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

Our Interconnected World

Written by: on October 24, 2018

Some months ago, I was visiting a woman from my congregation in the hospital.  She had undergone an emergency procedure and she was recovering in the ICU.  By the time I visited her, she was feeling much better, sitting up in her bed and looking ahead to a full recovery.  She was told she would be in the hospital and rehab for a couple of weeks.

On her hospital bedside table, I saw a copy of Peter Frankopan’s book The Silk Roads: A New History of the World and we started talking about it.  She told me how much she was enjoying it and I thought, “Oh, this lucky lady.  I wish I could lay in bed for two weeks and read this book!”

As a lifelong lover of history, this book was a joy for me to read.  It covers an incredible span of territory, bridging East and West, through the rise and fall of empires across the centuries.  This monumental book takes one central idea: that the various “silk roads” or routes of trade, exchange, war, and interaction across this great expanse of land are the way that culture, business, religion and learning has has spread and held the world together.

Frankopan delights to dwell on lesser-known regions, cities and stories as as way of opening up arcane history to the popular reader.  He is adept at tying in seemingly small incidents into the larger narrative he wants to tell.  He writes, “There was good reason why the cultures, cities and peoples who lived along the Silk Roads developed and advanced: as they traded and exchanged ideas, they learnt and borrowed from each other, stimulating further advances in philosophy, the sciences, language and religion.”[1]

Frankokan clearly has a “globalist” mindset, and it is one that can be instructive to readers and leaders here in the United States.  Headlines about the rise of China, or immigration policy, or economic indicators can all cause people to fear or retreat from the perceived dangers of the world.  However, from a historical perspective, we see in this book that people who actively engaged with the ideas, energy and people who crossed their path, ultimately learned and grew from it.  It contributed to a greater dynamism and flourishing within societies in numerous ways.

Sometimes, global change is framed as an “us vs. them” scenario.  And history can be tough. But Frankopoan does not present history that is “antiseptic”, or that is cleaned up from all the trouble-spots.  He doesn’t shield the reader, but he invites a deeper and broader understanding.  By telling the history of this huge area over time, he shows that through conflict as well as cooperation, there is forward momentum when it comes to interactions and this is an important message for any local congregation seeking to engage the changing world around them

All of this matters today, because, as Eduardo Galeano has written, “History never really says goodbye. History says, ‘See you later.’”[2]  The historical notion of a “silk road” running from China to Europe is being revisited today with the “One Belt, One Road” initiative that China has embarked on. Our world has always been interconnected in important ways (as this book shows), and will be increasingly so into the future.

So, what will that mean for churches in areas that are linked through business, immigration, or culture with other parts of the world? Increasingly, these trends and themes are impacting more areas within the United States and by extension, more congregations as well.

One response to this is simply awareness of or interest in the world around us.  This book is a resource for anyone interested in the long, interconnected history of the world.  So, reading beyond the front pages of the domestic news-cycle is also important for Christians who live in increasingly multicultural areas.

When people have more awareness of history or culture or current events, it is a doorway into a conversations with someone new.  It communicates care to a new neighbor, that someone would be interested in their cultural background.  Effective evangelism will mean being open to cross-cultural interactions, including learning about more about the world that is outside of our usual comfort zone.

Frankopan reminds us that, “these lands have always been of pivotal importance in global history in one way or another, linking east and west, serving as a melting-pot where ideas, customs and languages have jostled with each other from antiquity to today.”[3]  The striking thing about this description is that it could now describe any number of urban and suburban areas in the United States.

According to Pew Research[4], Asia has now replaced Latin America as the biggest source of new immigrants to the United States.  So, the melting pot continues to slowly churn on, even as demographic trends shift toward Asia.  The new areas of cultural contact, are not only on the steppes of Central Asia or in the ports along the coast, but almost anywhere there is business or educational opportunity.

When it comes to local congregations seeking to engage the changing world around them, the melting pot of cultures is no longer just far away in an exotic land.  It is here in our country.  It is down the block in our neighborhood.  And by God’s grace and provision, it may even be coming through the doors of our churches.  The Silk Roads helps us have an orientation toward the great, wide world with all its peoples and cultures.  This is a road that now leads right to our own door and so a new adventure is beginning.

