simplifies the paradigm-shifting thought of Taylor while offering interpretative critique. It raises questions for the church today that relate directly to the church and its mission. How can we (not) be secular? How can we find a voice in a world where many different ways of believing is the norm? What points of contact allow for deeper and more meaningful conversations?

We are reminded through Smith’s practical and challenging questions of the necessity of faithful witness, where apologetics must be re-imagined, grounded in experience and relationship. We are reminded that we must not recoil in fear, but creatively lean into the cross-pressures of desperation and angst that suffocate. The mission of the church today must be grounded in an honest assessment of our social reality, remembering that this secular3 age is not characterized by disbelief but many ways of believing. The church itself must bear witness to transcendence. It must be always-reforming, seeking ways “not” to be secular in the immanent frame. We need to engage those around us with open hands, acknowledging our own doubting, in hopes of offering a glimpse of transcendence in the messiness, and an invitation to journey together.

Marnie Hoetmer

Adjunct Professor of Theology and Philosophy

Alberta Bible College

Calgary, AB, Canada

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Lawrence Wharton: Pioneer in Disciples Mission to the “Heathen” and Window into Nineteenth-Century Disciples’ Understanding of Cross-Cultural Missions

The North American Churches of Christ/Disciples of Christ had started missionary societies in 1849 and 1874, but their focus was chiefly on “Christian” nations. In 1875 the Foreign Christian Missionary Society was formed specifically to go out to the “heathen” in foreign lands. Green Lawrence Wharton (1847-1906) was sent to India in 1882 and became the pioneer in North American Disciples’ efforts to reach the “heathen.” He was exemplary in character and diligent in work. His twenty-three years of work reflected the Disciples’ understanding of cross-cultural evangelism at the time.

In the earliest days of the nineteenth-century North American Restoration effort, little was done in the way of what is now called “missions.”1 The chief concerns were in the evangelization of North America.2 The American Christian Missionary Society was formed in 1849 with the motto, “to promote the spread of the gospel in destitute places of our own and foreign lands.”3 Since Green Lawrence Wharton was not sent out until 1882, twenty-three years later, how can he be referred to as a “pioneer” in Disciples of Christ missions?4 The society sent J. T. Barclay to Jerusalem for seven years (1851–1854; 1858–1862),5 J. O. Bardslee to Jamaica (1858–1866; discontinued for lack of support), and Alexander Cross to Liberia (1854; died after a few months). Thus, at the twenty-fifth anniversary of that 1849 society (c. 1874) “the speaker of the occasion said that in the wide field destitute of the gospel, the Disciples of Christ do not have a single herald of the cross. Jerusalem and Jamaica had been deserted, Liberia had been forgotten. Calls were made for men to go to China, Africa, Norway, and Germany, but there were no responses. Year after year the society said, ‘Who will go for us? And whom shall we send?’ There was no man to say, ‘Here am I, send me.’ ”6

Although the ACMS of 1849 had largely failed in its first twenty-five years to attract sufficient interest in and workers for “heathen” lands, a renewed effort emerged to advance its work. The Disciples’ convention of 1874 unanimously adopted this resolution: “That we fully recognize the obligation to preach the gospel to every nation, and that we will by earnest prayer, exhortation and persistent appeals to the brotherhood, do all in our power to hasten the day when we shall renew our missionary effort in Foreign Lands.”7 That same year (1874) the Christian Women’s Board of Missions was organized, and by the following year a new missionary society was formed, designated as the Foreign Christian Missionary Society (1875). It is with this group (FCMS) that I am chiefly concerned because of its focused effort to reach the “heathen” in other lands, and because Green Lawrence Wharton was the first person sent out by that society to those they classed as “heathen.”

The ACMS had indeed sent out workers. H. S. Earl went to England where he enjoyed some success, but it was regarded as a “Christian” country already. A medical doctor, A. O. Holck, living in Cincinnati was asked to return to his native Denmark. He went but enjoyed very little success. Jules Delaunay and wife were asked to return to his native country, France, in 1877. He was a good man but unsuited for the task. An Armenian medical doctor, G. N. Shishmanian, was converted in Texas and attended the College of the Bible [Lexington, KY] for 2 years. He was sent to Turkey in 1879. Others were sent later, but eventually that work was abandoned. Francisco de Capdevila was sent from England to his native Mexico in 1880, but little came of that move. At that time the society operated on a seriously flawed principle: “whenever a [Christian] native of some foreign country was found, it was thought that he should be taken up and sent back as a missionary.” By 1919 McLean could report, “That notion prevails no longer.”8 Among other things, the FCMS learned that it was one thing to select people and ask them to go, but quite another to send people who volunteered. McLean wrote that “the Board has come to believe that the only persons fitted for the self-denial and holy consecration involved in true missionary work are the ones who offer themselves voluntarily to the Lord.”9 Trial and error was the method of operation by the FCMS. There was little sense of “missionary preparation.”

The new society (1874) sought the full cooperation of both the 1849 ACMS and the newly formed Women’s Board (1874) as it desired explicitly to focus on foreign fields. Several men were asked to go to India, Japan, Italy, and Germany, but none were sent. “At the close of the sixth year of the society’s existence there were twelve persons connected with the work in England, Denmark, France and Turkey,” all sent out, as noted, by the 1849 society. McLean, the corresponding secretary of the FCMS, felt that was a paltry performance for half a million Disciples.10 He pointed to several reasons for the slim performance during that time, among them a financial depression, apathetic churches, and lack of teaching on the subject. Initially, the society had funded itself by membership subscriptions, and “it was not until 1878 that the society decided to ask the churches for collections for foreign missions.”11 In order to address the apathy among the churches and their lack of concern for the heathen, the convention urged that preachers preach on the subject and that editors of the papers carry articles of promotion and teaching. That emphasis led to a new and more church-involved emphasis on global evangelizing.12

The 1880 convention sought to re-emphasize the need to reach pagans. A Report from that convention observed that

the work we are doing abroad, most of it at least, is not strictly foreign missionary work; it is not done for the Christianization of the heathen; its end is not the salvation of men and women from idolatry, with all its abominations. It is largely changing people from one Protestant faith to another; not attacking the strongholds of Satan in heathen and idolatrous countries, which is the one object for which foreign missionary societies should exist. We seem not to have had hitherto the true idea of foreign work, or, if had, to have departed from it largely in practice.13

It was observed that England was giving more to support missions to the heathen than any other country, “Yet we, with but a few thousand dollars for the maintenance each year of foreign missionary work, give the greater part of that to the support of men in England. How absurd!”14 Thus, in the 1881 convention emphasis was placed on a new mission to work on “distinctively heathen ground, either in Japan, or India, or China.” It was after this emphasis that Green Lawrence Wharton enters the picture.

Wharton’s Story

Like many young men born in 1847, Green Lawrence Wharton grew up on farms and had meager educational opportunities. His blended family consisted of parents and seventeen siblings, most of whom became Christians. Already before Wharton entered Bethany College in 1871 he had begun to preach in Carbondale, IL, while studying at a college there. At Bethany he studied under C. L. Loos, Robert Richardson, and W. K. Pendleton, and according to his wife he “deeply imbibed the spirit and genius of the Restoration movement.”15 In his junior year he met Emma Virginia Richardson, youngest daughter of Robert Richardson, whom he later married in 1878 and shared a delightful life with her. He graduated in June of 1876 and “accepted a call to become the pastor of the church in Buffalo, New York.”16

Emma claimed that during the years they were in Buffalo there was “a transition period, the time of missionary awakening, the church’s coming into consciousness of its obligations in regard to world-wide evangelization.” Of the earlier era she wrote: “At that time the interest of the church was altogether local; there were even few pastors who preached missionary sermons, and seldom was a public prayer offered in behalf of the perishing heathen. The harmony of fellowship had been disturbed by unprofitable controversy over means and methods but with the organization of the Foreign Christian Missionary Society and the Christian Woman’s Board of Missions in 1874, the church took on new life and growth.”17

Lawrence Wharton attended none of the conventions, but he read their reports and articles in the church papers, like the Christian Standard. He had preached missions sermons, however, and in Buffalo had been “privileged occasionally to meet and hear returned missionaries of other churches.” He preached a series of Sunday evening sermons on concrete cases of successful missionary efforts, “and he had remarked afterwards that the study had made at least one complete convert to foreign missions—and that was himself.”18 His wife was fully sympathetic with his interests since as a child she had read a number of biographies of missionaries in the children’s library—of people like Adoniram Judson.19 She heard her father pray “almost daily” that “the glory of the knowledge of the Lord might cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.”20

In the early fall of 1881, an important event occurred that added to Wharton’s already growing interest in missions. A former Methodist missionary to India, Albert Norton, came from his home in Richville, New York, to talk with Wharton about the Disciples. He had read an article by Wharton that appeared in the Christian Standard concerning the Disciples. Since “Norton’s views were already mainly in sympathy with that doctrine, he and his wife shortly afterwards became members of the church in Buffalo.” Isaac Errett wrote that Norton was an immersionist Methodist, “and his converts in India were immersed.”21 Many visits took place between the Whartons and Nortons, and they enjoyed Norton’s stories about India. “Very naturally this intercourse with one who had been on the field and expected to return aroused in them a deep interest in foreign missions, especially in India.”22 The FCMS put out a call for people to go to India, assuming that the Nortons would be sent by the society. The FCMS felt others needed to go with the Nortons to learn from them.

Wharton was thoughtfully prayerful about offering himself for service. After waiting for a while and learning that no one else had volunteered for work in India, he wrote to the FCMS, offering his services. He stated in his letter that “he felt disqualified in the matter of age (being thirty-four years old), that neither he nor his wife were robust physically, and felt themselves otherwise unfit to be pioneers of such a cause in a heathen country, but that if no more worthy candidates presented themselves, they were willing to go.”23

They were accepted, and in 1882 the Board passed a resolution indicating that the two couples would be sent to India as soon as funds could be raised. At the same time the Christian Woman’s Board of Missions had recruited and obligated itself to send along with Wharton and Norton four single women to work with them: Mary Graybiel, Laura Kinsey, Ada Boyd, and Mary Kingsbury. It was Norton who suggested that the young women go as “Bible readers,” which meant that they would serve as zenana workers,24 evangelists, teachers in the day schools and in the Sunday schools. They were to care for the orphans and for the dependent. Thus their work was mostly to be among women and children. The eight people left in September 1882 and arrived in Bombay the same year. “The society was seven years old, and now for the first time missionaries were sent into the non-Christian world.”25 There was much rejoicing among the churches, and the society received increased amounts of money.

The Disciples of Christ were latecomers to India.26 More than forty Protestant societies had preceded them, not to mention the legendary work of the Apostle Thomas, the incursions of the fifth-century Nestorians, and the Roman Catholics. One hundred seventy-seven years earlier two young German Pietists, Bartholomäus Zigenbalg and Heinrich Plütschau, had been sent by the Danish mission to Tranquebar in July 1706.27 William Carey (1793), Alexander Duff (1830), and many others had broken ground.28 Apart from the previous missionary experience of Norton, the Disciples seemed to have no independent thought about location, preparation for the task, or methodology. To their credit, they wanted to preach Christ where he had not been named, so they settled in the Central Provinces where a population of about sixteen million (principally) Hindus and Muslims lived. Initially they settled in Harda “because of its accessibility and healthfulness, and because of the needs and disposition of the people.”29 Located 416 miles northeast from Bombay, they found no city in the area more suited as a base of missionary activity and operation.

About the time the group settled on Harda, Norton separated himself from the group because “he was conscientiously opposed to the idea of receiving a fixed salary,” and his temperament rendered him unable to work “pleasantly and effectively with his associates.”30 The group had no idea about what is today called “team building” and psychological screening. The chief qualification seems to have been a believer’s willingness to be sent. The society did not falter after Norton’s departure, however, though he was to be their guide in India mission; the following year they appointed and sent Morton D. Adams and wife to join the group to help with education.

McLean’s account of the work indicates they followed a “mission station” approach. That is, the missionaries lived in their compounds of homes, schools, and clinics, and went out from there to do other work. “The missionaries at all the stations employed the same methods,” claimed McLean. They strove initially to achieve a working knowledge of the language. As soon as they were able, they began preaching in the streets and bazaars, far and wide. Literature was produced and distributed. “They went out among the people and talked about sin and about salvation through Christ.”31 They cast their nets broadly—“touring,” they called it.32 They opened Sunday schools and day schools where the teaching was done in English. Wharton opened a bookstore on a busy street, and it proved to be a good place to meet people who would never attend a chapel. Several local people were hired to serve in different capacities, including the preaching of the word. In 1889, the first medical missionary, Dr. C. S. Durand, was sent to Harda, principally, but not exclusively, because the missionaries were otherwise sixty-eight miles from the nearest physician. A hospital was erected. Dr. Durand worked with lepers, and Wharton baptized a number of them and formed a congregation on the outskirts of town. In 1892, Bethany College graduate John G. McGavran was sent as an evangelist. Others were sent to work in education and medicine. In 1900, George William Brown and family were sent to India, he to serve as educational missionary. In 1893, a Bible training school was begun in Harda with eight students. Wharton was the president and the faculty.

Wharton had long dreamed of starting a training college for the training of a local ministry. Such a school opened in 1905 with eighteen students in Jubbulpore. Wharton planned to write a book on “modern missions” as a means of “creating an evangelistic spirit among native Christians.”33 Wharton gave himself to the school, but he would spend only one year with it. He died the following year, Nov. 4, 1906, after a long illness and was buried in Calcutta. Of his work, Archibald McLean wrote:

The Disciples of Christ owe much to this man of God. He led the first group of missionaries to India. Their going was an event in the history of this people. In addition to the work he did in India, he stirred the churches in Australasia and America as they have never been stirred. His burning eloquence led many to give of their money, and some to give their lives to the service of Christ in the regions beyond. Under his teaching many thousands were caused to see that the mission of the church is missions. His life has been written by his wife and has been widely read, and has perpetuated and increased his influence. He rests from his labors, and his works follow after him.34

Although he followed the methods employed by the Protestants of the era, he was indeed a “pioneer” among the Disciples in the sense that he was the first to go into what they regarded as “heathen” territory to do initial evangelization.

Assessing Disciples Missiology

Initially, it appears that Wharton and the four single women simply followed the methodology recommended by the former Methodist, Alfred Norton. In the twenty-three years Wharton worked in India, the methodology seems to have been the routine Protestant approach: broad preaching, literature production, schools, orphanages, leprosaria, and other medical work. Yet, by the time Wharton went to India, some constructive thinking regarding effective methods was taking place among Protestants. “As early as 1854, Henry Venn (1796–1873), the prescient Secretary of the Church Missionary Society in London, had spoken in terms of the aim of the mission as being the calling into existence of self-governing, self-supporting, and self-propagating Churches; and of the euthanasia of a mission.”35 He sensed that many of the missions’ works would collapse should foreign funds and foreign leadership be withdrawn or be forced out. Almost simultaneously, Congregationalist Rufus Anderson (1796–1880) of the USA reached the same conclusion for the same reasons, and he had written extensively about his concepts of missions long before Wharton and others went out.36 One insight that would have been relevant to the society’s work, for example, was that working among undifferentiated people and preaching “about sin and about salvation through Christ”37 was not a strategic approach to Hindus.

McLean was the secretary of the FCMS from 1882 until its end in 1920 and had a strong hand in the policies and implementation of the society, but his writings reveal minimal understanding of the missiological thought of that era. In 1897, he showed an awareness of the concept of churches that were self-supporting and self-governing,38 but if he gave a rationale for its practice I have not found it in his major books on missions.39 Interestingly, he seems not to have mentioned self-propagating. The mission station approach requires most of the effort to be on maintaining the various components of the work rather than focusing chiefly on the development of churches. Compassionate service was solidly joined with proclamation. It is not clear whether their approach was simply following what they saw among existing works or whether they made use of outside resources. In 1913, Mrs. Wharton showed an awareness of The Encyclopedia of Missions,40 which contained a discussion of methods as then understood.41 That encyclopedia article, however, does not interact with the seminal thought of Anderson and Venn, for example. Nor do I detect awareness among early Disciples of other cutting-edge resources, such as the Missionary Review of the World, which first appeared in the 1830s (its second series began in 1888) or the Allgemeine Missions-Zeitschrift, which Gustaf Warnack and others began publishing in 1874 to discuss theology, world religions, and methods.

Indeed, there is little indication that the missionaries knew what to do among people of such different worldviews as Muslims, Hindus, and animists. Not until 1920 was a College of Missions established by the Disciples in Indianapolis by the Christian Woman’s Board of Missions, and then it was chiefly for women. Like the a cappella churches of that period, from whom J. M. McCaleb went to Japan in 1892, we must conclude provisionally that little attention was paid to an existing body of missions theory and practice.42 Their strengths were their theology of salvation by Christ and their concern for people who hurt. Historically, the Disciples had a stronger biblical ecclesiology than most Protestants of the era,43 but, curiously, they seem to have underplayed the importance of church planting and development as a missions priority. They rightly placed emphasis on learning the local languages. Apart from doctrinal differences with other groups on salvation and ecclesiology, however, the missionaries of that era tended to imitate the methodology they saw among fellow Protestants. More detailed understanding of their notion of methodology will involve sifting through many pages of contemporary periodicals like the Christian Standard, Christian-Evangelist, Missionary Intelligencer, Gospel Advocate, and others. All in all, though, Lawrence Wharton and his associates demonstrated little understanding of the dynamics involved in cross-cultural evangelizing and church growth. This provisional conclusion takes nothing away from the wholesome influence realized through their dedication to Christ and their hard work. Wharton was a pioneer chiefly in the sense that he led the first group of missionaries to what the Disciples regarded as “heathen.”

Post Script

Although serious rethinking of cross-cultural evangelizing was already in progress by several Protestant missions leaders, the Disciples did not know that they were on the cusp of a period of vigorous missiological thinking. The Edinburgh Missions Conference occurred in 1910, and out of that came the International Review of Missions and the Hartford Seminary Foundation in the USA. Roland Allen’s famous Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours appeared in 1912, eight years after Lawrence Wharton’s death. Allen’s Spontaneous Expansion of the Church: And the Causes that Hinder It came out in 1927. Even among the Disciples a reconsideration of mission methods and practices took place at that point.

John G. McGavran, a Bethany College graduate, joined the work in India in 1892, a decade after Wharton arrived. Eventually he and his wife had five children. Among them was a son whom they named Donald Anderson (1897). He was homeschooled into his middle school years, but graduated from high school in the USA. He moved forward with his education in the USA, earning an BA from Butler, an MA from the College of Missions in Indianapolis, a BD from Princeton, and eventually a PhD in Education from Columbia University. He returned to India to make his contribution to missions in the field of education. Through his research with Methodist Bishop J. Wascomb Pickett, McGavran was forced to raise many serious questions about his inherited missiology.44 While the Disciples were growing by only a few percentage points per year, other churches were growing by more than two-hundred percent. McGavran found it necessary to move away from the method of combining education, evangelism, medicine, and agriculture as the means of evangelizing. He developed, alternatively, a means of evangelizing people in groups, penetrating specific castes, and measuring durability of missions efforts by the number and strengths of churches. His missionary society did not accept his views and assigned him to work as an evangelist, rather than administrator, among the low-caste Satnami people (1935–1954). While he did not see a whole people movement come to Christ,, his teaching ministry brought about the conversion of a thousand people in fifteen churches, all without the trappings of the mission station.45 Out of that experience and the earlier research with J. W. Pickett, he wrote Bridges of God (1955), which affected mission strategy worldwide. McGavran eventually became a missiologist of international note and exercised an enormous influence on Protestant missionary endeavors, all because he was willing to go where the research lead. It was not a matter of changing the biblical message, but of making better ministry decisions.

Lawrence Wharton and his original team opened up work in the central part of India. In the same area, second-generation McGavran developed new methods that ideally called for serious revision in the efforts to establish viable, long-term effects. Initially, most of McGavran’s fellow missionaries did not accept his formulation, and he was given a new assignment in the society. As decades passed, however, his careful analysis of the Indian context and social structure proved to be a superior way of achieving the desired results.

C. Philip Slate is a missions consultant for Churches of Christ worldwide and an adjunct teacher at Harding School of Theology. He holds a DMiss from Fuller Theological Seminary and has authored and co-authored numerous popular and scholarly works. Dr. Slate was a missionary in Great Britain for over a decade. He has also served as the dean of Harding School of Theology and subsequently as chair of the department of missions at Abilene Christian University.

Adapted from a presentation at the Thomas H. Olbricht Christian Scholars’ Conference, Lipscomb University, Nashville, TN, June 7–9, 2017.

1 See Thomas Olbricht, “Missions and Evangelization Prior to 1848,” Discipliana 58 (Fall 1998): 67–79.

2 New religious movements often postpone global work. The fifth-century Nestorians were a glowing exception for understandable reasons. During the first two hundred years of Protestantism, little was done in global evangelism. The Moravians began global work from Germany in the mid-eighteenth century, but their spiritual heritage was rooted in the mid-sixteenth century. Oddly enough, and somewhat inaccurately, William Carey is often called the “father of modern Protestant missions,” though he worked in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, almost three hundred years after Luther’s ninety-five theses were posted.

