DMINLGP

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

The Pen is Mightier than the Sword

Written by: on October 25, 2018

Diversity is not simply a subset of culture, but a dialect of nuance, perspective and narrative. It is the pen by which men and women express their story and expose their truth. The English playwright, Edward Bulwer-Lytton captured this beautifully when he stated, “The pen is mightier than the sword.”[1] Peter Frankopan, historian and director of Oxford’s Centre for Byzantine Research envelopes his audience into a world of variants – He challenges his readers to see the world from a new perspective and journey with him through the provocative history of the Silk Roads.

The author reveals that, “For centuries before the early modern era, the intellectual centres of excellence of the world, the Oxfords and Cambridges, the Harvards and Yales, were not located in Europe or the west, but in Baghdad and Balkh, Bukhara and Samarkand.”[2] The Silk Roads A New History of the World, challenges readers to understand that the east was the meeting place of the minds, commerce, community and religion – it was the centric point of global influence.[3] Frankopan suggests that, “It is easy to mould the past into a shape that we find convenient and accessible. But that ancient world was much more sophisticated and interlinked than we sometimes like to think.”[4] Throughout the text, Frankopan weaves in and out of history – giving readers a glimpse at the world through the eyes of the east.

The author delves into the religious backdrop of the early world and reveals that:

Christianity has long been associated with the Mediterranean and western Europe. In part, this has been due to the location of the leadership of the church, with the senior figures of the Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox churches based in Rome, Canterbury and Constantinople (Modern Istanbul) respectively. But in fact every aspect of early Christianity was Asian.[5]

Moreover, “Cities like Merv, Gundeshapur and even Kashgar, the oasis town that was the entry point to China, had archbishops long before Canterbury did. These were major Christian centres many centuries before the first missionaries reached Poland or Scandinavia.”[6] The author suggests that the trade routes enabled Christianity to reach countless individuals and influence culture at staggering amounts. However, it also enabled various other religions to gain impact throughout the cities as well. Heretical and variant forms of religions were being born; however, according to Frankopan, “…it was Christianity that kept chipping away at traditional beliefs, practices and value systems.”[7] However, Christianity would soon lose its footing and Islam would help pull out the rug.

Frankopan explains that, “Muhammad’s preaching certainly fell on fertile ground.”[8] However, Muslims also waged war against anyone who did not hold to a similar theology. Islam, like many other religions during that time, was used to manipulating the people for political gain, economic increase and territorial reign.

According the author, many Christians and Jews supported Muhammad because of his unwavering stance of unity and monotheism. Frankopan suggests that, “Cohabitation of the faiths was an important hallmark of early Islamic expansion – and an important part of its success.”[9] Muslim leaders were tolerant and gracious towards Christian leaders; however, after Muhammad died, they became intently focused on conversion and proselytization.

Frankopan delves into the torturous history of the Middle Ages and recalls the ravages, castrations and slave trades that filled the pockets of Muslims during the ninth century. He recounts the travesties that stained the east and the Crusades that cried out for revolution. In the following chapters, Frankopan went on to discuss the ramifications of Columbus, the ripple effect of eastern influence, the Cold War and the aftermath of terrorism and national security.

The east has gone through numerous accounts of transformation throughout the centuries; however, their influence is still reaching the far ends of the earth. Frankopan concludes his text by stating:

It is easy to feel confused and disturbed by dislocation and violence in the Islamic world, by religious fundamentalism, by clashes between Russia and its neighbors or by China’s struggle with extremism in its western provinces. What we are witnessing, however, are the birthing pains of a region that once dominated the intellectual, cultural and economic landscape which is now re-emerging. We are seeing the signs of the world’s centre of gravity shifting – back to where it lay for millennia.[10]

Peter Frankopan takes us through the story and invites to respond. He gives us a glimpse at the ramifications of globalization and reveals the remnants of the past that present a foundation for the future. “The world is changing around us.”[11] This is why it is crucial to understand the world from varied perspectives. Leadership requires us to walk in someone else’s’ shoes – it challenges us to lead from a place of servanthood. Frankopan dares his readers to look at the nations with new eyes – He dares us to remove our biases and understand another’s pain. He dares us to create hubs of conversation that breed community.

 

[1]“Who first said ‘The pen is mightier than the sword’?,” www.bbc.com, January 9, 2015, https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-30729480.

[2]Peter Frankopan, The Silk Roads: A New History of the World, Reprint ed. (New York, NY: Vintage, 2017), xvii

[3]Ibid., 13.

[4]Ibid., 26.

[5]Ibid., 38.

[6]Ibid., 55.

[7]Ibid., 61.

[8]Ibid., 72.

[9]Ibid., 84.

[10]Ibid., 493.

[11]Ibid., 504.

