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History and Models of Response
The Caribbean has been greatly criticized for losing its vision for missions. Indeed, the Caribbean region has changed from being a mission field to being a mission force. With this change, the region has been challenged to become involved in cross cultural missions and aid in fulfilling the Great commission. Author Las G. Newman examines this critical issue in his article "The Caribbean's Response to the Great Commission - History and Models of Response, published in the Caribbean Journal of Evangelical Theology, Issue #1.
He concludes that the Caribbean church is in fact fulfilling the Great Commission, especially in terms of the "Jerusalem" model outlined in Acts 1: 8. This writer will seek to summarize and critically analyze Newman's article, presenting her ideas and findings on this very interesting topic.
Las G. Newman begins his article by quoting the words of Canon Max Warren - "the Great Commission is Jesus Christ himself". Jesus is the model missionary and embodiment of the Great commission. There is no other commission given to the church except the Great Commission. Mission as defined by Newman is "the notion of agents being sent out to cross frontiers, to bear a message and to engage in a particular activity with clearly defined objectives on behalf of someone else".
In his introduction, Newman states that the gospel message did not reach the Caribbean until a millennium
and a half after Christ's death and resurrection. Christian missionaries did not visit the Caribbean region until the wake of the discovery of the "New World" by Christopher Columbus, five hundred years ago.
Christian Mission in the Caribbean
The Caribbean has experienced five centuries of Christian Mission in the modern era. In the late 15th century the Europeans first discovered the Caribbean. During the first two centuries of European colonization, the early Spanish conquistadors sought to Christianize the Caribbean with their medieval notions of Christian civilization. In fact, the first Catholic missionaries, the Franciscan and Dominican friars from Spain also pursued this policy. Following this, the Moravians introduced Protestant Missions in the 1730s. Then the Baptists, Methodists and Presbyterians arrived in the 18th century.
However, in the 19th century, evangelization was performed by the American and British Baptists among the African slaves in Jamaica and Trinidad. The Canadian Presbyterians who worked among the East Indians in Trinidad were also outstanding in their contribution.
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Models of Caribbean Mission
Newman defines a Model as "a representation of an idea or concept in concrete terms in such a way that, that representation can then act as a clear standard or example". He proposes three models of Caribbean mission, in response to the Great Commission.
The first model that Newman examined was the 'Ethnic Model'. This model ascertains that missionary endeavours are focused on people groups of particular ethnicities. It was influenced by notions of race ethnicity dominant in European ascendancy conceptions of the world at the time. Newman cites that since the mid 19th century African Caribbean Christians have been responding to the Great Commission in ethnically marked ways, taking the gospel to Africa, the Diaspora, and Britain. Caribbean Christians from other ethnic backgrounds have also responded to the Great Commission.
The second model Newman presented was the 'Mission to Caribbean Youth'. This model emerged at the end of World War II. It had several sources of origin, including C. Stacey Woods and Sir Kenneth Standard. The ministry of Youth for Christ is one aspect of the youth ministry model throughout the region. Closely related to this model is also the development of Bible training institutes and theological seminaries (for example the Jamaica Theological Seminary) in the immediate post - war period. Other noteworthy ministries are (the now defunct) International Missionary Fellowship and Youth with a Mission.
The third and final model recorded by Newman is the Mission to the New Urban Poor Model. Newman comments that "in one sense all the missionary thrusts in the Caribbean have been missions to the poor. However, the mission to the new urban poor focused intently on a multi - dimensional approach, its firm establishment in community matters and its need for a new theological understanding of mission. Four examples of this model were cited, including the St. Andrew settlement and the Catholic Missionaries of the Poor.
In his conclusion, Newman states his purpose for writing the article was, 'to show that the Caribbean church has been contributing to world mission since the very beginning of the missionary movement'. The Caribbean church has been fulfilling the Great Commission in a variety of ways - recruiting, training and sending missionaries cross - culturally, while responding to the needs of their own people.
The Writer's Reflection on the Journal Article
Newman writes a very good article. His arguments are clear and his paper is well structured. There is also evidence of research and effective use of biblical texts. However, his introduction did not state his purpose and a basic outline of the points that would be covered in his article.
On the topic of the Great Commission, the writer disagrees with Newman that no other commission has been given to the church, except the Great Commission. According to the Oxford English Minidictionary the word commission means "the authority to perform a task; a task given; a body of people given such authority". Scripture passages such as St. Luke 10: 19 [Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you] and St. Matthew 18: 18 [Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven] show that God has given the church other commission. This writer would therefore adjust Newman's statement to say that although other commissions have been given to the church, the Great Commission is the greatest of these'.
Newman's definition of mission, in the writer's opinion, could have been more theological. His definition was too general. Accordingly, in his definition, Newman stated that mission involves the sending out of agents across frontiers. However, he gave as a model for mission - mission to the new urban poor', and this model of mission is done locally, without crossing frontiers'. In this writer's view, mission means to cross, a distance, barrier or separation. It is to go across miles, languages or cultures. It is not what is done that makes our ministry mission; it is where we do it. When we leave our comfort zones and crossing into another culture, then we are obeying Christ to do mission.
Newman's history of Christian mission in the Caribbean was well presented. He cites many good examples, revealing his knowledge of the subject. This writer is tempted to agree with Newman. Caribbean churches are involved in cross cultural missions and ministry to local communities. However, only a minority of this figure is seriously involved in missions (cross cultural). Most of the church's budget is spent on developing their own local church; while very little is given to support missions. The writer therefore believes that the Caribbean church has responded to the Great Commission. However, in this modern era not many persons are seriously concerned about service to other countries.
Las G. Newman states that the Caribbean Church has been responding to the needs of foreign lands and also to the needs at home. According to him, from the 19th century the Caribbean has demonstrated full awareness of its obligation to the Great Commission.
This writer has tried to show that the Caribbean church has responded to the Great Commission but not to its fullest. More Caribbean churches need to become involved in cross cultural missions.
Banks, William L. 1991. In Search of the Great Commission what did Jesus really say?
Chicago: Moody Bible Institute.
Winter, Ralph D. and Steven C. Hawthorne. Perspectives on the World Christian
Movement 3rd Edition. California: William Carey Library.
Wycliffe Caribbean. Go with my Word. Issue 2 of 2003
www. gpch.org/missions/what is mission. asp