Simon Chan’s book, Grassroots Asian Theology: Thinking the Faith from the Ground Up, draws the reader into a discovery of authentic faith in relation to cultural expression. While Chan’s book focuses on Asian theology, we can observe religion within this cultural context to better understand the dynamics in the relationships between people and theology. In the past century, Christianity has experience a sizable shift in its geographic, ethnic and linguistic compositions. In 1910, over 80% of all Christians lived in Europe and North America.  By 2025, it is estimated that 70 percent of all Christians will likely be living in the Global South. China has grown from less than 1 million to over 90 million believers is the past 35 years.  Obviously, there is a connection happening here between people and theology that is gaining traction. Chan’s observation of this helps to paint a picture of what is working and what isn’t. Despite best intentions, we often fail to make real impact.
When I teach students new concepts, I know they must be able to connect the concept and life experience in order to effectively engage in the learning process. Chan speaks of the fact that theologians often fail at the task of making theology relevant within communities and real people’s lives. “The task of the professional theologian is not to tell the church what is good for it but to listen carefully what the Spirit of truth who indwells the church is saying through the people of God. Elitist theologians who fail to recognize what God is doing among his people by his Spirit are no better (and are perhaps worse) at recognizing what God is doing in the world.” He goes on to further state, “The contextualizer of the gospel must have “a metacultural framework that enables him or her to translate the biblical message into the cognitive, affective, and evaluative dimensions of another culture.” Chan explains that theologians tend to focus on factors within culture, rather than simply living out faith and meeting people’s needs. Most people understand their own situation. They don’t necessarily need to hear the same message about sin and salvation over and over. Instead, they need to see how religion can work within their own lives and communities. Some argue that the growth of Pentecostalism can be attributed to the fact that it doesn’t present hope in a way that seems unreachable. Theologians must start listening to a broader set of voices, so that they can best apply theology in a relevant manner that is meaningful, not trendy.
Although Chan’s book had a lot of great insights, I was captured by the way in which he eloquently articulated that an elitist approach cripples the church’s ability to make the Gospel message applicable within an authentic community. We spend countless hours reading and studying how to be culturally relevant, yet we are missing the point of living out theology in diverse situations. Theology should be a lived experience vs. a taught set of ideas.
 Todd M. Johnson and Gina A. Zurlo, “Ongoing Exodus: Tracking the Emigration of Christians from the Middle East,” Harvard Journal of Middle Eastern Politics and Policy III (2013-2014): 39-49, accessed November 5, 2014, http://www.gordonconwell.edu/resources/documents/JMEPP-JohnsonaandZurlo.pdf.
 “Status of World Evangelism,” The Joshua Project, accessed November 28, 2014, http://joshuaproject.net/assets/js/ppt/StatusOfWorldEvangelization/StatusOfWorldEvangelization.html.
 Chan, Simon (2014-05-02). Grassroots Asian Theology: Thinking the Faith from the Ground Up (Kindle Locations 423-425). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.