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

mm

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.

7 responses to “The Christian World”

  1. Thanks for this. Love Jenkins!
    I hadn’t considered how the West does missions will affect the grandkids of the West. This is great. Who are you referring to when you use the term, “our?”

    • Jason KENNEDY says:

      AP,
      Thanks. “Our” primarily deals with my context…AG. It is not always the case, but at times we try to carbon copy.

  2. mm Marc Andresen says:

    Jason,

    You wrote, “While Michael does not specifically state this, our missiology within this continent has often looked more like colonization.” This is sad but true. Kevin wrote in his blog about the cultural training given to missionaries from his denomination. (You are both A of G, right?)

    What would be the one or two most important aspect of cultural training that you think missionaries need, particularly to get at issues of worldview?

    Regarding your work in Sri Lanka: my dear friend Ajith Fernando spent his career as National Director of Youth for Christ in Sri Lanka and is VERY committed to leadership development. He would be a great partner for your work there.

    My heart totally resonates with what you wrote about training indigenous leaders. That is why I got into this program in the first place.

    • Jason KENNEDY says:

      Wow Marc….great question. My hope is that African missionaries are engaging in the same process we are in this class. I would hope South American missionaries would do the same thing in their own context.
      Secondly, I think humility is crucial. We need to realize the key to reaching others is not through us, but indigineous people.
      Thanks,
      J

      • mm Marc Andresen says:

        Humility – YES!
        We are NOT the great all-knowing saviors.
        I learn so much in Uganda watching the lives of these faithful people.

  3. mm Phil Goldsberry says:

    Jason:
    Do you have an opinion on Michael’s perspective of African Christianity? Also, do you sense an Anti-American bias is founded?
    You mentioned that your church is committed to $500k, you still must believe in the present process. Does Michael’s book cause you to reassess any procedures?

    Phil

    • Jason KENNEDY says:

      Phil,
      I do not think the anti-American sentiment is founded in 100% reality. However, we must acknowledge that it’s there. The big shift for me is focusing on ministry that is training others. Also, as Americans, we have to recognize we have a great deal of wealth that can speed the process up.
      Jason

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