Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Go Glocal!

Written by: on April 4, 2015





Have you seen the George Clooney flick, “Up in the Air”? Clooney plays Ryan Bingham, who flies around the country firing people. He loves his job and is constantly in the air flying from one city to another. He’s also an accumulator of frequent flyer miles and has a goal of achieving the 10 million mile mark. His routine is interrupted by the arrival of Natalie Keener, who thinks the travel is unnecessary and the firings can be done through videoconferencing. She comes into the board room one day and coins the phrase, “Glocal.” Or maybe she didn’t coin the phrase, but someone was on to something. The phrase “think global, act local” urges people to consider the health of the entire planet and to take action in their own communities and cities. Or in the case of “Up in the Air”, the characters utilize technology to be locally present when they physically cannot.

Simply type in the phrase “glocal” or “glocalization” on TedTalks or YouTube, and there are thousands of hits. (My favorite was by Sheikha Al Mayassa: Globalizing the Local, Localizing the Global – https://www.ted.com/talks/sheikha_al_mayassa_globalizing_the_local_localizing_the_global.) Or maybe “glocalization” is a better word. Glocalization is the adaptation of a product or service specifically to each locality or culture in which it is sold. It is similar to internationalization. Glocalization combines the idea of globalization with that of local considerations. Anything global has its locality. On the other hand, local is also global. And, as a traveler extraordinaire, I can testify to this phenomenon. What do I make a beeline for within days upon arrival in a new country? Starbucks. No, not simply because I have a coffee addiction, but because it is a familiar, home-y place in the midst of the unfamiliar. AND I can pick up a new coffee mug with a new city name on it! On the flipside, Starbucks is trying out locally designed franchises in stores, in order to recapture the feel of a local coffee shop, which would otherwise be threatened by the existence of Starbucks in its vicinity.

All this brings me to this week’s book, Global Evangelicalism: Theology, History, and Culture in Regional Perspective. The opening chapters are some of the most helpful in the entire book. The early definitions of Mark Noll, one of our previous authors of the semester, are essential, as I continue to equate evangelicalism with many of the same words or stereotypes he mentions – fundamentalism, right-wing, Pentecostalism, etc. (Loc. 164-167) Noll explains the word evangelical became a rough synonym for the word Protestant during the Reformation, but since the eighteenth century, it took this definition: “Protestants who placed a heightened emphasis on experiencing the redeeming work of Christ personally and on spreading the good news of that message, whether to those with only a nominal attachment to Christianity or to those who had never hear the Christian Gospel.” (Loc. 209) Of special note are our dear friend Bebbington’s four key ingredients of evangelicalism: conversion, Biblicism, activism, and cross-centeredness. (Loc. 210)

With the aforementioned paragraphs, however, it will come to no surprise to you that I found Donald M. Lewis’s chapter on “Globalization, Religion, and Evangelicalism” (chapter 3) especially insightful. Reading the chapter, the theme from DisneyWorld, “It’s a Small World” played in my head. He wrote, “The central idea is that the world is becoming more and more a single place, a single ‘village,’ with all the outcomes this (rapid communication) has on human relations and the way we see the world.” (Loc. 906) Indeed, in one day, I can say good night to my friends in Russia in one text message, while reading the news of the impending demonstration and riot in Haiti in my Twitter feed.

His discussion of “glocalization” and the closely associated concept of “globalization from below” showcased Christianity’s adaptability, its cross-cultural power, and ability to influence society at every level, and to do so not by destroying the receptor culture, but building on them and adorning them. (1001) Lewis illustrated this in his story the Karen people of Burma, who value Christianity’s culture preserving ability. Lewis also highlights some of the very things that make evangelicalism difficult to define, such as the lack of a single holy language or precise holy place. This, however, makes evangelicalism highly adaptable, allowing for constant growth and expansion. As a missions specialist, I found this chapter enlightening, as it underscores the need for both urban evangelistic strategies and social activism, in light of the reality of increasingly “global cities.”

The key to globalization and glocalization, especially when dealing with Christianity, the spread of the Gospel and evangelism, is to guard against creating a “one-size-fits-all” or homogenized world. We are all different, but we can all love and worship the same God. And this, my friends, is where my favorite word comes in to play — RELATIONSHIP. Before we move in and try to impose our thoughts and “best practices” onto another, why not take a few moments to listen and learn about who the people are sitting across from you. Context is everything. A McDonald’s Big Mac with extra bacon, no matter how good, will not go over well in India.

