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

Global Evangelicalism – This is How You Do It

Written by: on February 1, 2018

In the late 70’s earlier 80’s, my church planted and sustained an orphanage in Haiti until the government coup took the orphanage from us.  Around 2007, our church began to plant mission trips and partnership with other nonprofits located in South Africa but halted the impact of the mission visits because of the need to build a larger church to reduce the strain of multiple services.  All proposals to invest in five areas of Africa have been halted. I found this to be a sad example of global evangelism.

Evangelism’s effect through Europe, Latin America, Africa, Asia, and Australia is unfolded through essays written by several individuals. The book begins with the definition and history of Evangelicalism, Fundamentalism, and Pentecostalism. It points out that “evangelicalism was a popular movement difficult to track and categorize, in North America, it is associated with a specific political agenda, and a lack of visibility as the global religious entity.” (12)The author states that “Evangelical designates a set of beliefs, behaviors and characteristic emphases within the broad Christian tradition, according to the author.” (18) As well as defining “Globalization as ‘what is happening’.  It affects the social, political, cultural and religious aspects of the world.” (62)  In 2017, I posted a review of James Davidson Hunter, To Change the World. Hunter addressed Christians’ views, beliefs, and methods to change the world. In a few of the essays, in his book, he addressed the concerns of the Protestant and Catholic; Evangelical and Fundamentalist, Anabaptist and Christian Lefts. He says “to change the world you need to understand the culture values.” [1] “If culture were simply a matter of hears and mind then the influence of various minorities would for relatively insignificant.” [2]  Both Lewis and Hunter agree that to be effective in evangelism; one must understand the culture of the people. Jesus was effective in evangelism because he understood the culture of the people.

The author/editors Lewis and Pierard discussed in the section labeled ‘Theological impulse of Evangelical Expansion’ the ministry of “William Carey, an English Baptist pastor who wrote a book, An Enquiry into the Obligation of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathen.” (45) Carey argued that “Christians should use all appropriate means in the cause of world evangelization.  He believes that the model developed by the first Moravian missionaries should be a guide. The missionary team should be comprised of a preacher, the teacher, and the printer.” (46) They included Dwight Moody’s effect on the evangelical movement. “He was a salesperson and businessman converting to preaching the word of the gospel. He had no seminary training but was effective in his message at revivals.” (46) In today’s Christian world of leadership, a preacher without the proper education who not even be considered for ordination.  Moody has made an impact on the Christian community through is publications and school.

Among the few essays in the book, Nigerian Ogbu Kalu, a professor at a Theological Seminary in Chicago addressed evangelism in Africa. Kalu covered the effect of evangelism presence during the times of colonization and de-colonization. He discusses the imprints of the Western world and Europe on Africa Christianity. He covered the origin and progress of evangelism in Africa. There were several African American ministers planting churches in Africa. There were numerous African Americans coming to their motherland to make a difference, particularly Lott Carey who bought his freedom in America to come to Africa. Another person, Henry Venn, was instrumental in the birth of “‘native agency’ through his strategy that churches should be self-supporting, self-governing, and self-propagating.” (131) This formula has been used in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. The history of evangelism in these three countries is included in this book.

From the views of evangelism around the world, an essay by Sarah Williams addressed the gender challenges, men, and women under “five assumptions: Who is in charge, It’s all about Women, The separation of Male and Female Spheres, Hegemonic Evangelicalism, and The correlation between social and political conservatism.” (272) She addresses the history of female leadership and participation in missions. She discusses the impact of historians Hugh Mc Leod and Callum Brown writings on “feminization of religion.” (273)

Evangelism in the 21st Century is promoted through the church on the grounds, television, and social media. The planting of churches has advanced to meeting in local schools to develop an interest in the community before investing in a building structure. In America, there are many cultures in a community which can be a challenge for a church plant. Is the church researching the community to determine who their audience is or are they using the usual cookie cutter method on everyone? Some churches move from one location to another based on their congregation or personal preference which causes loss of membership? How can the church improve their planting of a church in a community unknown or unfamiliar to them?  There are so many small churches planted but not growing, may seminaries need to include in their curriculum on planting and sustaining a church?

