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

Going Glocal – Faith with a Global Vision

Written by: on April 11, 2015

In July of 2012, the Evangelical Alliance in the UK (United Kingdom) released the fourth in a series of survey documents on “21st Century Evangelicals: A Snapshot of the Beliefs and Habits of Evangelical Christians in the UK.” The focus of the fourth survey was on the question, “The World on our doorstep? Are we going global?”[1]The document outcomes report on the beliefs and practices of UK evangelicals to the issues that confront the worldwide church. “[T]here is much to celebrate,” according to Evangelical Alliance general director, Steve Clifford as he summarized the outcomes as showing “little sign of a Christianity which is merely a traditional national religion. Instead, they [survey respondents] related to a global church.”[2]

My interest in the Evangelical Alliance’s study centered on the attitudes and reactions to the global shifts through migration and immigration that has brought diverse religions and cultures to the local community. The transition to diverse and multicultural community requires adaptive change and often results in more migration when people fail the means to adjust and relate to the new community life. For the Christian individual and the church, this “world on our doorstep” highlights the question, “Who is my neighbor?”[3] The Evangelical Alliance summarizes the outcome for the evangelical church in the UK:

There is a limited understanding of the world on our doorstep, and still a tendency for Christians to huddle together with others from their own culture and ethnicity. As a result many British Christians feel they are now in the minority and feel overly fearful and beleaguered.[4]

The Evangelical Alliance study along with numerous books on the impact of “world culture” phenomenon on local church ministry,[5] suggests the need to pursue the connection between “global” and “evangel,” specifically in the context of diverse culture. Donald Lewis and Richard Piernard, editors of Global Evangelicalism: Theology, History & Culture in Regional Perspective, have provided an impressive collection of articles that contributes to understanding globalization and the impact of evangelicalism on world Christianity. In the introduction the editors’ note that their “main purpose is … providing a general introduction to the beliefs, practices and characteristics of evangelical Christianity.”[6] Defining relevant terms is an essential starting point according to Mark Noll in the opening chapter, “Defining Evangelicalism.”[7] A glossary of terms succinctly and clearly defines significant terms used throughout the book. Noll defines the terms evangelical and evangelicalism. “The word evangelical” Noll asserts, “designates a set of beliefs, behaviors and characteristic emphases within the broad Christian tradition.” [8] The beliefs that are identifiable in the Christian tradition include: the centrality of the person and place of Jesus Christ, the Bible as sacred scripture, the joined body of believers, and the practice of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. To define the specific concept of evangelicalism, Noll appropriates Bebbington’s four “special marks of Evangelical religion:”

  1. Conversionism, the belief that lives need to be changed;
  2. Activism, the expression of the gospel in effort;
  3. Biblicism, a particular regard for the Bible;
  4. And what may be called Crucicentrism, a stress on the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.

Together they form a quadrilateral of priorities that is the basis of Evangelicalism.[9]

Donald Lewis, in the best chapter in the book from my perspective, “Globalization, Religion and Evangelicalism,” defines globalization. Lewis states that globalization is the “process of modernization and worldwide spread of a common culture” along with the global expansion of Western nations.[10] The development of technology that transformed travel and communication “combined to ‘shrink’ and ‘compress’ the world … link[ing] distant localities in such a way that local happenings are shaped by events occurring many miles away…”[11] Here we have the coming together, melding of the global and the local. Lewis refers to this as “glocalization;” the local and global culture adapt: unplanned, uncontrolled with no adaptation the one way. It is adaptive change, culturally diverse “yet resisting the homogenizing tendencies of globalization” and the isolating tendencies of localization.

How does the church witness faithfully in a glocal multicultural neighborhood? Perhaps the greatest challenge the Christian community must confront is to interpret the gospel for the diverse cultural context where they live.