Thus, in Deve’s format, a few questions to ponder:

  • In our missions efforts, how are we adapting global trends to local interests?
  • How do we best guard against imposing our thoughts and
  • What am I personally doing to learn about those in which I serve alongside?
  • In light of my mission trip tomorrow, how should I have prepared my mission team to enter a new culture and community with an open heart and open mind and open ears?
  • How can we go into a new place with an attitude of, “How can I learn?” instead of “What can I tell you or do for you that, in my opinion, can make your life better?”


Lewis, Donald M. and Richard V. Pierard, eds. Global Evangelicalism: Theology, History, and Culture in Regional Perspective. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2014.

About the Author

Ashley Goad

Ashley is the Global Missions Pastor at First United Methodist Church in Shreveport, Louisiana. She's a UNC fanatic, Haiti Enthusiast, Clean Water Activist, Solar Power Supporter... www.firstserves.org www.solarunderthesun.org www.livingwatersfortheworld.org

7 responses to “Go Glocal!”

  1. John Woodward says:

    Ashley, a fantastic post. I can tell you really were captivated by this book. It was one of my favorites this semester, probably because of the same reasons: It was focused so much on missions. Your approach of glocal or glocalization (which if you say loudly is great for clearing your throat!) is so spot on for the direction of missions today. I was so encouraged in the readings in this book, as they suggest that modern missions (now coming out of the 2/3s world) tends to less invasive of cultures as well as providing greater opportunity for Christianity to develop indigenously. This seems like such a healthy direction, but requires for great humility by missionaries, and a willingness to “let go” early in the process (the new church doesn’t need to know EVERYTHING before you give it autonomy). So, I see the tremendous growth of the Church globally is the working out of the church taking- off locally (tiny mustard seeds sprouting all over the place). It is a great time to be alive as part of God’s global work! Thanks for your insights, Ashley, and your continued passion to take the Good News to ends of the Earth!

    • Ashley Goad says:

      Heyoooo John! You know, I thought of you while I was reading the book, too, and your work in Romania. I do certainly hope we are beginning to learn a thing or two about going into a country and turning it upside-down “for the sake of spreading the Gospel.” We have done so much harm, it’s time to do some good. Let’s travel together sometime! 🙂

  2. Deve Persad says:

    Ashley, your role and experience affords you one the best perspectives in our cohort for understanding this book. I appreciated the video you posted from your team about “what they are taking home with them from their week?” – Good question that looked like it gave them something to think about. Thanks for the question list – I love that and will take a stab at the last one: “How can we go into a new place with an attitude of, “How can I learn?” instead of “What can I tell you or do for you that, in my opinion, can make your life better?” :
    One of the ideas that we have tried to drill deep with is getting our teams to understand that God is already at work in the areas where we will be going. Therefore, if He’s already at work and if He is calling you to be on this team, then He has something for you to learn, discover, release, heal as you engage. What this has done is change the motive of people and causes them to engage our pre-trip meetings in a different way and then to get to know, listen to, inquire about the people and circumstances we face. Our prayer, through this approach has been to see the Lord bring longer lasting change to the team-members lives when they return home and secondly to give them a greater appreciation of how the Lord is at work in different places in the world.

    Any help that you can give from your orientation practices would be awesomely welcomed.

    • Ashley Goad says:

      Deve, this is fantastic. As I just wrote to Stefania, I become so caught up in planning for the actual week and the work we will do, I forget the pre-trip preparation is just as important. While I use our meeting times to convey information about packing, what to expect, and even a cultural and history lesson, rarely to I focus on preparing your heart and mind for giving and receiving. After this week, especially, I think I have some changes to make.

  3. Stefania Tarasut says:

    Such good thoughts Ashley! The more places I go the more obvious it is to me, that i know very little… and I have very little understanding of God’s sovereignty. I also get really frustrated when in meetings people say, “We’ve gotta go and teach them…” Sigh! I always wonder if I’ve done a good enough job helping my team understand that they are not as important as they think they are… 🙂

    • Ashley Goad says:

      I wonder the same thing, Stef. I heard many times this week, “I’m so glad I could come to teach and help.” And after the video camera turned off, I asked them, what have you been taught? Maybe that is something I really should examine more. I concentrate so much on the actual week we’ll be in-country…but what am I doing the weeks prior to leaving to prepare a change of mind and heart?

  4. Julie Dodge says:

    But of course there’s some Disney and some relationship in this 🙂 I read this when you first posted it, but decided I should finish reading before I comment. So it’s Sunday comment time. Here is the goodness that I see in your post: it mirrors who you are. It mirrors the ministry, the partnerships, and the humility that you (I think) try to live out. It honors that we don’t have all the answers, but that through the strength of partnership – with other people and with God most of all – much can be accomplished.

Leave a Reply