Is our faith too Western? And how can World Christianity shape our faith?

Oct 28, 2016Blog, World Christianity0 comments

Is our faith too Western? And how can World Christianity shape our faith? What would an expansive and diverse and global approach to faith and theology and mission look like?

In GlobalChurch, I invite the church to wrestle with these questions.

Mark Noll makes a striking observation:

It is as if the globe had been turned upside down and sideways. A few short decades ago, Christian believers were concentrated in the global north and west, but now a rapidly swelling majority lives in the global south and east. If Rip Van Winkle wiped a half-century of sleep from his eyes [after awaking this past week] and tried to locate his fellow Christian believers, he would find them in surprising places, expressing their faith in surprising ways, under surprising conditions, with surprising relationships to culture and politics, and raising surprising theological questions that would not have seemed possible when he fell asleep.[1]

The Spirit of Christ is causing a fascinating and thrilling shift in global Christianity. Western Christians can no longer claim to be the center or heartbeat of the global church. The shift toward the Majority World is undeniable. (By “Majority World” I mean Africa, Asia, Latin America, etc.).

Majority World churches are booming in numbers and growing at an exponential rate. Many scholars have documented this growth. “By 2025 fully two-thirds of Christians will live in Africa, Latin America, and Asia.”[2]

A century ago, the Global North (commonly defined as North America, Europe, Australia, Japan, and New Zealand) contained more than four times as many Christians as the Global South (the rest of the world). Today… more than 1.3 billion Christians live in the Global South [61% of all Christians live in Asia, Africa, and Latin America], compared with about 860 million in the Global North (39%).[3]

The Spirit of Christ made this astonishing shift happen in only one hundred years.[4]

At the same time, the churches of the West are declining.

The West is in desperate need of re-missionalization.

There’s been a recent surge of books considering the mission of the church. These examine how we might re-missionalize the church and re-evangelize the West.[5]

But, North Americans have written most of these books.

Australian, European, and British authors have written many of these books too.

And I recently heard a speaker make a claim. He said, “The future of Western cultures and churches rest with the North American church. North American Christian experiments and innovations hold the key for winning the West for Christ.”[6]

I believe he’s appealing to the dominant narrative in North America.

But he’s wrong.

It’s time that we embraced a new narrative. The future of the global church isn’t found in the United States. How could we even think that, when all the exponential growth of the church is in the Majority World?

Western churches and theology and mission aren’t the future.

We’re a part of the future. But we’re not the future.

The future of the global church exists in dynamic and global conversations.

In my book GlobalChurch, I say that need to move from a Eurocentric and Americentric view of mission and the church, to one that prioritizes, respects, includes, and hears the whole global church.

These conversations must be multivocal, multicultural, multi-peopled, missional, and glocal (global and local). They must involve people from the Majority World, First Nations, indigenous cultures, and the West.

The global church needs a thrilling glocal exchange. We need one that we characterize by mutuality, respect, partnership, and interdependence.

Such exchange helps Majority World, First Nation, indigenous, and Western churches learn from each other. It enables them to pursue missional theology and practice in their own contexts, with attention to global exchanges.

As Christians, we need to replace European-Centered (Eurocentric) and American-Centered (Americentric) worldviews with a global missional worldview.

An ethnocentric worldview focuses on local, national, “American,” and parochial issues of faith and culture. A global missional worldview is expansive. It’s attentive to what God is doing globally, and joins with God in his local and global mission in the world.

Here’s a table to help you discover whether your faith is truly global and missional, or European and American-centered:

A Western-Centered Worldview Versus a Global Missional Worldview

Western-Centered Worldview Global Missional Worldview
Western Global
Monocultural Multicultural
Superior Meek
Independent Interdependent
Isolationist Collaborative
Monological Conversational
Colonial Mutual & Post-Colonial
Parochial Glocal (Global & Local)
Insular Multi-voiced & Multi-peopled
Myopic Mission Local & Global Mission
Preservationist Renewalist
Closed Open
Uninterested & Dismissive Interested & Attentive
Divisive Holistic & Unifying
Oppressive Liberating
Ethnocentric (sometimes even unconsciously or conscious racist) Just & Reconciling & Respectful & Expansive
Nationalistic Kingdom-focused
Exceptionalism Equality
Nostalgic Visionary
Centralized Dispersed
Narcissistic Humble
Westernized History & Theology Localized & Globalized History & Theology

 

Do you have a European-Centered (Eurocentric) and American-Centered (Americentric) worldview or a global missional worldview?

Do you have a European-Centered & American-Centered worldview or a global missional worldview? Click To Tweet

In my book GlobalChurch, I unpack a global missional worldview. And I show how it’s transforming the worldwide church.

GlobalChurch: Reshaping Our Conversations, Renewing Our Mission, Revitalizing Our Churches (IVP, 2016).

 

Graham Hill

Dr Graham Hill is the Founding Director of The GlobalChurch Project – www.theglobalchurchproject.com. He’s the author of “GlobalChurch: Reshaping Our Conversations, Renewing Our Mission, Revitalizing Our Churches” (IVP, 2016), and 3 other books.

© 2016 All rights reserved.
Copying and republishing this article on other Web sites, or in any other place, without written permission is prohibited.

[1] Mark A. Noll, The New Shape of World Christianity: How American Experience Reflects Global Faith (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2009). 19­–20.

[2] Bevans, Schroeder, and Luzbetak, “Missiology after Bosch.” 69.

[3] Pew Research Center. Global Christianity: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World’s Christian Population. http://www.pewforum.org/2011/12/19/global-christianity-exec/

[4] See Barrett, Kurian, and Johnson, World Christian Encyclopedia: A Comparative Survey of Churches and Religions in the Modern World. 12–15, and http://www.globalchristianity.org

[5] For examples of such books, see: NextReformation Top 50 Reading List: http://nextreformation.com/?p=11081. Missional Church Network Top 40 Reading List: http://missionalchurchnetwork.com/missional-reading-list-top-40/.

[6] I’m intentionally not naming this person.

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Books

Don't forget to buy Graham Joseph Hill's books:

  1. Healing Our Broken Humanity
  2. Global Church
  3. Salt, Light, and a City (second edition)

 

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