Academic

The future of global christianity

THE FUTURE OF GLOBAL CHRISTIANITY

Some time ago I presented on seven trends that impact South African Christianity at the Regional Baptist Northern Association gathering. Since then, I have spoken to various audiences on the importance of understanding context and trends that shape where we live and will affect our future. This post is a reminder to us that the trends which shape South African Christianity should not be seen in isolation from what’s happening in the Global North and in other countries within the Global South. There is a world unfolding, unlike any other we have see before, that requires we face the future with boldness, sensitivity, and courage. Allow me to share on seven such themes.

 

Using the acronym, ‘futures‘, we will explore seven macro trends that in some way impact the ministry of the church. This list is not meant to be exhaustive, rather, a helpful starting point for discussions on trends that shape ministry globally.

 

 F-  FAST AND FURIOUS

The world we live in is rapidly changing, and traditional values are constantly;y being eroded and challenged in an evolving world. Rapid and continuous changes in technology are one of the driving forces of these changes. Churches that have disengaged from the technological revolution will find themselves increasingly isolated from culture and ineffective in ministry globally.  When it comes to technology and the pastor, the expectations have certainly changed and the pace of leadership in churches seems relentless. Pastors need to guard against a super-pastor complex, and other need to guard against pastel co-dependancy.

U-  URBAN CONFLUENCE

Ministry in cities will be of increasing importance globally as the vast majority of our populace is urban-bound. Cities are not only where people are located but are important centers for the development and flow of culture and influence for any region or country. What is our strategy for reaching urban centers? In Africa, many city centers are places evangelical churches are fleeing from, and have abandoned ministry in this context for the suburbs. How do we work for the glory of God in our cities, and establish viable ministries in these contexts?

T-  TRIBAL OUTREACH The FUTURE of Global Christianity (3)

This is somewhat new thinking for many evangelicals. In 2008, American author and public speaker Seth Godin published “Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us”. In the book, he identified an emerging pattern of new communities connecting with one another outside of the usual socioeconomic benchmarks, such as living standards measures (LSMs). “Tribes is any group of people who are connected to one another, a leader and an idea. For millions of years, human beings have been part of one tribe or another. A group needs only two things to be a tribe. A shared interest and a way to communicate”.  French sociologist Michel Maffesoli (1996:75) helps to build the idea of urban tribes, his research showed that while rural social groupings tend to be driven by authoritative systems of power, urban dwellers are socially motivated by peer influence and energy. Rather than being organized around family, modern tribes are voluntary and tend to be based on affinity. People select their social circles, however subconsciously, to replace the clans they were born into but serve the same functions. What tribes do we influence,

U-   UNREACHED/ UNCHURCHED/ DE-CHURCHED

There seems to be an evident deficit in evangelism among our churches, built upon a sense of complacently and at times, a false missional hermeneutic. There is endless conversations and debates on methodology, where few people are practitioners. How do migration trends shape the way we evangelize? What is our strategy to include these important aspects of ministry?

R-  RADICALLY MISSIONAL

The church should be BOTH missional AND attraction, centrifugal and centripetal. There are many ongoing conversations regarding the rise of missional/ incarnation movements globally, which have stirred many into action, and continue to shape our praxis. Mission needs to be seen as both our originating impulse and its organizing principle, under the overarching banner of the Mission of God. The future of the church cannot be seen in isolation from the concept of being missional in nature.

E-  EVANGELISTICALLY REVIVED 

Culture will continually experience a sifting of people, based on what they believe regarding the truth claims of Christianity. With the marginalization of the Christian faith and the dubious nature of many so-called Christina movements globally, many people are no longer self-identifying with Christianity and are becoming what may in the West have described as the “Nones”. This may not be a bad thing, after all, at least those who go to church, know why they are there and have increased involvement and commitment to the Lord’s work and to witness.

It is in this context that we are called to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth. There will be increased distance from churches that do not see themselves sin they light int he future.

S-  SERVANT LEADERSHIP

Much has been written on this topic over the years, and servant leadership, in many senses is what defines Christian leadership, or service within the kingdom of God in the way of King Jesus. Our attitude should emanate from Christ’s example and we should not simply focus on service. There needs to be an authentic humility attached to our ministry and leadership, recognizing that we are simply stewards of all that God has entrusted to us. Servant leadership is counter-intuitive and does against almost everything the world is aiming toward and teaching, yet it is a sign of God’s presence and example we must follow. I know too many leaders who think that they have ‘arrived’, and no longer serve as it is beyond them. God’s kingdom defies the standards of this world, and our leadership is always in submission to Jesus’s lordship- without exception. How are we leading? What will be the outcome of our ministry and life? Will we be remembered as the autocrat, or as one who spent their lives for the sake of the fame of King Jesus?

