Blog: Global Church Trends
By Bob Roberts Jr.
I’m often asked about trends I see in the world and the global church. In the past month I’ve been with churches in the Middle East, South Africa, Australia, and the U.S. In all places there is a sense that the world is changing and so is the church. Obviously there is much more growth and excitement globally. Whereas, in the West there is a sense that things aren’t working as they should and people are waiting for the next new thing(s) to grab onto in hopes that it will turn everything around. I don’t think there is one.
Church planters are excited and mega-church pastors as well, but on the whole, the American church isn’t in a good place and that’s no secret. Though individual churches and unique expressions may be good for some, the overwhelming state of the church in America is not healthy. So, what is the next new thing for the American church? I don’t think it is new, I think its very old. When the packaging becomes the focus, you have sacrificed the substance. Our best hope, is to connect with what the global church is doing. What are the trends for the global church and what can we learn from them? How do we get over our current destabilization?
Decomplication. They possess a simplicity in following Jesus and a sincere devotion. Jesus is the focus along with his very presence within and near them. Jesus really is the answer – to everything. Most are not obsessed with methodology, polity, and there is no church politics like we have here. These are the people who made me think about theology as being clear, core, simple, and explainable by everyday followers. I fear we have made the conversation about turning the church around instead of us moving around to Jesus. The life of Jesus living in us and flowing through us must become the focus – and what we challenge others to focus on. If we get that right our churches will be full, and God will be moving. What we focus on is what we get, if that’s the case, we need to ask, “Are we focusing on the right thing?” The question is not how do we grow our churches, but how we see Jesus grow inside every single one of us.
Decentralization. Some would disagree with this because in some places of the world the pastor is very central in the minds of the people. This is true, but they are central because they have released the people. These pastors generally started the church, and anyone who knows them will tell you that global pastors are different from their western counterparts. Their humility, faith, and love for their people is really exceptional. These pastors have learned the power of the cell, the organic church, the small community, the house church or whatever you want to call it, and they have connected it with the congregation or city church. This is how they have grown their churches by empowering hundreds and thousands of leaders to meet as the church in small units where gifts are expressed and every member is engaged. They also have a passion for their cities, and their churches don’t stop after the Sunday worship service. These pastors aren’t into control but into release. I believe you need all three expressions of the church: the cell, the congregation or the city church, and the global church. A church isn’t complete without all three present.
Detribalization. All of these churches are a mixed bag. You see people connecting beyond, race, denomination, nationality and any other tribal brand. I’ve enjoyed worshipping with Indians. Sudanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Anglos, Nigerians, Filipinos, Arabs, Hispanics, Baptist, Methodists, Independents, Pentecostals, Presbyterians, Catholics, you name it. It’s about the Gospel of Jesus being more than just a style of worship, a single sound in music, a national narrative – but a single Gospel for a single people regardless of all the nuances. It makes the worship very powerful. People are crossing races and cultures for everything. It makes no sense that they would stay tribal in worship and how they do church. We all say there is one body, they act like it. Time Square Church, Brooklyn Tab, and Mosaic in L.A. all show us there is power when a church diversifies racially and tribally.
Dewesternization. This is seen especially in two ways and the first is in methodology. Western church programs, networks, denominations, emphasis no longer sale in Jakarta and Nairobi like they used to. Music will be next on the list. Yes, they sing our music and that will continue a little longer – but as their musicians step up and write there will be new sounds. Globally, Bollywood in India has now surpassed Hollywood in the U.S. I can’t wait to hear the sounds of global worship. Many of their churches are ten times large than ours, and they’re tired of intentional and unintentional “marketing” of western products and church – this will be good for the Gospel and good for the church. We will have to take a learning posture. The second area in which we will see dewesternization is in theology. I’m not speaking of core theology like who is Jesus, but speculative, fringe, and applied theology. Most believe primarily Jesus is coming back, but buy into all the western “end times” theology. Part of it comes from a perceived flakiness of western evangelicals – another part of it comes from a different global perspective from believers living in other parts of the world, some of which western evangelicals see as “national enemies.” Women in ministry isn’t as hotly debated or questioned – especially where there is fruit. The theology of the Holy Spirt is believed and practiced more, yet there is a departure from what some of them have called “charismaniacs”. The global church is tired of the “prosperity” gospel, but neither have any patience with those who would promote a “poverty” gospel. Following God does have a redemption and lift effect. Donald McGavran saw that decades ago – where the Gospel is strongly planted, economies flourish.
I am optimistic about the church in the West, but it won’t be what it needs to be because a new program or methodology comes. It will be what it should be because she returns to her first love Jesus and out of that love will flow the methodology and strategies. I was with a young pastor yesterday who is very gifted. He asked me, “Why is it my generation gets this without thinking and people just above me and older don’t?” He is in his 20’s and his generation in the U.S. is now being called first globals. I used to think it was a spiritual issue, I don’t anymore, I think its a global perspective. Those who see the world in a monocentric way, (defining the world by the single point or country that they live in) live and relate one way and those who see the world in a polycentric way, (defining the world by multiple points and connectivity more like a network) live and relate another way. Unintentionally, a monocentric worldview can be self-centered and self-serving because it starts with you – thus learning and conclusions are reached starting and ending with you. Polycentric people do look at themselves no doubt, but they receive information from outside much quicker and also have the ability to make connections and applications in fluid environments much easier. If ever the West needed a polycentric view of the Gospel and of the church that day is now. Hurry up and grow up you 20-somethings, we all need you desperately!
Bob is the founder, senior leader, and chief spokesman for Glocal.net . His primary focus is to connect leaders and estabish relationships to explore transformation. Follow Bob on Twitter at @bobrobertsjr.