Mission in Western Culture project 


Allelon’s vision is to cultivate a multi-generational movement of missional leaders to engage questions of mission in Western culture into the future.
The International Network on Mission in Western Culture project is part of an extensive range of initiatives of Allelon as part of this overarching vision.
The Project is shaped against the background of the inspiration and influence of Lesslie Newbigin. While Newbigin’s legacy has been significant the last decade suggests that much of the work he initiated around the question of mission in western culture has not yet translate into a sustained movement of mission-shaped local churches.
In the summer of 2006, some 25 international practitioners, missiologists and researchers gathered in McCall, Idaho to explore the possibility of forming an INMWC. People sensed a deep continuity with the missional conversations initiated by the various Newbigin movements that have shaped the past twenty-five years. At the same time, they felt a call to a new chapter in which the local church was a primary partner.
 The Project

Allelon is sponsoring the INMWC as a multi-year project (September 2006 – December 2012) to address the question of mission in Western culture from the perspective of the local church and its context, and the implications for leadership development.
The goal of the project is to develop frameworks, practices and resources that address the question of a missional engagement in contemporary, western culture through a mutually critical partnership with local churches in selected countries. These countries are: Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States.
As the project seeks to engage particular local churches, the focus will be on the actual, lived narratives shaping the people of these churches and their contexts in late modernity, in dialogue with Scripture and in engagement with the missional challenges of their contexts.


Background to the Project and the Payette Lake Consultation

Lesslie Newbigin, arguably the most influential missiologist of the 20th century, in his 1986 book, Foolishness to the Greeks asked this question: What would be involved in a missionary encounter between the gospel and this whole way of perceiving, thinking, and living that we call ?modern Western culture? This question and Newbigin?s challenge to Western Christians resulted in the creation of groups and conversations around the world seeking to address this critical issue of mission to modern Western culture(s).

At the beginning of a new millennium the modern West faces even greater transformation than it did twenty years ago when Newbigin wrote these words. During that time a generation of leaders and missiologists grew up within the framework of Newbigin?s agenda. We are aware that a younger generation is emerging into leadership while the missional question remains a primary challenge for us all. We believe it is appropriate, at this time, to form an international, multi-generational network of missional practitioners and thinkers working in partnership with local churches to re-engage the challenge of mission to modern Western culture(s). Allelon?s goal is to create the relationships that will facilitate and resource such a network.

Over the past year Allelon staff have researched the work of groups in North America, UK and New Zealand which engaged with Newbigin?s question of mission to modern Western culture. In June we invited a small, international group of twenty-six missiologists, theologians and local church practitioners from North America, UK, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa to join us for three and half days at Payette Lake, Idaho. Our purpose in meeting was to:

  • Reflect upon the Newbigin legacy in terms of future work.
  • Determine the questions and frameworks that would shape the formation of a multi-generational project investigating the emerging nature of mission to modern Western culture.
  • Sketch the outline for a multi-year project into discerning the key missional engagements with local churches as primary partners and loci of our work.
  • Discern the partners who might join with us in this undertaking.
  • Investigate how Allelon might develop a research, learning and resource center for this project of understanding the nature of mission to modern Western culture.