SpiritFarmer


Dissertate this! pt. 3
April 1, 2009, 12:27 pm
Filed under: Christendom, culture, dissertation, Global South, globalization, missiology

O.k., so I’ve mentioned the fact that there are major movements of growth in Christianity around the world – well, except for the Western world, where Christianity is in a bit of decline lately.  I’ve mentioned that these movements are taking place at a time in which globalization is changing everything.  One interesting thing to note as a backdrop to these discussions is the fact that globalization and Christianity have gone hand in hand for hundreds of years by now.

Back in pre-Reformation Christianity, when the Church of Christendom ruled the day, explorers set sail to find new trade routes and new lands in which to trade.  They typically went with the blessing (and/or military backing) of their homeland.  When they encountered new people groups, they developed “trade partnerships” with swords and spears in hand.  They colonized these places and subdued them through physical force and intimidation.  Another of the tools of empire used to subdue people was the Christian religion.  Conversions took place at high levels, and the religious systems of Christianity were brought in.

So, as these trade routes and colonies got the ball of globalization rolling at a new level, Christianity spread.  The way I’ve described things here paints a fairly negative, cynical picture of things, but this spread of Christianity certainly wasn’t all bad.  While many conversions took place at the wrong end of a weapon, many genuine conversions took place as well.  Further, most of the missionaries that came to the new lands, did so with good motives – to help people, to serve them, to bring spiritual awakening.  True, they also brought their own culturally-bound notions of “civilization” and “development” and “orthodoxy,” but they can’t easily be broadbrushed solely as tools of empire.  I believe that God used globalization and many sacrificial servants to spread the story and mission of Jesus throughout the world.  Christianity has brought many many benefits to the places it has been carried.  It hasn’t been done perfectly, for certain . . . but we’ve gotten a whole bunch of things wrong in the “homelands” of Christianity as well.

Missionary movements have blessed the Church – and not just the Church in the missionary destinations, either.  They blessed the Church “back home” as well, through telling stories, through calling people to humility, generosity, and openness.  They’ve told the story of Jesus being received more fully and gratefully by the “foreign pagans” than by the innoculated pew-sitters in the home of Christianity.  They’ve noticed things about “our” culture that fall short of full gospel embodiment – things they had to step out of our culture for a while in order to notice for themselves.  Two such giants that come to mind are Lesslie Newbigin and Roland Allen.  These guys have written prophetically and need to be more widely read.

Next time, maybe I’ll talk a little bit about some of their observations and begin moving toward a scriptural backdrop that I developed.