SpiritFarmer


Dissertate This! pt. 2

Here’s my second post taking a trip through the dissertation that kept me busy over the past few years.  In my previous post, I talked about the rapid spread of Christianity in the global South and East, even at the same time as there has been a noted downturn in Christian practice here in the Western world.  While asking questions about what “we” in the West can learn from our sisters and brothers in other contexts, I thought it was also important to address one of the essential realities of our time – globalization.  <PAUSE: I just got THE biggest guilty pleasure inserting that link for globalization – the link is to Wikipedia.  Citing Wikipedia as a source in academia is a major no-no, so I had to do it here for kicks>

Thomas Friedman brought the topic of globalization to the masses in his book The World is Flat, talking about how technology and commerce have brought everyone in the world closer together than they ever have been before.  An obvious example of this is the call centers in India that process many of our customer service phone calls in the U.S., but it goes much farther than that.  Friedman does a good job at helping people connect the dollars they spend with the people who produced the products being purchased.

Friedman is a pretty big proponent of globalization and the benefits it brings.  The rise of a middle class in China and India are often cited as the up-side to all of this.   However, there’s another side of the story.  Globalization also brings about some pretty dark things that we don’t often hear about.  The global economy is operated on the strength of a large number of transnational corporations – note that I didn’t say “international” or even “multi-national.”  Transnational corporations are multi-national, but they are frequently able to avoid being overly-identified with any single nation of origin, for the purpose of not complicating trade treaties.  Some are so big and economically powerful that they are “bigger” than many countries in the developing world.  This means that if a small, struggling nation has some natural resources that one of these corporations wants, the company has a major advantage when it comes to negotiations.  The country desperately needs the money and jobs the company will provide, so they give in to extremely low pay, poor worker conditions, environmental devastation, etc., all with very little retribution if the corporation violates any of its terms of agreement.

Tons of books are written on the complexities of globalization, so trust me, there’s no way I’m going to do justice to it here.  But there are some dynamics to living in a globalized world that are positive and some are negative.  Being concerned with Christian movements, my concern is to accept the reality of our situation – globalization isn’t going to go away, and the Church is in a position to utilize the positive aspects of it, and speak and act boldly to blunt the negative impacts wherever we are able.

I’m not sure what I’ll get into next time, but I’ll probably start by framing things up from a church-historical point of view.  One quick note for those who commented on my previous dissertation postings – I am will to make a .pdf of my dissertation available by request, but I have some last minute minor edits to clean up this week before it goes off for printing and binding.  Once I’ve got that final version locked down, I’ll put it out.

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This looks like a winner . . .
March 22, 2009, 9:51 pm
Filed under: friends, leadership, missiology

Todd Hunter is doing something new again.  Check it. (HT: Jason Clark)



Major League Soccer in Seattle
March 19, 2009, 7:14 am
Filed under: Seattle, soccer

While the rest of the country gets geeked up about the NCAA Basketball tournament, I’m excited about tonight’s inaugural game for the Seattle Sounders FC.  I grew up playing baseball and baseball only.  But at the age of 15, my very small private school’s soccer team desperately needed bodies just to be able to field a full team.  A few of my best friends were on the team, and I knew that this might be my only shot at lettering in a sport, so I jumped in.  I stumbled my way through, playing defense my first year, given that I had exactly zero ball handling skills.  But I fell in love with it, and worked extra time in order to be ready for my senior year.  I got good enough to move to midfield and have a little more impact on scoring, etc.  Ever since then, I’ve loved the game.  Tonight’s game is sold out, so I won’t be joining in the revelry in person.  But, I’ll definitely be going to a game or two this season.  I’d consider buying a team jersey, except I don’t like the idea of paying 90 bucks to be a walking billboard for X-Box.  I’ll probably settle for a scarf or a sweatshirt.



The Church You Didn’t Know About
March 18, 2009, 5:37 pm
Filed under: blogging, Christendom, dissertation, Global South, missiology, school, theology

I’m not sure exactly how to go about this, but this post represents my first attempt at blogging about my dissertation.  I can’t say how many posts I’ll use to write about this, or how frequently I will do so.  I’ll start with some general framing words, though.

When I began the process of research and writing, I was intrigued by the possible implications of some of the writings done by a Penn State University professor, Philip Jenkins.  I had recently read his book, The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity.  In it, he gives a lot of data that proves a surprising fact: there are currently more Christians in the non-Western world than there are in the West, which has always been considered as the home of Christianity.  The past few decades have witnessed an explosion in the number of Christians in Latin America, Africa, and Asia.  All of this has taken place at the same time as we have seen a steady decline in church as we know it in the West.

I seriously doubt that I was alone in being surprised at the shift taking place in global Christianity – most USAmerican Christians would never guess that to be the case.  Once I took that reality in, I had some immediate questions about power.  We in the West are very accustomed to being in control – we have the money, we have the political influence, we have the biggest guns, we have the white skin, we have the theology, we have the authority.  But if we’re not even a majority of the world’s Christian population, should this really be the case?  How is Western power being used when it comes to theology, social justice, missionary practice, etc.?  I was particularly interested in listening to the theological reflections of Christian brothers and sisters from the global South – is it possible that rather than being forced to blindly accept theology developed in Rome, Geneva, London, New York, Nashville, Dallas, Springfield, or Southern California, perhaps they should be practicing theologies that they’ve developed in their own cultural contexts?  Further, is it possible that “they” should actually be teaching “us” about some things they’ve learned?

