DMINLGP

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

Translatability

Written by: on April 10, 2015

I have found the topic of globalization fascinating. Why? Because globalization has many effects, but one of the most important is the dramatic increase in the opportunity and need to interact with people who are culturally different from ourselves.[1] With me writing, or will soon be writing, a dissertation about cultural intelligence and the need for all of us to increase our CQ in the light of globalization, I find the study of globalization highly intriguing. Yet many of the authors that I have read seldom, if at all, recognize, or provide observations on how Christianity has helped, or hindered globalization. Nor do many authors mention how Christians have come to the aid of those who have become “collateral damages” due to globalization. Donald M. Lewis and Richard V. Pierard editors of Global Evangelicalism: Theology, History and Culture in Regional Perspective agree that it is surprising how little attention has been given by scholars in the field of globalization to Christianity in the light of these world changes.[2] They affirm my observations by stating, “many globalization theorists are virtually silent about the role of religion in globalization.”[3] Yet as Groody writes, “with the recent challenges of globalization, it is all the more urgent that we reflect on the contribution of the church in general and Christian theology in particular to the challenges of the modern world.”[4] If there ever was a group that could be looked at as truly global and culturally influential it is this Evangelical movement.

            Global Evangelicalism provides a large overview of this culturally diverse and polycentric movement. Why is this movement so powerful? Why is it so wide spread? In Global Evangelicalism, one learns that this religious passion to share the Gospel with the world is a cornerstone of Evangelicalism.[5] It is this movement with key ingredients of conversion, the Bible, activism, and a cross centeredness (crucicentrism),[6] that makes it such a powerful force on the earth. Yet this Evangelical movement is not really understood by those outside nor inside the movement. The main thrust of Global Evangelicalism is an attempt to trace the roots and to help understand its diversity.[7] A diversity that has both grown with globalization and assisted in the advancement of globalization and yet, at the same time, a number of theorists see religion as the potential spoiler of globalization.[8]

I wrote about globalization and the church last semester. I began with the words, “Since the inception of the church the gospel message has been a message that began and continues to find itself crossing international boarders and cultures.” Though the Gospel proclamation began in Jerusalem, it did not long stay there. For Christianity and the power of the resurrected Christ quickly made its way into different cultures and regions of the then inhabited world. That was, and is, the uniqueness of Christianity, its “translatability.”[9] From culture to culture, from people to people, this Gospel of the Kingdom continues to be translated and “has ennobled all the cultures that it has touched.”[10]

All this academic verbiage said, I believe the strongest reason that I am an evangelical, and why so many are as well, is that I have found the love of a God that is real enough to change both my mind and my life. Since coming to faith in Him I have altered and continue to alter my life course. Because of this faith and the impact that it has made in my life I desire to tell others about what I have found. No man, having found a great treasure, goes and hides his discovery but rather, gathers his friends and shares what great fortune has come upon him. May we all continue the translatability of this message of love and help other join in on the treasure.

[1] David C. Thomas and Kerr Inkson, Cultural Intelligence: Living and Working Globally, 2d. ed. (San Francisco: Berrett-Kehler Publishers, Inc., 2009), ix.

[2] Donald M Lewis and Richard V. Pierard, eds., Global Evangelicalism: Theology, History and Culture in Regional Perspective (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2014), 72.

[3] Ibid., 67.

[4] Daniel G. Groody, “Globalization and Grace: A Christian Public Theology for a Global Future,” Theological Studies 70, no. 1 (March 2009): 1.

[5] Lewis and Pierard, Global Evangelicalism: Theology, History and Culture in Regional Perspective, 20.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid., 13.

[8] Ibid., 71.

[9] Samuel Escobar, Changing Tides: Latin America and World Mission Today, American Society of Missiology Series, No. 31 (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2002), 173.

[10] Ibid., 174.

About the Author

mm

Mitch Arbelaez

International Mission Mobilizers with Go To Nations Living and traveling the world from Jacksonville Florida

5 responses to “Translatability”

  1. mm John Woodward says:

    Preach it, Brother Mitch. What a passionate post! And what a great sign: that what you have been focusing on and will be writing your dissertation on is something you are still so very passionate about. Some of your thoughts came up in a lecture I was listening to today as I drove up to South Dakota, that suggested that the message of Christ is something very clear and non-negotiatable, as well as something that can speak into and be adapted by any culture…which makes Christianity truly unique. How can the Gospel be both solid and liquid? It can’t be explained, but it is working all around the globe and is changing lives…which is what you suggested at the end of your post. I would concur, the message of Jesus is truly translatable!

  2. Liz Linssen says:

    A great post Mitch! I love where you write, “Since the inception of the church the gospel message has been a message that began and continues to find itself crossing international boarders and cultures.” It’s so true, very little is written about the impact of Evangelical Christianity upon globalisation over the years. You make a great point. Christianity is life transforming. It can change societies and cities for God. Christianity has always been diverse, cross-cultural, and useful to ennoble nations. Thank you Mitch!

  3. mm rhbaker275 says:

    Mitch,
    Thanks for your post – it is helpful and insightful. Also, your research topic overall is one which stimulates great interest and you iterate the ideas so well across our various readings.

    Why is it that, as you say, “passion to share the Gospel with the world is a cornerstone of Evangelicalism?” Your own statement of the impact of the gospel on your life is probably the best answer: “I have found the love of a God that is real enough to change both my mind and my life. Since coming to faith in Him I have altered and continue to alter my life course. Because of this faith and the impact that it has made in my life I desire to tell others about what I have found.” Personally finding the “power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16) is the point of propulsion, the launching pad, the threshold of all that life promises and the future holds. The possibilities engage all of life; little wonder that there is a great incentive to “witness to the ‘good news’ of Jesus Christ, to ‘go into all the world.'” I like what Noll says in this context, the evangelical commitment is to “a faith with a global vision.”

    Great post, Mitch, very passionate and on target.

  4. mm rhbaker275 says:

    Mitch –
    I already made my response to your post, but there is an article I want to call to your attention. Andrew Walls has written an excellent article titled “Globalization and the Study of Christian History.” It is published in Craig Ott and Harold A. Netland, eds. “Glogalizing Theology: Belief and Practice in an Era of World Christianity” (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006): 70-82.

    In a section of his article on The Cultural Factor in Contemporary Theology, Walls writes about the inadequacy of Western theological models to relate to the pluralism of cultures in the South, East and especially Africa. One of his most amazing insights is that Western theology does not have the answers to the pressing pastoral needs of diverse global cultures “because they have no questions. They have nothing useful to say on issues involving such things as witchcraft or sorcery, since those do no not exist in an enlightened universe” (p.75-76). He is writing of Western worldviews that are incomparable in other cultural contexts.

    Another article by Walls (on worldview) comes to mind: Andrew Walls, “Worldviews and Christian Conversion” in John Corrie and Cathy Ross, eds. “Mission in Context: Explorations Inspired by J. Andrew Kirk” (Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing, 2012): 155-165. In this article, Walls is addressing “Truth in a Pluralistic World.”

  5. mm Clint Baldwin says:

    Mitch,
    Appreciate this post. I think your CQ interests are exactly what more of Evangelicalism needs. There may be goodness there as you note Escobar and others saying brought to cultures, but as we really all essentially know, this goodness often came at the too high a price of cultural devastation. Evangelicals can and must do better. They just might with more tools like CQ in their toolbox. 🙂

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