Conclusions and Recommendations
The changing context of the Church around the world, especially in the global South and East, influences the Wycliffe Global Alliance and its leadership to keep in step with those changes, while being both informed and shaped by its understanding of the missio Dei. Additionally, how the Church understands the missio Dei affects its involvement with Wycliffe and the Bible translation movement.
The 110 organizations within the Wycliffe Global Alliance who share the vision of Bible translation extend beyond any previously existing organizational boundary. Organizations from the global South and East make up 78% of the Alliance, reflecting a new centre of gravity of the Church that is directly involved in the Bible translation movement. Mission agencies such as the Wycliffe Global Alliance are still catching up with the implications of this fact.
Through Bible translation the Church is established and strengthened, which in turn provides a critical theological imperative for the Wycliffe Global Alliance to continue its commitment to Bible translation. This dynamic needs to be made more widely known within the Church to ensure its fullest participation.
In order to stay relevant to the missio Dei, models need to be developed that strengthen leadership from the global South and East, resulting in a balancing influence on mission strategy for organizations like the Wycliffe Global Alliance. While the Alliance has made some progress in this area, it is only in the early stages of understanding the potential of seeing the global Church fully engaged.
The past eight decades of change within Wycliffe provide a learning environment for any international mission agency seeking to adapt to emerging global challenges and opportunities. The research from these articles provides valuable historical, theological, missiological and leadership foundations that can inform the Alliance and others about more effectively participating in the missio Dei.
Full Article: Article 17 – Conclusions and Recommendations
The goals of my research rephrased here from Article 1 were to: 1) create a broad understanding of the changing context of the Church around the world, especially in the global South and East; 2) offer an analysis of how this influences the Wycliffe Global Alliance; and as a result, 3) provide recommendations to Alliance leadership on: a) how to respond to its vision; b) how to implement its strategy and structure to achieve that vision; and c) how to keep in step with the changing global context while being informed and formed by its understanding of the missio Dei.
This research was immensely rewarding for me and, in due course, I believe it will be invaluable for the Alliance. It has broadened my understanding and perspective, allowing and challenging me to explore the intertwining history of Bible translation, the missio Dei and Wycliffe Global Alliance. I have seen how the shifting missiological and geographical contexts of the Church are influencing and will continue to influence how the Bible is made available and used in the global South and East.
Concluding Implications and Recommendations
Mission history assists in interpreting the future
An important premise of this research has been to explore the intertwining history of Bible translation and Wycliffe in the context of the missiological and geographical shifts of the Church. An historical approach to my research is critical because it explores the past in conjunction with that which is in front of the Alliance. As Andrew Walls states (Article 1), “we can see that stretched out before us, the most recent plainly, the more distant shading away to the horizon” (2002:1).
A historical approach to my research is critical because it explores the past in conjunction with that which is in front of the Alliance.
I have sought to consider how the Church understands the missio Dei and how this in turn affects its involvement with Wycliffe and the Bible translation movement. I have sought to follow Walls’ advice and survey Wycliffe’s past to “see what it suggests of the way that we have come and perhaps read in outline… the place to which we have been brought now” (2002:1). This exploration has proved to be very valuable in interpreting not only Wycliffe’s history, but also that of Bible translation in general, including its presence and function in the areas of the world where the Church is currently growing.
In Articles 2, 3 and 4, I outlined the strategic and structural shifts that Wycliffe has encountered since its inception as Wycliffe Bible Translators (U.S.) in 1942 to Wycliffe Bible Translators International in 1980, followed by a significant restructuring in 1990-91, to a completely distinct and independent organization from SIL International in 2008, resulting in the Wycliffe Global Alliance in 2011. I also noted various missiological implications that created these shifts or how these shifts have new missiological implications for the Alliance.
I conclude that the past eight decades of change within Wycliffe provide a learning environment for any international mission agency regarding how it can adapt to new and global challenges and opportunities as they emerge.
The ownership of the ministry extends beyond any organizational boundary that existed in the past.
