Israel Oluwole Olofinjana from the One People Commission writes about reverse missionaries traveling from Africa to Europe for Premier Christianity. The trend mirrors the historical stereotype of Christian missionaries leaving Europe, seeing the rest of the world as their field.
Much of the trend comes as European society grows increasingly secular, where faith is seen as more of a private, personal affair. Many reverse missionaries hope to restore Christianity to more public relevance in European nations by engaging in topics like racial issues, climate change, mental health, and immigration.
I am what is known as a ‘reverse missionary’ – someone who has left the majority world in order to engage in evangelism and mission in the increasingly secular West. Samuel Escobar, a Latin American mission thinker, would describe me as “a missionary from below”. That is, a missionary with less resources. Although my church sent me, the main support I receive from them is prayer – which is vitally important but, in a climate of financial struggle, not always sufficient.
In past centuries, missionaries went from Europe to the rest of the world, because the majority world (Asia, Africa, Latin America and Oceania) was defined as the mission field. But the shift in the heart of Christianity from the global North to the global South has facilitated the sending of missionaries in ‘reverse’ – from the majority world back into Europe and North America.
In order to imagine an integrated, just society, as well as help us to address global issues, we also need reverse missionaries who are public thinkers and theologians, able to engage with public questioning on key cultural subjects.
God’s mission has to be lived, proclaimed and demonstrated. We incarnate the gospel with our lives, proclaim it through evangelism and social action and demonstrate it through signs, wonders and political action. Black majority churches are very good in incarnating, proclaiming and demonstrating the gospel through signs and wonders, but they still lack political action. Having more reverse missionaries who are public thinkers and theologians could help address this deficiency.