Welcome to the Big Picture Podcast. I’m Joel Fieri and this podcast seeks to begin and hopefully sustain a conversation about current trends, ideas and issues in the Church and greater society.
Today, I want to expand the greater society aspect of that scope and see how it applies to the rest of the world.
As you know if you’ve been listening, I spend a good amount of time on this podcast talking about the seemingly rapid transformation of our society from it’s Judeo-Christian foundation to a secular-humanist, post modern society, one that is quickly rejecting and even becoming hostile to Christianity.
I try not to whine or complain about this reality, but instead try to take a big picture look at how and why it’s happening, and most of all how we as Christians can not only bear up under it and stand firm in our faith, but also thrive as obedient followers of Christ who are privileged to represent God in the face of opposition.
And I say ‘seemingly rapid transformation’ because it’s been going on for much longer than we think or some of us care to acknowledge.
So, that being said, what does a decline of Christian influence or acceptance in the United States, and even Canada and Europe (all of which used to be called ‘the West’, but now there’s a new term emerging for it, which is ‘the global North’), what does this decline mean for the world?
The reason I ask is because recently a group called the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary issued a report titled, “Christianity In Its Global Context, 1970-2010”, and this report predicts that the number of Christians in the world will grow to 2.6 billion by the year 2020, with most of the growth expected in the global South, which is Asia, Africa and Latin America, while Christianity will continue to decline in the global North (or West). This total is more than double the number from 1970, which seems to be the last time a firm number was taken (this also gives us a pretty fair timeline for the decline of Christian influence here).
So, again, what does all this mean in the Big Picture?
Here’s my reaction – first off, it’s totally understandable and right that we western/northern Christians are distressed at the direction of our societies, because they’re the greatest societies and countries the world has ever known, and their moral and financial foundations are crumbling.
I’ve often said that a collapse of the Judeo/Christian West, specifically America, would be a disaster for the world.
From a ‘here and now’ standpoint, human suffering and injustice would be horrific.
But as the West/North turns it’s back on God, we see the rest of the world is turning towards Him. Like all cultures do, we tend to see ourselves and our reality as the center of everything and the definition of the way things ‘should be’.
But we’re not God, and God isn’t from the West/North. He’s an omni-present, big God with a global purpose, which is why He created the world in the first place, and then sent His Son to redeem it. And that purpose is to glorify Himself to His creation and reconcile it back to Him.
Now, let’s admit, He’s been using us Western/Northern folk for a lot of the heavy lifting of that purpose for a long time. It’s so trendy and politically correct right now to bash the influence of Western civilization in the world, but that’s not reality.
The reality is that western christianity has been the biggest blessing on mankind in all human history. And I don’t think He’s done using us yet, either.
But now God, in His infinite wisdom, seems to be raising up an whole ‘nother world of believers, who maybe, just maybe, are as well equipped, or maybe better equipped to shine light in a dark post-western world.
So, as we rightly struggle with and pray for and try our best to keep our candles lit in our ever darkening culture, His light and glory are growing brighter throughout the world. If we can step out of our temporal box of the ‘here and now’ and ask God to help us see His eternal perspective, His ‘Big Picture’, we can take it to heart and have faith that He’s got it covered.
In closing, it’s time for the Great Cloud Of Witnesses, the segment of our podcast where we meet and hear the stories of those who have given, and some who are still giving, their lives by faith in the promises of God, and of whom the world was and is not worthy (if you don’t know that reference, please check out Hebrews chapter 11-12 in your Bible).
Today’s witness is Pastor Jeremiah Logara from Sudan, and his story goes like this:
Jeremiah Logara never knew resignation, only determination. The Muslim soldiers had arrested six boys from his church and falsely accused them of being spies. When Jeremiah, their pastor, tried explaining that the boys were Christians, not spies, the soldiers decided to arrest him too.
The Islamic soldiers tied Pastor Logara’s arms and legs together and hung him four feet in the air with a rope. They whipped him and dripped hot melted wax on his chest. He recalled the prayer of Jesus in the Garden. He prayed, “Oh God, if it is your will for me to die today, let it be done.” He could not bear that he might give in to the tortures of the Northern Sudanese Arabs as he stood before the young, impressionable boys.
But God’s will was that he live on as a testimony for these boys. He was released. But the boys were detained. Pastor Logara imagines the boys were probably being forced to train as soldiers.
When the pastor reflected upon that incident, he recalled, “I thought of Jesus’ death, that Jesus died to save the whole world. I thought my death could be part of the salvation of these boys as I followed in the footsteps of my Lord. I pray my example of suffering for them will encourage them to remain faithful to God.”
I chose Pastor Logara’s story, and am nominating him to the great cloud of witnesses, because he’s from Africa, a big part of the future Christian world we’ve been talking about. This is what the faith of much of the present and future body of Christ looks like, and is a LOT stronger and deeper than my cushy faith.
I’m not worthy of this man’s faith, and I’m confident and comforted to know that God will be raising up many more like him.
Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed this week’s Big Picture Podcast, please go to my web site at gobigpicture.net and also check out our other podcasts and points of view on the E-Squared Media Network at e2medianetwork.com. Wherever you go, leave a few comments and tell your friends, and even you pastor about us.
See you next time on the Big Picture podcast. Be blessed!