In the context of Wycliffe Global Alliance, these changes have created a move away from the perspective that Wycliffe’s only role was to raise resources for SIL International to do its fieldwork. I conclude that now a threshold has definitely been crossed in the relationship between SIL and Wycliffe. This is apparent because of the 110 organizations within the Alliance who share the vision of Bible translation such that the ownership of the ministry extends beyond any organizational boundary that existed in the past. Furthermore 78% of these organizations are from the global South and East indicating that the new centre of gravity of the Church is directly involved in the Bible translation movement.
Shifting from international to global
Samuel Escobar (Article 1) said, “in the twenty-first century, Christian mission has become truly international” (2003:19). I rephrase this by stating that only a decade after he wrote this, Christian mission had in fact become ‘global’.
I conclude that in relation to mission agencies and their ministry performance, the distinction between ‘international’ and ‘global’ is more important than it may seem. This is because my understanding of the term ‘international’ is semantically tied to a Western concept of territorial expansion. Mission agencies use the word ‘international’ in their name, but the location of their headquarters and the nationalities of their leadership teams indicates that ‘international’ still reflects that the agency is Western based (usually in the U.S. or U.K.), although it may have affiliate offices in other countries (see the chart below). In very few cases are the agencies truly international in geographical scope in terms of the origin of their resources, and even in such instances the countries are primarily Western (Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand), along with South Korea, Singapore and Brazil.
Major international mission agencies (data current as of 2012):
I conclude that defining the term ‘international’ is difficult missiologically because it often means the mission agency is not actually global at all. It is still controlled and resourced (at least in governance, executive level leadership and financially) by the West, mainly from North America.
Defining the term ‘international’ is difficult missiologically because it often means the mission agency is not actually global at all.
I also conclude that ‘global’ is the preferred term to ‘international’ and that this is the direction mission agencies need to take as they study the changing dynamics of the Church. The 21st century Church, while having its Western roots, has definitely gone global. Mission agencies such as Wycliffe Global Alliance are still catching up with the implications of this fact.
Escobar also states (Article 1) that in order for this “phenomenon” of the growth of the Church to be truly global, “we need a paradigm change in our way of studying it that corresponds to the change in the way mission is now taking place” (2003:19).
I suggest that those who are serious about studying where the Church is growing should be mindful that those who have held power and influence in international mission agencies today may feel threatened by the growing influence of the Church of the South and East. This segment of the Church may have different priorities concerning Bible translation than its Western counterparts. For example, it may see Bible translation as integral to the transformation of communities. I believe this is an important paradigm shift that is actually long overdue and that the Alliance needs to stay abreast of this move and keep its Western organizations appraised of current conditions and changes.
Until funding for mission is a global reality, mission agencies may not function globally in their leadership and operations.
At the same time I am aware that it is difficult to envision an integrated world where leaders in mission from the global South and East contribute as equal partners in a meaningful way if the majority of financial resources needed to implement changes come from the West. Until funding for mission is a global reality, mission agencies may not function globally in their leadership and operations. This, too, is a missiological concern because it implies that mission is not in fact global at all. Many parts of the world where the Church is growing do not appear to be committed to funding mission in their contexts or beyond their borders. It is time to discover where God is inspiring the Church with creative local funding initiatives that reach beyond their borders and ensure those ideas are being shared widely about how God is funding his mission.
My conclusion is that more research is needed to create a missiological foundation for funding of mission that is truly global in perspective. The goal should be for all geographical regions of the Church to provide financial (and other resources) for mission, not just for their locality but beyond. This should be motivated by their new understanding of how their involvement is needed and how this should be viewed as integral to the missio Dei.
Wycliffe Global Alliance develops a missiological understanding of itself
As a result of the review of Wycliffe’s history (Articles 2, 3 and 4) I conclude that the greatest influencing factor in how Wycliffe Global Alliance understands itself since 2006 has been a growing missiological awareness by its leaders of the paradigm shift to the global Church. While this awareness is gradually developing in the higher levels of leadership, it must permeate to all levels and to all of the organizations in the Alliance. They must become missiologically informed so they might adequately respond to global issues. Furthermore, such a missiological foundation provides a better position to understand Wycliffe’s Vision 2025 (Article 13). The assumption is that Vision 2025 must include a greater missiological and theological perspective now than when it was first adopted in 1999.
