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

Global Evangelicalism

Written by: on January 19, 2017

Donald Lewis and Richard Pierard, Editors – Global Evangelicalism: Theology, History, and Culture in Regional Perspective

Introduction

This volume edited by Donald Lewis and Richard Pierard took years of collaboration with international scholars to come into fruition. All of the contributors of the essays have been acclaimed as experts in the study of evangelicalism.  The book was created to serve as an introductory resource, “to help evangelicals understand their historical roots and appreciate the movement’s diversity across many cultures and nations, and to enable those outside the movement to come to understand some of its internal dynamics.” [1] It covers the historical and theological background of evangelicalism in various global contexts and discusses its relationship with globalization and other important themes.

Summary

According to Mark Noll, “evangelical designates a set of beliefs, behaviors and characteristic emphases within the broad Christian tradition,” [2] and throughout history the term has been applied to different movements within this Christian tradition.  Noll explains that evangelical religion has always been oriented to going into the world and spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. He declares, “At its core, it is a faith with a global vision.” [3]  Evangelicalism has the unique capacity to cross borders, to exist within a wide variety of organizational forms, and to retain essential characteristics in adaptation.

From the founders of Pietism and evangelicalism, evangelicals inherited their identity as an activist movement concerned with the practical application of the gospel. Each generation has to discern and apply the theological mandate to the current issues confronting the Christian’s conscience. Noll cites David Bebbington’s four components that exhibit this type of evangelicalism. They are Conversion or turning away from self and sin; Biblicism as the ultimate authority in all matters of faith; Activism in witnessing the gospel, social reform and charity work; and Crucicentrism or stressing Christ on the cross and His resurrection.

In addition to Bebbington’s designations, other terms also describe evangelicals around the world:

Fundamentalism is a term that originated in the United States in the twentieth century to depict conservative evangelicals who protested against unorthodox practices and held to the infallibility of the Bible.

Pentecostalism emphasized the work of the Holy Spirit, especially the baptism of the Holy Spirit resulting in speaking in tongues.

Charismatics hold to the direct presence of God through the activity of the Holy Spirit, but do not insist on speaking in tongues as a sign of that experience.

Apostolic, Zionist, and Indigenous Christian Movements developed in the Southern Hemisphere in the twentieth century and exercised much autonomy in adapting to the local culture. However, Noll informs us that there is an increasing vagueness concerning the use of term evangelicalism both by scholars and among evangelicals themselves.

Donald Lewis underscores that “The expansion of evangelicalism beginning in the eighteenth century both coincided with and contributed to the global expansion of Western nations. This process of modernization and worldwide spread of a common culture is usually referred to by scholars as “globalization.” [4] Other definitions emphasize the global economic and political reach of multinational corporations.  Lewis’ definition of globalization incorporates the economic, social, political, cultural, and religious dimensions at work because he indicates globalization “crosses a number of academic disciplines such as, sociology, anthropology, history, religion, economics, and political science.” [5] The great concerns in “globalization debates are the ideas that Western economic, political and cultural models are increasingly influencing and homogenizing the global village.” [6]

There are some common elements of agreement among scholars regarding globalization:  Globalization is a cultural and economic phenomenon that is historically rooted in the expansion of the European nations; Globalization is closely linked to the rise of modern capitalism in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; International capitalism has triumphed as an economic system seemingly without restraints; The high demands of a world economy has facilitated the growth of transnational corporations.

Reflection

Lewis points out that much of Christianity’s growth in the second half of the twentieth century was due to the expansion of evangelicalism in its Pentecostal or charismatic forms in the non-Western world. During the same period of time, Christianity in Europe and North America was experiencing defections at a rate of about 2 million a year.  He explains that much of this evangelicalism is the result of religious glocalization.  A global religious movement has adapted to local situations and developed independent indigenous leadership that is culturally diverse and centered on numerous localities.  Lewis states, “By its ability to localize and embed itself in new forms in diverse cultures, evangelicalism represents a powerful force resisting the homogenizing tendencies of globalization.”   He believes this confirms Weber’s observation “that new religious perceptions usually emerge among those on the periphery of civilizations, as they are the people who are often willing to question received ways of operating.”  [7]

Lewis notes that a large percentage, perhaps the vast majority of  Christian missionaries today come from non-Western churches and go to non-Western countries.  Many people are puzzled by this shift in events. Because they misread the Bible.  Matthew 28:18-20, pertains to all believers for all times. Many Christians have gotten this wrong because they presumed that the traffic was to go in one direction only and the mandate did not apply to all believers in every locale.  God’s plan is for all believers to be a witness to the nations in some form or fashion to assure that all peoples have the opportunity to hear the gospel.

