Don’t Just Sit There
In just a few days I will board a plane any make my way from America's Pacific Northwest to East Africa's equatorial region. For nearly two weeks, my doctoral cohort and I will study under African pastors and scholars. Together we will explore what God is doing in the Global South and how the rapid and widespread growth of Christianity there will literally change the face declining Western Christianity.
Our time will be split between Nairobi, Kenya and Me'kele, Ethiopia. Both of these countries have been in the news recently, as the region is trying to deal with a famine that is displacing hundreds of thousands of people each day. Droughts are environmental crises, but famines like the one that is sweeping through Somalia is the result of political failure.
In his book, Red Letters: Living a Faith That Bleeds, author and fellow D.Min cohort mate Tom Davis writes, "a pandemic isn't merely a function of mathematics, of statistics. It is the accumulation of millions of little stories" (Kindle location 408). Whether famine or HIV/AIDS, to which Tom was referring, such protracted pandemics are often the result of good people doing nothing. That is what Tom is challenging in his book. The apathy of good people.
As American Evangelicalism continues its numerical decline, all that needs to happen to ensure the eventual death of the church in America is for good people to do nothing. In our cohort reading this summer it has become plainly evident that unless and until church leaders in America look beyond Western Christianity, the bleak future of the Christian landscape will remain unchanged.
According to Davis, change starts with incarnation. There are many gospels begging to be incarnated, but "the only gospel worth living is the one that incarnates love" (loc. 54). Too often it is the gospel of cultural commodification that is incarnated in the lives of American Christians. The antidote may lay in mobilization. Instead of turning inward and trying to re-imagine what a post-Christian church looks like (as many emergent folk are prone to do), we instead need to turn outward (and Southward) in our quest to find faithful ways of embodying a gospel of love.
Davis does a great job challenging Christians to act, not just think. That is key. As the landscape of global Christianity continues to change and to take on a more Southern flavor, Christians in America (and especially pastors) need to act. Reading about and understanding what is happening in one's own zip code won't be enough. Nor will it suffice to simply become aware of what is going on in the Global South. Churches will have to change in order to survive, and that change will either be led into by visionary leaders or else thrust upon them by the growing numbers of Southern Christians making their new homes in the US each year.
So, what will you do?