World Christianity

10-12 inches of snow have blanketed the landscape around me. I peer out of my home office window and see that it is steadily falling. The little branches of the bush outside of my window are icicles with snow on top. Students are ecstatic because class has been canceled. I live on and work on a university campus. That’s why I know about the students. In fact, I can hear them outside in the lounge and they’re playing ping-pong and pool–gabbing about how much homework they have to do and how glad they are that classes are canceled so they can do it. As I returned home, I saw two guys off to the hills with their plastic blue sleds. They’re taking full advantage of the snow and canceled classes. Now, my 2 1/2 year-old daughter is napping. So, I can post.

(I started this post earlier today and then had to stop. It is now nearly midnight).

This morning I heard a speaker discuss what we’ve known to be happening. Christianity has turned global and has turned away from its Western center. The new centers of Christian influence are now Africa, Latin America, and Asia. While orthodox doctrines remain the same, western theology will not dominate. It is a global Christianity of which North America is a part. Unfortunately, North Americans have been slow to embrace this reality and slow to appreciate the contributions made by non-western theologians.

I have studied this to some extent and I have a few thoughts on it. Those of us in the west cannot be arrogant or conceited enough to think that our way of doing things is the best. No. We have to converse with our brothers and sisters throughout the world about following Christ. This doesn’t mean that we can’t discern and can’t disagree. But it does mean that our voice is not the sole nor loudest nor domineering voice in the conversation of what it means to follow Christ (Here again, I don’t mean the basic tenets of the faith). But we have enjoyed such a status for so long that we think our way is the only way and the best way. And I imagine so do others from other countries and nations.

But the point is, we cannot marginalize our non-western brothers and sisters by ignoring them. We have to think of world Christianity, global Christianity–listen to and ponder the words and ideas and theology of non-Western brothers and sisters, just like they’ve done with us. We are not superior to them, neither are they to us.

I think of one of my favorite verses in Scripture: “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each of us” (Acts 17:26-27).

I was born in the latter half of the twentieth century and now live in the first half of the twenty-first. It is no historical accident that I was born at this time. I was born in the U.S. God determined that I was to be born in this time and place to be a disiciple, to bring honor to his name. And it is the same with you, wherever you are, whoever you are around. God has put us around certain people at this point in history in the country we live in so that we might seek him. Are you pointing others to him with your life and words no matter where you are? Whether it be in an isolated place, in the country, in the city or even in academia?

Paul was speaking on Mars Hill in Athens when he said this. He was in the midst of the people–proclaiming through words the gospel, the truth of the God who created us and who saves us. He was telling them how they could move from life to death.

Which reminds me of one last thought before I try and sleep. We are ever moving towards life or death wherever we are. Do our thoughts, our decisions, our behavior indicate that we are moving towards life? If so, those around us will see the life of Christ in us. We radiate God’s life, God’s light (Like Moses did  after spending time with God in the wilderness mountain top . . . God is light, in him there is no darkness at all) without even trying. But if our thoughts are darkness and we do not deal with them, that will become evident to those around us because it will be what is in our souls.

My prayer is that I would never bring shame to God’s name. And I sit in wide-eyed wonder, awed, that he has appointed me to live in this time and place that I might find him and passionately and lovingly direct others to him.

Maybe you will get a sense of that mystery and beauty too and remember that he has placed all of us throughout the earth in different times to know him and make him known.

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