Vision 2025 must include a greater missiological and theological perspective now than when it was first adopted in 1999.
Vision 2025 was adopted in a time when Western influence in mission leadership and strategy were at their peak. But today the Vision takes place in contexts where “the predominance of one culture over others is no longer accepted, and where cultural polycentrism is a fact of our time” (Balia & Kim 2010: 255). Despite this shift, I conclude that implications of global ownership and leadership of Vision 2025 have not been adequately developed or understood in the Alliance.
In Article 8, I noted that the greatest theological influence upon Wycliffe has been its roots in the U.S. evangelical soil, including its interpretation of the Great Commission, and how this affected its understanding of the missio Dei. Historically, the focus was on the task itself, rather than on being “about God and His redemptive initiative” (Tennent 2010: 54).
It is natural that Western influence in mission has given solid focus to the involvement of people in planning and action. However, I conclude this is often done in ignorance of the missio Dei being about God and his initiative and activity. As Chris Wright helpfully explains: “mission is God’s… the marvel is that [he] invites us to join in” (2006:67).
As Chris Wright helpfully explains: “mission is God’s… the marvel is that [he] invites us to join in”.
The pragmatic nature of Western mission requires a word of caution in light of this research. The sense of urgency in Vision 2025, with its specific reference to the year 2025, has a hint of Mark 16:15 and thus for some it is interpreted with an eschatological reference point to Jesus’ second coming. Those viewing it in this way somehow assume the success of the Vision will enable Christ to return sooner. However, if the Vision is somehow related to expediting Christ’s return, then it is misplaced and a serious misreading of the Great Commission texts as well as a trivialization of the complexity of Bible translation. I believe we should reject this conclusion and not associate it with Vision 2025.
Based on what organizations in the Alliance have found over the past 13 years, there have been many Christians and churches in the West, and especially the global South and East, who when made aware of Vision 2025, became challenged by it. If this has created an understanding of the urgent nature of the kingdom of God arriving and transforming people and communities through greater emphasis on addressing the Bible translation needs in the world, then it is well placed.
As the Church worldwide increases its understanding of the missio Dei it should impact how Wycliffe interprets the accomplishment of Vision 2025. It should not be assumed that human endeavour is the primary factor, but rather it should be based on the conviction that it is the Triune God, through his dynamic of the missio Dei, who will achieve the vision.
Theological influences have global-local impact
In Article 9, I explored how the Christian faith is unique among all religions and the most “culturally translatable,” enabling it to comfortably reside in every culture (Bediako 2004:32). Through Bible translation, the Church is established and strengthened. These concepts provide a critical theological imperative for the Wycliffe Global Alliance to continue its commitment to Bible translation in the missio Dei. Bible translation in the missio Dei needs to be made more widely known within the Church to ensure the Church’s fullest participation and to educate it on the theological imperative of providing the Bible in the languages of the world.
It follows that theological issues in contextualization will continue to affect the Bible translation movement in general, including the specific involvement of the Alliance. This is because contextualization raises complex issues regarding the transmission of the message of the Bible into a language and culture.
Contextualization raises complex issues regarding the transmission of the message of the Bible into a language and culture.
In Article 5, I reviewed Stephen Bevan’s six models of theological contextualization. All are valid and each has its strength and its weakness. I believe that it will be increasingly necessary to ensure that the voices of the global Church are involved in determining how these models are used in a given situation. Also in Article 5, I suggested that the ‘transcendental model’ could be the most relevant for organizations associated with the Wycliffe Global Alliance. I also proposed that a modification of the model should emphasize its holistic nature. This would be more appropriate because it offers a balance between the sacred text and culture and gives faithfulness to both text and context. Christ is understood as the one who transforms cultures and communities.