3 Archibald McLean, The History of The Foreign Christian Missionary Society (New York: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1919), 22. This work makes the task of assessing the work of Lawrence Wharton much easier.

4 McLean wrote: “He led the first group of missionaries to India. Their going was an event in the history of this people.” McLean, History, 189; Emma Richardson Wharton, Life of G. L. Wharton (New York: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1913), 43.

5 Thirty eight years later when McLean visited Jerusalem on his trip around the world he devoted two sentences to Barclay’s work: “Dr. Barclay spent three and a half years here. His great book is still regarded as one of the best on Jerusalem.” Archibald McLean, A Circuit of the Globe (St. Louis: Christian Publishing Co., 1899), 316. For a substantive assessment of Barclay’s work see Clint Burnett, “A Missiological and Historical Reevaluation of James T. Barclay’s Jerusalem Mission,” Restoration Quarterly 54, no. 3 (2012):149–67.

6 McLean, History, 23.

7 Ibid., 33.

8 Ibid., 60.

9 Ibid.

10 Ibid., 66.

11 Ibid., 70.

12 Emma Wharton described the late 1870s and 1880s as a new era in which the churches came to accept their responsibility for evangelizing. She reported that her husband’s reading Conference reports and articles in the Christian Standard helped to fuel his interest in missions. Wharton, Life, 39-41.

13 As reported in McLean, History, 79.

14 Ibid.

15 Wharton, Life, 31–32.

16 Ibid., 36.

17 Ibid., 38.

18 Ibid., 40.

19 The British in particular often wrote two versions of missionary biographies, one a more serious version for adults, and a smaller one for children. That was one way they had of building a missionary force in the future. Many who later became missionaries reflected that their initial interests were stirred by reading missionary biographies of William Carey, David Livingstone, John Paton, and many others.

20 Wharton, Life, 40–41.

21 Ibid., 42, quoting the Christian Standard, Jan. 21, 1882.

22 Wharton, Life, 41.

23 Ibid., 43.

24 A zenana is the private quarters of women in a household. “The women of the better classes never appear in any public assembly. If they are ever reached it must be in their own homes and by members of their own sex,” McLean wrote later. McLean, History, 149.

25 McLean, History, 84.

26 McLean rehearsed what had been done in India from the earliest days until the time of Wharton’s going out. McLean, Circuit, 212ff.

27 Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of the Expansion of Christianity, vol. 3, Three Centuries of Advance: A.D. 1500–A.D. 1800 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1970): 278–82.

28 Stephen Neill, A History of Christianity in India: The Beginning to 1707 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1984); Stephen Neill, A History of Christianity in India: 1707–1858 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002). Sadly, Neill died before completing the third volume.

29 McLean, History, 85.

30 Ibid., 86.

31 McLean, History, 88.

32 Donald A. McGavran, The Satnami Story: A Thrilling Drama of Religious Change (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 1995), 25, 28.

33 Wharton, Life, 196.

34 McLean, History, 189.

35 Stephen Neill, A History of Christian Mission, The Pelican History of the Church 6 (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1964): 259–60.

36 See bibliography in “Anderson, Rufus,” Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, ed. Gerald H. Anderson (New York: Simon & Schuster and Prentice Hall International, 1998), 20; R. Pierce Beaver, ed., To Advance the Gospel: Selections from the Writings of Rufus Anderson (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1967). Anderson’s Outline of Missionary Policy (Boston: ABCFM) appeared in 1856.

37 McLean, History, 88.

38 McLean, Circuit, 99.

39 In addition to McLean, History, and McLean, Circuit, see Archibald McLean, Missionary Addresses (St. Louis: Christian Publishing Co., 1895); Archibald McLean, The Primacy of the Missionary and other Addresses, 2nd ed. (St. Louis: Christian Board of Publications, 1921).

40 Wharton, Life, 59. Her book appeared in 1913, so it is not clear whether she was referring to the first edition (New York : Funk & Wagnalls, 1891), edited by Edwin Munsell Bliss, or to the second edition (New York : Funk & Wagnalls, 1904), edited by Henry Otis Dwight, H. Allen Tupper, and Edwin Munsell Bliss.

41 See “Methods of Missionary Work,” Encyclopedia, 2nd ed., 468–70.

42 See C. Philip Slate, Lest We Forget: Mini-Biographies of Missionaries From A Bygone Generation (Winona, MS: J. C. Choate Publications, 2010), 110–12, for information up to 1933.

43 Already, several decades of nondenominational missionary societies, such as the American Board of Commissioners for Missions and the London Missionary Society, had underplayed the place of the church. The influence of the Enlightenment produced an emphasis on ”converting individual persons.” David J. Bosch, Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Missions, American Society of Missiology Series 16 (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1991), 331. He quotes C. C. Carpenter as saying that societies influenced by the Evangelical Awakenings had been preaching “a gospel without a church.”

44 Much of this information is drawn from Gary L. McIntosh, “Celebrating Donald A. McGavran: A Life and Legacy,” Evangelical Missions Quarterly 51, no. 4 (October 2015): 424–31,

45 McGavran relates the story in his Satnami Story.

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Youth Outreach and Missional Ecclesiology: Listening to Those at the Church’s Boundaries

The practice of listening to people with whom the church is missionally engaged is a valuable missional practice. This article presents a case study of such listening in the context of the church of Christ at Cedar Lane in Tullahoma, Tennessee, outlining findings of a set of interviews with teenagers involved in the church’s outreach program to children and youth. The article interprets these findings through a lens of missional theology.

A Young Theologian

Danielle, a church member at Cedar Lane, told a story about Amanda, a participant in the church’s youth outreach program. Amanda came into the office where Danielle works, talking with a friend. Danielle overheard Amanda say, “You should come to my church—Cedar Lane.” It is the kind of thing you expect a twelve-year old to flippantly say to a friend. But I have often wondered about that story. What exactly does Amanda mean when she calls Cedar Lane her church? This is a girl who, despite being an “outsider,” has a way of thinking about the nature of the church, its mission, and her own relationship to a particular church. She has an ecclesiology.

Christians commonly understand their own experiences as a source of theological reflection. In this paper, I explore how the experiences of outsiders,1 specifically a group of young people, can also contribute to the church’s ecclesiology, providing insight we would not have access to without their perspective. The assumption of the congregation is that Amanda and her friends need to be taught by the church, and this is true—but it is not the only truth. The church also needs to be taught, and these young outsiders provide a unique opportunity for the church’s formation. This paper explores what these young people might have to teach the church by presenting findings of a study in which seventeen of the youth participated in semi-structured interviews about their understanding of the church and their experiences with it.

A Missional Turn and the Emergence of a Youth Outreach Ministry

Cedar Lane is a medium-sized church in Tullahoma, Tennessee.2 Like many rural communities, Tullahoma is comprised of two economic worlds with the poorer class of the city largely unseen by the professional class, who live on the other side of a social and economic gulf. This gulf has been reflected in the church—at least in the case of Cedar Lane. While performing acts of service, the church remained disconnected from its poor neighbors relationally. In the opening decade of this century, the church set out on a course toward bridging that divide.

Via a series of experiences and through the influence of missionally minded persons, Cedar Lane leaned toward a new trajectory informed by, if not conforming to, missional theology. Missional language began to show up in church classes, in conversations among the leadership, in the sorts of books members read. Disciples sought out missional practices. Cedar Lane took a missional turn—we were beginning to think and speak in the language of mission. That theological vocabulary found expression in an outreach ministry to children.

In the fall of 2009, an elementary teacher began bringing a few of her students to church on Wednesday nights. The kids began showing up with their friends, and soon the number swelled from under ten to over fifty. The ministry became an expression of the church’s evolving understanding of its mission. However, it also brought new challenges. The ministry’s rapid growth surprised church leaders and strained ministry structures.

Deeper questions and challenges also began to emerge. Assumptions about order and structure were challenged. The church wrestled with how its ministries prioritized internal constituents and had to explore structures and processes that benefited outsiders.3 The boundaries that marked the church’s own self-understanding began to appear more ambiguous than before, as children perceived as outsiders continued to be present over months and then years. The church has largely approached questions about its processes and practices internally, evaluating its own experience with tools it was familiar with: long-held theological values, deeply-felt experiences of members, and well-worn interpretations of Scripture. Missional theology has provided a useful framework for wrestling with these questions. In this next section, I will sketch the framework of missional theology with which I approached the current study.

Missional Theology

Since the publication of Missional Church in 1998, missional language has been appropriated for a range of approaches to ecclesiology.4 One contributor to that seminal work, Craig Van Gelder, later writing with Dwight Zscheile, warns: “Those seeking to draw on this language should be aware of how this lack of precision and integration may impact their use of the language as well as their choices and actions.”5 Cedar Lane has increasingly used the term “missional” over the past decade, but as Van Gelder and Zscheile note, what “missional” means in this congregational context must be defined. To that end, I contend “missional” denotes the convergence of a theological shift, a sociological recognition, and an evolution of ecclesial practices.

At the core of missional theology is a shift in thinking about God, the Church, and mission. Although there is a constellation of ideas involved in this theological shift, I will confine the summary here to two emphases: the agency of God in mission and the reign of God. In response to a perception of missionary work as an activity the church carried out, the missional church has pivoted toward a “theocentric” understanding of mission: “We have come to see that mission is not primarily an activity of the church. Rather, mission is the result of God’s initiative, rooted in God’s purposes to restore and heal creation.”6 Thus, God is always at work bringing about God’s mission and sometimes in ways located outside the church’s activity or awareness. This suggests that the church might recognize God’s activity outside of itself but also elicits the great theological question: What is the mission of God?

In response, missional theologians commonly employ the language of the “reign of God” to describe God’s intent for creation and to connect it with the gospel of Jesus, a greater narrative arc within Scripture, and the identity of the church. The church is sent into the world as the servant and messenger for the kingdom of God and embodies the reign of God—though it is not the only embodiment as the God’s reign is manifest in surprising ways.7 The Church is both a foretaste of God’s kingdom and an agent of that community.8 Thus, mission is not simply an activity of the Church, but mission is a feature of its very nature.9 Mission is not confined to the pursuit of (distant) proselytes but is realized as life aligns with God’s will.

A second broad feature of the missional movement grows from an analysis of the social situation of the church in Western contexts, particularly in North America. The first paragraph of Missional Church signals this trajectory: “While modern missions have led to an expansion of world Christianity, Christianity in North America has moved (or been moved) away from its position of dominance as it has experienced the loss not only of numbers but of power and influence within society.”10 Various writers approach this claim with different emphases, often developing two themes: the loss of Christianity’s privileged status within society and a critique of the church’s engagement with the culture during Christendom.11

Third, missional writers propose a variety of ecclesial practices that embody their theology.12 Evaluating all of them is beyond the scope of this paper, however it will be helpful to consider a pair of these practices to demonstrate Cedar Lane’s relationship to the missional movement: incarnational ministry and hospitality.

An incarnational ministry is hinted at, though undeveloped, in Missional Church.13 This impulse found fuller expression in other works when paired with a foil, the attractional model of church, which brings outsiders into the church (or more accurately, into the church’s property) to receive ministry. Rather, an incarnational mode of ministry takes believers into the communities they serve and to which they bear witness. David Fitch and Geoff Holsclaw write: “As opposed to the attractional model of the modern church in America, where a church puts on worship services and expects people to come, the incarnational model challenges us to be a people who inhabit neighborhoods, go where the people are, live among them and listen to them. . . . From this incarnational perspective, we are called to minister and proclaim the gospel while following the Spirit in specific circumstances.”14 Perhaps in tension with the incarnational impulse, the missional movement also values hospitality, the practice of making space for strangers.15 The missional church practices hospitality at every level, from the home table to the Eucharist.16 Missional disciples value the one to whom hospitality is extended, not simply as a potential convert but as someone who offers a blessing of understanding to the church—someone whose experiences and insights may help shape the church’s own understandings.17 The stranger is received as someone in whom the church may see Christ.18 Hospitality is thus not simply a fruit of discipleship but a means of its furtherance.19

A missional understanding of hospitality also emphasizes receiving hospitality as well as extending it. The church welcome strangers into its midst, but missional disciples also look for opportunities to accept hospitality from the stranger.20 This vulnerable act of receiving hospitality “changes the missionary encounter” and creates the circumstance by which “the stranger and the church are mutually transformed in the engagement.”21

These missional nuances to the Christian practice of hospitality share the common thread of reciprocity. This is in part because of the missional church’s theological orientation, which both allows for the possibility of God’s activity in the neighbor and necessitates respect in accord with the trajectory of the justice of God’s kingdom, in which each person is recognized as an image-bearer of God. Reciprocity, in hospitality and in other practices, ensures theological formation not only flows from the center of the church toward the margins, but from the margins toward the center as well.22

Research Methodology and Findings

Given this threefold description of missionality, how can Cedar Lane further develop along such a trajectory, embracing an understanding of God as missional, learning to live in this new sociological reality, and embracing practices that lead to fuller engagement with God’s mission? I have asserted that one source of theological learning is from people such as those involved in Cedar Lane’s youth outreach ministry. To explore how they might provide insight into the nature of the church and further its missional trajectory, a study was undertaken in which seventeen students were invited to participate in a series of semi-structured interviews regarding their ecclesiology.23 Analysis revealed multiple themes among their perspectives, such as the importance of hospitality and a sense of belonging, the church’s role in the community, and insights into the way the church’s staff and volunteer structures worked. Here, I will focus on one, the identification of “Learning about God” as the primary purpose of the church.24

Nearly all participants shared the perspective expressed starkly by P525: “[God] put the church on the world so people could go and learn more about him.”26 Initially, I interpreted this as immature religious cliché and thought they were saying what they thought I would want to hear. However, my presumptions were overcome as participants leaned further into this perspective, expressing frustration with disruptions in teaching moments and their preferences for environments in which learning was taken seriously.27 The perspective was highlighted by participants in the way they used “learning” language and in the way they expressed their faith to others. For example, P4 relayed this as a part of his exchange with a friend: “Well, I heard from a friend that church is bad because all they do is go there and you just hear the other person talk about whatever, then I said, “No, man, that’s wrong because you should go to church and learn about God because God wants to be in your heart. He loves you no matter what.” As this theme emerged, I probed further by asking interviewees about the specific content they had learned and what had made a difference to their lives. Some participants struggled to describe the connection between what they were learning at church and the rest of their lives, while others described how their faith filled their thoughts and shaped the way they lived.

P11 and P13 both expressed finding a life of prayer, and P14 described remembering a song from church while at school and having a sense of peace. Others described moments of loss and grief where they gained peace from their knowledge of God, while some described how their ethical lives were being shaped by the things they learned, such as taking responsibility for their actions and persistently trying to do the right thing. These teens expressed a belief that their theology was having a transformative role in their lives.

Other participants voiced a sense of separation similar to that voiced by P12: “Well sometimes, whenever you go on a youth trip or something, you have an all-church world, and then when you come back to your town, then you come back to the normal world. Where there’s not that much church, and there’s a couple days during the week when you go.” P9 described this sense of separation in even starker terms: “Well, I’m going to have to be honest. Whenever it comes to being outside of church, I don’t really think about what God would do, about what God would say.” Such descriptions were painful for me to hear as a pastor. While Cedar Lane’s youth are absorbing information about God, a significant number of them struggle to connect their theology to the rest of their lives.

Interpretation and Implications

These insights from the margins of the church have the capacity to further develop Cedar Lane’s missional trajectory. As described above, the core of the missional movement is a theological shift, a sociological recognition, and an evolution of ecclesial practices. Even confining the implications to the primary finding of the interviews regarding theological education, we can see several implications from the inquiry.

A Theological Shift

The missional movement has had at its core the connection between theology and praxis. How we understand God matters for how we live out our faith in God, and how we understand God’s mission shapes our participation in that mission. This is consistent with understanding among participants in this study that the church is a place where people “learn about God.” This simple language of “learning” that I heard from participants has caused me to reflect on the church’s role in theological education; the church is indeed given as a means by which people learn about God. While that conviction requires nuance to mature into a fuller ecclesiology, it may have too easily been nuanced away. Why is that? Why do we prefer to think about the church in terms other than as a community of theological education? Perhaps we have lost a vision of the role of theology in transforming people. Indeed, one of the more troublesome parts of the interviews was the frequency with which participants struggled to connect what they learned about God and the rest of their lives. The church must teach a transformative theology connected to the whole of life.

A Sociological Recognition

These conversations also create new possibilities for the church’s changing cultural situation—the missional sociological recognition. Alan Roxburgh describes the church’s new situation as liminal, as the church has entered a new transitional place in the world and has been relocated nearer the margin of society.28 Accordingly, the adolescents I interviewed are important conversation partners for Cedar Lane not despite their liminality but because of it. Their experiences of marginalization—even those experiences which have lamentably occurred within the church—can provide a church which may find itself as increasingly marginalized with resources for what it means to live faithful on the boundaries of society. Roxburgh sees such listening to those on the margins as a vital path for churches who perceive their influence to be waning: “The only meaningful way forward lies in understanding and embracing our liminal existence. . . . The continued assumption of cultural symbols of power and success will only produce an inauthentic church with little gospel, much religion, and no mission. Liminality requires listening again to the voices emanating from below or outside the perceived mainstream.”29

This suggests the possibility that learning from those at the margins will help the church live at the margins, a possibility that strikes at an important piece of Christian spirituality: humility. Consider how Luke’s gospel treats pride and humility.30 Luke depicts humility as the virtue of vulnerable people on the margins, in contrast to the powerful. Jesus responds with the rhetoric of reversal and invites the powerful and vulnerable alike to participate in God’s community—although the proud are often unwilling to do so. The church must ask if a previous social position of power infected it with a similar prideful presumption of privilege. In contrast, the practice of mutual learning with those at the margins both demonstrates and cultivates humility.31 The prideful presumption that learning only flows one way must yield to the reality that even the most mature believers have something to learn, and it might be at the hand of those who have been too easily relegated to outsider status. Practices of mutual learning and solidarity with these marginalized members of our community can help the church learn and embrace the sort of humility required for the church in its decentered post-Christendom status.

Ecclesial Practices

The final facet of the missional movement described above was a particular set of ecclesial practices—specifically, incarnational ministry and hospitality. One valid critique of Cedar Lane’s outreach ministry has been its attractional model—drawing teens and children out of their communities “to the church.” The situation has shifted; there is now a set of disciples embedded within the neighborhood. However, that incarnational presence has taken an astonishing form—adolescent disciples of Jesus, seeking how to make sense of God in their context. The church is present in these disciples—not merely in the longer established church members who have relationships with them. The challenge is helping these students faithfully embody the reign of God.

Regarding hospitality, the church’s intentions have been to extend a welcome to these children, and advocates have often invoked the story of Jesus welcoming little children. However, we might note that Jesus not only teaches his disciples to welcome the children so that the children might be blessed but implores the disciples themselves to become like the children. Disciples have long mused over what quality of children Jesus is lauding in the story. But perhaps the story invites us to enter into conversation not only about children, but with them. Perhaps the church can take a posture of readiness to learn from the children that it has previously been satisfied to teach. Valuable learning may move both ways.

In a similar way, the presence of outsiders may not only reflect a movement in the mission of God in the direction from the church to the community. Rather, the movement may indeed move both directions. It may be that at those points where the church engages people at its boundaries, God works to shape the church through its community, so that the church may more fully embody the kingdom of God. In honoring this possibility, the distinction between outsiders and insiders begins to lose its divisive potency.

These young disciples do indeed offer the church insight by their presence and shared perspectives. Relationships continue to emerge as the church shares life together—young and old, those formerly known as outsiders and insiders together. As the church embraces the validity of each perspective and learns to listen in a spirit of mutuality, such relationships provoke the church to greater faithfulness and refine its trajectory. Such relationships create the space in which “missional” is less a set of ambiguous ideas and more the lived experience of people who have been brought together into the kingdom of God.

Steven Hovater has been the Preaching and Outreach Minister at the church of Christ at Cedar Lane since 2010. He holds an MDiv from Harding School of Theology and a DMin from Columbia Theological Seminary. He writes about missional theology and practice, among other subjects, at

Adapted from a DMin project by the same name submitted at Columbia Theological Seminary in March of 2017, presented at the Thomas H. Olbricht Christian Scholars’ Conference, Lipscomb University, Nashville, TN, June 7–9, 2017. See the full version of the project at

1 I acknowledge that the term “outsiders” contains undesirable tones, and indeed the easy classification of people into “insider” and “outsider” groups is part of what I am pushing against in this paper. In the specific congregational context examined here, the church’s heritage in the Churches of Christ (American Restoration Movement) typically means that membership is conferred upon “placing membership,” an opportunity traditionally reserved for those who have received baptism as believers. However, “insider/outsider” status may also involve other factors, as demonstrated in this case among teenagers who are baptized and become members, but whose families are not a part of the congregation. Such a situation may result in teenagers who are seen as “outsiders”for some time after they have become “members.”

