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Polycentric & Polyvocal Missions

“Can you imagine walking five miles to school each morning!?” That caught the attention of all the kids in the audience. Francois was describing the schooling situation in his home country of the Central African Republic (CAR). 

Francois serves as the president of the Charis Alliance’s seminary in Bangui, but when he spoke to that audience, he was visiting the US with his wife Claire. Together, they were seeing family, visiting Charis churches, and even operating as missionaries from the CAR to the United States!

As Encompass mobilizer Mike McKeever helped the African couple navigate their time in the States, Mike was reminded of something he learned years ago in a class titled “Perspectives on the World Christian Movement.” The class highlighted how missions is no longer “the rich to the poor” or “the west to the rest”—now it’s “everyone to everywhere.” 

This reality has seen two new mission terms coined: “Polycentric” and “Polyvocal” missions. Polycentric refers to the “many centers” around the world that participate in sending missionaries. Polyvocal refers to the “many voices” of different cultures that speak within the missionary-sending movement. Because of this reality, missionaries should find value in diverse perspectives, empower locals with spiritual leadership, and collaborate to make decisions.

Mike said, “I had heard of this concept before but had never seen it so well ‘live and in action’ until Francois’s recent trip. Everywhere we went—Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia—Francois and Claire ministered in ways I could never have ministered.” As Francois and Claire stepped out of the comfort of their native language and cultural context, the Lord used them to touch the hearts of many people. 

That got Mike wondering about how he could best be a missionary to those he meets in the US who come from a different cultural background. 

He says, “As Kathy and I get into our 60s, we don’t want to coast ‘till we leave this world’—we want to keep working for God’s kingdom by reaching out to the least-reached.” For U.S. citizens, this often includes welcoming and receiving the many people who migrate here from other places. Because missions is so much more polycentric than it was in prior decades, we don’t always have to travel across the world to experience different cultures who don’t know Jesus—sometimes they’re right next door.

How might God be calling you to minister to the people in your region of the world or even your community? If He’s calling you to minister cross-culturally, our Encounter Atlanta experience might be a good place to start.