William Shenk in the essay, “The Theological Impulse of Evangelical Expansion,” places the cultural contextualizing of the gospel as a long standing implication to faithful Christian living.[12] Shenk refers to two seventeenth century pastors, Johann Arndt and Lewis Bayly, who wrestled with the failure of scholarly knowledge and ecclesiastical practices to relate to the “’practical wisdom’ which is gained from life experience.”[13] Shenk observes that the pastors “… noted a deep separation between what people confessed when they recited the creed in the parish church and the way they lived their daily lives. The cultural norms by which people lived could not be reconciled with the gospel.” Through spiritual writing, pastoral leadership, and spiritual renewal in Christian living there was a change in seventeenth and eighteenth Evangelicalism. “Religious life and practice was inexorably being separated from the ecclesiastical life represented by the church.”[14] This concept is very relevant in twenty-first century evangelical Christianity. It sounds much like our contemporary phrase, “The church has left the building!”

In Global Evangelicalism, Lewis and Pierard have brought together concepts that can guide Christianity in the twenty-first century; from both a world and local perspective. The evangelical, evangelion or good news, has historically been the message (belief and theology) that accomplished God’s plan of salvation to all nations, peoples and cultures. There is a significant lesson in this truth. Globalization in any form cannot conquer the Christian faith. By contrast a world Christianity can move into the local community and engage culture notwithstanding the diversity. We need to redefine our concepts of global and world. Lamin Senneh clarifies this distinction:

World Christianity is not one thing, but a variety of indigenous responses through more or less effective local idioms, but in any case without necessarily the European Enlightenment frame. “Global Christianity,” on the other hand, is the faithful replication of Christian forms and patterns developed in Europe.[15]

Is it possible that Global Evangelicalism through its Regional Perspective gives  twenty-first century evangelicalism the key to local church ministry in a multicultural neighborhood? Kevin Vanhoozer confronts the evangelical church this way:

If theology is to serve the church, the new challenge is how to give local expression to the understanding of faith while at the same time coping with globalization … The bad global is the power of the cultural ‘one’ (homogenization); the good global is the awareness of the cultural ‘many.’[16]

Noll states that Evangelical Christian, “At its core, it is a faith with a global vision.”[17]

 

 

[1] Evangelical Alliance, “21st Century Evangelicals: The world on our doorstep?” Evangelical Alliance: Better Together (2011)  accessed April 5, 2015, http://www.eauk.org/church/resources/snapshot/the-world-on-our-doorstep.cfm, p.3.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid., 8.

[4] Ibid., 18.

[5] See for an example: Branson and Martínez, Churches, Cultures & Leadership: A Practical Theology of Congregations and Ethnicities (Downers Grove, II: InterVarsity Press, 2011; Roxburgh, Missional: Joining God in the Neighborhood (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing, 2011); Stetzer and Putman, Breaking the Missional Code:Your Church Can Become a Missionary in Your Community (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2006); Craig Ott and Harold Netland, eds. Globalizing Theology: Belief and Practice in an Era of World Christianity (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006); Lamin Senneh, Whose Religion Is Christianity?: The Gospel beyond the West (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing, 2003).

[6] Donald Lewis and Richard Pierard, eds. Global Evangelicalism: Theology, History and Culture in Regional Perspective Kindle, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2014), 113.

[7] Mark A. Noll, “Defining Evangelicalism” in Global Evangelicalism, 154.

[8] Ibid., 160-184.

[9] D.W. Bebbington, Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 190s Kindle (New York, NY: Taylor and Francis, 1989), 3 (emphasis mine).

[10] Donald M. Lewis, “Globalization, Religion and Evangelicalism” in Global Evangelicalism, 880.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Willim R. Shenk, “The Theological Impose of Evangelical Expansion” in Global Evangelicalism, 494.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid., 528.

[15] Lamin Senneh, Whose Religion Is Christianity?: The Gospel beyond the West Kindle ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing, 2003), 217 (emphases mine).

[16] Levin J. Vanhoozer, “One Rule to Rule Them All?” Globalizing Theology: Belief and Practice in an Era of World Christianity (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006), 99.

[17] Mark A. Noll, “Defining Evangelicalism” in Global Evangelicalism, 183.