2 The average attendance at its weekly worship service is 390. About 90% of those people are white. For comparison, the United States Census Bureau reports that as of 2010, Tullahoma’s population is 88.1% “White alone”, with the next largest group being African American (7.0%). U. S. Bureau of the Census, “Quickfacts, Tullahoma City, Tennessee”,

3 For example, previous curriculum choices assumed that children would generally progress through the entire program, with each grade’s materials assuming knowledge of previous years. However, adjusting to the new situation meant searching for approaches that ensured that children could enter the program at any given year or even week, and enter the learning process with much less prior knowledge assumed. Another example was the need to reevaluate the cost of trips and events for youth ministry participants, which presented a barrier to inclusivity.

4 Darrell L. Guder, ed., Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998).

5 Craig Van Gelder and Dwight J. Zscheile, The Missional Church in Perspective: Mapping Trends and Shaping the Conversation (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2011) 3, 5.

6 Guder, 4. See also Van Gelder and Zscheile, 8, 21, 24.

7 Guder, 101–9.

8 Ibid., 101.

9 “God’s being and agency require us to attend first to the identity/nature of the church before seeking to address its purpose/mission—what the church is prior to what the church does” (Van Gelder and Zscheile, 9).

10 Guder, 1. Van Gelder and Zscheile, 49–50, describe the effort to make the case for this shift as the first of six movements within Missional Church.

11 Alan Roxburgh provides an example of the first theme, demonstrating how churches not only survived by becoming the caretakers of private faith, but for some period of time thrived as they continued to possess a religious monopoly on this private space. Alan J. Roxburgh, The Missionary Congregation, Leadership, and Liminality (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity International, 1997), 6-13. An example of the second theme may be found in Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch, The Shaping of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21st-Century Church, rev. and updated ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2013), 29, 34.

12 The Gospel and Our Culture Network identifies twelve such hallmarks, while Frost and Hirsch, 25–26, add three different ones to this list. See also Lois Y. Barrett, et al., Treasure in Clay Jars: Patterns in Missional Faithfulness (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004), 159–72.

13 Guder, 11.

14 David E. Fitch and Geoff Holsclaw, Prodigal Christianity: 10 Signposts into the Missional Frontier (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2013), 42–43.

15 Guder, 175–80. See also Barrett, 169–70, and Fitch and Holsclaw, 105–7.

16 Guder, 163–66.

17 Van Gelder and Zscheile, 132.

18 Christine D. Pohl, Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), 67–72.

19 Guder, 178.

20 Van Gelder and Zscheile, 132.

21 Ibid., 133.

22 Van Gelder, 63–64.

23 This particular selection of participants is marginalized both within the congregation and in society for a number of reasons. First, they do not have adult family members who are also members of the congregation. Second, although it was not an explicit parameter for the selection of participants, each of the participants in this set lives within a family that has experienced poverty to an extent that has created instabilities such as housing issues or food insecurity. Finally, it is important to note that nearly all the participants interviewed are also affected by other marginalizing factors, such as home instability, legal or academic issues, disabilities, racial prejudices, and other factors.

24 In the broader study, other themes identified included the importance of a sense of belonging in the church, the significance of hospitality and places where it was perceived as limited, and the breadth and depth of intergenerational relationship.

25 To preserve anonymity for the minors interviewed in this project, each participant is referred to by a number: P1, P2, and so on.

26 In quotations of the interviews, I retain each participant’s original language, except where pronoun replacement or grammatical correction is needed for clarity. Non-inclusive language, particularly regarding the divine, has not been altered.

27 On one level, this theme is a predictable result from the engagement patterns of the participants. Most have been primarily involved in the church’s Wednesday evening programming, having attended the children’s ministry for several years before being promoted to the youth ministry in the sixth grade. The children’s ministry has been structured as a classroom setting, and there is significant time devoted to teaching in the youth ministry’s Wednesday night programming as well. It follows that these involvement points have formed the participants’ perspectives of the mission of the church. However, it is also important to note a possible selection bias at this point. It is likely that the church’s outreach ministry to youth has been effective in engaging people disposed to appreciate this sort of educational emphasis. It may be that those inclined to more service-oriented experiences, or who thirst for more time focused in worship, have simply not been retained over time.

28 Roxburgh, 46.

29 Ibid., 46–47.

30 In texts such as 1:46–55, 5:1–11, 14:7–14, and 18:9–14, Luke keenly portrays the inverted statuses of the kingdom of God—those who see themselves as high are brought low, and the humble are exalted.

31 This call to Lukan humility also provokes the church to recognize the real consequences of social and economic differences within the church. Those who live empowered lives must address the power and privilege differentials that exist. It will not do to only say, “We are all marginalized.” Rather, in our context of a community fractured across class lines, the church can build constructive friendships and walk toward the reconciled justice of the kingdom of God.

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Agape: Creating Missional Partnerships to Lead Community Shalom, Justice, and Healing

Missional Church encouraged church leaders and authors to find new expressions of Christianity in North American congregations. As these expressions evolved they continued to aid Christian churches to engage community and culture. When Agape Church of Christ was planted, in downtown Portland, OR, the desire for a fresh expression of Christian community was influenced by the developing missional and incarnational theologies discussed at conferences, in publications, and through ministry with our community. After ten years we have found that missional/incarnational ministry offers shalom, formed through community partnerships and social justice among marginalized populations. This “missional theology” offers hope for congregations seeking to influence their cities with a message of Jesus. The missional theology I propose calls churches to (1) partner with local agencies, (2) empower disciples to serve the marginalized in their communities, and (3) reexamine current socio-cultural challenges using a biblical lens.

Following the publication of Darrell Guder’s Missional Church, church growth studies, publications, and teachings have found a new expression in North American Christianity.1 This book suggests that North American congregations should reevaluate their role in the community, culture, and mission. Missional Church provided a platform for discussions relating to the cultural worldviews shifting from modern to postmodern. Guder, George R. Hunsberger, Craig Van Gelder, Lois Barrett, Alan J. Roxburgh, and others spawned a renewed interest in ecclesial studies that continued with Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch’s The Shaping of Things to Come, a book whose authors began to adopt incarnational/missional language.2 Frost continued to develop a practical model of an incarnational approach with congregations and leaders.3 Hirsch expanded his application through an “apostolic” leadership paradigm.4 For many of us in ministry discussing these books, Missional Church called for a new paradigm of church growth by emphasizing congregational involvement in the mission and ministry of God. Guder wrote:

We have come to see that mission is not merely an activity of the church. Rather, mission is the result of God’s initiative, rooted in God’s purposes to restore and heal creation. “Mission” means “sending,” and it is the central biblical theme describing the purpose of God’s action in human history. . . . God’s mission continued then in the sending of the Spirit to call forth and empower the church as the witness to God’s good news in Jesus Christ. It continues today in the worldwide witness of churches in every culture to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and it moves toward the promised consummation of God’s salvation in the eschaton.5

According to Guder the church facing (and now experiencing) the twenty-first century needed to adopt a new view of people, culture, and evangelism. Christians were being called to engage in relationships with those outside the congregation rather than simply trying to “save them.” In Practicing Witness, Benjamin Conner defines Guder’s and Husberger’s foundational stones of missional theology as: (1) theological convictions regarding the missionary nature and initiative of God, (2) a belief that God’s call to the church is to participate in mission, and (3) the development of a missional theology as a way of thinking that animates every aspect of the church’s life.6

Ryan Bolger and Eddie Gibbs also suggest newer paradigms to ministry through their discussions of mega churches and emerging/emergent churches. North American congregations must address the realities of their struggle for preservation through the rapid loss of younger people and a feeling of driving toward possible “extinction.”7 While Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Church movement reawakened ministry to reach those outside the local congregants, mega churches continued to grow through the charismatic and visionary leadership of men like Bill Hybels, Nelson Searcy, Tim Keller, Ed Stetzer, and others.8 As in the movie Jurassic Park, life finds a way to survive. One expression of this “survival” can be understood in how missional theology has been expressed in many nontraditional settings.9 Some churches in North America have found a way to survive through fresh expressions, a constant mission to engage their culture, and a desire to read the biblical text in new and robust ways.10

Exile and Missional Theology

With the continued “decline” of North American church attendance, authors and speakers suggested that congregations were experiencing a “post-Christian” culture.11 As Dwight Friesen states, “The post-Christendom shift can, if we are wise, usher the church into a season of refocusing our energies on the primary mission that Jesus gave his followers: to form disciples of Christ.”12 Lee Beach writes that the North American Church is in exile and should reconnect with the biblical exilic texts to find direction and hope among both the congregation and the culture.13 Frost also suggests that exile should become an important model for missional congregations, as it provides a map to navigate the changing worldviews of those we have been called to reach: “The Christian movement must be the living, breathing promise to society that it is possible to live out the values of Christ—that is, to be a radical, troubling alternative to the power imbalances in the empire. In a world of greed and consumerism, the church ought to be a community of generosity and selflessness. In a host empire that is committed to marginalizing the poor, resisting the place of women, causing suffering to the disenfranchised, the Christian community must be generous to a fault, pursuant of justice, flushed with mercy.”14

After twenty years of preaching/ministry in established congregations (rural and urban), my wife and I felt called to plant a new congregation in downtown Portland. As an adjunct instructor at both a seminary and Church of Christ Christian college, I had been reading much of the newer material on missional theology and the issues that those of us in ministry were facing with evangelism, a changing culture, and an exodus of young adults. I was beginning to “detox” from the traditional church growth teaching I received in graduate school. Preaching in a large congregation was a constant reminder that we were experiencing and pandering to what John Drane labels a McDonalization of Christianity.15 I was also aware that Christians in both leadership and congregations were failing to engage their culture. While it did seem as if many Christians felt that they were in a modern Babylon or Persia, it was even more clear that there was little being done to connect with their communities or offer a fresh view of Jesus. It seemed that we who were following Jesus were reacting to change rather than affecting it. As Miroslav Volf writes:

In the course of Christianity’s long history—full of remarkable achievements by its saints and thinkers, artist and builders, reformers and ordinary folks—the Christian faith has sometimes failed to live up to its own standards as a prophetic religion. Too often it neither mends the world nor helps human beings thrive. To the contrary, it seems to shatter things into pieces, to choke up what is new and beautiful before it has a chance to take root, to trample underfoot what is good and true. When this happens, faith is no longer a spring of fresh water helping good life to grow lushly, but a poisoned well, more harmful to those who drink its waters than any single vice could possibly be.16

In many ways, as a minister and instructor, I realized Christians felt they were in a type of “exile.” While our exile may not have been as violent as the Babylonian captivity, we were a people striving to practice our faith in a culture that many times seemed foreign and hostile to Christianity. Having moved from rural Missouri to Portland in 1998, I had experienced a cultural shift as both a minister and member of my community. Even more, I witnessed the church’s struggles to connect with this difficult culture.

Jeremiah and Exile

One Biblical text supporting a missional theology is Jeremiah 29:4–14. In this text Yahweh’s prophet, Jeremiah, spoke to the Judeans in Babylon and encouraged them to settle in the city and serve the good of their host nation. “Build houses, dwell/settle, plant gardens, and eat the fruit. . . . Seek the shalom of the city where I have taken you into exile. Pray to Yahweh there, because if they have shalom, you have shalom.”17 Those in exile found hope through Yahweh’s command. The North American congregations experiencing feelings of exile can also find hope in exile through these prophetic words.

First, the text reminds those in exile that they have been placed within their community by Yahweh. While Yahweh did guide foreign armies to enact punishment and the divine will upon all ethnicities (especially the nations of Israel and Judah), God accepted responsibility by claiming to have “taken them to exile.”18 Although the nation as a whole had sinned, they struggled to accept this punishment. Current followers of Jesus may accept that they are living in a time in which we suffer for the sins of our fathers or our political leaders, yet Jeremiah 29:4–14 indicates that God was and is still in control.

Second, the text reminds the captives that the shalom (peace, justice, safety) of their communities also depends on them. They are not to live in opposition to all humans in exile but are to model loyalty, faithfulness, and peace in a world vastly different from their homeland. Likewise, as Beech suggests, modern exiles must view the shifting environment in North America as an opportunity to bring shalom through ministry, justice, vocation, and being good neighbors.19 As Beach writes:

It is almost universally agreed on that the church in the Western world is in decline. After having played a central role in the development of Western culture, the church now finds itself on the sidelines, wondering how it can make a valid contribution to society. My own perspective on this is rooted in my experience as a Christian and a church leader in Canada. While Canada has a distinct story in terms of its move into post-Christendom, and the Canadian church has its own story of marginalization as a result, the experience of responding to this reality may prove informative to Christians in other contexts, in particular the United States, who are “behind” Canada in terms of their cultural experience of exile but who are clearly moving in that direction.20

Third, shalom means more than peace. It indicates God’s righteousness, peace, and wholeness. It involves social justice, freedom from oppression, peace, safety, and a sacred space. Shalom was practiced among the followers of Yahweh wherever they lived, and it extended outwardly toward Judah’s neighbors.

This verse is often used among the missional/incarnational/emerging/emergent/exilic church as a way to encourage members to engage their communities and bless, rather than curse, those who need to know Jesus. The missional understanding of Jeremiah 29:4–14 suggests that God continues to be active in our culture/communities and that Christians have a mission, like the incarnation of Jesus, to connect with and love our neighborhoods, cities, and country. We are called to be good, loyal, and loving citizens rather than those who withdraw and curse our communities.

While in exile, Judah retold the stories of heroes who developed relationships with political leaders while displaying faithfulness to Yahweh. The prophets such as Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Haggai, and Zechariah continued to influence the people of God while maintaining relationships with leaders from their host country. Esther maintained her faith while being married to a pagan king. Ezra and Nehemiah served their king and were offered special rights in order to guide the Judean nation to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were not only men who stood loyal to Yahweh and their dietary and spiritual practices but also were active in the court and community. Even Daniel was able to have honest, blunt conversations with a king.

In exile God’s people rose up not only to uphold their faith but also to bless their pagan communities. Jeremiah 29:4–14 was both a promise spoken by a prophet and a mission to be embraced by faithful people. “When the stakes are high, as they are for captives on foreign soil, exiles will fall back on their most potent memories. These are the elemental stories that galvanize a people to action, that fill them with courage and provide them a framework for dealing with the issues of captivity.”21 This text has become an important mantra for the missional church as well as those of us at Agape Church of Christ.

Missional Theology, Exile, and Incarnational Ministry

A key component of missional theology involves congregations and Christian leaders living out and practicing mission in their communities. “North American Christian churches are increasingly marginalized, so much so that in our urban areas they represent a minority movement. It is by now a truism to speak of North America as a mission field. Our concern is the way that the Christian churches are responding to this challenge.”22 The Judeans in Babylonian exile were faced with the decision to either be loyal to Yahweh’s covenant or assimilate to a foreign culture by abandoning the faith of their fathers. The mission of Yahweh required followers to be a light to their new home and prepare for the return from captivity and inclusion of the Gentiles into the kingdom of God (Isa 60:1–5; Ezek 39:21–24).

A second component of missional theology is expressed through an incarnational approach to mission. Mission is not simply a program or ministry that supports foreign missionaries; it reflects the incarnation of Jesus. Jesus was God’s presence among those seeking relationship with the Father. In Jesus God lived, dwelt, and associated with those on the margins of life. Likewise God’s exiled people lived intentionally among people of “foreign lips” (1 Cor 14:21; Isa 28:11, 12).23

Finally, missional theology included prophets offering the hope of a better future and shalom even in a pagan climate. The prophetic voice was not only the reflection of a suffering people, but the hope of those living on the margins of the empire.24 Prophets and priests led the restoration of the nation through a new hope, a vision for God’s restored people, and a renewed relationship with Yahweh and each other. Rather than withdrawing from our communities, the prophetic nature of exilic mission requires that we offer hope and a new reality that provides justice and love to a hurting world.

Practicing Missional Theology in Portland

As a minister who moved from the Midwest to Portland (in 1998), I spent eight years working with a large congregation. As we struggled to keep our focus on reaching out to marginalized populations, I found that the Northwest was much less receptive to Christianity, to me as a minister, and to the idea of attending or becoming part of a congregation. However, many of those we reached were, as were those in the Midwest, people who needed community, acceptance, and opportunity to transform their lives in an accepting and caring environment. Yet it was difficult trying to lead our established church to focus outwardly rather than upon themselves and upon their fears of our changing communities. It became clear to me that a new congregation, with a different focus, and a fresh perspective of the Gospel, would be necessary to develop relationships with a culture that was suspicious of organized practices of faith.

As Agape launched in 2007, we were faced with tremendous opportunities as well as hindrances to this new congregation and mission. The research from church planters in downtown Portland indicated that ninety percent of the church plants in the inner city either failed or moved.25 While this was the highest “unchurched” location in the city, new congregations had a hard time surviving. Furthermore, Portland, and the rest of the Northwest, has been traditionally known as a climate that is unchurched and critical of organized Christianity.26

Finally, in 2007 Portland experienced the financial crisis along with the rest of the country, which increased housing costs. This left many individuals in debt or houseless. It also contributed to a rise in houselessness, poverty, and teen homelessness in Portland and the surrounding areas. For a new church needing financial support, leadership, and people, these socioeconomic changes made the first years of our new ministry especially challenging. We knew that in order to survive we needed help from our community. We also knew that our struggles as a church were similar to what our community faced.

Theological Praxis, Incarnation, and Prophetic Vision

After launching Agape, we became intimately involved with local agencies through our work with houseless individuals, with those living in transitional housing and camps, with those in prostitution/sex industry, with addiction support groups, with survivors of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), with college students, with millennials, and with married couples. By developing relational communities, Agape’s home groups became public gathering spaces for people from various locations in Portland. These home groups enabled others to develop relationships and offer services to their own community through spiritual gatherings and inclusive communities. This comunitas (a community that gathers in the context of a shared ordeal or mission that lies beyond themselves) for captives became a pattern with Agape people serving their neighbors.27

Communitas, Violence, and Agape

During 2007–2010 our home groups and ministry fueled the development of a theology that addresses power, agape love, social justice, and the incarnation.28 The permanent reality/worldview that Jesus offers is agape/love. Agape, in Paul’s letter to the Corinthian Christians, is the mature and complete manifestation of love that needed to be cultivated within congregations and extended to the poor, vulnerable, and those needing relationship.29 Likewise, this love is needed in the American/consumeristic empire. North American culture often promotes a violent masculinity and oppression toward vulnerable others. However, the empire of Jesus demonstrates mature love where masculinity is viewed through the sacrifice of Jesus, rather than through power and control. The Greek word agape in the Christian Scriptures implies spiritual maturity, and, when this mature love is practiced within a community, it has the ability to guide people toward emotional and spiritual health.30 Providing acceptance, transformation, and healing is a witness that expresses agape/spiritual maturity to the community.31

During our first few years at Agape, interns were trained by county IPV agencies and began to serve on committees, to hold leadership positions within organizations, and to partner with service providers. We also became a resource for local, county, state, and national agencies by developing a faith-based model to address IPV and other forms of violence. Since 1998 we have had over 3,000 individuals attend our IPV trainings with only 1–3% being clergy. We are hired by local, county, and state agencies to train their advocates, and most of our work is embraced by non-clergy or non-faith-based advocates. In this work we have had to confront the faith community’s lack of involvement and, in some cases, oppression or abuse of others within their congregations. We have also continued to expand the definition of “misogyny” (a major emphasis from feminism) from only male/female relationships to intra-male, gendered violence, and houselessness.32

Captives, Marginalized People, and the God of Second Chances

In 2011–2016 Agape began to plant new congregations by practicing incarnational ministry among those on the margins of our community.33 We experienced similarities between exile, displacement, trauma, and houselessness through our ministry in Portland. Agape members, many having experienced homelessness and various addictions, expressed emotional and physical connections to the Judean exile. My work with the Society of Biblical Literature Psychology and Bible section also found connections between trauma studies, exilic communities, and forced migrations. At Agape we continued to bridge this work with the academic community and our ministry experiences. This provided connections through the Biblical text, psychology of trauma and exile, and our current ministry. The need for hope, shalom, and restoration resonated through the text, my colleagues, and those seeking healing in our community.

We also, unexpectedly, had to address deep sin issues with core team couples and call for healing. After three couples left we continued to address sexual sin within the congregation. Additionally, we began two new congregations and sent another couple to serve a local struggling congregation as ministers. One of the church plants has celebrated their fifth year as a congregation. The church is growing and has a thriving Celebrate Recovery ministry. Even though we sent many families during this time, Agape continued to grow.

Later we expanded “marginalized” from geographical captives to socially marginalized individuals.34 The intersection of the themes of social justice, of “feminizing” those on the margins, of cultural masculinity, and of missional/incarnational theology were discussed within the academic sessions of the SBL/AAR and within community agencies. Agape has continued not only to hold a place at the community table for social justice, activism, and anti-oppression but also to be a place of inclusion for various individuals. We have men and women who are activists, houseless, and abuse survivors who hold volunteer leadership positions in Portland, offer acceptance and relationship at various levels in the community, and meet with and train law enforcement. We have also trained ministers, graduate and doctoral dissertation students, and church planters to engage the community by helping with recovery from IPV, misogyny, and addiction.

