For more than two centuries [Western power] has provided the framework in which the Western churches have understood their world missionary task. To continue to think in the familiar terms is now folly. We are forced to do something that the Western churches have never had to do since the days of their own birth – to discover the form and substance of a missionary church in terms that are valid in a world that has rejected the power and the influence of the Western nations. Missions will no longer work along the stream of expanding Western power. They have to learn to go against the stream. And in this situation we shall find that the New Testament speaks to us much more directly that does the nineteenth century as we learn afresh what it means to bear witness to the gospel from a position not of strength but of weakness.
-Lesslie Newbigin, The Open Secret
A reframing of missions capable of countering the modernizing tendencies within the mission movement must offer an alternative that is substantial and potent. Such an alternative must come from sources that are more than cultural and religious, especially since these have been implicated in the initiation and justification of Western dominance and control. Surely, if we are to find an alternative, correcting voice, capable of defying the powers that so easily seduce and intoxicate us, we will need to look beyond the familiar to substance that is more than merely political, national, or cultural. Such substance can only be found in Jesus Christ and the scriptures that point to him.
As we know, the Bible was often employed in the nineteenth century to justify the form and substance of Western power. Likewise, the architects and promoters of missions liberally used scripture in order to reinforce preconceived notions of civilization, nationalism, and race. And thus, Newbigin is certainly correct in his insistence that a new and substantial turn away from these notions must begin with a vigorous, fresh reading of the New Testament. In so doing, the hope is to discover anew “what it means to bear witness to the gospel.”
The sad fact, as Newbigin points out, is that we do not naturally chose this fresh reading and re-envisioning, unless we are forced to do so by our circumstances. Because we are no longer in a position today to exert the power or superiority of our nation, language, culture or religion, we are forced to reread and thus re-envision the form and substance of our witness. In the end, such re-envisioning requires a willingness to go against the stream of culture, nationalism, and religion. It mandates that we embrace the singular hope found in Jesus. Newbigin challenges us to find the way and message of Jesus Christ to be ample for the mission of the church. If we find that he is not enough, we will feel it necessary to augment him with form and substance of another kind.
The questions for you and me are simple and yet pointed: Is it possible for us to come to the New Testament with new and fresh eyes and allow it to measure and judge us and our mission machinery? Can we learn afresh what it means to live against the stream of our culture, nationalism, and religion? Are we willing to exchange our pseudo power and influence for real weakness?
True and abiding hope is experienced through weakness. In this hope, the power of God is made known to us and to the world.
 Lesslie Newbigin, The Open Secret: Sketches for a Missionary Theology, Rev. ed. (Grand Rapids, Mich: W.B. Eerdmans, 1994), 5.