What Will Shape Our Spirituality: Future Church #2

Yesterday’s post on What will shape our spirituality in the coming decade has sparked quite a bit of interest and as I have far more to say than can fit into my article for the upcoming MSA Seed Sampler I will share some more of my thoughts here.

Yesterday I talked about the impact of social media and how have moved from consumption to immersion.  Today I wanted to talk about the impact of the changing geographical centre of Christianity.  In 1900 80% of all Christians lived in Europe and North America, but by 2005 that had dropped to under 40% and by 2050 will probably fall below 30%.

In the next decade, this trend will have profound implications for theology and spiritual practices as voices from Latin America, Africa and Asia contribute their perspectives to a discussion that has been dominated by Western thought for a thousand years.  What many of us in Western cultures are oblivious to is that much of our theology has been shaped by a Eurocentric viewpoint that arises from the place of power and privilege that our cultures have held.  It does not have universal validity and is often shaped more by our positions of privilege than by the gospel message.  In a post colonial, post Eurocentric Christian world those of us from European backgrounds will need to become listeners and learners.  We will not only need to listen to voices from other cultures we will need to allow the theological perspectives of other cultures to shape our theology too, humbly seeking forgiveness for the wrongs of the past  and working for reconciliation and justice.

In Foolishness to the Greeks, Lesslie Newbigin states:

The fact that Jesus is much more than, much greater than our culture-bound vision of him, can only come home to us through the witness of those who see him through other eyes.

To fully understand Jesus and embrace the entire gospel message we will need to reinvent discipleship so that it to compels us to give up our positions of power and invites us into a journey together with sisters and brothers from around the world.  It should embrace our need to learn from believers in different cultures who emphasize distinct aspects of the gospel message based on questions that have arisen within their history and context.   Often their theologies have been shaped by the pain and suffering inflicted by Western colonialism and domination.  Liberation theology for example, grew out of a culture of oppression.  It places high value on not just individual repentance but on creation of a new community with structures that promise justice and wholeness for all.  In Africa and Asia there is strong emphasis on issues of poverty and racism, and Australian aboriginal theology grapples with concerns about displacement from their native lands.

God’s family is drawn from every culture and tribe  and nation.   In this coming decade we will need to recognize that all of us are on a journey together learning to understand and walk together in partnership with our sisters and brothers from around the world.  When we know we are all part of God’s family, we will willingly seek for understanding, reconciliation and new ways of sharing life so that we all become one as God intended.

5 Responses

  1. Christine – thanks for this post that pushes me to think beyond …
    I think it’s especially timely for this week, as the lectionary gospel is Luke 4:21-30 … there, it seems Jesus is suggesting his kingdom won’t be geographically centered. And as with Jesus then, to think (and preach?!) that our nation is not the locus of God’s favor will probably bring about resistance and push-back.

  2. […] The shifting geographic centre of Christianity to Africa, Asia and Latin America. […]

  3. Wayne it is so sad to see how easily we begin to think that our view of faith is the center of the universe (makes me think of when people all thought that the sun revolved around the earth). I was reading an article recently with a comment by a Malay woman who said “Jesus never lived in the United States. He lived in the Middle East and in North Africa. Christianity has existed far longer in Asia than in North America. Why do Americans think that Jesus looked and believed like they do?” Makes you think doesn’t it?

  4. […] The Coming of the Majority Church – How the Shifting geographical Center will shape Our Faith […]

  5. […] The Coming of the Majority Church – How the Shifting geographical Center will shape Our Faith […]

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