Our relationships with those marginalized in Portland have become theologically driven. Understanding Jesus as homeless, Paul as a trauma survivor, and the exilic captives as living through Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) and assault offers exciting opportunities to engage people who live on the margins of our community. Those who have felt excluded by many of our churches/congregations due to income, trauma, or addictions have also found opportunities to read the biblical text through the lens of trauma and suffering. Likewise my students and our people at Agape feel empowered to use the biblical narrative with those needing hope and support.

New Expressions of Missional Theology in Portland

Providing ministry to Portland and our community continues to challenge us to evolve. By redefining masculinity, misogyny, houselessness and poverty, racism, social justice, and incarnational ministry we have found an interesting niche in our community. This ministry allows us not only to partner with our community but also to lead others in reframing their view of faith practices and social justice. First, redefining these issues through a theological lens offers multiple connections with community advocates, most of whom are frustrated with “organized religion.” Our beginning work with PUAH (Portland United Against Hate) has indicated that some of the group members perceive those who profess Christianity as the authors of many hate crimes and attacks on the LGBTQ community. Law enforcement, houseless advocates, and community trafficking/prostitution agencies strongly believe that faith communities need to partner with them in addressing social justice, but they indicate to us that they are concerned our presence will further add to the problems of providing safety and support for victims and accountability for male offenders. As many of my colleagues in our Regional SBL/AAR struggle between academy and the congregation, my role to bridge these two worlds continues to require a blending of text and practice. We believe that we are called to develop relationships with those in our local agencies through our ministry and expressing agape love, while restoring a positive view of Christians and the God of the Bible. Missional theology provides opportunities to heal open wounds from those hurt by people of faith. It also offers resources to those seeking to send their faith-based clients to a safe and sacred community. In addition to this, we have the opportunity to guide other faith-based groups to better serve those in their congregations and community. We have also been able to work with anti-trafficking agencies and anti-prostitution groups by addressing cultural masculinity and its role in the sex industry and in the oppression of women, children, males, and transgendered youth. The God of mission continues to call Agape to partner with our community as leaders and with other leaders to offer a vision of hope, justice, and shalom.

Second, the missional/incarnational emphasis at Agape offers shalom/agape as an alternative to a culture of power, consumerism, and competition.35 This, according to Paul, provides hope for a reality that is permanent (agape) as opposed to that which is temporary and promises much but delivers little.36 In a consumeristic culture this missional/incarnational view of reality challenges the Church to pursue mission rather than targeting people groups alone. Even though many may leave our congregations, missional theology requires that we continue to focus on the mission of Christ, whether or not that is attractive to those in the community. Our partnership with The Village Coalition, a group of service providers and formerly houseless individuals seeking to provide shelter for those on the streets, continues to develop homeless communities and provide pastoral care, outreach, and support to those camping on the streets as well as the neighbors surrounding them. We have also begun to work with the Coalition to mentor those in the houseless communities to become community leaders and begin new homeless camps.

Finally, as we transition to 2018, the tensions between Jesus and idols or between faith and fear are becoming a reality. Jesus continues to intervene in a world that struggles to worship idols rather than God. I have found that fear and anxiety continue to be a major issue in our culture and among many of the individuals we reach. There seems to be a strong correlation between idolatry and fear/anxiety. However, God calls for faith and love in an intimate relationship with the Creator and within the community. Our continued work with socially marginalized individuals and communities not only drives us back to the text to seek support and healing, but it offers a safe space to engage those who have felt abandoned by God/Jesus or their congregations. As a congregation, we embrace the opportunity to partner with local and state agencies by proclaiming peace in communities struggling with fear and anxiety.


Agape Church of Christ was planted with a missional view of ministry, and we are now celebrating our ten year anniversary. Over time we, along with many other congregations, have tried to redefine mission as incarnational, emerging within culture, and exilic in nature. The gospel of Jesus is powerful when developing and growing among people and when confronting empires lacking in agape love. This agape provides healing, empowerment, and transformation to those seeking to follow Jesus. Mission can evolve in a healthier manner when churches partner with local agencies, empower members to serve and lead within their communities, and redefine cultural issues, justice, and wholeness. As this missional theology continues to evolve, we eagerly move forward, excited to witness the work of Jesus and his empire through congregations and within community agencies in the decades to come.

Ron Clark is the minister for the Agape Church of Christ in Portland. Agape is a church, planted through the Kairos network, that reaches marginalized populations and collaborates with abuse, homeless, and trafficking agencies to offer safety and healing for survivors. Ron received his DMin and MDiv from Harding School of Theology and has been in ministry for over 30 years. He has recently written Jesus Unleashed and The Spirit of Jesus Unleashed on the Church (Wipf & Stock, 2016). He is an adjunct instructor and dissertation advisor at Portland Seminary, and is co-chair of the Pacific Northwest SBL’s New Testament section. Ron has served on agencies such as the Oregon’s Sexual Assault Task Force, Village Coalition, and Portland United Against Hate. He and his wife Lori have been married 30 years and have 3 sons.

Adapted from a presentation at the Thomas H. Olbricht Christian Scholars’ Conference, Lipscomb University, Nashville, TN, June 7–9, 2017.

1 Darrell L. Guder, ed., Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998).

2 Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch, The Shaping of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21st-century Church (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2003). See also, Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch, ReJesus: A Wild Messiah for a Missional Church (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2009).

3 Michael Frost, The Road to Missional: Journey to the Center of the Church (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2011).

4 Alan Hirsch, and Dave Ferguson, On the Verge: A Journey into the Apostolic Future of the Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011); Alan Hirsch, 5Q: Reactivating the Original Intelligence and Capacity of the Body of Christ (n.p.: 100 Movements, 2017); and Alan Hirsch, The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating the Missional Church (Grand Rapids: US Imports, 2007).

5 Guder, Missional Church, 4. Frost and Hirsch, ReJesus, 19–20, also echo Guder’s comments: “The difficulty for the church today is not in encouraging people to ask what Jesus would do but in getting them to break out of their domesticated and sanitized ideas about Jesus in order to answer that question.”

6 Benjamin T. Conner, Practicing Witness: A Missional Vision of Christian Practices (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2011), 11–12.

7 Eddie Gibbs and Ryan K. Bolger, Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures (London: SPCK, 2006); Eddie Gibbs, ChurchMorph: How Megatrends Are Reshaping Christian Communities (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2009).

8 Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Church: Every Church Is Big in God’s Eyes (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995); Nelson Searcy, Ignite: How to Spark Immediate Growth in Your Church (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2009); Ed Stetzer, Planting New Churches in a Postmodern Age (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2003). “Organizations of any kind, churches included, tend to become inwardly focused if no one has committed to keeping them outwardly focused. An inward turning is natural and inevitable as a church’s self-interests work themselves to the forefront—which they will do. We get busy taking care of our staff ministering to those in our congregations, meeting the budget, preparing for the weekend, and before we know it, we’ve forgotten all about the salvation of John and Joan in the coffee shop down the street. It becomes all about us, to the detriment of our evangelistic intentions” (Nelson Searcy, Ignite: How To Spark Immediate Growth in Your Church [Grand Rapids: Baker, 2009], 53).

9 Ryan K. Bolger, ed., The Gospel after Christendom: New Voices, New Cultures, New Expressions (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2012); Neil Cole, Organic Church: Growing Faith Where Life Happens (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2005); Mark DeYmaz and Harry Li, Ethnic Blends: Mixing Diversity into Your Local Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010); Curtiss Paul DeYoung, Michael O. Emerson, George Yancey, and Karen Chai Kim, United by Faith: The Multiracial Congregation as an Answer to the Problem of Race (New York: Oxford, 2003); Michael W. Goheen, A Light to the Nations: The Missional Church and the Biblical Story (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2011), 201–25; Hugh Halter and Matt Smay, AND: The Gathered and Scattered Church, Exponential Series (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010); Brian D. McLaren, Generous Orthodoxy: Why I Am a Missional, Evangelical, Post/Protestant, Liberal/Conservative, Mystical/Poetic, Biblical, Charismatic/Contemplative, Fundamentalist/Calvinist, Anabaptist/Anglican, Methodist, Catholic, Green, Incarnational, Depressed-yet-hopeful, Emergent, Unfinished Christian (El Cajon, CA: Youth Specialties, 2006).

10 Phyllis Tickle, The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2012).

11 Guder, 7. This in reference to the growing number of Non-Affiliated, Dones, Nones, and Millennials leaving congregations and traditional organized Christianity. See Josh Packard and Ashleigh Hope, Church Refugees: Sociologists Reveal Why People Are Done With Church But Not Their Faith (Loveland, CO: Group, 2015); Nathan C. P. Frambach, Emerging Ministry: Being Church Today, Lutheran Voices (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2007), 18; David Kinnaman and Aly Hawkins, You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church . . . and Rethinking Faith (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2011).

12 Dwight J. Friesen, “Formation in the Post-Christendom Era: Exilic Practices and Missional Identity,” in The Gospel after Christendom: New Voices, New Cultures, New Expressions, ed. Ryan K. Bolger (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2012), 200.

13 Lee Beach, The Church In Exile: Living in Hope After Christendom, Kindle ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2015); Dan Kimball, They like Jesus but Not the Church: Insights from Emerging Generations (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007).

14 Michael Frost, Exiles: Living Missionally in a Post-Christian Culture (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2006), 15–16.

15 John William Drane, After McDonaldization: Mission, Ministry, and Christian Discipleship in an Age of Uncertainty (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008).

16 Miroslav Volf, A Public Faith: How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good (Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2011).

17 All quotations from the Bible are my translations of Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia and Novum Testamentum Graeca, 27th edition.

18 See Ron Clark, The God of Second Chances: Finding Hope Through the Prophets of Exile (Eugene: Cascade, 2012). הִגְלֵיתִי is the Hiphil of גלה, indicating that Yahweh “caused captivity” to happen.

19 Beach, Kindle loc. 1704.

20 Ibid., Kindle loc. 315.

21 Frost, Exiles, 11.

22 Guder, 2.

23 “A missional church is organized around mission as opposed to being a church that does mission.” Beach, Kindle loc. 2970. “If the church is to have an impact on society, the first task for leaders is to understand the broader cultural context. When you study the church within the context of a culture, anthropology and missiology have both demonstrated that the most effective efforts do not try to change the culture but rather contextualize the message of Christ for each unique culture” (John Burke, No Perfect People Allowed: Creating a Come As You Are Culture in the Church [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005], 30).

24 Leonora Tubbs Tisdale, Prophetic Preaching: A Pastoral Approach (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2010), 37. See also, Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination, 2nd ed. (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2009); Ron Clark, The God of Second Chances: Finding Hope through the Prophets of Exile (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2012); and Kevn J. Vanhoozer and Owen Strachan, The Pastor as Public Theologian: Reclaiming a Lost Vision (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2015), 19.

25 We witnessed three down town plants and church campuses close their doors. Two others moved to a more suburban environment.

26 Patricia O’Connell Killen and Mark Silk, Religion and Public Life in the Pacific Northwest: The None Zone (Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press, 2004), 9, 11, suggested that since Northwestern culture has its roots in the rugged individualistic attitude needed to cross the Rocky Mountains on the Oregon Trail, it continues to express a hostile view of traditional Christianity.

27 Hirsch, Forgotten Ways, 25.

28 Ron Clark, Freeing the Oppressed: A Call To The Church Concerning Domestic Violence (Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2009); Ron Clark, Am I Sleeping With the Enemy? Males and Females in the Image of God (Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2009); and Ron Clark, The Better Way: The Church of Agape in Emerging Corinth (Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2010). I note in these publications that Paul’s challenge to the Corinthian Christians to practice agape/love (spiritual maturity) came alongside the Roman culture and worldview that he felt was “passing away,” “temporary,” and “imperfect/immature,” (1 Cor 1:28; 2:8; 7:31; 13:8).

29 Clark, Better Way, 122–24.

30 Jack O. Balswick, Pamela Ebstyne King, and Kevin S. Reimer, The Reciprocating Self: Human Development in Theological Perspective (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005).

31 Patrick W. T. Johnson, The Mission of Preaching: Equipping the Community for Faithful Witness (Grand Rapids: IVP Academic, 2015), Kindle loc. 966; Vanhoozer, Pastor, 3.

32 Ron Clark, “Submit or Else! Intimate Partner Violence, Aggression, Abusers, and the Bible,” in A Cry Instead of Justice: The Bible and Cultures of Violence in Psychological Perspective, ed. Dereck Daschke and Andrew Kille (New York: T&T Clark, 2010), 87–106; and Ron Clark, “Is There Peace Within Our Walls? Intimate Partner Violence and White Mainline Protestant Churches in North America,” in Religion and Men’s Violence Against Women, ed. Andy J. Johnson (New York: Springer, 2016), 195–206.

33 Clark, God of Second Chances, 49.

34 Ron Clark, Jesus Unleashed: Luke’s Gospel for Emerging Christians (Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2014); Ron Clark, The Spirit of Jesus Unleashed on the Church: The Acts of the Holy Spirit on the Early Christians (Eugene: Cascade, 2016).

35 Drane, 123; David F. Wells, Losing Our Virtue: Why the Church Must Recover Its Moral Vision (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), 57–58.

36 Clark, Better Way, 47.

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When Having a Bad Leader is Good: Processing a Negative Experience and Applying Leadership Lessons from the Kings

After years under the authority of a toxic church leader, a network of congregations in Mozambique finally escaped his influence. The author followed up on the negative leadership experience by interviewing local church leaders to glean their observations in order to create a culturally appropriate forum to process together as a group. Since the traditional leadership structure of the Makua-Metto people is that of kings and chiefs, the author shares how leadership lessons from the kings in Scripture can encourage these church leaders not to fall back into familiar, yet destructive, patterns.

I watched as my friend, Brad, cut a piece of metal with an electric saw. When it fell to the ground, his young son reached down to grab it, but thinking better of it, he quickly pulled his hand back instead. “Why did you change your mind about touching that piece of metal?” asked Brad knowingly.

“Oh, I remembered that a few days ago my older brother grabbed a piece just like that and it burned him,” his son answered.

“Good job,” Brad smiled, “that was very smart of you to be observant and learn from your brother’s mistake.”

That story of Brad and his son was the way I introduced a sensitive topic to the group of church leaders gathered together for our regular meeting. It had been over a year since their fellowship of churches had finally separated from a toxic leader that we’ll call Marcelino. Marcelino is a charismatic and talented Mozambican who transferred from his home culture in another province of the country to plant churches among the unreached Makua-Metto people. His large personality and evangelistic fervor attracted many people to him initially, but his character and leadership flaws severely limited his potential. Our mission team began working with him in 2004 and was often able to find ways around his issues, but eventually the problems spilled over in destructive ways. Marcelino tried to keep church authority to himself and steadfastly refused to recognize the leadership chosen by local congregations. In a relatively short span of time multiple reports of moral and financial indiscretions came to light. Additionally, when our team of foreign missionaries refused to continue working with him, he spread lies and attempted to get us expelled from the country.

In the year after officially separating from him, the church leadership enjoyed a fruitful season of growth, adding over twenty congregations and seeing hundreds of baptisms while still handling the distraction of Marcelino’s continued efforts to worm his way back into power. It was now time to process this experience as a group. I traveled around the province and met with eleven different Mozambican church leaders to collect their observations about this negative experience. I was convinced that, as in the story of Brad’s son above, being intentionally observant could help us avoid making the same mistakes as “our older brother.” This dynamic is seen in the biblical narrative as well. Could it be that one of the reasons King David became a great leader for God’s people was that during his time at court with Saul he was able to observe his predecessor’s disastrous style of leadership? Between dodging spears lobbed in his direction (1 Sam 18:10; 19:10), what if David was internalizing convictions about how to lead well?

“What did we learn?”: Processing the Interviews

I asked each of the church leaders: “What did you learn from the negative example of Marcelino?” All but one of the interviewees had an immediate answer to my question and had already begun to consider the positive lessons they were taking away from the negative experience. Afterward, I sifted through the interviews and presented the most common responses and observations about the dangers of Marcelino’s example to the larger group of church leaders in five different categories:

The Heart – the danger of pride in contrast with the blessings of humility

Marcelino would often use the phrase “I am” as part of his prideful rhetoric, constantly referring to his role and his achievements, but leaders noted that, in reality, this kind of title belongs to God alone. This “sickness of I am” made Marcelino trust in his own judgments of people more than the assessments of their local communities. He would often appoint someone as a local leader who was chosen not because he was a person of character, but because he was someone Marcelino could control. His pride also got in the way of really listening to others. Marcelino, as a couple of the church leaders put it, “only wanted other people around to stamp his ideas for approval.”

The Tongue – the danger of an untamed tongue in contrast with speaking the truth in love

Marcelino was known for preaching extremely long sermons (even by African standards!), but he would not practice what he preached. He was often sharp and severe in the way he criticized others. Almost all of the interviewees commented on how these were bad strategies for motivating people and proved to be much more destructive than constructive.

The Hand – the danger of being greedy with money in contrast with being generous and a good manager of church resources

Corruption is common in our area, and Marcelino would take advantage of his position to pad his own pocketbook.1 A number of the leaders commented on how, in contrast to the recommendations of Jesus, there were examples of when Marcelino gave money in order to be seen by others (cf. Matt 6:1–4).

The Head – the danger of greedily holding onto power in contrast with sharing power with others

It was observed that Marcelino was following the path of Diotrophes, who “loved to be first” (3 John 9–10). Instead of empowering qualified Makua-Metto people for leadership, he tended to set up a weak leader and then tear them down whenever they showed any initiative. One prime example referenced by many was a gathering in which Marcelino was confronted and asked when any local believers would be qualified to lead in his opinion, and he did not have an answer. It was then that they realized that he had no intention of relinquishing control. One interviewee commented that “according to Ephesians 3, it is Christ who gives gifts. It should not be the evangelist or pastor who passes them out and uses authority to label people. Our job as leaders is to help discern the gifts that people have and empower them to use those gifts effectively.”

The Body – the difference between negative/destructive meetings and gatherings of the Body of Christ that are positive/constructive

Under Marcelino’s leadership, problems and arguments broke out at nearly every church conference or meeting, but a common observation was that since separating from him, conflict-dominated gatherings had all but gone away. Almost all of the interviewees mentioned how they used to dread coming to church meetings, but now they enjoy participating because they can expect to leave encouraged. One common refrain was that Marcelino’s way of interacting with other people was the root of the problem: “He acted like a critical father instead of our brother in Christ.” They noted that Marcelino would not follow Jesus’s counsel in Matthew 18, and even after problems were “resolved” he was known for gossiping about the other party. Also, when he did not get his way in a conflict with the foreign missionaries, he took the issue to the government (against the recommendation of 1 Cor 6:1–8), which only served to make things worse.

Although reliving and remembering these negative experiences could potentially cause an emerging leader to despair, instead we found it helpful to create a forum for critical reflection on these events in order to consider ways to respond in a more faithful and healthy manner. After the leaders presented their own observations gleaned from this negative experience, I offered some suggestions as a way to jumpstart our processing together as a group.

Rethinking What It Means to be a King

When leaders are under stress, they tend to revert back to the patterns of behavior with which they are most familiar.2 Although a group of Christians may talk about the ideal kind of leadership they want to practice (servant leadership), when times are difficult there is a pull to go back to what they have actually seen and really experienced (in this case, Marcelino). In the Makua-Metto context the default, traditional leadership structure is a system of kings and chiefs. So, in an effort to help them “at least be good kings,” in a different setting, I led most of these church leaders through a series of lessons on leadership taken from Israel’s monarchy. The following are the king-sized texts and topics we explored:

  • “Weak leaders let fear paralyze them” – In 1 Sam 13–14, there is a contrast between the way King Saul and his son, Jonathan, respond to conflict.
  • “Weak leaders find it difficult to stand up for what is right and will often drive off talented people” – In 1 Sam 15, Saul takes the easy path and follows the will of the crowd instead of the will of the Lord. Then in 1 Sam 24 and 26, Saul ends up driving away David, a man of high capacity and high conviction. David, on the other hand, attracts and empowers talented people to his cause, and his willingness to stand up to his followers at the right times actually served to increase their loyalty to him (2 Sam 23).
  • “Strong leaders are humble, listen well, and are quick to repent” – The story of stubborn Uzziah provides a helpful foil for David, who repented when the prophet Nathan confronted him (2 Chron 26 and 2 Sam 11–12).
  • “Strong leaders focus on God’s legacy, not their own” – David’s gratefulness to God leads him to want to build the temple, but instead the Lord reaffirms his own promise to build up the “house of David” (2 Sam 7). Even though David is prohibited from building the temple, he worked to organize all the plans and materials for this massive endeavor, setting up his son for success (1 Chron 28-29). Surprisingly, even though David was the one who did so much to provide for Israel’s center of worship, the building was eventually known as the “Temple of Solomon.” It is easy to imagine, is it not, that this label would not have bothered David in the least? His focus on God’s legacy is a powerful reminder of the true orientation of godly leadership.
  • “Leading God’s people today as elders and shepherds” – While the examples of the kings can certainly be instructive, especially in Makua-Metto culture, it is important to remember that there is only one true king, and those who lead Christ’s followers have a different set of titles and roles. John 10, Acts 20, and the Pastoral Epistles were texts that helped shift the discussion from kings and chiefs to elders and shepherds.

