In this month’s “Leaders Edge Book Summary” for The Missions Edge, David Mays wrote the following write up about “The Meeting of the Waters.” They also posted a link to an audio clip extra where Fritz sat down for an informal half hour conversation discussing his thoughts on the 7 global currents.
Fritz Kling is a foundation executive who has spent the past decade traveling through villages and cities across the world interviewing grassroots workers and high-level leaders. The title metaphor comes from two large rivers that flow together side by side before mingling to become the mighty Amazon. Kling identifies seven huge trends impacting today’s global church. His fascinating stories illustrate the themes of mercy, mutuality, migration, monoculture, machines, mediation, and memory.
Chapter 4. Migration – A Taste of Heaven
Refugees and immigrants from the global south are bringing fresh fervor and devoutness, as well as opportunities for ministry, to Western countries.
Information arbitrage is looking at the world from many perspectives. Nick in Ireland said that every aspect of his ministry is influenced by Migration. Ministry is all about migration. It is the key issue of our day. We must learn the cultural assumptions and expectations people bring with them, and then use those as bridges to establish rapport. Immigrants are often open to church and faith. The church too often reacts to change rather than anticipates it. We need entrepreneurial, opportunistic outreach.
Migration is occurring everywhere on the globe. Urbanization is one of its most profound expressions. Today’s world-cities obliterate the old distinction between home and foreign missions. A redemptive view of the city sees vibrant opportunity, innovation, and new expressions of Christianity.
“With our brothers and sisters from developing nations, their outward appearances of poverty and subservience can hide deep reserves of spiritual, intellectual, and cultural wealth. Viewing people without money or power as equals is not only the right choice – it is becoming the only choice. … Mutuality may be the single most important Current for understanding how to support, work with, and pray for Christian movements around the world.” (65-66)
“Believers from poorer nations understand humility before God and dependency on God in a deeper way than I could, largely because they have lived in countries where physical deprivation and humiliating dependency are commonplace.” (66)
“If you really want to understand the future of Christianity, go and see what is happening in Asia, Africa, Latin America…. God very often is working most powerfully far from the center.” (73)
“One of the problems in modern life…is that the people who are good at being civil often lack strong convictions and people who have strong convictions often lack civility.” (quoting Martin Marty) “We need to find a way of combining a civil outlook with a ‘passionate intensity’ about our convictions. The real challenge is to come up with a convicted civility.” (quoting Richard Mouw) “Followers of Christ must step into the void between factions – sometimes as prophets, expecting condemnation, but more often as peacemakers, encouragers, and friends.” (164-165)
“On May 18, 1980, in Skamania County, Washington – eight years after Nike was founded just seventy miles away – Mount St. Helens erupted. Wind-borne volcanic ash dusted the sidewalks, penthouses, public plazas, and lawns throughout the Pacific Northwest of the United States. Fifty miles from Mount St. Helens, ash piled two inches deep. Winds carried trace amounts of the ash literally around the world.
A volcanic eruption is a perfect metaphor for how Monoculture came to be. Like volcanoes, companies push ideas and images throughout the world to customers thousands of miles from the source.
Once Monculture arrives in town, the place never looks the same. Fez will look a little less like Morocco, for instance, and more like Monoculture.” (112-113)
If you are harvesting this illustration for future consideration, file it under monoculture, or global culture, or global youth culture.
In societies around the world, differences are being emphasized, arousing suspicions. Indignities are exaggerated, prompting extreme actions. Moderation is disdained. The global church must step into mediation. Mediation is needed in many areas: political, philosophical, social, ethnic, international, mission, class, economic, and religious. Every Christ follower can be involved in reconciliation with people with different beliefs, customs, and ethnic backgrounds. The church must proclaim Jesus with theological integrity, critical contextualization, and with an open and transparent spirit.
Different generations are used by God to serve the world in different ways at different times. Today’s Christians need to be highly adaptable and relevant as well as orthodox. These will be hallmarks of the global church’s next generation.
Many in the older generation are highly concerned about conserving orthodox theology and historical mission methods. Many in the younger generation have Christian commitments in a much broader arena, such as poverty, human rights, ecology, justice, conflict, equality, reconciliation, and global events. The author suggests we must bundle the past passion for evangelizing with many other approaches to societal change.
What is your perspective on this question? Is your organization focused on either “spiritual change,” or “societal change,” or both? Is it changing? What is the balance in your organization between maintaining commitment to your theology, history, and values on the one hand, and becoming more adaptable and relevant? Is your organization unified on your approach? Are there fault lines in your organization between office and field? Among generations? Elsewhere?
What steps do you think your leadership could take to be both biblical and relevant, to accommodate your elder leaders and your young generation members, to satisfy your supportive constituency and make new inroads in a rapidly changing world?
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