Learning from the Church Around the World
I grew up very patriotic. It’s safe to say that I believed the United States was the best country on the face of the planet. So when I came to Christ as a teenager and started looking around the landscape of Christianity, it wasn’t hard for me to develop a very “American-Centric” or “Western-Centric” view of Christianity. In my mind, the hot spots of Christianity had gradually moved over the centuries from Jerusalem to Rome to Great Britain, finally landing in America some time over the last two or three hundred years.
About ten years after coming to Christ, I had the privilege of hearing John Cava speak about how the Kingdom of God was expanding in the nations of the world. John shared that he could go to Russia and could start a church in the amount of time most high schoolers have for summer vacation. His argument was that we should spend time engaging in the harvest where there is significant results, not just limiting ourselves to our current locations. I was stirred to see this kind of ministry and learn how it worked.
A year or two after this, a mentor of mine began taking me on trips to Africa. Soon it became clear that not only were there many people coming to Jesus in these other countries, but that my Westernized view of Christianity had led me to believe that I had all the answers and the church in the rest of the world didn’t. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I had ended up spending time with spiritually mature figures in the church of Africa. Many of the people I spent time with will never be written about in a magazine or ever write a book, but they had done more than most of the Westerners who had. It was eye-opening.
I think in many of our minds what perpetuates these ideas is a First World vs. Third World mindset that we’ve inherited from previous generations. We look at the world and see the Church in the West with buildings and rights and money and education and think we must be further along than those without those things. But these are the things that puff us up, friends.
Instead, I look at the results of the church in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America and am in awe of what they are accomplishing without those things. Today, many, MANY more people will come to Christ in these regions than they will in the cultural West. And over the years, something has shifted in my heart so that I’m willing to say “If that’s true, maybe we have something to learn from the church in these areas.”
Friends, God has one church. One day it will be made up of a people from every race, tribe, language, and tongue. This church will reflect the incredible diversity of the nations of the Earth. But we as the church in the cultural West must be willing to learn from the rest of the church, or we risk walking in a kind of pride that says we have nothing to learn from anyone else.
We’ll talk about what we can learn from the church around the world in another post. For now, have you experienced learning from Christians in a significantly different culture? Share your story for us to learn.