After 3 years of serving the North-West University as an “Extraordinary Lecturer”, Yesterday I accepted an invitation for a fixed-term appointment at the North-West University and have been appointed as a Senior Lecturer in the Unit for Reformed Theology and Development of the South African Society. I am excited about this appointment and my continued work with postgraduate students at this fine Evangelical University!
 
Not to worry, this is a dual role to my continued work at the Baptist Theological College where I have been privileged to serve as Provost/Missiologist for 5 years now full-time. In my commitment to the cause of Theological Education and Missional innovation, I also continue to serve a Research Associate of the University of Pretoria and as an Academic Research Advisor to an Internationally-acclaimed College in Chicago. May my work and ministry make MUCH of Jesus!! Pray with me that God would continue to open doors for ministry and opportunities to exalt Jesus in every sphere I am involved within. May the words of Romans 15:20 (special to my calling) continue to play out in my life:

20 My aim is to evangelize where Christ has not been named, so that I will not build on someone else’s foundation, 21 but, as it is written:

Those who were not told about Him will see,
and those who have not heard will understand.

 
This is a wonderful testimony to the great work we do at Baptist Theological College of Southern Africa in preparing our students for ministry globally. The fruit of our labor is in the lives and ministries of our graduates. The Private Sector Providers are making a wonderful contribution that’s recognized by the Public Sector, and my appointment is a testimony to this.
Who knows, maybe in a few years (when I am old and gray), they will honor me with the prestigious title of “Professor” :). I have a LONG way to still go but special thanks to my wife, Lara Henry, who is amazing in all respects and who puts up with my craziness! Thank you to my family who are ever-supportive and my friends who are a great source of encouragement and often see in me what I am oblivious to myself. To GOD alone be the glory!
DH 

Postgraduate Studies

One of my greatest joys as a Professor of Missiology is to see my students excel academically as well as on the field and in the local church. Part of this is due to my results-oriented framework, but also because I am privileged to serve at a Seminary and see students grow and develop to their full potential. I have been at the Baptist Theological College now for 5 years full time and have served for a total of around 9 years as an adjunct lecturer, giving input from the sidelines. I enjoy the initial growth stages of undergraduate work but love to see my students excel in their Masters and doctoral degrees. However, one thing I have realized is that postgraduate work, although popularized today, and rightly so, is not for everyone!

10 Factors that influence your decision to do Postgraduate work:

 

  1. Firstly, count the cost of what this will mean practically and measure that against the return gained through honest work and reflection. Most students like the idea of doing postgraduate work, but never think of the hours of reading, days of wrestling through concepts and constructs to produce work that is independent, fair and critical- work that adds value to academia and the church.
  2. Be honest about your own motivation behind completing this degree as it’s an emotionally tolling journey that will test your motivation and the application of your knowledge gained.
  3. Be true to your abilities and stage of life- don’t sacrifice what’s central for what’s a nice-to-have.
  4. Commit to the long haul and know that what you do will take longer that what you think and require more from you in terms of commitment and resolve.
  5. Develop a pattern of reading and research with dedicated time to study with the buy-in of your employer, friends, and family.
  6. Involve a wide network of peers and professionals in the process and the final product.
  7.  Ensure that your provider has the proper accreditation so that the work you do can be applied internationally and you’re not limited in that respect.
  8. Select a supervisor based on what they can help you learn and discover that you don’t already know- even if you may not always agree with their perspective.
  9. Get buy-in from your family and friends, as their support is critical to the process ahead.
  10. Don’t waste your Supervisor’s time and ensure that what you deliver is quality and according to agreed-upon deadlines.

If you’re interested in pursuing a Masters or Ph.D. without coursework, email me at desandlara@gmail.com for details or visit the Baptist Theological College of Southern Africa’s site. If you’re interested in a great Master of Arts program with coursework at one of the leading Evangelical Institutions international, check out the Billy Graham Centre for Evangelism at Wheaton College and apply for a Masters in Evangelism and Leadership or a Masters in Missional Church Movements. 

Any further tips and thoughts? DH