This view is important to many parts of the Church of the global South and East because of the rising concern about the transformation of people and their communities. Sung-wook Hong states that the goal of a holistic model “is to achieve a transformation through the encounter of the gospel with contexts within the power of the Holy Spirit” (2008:33). The goal of the model is seeing the Kingdom of God transform “the socio-economic and political aspects at the same time” (Hong 2008:36). It complements the Alliance’s contribution to holistic transformation of people groups.
My study also shows that further exploration is needed if the ‘transcendental’ and/or ‘holistic model’ is deemed useful in Wycliffe (and the Bible translation movement). Additional work from within the theological community of the global South and East is needed in dialogue with the Western Church. For example, how much influence should the Western Church expect on contextualization issues that affect the global South and East if it is far removed from the actual context? This seems like an important topic to consider since the West has not been given any divine right to be the custodian of theology for the global South and East.
The West has not been given any divine right to be the custodian of theology for the global South and East.
It appears obvious that the Church of the global South and East will have different priorities and expectations concerning Bible translation than its Western counterparts. For example, Bible translation may be viewed as an integral part of transformation of communities. But how will Western partners accept the messiness and complexity of holistic ministry, multiple partners and goals? This needs further investigation to provide helpful recommendations to the global Church and to agencies like the Alliance who are involved in the Bible translation movement.
Understanding the missio Dei in light of contemporary mission
Due to the growth of the Church worldwide over the past 200 years, mission researchers believe that the Church of the global South and East will initiate and give greater leadership to new global plans for integral mission (the proclamation and demonstration of the gospel). I conclude that this will be a challenge because the Western Church still has difficulty listening well to the rest of the world, believing that it is still the centre of scholarship and theological reflection. Furthermore Western missions are too closely tied to their culture. They are noted for their political and economic pragmatism while at the same time experiencing a sense of loss of their theological roots of mission.
The Western Church still has difficulty listening well to the rest of the world, believing that it is still the centre of scholarship and theological reflection.
When considering Wycliffe’s aim to see a Bible translated for each language group in the world that needs one, it is noteworthy that most of the people who speak such languages are by definition marginalized because their languages are usually a minority within a majority context. The issue of marginalization of people groups has received recognition from the ecumenical movement who has spoken to this issue. For example, as stated in Article 12, the World Council of Church’s (WCC) ‘Affirmation of Mission and Evangelism’ sees mission from the margins as “a countercultural missional movement against missionary approaches and activities which contribute to the oppression, marginalization and the denial of dignity of those on the margins” (CWME 2012:11).
This focus is integral to a contemporary understanding of the missio Dei as it applies to a broader spectrum of the Church. This perspective affirms that God’s purpose through Christ is to renew the whole of creation. Therefore, God’s mission flows from his love through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. He calls his Church to participate in his mission as a sign and symbol of the reign of God and the Church responds to this invitation in love and service.
Various statements have been made by these spectrums of the Church and they contain many similarities. Each has done its own theological work. Therefore a collaborative effort is needed that results in a succinct articulation of the similarities and differences in interpretation of the missio Dei that is particularly suited for busy mission agency executives. Otherwise I fear the nuances and importance of such theological reflection will not directly impact mission praxis in the foreseeable future.
Developing a new paradigm of leadership for global mission
As noted in Article 11, Christianity has become a global faith. This creates a missiological paradigm that will influence the directions of global mission agencies such as the Alliance. I conclude this will not happen unless there are wider pools of missiologically informed leaders who understand how to lead in the missio Dei in a global context.
The focus of Article 14 was the changing nature of leadership. My lengthy overview of principles and traits indicated the complexity of this topic and how difficult it is to succinctly create a formula for successful mission leadership. In fact, my conclusion is that this is neither possible, nor wise, to do.
Also, in Article 15, I note that most leadership theories have a Western orientation, with the majority of researchers still located the West, safely in the haven where they have constructed their leadership and management theories for decades. I believe this is a serious concern for the Alliance. It follows that those current leadership theories and practices may not work well for Wycliffe because of the multi-cultural, inter-cultural, and global-local contexts in which it operates.
Mission leaders must place greater priority on creating a ‘community of trust’….