[1]Peter Frankopan, The Silk Roads: A New History of the World (New York: Vintage Books, 2015), xvii.

[2]Eduardo Galeano Quotes. BrainyQuote.com, BrainyMedia Inc, 2018. https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/eduardo_galeano_620071, accessed October 24, 2018.

[3]Peter Frankopan, The Silk Roads: A New History of the World (New York: Vintage Books, 2015), 495.

[4]D’Vera Cohn and Andrea Caumont, “Fact Tank: News in the Numbers,” www.pewresearch.org, March 31, 2016, http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/03/31/10-demographic-trends-that-are-shaping-the-u-s-and-the-world/.

About the Author

Dave Watermulder

7 responses to “Our Interconnected World”

  1. Greg says:

    Dave
    I had to smile at your wish to lie in a hospital bed for 2 weeks to read a book.
    I too and a lover of history. Appreciated the Galeano quote that personalized that truth that we are products of history and seem to live in a world with reoccurring issues. I think globalization is that the world is in our marketplaces, our schools and our churches. How we as the church are open to the cultural conversations will determine the impact we have on and with those from other places than us. So…that lends the question of how have you or how are you going to help move your congregation to engage with those in our “melting pot” cities (like Los Gatos)?

  2. Shawn Hart says:

    Dave, great post. I too enjoy the history of a book like this; even when faced with differing views surrounding it. One of the comments you made provoked me back to a thought that puzzled me during the reading; “Sometimes, global change is framed as an “us vs. them” scenario. And history can be tough. But Frankopoan does not present history that is “antiseptic”, or that is cleaned up from all the trouble-spots.” The very image I still hold regarding how China views, not just the western world, but the entire world, is still an “us vs. them” mentality. They are no longer (if they ever were) open to the influences of other cultures to the extent the that other countries are. They appear to be this very closed off country, almost scared of being influenced by anyone else. The irony of that fact, is that if they learned from this book what I believe the author was trying to portray, then they would learn that the world has much to share, and everything can be gained through that sharing.

    For this reason, I hesitate to believe that even China would agree with many of the assumptions made in this reading; but perhaps, we are made gullible by believing too many of them.

  3. mm Jay Forseth says:

    Hi Dave,

    What are the chances of that, where she would have this book on her bedside, and you would see it, and then be able to talk about it?

    Do you think that was a coincidence, or an accident? I think not! In fact, I don’t believe in coincidences. I believe you had a Divine appointment, my Brother. Thanks for making that call on her and for your ministry. God is obviously working through you!

  4. mm Dan Kreiss says:

    Dave,

    Thanks for your post. I know you live in a much more culturally diverse area of the country than I do so I wonder how that frames your work with the church. Do you feel a responsibility to challenge your congregation to become more aware of different cultures in your community? If so, how do you go about doing this?

  5. Dave,

    It looks like we have similar taste in books. 😉

    One of the things I’m taking away from Frankopan is the reinforcement of the idea that history ebbs and flows, empires rise and fall, religious fervour rises and falls, globalism then xenophobia, war and peace, hope and fear. Just as we see this constant swinging of the pendulum over the Silk Roads of Asia, we also experience the same in North America. I’m convinced we are experiencing the end of the age of Pax Americana … what will come next? Probably Chinese dominance. But God is faithful, and He will not let the righteous see decay.

  6. mm Kyle Chalko says:

    Dave, great post. Ive been wondering about the application value of this book, and I wrote about that on my blog this week. But, you helped answer that. You’re quote, “History never really says goodbye. History says, ‘See you later.’”

    Great quote! the application is to know it and be wiser from it.

    But, is “know this” a real application step? Im not sure.

  7. mm Jean Ollis says:

    Dave,
    I could sense your passion for history in your blog. While I was unable to fully read this book, I hope to return to it because I too would love to read it in its entirety. Not only do historical events repeat themselves (a macro perspective), people’s behavior repeats itself (micro perspective). That’s how I most connect with history – recognizing that patterns will continue unless there is an intentional plan to change it.

    Knowing that your heart is so connected to Africa, do you feel as much of a connection in Asia?

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