Sunday, February 01, 2009

The Great Game

One of the unexpected ways my two years in DC has shaped my thinking is local church engagement in missions. My church invests the vast majority of our missions-related resources in a region of the world that is unusually hostile to the gospel. That means there aren't many believers there, and it's difficult to get church planters into the region.

Bruce Ashford was my missions professor at Southeastern Seminary. It was about the theology, not methodology—a theology of the glory of God displayed in the narrative of Scripture, with particular emphasis on how God calls a people from all nations to exalt his name in worship throughout all the earth.

I read with interest his missiological survey of The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia, which tells the story of the 19th century struggle between Britain and Russia for control of Central Asia. I had just read the book last year. It's a fascinating enough story if you like to fill in gaps in your understanding of world history. It's even more fascinating if you read it from a missiological perspective. Ashford's survey will help you do that. He writes:

Christians seeking to live and work in a Central Asian context will be wise to take note that Western “Christian” nations have been among the chief culprits in the bloodshed and exploitations of the past century. The phrase “Jesus is Lord” does not conjure up thoughts of a God of love and of life. Rather, for them, it evokes memories of strife and bloodshed. Among the Tatars, for example, who were conquered by Ivan the Terrible, to call a person “baptized” is to call them the one of the strongest curse words in their contemporary vocabulary. It is for this reason, therefore, that believers who wear the name “Christian” will need to work hard, through word and through deed, to fill that word with new meaning.


Chris Anderson said...

Ben, how does your church determine where to invest its missions dollars? Are you aiming at Central Asia for a particular reason?

We've wondered about how to determine with whom and where we work. Our first issue is the ministry philosophy of the missionary, but assuming that we're in hearty agreement with all candidates, we've wondered if we should be investing in particularly fruitful fields, in unreached places, etc. I'd appreciate your thoughts on this. Thanks.

Ben said...


Two factors come immediately to mind: 1) Theological and methodological compatibility with regional leadership and 2) the lack of penetration of gospel witness to that region. I wouldn't know which to weigh more. But I think that sums it up.

I'd be glad to go into more detail offline.