About the Author

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Colleen Batchelder

I speak at conferences, churches, companies and colleges on intergenerational communication, marketing, branding your vision and living authentically in a ‘filtered’ world. My talks are customized to venue needs and audience interests. My passion is to speak with organizations and bridge the intergenerational gap. I consult with companies, individuals, churches and nonprofit organizations and help them create teams that function from a place of communication that bridges the generational gap. I’m also the Founder and President of LOUD Summit – a young adult organization that presents workshops, seminars and summits that encourage, empower and equip millennials to live out their destiny and walk in their purpose. When I’m not studying for my DMin in Leadership and Global Perspectives at Portland Seminary, you can find me enjoying a nice Chai Latte, exploring NYC or traveling to a new and exotic destination.

7 responses to “The Pen is Mightier than the Sword”

  1. Mark Petersen says:

    Colleen,

    Brilliant post! Thank you! (We quoted the same passage from Frankopan!)

    I love where you ended up in urging for authentic communities. In a topsy-turvy world, we need our roots embedded in community best exemplified by Jesus’ way.

    • Thanks so much, Mark!

      “Great minds think alike.” 🙂

      One of the greatest frustrations of western culture is our fixation with our own perception. I’ve seen so many ministries lead by assumption, especially when it comes to politics and race. The problem is that much of our history is retold through the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant perspective. Frankopan gave us a sobering look at history and encourages us to see Christianity and its historical mesh with other regions from the perspective of the east. What surprised you most about his recount? I was surprised to learn that Christianity was very antagonistic towards the sciences, yet Islam was very receptive to innovation.

  2. Shawn Hart says:

    Colleen, great post. You drew out a quote that I wanted to address: “But in fact every aspect of early Christianity was Asian.” It caught my attention because when I went on my first Holy Land trip, which began in Egypt, our tour guide was adamantly trying to convince us that Egypt was one of the first nations to embrace God’s will (following the Israelites of course). His interpretation of their history combined with Egyptian history was this fantastically interwoven tale of obedience. However, as he spoke for three days, it was also obvious to see the areas that he had to embellish on to make his reality plausible. My point being that many may point more to an “African Christianity” over the “Asian Christianity;” furthermore, they would probably be divided over why they had the right to claim such a prize. For myself, the old saying “All roads lead to Rome,” may, at least in regard to Christianity, be better translated, “All roads lead to Jerusalem.” Even the Holy Wars, though fought from so many directions, they were still not about Asia, Africa, or Europe…they were only about Jerusalem. It is because of all these perspectives that I loved the way you ended your post: “This is why it is crucial to understand the world from varied perspectives. Leadership requires us to walk in someone else’s’ shoes.” The only addition I would make to this however, is that in the process of seeing their perspective, we must never stop looking for the truth; perspectives change, but God’s truth does not.

    • Thank you, Shawn!

      It’s interesting how each person tries to make Christ in their image instead of presenting Him through historical accuracy. Frankopan presents the idea that Christianity began in Asia because it is rooted in eastern culture. When we see Christ from this perspective, we see the meaning and context of scripture through new eyes.

      I thought it was interesting that Frankopan mentioned the unity that was present during the early onset of Islam. He wrote, “…Christians and Jews were core constituencies for support during the first phase of Islamic expansion explains why one of the few verses in the Qurʾān that relates to contemporary events during Muhammad’s lifetime spoke in positive terms about Rome” (Frankopan 2017, 81). In today’s ministry context, we have to work alongside many religious leaders from various faiths. What ways have you seen pastors create space for differences alongside unity?

  3. mm Dan Kreiss says:

    Colleen,

    It was good to read a text providing history from a different perspective. I also enjoyed his historical foundation for what we think is a new experience – globalization. I wonder in your work with emerging generations if you think they understand the antecedents to our present context. With the polarization that is so evident in our culture today what do you think is our responsibility to reframe history from this new position in order to help people understand the deep connections we all share?

    • Thank you, Dan!

      It was great to read his Frankopan’s assessment of history, because it placed Christianity within the context of history, not above history. I could easily visual the tensions that were occurring politically, territorially and culturally.

      Millennials and Generation Z have always known a globalized world. This is why it is imperative that pastors and leaders understand this concept. For years, the church was given a free pass to be ignorant and antagonistic towards other cultures and religions, because ministry occurred within localized communities. However, globalization has increased our reach and also our expectation of church.

      When a Millennial or Gen Z takes a skeptical stance, it’s usually not in response to the lack of loud music or skinny jeans within the service. They usually disconnect from the church due to intellectual skepticism. If pastors presented Christianity from the perspective of the east, I believe that it would enable those who are younger to have more trust within Christianity. Young people are coming into churches highly educated and highly attuned to ignorance. If a pastor tries to sway their congregation through fear or western cultural norms, they’ll spot it a mile away and see it as manipulative.

  4. mm Trisha Welstad says:

    Colleen, thanks for taking us on a shorthand journey of the highlights of Frankopan’s text. You come at his varied take on the world and include your own perspective on leadership which I really appreciate. I am excited about your work with millennials and see the history aspect as a good foundation for your future work.

    p.s. I thought I posted this last week… 🙂

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