A Just Mission – not a real review

I read A Just Mission, Laying down power and embracing mutuality (2022) by Mekdes Haddis. This is not a proper review but more like a ‘reading impression’.
The Foreword raises high expectations: Mekdes Haddis uses a ‘bridge-building approach’ and this book can reshape the mission movement and ‘Western Christianity for the better’ (p. x).

Costly discipleship
There is a lot I agree with and Mekdes’ analysis is often spot on. Yes, the Western mission movement is still heavily ‘transactional’ and this needs to change. We need to move towards ‘relational mutuality’ (p. 4). She sees a disconnect between the mission (outreach) and discipleship departments in most Western churches (p. 40). A missionary call is ‘… a call of deep and costly discipleship that enables us to live a life God has intented …’ (p. 32).

It is also true that a lot of the language that is used by Western missions has colonial connotations. ‘Labeling people groups as “unreached” [-] is a dangerous fruit of the dotrine of discovery…’. ‘Surely we can’t believe that God is so small that he awaits Western theology and white saviorism to reach his people around the world’ (p. 48). Yes, we need the church in the West to embrace diversity (p. 62) and to not ‘self-idolize’ its own theological practice and create ‘mini versions of herself’ (p. 74). Yes, diversity is God’s intention (p. 89)!

USA context
The book is very much written in a North-American context. This is just an observation, not a critique. Mekdes focusses a lot on short term mission in that context and we don’t have this (in that form and to that extend) in the Dutch (or European) context. Some of the examples she gives from the USA context are surprising (to say the least) to me as well.
Her point that we shouldn’t be helping churches elsewhere in the world if (as a church) we don’t know how to connect to people in our own local neighbourhood, makes a lot of sense. This is very much something to reflect on for us as Dutch churches.

Sending Nehemiahs
It is time for the Western church to step back, says Mekdes: ’The role of the Western church in this season of change for global missions is largely to be the ear that listens’ (p. 158). The church in the West should (from now on) be using members of the diaspora community as missionaries: they are Nehemiahs. They can ‘… create a beautiful middle ground to benefit both cultures.’ They have better connections and have a broader perspective (p. 154).

Mixed feelings
I have read this book with mixed feelings. In many ways is Mekdes correct with her analysis and her strong language is necessary. The Western church needs to face (the new) reality.
On the other hand is it not easy to use this book as a guide for a conversation about these important topics. Mekdes’ perspective is sometimes (too) narrow and she makes statements about issues that are (in my view) more complex than presented. For instances when she states that Western aid is helping corrupt leaders and destroying democracy in Africa (p. 142). Yes, aid is definitely a factor but is the reality not much more complex than this?

Mekdes does not talk about Europe (Western seems to mean USA) and she hardly talks about long term mission strategies. I am not saying that Europe is doing way better and that long term missionaries are perfect but I think the picture will look different taking this into account.

So yes, do read this book and reflect on the issues that Mekdes Haddis raises. For me the most important question is: How can we change as a church in the West and make ‘relational mutuality’ our key doctrine?