11 June 2009

Hope Transfigured: Crusading Koreans?

Hope Transfigured: Crusading Koreans?:
With Korea now sending more cross-cultural missionaries than any other country outside the US (so Julie claimed) their missiology and methodology must be significant. I was struck by how many times Julie spoke of the Korean mindset as 'crusading' - ouch!! - but she's right in many respects. Another colleague later talked of Korean missionaries as being 'modern' (rational, linear, success oriented, goal setting) and therefore finding it difficult to address pre- and post-modern mission contexts.

When I read this paragraph in Mark Oxbrow's blog (I met Mark at the conference of the International Association of Mission Studies - IAMS - at Hammanskraal in 2000) I briefly wondered what might have caused Korean missionaries to become "modern", and then I remembered the Haggai Institute.

I attended a mission training course at the Haggai Institute in Singapore in May 1985. It lasted a month, and there were people there from nineteen different countries, including four South Africans. The aim was to train third-world leaders in mission methods in such a way that they could return to their own countries and train others. And one of the things that characterised the traning was that it was modern -- rational, linear, success-oriented, goal setting. I found the training quite useful, though some parts were more useful than others.

The teaching was done by various people, from different backgrounds. Some of was informational -- for example on religions like Islam and Hinduism. Some was academic -- a sociology lecturer from the University of Singapore taught several classes. Some were practical "how to" lessons -- one taught about writing, preparing manuscripts for publication, using audiovisual media (especially where there was no mains electricity) and so on. Some were more theological -- on the Biblical basis and theology of missions. And some were a bit like motivational speakers, and the modernity was especially apparent in what they said.

I wouldn't knock that either, however. I found it useful, not so much for setting goals myself (I tend not to work like that) but for questioning the goals of activities proposed by others and even me. Step-by-step goal-setting and working everything out on paper beforehand just isn't my style, but it can be useful when someone comes up with an idea that sounds impressive until one tries to determine the goal behind it, and then suddenly it become clear that there are many better ways of reaching that goal, and that the activity proposed might actually be counterproductive in reaching the stated goal. And if people persist in pursuing the proposed couse of action, one then needs to look for an UNstated goal. An example (with which most people are no doubt familiar) is the US invasion of Iraq. What was it intended to achieve? What did the initiators SAY it was intended to achieve? Was it the best way of achieving what they SAID they wanted to achieve? And with hindsight, what did it actually achieve.

That may seem remote from a mission goal, but remember that at one point George Bush said "mission accomplished" -- so what was the mission, and was it accomplished?

But that is an illustration. The questions about it are rhetorical, so please don't try to answer them in comments!

The point here is that goal-setting is part of the modern approach that characterises Korean missionaries. And a bit strange, that, too, talking of "Korean missionaries". Because they are all, I am fairly sure, SOUTH Korean missionaries. I have my doubts that NORTH Korean missionaries, if any, take that approach.

When I was at the Haggai Institute there was one person there from South Korea, Byung Jae Jeong. We were the 85th and 86th session, so if there was an average of one South Korean for every two sessions, by that stage the Haggai Institute would have trained about 43 from South Korea. Each of them was supposed to train 100 others, so that would be about 4300 South Koreans trained in modern methods.

I don't think that the Haggai Institute was alone in training people from Asian, African and South American countries in the use of modern methods, but it can illustrate the way in which others may have offered similar training.

In this, perhaps one can see Christianity as acting as a kind of agent of modernity in South Korea, and perhaps other Asian countries, and possibly in Africa and Latin America as well.

And using the training in goal setting I received from the Haggai Institute, I ask: what are the intended and unintended consequences of this?


James Higham said...

And your answer to that last question is?

Daniel Clark said...

I would have thought that the prevalence of Calvinist Presbyterianism might have been a greater influence than the Haggai Institute.

Steve Hayes said...


That depends on the value of "this".


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