Yielding, Trusting and Being Led
by Rob Weingartner
A number of years ago when I was visiting partners in Ethiopia, we visited a synod office that had been built as an income generating project. The church used the office space on one floor of the building and rented out the rest of the space to various businesses and shops. It was a great idea.
When we were up on the top floor of the building looking out over the center of town, Mizan Teferi, I saw something that confused me. It looked like an old man walking along the way holding out his arm – as if he was reaching for something. Because of the press of people I couldn’t see clearly what was going on. Then, the crowd parted for a moment.
I realized that the man was holding the end of a stick. At the other end of the stick, leading the old man, whom I now could tell was blind, was a young boy. I suppose it was his grandson leading him through town.
As I have thought about that scene and about our relationship with the church around the world, that image has become a metaphor for me of the relationship between the church in the west and the global church. The western churches are older, more experienced, in some sense responsible by God’s grace for the life of our younger partners. But our younger partners, the churches in the majority world, are now the center of God’s greatest activity, or at least show the greatest signs of the Holy Spirit’s work.
The churches of the global south and east are not only the fastest growing churches, they are becoming the center of the greatest mission activity, even sending missionaries to the west, to Europe and North America. Some of the great mission sending churches now are not only in South Korea, which many of you have heard about, but also in Brazil, Nigeria and China.
When I remember the image of the young boy leading his blind grandfather through the town, I think of how we are now being led, the church in the west, by brothers and sisters in Christ from very different contexts and cultures. We have so much to learn from them. From the churches in socialist countries we can learn about what it means to follow Jesus in an unbelieving society. The church in the Indian subcontinent can teach what it means to sit at the feet of Jesus. Churches in the Middle East and in many other countries can remind us that the Gospel is not primarily about our comfort; they can teach us what it means to be faithful in the face of persecution. Churches in Latin America can reintroduce us to the wholeness of the gospel through what they call “integral mission,” overcoming the false dichotomy that we so often still make between social justice and evangelism.
Yes, we have a lot to learn from our church children and grandchildren around the world. May we learn to yield to them and to trust them. They can lead us.