While studying for an exam this afternoon I came across this quote from the late Professor Kwame Bediako, founder of the Akrofi-Christaller Institute of Theology, Mission and Culture (where I am currently studying). It stirred something in me, so I decided to take a quick break and share it. I hope it stirs you as well.
‘The great commission is not about numbers, nor statistics, the percentages of national populations that have been ‘reached’ or remain ‘unreached’ with the Gospel, important as these considerations are. Our Lord did not say, ‘Go and make disciples of some people’ or even ‘of a large percentage of the nations’. What he commanded was: ‘Go make the nations my disciples’.The great commission is about the discipling of the nations, the conversion of the things that make people into nations — the shared processes of thinking, the common attitudes, world views, languages, cultural, social and economic habits of thought and behaviour and practice — all those things and the lives of the people in whom those things find expression — is meant to be within the call of discipleship, including nationality itself.’
The transformation of the cultural elements Bediako mentions above has always happened in mission history through the committed discipleship of leaders — like Patrick of Ireland for instance, or Jonah of Saboba. Patrick did not attempt to make the ‘pagan’ Irish into Roman Christians like him, he rather entered their Celtic world and introduced the person of Jesus as the fulfilment of what it meant to be Celtic. The Irish were not proselytised, and they were not just evangelised. They were discipled; the result of which was a new way of following Jesus unlike any the Roman world had ever seen or imagined: Celtic Christianity.
Without Patrick’s great wisdom, and love for the Irish (who had even kidnapped and held him in slavery through his youth) the world would have missed out on one of the most vital, deep and rich, dynamic and enduring expressions of Christianity it has ever known.