Diaspora Missions: East Meets West (and North meets South): Reflections on Polycentric Missions

Christianity is not declining in the U.S., but is being ‘de-Europeanized.’

Diaspora Missions: East Meets West (and North meets South): Reflections on Polycentric Missions

Last month, as I stood on the banks of the giant Panama Canal in Panama, Central America, and saw ships cross from the Atlantic to Pacific Ocean side, I was reminded of a famous quote from a poem by Nobel Laurate Rudyard Kipling—‘East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.” He was born to English parents in Bombay in Colonial India and having grown up in India, Kipling’s short stories were a regular feature of my staple diet.

As I gazed at the breathtaking engineering feat, I wondered how wrong Kipling was. Right in front of my eyes, I was seeing the coming together of the East and West. Over a century of transportation and global trade has remarkably brought the East and the West closer together. Yet, Kipling is so right. There is so much fear, confusion, and pain between people of different geographies, culture, race/ethnicity, wealth, and ideologies.

Polycentric Missions: From Everywhere to Everywhere

I was in Panama to participate in the global consultation of the World Evangelical Alliance Mission Commission; the theme of the gathering was Polycentric Missions. We spent five days learning and discussing about the changing landscape of missionary work in the world today and delving into biblical reflections from the Book of Jonah. We discussed theological and missiological concepts such as Missio Dei, center/periphery, margins, new missionary-sending nations, and emerging polycentricism in missions.

The Panama Canal was emblematic of the flow in material goods and wealth of the nations. But when money and goods move, information and ideas move, which leads to people movements and culture change. Moreover, what remains subtle is that when people move, they carry faith with them. …

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