DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

A Global Family

Written by: on February 1, 2018

This summer I will be leading a mission trip to East Asia.  This team will consist of about 50 persons, mostly adults, but some children and teens will join their parents.

 

We just purchased our airplane tickets for the trip today.  Since there is a direct flight from DFW, our team will board a plane on one side of the world and step off of it sixteen hours later…on the opposite side of the globe.  This was unthinkable a century ago.  In the 1800’s missionaries said goodbye to friends and families, packed their belongings in a casket, and embarked on a journey to Asia that took several months.  For many, the only time that they returned home was when their body was in that casket.

 

This will be one of the largest international teams that I will have led.  And, as you can guess, the number of resources (time, training, and money) that will be put into this trip will be significant.  It is inevitable that someone whom I will talk with (or someone who is reading this blog) will ask the question “Isn’t this a waste of money?  There are so many people here in the United States who need Jesus.”

Praying with local evangelical leaders in Serbia

 

I reflected on these things as I read Global Evangelicalism: Theology, History, and Culture in Regional Perspective.  This rich work, edited by Donald M. Lewis and Richard V. Pierard, is a collection of essays by Christian scholars that chronicle the history of evangelicals, highlighting the spread of evangelicalism around the world.

 

The book begins by helping the reader understand exactly what “evangelicalism” is.  According to the book, evangelicals:

“…affirm that ultimate meaning is found in the person of Jesus Christ.” (18)

place a very high importance on the Bible, both the Old and New Testaments (18)

“…think of themselves as joined with other believers through history back to the time of Christ.” (18-19).

“…practice water baptism…and celebrate the Lord’s Supper.” (19)

focus on the “…’good news’ of salvation brought to sinners through Jesus Christ.” (19)

believe in “…the need to witness the good news of Jesus, to ‘go into all the world.’”

 

This was a helpful, positive explanation of the term.  Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation today about what an “evangelical” is.  For example, most Southern Baptist Church leaders probably think that they have little in common with Presbyterians.  Yet, last week a Presbyterian minister came to our church to train our very first team of “Alpha” leaders.  During that training, this man passionately shared his testimony about how Jesus saved him via the Alpha Course as a college student.  He teared up when telling our group about someone in his Alpha group who recently came to Christ.  We ended by raising our hands toward the community and praying for the lost.  This man was clearly an “evangelical” brother whom I connected with.  Yet, our history denominational separation might have kept us from working together.  If it weren’t for Alpha, we would have never met.

 

As I read the book, I was thrilled at its emphasis on what God was doing on every continent.   Separate chapters were written to highlight evangelicalism in Africa, Latin America, Asia, Oceana, Europe, and North America.  I loved hearing about how some of the early twentieth century revivals had spread to Africa.  As someone who lives in a city that is becoming a majority Latino community, it was inspiring to read that evangelical Christianity was spreading rapidly across Central and South America.

Easter 2017 at Twin Palm Baptist Church, Lusaka, Zambia

 

Of course, the area of the world that I most enjoyed reading about is Asia.  I have read many books about the church in Asia and have made many trips to several Asian countries.  To be honest, the last three books that I have read for the Portland Seminary Doctor of Ministry in Leadership and Global Perspectives program have all focused exclusively on the West.  They left me thinking “but I know that there is an exciting history of the church outside of Europe and America.”  For example, there is a Christian denomination in India who traces their linage back to the Apostle Thomas.

 

The history of Christianity in Asia is by no means a trouble-free one.  For example, during the late 19th and early 20th centuries in China, the Taiping rebellion and the Boxer Rebellion (both connected to the spread of Christianity) resulted in the death of millions of Chinese (as well as the martyrdom of many missionary families).  The “three self-movement,” as outlined on page 43, began as an evangelical church planting strategy.  It has now been shaped by the Chinese Communist Party into a method to subjugate the church to the government’s will.

 

The way that evangelicals value the whole life of the person is highlighted in the section on Asia which discusses evangelical missionaries’ legacy of opposition to widow burning, child marriage, foot binding, and the denial of education to girls.  In modern times, evangelicals are taking a stand against human trafficking, forced abortions, religious persecution, organ harvesting of prisoners, and child labor in Asia.