The studies of the kings were an attempt to take seriously the tendency to fall back on familiar patterns. They helped reinterpret and reformat the culturally given perspective on what it means to be a king, reshaping it in ways that fit the call to godly leadership in Scripture.

Two Competing Pyramids

Since servant leadership is so difficult to teach in this context, our forum used two leadership diagrams to help us explore and contrast the negative example of Marcelino. The first picture was a leadership pyramid made with a smug stick figure standing at the top. Stacked below him were rows and rows of sad and frustrated faces. We discussed how even though the leader was clearly at the top, he did not feel secure. He was restlessly looking over his shoulder, worried that someone would come and steal his position and authority. Perry Shaw notes that as “long as leadership is perceived in terms of power and status, the fear of training the next generation to leadership will persist, lest ‘my’ position and status is taken by another. It takes a servant attitude to be willing not merely to train leaders for future replacement of my own ministry, but to rejoice when another is able more effectively now to take my position of leadership and do my job.”3

We held that picture of leadership in contrast with an upside-down pyramid where the leader was both sweating (leading is still hard work) and smiling (leading this way brings more joy) as he holds up the people in his charge. This leader welcomed other co-leaders to work together in bearing the weight of the congregation. As Shaw observes, “the scriptural model is not one of studious oversight and control, but one in which those in leadership first delegate to those who are gifted and then seek to empower them to do the tasks for which God has gifted them—and all for the good of the whole body of Christ.”4

Two Challenging Promises

Our group of Makua-Metto church leaders and missionaries (both Mozambican and American) also made two mutual promises. The first was a commitment to step in and correct each other when any of us returned to the methods we had seen in the life and ministry of Marcelino. The second promise was for each of us to cultivate a humble heart. We recognized that even if we were successful in sidestepping all of the errors we had seen in Marcelino, there would still be different ways that we would fail as leaders in the future. So, the takeaway was not that if we avoid Marcelino’s failures we will be perfect leaders but instead that being humble and having open ears for each other’s counsel not only helps us learn from Marcelino’s mistakes but also sets us up to learn from our own failures in the future.

Observations on the Missionary’s Role in Processing a Negative Leadership Experience

Reflecting on the interviews and the group discussion, I have come to recognize how my status as an informed foreigner played a helpful part in processing the “Marcelino experience.” Because of Makua-Metto cultural values and expectations, it would have been difficult for one of the Mozambican church leaders to spearhead this kind of discussion. As a resident alien, I was able to play dumb and break the taboos, asking questions that opened a release valve for group processing in a way that would not cause blame or shame to fall on any of them. Also, since I, too, had been deeply hurt by Marcelino, I had the necessary credibility to initiate and participate in the discussion.

A second observation was that in preparing for this forum, when I searched for resources and examples of those who have collectively processed a negative church leadership experience, I was surprised by the lack of published materials. One of my American teammates observed that being able to process such a traumatic experience communally is likely uncommon because it is rare for a group to endure such a destructive leader without splintering apart.5 It is unfortunate that resources for these situations are equally scarce. Our team found that creating a forum to process the negative leadership experience provided fertile ground and ample material for the task of leadership formation. This kind of processing of a real life case study could be especially helpful for those working cross-culturally.

Thirdly, it is important to remember that leadership expectations are profoundly influenced by culture. One’s background shapes a “preference for vertical or horizontal patterns of power, for autocracy or democracy.”6 It has been a challenge to ensure that the leadership patterns of my home culture and the church authority structure we share with our Mozambican brothers and sisters intersect in a healthy way with the leadership expectations among the Makua-Metto people. Even though it is primarily geared towards a Western audience, Don Armour and Michael Browning’s book Systems-Sensitive Leadership has personally been an indispensable resource for interpreting, appreciating, and engaging different social expectations for leaders.7


A Christian leader is “a servant who uses his or her credibility and capacities to influence people in a particular context to pursue their God given direction.”8 Although the finer points of how that type of leadership appears in a given context may vary, certainly the broader strokes of that picture or pattern of Christlike leadership will be consistent across the globe. Roger Mitchell has coined the term kenarchy, a word formed from the Greek words keno (empty) and arche (power or rule), which “signifies the emptying out of power on behalf of others in contrast with exercising power over others.”9 Kenarchy, then, “is the ‘new politics’ of love that Jesus introduces with a kingdom made up of servants who renounce power over others.”10

In Jesus’s own day, there was a plethora of negative leadership examples. The leadership style exhibited in his ministry provided a positive contrast to the destructive practices of both the Jews and the Romans. His kingship (or kenarchy) displayed a different kind of authority, one that did not conform to the patterns of our world but instead focused on blessing and empowering others. Christ’s leadership style veered away from the mistakes of the human leaders of his day and cleared the path of servant leadership for us to follow.

Our forum for processing a negative leadership experience, and seeing how having a bad leader can be good, was an important step in recognizing how God is redeeming a broken situation in the Makua-Metto church. It has been helpful in encouraging the churches in our part of Mozambique to learn from the mistakes of their “older brother,” Marcelino, as well as in pointing all of us toward the example of our older brother (Heb 2:10–11) and king, Jesus, whose positive example calls us to live and lead well.

Alan Howell, his wife Rachel, and their three daughters live in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique. Alan is a graduate of Harding School of Theology. The Howells have lived in Mozambique since 2003 and are part of a team serving among the Makua-Metto people.

1 The popular expression “the goat eats where it is tethered” is commonly attributed to former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano and is often mentioned to explain the country’s culture of corruption, prevalent in both public and private institutions.

2 My thanks to Evertt W. Huffard for this important observation.

3 Perry W. H. Shaw, “Vulnerable Authority: A Theological Approach to Leadership and Teamwork,” Christian Education Journal 3, no. 1 (2006): 128.

4 Ibid., 129.

5 My thanks to Jeremy Smith for this keen insight.

6 Shaw, 122.

7 Don Armour and Michael Browning, Systems-Sensitive Leadership: Empowering Diversity without Polarizing the Church, 2nd ed. (Joplin, MO: College Press, 2000).

8 Aubrey Malphurs and William Mancini, Building Leaders: Blueprints for Developing Leadership at Every Level of Your Church (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004), 20.

9 Roger Mitchell, The Fall of the Church (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2013), 7.

10 Richard Beck, Reviving Old Scratch: Demons and the Devil for Doubters and the Disenchanted (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2016), 141.

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Review of Tod Bolsinger, Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory

Tod Bolsinger. Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2015. 247 pp. Paperback. $18.00.

In Canoeing the Mountains, Tod Bolsinger, assistant professor of practical theology and vice president and chief of the leadership formation platform at Fuller Theological Seminary, offers “a guidebook for learning to lead in a world we weren’t prepared for” (13). Bolsinger believes that for many ministers, a seminary education has “trained them for a world that is disappearing” (13, 15). He wants his readers to be ready to face the challenge of leading into the uncharted territory of a post-Christian age. The early American explorers, Lewis and Clark, serve as guides in this study of leadership, and their journey of discovery is used as a lens to explore the situation facing Christian leaders today. Bolsinger also draws on his own personal history in pastoral ministry and denominational leadership to connect theory and practice.

The book’s first section addresses “Understanding Uncharted Territory.” Following the conventional wisdom of their day, Lewis and Clark expected to find a waterway that would connect the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean. What these explorers found, though, was not a flowing river, but the Rocky Mountains! They had come prepared to explore via canoes, but had to ditch those plans and lead their crew off their “map” to safely cross the mountains. Bolsinger notes that “just as Lewis and Clark functioned under a set of geographical assumptions, leaders of the church in the West today have been operating under a set of philosophical, theological and ecclesiological assumptions” (27). He argues “that leadership—and especially leadership development—must be dramatically different than it was during Christendom” (30). In this new environment, paths for thriving (or even simply surviving) will not be found by trying harder or having greater technical skill related to the solutions of the past. Instead, what is required is a “spirit of adventure” and an ability “to look over Lemhi Pass and let the assumptions of the past go” (33).

In the second and third sections, Bolsinger discusses “The On the Map Skill Set” and what “Leading Off the Map” requires. One of his important refrains is that no one will trust someone to lead them off the map until they have proven their ability to lead on the map. In these sections, he unpacks this core concept from earlier in the book: “transformational leadership lies at the overlapping intersection of three leadership components.” It “begins in technical competence . . . is validated in relational congruence . . . and becomes transformational through the integration of adaptive capacity” (43–44). Bolsinger thoughtfully and effectively addresses each of these three parts of leadership and how they build on each other. Other notable items in these sections were some inspiring and challenging descriptions of Lewis and Clark’s leadership partnership (62, 68–70), an examination of the power that organizational culture has over strategy (73, 77), and a discussion of the necessity for leaders to have conviction that “the mission trumps” all other questions and should be more important than preferences, personalities, or programs (125).

In the fourth section, Bolsinger explores “Relationships and Resistance” by looking at the ways organizations fight against change and encourages leaders to expect sabotage and address it effectively (174–77). In the fifth and final section, Bolsinger focuses on “Transformation.” He weaves in the story of Sacagawea, the young, nursing mother who saved Lewis and Clark’s expedition, and connects that example and others to transformational leadership by reminding us that “those who had neither power nor privilege in the Christendom world are the trustworthy guides and necessary leaders when we go off the map. They are not going into uncharted territory. They are at home” and can help us find our way (191). He challenges leaders to be better listeners by including the wisdom of other voices into the decision-making process (196–7) as well as to experiment with different leadership structures that could better fit what a given context demands (200–1). Finally, he emphasizes that “leadership into uncharted territory requires and results in transformation of the whole organization, starting with the leaders” and reminds us that “God is taking us into uncharted territory to transform us” (217).

Overall, I found Bolsinger’s approach and argument compelling. As a missionary serving in what could be conceived as a “pre-Christian” society, there was much that I resonated with as well. I found myself often nodding along in agreement—that the world he was describing was one strikingly similar to where I find myself in ministry. I was pleased to see Bolsinger’s argument for including marginalized voices from within the West (196–200) but it made me wish he had included a push for more voices from outside the West as well. I think their perspective could help us understand what life and ministry outside of Christendom could and should look like. Bolsinger used the Lewis and Clark narrative so strategically and sparingly that it did not overwhelm the aims of the book. Instead, it was such rich source material that I wished he had included even more of their story. I appreciated his use of sidebars to summarize essential themes and ideas in each chapter. He packed the book with dozens and dozens of memorable quotes on leadership from both the business and church spheres. On a few occasions, though, these became a distraction, with back to back to back quotes in the text, as if the author was trying to make sure to squeeze in all his favorite leadership aphorisms. Those minor critiques, however, do not diminish my appreciation for this well-written book on how to do leadership in the post-Christendom West. It serves as a wake-up call to recognize our new environment and as an insightful introduction to leadership in uncharted territory. Like Lewis and Clark, it thoughtfully explores and clears a new path for us, and I hope it paves the way for further reflection on what leadership looks like in the wilds outside the bounds of Christendom.

Alan B. Howell

Missionary serving the Makua-Metto people

Montepuez, Mozambique

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Review of Gary Holloway, A Global Fellowship: A Concise History of the World Convention of Churches of Christ

Gary Holloway. A Global Fellowship: A Concise History of the World Convention of Churches of Christ. Nashville: Gary Holloway, 2017. 146 pp. Paperback. $10.00.

Gary Holloway, executive director of the World Convention (WC), formerly dean of the College of Bible and Ministry at Lipscomb University, states in his introduction that his self-published book, “although concise, attempts to give a fuller account of the World Convention of Churches of Christ that also gives these churches a seat at the table with other Christian World Communions, praying and working to fulfil the prayer of Jesus that all who believe may be one so that the world may believe” (5). A Global Fellowship is meant for those interested in understanding the Stone-Campbell Movement and its quest for unity in the ecumenical circles. The author divides his book into eleven chapters in addition to the introduction and conclusion.

Chapter one delineates the genesis of the Stone-Campbell Movement (SCM) and the circumstances and doctrinal differences that led to its division into three “denominations”: Christian Churches, Churches of Christ, and Disciples of Christ. Holloway does not include the International Churches of Christ, the fourth group that came from SCM during the last quarter of the twentieth century. By 1930, these churches had spread to “over thirty countries on every continent” through evangelism, thus creating the necessity of a worldwide conference. As a result, the World Convention of Churches of Christ—the brainchild of Jesse Moran Bader (1886–1963)—was established that year. Bader was appointed the first secretary general during the first convention in Washington, DC, in 1930, when around 6,300 people attended despite the ripple effects of the Great Depression. Although the SCM has been plagued by divisions, Bader worked indefatigably, convinced that the “convention [took] in all our people without reference to shades of theology, geography, color, or language . . . [it was] not controlled by any group, it [was] not held in ignorance of any group, and [was] not for the propaganda of any group. It [was] a great fellowship for mutual helpfulness and acquaintance” (15).

After narrating the historical background of the SCM in chapter one, Holloway describes each of the conventions in the following ten chapters. Chapter two deals with the third convention held in Leicester, United Kingdom, in 1935; chapter three, Buffalo, New York (1947), and Melbourne, Australia (1952); chapter four, Toronto, Canada (1955), and Edinburgh, United Kingdom (1960); chapter five, San Juan, Puerto Rico (1965); chapter six, Adelaide, Australia (1970), and Mexico City, Mexico (1975); chapter seven, Honolulu, Hawaii (1980); Kingston, Jamaica (1984) and Auckland, New Zealand (1988); chapter eight, Long Beach, California (1992), and Calgary, Canada (1996); chapter nine, Brisbane, Australia (2000), and Brighton, England (2004). Chapter ten deals with the Nashville convention in 2008 and the events that led the next two conventions to switch locations. The 2012 meeting had been slated for Zimbabwe; unfortunately the economic meltdown in that country, precipitated by jingoistic political decisions, compelled the organizers to move it to Goiânia, Brazil. South Korea was scheduled to host the 2016 meeting, but it was cancelled after Kang Lee, the WC President, “led a protest in Busan [South Korea, in 2013] against the World Council of Churches” (110). The meeting was held in Damoh, central India, in January 2017.The next meeting will be in Manzini, Swaziland. Interestingly, the continent of Africa was called “The Dark Continent” during the first WC meeting in 1930. Now missiologists and church planters are forecasting that by 2050 Africa will have close to one billion Christians.

Holloway argues that the WC has cherished ecumenism since its inception, encouraging and accepting delegates from other Christian fellowships. However, it took thirty-five years from its inception before a member of the a cappella Churches of Christ spoke at the WC. Carl Ketcherside was the first person from this fellowship to speak at the WC in 1965 at San Juan. He was known for his conservative views of the Bible, yet at that meeting he said, “The Christian concept is not one of Jesus pointing to a book but of a book pointing to Jesus” (58). Leroy Garrett, another member of the Churches of Christ, participated in the 1992 meeting. Rubel Shelley, then minister for the Woodmont Hills Church of Christ in Nashville, delivered a lesson on Christian unity at the 1996 convention. Shelley said, “Unity is not ours to create but ours to receive as God’s gift” (91).

High profile politicians have also graced WC meetings. Herbert Hoover, the thirty-first President of the USA, “hosted about 5,000 convention delegates at tea on the White House lawn. This . . . reflects Hoover’s Quaker spirituality, the simplicity of the times in 1930 (with few worries about Presidential security), and the significance of the Disciples [SCM] and other Christian denominations as a political force” (19). In 1955, “Lester B. Pearson, Canadian Secretary of State, who later would win Nobel Prize for Peace and became Prime Minister of Canada” addressed WC delegates in Toronto (43). Martin Luther King, Jr., gave a keynote address at San Juan (1965).

I found Holloway’s discussion about the Bader Lectures fascinating. These lectures, named in honour of Bader’s thirty-three years of WC leadership, have been given by outstanding academics irrespective of denominational affiliation, color, or gender. At the 1984 meeting, Eugene A. Nida of the United Bible Societies, whom Holloway describes as “the foremost authority on Bible translation, . . . enthralled the audience with many examples of the difficulty of translation [and concluded by saying] ‘There’s enough gospel preaching in one week to save the whole world, just not enough gospel living”’ (78). Fred B. Craddock, professor of New Testament and preaching at Emory University, delivered the Bader lectures at the Long Beach Conference in 1992. In 2004, Musa Dube, a feminist theologian from the University of Botswana addressed delegates at the sixteenth assembly in Brighton, England, arguing for reconciling God’s people for mission. Holloway argues that the WC is the only institution that gives the SCM a voice at global ecumenical meetings. Its past and present secretaries general (or executive directors, as they are now called) have attended meetings hosted by the World Council of Churches, the Second Vatican Council, and Secretaries of Christian World Communions, to mention a few.

A Global Fellowship is an indispensable historical account of a pivotal institution whose mission resonates with that of the chief architects of the Stone-Campbell Movement. It is accessible while filling a gap in academic study on this topic. It is central in understanding the SCM in the twenty-first century as the majority of its members are gradually shedding sectarianism and embracing ecumenism. Although the SCM is now global, just like any evangelical group, it is grappling to grow numerically in the Majority World because of failing to contextualize its theology, an area I expected Holloway to briefly discuss in this little informative book.

Paul S. Chimhungwe

African Christian College

Manzini, Swaziland

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Review of Michael J. Gorman, Becoming the Gospel: Paul, Participation, and Mission

MICHAEL J. GORMAN. Becoming the Gospel: Paul, Participation, and Mission. The Gospel and Our Culture Series. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2015. 351 pp. Paperback. $28.00.

Michael J. Gorman is professor of Biblical Studies and Theology at St. Mary’s Seminary & University (Baltimore, MD) and has authored several works on Paul, participation, and mission. This volume builds upon the theological groundwork laid in two previous works1 to argue that participation in the character of God cannot be separated from participation in the mission of God. In short, being cannot be separated from action, so that such participation is “the starting point of mission and is, in fact, its proper theological framework” (4).

To argue his central thesis that the apostle Paul “wanted the communities he addressed not merely to believe the gospel but to become the gospel” (2), Gorman begins (chs. 1 and 2) by considering Paul’s view of the missio Dei as bringing salvation to the community of faith, humanity, and ultimately the cosmos. Such an expanded view of “salvation” invites (or demands) missional participation as reflected in seven features of Paul’s letters, such as his “co-” language (Greek: syn-). The difficulty, however, with asserting the missional nature of Paul’s teaching arises from the apostle himself in that direct commands to evangelize are rare in the Pauline letters. Nonetheless, it is clear that Paul expects his churches to embody the mission of God because, though not all are called to become “evangelists” of the gospel, all are expected to become the gospel (42–45). Gorman argues that biblical reading must be shaped by a missional hermeneutic which broadens our conception of mission and evangelism to include participation in the character and mission of God.

After establishing the conceptual and theological framework of his thesis, Gorman turns to demonstrate how this missional participation unfolds in the Pauline letters. First Thessalonians presents the Pauline triad of faith(fulness), love, and hope, which manifest as virtues of the Father, the Son, the Spirit, and Paul, their apostle (ch. 3). The Thessalonians are called, then, to embody these same characteristics found in these exemplars (90). This embodiment means expressing virtue through action, so that the church becomes “public, holy, and full of faithfulness, love, and hope” (102). In his letter to the Philippians (ch. 4), Paul appeals to the “master story” in his recounting of the Christ hymn (Phil 2:6–11), which serves as “a missional Christology for a missional people” (109, 116, 121) and encourages them to continue striving in the face of suffering. The kenotic example of Christ serves as the foundation of their faith and the paradigm for their present and public action.

From here, Gorman turns to examine a less explored, though no less significant, aspect of Paul’s theology: peace. Chapter 5 offers an overview of the Pauline corpus, where peacemaking creates communities of reconciliation and provides a missional imperative. This concept is more fully explored in Ephesians (ch. 6), a letter which centers around peace and nearly transforms the Pauline triad to faith, peace, and love in its final prayer (Eph 6:23; on authorship see 183). This letter reveals a community that has been shaped by the peacemaking work of Christ and is called to enact this mission in the world so as to become “the gospel of peace” (6:15).

Chapter 7 shifts to justice, a prominent concern in the prophetic tradition, to ask whether Paul’s use of dikaiosynē speaks primarily of justification or of justice. This question is explored through various reflections of justice in Pauline thought, culminating in an abbreviated analysis of the Corinthian correspondence. The reader is reminded that for Paul, “God is the God of justice, and the church is a community of justice; justice is both a divine trait and an ecclesial practice” (258). Chapter 8 takes up a topic explored in previous works by Gorman, which argue that theosis—“becoming like God by participating in the life of God” (261)—is the focal point of Romans. Glory is presented as a divine attribute in which the church, “as the missional community, sought out for salvation by God and sharing that salvation with others” (285), is able to participate. Each chapter above concludes with a brief look at practical examples from modern communities who are creatively enacting such missional participation.