 

Notes

  1. Donald Lewis and Richard Pierard, Global Evangelicalism: Theology, History and Culture in Regional Perspective (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2014), 13.
  2. Ibid., 18.
  3. Ibid., 19.
  4. Ibid., 60.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid., 62.
  7. Ibid., 74.

 

 

About the Author

Claire Appiah

9 responses to “Global Evangelicalism”

  1. Hi Claire. Did this book help you with your project at all?
    I like your conclusion and how you say that people got it wrong based on their assumption of which way the traffic was headed. Spoken like a true Angeleno! How do we correct that?

    • Claire Appiah says:

      Hi Aaron,
      Thank God, we are experiencing some real rainy weather at last!

      I enjoyed reading “Global Evangelicalism: Theology, History and Culture in Regional Perspective” because it presented these themes in a concise and easy to understand manner. But, I don’t see that it provided any direct benefit to my project. Indirectly, the late Oglu Kalu mentioned the peaceful transition of power in South Africa from colonialism to a democracy. He said, “. . . without a bloodbath of retribution by utilizing the cardinal Christian principles of confession and forgiveness to help heal the social wounds of apartheid.” (p.159). This reminded me of how essential these same Christian principles are needed to help heal Rwanda of the social wounds of genocide and how that can be effected.

      I don’t think we need to do anything to correct our understanding of the current trends in evangelism occurring in the global South because it has actually been happening right before our very eyes for some time now. I believe God intended for the Great Commission to be carried out in one form or another the instant the edit was made and He initiated the orchestration of world events to make it happen. Such as the interaction of diverse people groups East and West and beyond, resulting in the exchange of cosmologies, ideologies, culture, art, and science as indicated in Peter Frankopan’s “Silk Roads.” Lewis and Pierard note how Christianity, “shifted from a Jewish, Jerusalem-centered religion to a Greco-Roman culture, and then to the barbarian tribes of Northern Europe. In the last two centuries it has shifted again . . . this time to the non-Western world.” P.75).

  2. mm Marc Andresen says:

    Claire,

    You wrote, “Evangelicalism has the unique capacity to cross borders, to exist within a wide variety of organizational forms, and to retain essential characteristics in adaptation.” You further quote the book, “By its ability to localize and embed itself in new forms in diverse cultures, evangelicalism represents a powerful force resisting the homogenizing tendencies of globalization.”

    From your work in Africa can you identify one or two differences in Evangelicalism in Africa from Evangelicalism in America

    • Claire Appiah says:

      Marc,
      From my perspective, in addition to the propagation of the gospel, evangelicalism in sub-Saharan Africa has to encompass systemic socio-political, economic, and health-care issues. The current critical concerns are with the plight of the African diaspora, extreme poverty, and HIV/AIDS or other life-threatening diseases.
      I believe Evangelicalism in America is concerned more with witnessing the gospel and showing compassion for marginalized populations through social activism.

      • mm Marc Andresen says:

        The magnitude of difference in our problems is stunning. Sub-Saharan Africa deals with all those issues AND seeks to witness.

  3. mm Phil Goldsberry says:

    Claire:

    Your analysis about “the traffic going in one direction” was part of my takeaway from the book. The West has boasted as if we were the epicenter of evangelism and procurers of Matthew 28.

    What was your analysis of the word “evangelical” after reading this book and Bebbington? Did you have clarity about the understanding of the word?

    Phil

    • Claire Appiah says:

      Phil,
      It’s interesting that in the same book that I am getting better clarity and understanding of the word, “evangelical” I’m also finding out that scholars and evangelicals are increasingly becoming more vague as to its meaning.

      I think Bebbington captures the essence of the word “evangelical” in a nutshell. After reading his book and Lewis and Pierard, my analysis of the word “evangelical” is that it describes a person who has a deep commitment and heightened awareness of one’s responsibility to exemplify the life and work of Christ in their everyday life experiences. Scriptural references indicated: Isaiah 1:16-17; Isaiah 58:6-12; Isaiah 61:1-3; Jeremiah 7:5-7; James 1:27 and so on.

  4. mm Garfield Harvey says:

    Claire,
    You stated that many “presumed that the traffic was to go in one direction.” I believe this is a fair analysis and plays a huge role in our denominational biases. I’m glad the church has begun making strides in shifting to a global focus in in fulfilling the great commandment. As global leaders, we have an opportunity to make an impact in diverse ways while pointing people to Christ and not our churches.

    • Claire Appiah says:

      Garfield,
      So true, what a privilege and a blessing. That’s a carryover of evangelicalism. Placing emphasis in an intimate relationship with God and not church membership or association with a denomination as a hallmark of a good Christian. Thanks for your insights and responding to my blog.

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