Changing Paradigms, Missio Dei and the Seven Streams of Participation

Based on a presentation given by

Kirk Franklin, Executive Director Wycliffe Global Alliance

Manado, Indonesia February 2013

Summarized by Dawn Kruger

No one to­day would ques­tion the state­ment that rapid glob­al­iza­tion over the past decade or two has changed life on every con­ti­nent in nearly every way. Changes in busi­ness, pol­i­tics, eco­nom­ics, health and so­cial in­ter­ac­tions have launched hu­man­ity into a new re­al­ity in the 21st cen­tury.

Con­tin­u­ous change is that which hap­pens in a pre­dictable man­ner through ex­pected path­ways. For ex­am­ple, the tele­graph mor­ph­ing into tele­phones, which then be­come wire­less and even­tu­ally pocket-sized cell va­ri­eties, could be con­sid­ered con­tin­u­ous de­vel­op­ment – tak­ing what is and mak­ing it better.

Dis­con­tin­u­ous change, how­ever, is a dis­rup­tive phe­nom­e­non that col­lides with the pre­dictable, re­sult­ing in a change of course to­ward a new and un­fa­mil­iar path. The in­ter­net and so­cial me­dia are good ex­am­ples of dis­rup­tive change. While the cell phone it­self may have been a log­i­cal next in­ven­tion, adding in­ter­net ca­pa­bil­i­ties with im­me­di­ate and global so­cial ca­pac­ity re­de­fines users’ re­la­tion­ships to knowl­edge, in­for­ma­tion and peo­ple. Rox­burgh & Re­manuk, in their book The Mis­sional Leader, claim that dis­con­tin­u­ous change “cre­ates sit­u­a­tions that chal­lenge our as­sump­tions…and trans­form the cul­ture for­ever, tip­ping it into some­thing new” (Rox­urgh & Ro­manuk 2006.7).

This phe­nom­e­non of glob­al­iza­tion cou­pled with dis­con­tin­u­ous change calls for a par­a­digm shift in lead­er­ship – a new kind of mind­set that not only ad­justs, but proac­tively gives new lead­er­ship in light of the unan­tic­i­pated re­al­ity. In other words, the way we’ve done things no longer works, and those who can change the quick­est will be the most suc­cess­ful in the new world. It’s not sim­ply a mat­ter of tweak­ing what we do or “learn­ing new in­sights and skills but…un­learn­ing what [is con­sid­ered to be] tried and true” (Lead­er­ship­Next, Gibbs 2005:25. Ital­ics added).

“Mis­sion is not the sole re­spon­si­bil­ity of West­ern Chris­t­ian na­tions as some once as­sumed. To­day the Global Church has emerged as a dy­namic par­tic­i­pant in God’s mission….”

This is the chal­lenge we face in the Bible trans­la­tion move­ment to­day, re­quir­ing a par­a­digm shift on many levels.

Not only has the dis­con­tin­u­ous im­pact of glob­al­iza­tion im­pacted pol­i­tics, economies and so­ci­eties, it has also im­pacted the Church. Rec­og­niz­ing that the cen­ter of grav­ity in the global Church has shifted, it is im­per­a­tive that we ex­am­ine the ef­fects of that shift on the poli­cies and prac­tices of global mis­sion move­ments. Mis­sion is not the sole re­spon­si­bil­ity of West­ern Chris­t­ian na­tions as some once as­sumed. To­day the Global Church has emerged as a dy­namic par­tic­i­pant in God’s mis­sion, and we in Wycliffe need to ad­just our mind­set to this new re­al­ity; we need to find a new way to think and to act as one seam­lessly united Church of the West, the South and the East. This re­quires a par­a­digm shift in how we view our­selves and our work.

Dis­con­tin­u­ous change is not new. God him­self has used it to redi­rect His peo­ple through­out his­tory. A good ex­am­ple of God-im­posed dis­con­tin­u­ous change is Pen­te­cost. Prior to that event­ful day, the dis­ci­ples did noth­ing to pre­pare for it (no prac­ticed ser­mons, no Pow­er­Points, no out­lines). In­deed they couldn’t pre­pare; they didn’t see it com­ing. They sim­ply waited as they were in­structed to do. Sud­denly the Holy Spirit came upon them with power, and they spoke what was on their hearts—the won­ders of God in the lan­guages of the people.

