Agency in Mission

The idea of agency has arisen in part through post-colonial studies and in mission studies to do better justice to people’s role in making their own religious choices, getting away from the idea that the church in “new” situations was entirely about colonialism (for good or ill) and that local people had little to do with what the church became over time.

In Africa and elsewhere it has been used to think about the way in which Christianity provided local people with tools to preserve their cultures and resist colonialism as well as to appropriate Christian faith in forms which were relevant to their culture.

This in turn raises issues about inculturation (expressing the truths of the Gospel in relevant local forms), contextualisation (identifying ways in which the context illustrates and empowers aspects of the Gospel or requires that its presentation be adapted) and syncretism (how words and other symbols almost always refer to more than one religious tradition and that is sometimes ok, sometimes confusing, and sometimes inappropriate).

These missiological issues remain important as Christianity looks for better ways of connecting with the diversity of its cultures.

John Roxborogh