Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The New Faces of Christianity and the Need for Ministry Preparation

I am presently ready Philip Jenkins latest book, The New Faces of Christianity which is a sequel of sorts to his earlier work, The Next Christendom. Jenkins expands on his earlier observations on how the growing, vibrant church of the South (as he calls it) is theologically conservative and Bible-based. Christians in much of the developing world really do take the Bible seriously and cannot understand how we in the West can justify embracing beliefs and practices that the Bible would seem to be against and which Bible-believing Christians have never embraced prior to the 20th century.

I will have to withhold my comments more until I have finished the book, but I can already tell that this will be an invaluable resource for anyone who works with persecuted Christians in the non-Western world. I believe that it is essential that we understand our brothers and sisters culturally and theologically if we are going to minister effectively with and to them. Too many well-meaning zealots just jump on a plane for a quick 10 day "mission trip" with little or no preparation, with a preset agenda and dollars falling out of their pockets and then wonder why their efforts are fruitless, unappreciated or short-lived, often creating a dependent church or national "mission" that has been taught that compliancy to donor expectations is the key to continued funding and/or existence. The easy answer is to blame the recipients; those poor ignorant "nationals" who ought to be more grateful, cooperative, or ambitious. I am, however, of the opinion that the fault more often lies elsewhere. There is no substitute and no excuse for slipshod preparation for cross-cultural ministry, whether it is for two weeks or twenty years. Reading Jenkins' book should be a small part of that preparation.

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