Through this su­per­nat­ural event, God in­tro­duced a new way of com­mu­ni­cat­ing His mes­sage. Prior to Pen­te­cost, peo­ple had God’s Word (the Old Tes­ta­ment) in He­brew and in Greek, and com­mu­nity with God was found within the con­text of the He­brew cul­ture. But with the un­ex­pected com­ing of the Holy Spirit, God val­i­dated every lan­guage and cul­ture, in­tro­duc­ing in­fi­nite trans­lata­bil­ity to the gospel. Whereas Ba­bel was a dis­con­tin­u­ous change that sym­bol­ized God’s judg­ment on a global re­bel­lion against him, Pen­te­cost was a dis­con­tin­u­ous change that sym­bol­ized God’s af­fir­ma­tion of cul­tures and peo­ple and lan­guage, as He per­son­ally in­vited them to be rec­on­ciled back into fel­low­ship with him through the preach­ing of His Word in their mother tongue. From that event churches were planted through­out the then-known world, pre­sum­ably in the lo­cal languages.

It’s im­por­tant to note the role the Holy Spirit played on the day of Pen­te­cost and fol­low­ing. God’s mis­sion is de­pen­dent upon the Holy Spirit re­gard­less of any cul­tural, so­cial, eco­nomic, po­lit­i­cal and lin­guis­tic bar­ri­ers that ex­ist. This ac­tion of God send­ing the Spirit is not pas­sive. Rather it demon­strates how the Spirit em­pow­ers the peo­ple of God to par­tic­i­pate with him in an out­ward move­ment to the na­tions, plant­ing churches wher­ever He goes. It’s God’s mis­sion which will be ac­com­plished by God’s Spirit through God’s peo­ple. We don’t take the ini­tia­tive; we sim­ply re­spond to God.

Jesus makes this very clear in John 20:21-24.  In this pas­sage He speaks to a group of fright­ened dis­ci­ples. He shows them His hands and feet as proof of His res­ur­rec­tion, and then says to them, “As the Fa­ther has sent me, I am send­ing you” and He breathes the Holy Spirit onto them. God the Fa­ther is at the cen­tre of the mis­sio Dei. He sent the Son to re­deem the world. Then the risen Son sent the Spirit to com­plete God’s mis­sion, us­ing peo­ple to carry out that mis­sion.  The mis­sion is God’s. God calls His Church to par­tic­i­pate with him in it as a sign and sym­bol of the reign of God. The Church re­sponds to this in­vi­ta­tion in love and service.

Through­out his­tory, many Chris­tians have set them­selves apart as the ones who will com­plete the mis­sion man­date as ex­pressed in Matthew 28:18-20.  They view the “Great Com­mis­sion” as a chal­lenge to rise up, own the call for ac­tion, and com­plete the work for God. Bishop Zac Niringiye of Uganda calls these peo­ple “go-and-fix-it” Chris­tians. When un­der­stood in that way the pas­sage “sim­ply re­in­forces the il­lu­sion that it’s about us” (Chris­tian­ity To­day, Crouch 2006: n.p.). It’s very im­por­tant to un­der­stand that the mis­sion is God’s mis­sion, God’s ini­tia­tive. We need to pull our­selves out of the cen­ter of the story and rec­og­nize that it is God who is cen­tral. He will ac­com­plish His mis­sion. We the global Church are in­vited to be part of His vic­to­ri­ous mission.

So if God’s Spirit is mov­ing to ac­com­plish God’s mis­sion and invit­ing the global Church to par­tic­i­pate with him in the work, we need to re-eval­u­ate our strate­gies and ob­jec­tives, es­pe­cially in light of the growth of the Church in the South and East. Most mis­sion strat­egy and method­ol­ogy are still in the hands of the West. Most mis­sion en­deav­ors are still re­sourced from the West. Foun­da­tional to this par­a­digm is the as­sump­tion that the “task”, then, is also the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the West. But this can­not con­tinue. West­ern­ers can­not ig­nore, work around or sim­ply en­dure the global Church as they seek to com­plete their self-as­sumed re­spon­si­bil­ity from God. There needs to be a par­a­digm shift from West­ern own­er­ship to poly­cen­tric cooperation.