        [1] James Davidson Hunter, To Change the World, London: Oxford University Press, 2010, p6.

       [2] Ibid., p21.

About the Author

Lynda Gittens

8 responses to “Global Evangelicalism – This is How You Do It”

  1. Mary says:

    Lynda, I had a bunch of mixed feelings as I read the book also. The authors of the various essays did mention the pros and cons in each culture of evangelicalism today. There are many challenges and some exciting news too.
    For example, many people don’t realize how many Christians are in Africa, but it is poised to have the largest Christian population in the world in the next decade!
    You ask a really important question that gets at the heart of our methods – how can we plant churches without learning about that culture first? I think in the US a lot of evangelicals are still living in the 1920’s with their Fundamentals. Not that what they said about the importance of the Bible is wrong – but that they “defined” what it means to be a Christian in a certain way and thought they spoke for all of us. If people don’t want to go to their churches, maybe they ought to rethink their definitions?
    Very thoughtful as always Lynda.

  2. Jim Sabella says:

    Lynda, I think you make a good point here.

    “The planting of churches has advanced to meeting in local schools to develop an interest in the community before investing in a building structure.”

    Years ago, in Pennsylvania, a pastor started a drive-in church, where cars could pull in a listen to the sermon on speakers in their cars. I remember the pastor received a lot of criticism for the move, but the church was reaching people in a unique way. Today that sounds tame. I say that to acknowledge that though the church has its challenges, it has tended to be in many cases on the cutting edge of sharing the gospel. It still is today. Enjoyed your post.

  3. mm Katy Drage Lines says:

    Lynda, I confess I had a hard time following the flow of this essay. Can you help me out a bit? If there was one take-away from the book that stood out for you, what might that be? It WAS daunting, due to being an edited compilation of a dozen essays (though definitely not as crazy as Taylor’s huge book). What’s something from this text about Christians all over the world who are evangelicals, that you highlighted (or even disagreed with)?

  4. Stu Cocanougher says:

    He believes that the model developed by the first Moravian missionaries should be a guide.

    I am a huge fame of Count Nikolaus van Zinzendorf and the Moravians. Most of the missionary “heroes of the faith” were inspired by them. David Livingstone and William Carey both had direct connections to the Moravians.

  5. mm Jennifer Dean-Hill says:

    I agree Lynda- a sad representation of evangelicalism when we stop the care for the needy. The “providing more for us and less for others” mentality seems all too prevalent in US churches. It is difficult to watch programs be severed when the need is so great and the religious work of “caring for widows and orphans” is not being done. To combat this, I took my kids on a 3rd world mission trip to Guatemala that changed their lives in how they see the world today. I believe when our kids get a vision beyond themselves, they grow up seeing beyond themselves.
    How do you suggest we create a shift in this mentality in churches? How can we inspire our youth to care for the less fortunate?

  6. Lynda,
    Hunter Farrell, director of the World Mission Initiative of Pittsburgh Seminary and former director of World Mission for the PC(USA) (and father of one of our family’s favorite soccer players – NE Rev’s #2, Andrew Farrell) posted the following on his twitter account on MLK day, which I think is an appropriate companion to your concerns:
    @Tshilembi: David Bebbington originated 4-fold test for what one must believe to be a true evangelical: necessity of conversion, authority of Bible, saving power of Christ’s death/resurrection, and faith-sharing thru preaching & social action.
    I propose adding #MLK Corollary: “Any religion that professes to be concerned about the souls of men and is not concerned about the slums that damn them, the economic conditions that strangle them and the social conditions that cripple them is a spiritually moribund religion awaiting burial.” #MLK Corollary

  7. Kristin Hamilton says:

    It’s interesting that you mention Dwight Moody, Lynda. One of my greatest frustrations I experienced when researching Moody and other fundamentalists of his era, was that he and men like him had zero Seminary education, yet were given free reign to “preach revivals,” while well-trained women were not given the same freedom. Moody Bible Institute was well known for either denying education to women or only allowing them in certain courses befitting a “homemaker.” I’m not saying that God didn’t use Moody and others. God did use and still uses people who get it wrong sometimes or I wouldn’t be “ministering” to anyone! It just makes me sad that so much more could have been accomplished.

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