I also conclude that today’s contexts require leaders who are equipped and can respond to greater cultural diversity, while still leading change and learning in the process. In the situation of leading change, I also conclude that mission leaders in today’s context primarily lead in a discontinuous situation rather than a continuous one. Furthermore, the global context represents ‘high-context’ and ‘low-context’ cultures with less demarcation between the two. This requires cultural intelligence to navigate between them. In addition, mission leaders must place greater priority on creating a ‘community of trust’ that will empower people from different cultures to serve together in God’s mission.
In Article 14, I note the distinction between the role of leadership and that of management. Management brings order to complexity whereas leadership casts vision and enables participants to move towards the vision. In my investigation of Wycliffe’s history, it is apparent it has benefited from its visionary leaders (Articles 2 and 4). Nevertheless, I conclude that if Wycliffe is not careful, it may become more efficiently managed but less effectively led. This is due to the perceived organizational complexities of its ministry as it has become an alliance with so many like-minded but structurally different organizations.
Globalization is placing greater pressure on mission agencies like Wycliffe Global Alliance in their use of human resources, including using management techniques that involve flatter organization structures. Such practices have led to the “inherent dilemma of trying to provide strong leadership for workers who are being encouraged and allowed to become increasingly self-managed” (Vecchio 1997:412).
The Alliance must place greater effort on developing leaders who are reflective practitioners.
The Alliance must place greater effort on developing leaders who are reflective practitioners (Article 15). Such leaders must develop their skills in conjunction with their leadership teams and as they mentor the next generation of leaders. This is critical to the global context of Wycliffe because such leaders will understand and operate with a balance between action and study. Their perspective will be founded upon the Bible and the Church, their perspective will be global while at the same time being faithful citizens in their local context, and they will be obedient in their submission to the missio Dei.
I conclude that in order for the Alliance to stay relevant to the missio Dei, it must place more effort in defining a transformational leadership model. This model should incorporate these attributes: 1) leaders who know how to contextualize Jesus’ example of evading simple solutions in order to solve problems in ways that have a beneficial and long term impact; 2) leaders who are prepared to take a longer path and avoid short-term ‘quick fixes’; 3) leaders who motivate, broaden and elevate the interests of their followers so that they look beyond their own needs and self-interests; 4) leaders who continuously reinterpret servant-shepherd-missional leadership concepts into global-local contexts where discontinuous change is the norm; and 5) leaders who encourage their followers to raise questions about the past and to think creatively and interdependently.
Further work is needed to identify if there are essential traits, qualities, and/or characteristics that are needed for leaders in global mission.
I also conclude that further work is needed to identify if there are essential traits, qualities, and/or characteristics that are needed for leaders in global mission. Research is needed to determine if these can be passed on through mentoring or coaching, or may be learned in formal or informal settings.
Some implications of how Wycliffe’s structure needs to continue to evolve to truly be a global alliance of organizations rather than a singular and Western international body now follow: 1) it must consistently demonstrate transformational leadership through positive role models (especially in situations that have been conditioned by hierarchical leadership models); 2) it must appreciate and support courageous leadership that leads change and builds consensus in complex cross-cultural, multi-cultural and inter-cultural paradigms; 3) it must place greater priority and more resources in developing younger and new leaders across the globe; and 4) it must provide a growing understanding of spiritual, biblical and missiological fundamentals that will positively impact the leaders and their followers.
An area requiring further work … is the development of appropriate organizational structures for mission.
An area requiring further work, based on globalization issues, is the development of appropriate organizational structures for mission. Models need to be developed that enable leadership from the global South and East to give a balancing influence on mission strategy for organizations like Wycliffe Global Alliance. While the Alliance has made some progress in this area, it is only in the early stages of understanding the implications of the global Church.
In closing, my overall conclusion is that the results of this research can inform and guide Wycliffe into the next decade of its ministry. Furthermore it can provide valuable historical, theological, missiological and leadership foundations that can inform the Alliance about how to more effectively participate in the missio Dei. In particular it can enable the organization’s leadership to have a theologically informed basis for how it participates in Vision 2025 in the realities of the global Church.
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