World Vision’s Valdir Steuernagel Leads Two Days of Lectures
Missiologist and scholar Valdir Steuernagel, of humanitarian organization World Vision, was featured speaker for Fuller’s annual Missiology Lectures on November 5 and 6. With an overall theme of "Missiology and Mary in Latin America: The Southern Church and a Fresh Mission Movement," the lectures began on Thursday with Steuernagel speaking specifically on the topic "Fresh Air Blows into the Mission Movement."
"To be involved in mission is to glorify God," he declared in opening—a foundational point we must continue to remind ourselves. "Mission is not our enterprise," Steuernagel stressed; "mission is something the Lord has entrusted with us—and we enter it with reverence." Second, he said, mission is missio dei—the sending of God. "It is not a project, it is not an adventure; it is a sending," he said. "It involves the whole world, the whole of creation. Mission is embraced by a God who is obsessed with salvation, restoration, and fellowship."
Steuernagel went on to note the fresh movements today in mission: No longer a movement "from north to south, rich to poor," it is rather "a movement of the six continents, in between the six continents." Koreans, Nigerians, Brazilians and others are now "traveling on those missionary roads"—with new and different models being exchanged, and a reshaping of the missionary enterprise taking place.
Turning his focus southward, Steuernagel, who lives in Curitiba, Brazil, discussed today’s expansion of the Southern church and what that means for mission. "It is a new day for us in the South," he said, where there is a growing hunger for the gospel, especially among young people. "The doors of the South have been opened for the growth of the church," he stated; "this is a time of opportunity!" But, he continued, "How do we harvest the opportunities the Lord is giving us, and at the same time keep a sense of surrender and reverence?"
Steuernagel described the ways the Southern church is "returning to its scriptural roots," identifying in particular with the themes of 1 Peter—which "takes the very royal concepts of the Old Testament and applies them to the urban poor." In his letter of encouragement stressing freedom for the oppressed, "Peter says you have a new identity, a new community, a new sense of belonging," explained Steuernagel—a promise that has made a special connection with the people of Latin America.
In his Thursday lectures, on "Doing Theology with Mary," Steuernagel explored the example Mary, the mother of Jesus, offers to us all as we engage in mission and live out our theology. Mary, "a theologian who, as a woman, opens her womb to God," sets an example of availability and simplicity we can look to, he posited. As with Mary, "God looks on us with favor, and he comes—in places and in ways that are always a surprise," he said, exhorting his audience to look for connections to Mary’s story—"with what God is trying to do through you personally, and through you institutionally."
Steuernagel’s Wednesday lectures were followed by a time of questions and discussion. His Thursday lectures were followed by responses from Juan Martínez, assistant dean for Fuller’s Hispanic Church Studies Department, and Lisseth Rojas-Flores, assistant professor and director of clinical training in the School of Psychology.
Steuernagel serves as vice president for Christian commitments at World Vision. He has ministered with the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students movement, within the Lutheran Church as a parish pastor, in spiritual leadership as the executive director of a renewal movement called Movimento Encontrão, and as cofounder and director of the Centro de Pastoral e Missão (Center for Mission and Pastoral Studies) of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Brazil.
The Missiology Lectures are offered annually by Fuller’s School of Intercultural Studies, with the goal of exploring ways we can become better equipped to partner with God in his mission to and in the world.