So those were some of the questions I began this research journey with.  Many of the answers I found were quite exciting to me.  But I haven’t finished setting the stage quite yet.  The next time I post on this, I’ll talk briefly about the context that brings “us” and “them” together.



A milestone passed
March 17, 2009, 6:20 am
Filed under: blogging, globalization, missiology, school

Yesterday morning I was able to successfully defend my doctoral dissertation, and I have now officially completed the Doctor of Ministry degree through George Fox Seminary.  It’s a bittersweet kind of day for me – I’m certainly glad to have this thing done, and have the opportunity to breathe a little and bring a bit of harmony back into my schedule and life, but it also marks the close of a process that I’ve definitely enjoyed.

In part because of my busy-ness with school reading and writing, the frequency of my blog posting has dropped over the past couple of years.  I’ve also not posted very heavily on the areas of my dissertation research.  Maybe it’s just that I’ve been writing so much in academic forms about the research that I haven’t been highly motivated to do more of it here.  At any rate, I am now prepared to reveal the title of my  dissertation to you.  Ready?  How’s this sound?:

GLOBAL CHRISTIAN SHIFTS AND MISSIONAL CHURCH MOVEMENTS:
LINKING THE POSTCOLONIAL GLOBAL SOUTH WITH THE POSTMODERN WEST

I’ve defnitely learned a lot, and am planning now to begin sharing some of that here.  Globalization is changing our world, and has brought some exciting changes to the Church.  There are some rough and uncertain days ahead, but also some things that I am very hopeful about.  I’ll share some of that as well.

For today, though, I just want to say thanks to my family and friends for all the encouragement and love that I have received.  It’s not been easy, but the support I’ve felt from others has carried me along.



Global Missional Leadership

I had the pleasure of enjoying a couple of hours at the SeaTac airport this morning with Jason Clark, who had a layover between his flights from Portland to LAX (I know, the route doesn’t make sense, but since those flights made our little meetup possible, I’m not complaining).  Jason is a pastor from London, and a point-person in the Emergent UK conversation.  He’s also a graduate of the George Fox Seminary program that I’m set to finish up (tomorrow morning!!!).

We met to conspire about a brand new program that Jason is developing with George Fox – a Doctor of Ministry in Global Missional Leadership.  It is geared toward reflective theological practice within a global context.  There are a number of things that excite me about this new program.  First, it isn’t “global” in name only – in addition to the course content and readings, there are three face-to-face learning experiences, which will take place in locations in Africa, Europe, and Asia.  These will be held in partnerships with seminaries in these locations.  That is great, because we need increasing global interaction with theologians and practitioners in order to learn from each other.  Second, it is both theologically and practically oriented – often practitioners get so caught up in the day-to-day behaviors of ministry that they aren’t theologically focused; and often theologians get so caught up in the academics that they fail to express their work in practical ways.  Third, it is integrative and open source – an online learning community is already being developed, which can be utilized by GML students, and non-students alike (go check it out, and jump on board!).  Seminary education is in need of change, and this represents a significant step toward accessibility and cultural contextualization.

It looks like I’m going to have an opportunity to work with this program, which is a big deal to me.  The topic of my dissertation (which I’ll begin blogging very soon)  is a very good fit, and it represents a good “next step” for me, now that I’m done with my own school program.  I’m defnitely looking forward to seeing how things develop.



Creativity Flows (but not accidentally)
March 10, 2009, 9:37 pm
Filed under: creativity, friends, social action

After spending a very good weekend with family and friends (some of which has been documented here by Jason), I’m reflecting on the energy of creativity.  On Sunday, I had a chance to chat a bit with Emily and James, who were both recognized at the Ideacamp the previous weekend.  Emily and I go back several years, so it was really fun to catch up with her a little, and hear about all the great things she is pursuing now, including Bake It Forward.  James, too, is a great guy, and makes a really great point in his presentation of WikiChoice – namely that so much of the time, we dwell on issues of justice that aren’t actionable.  WikiChoice gives people the chance to do something positive, rather than just not do something negative (the website is in development, but you can watch James describe it on this video).

One thing that Emily and James mentioned is that their ideas are a result of intentional effort.  They meet with a small group of friends every Monday evening for the purpose of generating ideas for how to make the world a better place.  They brainstorm and work together to make things happen.  In other words, these ideas aren’t a result of accidental brain episodes – they’re the result of disciplined effort.  It makes me ask how often I set aside time to be creative – toward solving problems, toward helping others become aware of issues, toward developing new efforts at revealing the Kingdom (the answer is: certainly not enough).

Creativity can’t be underestimated.  But I find that I don’t take the habits related to it seriously enough.  Perhaps I should spend more time over here.