Gorman’s writing throughout is clear and his arguments plainly presented. The work aims to be accessible to scholars, pastors, and leaders (10), and the book provides material for each. The main body cogently introduces Gorman’s primary arguments while the ample footnotes offer resources for further engagement, and the extensive indices aid in locating subjects, authors, and specific texts. The volume’s greatest strength is its theological foundation, as it is through-and-through a theological exposition on the missional calling of the Christian community. As such, for those seeking practical or strategic advice, it is lacking, as Gorman himself admits: this book “is not a handbook for mission but a foundation and a stimulus for it” (15). Additionally, it may be noted that while the participatory nature of Paul’s theology is well supported, the author at times (unnecessarily) pushes his reading of periphery texts too far (e.g., his argument that Paul’s anxiety for his converts evinces their public participation in mission; see 75 and elsewhere). The presentation would be strengthened by allowing the principal texts to stand on their own strength and by not coercing less amenable passages as secondary evidence.

Gorman’s volume provides a broad theological interpretation of the Pauline letters which produces the seemingly simple thesis that, “because the cross reveals a missional God, the church saved and shaped by the cross will be a missional people” (9). As Paul’s own letters attest, this was not a simple task for the earliest recipients of this message, and it remains just as challenging for the church today. Gorman helpfully reminds us that being a “missional” people means more than “winning souls,” but instead becoming a people who enact the missio Dei in our individual and corporate lives.

Zane B. McGee

PhD Student, New Testament

Emory University

Atlanta, GA, USA

1 Michael J. Gorman, Cruciformity: Paul’s Narrative Spirituality of the Cross (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001); Michael J. Gorman, Inhabiting the Cruciform God: Kenosis, Justification, and Theosis in Paul’s Narrative Soteriology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009).

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Building an Intercultural Church in Imperial Japan: Yunosuke Hiratsuka and the Utilization of the Church of Christ and National Identities, 1897–1945

Christian missions have the potential of forming intercultural networks that affect the existing identities of those who are involved. In this paper I examine the story of Yunosuke Hiratsuka (1873–1953), a leading figure among the pre-World War II Japanese Churches of Christ, to show how he managed to honor two strong and developing identities of the time, the national identity of Imperial Japan and the Church of Christ identity. The discussion includes Hiratsuka’s family networks, the role of Bible women, the teaching of distinctive Church of Christ doctrines, relationships with other denominations, and the efforts of US Church of Christ missionaries.

As historian Andrew Walls says, the missionary movement has revitalized Christianity through the process of crossing cultural boundaries, as well as having dialogues with cultures.1 This process, in turn, has the potential of forming networks that destabilize or alter the existing cultural identities and creating new, often hybrid identities among those who are involved, as transnational studies have pointed out.2 Church of Christ missions in Japan from the end of the nineteenth century through World War II provide a good ground to investigate such issues of identity.

On the one hand, the Churches of Christ in this period were in the process of establishing their group identities with some distinctive church doctrines and practices.3 In general, the teachings of Church of Christ missionaries to Japan during this time certainly reflected this development in the Church of Christ identity. On the other hand, this period coincided with the period in which the people of Imperial Japan were developing their distinctive national identities centered on the Japanese emperor system. Imperial Japan embraced expansionism as she invaded East Asia, and she ultimately ended up attacking Pearl Harbor and engaging in warfare with the country from which the Church of Christ missionaries came. So, how did Japanese Church of Christ members understand, embrace, and balance Church of Christ and Imperial Japanese identities? What was it like for them to have a strong national identity on the one hand and a strong religious identity on the other hand?

In order to wrestle with these questions, I focus on the story of Yunosuke Hiratsuka (1873–1953). Hiratsuka was the minister at the Kamitomizaka Church of Christ in central Tokyo from 1903 through 1943 and a leading figure among the pre-World War II Japanese Churches of Christ. While the larger context of how Church of Christ missionaries launched missions in Japan and how the Kamitomizaka church grew under Hiratsuka’s leadership are important, my aim in this paper is to analyze how Hiratsuka wrestled with two strong and developing identities of the time, the national identity of Imperial Japan and the Church of Christ identity. I argue in this paper that Kamitomizaka church managed to honor both Imperial Japan’s national identity and Church of Christ identity at the same time. As such, Kamitomizaka church, perhaps beyond Hiratsuka’s intention, existed in a subtly hybrid position, exhibiting itself as an intercultural church that was distinct from more monolithic positions or churches that were dominated rigidly by either of the two otherwise robust identities.

Yunosuke Hiratsuka, Kamitomizaka Church, and Imperial Japan’s National Identity

Kiyoko Takeda, one of the leading interpreters of Protestant Christianity in Japan, has pointed out that there were three characteristics of the Japanese people during the Meiji period (1868–1912): (1) the Japanese people as the participants of the familial nationhood (the connection of familialism and patriotism); (2) filial piety and obedience to the head of a family; and (3) unconscious subordination to the emperor.4 Taken together, the characteristics led to a unified system of unconscious, obedient, and patriotic filial piety among the common people, with the emperor at the top of the totem pole. In other words, the national identity of the Japanese people during this era was characterized by their devotion to the Japanese emperor.

Kamitomizaka Church of Christ, with its influential leader Hiratsuka functioning as the figure of the head of a household, was also an integral part of pre-WWII Japan and its social system centered on the mentality of filial piety. Furthermore, Hiratsuka came from a culturally prestigious and conservative family background in which sincerely honoring the Japanese emperor was the norm.5

The pages of the Kamitomizaka Church diary certainly include the records of the church’s periodic expression of thanksgiving and devotion to the Japanese emperor during its regular meetings, a practice certainly not unique to this church.6 For example, at a Wednesday prayer meeting on February 15, 1911, the members of Kamitomizaka Church had a special time to express their deep gratitude for the special money they were given from the Emperor Meiji at the occasion of Kigensetsu (National Foundation Day, February 11). One of the Kamitomizaka elders, Tomeji Yokowo,7 gave thanksgiving remarks, and other important members such as Rokuemon Hori and Hirosuke Ishiguro led thanksgiving prayers, followed by Hiratsuka’s reading of a Scripture passage and a message about the occasion.8 Just as most other Christians of his time, Hiratsuka’s devotion to the emperor was unquestionable.9 Reflecting the cultural ethos of the time, the members of Kamitomizaka Church of Christ embraced the national identity centered on the Japanese emperor.

Hiratsuka’s Relationships with US Missionaries and His Life in the United States

Hiratsuka, an unashamed admirer of the Japanese Emperor, was also one whose ministerial life was characterized by his close relationships with Americans, especially missionaries. In 1895, Hiratsuka, before he became a Christian, went to an English school in Kanda Ward of Tokyo. His English teacher was J. M. McCaleb, a US Church of Christ missionary who had arrived in Japan in 1892. Hiratsuka then started attending McCaleb’s Kanda Chapel to hear McCaleb’s gospel message, and McCaleb baptized Hiratsuka shortly after.10 Hiratsuka’s connection with the Churches of Christ, however, was interrupted soon after the baptism, until he resumed the connection in 1903 and started serving at Kamitomizaka Church of Christ.

In fact, Hiratsuka was exposed to other Christian denominations, as well as a life in the United States soon after McCaleb baptized him. Hiratsuka soon stopped going to the English school McCaleb was teaching, because he was not satisfied with the level of instruction at the school. Hiratsuka then went to the night school held at the famous Ginza Church, a Methodist church in one of the busiest shopping districts of central Tokyo.11 At the Ginza Church Hiratsuka met Sho Nemoto, a noted Christian politician who was involved in such organizations as the Tokyo Temperance Union12 and the Japanese Colonization Society.13 Nemoto and Hiratsuka were from the same prefecture of Ibaraki, and Hiratsuka followed Nemoto’s path to go to the United States to study, as well as to prepare himself for an honorable career. In 1897, Hiratsuka arrived in San Francisco, and he went to a Japanese Presbyterian church there, as Sho Nemoto had written recommendation letters, addressed to the pastor of that church.14 At this Presbyterian church Hiratsuka met another American by the name of E. A. Sturge (1856–1934). Hiratsuka’s family members claimed that Hiratsuka admired Sturge as his spiritual mentor throughout his life.15 Sturge even spoke at Kamitomizaka Church of Christ in 1915 when Hiratsuka was serving as the minister of that church.16

Sturge, who had a PhD and an MD, was a former Presbyterian medical missionary to Thailand (1880–1885) and was the Superintendent of the Japanese Presbyterian Mission on the Pacific Coast from 1886 through 1922.17 In San Francisco, Sturge helped Hiratsuka not only as a missionary, but also as a medical doctor when Hiratsuka’s health was declining. Apparently, Hiratsuka was deeply involved in the mission Sturge was leading. Thus, Hiratsuka’s portrait was included in a special photo collage printed on a page of the book the mission produced. The collage was made up of a photo of Sturge and his wife, surrounded by the photos of twenty-two Japanese people who admired Sturge.18

Hiratsuka’s first ministry experience took place in this Presbyterian mission on the West Coast. In January 1901, Hiratsuka moved to Salinas, about 100 miles southeast of San Francisco, due to health concern and Sturge’s advice to stay away from the big city. The Japanese Presbyterian Mission in Salinas, served by the Japanese pastor Kenichi Inazawa, had about twenty to thirty members.19 After moving to Salinas, Hiratsuka’s health condition improved, and around the spring of 1902 Hiratsuka quit his previous manual labor and started helping Inazawa’s ministry. He was in charge of the Salinas mission while Inazawa was opening a mission in nearby Watsonville.20 Inazawa also asked Hiratsuka to help him with the translation of J. L. Hurlbut’s Studies in four Gospels. The translated book, with Sturge’s preface, was published in Japan the year Sturge was decorated by the emperor of Japan.21

During his stay in the United States, the Church of Christ identity did not mean much, if anything, to Hiratsuka, even though he had been baptized by McCaleb and had attended his chapel at least a while. A hint of how Hiratsuka might have understood his Church of Christ connection during his US days is indicated in the story of his encounter with Tomijiro Hosogai, a Japanese Disciples of Christ pastor who once worked alongside a cappella Church of Christ missionaries. Hosogai had left Japan in 1894 and was helping Sturge as an interpreter at the San Francisco mission when Hiratsuka arrived there.22 According to Hiratsuka’s Japanese autobiography, Hosogai told Hiratsuka when they met, “We are brothers from the same church, the Church of Christ.”23 Hosogai probably heard Hiratsuka’s self-introduction that included the name of J. M. McCaleb, who baptized Hiratsuka in 1895. Hiratsuka, however, did not quite understand what it meant when Hosogai said that they were from the “Church of Christ.” Nowhere in his English or Japanese autobiographies does Hiratsuka ever mention attending any worship services or meetings associated with the US Churches of Christ. Hiratsuka, however, did mention in his Japanese biography his experience of attending gospel meetings held by Dwight Moody and William Booth of the Salvation Army in San Francisco.24

Hiratsuka’s short transnational experience in the US did not mean abandoning his Japanese national identity, especially because Hiratsuka stayed basically within the community of Japanese immigrants and students, which was often a means of preserving the national identity of Japan.25 Still, his experience in the United States helped him to acquire non-Japanese ways of life, and, more importantly, the ability to speak and write English, which was certainly helpful in the next steps of his life, even as he went back to Japan. It should also be noted that Hiratsuka’s identification with the Church of Christ heritage was vague at best during his US days, from 1897 through 1903.

Returning to Japan and Serving at Kamitomizaka Church of Christ

Hiratsuka’s reconnection with the Church of Christ circle did not take place immediately after he returned to Japan in August 1903. About a week after his arrival back in Japan, Hiratsuka was married to Hanako Okushi, who later became a beloved minister’s wife at Kamitomizaka church. Hiratsuka was pressed to find a job, though he was reminded that he did not acquire any special job skills in the United States. This caused him great emotional distress, although he retained a spiritual strength to start teaching his new wife the Bible every day.26 One Sunday, he attended service at a nearby Presbyterian church and talked to the pastor there. The pastor was sympathetic but could not provide any job for Hiratsuka. A few weeks later, Hiratsuka “suddenly remembered” about the Church of Christ missionary J. M. McCaleb who had baptized him. “Come to think of it,” Hiratsuka wrote later, “I should have visited him soon after my return from the United States.”27 Although not mentioned in his English autobiography,28 Hiratsuka’s distress over his jobless situation and his failure to find a position through his Presbyterian network were part of the context that helped Hiratsuka reconnect with the work of the Churches of Christ in Japan.

As it turned out, Kamitomizaka Church of Christ, also called Koishikawa Chapel at that time, was a perfect fit for Hiratsuka, and vice versa. After visiting McCaleb, Hiratsuka “felt like he had been given a great hope.”29 The following Sunday, Hiratsuka met another US Church of Christ missionary, William Bishop, for the first time. Bishop had just started his work at Kamitomizaka and its printing office in February 1903.30 McCaleb was also part of the church, as he had closed down the Kanda Chapel.31 After a few weeks, Bishop asked Hiratsuka to help with the work of the mission. Hiratsuka, thinking to himself he did not have any other job and this might be God’s call, accepted the offer.32

Hiratsuka, Other Denominations, and the Church of Christ Identity

Hiratsuka was an elder and minister, as well as a leading figure for Kamitomizaka Church after William Bishop left Japan, due to illness, in January 1913. Under Hiratsuka’s leadership the church grew to be one of the most active and largest congregations among Japanese Churches of Christ before 1945. Whereas the US Churches of Christ continued to develop their distinctive sense of sectarian identity following the 1906 official division from the rest of the Stone-Campbell churches, Yunosuke Hiratsuka developed a somewhat different sense of identification with the distinctive Church of Christ doctrines and practices. It would be misleading, however, to suppose Hiratsuka was simply indifferent or antagonistic about the Church of Christ distinctiveness.

Certainly reflecting Hiratsuka’s prior experience with Presbyterian missions, Kamitomizaka church and its Japanese members were not reluctant to have fellowship with, or even work with, the members of other denominations. For example, Kamitomizaka Church of Christ participated in the nationwide and ecumenical (Protestant) evangelistic campaign in Japan, Zenkoku Kyodo Dendo (Cooperative Campaign of Evangelism), which lasted from spring of 1914 through fall of 1916. The idea was prompted by John R. Mott, who suggested, upon his visit to Japan in 1913, to launch such a campaign in the spirit of the 1910 Edinburgh World Missionary Conference that he chaired. Different types of gospel meetings were held throughout Japan, such as the gathering of three churches in one region, or a larger gathering at a larger hall such as Tokyo YMCA.33 According to the official report of the campaign, a total of 777,119 people attended 4,788 different meetings, and there were 27,350 respondents.34

Kamitomizaka Church opened its building to be used for this campaign, and during the three-year period a total of 388 people attended eight meetings at Kamitomizaka, and there were 46 respondents.35 While the numerical results may not be very impressive, these efforts accomplished one of the original purposes of the campaign, namely the ecumenical cooperation of local churches. All of the eight meetings were held at the Kamitomizaka church building, and for each meeting there were typically two preachers from two different denominations, such as Baptist, Methodist, Evangelical Church, Presbyterian, Disciples of Christ, and an independent church.

Despite his openness to work with the members of other denominations, Hiratsuka was also concerned about honoring the identity of the Churches of Christ and their distinctive doctrines and practices. Baptism by immersion, understood as being “for the remission of sins,” and the weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper were two important practices among the Church of Christ heritage, and Hiratsuka embraced these doctrines. For example, Hiratsuka wrote in one of Kamitomizaka church’s monthly newsletters: “Some say one does not have to be baptized as long as you have faith. That is a great mistake, because it is taught [in the Bible] that being baptized is a necessary condition of salvation.”36 He taught the importance of baptism by explaining the sections of the Bible concerning Jesus’s baptism, Jesus’s encounter with Nicodemus, the so-called great commission in the Gospel of Matthew, and Peter’s sermon at Pentecost. He then cited Acts 2:38, the quintessential proof-text US Church of Christ members used to teach the importance of baptism.37 Hiratsuka’s similar teachings on baptism can also be found in the nationwide Japanese Church of Christ periodical, Michishirube.38

In the mid-1930s Hiratsuka also played a role in nationwide efforts among the leaders of the Japanese Churches of Christ to discuss how they should deal with distinctive doctrines and practices of the Church of Christ heritage. The minutes of one of those meetings held in 1935, as recorded in the pages of Kamitomizaka church diary, are very clear about the conclusions of some of the distinctively Church of Christ issues that were discussed in the meeting. Regarding baptism, the minutes state that nothing but immersion should be recognized as baptism. Singing during public worship must be a cappella, citing Eph 5:18–19 and Col 3:16.39

Hiratsuka even changed Kamitomizaka church’s prior practices in accordance with what was agreed among the Japanese Church of Christ leaders in the mid-1930s. From its early days, Kamitomizaka church had several “Bible women”40 who were active especially in teaching children. It had been common for the Kamitomizaka church to ask one of those Bible women to lead one of two prayers offered during the communion.41 Nonetheless, the minutes of the 1935 nationwide meeting of Japanese Church of Christ leaders also included the agreement to restrict women’s roles during worship services,42 in accordance with the standard practice of the US Churches of Christ of the day.43 After this meeting no names of women were recorded to lead prayers during Sunday worship services in the pages of the diary of the Kamitomizaka church.

In sum, it was not contradictory for Hiratsuka to have deep associations with the members of other denominations and to honor distinctive Church of Christ doctrines at the same time. As mentioned above, Hiratsuka had prior ministry experiences with Presbyterian missions, and he truly admired the Presbyterian missionary E. A. Sturge. At the same time, Hiratsuka always appreciated and acknowledged the work of US Church of Christ missionaries. Thus, when Hiratsuka wrote histories of the Kamitomizaka church, he was always conscious about recording who served at the early stages of the church, and he wrote words of appreciation for their service.44

Joining the United Church of Christ in Japan during World War II

The story of how Hiratsuka and Kamitomizaka church embraced the Church of Christ identity is further complicated when the church faced the wartime situation in Japan. In October 1940, fourteen months before Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, the United Church of Christ in Japan (UCCJ) was formed as a federation of most Protestant churches in Japan, established as a response to the Japanese government’s policy to control Japanese Christianity. Hiratsuka, along with other Japanese ministers, initially supported the idea of Japanese Churches of Christ joining the UCCJ.45 Some even claimed that joining the federation and conforming to the Japanese identity was in line with the Japanese spirit of self-sacrifice, to which Japanese Christians should also hold.46 Nevertheless, these Japanese leaders, after much discussion, decided to follow the US missionaries’ advice not to join UCCJ.47

Keeping the Church of Christ identity by not joining the UCCJ, however, did not last for the whole duration of the war. When the Pacific War began in December 1941, Hiratsuka was in charge of the ministry of two congregations in Tokyo, the Kamitomizaka church and the Zoshigaya church. J. M. McCaleb previously led Zoshigaya church, but Hiratsuka had taken over its responsibility after McCaleb went back to the United States just before the war began. Serving the two churches soon became quite difficult for Hiratsuka, who was in his late sixties and early seventies during that time. Thus, the two congregations were united as one congregation in 1943, and it joined the UCCJ.48

Hiratsuka’s ambivalence about joining the UCCJ during wartime is indicated in what he wrote in English after the war. Hiratsuka reclaimed his Church of Christ identity by leaving the UCCJ after the war, but he did not tell the members of US Churches of Christ the full or exact details of what happened during the war, when he reported the incident in the history of the Kamitomizaka church. When he wrote in English about the state of Japanese Churches of Christ during the war, he stated:

The war unfortunately started, to our great grief, in December 1941. We continued the work for two years in that way. However, we elders had a conference with the members of the two churches in September 1943. It was decided to unite those two churches, Kamitomizaka and Zoshigaya, naming it “Toshima Zoshigaya Church of Christ.” And we had a conference, also, to have Brother Suematsu SAITO as minister of that church.49

The English name of the new congregation, Toshima Zoshigaya Church of Christ, would seem to indicate that the congregation was part of the Churches of Christ. However, the correct name of the congregation was actually, “Nihon Kirisutokyodan Toshima Zoshigaya Kyokai,” which should be translated as “Toshima Zoshigaya Church of the United Church of Christ in Japan (UCCJ).” This slight alteration in the translation of the church’s name seems to show Hiratsuka’s struggle to identify himself with the US Church of Christ circle, as well as his knowledge of how the correct name might sound negatively in the context of doctrinal exclusivism most US Church of Christ members held to at that time.

Whatever Hiratsuka’s intention of changing the church’s name might have been, the occasion of the Kamitomizaka/Zoshigaya church joining the Japanese federation of Protestants points to the complexity of how Japanese members struggled with the Church of Christ identity. At a first glance, the initial decision of Japanese Church of Christ leaders to stay away from the UCCJ may seem to indicate their willingness to keep the purity of their denominational identity. If so, Hiratsuka’s alteration of the name of the new church in Tokyo, in his post-WWII report to US Churches of Christ, may be seen as his embarrassment over the defilement of the presumed Church of Christ purity. However, it must be noted here that the ways Kamitomizaka members kept their Church of Christ identity was different from the ways US Church of Christ members kept their group identity. Kamitomizaka church was part of the global Church of Christ fellowship and shared some of the fellowship’s core doctrinal beliefs. Kamitomizaka church, however, was unique in terms of the ways its members associated with the members of other denominations.

