DMINLGP

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

The Christian World

Written by: on June 9, 2017

In studying Christianity worldwide, Phillip Jenkins states in his book The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity:

Assuming no great gains or losses through conversion, then there would be around 2.6 billion Christians, of whom 695 million would live in Africa, 610 million in Latin America, and 480 million in Asia.  Europe, with 574 million, would have slipped into third place.  Africa and Latin America would thus be in competition for the title of most Christian continent…By 2050 only one-fifth of the world’s 3.2 billion Christians will be non-Hispanic whites.  Soon, the phrase “a white Christian” may sound like a curious oxymoron, as mildly surprising as a “Swedish Buddhist.”[1]

ANALYSIS

When I think about what Jenkins is stating in light of our most recent reading, Christian Theology and African Traditions, I cannot help but to ponder our missiology in these newly formed centers of Christianity.  In other words, Matthew Michael’s book points out ideas about theology, bibliology, Christology and many more, that are shaping what was once known as the Dark Continent, and how these ideas are fitting into a specific African context.  In his introduction, he states:

The failure of Christianity to have a formidable impact on the continent is because the failure of Christianity to engage the worldview of the African people.  These African worldviews are daily encouraged and practiced on the continent despite the increasing Westernization of Africa in terms of clothing, housing, language, occupation, and lifestyle.  It is the basic level that Christianity must engage…this Christianizing agenda has unfortunately taken place without adequate understanding of the African worldview.  The church has merely taken interest in the external issues surrounding the African people, however, it has not adequately engaged the African worldview in terms of close dialogue (p. 13). 

While Michael does not specifically state this, our missiology within this continent has often looked more like colonization.  Despite our best intentions, we have done our best to make African church look like the Western church and have not addressed the need for a change in worldview.

REFLECTION

If what Michael’s says is true, then there is a great deal of work left to be done around the globe.  If one-fourth of Christianity is found in Africa, then we certainly in the West have a vested interest in seeing sound theology flowing both in and out of Africa.  It is for this reason that a great deal of our (Abundant Life Church in Grapevine) resources that go around the world are focused on training and developing indigenous pastors.  Over the next five years, our goal is to pour about $500,000 into places like Cuba, Liberia, North Africa, and Sri Lanka in order to train local pastors that understand both their context and proper theology.

Now, the purpose behind this is two-fold.  First, I believe that the world is effectively reached by the indigenous population.  While Christian missionaries have been effective with crusades, medical projects, revivals and many more ideas, these are merely tools and not the end game.  The effective missionary trains, educates, and resources the local population to reach the lost.  The same strategy that works for the Christian church (see Ephesians 4) should work in missions.  We should be equipping the local population to do the work of the ministry.  Secondly, how we train the indigenous pastor will have a reciprocal effect.  If Christianity is growing around the world, but shrinking in the West, then what we leave the indigenous population may have a profound effect upon generations of Western people.  Simply stated, the theology, bibliology, and Christology that we teach around the globe will be the same that our grandchildren and great grandchildren will hear when Christian missionaries from Africa, Cuba, and other regions come to the West to reignite the spark of Christianity that has been lost.

CONCLUSION

The Apostle Paul’s second letter to Timothy was his last letter he would write.  Paul could have focused on a number of issues.  He could have talked about the Holy Spirit, he could have talked about the future hope that we have, but Paul did not do that.  Instead, he wanted to remind Timothy of the importance of doctrine.  Paul tells Timothy:

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:14-17, ESV).

Michael’s is attempting to do the same as Paul within an African context.  He is trying to connect the doctrine of the church in light of an African understanding in order to equip the men and women of God more thoroughly within this post-western Christianity context.

 

 

[1]              Phillip Jenkins, The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity, (Oxford University Press: New York, 2011), 3.

About the Author

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Jason Kennedy

I am a pastor of a thriving church in Grapevine, Texas. With two little girls (5,8), and a wife that is a medical doctor (family practice), life is non-stop.