Thoughts on Evangelicalism Moving Forward, Part 5: Globality and Mobility
I recall twice during my time at Creekside Community Church in Gainesville (FL), Pastor Parker polled the congregation seeing how many people had been at the church 4 years or less. Both times, at least 50% of the congregation raised their hands indicating being there less than 4 years. If you are in a college town or a city that has a University or has major office parks, you may notice the revolving door of a good percentage of your church. Globalization, the abundance of English, the ease of travel, and electronic communications have shrunk our world and have increased mobility within countries and across countries. Lets define our terms:
Globality is the the theoretical end-state of globalization – a world and economy without national borders.
Mobility is the idea of population migration or population turnover.
Much of this blog post is inspired by a speech that Stephen Um delivered at the Gospel Coalition ’09 entitled, “On Ministry and Revolving Doors: Practical Challenges and Ideas for Ministry in a Mobile Society,” (audio). In his speech, he likens the issues that the early Christians faced in Acts, to the complexities of doing ministry in the 21st century – namely, mobility, globality, urbanality, and pluralism.
The 2st century is becoming a globalized, urbanized, and post-secular world again. I say ‘again’ because this means that the 21st century will be more like the 1st century AD than has been any of the centuries in between. -Tim Keller, Theology and Practice of Church Ministry: Ministry and Leadership in the City (Unpublished private notes, 2004), pp. 90-93.
Evangelical churches, particularly the ones in more urban areas, near employment hubs, or near Universities, are going to have to learn how to train up people who will be sent out elsewhere. Churches will need to be able to take people who are under their care for 2-4 years, promote spiritual maturity, promote community, and connect them to mission at-hand. Churches will need to invest in these people and not seen them as a poor ROI (return on investment) because some other church in some other place will benefit from your hard labor. Before you say that this is impossible, recall that Jesus only spent three years in his public ministry and under three years training up His disciples. These men went on to make huge kingdom differences as they were sent out and spread out following the Ascension and persecutions. Consider also, if every church had the attitude of stewarding the migratory transplants in their flock, then when someone came from another church, they come to you already heavily invested.
Moving forward, the evangelical church is going to have to rediscover the art of disciple-making. From my experience, most churches just hope that discipleship happens and have no real plan for doing it. They could learn from organizations like Campus Crusade for Christ, who routinely take some of the most spiritually immature young people and turn them into passionate multiplying disciples in under four years. Urbanization, globalization, globality, and mobility present incredible opportunity for the church. The more mobile people are the higher the velocity of interaction in the world. In The Rise of Christianity and Cities of God, Rodney Stark points out that one of the reasons that Christianity spread so quickly was because it was an urban religion and even though 98% of the population was rural, culture was created in the cities. We must be investing in individual people following the discipleship model of our Lord. If we do not, we will be further lost in the increasing complex web of interconnectedness and paradigm shifts.
Up next we will look at some of the false assumptions of the culture in evangelicalism’s game plan at reaching America.