So one of the things that I’m most proud of at the church I serve is our Restore the World initiative.
We believe that in the age to come, God is going to restore all things, and the call of God is to partner with Him in what that looks like here and now.
I’ve been blown away by the way our entire church has been engaged in the process of thinking and praying about what God is doing globally, and how over the past year we’ve begun to think differently about our (western/American Christian) place in the world.
So for the next few days, I want to share with you some of the teaching videos that my co-worker Derran Reese created to help our church grasp the radical shifts in Global Christianity in the past few decades, introduce problems we are largely blind to, and initiatives to help partner with those problems.
As I said, I’m incredibly proud of the work that our people are doing in areas like evangelism/poverty/micro-financing/fighting human-trafficking across the world, and it all started for us, by helping raise awareness for what was actually happening in the world and how we could join God in it.
So the first video is Derran talking about how Global Christianity has moved from the Northern hemisphere to the Southern Hemisphere. For most of us reading this, when we think of an average Christian, immediately certain stereotypes come to mind. Probably white/middle-class/suburban person. But globally speaking, that stereotype couldn’t be more wrong.
According to Philip Jenkins, the average Christian today would look more like a black, peasant, female worker in Latin America. And in a couple of decades, at the current pace of change, the idea of a White Christian will seem like an odd oxymoron, mildly surprising like a “Swedish Buddhist”
So why does this matter so much?
Great question, glad I asked it.
Your Map Is Lying To You
I once heard A.J. Swoboda (a preacher in Portland) say that his favorite course in college was done by some hippy political scientist who taught at the University of Oregon. One day this professor gave a lecture about maps. One day, he pulled out a big map of the world. He pointed out how America was in the middle and how big it was in comparison to other countries. Then he closed the map and said it all was a lie.
The whole class sat there, puzzled. It’s not a lie, we thought. It’s our map!
But here’s an experiment for you. Sometime try a Google search for “Actual World Map” and see if the results don’t surprise you. Most of us grew up with a map that has North America front and center, appearing as if it is the largest of all continents. But to do that, we had to cut the entire continent of Asia in half (!) and reduce the entire continent of Africa significantly.
This may sound incidental, but maps really do reveal the way we view the world and our place in it. And if we go off most of the maps we look at we will be quite literally at the center of the world.
If you think that you’re church is at the center of the world, and God’s main activity is through you, than your mission trips can begin to turn into colonialism or poverty tourism and you start to hear stories about how that church in Mexico got painted 50 times in one summer by different student ministries mission trips (a real story!)
Global Partnerships vs. Western Saviors
So one of the ways this reality has changed the ways we approached missions is that instead of subtly thinking like we were going to send people from here to introduce people to God there, we’ve started to realize that God is already very (maybe even more) active there and that we were going to partner with local churches in what they were doing…and let them partner and teach us here.
So for example, our sister church in Itu Brazil, no longer just receives mission trips from well-intentioned do-gooders coming from Abilene Texas, they also have started sending mission trips here! This past year, they raised money to come help us reach our neighborhood in West Texas through service and evangelism.
This is the implication of Christianity moving to the Global South. It is to live out the reality that God is moving throughout the world, and that we Americans are not the center of the Christian faith, God is always moving, and we want to join Him in what He’s doing through His people and throughout the world.
Next up: The 10/40 window