About the Author

mm

rhbaker275

7 responses to “Going Glocal – Faith with a Global Vision”

  1. Telile Fikru Badecha says:

    Ron, Thank you for your insightful post as always! As you noted, traditionally mission sending countries now have become the mission field. The challenge is, like you said, instead of finding ways to engage many believers are gripped with fear. I wonder how you are helping your faith community engage with their new neighbors.

    • Richard Volzke says:

      Telile
      American Christians are often afraid or unwilling to get their hands dirty when it comes to engaging in the messy work of evangelism. We would rather write a check than roll up our sleeves and get dirty for Christ. Christianity is about relationships, not resources, and we are all called to be in fellowship with one another.
      Richard

  2. mm rhbaker275 says:

    Hi Telile,
    Thanks for your response.

    We have an aging, more traditional church membership. Our people are definitely “caring” but it focuses more inward. We have emphasized “Joining God in the Neighborhood” for several months using John 1:14 “The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood: (msg) and 2 Cor. 5:20, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors…”

    We have just completed a study on missional church using the book, “Church in the Middle.” A survey showed that almost three to one the congregants see our church as more attractional than missional in ministry and worship and more traditional than emergent in our ministry outside the church.

    We are moving in the right direction in being informed and understanding contemporary culture. There is an awareness and desire to make Jesus the subject and allow the Holy Spirit to be in control of our ministry. This is something that takes time … we still lack a sense of urgency about our witness and are very much inward focused.

  3. mm Ashley Goad says:

    Ron, as I read your post, and then I read Telile’s comment, I wonder how our own country will change now that we are seen as the “biggest mission field” in the world? Like you, I was captivated by Lewis’ thoughts. Technology has played such a critical role in the changing of the world and bringing us closer together. I love that in one dayI can wake up to text messages from friends in Uganda and Russia, FaceTime with the missionaries in Costa Rica, and check in via “Viber” with my friends in Haiti…and it’s all FREE! I have seen the children in Haiti begin to question their living situations simply because of the Internet and the information they can so easily retrieve. How will our world change in the next years, and how can we capture this effect and use it for good in the “mission field?” Great post, Ron! 🙂

    • mm rhbaker275 says:

      Ashley,

      Thank you for your responsive post … However, you are the one that amazes. It is not so much the travel, although that too is amazing, just buy a ticket and go. Transportation is a significant contributor to a “shrinking” world, but I think communication is more significant in the changing world. It seems to me you have mastered that aspect of ministry. Certainly, your chosen area of study fits your ministry and your ministry fits your “skill set” – the ability to communicate across all cultural barriers.

      If you have a moment – see Michael’s post and my responsive post as relates to your observation on how technology is impacting culture in emerging countries.

  4. mm Julie Dodge says:

    “World Christianity is not one thing, but a variety of indigenous responses through more or less effective local idioms, but in any case without necessarily the European Enlightenment frame. “Global Christianity,” on the other hand, is the faithful replication of Christian forms and patterns developed in Europe.”

    What a thought provoking quote! Really, your whole post is thought provoking, but I think this quote in particular draws out quite a bit. If only more of us might come to understand this. But I think so many of us don’t even recognize that we are imposing our own thought system, culture and history as we share our faith around the world. It simply doesn’t occur to us because it seems so normal. I’m going to have to sit with that a bit.

  5. mm Clint Baldwin says:

    Thanks, Ron.
    There is a lot that’s good in this text as well as some concerns.
    You end your post with this quote, “Noll states that Evangelical Christian, ‘At its core, it is a faith with a global vision.'”
    This last phrase is well what might be part of the problem.
    Isn’t “a faith” exactly the homogenizing things we are concerned about? Perhaps it would be better to suggest that it loosely associated forms of faithfulness gathering around a set of concepts with which people find general, but nuanced, definitional affinity. Just looking, it’s certainly no “a” faith, but a multiplicity of faith understandings seeking connectedness and companionship of reasonably like minds and hearts.

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