As such, it is possible to interpret that a defilement of the presumed purity of the global Church of Christ identity, or the expansion of the global Church of Christ identity of the time, took place when Japanese Churches of Christ did not join the UCCJ and stayed as an independent group. At that time, the Japanese Churches of Christ in a sense expressed their loyalty to US missionaries and affirmed their way of keeping the Church of Christ identity. The Japanese Churches of Christ’s reaffirmation of belonging to the (global) Church of Christ fellowship also meant that a rather unique doctrinal practice, namely the openness to and associations with the members of other denominations, entered into the (global) fellowship of the Churches of Christ. In other words, the nature of global Church of Christ fellowship was altered by having Japanese churches in the fellowship. Such alteration was a significant result of missionary interactions, or crossing of cultural boundaries across the Pacific.


The genius of the Kamitomizaka church lies in Hiratsuka’s effort to honor, in an exquisite balance, imperial Japan’s national identity and the distinctive Church of Christ identity. Hiratsuka and Kamitomizaka members shared the common understanding of the Japanese national identity centered on the Japanese emperor. Hiratsuka’s sense of national identity was also somewhat expanded as he acquired deeper awareness of US culture and better English skills. It is noteworthy that Hiratsuka’s transnational experience was at least partially prompted by his Christian commitment. In fact, both US Church of Christ missionaries and Hiratsuka crossed national and cultural boundaries, and the Kamitomizaka Church of Christ was a fruit of such interactions.

Hiratsuka dealt with the issues of the Church of Christ identity in ambivalent ways. His initial awareness of the Church of Christ identity was vague. One could argue that Hiratsuka found his ministerial position at the Kamitomizaka Church of Christ almost by chance or simply because he was trying to find a job. Also, the Kamitomizaka church was different from most US Churches of Christ of the day, as its members enjoyed a wider association with the members of other denominations. Nonetheless, Hiratsuka was also one who would honor the distinctive doctrines and practices of the Church of Christ heritage. The fact that Hiratsuka and the Kamitomizaka Church of Christ kept having a wider association with the members of other denominations can be interpreted as the expansion of the Church of Christ identity at a global level.

Yukikazu Obata is Assistant Professor of Christian Education at Ibaraki Christian University (Ibaraki, Japan). He has served as senior minister at Mito Church of Christ in Japan and has studied at Keio University, Abilene Christian University, Harding School of Theology, and Fuller Theological Seminary. He is contributor to Reconciliation Reconsidered: Advancing the National Conversation on Race in Churches of Christ (ACU Press, 2016).

Adapted from a summary of ch. 4, “A Church Built at a Crossroads: US Missionaries, Yunosuke Hiratsuka, and the Kamitomizaka Church of Christ in Tokyo” in Yukikazu Obata, “Against the Odds: J. M. McCaleb’s Missionary Vision of Universality in the Context of Imperial Japan, 1892–1945” (PhD diss., Fuller Theological Seminary, 2016), presented at the Thomas H. Olbricht Christian Scholars’ Conference, Lipscomb University, Nashville, TN, June 7–9, 2017.

1 Andrew F. Walls, The Missionary Movement in Christian History: Studies in the Transmission of Faith (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1996), xvi; Andrew F. Walls, The Cross-Cultural Process in Christian History: Studies in the Transmission and Appropriation of Faith (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2002), 32.

2 For the incorporation of transnational studies in the history of missions, see, for example, essays in Hilde Nielssen, Inger Marie Okkenhaug, and Karina Hestad Skeie, eds., Protestant Missions and Local Encounters in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries: Unto the Ends of the World (Leiden: Brill, 2011).

3 Thus, Robert Hooper names the period of 1906–1930 as “a search for direction” for the Churches of Christ. Gary Holloway and Douglas Foster characterize the period of 1906–1941 as a time when “the Churches of Christ develop an identity” and when “a distinctive church takes shape.” Robert E. Hooper, A Distinct People: A History of the Churches of Christ in the 20th Century (West Monroe, LA: Howard Publishing, 1993); Gary Holloway and Douglas A. Foster, Renewing God’s People: A Concise History of Churches of Christ, 2nd ed. (Abilene, TX: Abilene Christian University Press, 2006).

4 Kiyoko Takeda, Ningenkan no Sokoku: Kindai Nihon no Shiso to Kirisutokyo [Conflicting vews of human nature] (Tokyo: Kobundo, 1959), 248–51.

5 Hiratsuka wrote autobiographies in English and in Japanese: Yunosuke Hiratsuka, The Autobiography of Yunosuke Hiratsuka: Evangelist of the Kamitomizaka Church of Christ in Tokyo, Japan (1952), Unpublished manuscript, William J. Bishop Papers, Special Collections, Brown Library, Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX; Yunosuke Hiratsuka, Kami ni yorite Yasushi [Living peacefully in God: autobiography of Yunosuke Hiratsuka], ed. Keiichi Hiratsuka (Tokyo: Yorudansha, [1933–1936] 1989).

6 For example, see Akio Dohi, Tenno to Kirisuto: Kin-gendai Tennosei to Kirisutokyo no Kyokaishiteki Kosatsu [Christ and the Emperor of Japan] (Tokyo: Shinkyo Shuppansha, 2012), 396.

7 Ishiguro later became the minister for the Japanese Church of Christ in Los Angeles, California, USA.

8 Kamitomizaka Kirisutokyokai Nisshi [The diary of Kamitomizaka Church of Christ, January 1905–March 1944], Special Collection, Ibaraki Christian University Library, Ibaraki, Japan, February 15, 1911.

9 See, for example, the case of Toyohiko Kagawa in Thomas John Hastings, Seeing All Things Whole: The Scientific Mysticism and Art of Kagawa Toyohiko (1888–1960) (Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2015), 20.

10 J. M. McCaleb, Once Traveled Roads (Nashville: Gospel Advocate Company, 1934), 94; Hiratsuka, Kami ni yorite Yasushi, 41.

11 Hiratsuka, Kami ni yorite Yasushi, 42, 56.

12 Another US Church of Christ missionary, Loduska Wirick, who was also involved in the work of Tokyo Temperance Union, had some connection with Nemoto, too. Nemoto even spoke at Wirick’s funeral, held in Tokyo in 1914. Fred Eugene Hagin, “Miss Loduska J. Wirick,” in The Christian Movement in Japan 1914, ed. John Lincoln Dearing (Tokyo: Conference of Federated Missions Japan, 1914), 361.

13 Nemoto Sho Kenshokai Chosaiinkai, ed., Nemoto Sho no Shogai [The life of Sho Nemoto] (Nakamachi, Ibaraki, Japan: Nemoto Sho Kenshokai, 2001).

14 Hiratsuka, Kami ni yorite Yasushi, 62.

15 Masunori Hiratsuka, “Chichi oyobi Masakazu wo Shinobite [In rememberance of my father and Masakazu],” Jisenyoko [Reminiscences of Yunusuke and Hanako Hiratsuka], ed. Michio Hiratsuka and Masunori Hiratsuka (Chiba, Japan: Hiroike Gakuen Shuppanbu, 1967), 139–140; Tsuneo Komai, ed., Sohu Hiratsuka Yunosuke no Ashiato: Kenbunroku III [The footprints of grandfather Yunosuke Hiratsuka: Travel report III] (Sakura, Chiba, Japan: Kounsha, 2009).

16 Hiratsuka, Kami ni yorite Yasushi, 175.

17 Michael J. Kimura Angevine and Ryo Yoshida, “Contexts for a History of Asian American Presbyterian Churches: A Case Study of the Early History of Japanese American Presbyterians,” The Diversity of Discipleship: Presbyterians and Twentieth-Century Christian Witness, ed. Milton J. Coalter, John M. Mulder, and Louis Weeks (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 1991), 297.

18 The Committee of Presbyterian Japanese Missions on the Coast, ed., The Spirit of Japan, with Selected Poems and Addresses of Ernest Adolphus Sturge (San Francisco: H.S. Crocker, 1903), 130.

19 Hiratsuka, Kami ni yorite Yasushi, 64.

20 Ibid., 83–101.

21 Jesse Lyman Hurlbut, Shihkuinsho Kenkyu [Studies in four Gospels], trans. Kenichi Inazawa and Yunosuke Hiratsuka (Tokyo: Chuyodo, 1904).

22 Hiratsuka, “Autobiography of Yunosuke Hiratsuka,” 16.

23 Hiratsuka, Kami ni yorite Yasushi, 66 (my translation).

24 Ibid., 82–83.

25 Ryo Yoshida, “A Socio-historical Study of Racial/Ethnic Identity in the Inculturated Religious Expression of Japanese Christianity in San Francisco, 1877–1924” (PhD diss., Graduate Theological, Union, 1989). On E. A. Sturge’s admiration of Japanese culture, see: Ryo Yoshida, “Earnest A Sturge, the Japanese People, and Culture in California, 1885–1922,” American Presbyterians 74, no. 1 (1996): 17–29.

26 Hiratsuka, Kami ni yorite Yasushi, 113–14.

27 Ibid., 114.

28 Hiratsuka, “Autobiography of Yunosuke Hiratsuka,” 24.

29 Hiratsuka, Kami ni yorite Yasushi, 115.

30 William J. Bishop, “Bishop-Hiratsuka Japan Mission,” Christian Leader and the Way (May 3, 1910): 4.

31 According to Hiratsuka, McCaleb preached at Kamitomizaka the first Sunday Hiratsuka visited, as well as other times around this period. Hiratsuka, Kami ni yorite Yasushi, 116, 119, 123.

32 Ibid., 116. The English narrative of this part is as follows: “‘Willingly,’ I answered, ‘It is a great favor of God, if I can help your work.’” Hiratsuka, “Autobiography of Yunosuke Hiratsuka,” 26.

33 Richard H. Drummond, A History of Christianity in Japan (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971), 245; Tomobumi Kurokawa, Nihonshi ni okeru Kirisutokyosenkyo: Senkyokatsudo to Hito wo Chushin ni [Christian missions in the history of Japan: focused on mission activities and people] (Tokyo: Kyobunkan, 2014), 218–35.

34 The total number included the result of meetings held in Korea, Taiwan, Manchuria, and other parts of China. Zenkoku Kyodo Dendo Iin, ed., Sannen Keizoku Zenkoku Kyodo Dendo [Three-year cooperative campaign of evangelism] (Tokyo: Zenkoku Kyodo Dendo Iin, 1918), 62–63.

35 “Kamitomizaka Church Diary,” October 10-11, 1914; May 1-2, 1915; May 20-21, 1916; and November 1-2, 1916.

36 Yunosuke Hiratsuka, “Kirisutokyo no Nidaireiten [The two important sacraments of Christianity],” Kamitomizaka Kirisutokyokai Geppo [Monthly newsletter, Kamitomizaka Church of Christ], May 15, 1934, 1.

37 Ibid.

38 See, for example, June 1934, December 1936, and August 1938 issues.

39 “Kamitomizaka Church Diary,” January 16, 1935. Attendees (and their churches) were: Hiratsuka (Kamitomizaka church), Fujimori (Sawara), Aoki (Zoshigaya), Yanai (Musashino), Shigekuni (Ota church), Horiguchi (Omiya), Akutsu (Nagasawa), Kakinuma (Shizuoka), Takaboshi (Ohara), Tadamichi Fujimori (Sawara), Mio (Sawara), and Tsubaki (Sawara), along with two “observers,” Elder Tomeji Yokowo (Kamitomizaka) and missionary Lily Cypert (Musashino).

40 “Bible women” were local female Christians who helped evangelizing and ministering to other women and children on the mission field, particularly in East and South Asia. Mission historians have noted the significance of their service. See, for example, Ruth A. Tucker, “The Role of Bible Women in World Evangelism,” Missiology: An International Review 13, no. 2 (April 1985): 133–46.

41 See, for example, pages of September through October, 1917 in “Kamitomizaka Church Diary.”

42 “Kamitomizaka Church Diary,” January 16, 1935.

43 Debra B. Hull, Kathy J. Pulley, and Eleanor A. Daniel, “Women in Ministry,” in The Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement, ed. Douglas A. Foster, et al. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004), 779. This is not to deny any possibility of exceptions. In fact, Daniel Sommer, an early twentieth century Church of Christ leader who was otherwise very conservative, allowed women to lead prayers. Newell D. Williams, Douglas A. Foster, and Paul M. Blowers, eds., The Stone-Campbell Movement: A Global History (St. Louis: Chalice Press, 2013), 73.

44 Yunosuke Hiratsuka, “History of the Church in Japan (History of Kamitomizaka Church of Christ), 1952,” Unpublished manuscript, William J. Bishop Papers, Special Collections, Brown Library, Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX; Takehiko Ueno and Michio Hiratsuka, eds., Kamitomizaka Kirisutokyokai Sanjunenshi [History of the thirty years of Kamitomizaka Church of Christ] (Tokyo: Kamitomiaza Kirisutokyokai, 1928).

45 McCaleb wrote, “Our Japanese brethren are much inclined to go into it [UCCJ]. . . . Brother Hiratsuka said they wanted to go into this federation to save the work for which I had given my life, but I replied that I had rather see every church building closed and the brethren remain true than have them remain open to teach error.” J. M. McCaleb, “Mine a Separated Life,” Gospel Advocate, January 2, 1942, 8.

46 Otoshige Fujimori, “Gisei to Shintaisei [The new order and our sacrifice],” Michishirube, May, 1941, 2–3.

47 Back in the US, McCaleb expressed his satisfaction over such decision. J. M. McCaleb, “Brother J. M. McCaleb’s Comment,” Christian Ledger, February 17, 1942, 3.

48 The process of joining UCCJ is recorded in Hiratsuka, “History of the Church in Japan (History of Kamitomizaka Church of Christ), 1952”; Ueno and Hiratsuka, Kamitomizaka Sanjunenshi [Thirty years of Kamitomizaka Church].

49 Hiratsuka, “History of the Church in Japan (History of Kamitomizaka Church of Christ), 1952,” 39.

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Early Twentieth-Century Unity among Stone-Campbell Movement Congregations in Southern Africa: Emphasizing the Gospel over Ecclesiastical Traditions

This article argues that when the Churches of Christ and the Christian Churches, part of the Stone-Campbell Movement, were established in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Northern Rhodesia, and Nyasaland, during the early nineteenth century, they worked harmoniously through the uniting efforts of John Sherriff, a stonemason-cum-missionary. His demise in 1935 and the influx of young Western missionaries, particularly North Americans from the a cappella branch of the Churches of Christ gradually brought the peripheral, supposedly doctrinal issues that since then have divided the movement in southern Africa.

Unity was the fulcrum of the Stone-Campbell Movement (SCM) from its genesis,1 as Hiram J. Lester notes:

For the several indigenous American reform movements that coalesced into this unique American reformation, especially for Thomas and Alexander Campbell (and Barton W. Stone), Christian union was the ‘polar star’ from the first . . . and TC’s [Thomas Campbell’s] Declaration and Address of the Christian Association of Washington (1809) and Stone’s Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery (1804)—are recognised as seminal documents in American ecumenism; each places heavy emphasis on Christian Unity.2

Unfortunately, the movement started showing seeds of division, which, according to David Edwin Harrell Jr., were realized around 1865 when “two distinct emphases emerged. One group conceived of Christianity in the denominational framework of practical religion, social and political activism, and, often, a nationalistic postmillennialism. A second group emphasized the sectarian tradition of Biblical legalism, a fanatical disposition, and uncompromising separation from the world.”3

This paper argues that, historically, when John Sherriff, who identified with the first group, brought the SCM from New Zealand to the Rhodesias and Nyasaland in 1897, he worked harmoniously with missionaries from the two groups.4 Sherriff’s evangelistic methodology included cooperating physically and spiritually with missionaries from all the branches of the SCM and even other Christian fellowships. He was pragmatic, convinced that the ecclesiastical traditions in the SCM which were gradually elevated to doctrines were an obstruction and not fundamental to the autochthones’ quest for salvation. This was cultural baggage that impeded spiritual growth in indigenous Christians; hence, he worked with Western missionaries from the SCM irrespective of their country of origin or ecclesiastical differences.

The Genesis of Work in Southern Rhodesia

From 1897 to 1935, all churches in Southern Rhodesia that identified with the Stone-Campbell Movement—Church of Christ–Non-Instrumental and Church of Christ–Instrumental (at times called the Christian Church)—originated from Bulawayo, Southern Rhodesia, where John Sherriff, a stonemason-cum-self-trained missionary, had established Forest Vale Mission (FVM) in 1907, which eventually became his base of operation. Sherriff was a native of New Zealand and a member of the Churches of Christ that came to South Africa in 1896 searching for new opportunities. These churches identified themselves as the Associated Churches of Christ of New Zealand (ACCNZ).5 His evangelistic work grew after establishing a night school for the indigenous workers whom he also taught the Bible.

Mission centres were in vogue as a nucleus for Christianity. Simon Gqubule argues, “Education and missionaries have always travelled together.”6 For Sherriff, the establishment of Christian schools was not his major mission to southern Africa, but serendipitously, it became his enduring legacy in the SCM. His life-changing experience came, as he explained it, when he was

strolling one dark night to the native Location where all natives had to live, about a mile out of town. ‘Methinks it was the Holy Spirit that led me to a dim light in a rough boarded school-house. Looking through the openings in the planks I saw a group of some twenty natives standing with slates and books in hand, writing and reading, while another boy stood in the middle holding up a small lantern which was their only light. As I watched them from the outer darkness my soul was stirred within me; I determined right there, that by God’s help and blessing I would try and help those natives. I bought some canvas and closed off a small corner of my Bachelor’s kaya, (room) and started school with one native and a candle, 7:30 P.M., and again my first scholar became my first convert, interpreter, teacher and preacher—now ‘Asleep in Jesus.’7

This was the defining moment in Sherriff’s life. His entire life was given to the fruition of this goal: educating indigenous Africans for the cause of Christ in southern Africa. He argued, modestly, “I am neither a writer nor preacher, but only a converted stone mason with a sincere desire to work at Christianity, that by all means I may bring some a knowledge of the truth, and to the dear Saviour I found.”8 Through educating the indigenous people, Sherriff was the catalytic agent in the SCM in southern Africa.

After analysing the indigene’s insatiable quest for education, Sherriff, who was not a qualified educator, wrote, “On Feb. 2, 1898, [barely six months after his arrival in Southern Rhodesia], I started my native school with one scholar, George McKenna, and on Feb. 9 got another scholar, Agrippa Mzozoiyana.”9

When the SCM started in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Sherriff was concerned with bringing people to Christ without paying close attention to the issues that divided the two groups. Writing to D. C. Jones in 1910, he observed: “Debating and quarrelling about the questionable methods some are using in doing the work, methinks, will not satisfy the Master when he comes and expects to find that work done.”10 This became Sherriff’s guiding principle in executing the SCM mission in southern Africa. He embraced the two groups for the sake of the gospel.

Sherriff’s Work Supported by All Branches of the SCM

When Sherriff settled in Bulawayo, Southern Rhodesia, that city became the de facto “head-office” for the emerging SCM. He received financial support from SCM churches based in the USA, New Zealand, and on a limited scale from Britain and Australia.11 These churches had diverse theologies of mission, but Sherriff was not concerned with polemics and peripheral issues. He believed in accomplishing the Lord’s work; therefore, he accepted anyone who identified with the SCM.

For example, in 1906 he welcomed Francis Leslie Hadfield, the first missionary commissioned to Zimbabwe by the Churches of Christ in New Zealand. Sherriff described Hadfield as a young man who “was born in London [England] and brought up in New Zealand, before giving himself up wholly to the Lord’s work. [He was] a mechanic in the cycle [repairing] business.”12 Hadfield mainly worked with churches and institutions that received financial support from missionary societies, autonomous congregations, and individuals who identified with the ACCNZ.13 W. N. Short and his family were the first missionaries commissioned by the non-instrumental branch of the SCM to Africa—Zambia to be precise. Short’s family was followed by the Dow Merritt family; these were the “dew breakers”14 for the non-instrumental branch, yet they were all acclimatized into the mission field by Sherriff, a man who had roots in the ACCNZ.

