A Historian’s Hunches: Eight Future Trends in Mission, #7

This is the eighth installment of a ten part series by Dr. Scott Sunquist on what trends in missiology we can expect in the coming years.

Trend #7: Poverty and Promise
Scott W. Sunquist

Jesus said that it was as hard for a wealthy person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven as for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. This is becoming more evident in the 21st century as the Christian movement grows more and more among the displaced and the poor. Christianity has developed most rapidly among Africans (living in the poorest continent), Chinese villagers, and recently, in countries like Cambodia, Nepal, Mongolia, and among migrants. In contrast, Christianity continues to decline in wealthy western nations.  There is a strong and growing missionary movement within the Indian subcontinent where Indians migrate to unevangelized regions. Closely related is the growing missionary movement among Chinese from China, moving out across Asia and even to Africa.

Slums at San Dionisio. By Ingo Vogelmann. Flickr Commons.
Slums at San Dionisio. By Ingo Vogelmann. Flickr Commons.

But the place of poverty in mission is not just that the poor are being reached and are reaching out. Poverty has now become the place of missiological reflection and missionary integrity. Christian development work requires partnership, prayer, reflection and long term commitments to communities. The history of Protestant missions has been a history of the powerful and the wealthy reaching out to the weak (often oppressed) and poor. What has changed is that the poor are once again the subjects and leaders of mission, and of the church, in ways that have not been true for over a millennium. Poverty has become a place of blessedness. “Blessed are the poor” has taken on new meaning for the Church in mission. It is a promise being fulfilled.  This theme for the future must be studied closely with the previous theme of Pneumatic Christianity, for the poor are much more aware of the Holy Spirit, and more aware of other spirits. Poverty, blessedness, and power are three strands of a single cord for mission in the future.


Dr. Scott W. Sunquist is the dean of the School of Intercultural Studies and professor of World Christianity at Fuller Theological Seminary.

This blog post was taken from The State of Missiology Today by Charles E. Van Engen. Copyright (c) 2016 by Charles E. Van Engen. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515-1426.www.ivpress.comPre-order the full book here (expected October 2016).

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