We Need a New Pattern

mHs0kLIIn my DMiss program, I’ve been thinking a lot about flourishing.

I’ve blogged before about flourishing, and to sum it up, the idea connotes someone being able to fully be themselves, as God intends them to be. For me, it’s akin to the Hebrew notion of shalom.

And when I speak of flourishing in the context of my academic program, I’m thinking about men and women each being able to fully be who they are in the context of missional partnerships. In other words, I’m interested in articulating a model where men can lead as men and where women can lead as women, and where both styles are appreciated and celebrated by the other and by the community.

Last week, for class, I read an article entitled “A Rethinking of Theological Training for the Ministry in the Younger Churches Today” by C.H. Hwang. Hwang, writing in 1962 in the South East Asia Journal of Theology, is credited with helping to launch the “contextualization movement.”

In this excerpt, Hwang is cautioning the so-called “younger churches” of South East Asia against embracing an imported “male pattern” of ministry. In the process, he’s really calling for a culture of flourishing. Enjoy!

One of the glorious aspects of modern mission is that there has been an unprecedented number of women involved in this world-directed ministry. How world-directed it has been can be seen by the fact that one of its most glorious achievements, directly or indirectly, has been that it was instrumental in the liberation of women in Asia and Africa from their age-long bondage of one kind or another, and in the enhancement of womanhood in these lands.

All the more, it is not only astounding that this missionary experience was never taken into consideration in the reformation of its pattern of ministry, but it is also a good example of the way in which the traditional pattern has been exported to the younger churches. For while the missionary impact on the womanhood of these lands was indeed revolutionary, yet, so far as the role and place of women in the ministry is concerned, the younger churches just repeat and imitate more or less the ‘male-dominated’ pattern. So much so that we find the new nations are more revolutionary in this matter today than the churches themselves!

True, in some cases, the younger churches are more advanced in accepting women into the ministry; but soon then the ministry is based on the ‘male’ pattern. That it does not work well is not to be wondered at, as the inherited pattern was only conceived from the ‘male’ point of view. The question is how can the ministry of women work well, when it is clothed in the male pattern!

Unless we can be liberated from this ‘mono-tary’ and ‘male’ pattern, we shall not be able to appreciate the true significance of the ministry of women in the body of Christ. Our attempt just to fit women’s ministry into the strait-jacket of our imported pattern may well be the main cause of our present predicament: to allow the women to go into the ministry and then find that it does not work too well!

Pressures both from within and without are compelling us to reconsider the pattern of the ministry so that it may include the special role and function of women in the ministry in our world today.

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