Sherriff also worked comfortably with missionaries from other Christian churches that did not share the same theological views with some branches of the SCM, especially the non-instrumental branch, which was known for disparaging, if not demonizing, other Christian fellowships.15 On paper, Sherriff slightly agreed with this practice, but on the ground, he was practically accommodative. Bulawayo, the location of FVM, if not the whole of Matabeleland, receives little rains when compared to other parts of Zimbabwe. Consequently, Sherriff constructed an underground water tank with the assistance of missionaries from the Brethren In Christ Church (BICC). In 1908 they also assisted him in ploughing FVM fields resulting in having an abundant harvest, which Sherriff acknowledged when he wrote Brother Brown: “The good Matopo missionaries (known as ‘Brethren in Christ’) came in thirty miles each way, brought a big plow, and plowed up several acres for me . . . and helped me fix up the guttering and spouting round the house connecting it with the tank. ‘God bless them for the labour of love.’ ”16

Getting assistance from or cooperating with other Christian fellowships is the hallmark of ecumenism that Sherriff exemplified by commending the BICC and asking God’s rich blessings upon their labours. Such statements came from a visionary leader, who, after analyzing his situation, concluded that the SCM could not work on its own without cooperating with other Christian churches. This irenic spirit evidenced in his own life and work was shared with his pioneer students, whom he called “mustard seeds.”17

The Deployment of “Mustard Seeds”

After the establishment of FVM, Sherriff’s indefatigable efforts saw the fellowship spreading into three other southern African countries: Northern Rhodesia (Zambia), Nyasaland (Malawi), and the northern parts of the Union of South Africa, in particular the Roodeport area. Sherriff did plant the seed in southern Africa, but it was his “scholars,” or “boys,” who opened schools and churches. Unfortunately, they did not have financial resources to make those institutions flourish. When Western missionaries arrived on the scene with money, they became the “founders,” yet the indigene had started the work. This argument concurs with Terence Ranger’s point: “From the very beginning, African catechists and teachers bore the main burden of conversion. European missionaries were few. . . . In many places the first news of Christianity was brought by the African catechist; in nearly all places the continuing presence of Christian influence depended upon the resident catechist or teacher.”18 This is true of the SCM work in southern Africa, starting with the Zambian work that was pioneered by Peter Masiya.19

Peter Masiya the Founder of Zambian Work

Masiya, according to Sam Shewmaker, was originally from Mozambique and came to Southern Rhodesia as a cook after the Ndebele and Shona uprising (1896–97). He joined Sherriff and “then went down to Lovedale School in South Africa for three years.”20 Sherriff disclosed that Masiya was the first native missionary from FVM, who in 1913 “opened up a mission with the consent of the native commissioner and the Chief Makuni at Chief Makuni’s Kraal, seven miles out of Livingstone. [By 1913 he had] . . . fourteen converts.”21 Similarly, Sherriff wrote that Makuni was a “very promising mission started some seven miles out of Livingstone. . . . One of my best boys is in charge of it.”22 New Zealand was supporting Masiya with two pounds a month, and in 1916 he had twenty-eight church members.23 Peter Masiya, with the assistance of the local community, built Mujala School and had a good congregation meeting when Sherriff visited him along with a new missionary, W. N. Short, in 1922. Short returned with his family and others in 1923, “building Sinde Mission one mile from Mujala village where Peter was working.”24 Sinde Mission was “built” on Masiya’s influence and nurtured by Sherriff. Masiya was trained and deployed by Sherriff, a missionary from the instrumental branch, receiving financial support from this church, yet he worked harmoniously with Short, who was coming from the non-instrumental. This was the same situation in Malawi.

Elaton Kundago in Malawi

Mission historiography acknowledges that the work in Nyasaland (Malawi) was founded by Elaton Kundago, who was the “first preacher of the Churches of Christ in Malawi . . . [after he] became a Christian in Cape Town in 1906. Kundago returned to preach near Blantyre, Nyasaland.”25 After pointing out this fact, mission historiography pays attention to the Western missionaries’ achievements and not much is mentioned about Kundago. At any rate, Kundago, after working a few months, met Joseph Booth, an Australian pastor who was working with various denominations. Booth wrote on Kundago’s behalf to the British Churches of Christ to send a missionary to support the SCM work.26 George Hills and George Hubert Hollis came to Nyasaland in response to Booth’s letter. The Western missionaries came in to reinforce and build on the foundation that had been erected by the indigenous evangelist.27 Kundago worked with these missionaries and got moral and financial support from the British Churches of Christ.

Kundago, as Sherriff’s student and disciple, demonstrated his teacher’s all-inclusive spirit. Godi Karimanzira, who was baptized on February 8, 1925, at Wuyu Wuyu by Jack Mzirwa, confirmed that the divisions that existed overseas were not recognized in the mission field. He said, “When [John] Sherriff brought the Church of Christ into this country, he preached the gospel and many people were baptised, there were no divisions. . . between Dadaya [Mission] and Nhowe [Mission] we were one.”28 Therefore, according to Karimanzira, Sherriff was concerned with the cardinals of the gospel. Other issues were excess baggage.29

Jack Mzirwa in Mashonaland, Zimbabwe

Our last example is Jack Mzirwa of Macheke, Mashonaland, in Zimbabwe. The work in Mashonaland was championed by Mzirwa who was, just like Masiya and Kundago, a product of FVM, from where he was deployed initially to Northern Rhodesia in 1913. He worked for two years, opening Siyankobe Mission, which eventually closed its doors in 1915 due to inadequate funding. He went back home and started a school at Guyu, Macheke. In 1919, the British colonial government forcefully moved Guyu residents from their land to make way for the white commercial farmers. They were settled in tribal trust lands or reserves, which did not have fertile soils, as confirmed by Michael Bourdillon: “Many tribal areas are situated in rocky and hilly country with shallow sandy soils covering sparsely arable land. In some places, people were originally moved off better land to make way for white farmers and resettled in the less arable country of neighbouring chiefdoms.”30 This is exactly what happened to Mzirwa’s people, the VaNhowe, under Chief Mangwende, who settled in the Masunzwe and Wuyu Wuyu areas.31

Mzirwa opened a school in Wuyu Wuyu in 1919, although officially it was started in 1926 when Sherriff, in the company of Dow Merritt, met with the indigenous leadership and concluded that the patriarch missionary must seek permission from the Native Commissioner to formalize the nascent institution. Merritt had arrived in Bulawayo in 1926 on his way to Northern Rhodesia as a missionary under the non-instrumental branch, following in W. N. Short’s footsteps. Immediately after Merritt’s arrival, Sherriff told him that he wanted to visit Mzirwa, who was “teaching school and preaching in his community, in Mashonaland [Wuyu Wuyu], in a native reservation east of Salisbury, over 400 miles from Bulawayo.”32 On arrival, the spiritual and social ambience overwhelmed the two missionaries. Dow Merritt wrote, “There were about 300 in the congregation. Mr. Sherriff was both surprised and pleased. He reacted by saying, “It is time that we were taking care of these people!” He made up his mind then and there to establish a mission at Wuyu Wuyu.”33 At the missionaries’ arrival the Wuyu Wuyu congregation had constructed a pole and mud church building-cum-classroom.

In 1927, Sherriff moved from FVM to Wuyu Wuyu, erecting durable buildings including a church building that is still standing today. The mission closed its doors when Sherriff was on his deathbed. He wrote:

W. N. Short, who has been in charge of the Huyuyu Mission since I was compelled to leave it on account of my health breaking down, has now informed me that he has the mind of the brethren so far as he was able to get it, and their advice or instructions were to let the mission go and remove what he was able to do. So far as I know, he will now be pulling to pieces the buildings I and my family struggled to erect and over which I ruined my health. What I thought was the crowning and closing work of my life would now appear to be the biggest blunder and mistake I have made during my thirty-seven years’ experience in Rhodesia.34

Wuyu Wuyu Mission closed its doors in 1935 because W. N. Short insisted that students should use cash to pay school fees while parents wanted to use agricultural products. This led to a heated debate leading to the closure of the mission.

Separation Predicated on Different Missiologies

John Sherriff passed on in 1935, robbing the SCM in southern Africa of a forcefully uniting missionary. His death brought gradually the furtive division between the instrumental and non-instrumental branches to the surface. This was compounded by the arrival of young enthusiastic North American missionaries after the Second World War, particularly from the non-instrumental branch in the 1950s. It should be noted that Garfield Todd, the iconic missionary from the New Zealand Churches of Christ, had arrived in Southern Rhodesia in 1934. Throughout his life, Todd worked harmoniously with the two streams as a unifying force compared to his colleagues from North America.35 Gradually, the overt divisions seen overseas in the SCM became a common feature in southern Africa, because missionaries from the USA utilized different missiological strategies from those used by their New Zealand counterparts. The instrumental branch used a loosely hierarchical organizational structure that accepted missionary societies in supervising and funding its work. This branch was open to ecumenism denoting “the Mission of God that transcends denominations and cultures and that urges all the whole People of God to get involved in Mission.”36

Interestingly, as these young missionaries from the non-instrumental branch were zealously fomenting divisions, their theological landscape in North America was going through a metamorphosis. Douglas Foster contends: “Beginning in the late 1950s Carl Ketcherside . . . and Leroy Garret . . . of Churches of Christ called for a rejection of the exclusivism that had come to characterize the more conservative streams of the [Stone-Campbell] Movement. This call included acceptance of believers in all streams of the Movement as well as in other Christian bodies.”37

Although Sherriff and his students worked with other Christians from the denominational world, they openly recognized members of the SCM as their brothers and sisters. For example, Karimanzira said, “One of my sons was educated at Dadaya Mission, in Belingwe; this is one of our missions. We have the same roots and teaching. Of course, we differ on one area, the use of instruments, but otherwise we are one.”38 The indigene acknowledged this thriving fellowship, which was reciprocated by both missionaries and indigenous Christians from the instrumental branch. Although the spirit of inclusiveness was beginning to permeate in the non-instrumental branch in the USA, missionaries from this branch in southern Africa were still sectarian.

The Letter by Missionaries Who Saw Divisive Seeds

A typical example was the case of a controversial preacher from the non-instrumental branch who tried to join the instrumental branch. The board responsible for ministers at Dadaya Mission (instrumental branch) wrote a letter to the minister-in-charge at Nhowe Mission, part of which reads:

We wish to be informed about Mr . . . the man who was once minister in your Church but is now living in Salisbury. The above gentleman has applied for vacancy to minister in our Church. Thus we cannot assess his application fairly without the relevant information on him. We therefore ask you to bring us into light regarding Mr . . .’s qualification as minister; his character; his ability and any other aspect of his life which is relevant to ministering the Gospel.39

Whether Nhowe replied or not, two years after the controversial preacher’s application to join the instrumental branch, in response to a letter from a Church of Christ congregation in the USA where the preacher had gone to raise funds, a group of missionaries wrote: “BROTHER . . . IS NOT SOUND IN THE FAITH. About nine months before brother . . . left for the States, he applied to the Christian Church [instrumental branch] to work ‘as Minister’ for them. He was willing for money to promote false doctrine.”40

This correspondence shows the attitude of non-instrumental branch members concerning the theological views of those in the instrumental branch. Missionaries from the non-instrumental branch viewed those in the Christian Church (instrumental branch) as teaching false doctrine because they believed, among other issues, in having mission work funded and supervised by a missionary society. Ironically, the same North American missionaries (from the non-instrumental branch) who denounced a preacher from their branch who was applying for a job with the instrumental branch had, in 1969, approached Dadaya Mission, which is affiliated with the instrumental branch, for a qualified secondary school headmaster, since there was no qualified candidate in the non-instrumental branch. Graham Whaley was seconded to Nhowe Mission, as the first headmaster for the secondary school, where he groomed Jeremiah Masaraure (1939–2009) who had just graduated from the University College of Rhodesia with a BA in English.41


In conclusion, this paper humbly calls upon all southern African members of the SCM, the Restoration Movement, particularly the indigenous leaders, to reconsider their ahistorical and exclusivist deportment and appropriate “ecumenical” lessons exemplified by their movement’s founders/mustard seeds: John Sherriff, Elaton Kundago, Peter Masiya and Jack Mzirwa. These leaders’ period, 1897–1935, if we can borrow from Mark Husbands’s analysis of the early church, constitutes “an incomparable source for the contemporary renewal”42 of unity in and between the Churches of Christ/Christian Church, Christian Church/Disciples of Christ, and Churches of Christ.43 These men led a movement that acknowledged “doctrinal” and methodological differences while uniting and participating in what God was accomplishing in southern Africa. It was the halcyon era of the SCM in southern Africa that led to the founding of iconic mission centers such as Sinde, Kabanga, Namwianga, Forest Vale Mission, Dadaya, Wuyu Wuyu, and Nhowe.44 This paper suggests that our founders pleaded for unity in the SCM while acknowledging diversity, yet that unity gradually eluded the SCM in southern Africa after the death of Sherriff in 1935. While after the end of World War II, the influx of young zealous North American missionaries sowed seeds of division, my hope is that today’s African church leaders can bear better fruit by choosing to follow an early generation’s lead by planting “mustard seeds” of unity in Christ.

Paul S. Chimhungwe received his PhD in Christian Theology (Church History) from McMaster Divinity College. He teaches at African Christian College in Manzini, Swaziland.

Adapted from a presentation at the Thomas H. Olbricht Christian Scholars’ Conference, Lipscomb University, Nashville, TN, June 7–9, 2017.

1 The Stone-Campbell Movement is made up of four major branches: the Disciples of Christ (the Christian Church), the Churches of Christ, the Churches of Christ/Christian Church—the four Cs—and finally the Boston Movement, now called the International Churches of Christ. Michael W. Casey and Douglas A. Foster argue that the Boston Movement is a “child of the Stone-Campbell tradition.” Michael W. Casey and Douglas A. Foster, “The Renaissance of Stone-Campbell Studies: An Assessment and New Directions,” in The Stone-Campbell Movement: An International Religious Tradition, ed. Michael W. Casey and Douglas A. Foster, 35, (Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press, 2002). On unity see Douglas A. Foster, “Unity, Christian,” in The Encyclopaedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement, ed. Douglas A. Foster et al. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004), 754–58.

2 Hiram J. Lester, “The Form and Function of the Declaration and Address,” in The Quest for Christian Unity, Peace, and Purity in Thomas Campbell’s Declaration and Address: Text and Studies, ed. Thomas H. Olbricht and Hans Rollmann (Lanham: Scarecrow, 2000), 173–92. Along the same lines, Lester argues that “the pervasive concern of the Address [Declaration and Address] is Christian unity, and most of its content is devoted to that goal or, more precisely, to the perniciousness of the sin of sectarian division.”

3 David Edwin Harrell Jr., A Social History of the Disciples of Christ, vol. 1, Quest for a Christian America, 1800–1865 (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2003), 60.

4 Sherriff came from the Associated Churches of Christ in New Zealand, which used instruments in public worship services and supported missionary efforts through missionary societies. These were the major issues that gradually divided the SCM in the USA beginning in 1849. The division was formalised in 1906. In Southern Rhodesia, the SCM was represented initially by the Church of Christ–Non-Instrumental and the Church of Christ–Instrumental, also known as the Christian Church, both of which sent missionaries to that country during the twentieth century. The Disciples were not represented in the Rhodesias or Nyasaland during the period under review.

5 The SCM came to New Zealand from Britain. See Lyndsay Jacobs, “New Zealand,” in The Encyclopaedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement, ed. Douglas A. Foster, et al. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004), 563–66.

6 Simon Gqubule, “Theological Education in the Church of the Province of South Africa (CPSA),” in Archbishop Tutu: Prophetic Witness in South Africa, ed. Leonard Dugmore Hulley and Louise Kretzschmar (Johannesburg: Weaver, 1997), 211–21.

7 George Pepperdine, Information about Missionary Work of the Loyal Churches of Christ in Africa: The Dark Continent (Los Angeles: H. D. Armstrong, n.d.), 12–13.

8 John Sherriff, “Forest Vale Mission: South Africa,” Christian Leader and the Way (9 August 1910): 2–3.

9 Sherriff, “Forest Vale Mission: South Africa,” 2–3.

10 Ibid., 2–3.

11 See his audited financial statements: Sherriff, “Forest Vale Mission: Eighth Annual Report,” Christian Leader (27 February 1917): 6.

12 Sherriff, “Forest Vale Mission: South Africa,” 2–3. Hadfield became a successful businessperson and politician. In 1921 he became a member of the Southern Rhodesian Ruling Council representing the Bulawayo area. See L. H. Gann, A History of Southern Rhodesia: Early Days to 1934 (London: Longmans, 1958), 242, 255.

13 Murray J. Savage, Achievement: Fifty Years of Missionary Witness in Southern Rhodesia (Wellington, NZ: A. H. & A. W. Reed, 1949), 10.

14 This expression refers to pioneer missionaries and was borrowed from Dow Merritt, The Dew Breakers (Nashville, TN: World Vision, 1971).

15 For example, Leroy Brownlow, after quoting Matthew 16:18 where Christ says, “And upon this rock I will build my church,” writes, “It is certain that no church can be the scriptural church unless it was founded by Christ. If a church was founded by Henry VIII, John Calvin, John Wesley, Joseph Smith, Jr., or any other human being, that church is unquestionably human.” Leroy Brownlow, Why I Am a Member of the Church of Christ (Fort Worth: Brownlow, 1973), 7.

16 John Sherriff, “South Africa: Forest Vale Mission, Bulawayo, Rhodesia, April 6, 1908,” Christian Leader and The Way (July 1908): 13.

17 Sam Shewmaker, ed., Great Light Dawning: Profiles of Christian Faith in Africa (Searcy, AR: Drumbeat), 114.

18 Terence O. Ranger, The African Churches of Tanzania, Historical Association of Tanzania Paper No. 5 (Nairobi: East African Publishing House: 1969): 1–29.

19 The SCM work in Zambia was championed by Peter Masiya and Jack Mzirwa from Zimbabwe. Mzirwa gave two years, 1914–15, to mission work before going back to Zimbabwe, where he finally founded Wuyu Wuyu Mission in Mrewa.

20 Shewmaker, Great Light Dawning, 15.

21 Sherriff, “Forest Vale Mission, Bulawayo, Rhodesia/Fifth Annual Report,” Christian Leader and The Way (7 January 1913): 13.

22 Sherriff, “Forest Vale Mission, Bulawayo, Rhodesia, Nov. 29, 1915,” Christian Leader (18 January 1916): 13.

23 Ibid.

24 Shewmaker, Great Light Dawning, 16.

25 Paul A. Williams, Stanley E. Granberg, Paul M. Blowers, and Edgar J. Elliston, “Africa, Missions in,” in The Encyclopaedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement, ed. Douglas A. Foster, et al. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004), 7–9.

26 Ibid.

27 Although Kundago later on left the SCM family, it is interesting to note that he was converted in Cape Town, though John Sherriff gave a different location. Sherriff wrote in 1909 that “Bro. Ellerton Kondago [sic] (who is a Bulawayo convert)” was shouldering the work in Nyasaland. John Sherriff, “South Africa: Forest Vale Mission,” The Christian Leader and Way (27 February 1909): 2.

28 Godi Karimanzira, interview by Paul S. Chimhungwe, 1 October 1991.

29 Nonetheless, Short gradually became divisive after the death of Sherriff. Merritt, who was based in Zambia, worked mainly within the confines of the non-instrumental branch, because the instrumental branch did not plant many churches during this period.

30 Michael F. C. Bourdillon, The Shona Peoples: An Ethnography of the Contemporary Shona, with Special Reference to their Religion (Gweru: Mambo, 1976), 76.

31 This was not unique to Southern Rhodesia; it was occurring in South Africa as well. That is why Nelson Mandela once argued in court that “I am without land because the White minority has taken a lion’s share of my country and forced me to occupy poverty-stricken Reserves, over-populated and over-stocked. We are ravaged by starvation and disease.” Nelson Mandela, No Easy Walk to Freedom (Oxford: Heinemann Educational, 1973), 174.

32 Merritt, 15.

33 Ibid., 17.

34 John Sherriff, “A Foreign Mission Closed,” Gospel Advocate (6 December 1934): 117.

35 See Murray, Achievement.

36 Solomon Andriatsimialomanarivo, “The Missiological Dimensions of African Ecclesiology” (ThD diss., University of South Africa, 2001), 25.

37 Dougals A. Foster, “Unity, Christian,” in The Encyclopaedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement, ed. Douglas A. Foster et al. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004), 756.

38 Karimanzira, 1 October 1991.This was also confirmed by Samson Mhlanga, who was baptised on 27 March 1932 by Jack Mzirwa. Mhlanga, interview by Paul S. Chimhungwe, 1 October 1991. All interviews for this paper can be found at African Christian College Library, Manzini, Swaziland.

39 Rugara et al., to the Minister in Charge, Nhowe Mission, 16 May 1974. Out of respect, the name of the individual who was applying for the minister’s position has been left out. This letter is in the researcher’s possession.

40 Judd et al., to the Elders, Church of Christ, Irving. The minister’s name and dates have been left out, out of respect for this man and his family.

41 Nesta Molly Masaraure, wife of Jeremiah Masaraure, interview by Paul S. Chimhungwe, 15 October 2011.

42 Mark Husbands, “Introduction,” in Ancient Faith for the Church’s Future, ed. Mark Husbands and Jeffrey P. Greenman (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2008), 11.

43 We should not forget the International Churches of Christ (formerly Boston Movement); it is part of the SCM.

44 The first three mission centres are in Zambia, while the rest are in Zimbabwe.