 

In the end, Global Evangelicalism shines a much-needed spotlight on the God who wants to have a personal relationship with both the Wall Street banker and the Zulu child.  This book gives us a glimpse of a “church” that is without borders.  A growing family made up of people from Latino, Asian, European, Middle Eastern, Polynesian, Native American, and African heritage.

 

 

BEIJING, CHINA – OCTOBER 12: A Chinese Christian woman sings during a prayer service at an underground independent Protestant Church on October 12, 2014 in Beijing, China. China, an officially atheist country, places a number of restrictions on Christians and allows legal practice of the faith only at state-approved churches. The policy has driven an increasing number of Christians and Christian converts ‘underground’ to secret congregations in private homes and other venues. While the size of the religious community is difficult to measure, studies estimate there more than 65 million Christians inside China with studies supporting the possibility it could become the most Christian nation in the world within a decade. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

 

 

 

Donald Lewis and Richard Pierard, Global Evangelicalism: Theology, History & Culture in Regional Perspective, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2014), 257.

 

About the Author

Stu Cocanougher

6 responses to “A Global Family”

  1. Mary says:

    That really touched my heart, Stu. I went to Beijing to visit Angie while she was a missionary there and I still pray for the Christians we know who are a part of the underground church. We also went to a “Three Self” Church and had a woman preacher!!
    Great pictures and a good reminder that it is God Who is working on every continent.

  2. Lynda Gittens says:

    Stu,
    I expect a lot from you and Jim since you both are still involved in global mission work.
    I was most anxious to see your view on the three-self formula. I was wondering was it still in effect in the planting church movement.
    Thanks again for sharing your experiences

  3. Jim Sabella says:

    Stu, I too highlighted the fact that the book begins with an explanation or definition of Evangelicalism. I keep thinking that researchers should have something by now, but maybe that is the case. As I mentioned in my post, maybe evangelicalism is so dynamic is defies definition. Enjoyed the photos!

  4. mm Jennifer Dean-Hill says:

    Beautiful pictures Stu- thank you for sharing. I am so looking forward to hanging with you in Hong Kong. Your love and passion for the people shine through.
    I would completely agree with you too that there is misinformation on what evangelicalism is. We as Christians, regardless of our denominations and belief systems, have far more in common than not. Thank you for the powerful reminder. I hope we can continue to cross denominational boundaries and find our bond through faith in Jesus Christ. How would you suggest we do that?

  5. Stu,
    I was looking forward to reading your post – and you didn’t disappoint. Great to highlight the movement of the Spirit through all the world – not just the ‘dominant’ Western culture that we are so familiar and comfortable with.
    While I am a life-long Presbyterian, I grew up in a church that very much had an Evangelical bent. We considered ourselves an Evangelical church and I certainly considered myself an Evangelical.
    Cultural, political and social developments over the last 15 years or so have lead me to stop using that term to describe myself – because in our American context I think it would be confusing and truthfully, I think it has a negative context in many quarters.
    I bring this up because one of the really interesting things to me as I read this book was what I found to be the stark difference between the descriptions it gave of what Evangelicals around the world ‘look’ and act like, and the perception of them here in America.
    While the Evangelical movement is much bigger than any single denomination, there is a lot of similarity here – those of us affiliated with churches that have denominational connections around the world are often seeing very significant differences between what it means to be Episcopalian/Anglican in the USA or England and what that means in, say Rwanda.
    My own denomination has seen rising tensions between the local churches we partner with in Asia, Africa and South/Central America over theological and social differences.
    I think similar things are happening with Evangelicalism – but it is harder to trace and less clearly experienced because there isn’t one central system or denomination connecting everyone.

  6. Kristin Hamilton says:

    “In modern times, evangelicals are taking a stand against human trafficking, forced abortions, religious persecution, organ harvesting of prisoners, and child labor in Asia.”
    These are some of the things that really excite me about global evangelicalism, Stu! This is the kind of work also being done in South America and (I imagine) other parts of the world as well. There is a genuine heart for the whole person, not just “soul saving.” I agree with those who say so many need Jesus in America, but for many evangelicals it seems the whole person has been forgotten, except when there is a political expediency.

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