In light of that, we in Wycliffe need to reeval­u­ate our place in the global con­text. We need a par­a­digm shift our­selves from func­tion­ing as an in­ter­na­tional mis­sion cen­tered in the West to a global col­lec­tion of or­ga­ni­za­tions work­ing to­gether in har­mony for God’s King­dom. Our new name, Wycliffe Global Al­liance, sig­ni­fies our de­sire to bring var­i­ous and mul­ti­ple part­ners to­gether for cre­ative, col­lab­o­ra­tive think­ing, work­ing and prob­lem solv­ing. It is not our de­sire to pre­scribe is­sues and strate­gies for oth­ers, nor are we a pri­mar­ily West­ern or­ga­ni­za­tion seek­ing to ex­pand its ter­ri­tory world­wide. On the con­trary, we are an al­liance of like-minded yet ex­tremely di­verse or­ga­ni­za­tions and move­ments around the world, at­tempt­ing to think and work un­der God’s di­rec­tion. To that end we are seek­ing to build poly­cen­tric lead­er­ship in the Al­liance, so voices from all par­tic­i­pat­ing na­tions are rep­re­sented in the vi­sion and the work.

“An­other shift in our or­ga­ni­za­tional think­ing ad­dresses how we de­fine and eval­u­ate suc­cess. We seek to mea­sure our­selves by re­la­tion­ships rather than statistics.”

Of course this new arrange­ment as an Al­liance im­pacts our pur­pose for ex­is­tence, re­quir­ing a par­a­digm shift in or­ga­ni­za­tional think­ing. Orig­i­nally Wycliffe Bible Trans­la­tors ex­isted for one pur­pose—to re­source SIL In­ter­na­tional (and a hand­ful of na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions that were do­ing Bible trans­la­tion and lit­er­acy in their own coun­tries with ex­ten­sive help from SIL). We are con­scious of the in­flu­ence global trends have on us. While it is still our aim to see a Bible trans­lated for each lan­guage group that needs one, we re­al­ize that we do not op­er­ate in a vac­uum. It is God who in­vites us to par­tic­i­pate with him in achiev­ing this vi­sion, but He wills that the par­tic­i­pants come from His global Church. To­day the Al­liance and its Par­tic­i­pat­ing Or­ga­ni­za­tions are pro­vid­ing mean­ing­ful lead­er­ship in the Bible trans­la­tion move­ment world­wide. Whereas pre­vi­ously WBTI’s 45 mem­ber or­ga­ni­za­tions were pri­mar­ily from the West, to­day, of the 120 or­ga­ni­za­tions par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Al­liance, 70 per­cent are from the global South and East, and 30 per­cent are re­spon­si­ble for lead­er­ship in Bible trans­la­tion pro­grams in their own coun­tries and else­where. SIL is one of our strate­gic partners.

An­other shift in our or­ga­ni­za­tional think­ing ad­dresses how we de­fine and eval­u­ate suc­cess. We seek to mea­sure our­selves by re­la­tion­ships rather than sta­tis­tics. Vi­sion 2025 was adopted at a time when West­ern in­flu­ence in mis­sion lead­er­ship and strat­egy were at their peak. While we are en­cour­aged by the num­ber of peo­ple gain­ing un­der­stand­ing of God through ac­cess to His Word in their lan­guage, our or­ga­ni­za­tional mea­sure of suc­cess will be re­al­ized in the col­lab­o­ra­tion of churches and mis­sion agen­cies that are work­ing in har­mony, serv­ing com­mu­ni­ties with­out ac­cess to the Bible.

All of this pro­vides a the­o­log­i­cal, mis­si­o­log­i­cal and prac­ti­cal foun­da­tion for the Al­liance struc­ture, and it of­fers a frame­work for why we have iden­ti­fied the Par­tic­i­pa­tion Streams: Church En­gage­ment, Prayer, Fundrais­ing, Re­cruit­ing and Send­ing Peo­ple, Spe­cialty Ser­vices, Tech­ni­cal Train­ing and Lan­guage Programs. These seven streams help us iden­tify ways God is call­ing our or­ga­ni­za­tions to par­tic­i­pate to­gether in His mis­sion. They help us think and act re­spon­si­bly in a new paradigm.

Kirk Franklin serves as the Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor of the Wycliffe Global Al­liance. Dawn Kruger is the Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Co­or­di­na­tor for the Al­liance's Asia-Pa­cific Area.

03/2024 Pacific: Papua New Guinea

Informing, teaching, inspiring: PNG workshop teaches video storytelling for language communities

PNG workshop teaches video storytelling for language communities

Read more

02/2024 Global

Looking ahead at 2024

As the year unfolds, we marvel at the work of God in our rapidly changing world. And, we look forward to a number of gatherings and conversations intended to draw us together.

Read more

01/2024 Americas

Telling the Bible's Story

It may come as a surprise that a museum is among the Wycliffe Global Alliance organisations.

Read more