Thu, 10/04/2007 – 17:40 — David Watson
There is a growing debate regarding the role of Western Church and the rest of the Christian world. The church outside the West is represented by leaders whose churches have tens of thousands of members, and who are doing significant, and in some cases, better work in missions than is currently being seen from Western sources. This debate is fueled by the disproportionately greater influence Western leaders, churches and/or agencies have in light of their contribution to global church growth. Churches and church leaders from Asia and Africa are having a much higher impact on global church growth, yet their leaders are not being listened to, or sought out as advisors/mentors.
I think there is another voice that needs to be heard in this debate. In all of the new work that is developing globally, the constant source of criticism and opposition is traditional local churches (not American churches) that want to control what the emerging church is, what it believes, what it does, and what it looks like. These controlling churches were birthed out of Western mission efforts, and have taken what they have learned from the West and compounded it, and in some cases, extrapolated it far beyond anything most of us would be comfortable with. “Western” is not defined by geography. “Western” is a mindset that says “my way is best” in any and every circumstance.
I do not believe the real issue is between East and West or Asia, Africa, European and America. I think the real issue is Bible-only obedience-based discipleship that redeems families and culture, transforms communities, and has ongoing impact on the emerging church in such a way that it is at odds with any form of traditional church that places church/denominational doctrine and church/denominational tradition above the authority of the Word of God and the Holy Spirit.
I am seeing the same emerging emphasis on obedience in the West that is already in full bloom in Asia and Africa. The challenge is to transmit the Gospel as purely and without culture as possible, and allow the Word and the Holy Spirit to birth the church in each cultural context, without interference from any source, whether American, European, Asian, or African.
When we come to the place in our faith that we trust the Holy Spirit to do His job when we do our job of proclaiming the Gospel only, and not our doctrine or opinions, we will see amazing things. The church will be exactly what the local people need. It quickly and easily replicates because it is not carrying heavy cultural baggage from outside sources. Local people who have no acquaintance with traditional church find a group of people who are like themselves, yet blessed with love for God and love for their neighbors that is acted out in every area of life and draws others inexplicably to the Savior.
So, it is not just any Asian, African, or American church or church leader we should be listening to. We need to measure what each is saying by the Word of God, determine if there is a high call to obeying all the Word, not just bits and pieces of it, and notice if the Holy Spirit is at work in their midst and in their mission as it touches other cultures that are significantly different from themselves. When I find this — I listen. I learn. I am blessed.