We're The Mission Field Now

Christianity is, by definition, an evangelical religion. Jesus told us to "go and make disciples of all nations." This does not relieve us of the responsibility to practice and preach the Gospel at home, of course. Yet there is a special need to take the Word to those in other places who need to hear it.

Missionary work, as most of us think about it, consists of Americans going to the less developed parts of the world: Africa, Latin America, Asia, the Mideast. This is wonderful, but sometimes creates a perception that the Gospel only goes in one direction. The natural order of things, it appears, is that Christianity came to Americans first and now we generously share it with the poor lost people everywhere else.

The truth, of course, is that Americans are just as lost as the rest of the world. To the extent our culture is Christian, it is because we are the descendants of Christians who came here from elsewhere, and who established a political order that allowed religion to flourish.

Is the tide now turning? Certainly Christianity in the U.S. is not nearly as influential as it used to be. We live in a culture that is in many ways as pagan as Ancient Rome. Meanwhile Christianity is growing by leaps and bounds in places that really were pagan not too many years ago. As a result America is becoming a mission field for others.

I thought of this when I heard the podcast of Fr. Benedict Groeschel's EWTN program last week (listen here). His guest was a priest from the Missionary Society of Saint Paul, Fr. Efiri Matthias Selemobri. This order originated in Nigeria and has a number of missionaries working in the United States as well as Europe. Get it? The Africans are now coming here to help us.

This is richly ironic, in my opinion, but I have to say it is a very good idea. American churches obviously need all the help we can get. Defending and spreading the Faith in this materialistic culture isn't getting any easier. Africans bring some unique gifts and a new approach that I think will be helpful.

Remarkable things are happening in Africa and elsewhere. Nigerians, for example, don't have hundreds of years of Christian heritage as we do in the U.S. The first foreign missionaries arrived there in the 1860s to find a population devoted to tribal religious customs. Now only 150 years later, about half the people are Christian (mostly Catholic) and Nigerians are sending their own missionaries to the rest of the world.

This is an excellent illustration of how the Catholic Church is truly universal. It is one body with many limbs and organs that work together. When one part of your body gets an infection, antibodies from far away will immediately rush to the infected area and join the fight. There's no doubt that the church in America (both Catholic and Protestant) is infected with the germs of relativism and secularism. Africa is sending antibodies - in the form of priests from MSP and other societies - to help us.

The Church in Nigeria is vibrant and orthodox. The MSP seminary, for instance, gets about 3,000 applicants every year. Of these about 300 are well qualified to begin studying for the priesthood. Sadly, the seminary only has the resources to accept about 30 new students each year. Imagine if all 300 could begin their training and go on to become missionaries around the world. This is just the beginning, too - the MSP is only one relatively small group in a very large continent.

Check out the MSP web site for more about this very interesting religious order. We should all pray their their work prospers, and support them however we can. We need their help, and they need ours.

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