Church Vs McWorld
Evangelical leaders at a recent international gathering concur that forecasting research skills are mandatory for planning church strategies in the new millennium to deal with the ramifications of globalisation.
WE need to radically re-invent much of how we do church and missions. We need to re-examine our theological assumptions. Why? Because we are in for rapid, mind-boggling change. Churches need to be prepared, because they need to be pro-active instead of re-active. To do this, churches urgently need to engage in the research skill of forecasting before long range planning is possible to handle change. And trends need periodic reviewing so that we can be alert to the unexpected.
Christian leaders recently met to discuss the trends of the new millennium,and how churches must respond, at a World Evangelical Christian Fellowship (WEF) international gathering in Cyprus last February. Two leaders, WEF International Director Dr Jun Vencer and Tom Sine gave overviews at the start of the conference, Cyprus 2000: Challenges and Strategies for the Third Millennium.
Sine believes one of the major driving forces for change is globalization. We have not become a part of the much dreaded one world government order but a complex one world economic technological order in which are there not only no conspirators, but no one seems to be in the drivers' seat.
The rapid hardwiring of our planet into a global system of satellites, fax machines and Internet communications have melted borders. The sudden end of the Cold War, has resulted for the first time in history, virtually all nations joining the capitalist system.
Sine says there are two likely scenarios of globalization, both of which will throw up challenges for the Church to respond. In the Long Boom scenario, affluence (the nineties saw an explosion of wealth among a select few the creation of more millionaires and billionaires than at any decade in history), correlates with declining church attendance and giving, particularly in the Western Church. Industrial nations will, at the same time, cut back on humanitarian aid to reduce drag on their economies.
This means churches, together with voluntary organizations and the private sector will need to do much more for the poor. Churches need to educate their congregations to limit consumption, lead simple lifestyles and free up their time, energies and resources to invest in God's kingdom.
At the same time, a Slow Meltdown scenario is also possible. This new one world economic order will be more vulnerable to rupture, recession and meltdown. The ground rules of this order do not operate equitably giving rise to the global debt crisis. International Christian leaders need to create new forums to identify justice issues like this. We need to speak out for Jubilee 2000 and the forgiveness of debt. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. This will be even more so with globalisation in both scenarios. Indeed church growth will mostly be among the poor shaping the church of the next milllenium.
Sine says Christians need to get out of debt as quickly as possible and reduce their lifestyle costs so that should the hard times come, these Christians will be more able to minister to those in critical need in their own communities and abroad.
Not only Christian relief and development agencies, but church planting groups need to provide vocational education, start credit unions and do micro-enterprise to empower poorer communities created by the Slow Meltdown.
Believers in the Two-Thirds World will also need to reduce their debt and plant churches that address not only spiritual needs but include the creation of economic and agricultural cooperatives. This is vital in the light that corporations are beginning to monopolize global agricultural and food supply.
"Both scenarios will auction off our resources and pollute our environment," comments Sine. And so he also advocates churches to include a creation care and community building component in their strategies for Christian witness for the 21st century.
The world will also be rapidly aging. It will be tougher for the poorer old in the Third World. Sine urges churches not to neglect the elderly by starting communities of mutual care to provide for the aged poor in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
We are actually going backwards, not forwards in world evangelisation as world population growth is outstripping our best efforts. The percentage of the world's atheistic and non-religious people are increasing at the expense of Christians (who now stand at 27% of world population).
"The people who are doing a brilliant job at world 'evangelization' are the marketers of globalization. In the past decade, there has been emerging the first borderless youth culture in the history of our planet, where youths have more in common with each other than they do with the cultures from which they come from. The marketers of McWorld aren't just selling products, but values that are needed for youth to snap up their products. Isn't it time for churches to launch a major counter-offensive using the same channels globalization uses? In fact, churches need to use new technologies for God's kingdom for all manner of programmes.
There is a need for partnership with Third World in missions. The Church is now without borders and missions is from everywhere to everywhere.
Dr Vencer highlights other issues that are emerging trends of the new millennium:
Says Dr Vencer: "The local Church used to be relegated to the background, as para-churches, driven by the Great Commission, were at the forefront. This is beginning to change.
"Churches of the future must engage society on issues of justice, poverty, racism and the public square. They should not remain voiceless on public issues and be marginalized by governments. Churches must intervene with programmes to arrest further decay in society and the apostasy of the Church. Churches transforming communities and nations, not just individuals, must be our vision.
"A vision where there is economic sufficiency, social peace, public justice, national righteousness, and Christ is worshiped as Saviour and Lord. This is of course an ideal situation when the Lord comes again. But such a vision will provide direction and a standard for our ministries. This is a kairos moment for us. I believe the third millennium will be an evangelical millennium."