Missions in the Network Society

EMQ » January–April 2024 » Volume 60 Issue 1

Singapore: A3 leaders from Mongolia and Cambodia brainstorm ways to develop training staff inside their countries who can equip emerging leaders. Photo courtesy of A3.  

Summary: The world is more interconnected than ever before, and the way we do missions is being redefined as a result. Individuals are connecting in collaborative networks which is impacting the way we lead. This, in turn, is changing the role of Western mission sending agencies. What does this mean for the future of missions?

By Eldon Porter and Joseph Handley

Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric is famously quoted as saying, “When the rate of change inside your organization is less than the rate of change outside your organization, the end is in sight.” Over the last two decades, we have witnessed unprecedented changes. Sociologists say we have moved from the post-industrial age to what is now referred to as the “network society.” The Spanish sociologist, Manuel Castells, predicted this new reality in his book, The Rise of the Network Society.[i]

For Evangelicals, our reality within the network society is further nuanced by three factors. The first is that today there is a church in every single country of the world. Christ said he would build his church, and he is doing that. The second factor is technology. Not only can we hear from the church in every country, but believers in different parts of the world can connect virtually with other believers all over the world.

And the third factor is what the United Nations refers to as the Migrant Diaspora – approximately 281 million people have moved or are in the process of moving from their historical context of origin.[ii] The combination of these factors is redefining how missions or cross-cultural ministry happens.

Individuals from around the world are now connecting in constantly emerging collaborative spaces that we refer to as networks. Influence is happening differently – it is not centralized. This is redefining leadership. And these, as well as other factors in today’s polycentric and networked world, leave traditional Western mission sending agencies with a choice to either significantly change or risk obsolescence.

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