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In this issue we examine how the 2011 Japan Earthquake transformed gospel understanding in Japanese churches; we consider how to reach Muslims through music, drawing on bridge-building lessons from Pakistan; we address the challenge of ‘fake news’ and its impact on Christian witness in today’s post-truth society; and, in the light of his first 100 days in office, we ask what the ‘Trump Effect’ means for the church and mission.
‘The Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011 prompted Japanese churches to rethink how they engage in evangelism and church development’, writes Shoichi Konda (member of the Japan Lausanne Committee). In the Tohoku area of northern Japan, there are many examples of people who previously had shown no interest in the gospel but became receptive following the disaster. This openness came about through neither a major evangelistic campaign nor an attractive church program. Rather, people were drawn to Christianity as they saw Christ in the lives of Christian volunteers who, without demanding anything in return, kept coming to the disaster areas to provide aid and support. Lessons have been gleaned through relief work for more effective evangelism. Starting house churches seems to be the key to multiplication, moving out of the church building and into the local community. Churches throughout Japan should reconsider how to engage in mission. ‘The unprecedented scale of this disaster has opened the eyes of Japanese Christians to a more holistic understanding of the gospel and is stimulating a transformation in foundational church structures’, he concludes.
‘Traditional methods of mission in Pakistan have often made little impact. However, media and art are emerging as vehicles for evangelization’, writes Eric Sarwar (a founder of the Tehillim School of Church Music and Worship in Pakistan). Many are unaware that Islam is in fact a liturgical and canonical faith with distinct musical practices. Sufis are particularly open to artistic expression (poetry, music, and dance). The book of Psalms is the main literary and musical resource for fostering Muslim-Christian engagement around a common divine heritage of song. Ethnomusicology and missiology can help the Church to engage with diverse Islamic societies through Muslim music culture. They open up the possibilities of a laity model of mission that releases the force of Christian musicians, singers, and artists to witness to Christ in the Muslim world. Almost 80 percent of music teachers in Muslim schools in Pakistan are Christians. A missionary force of young Christian music teachers could be trained and equipped for vibrant mission in their respective schools. In the broader Islamic world, Sufism has an important role in missional engagement. ‘Music and Sufi spirituality are potential bridges between hungry hearts and Christ’, he concludes.
‘We now live in a “post-truth” society’, writes Tony Watkins (Network Coordinator for Lausanne Media Engagement Network). The term ‘post-truth’ is closely connected with ‘fake news’ . Fake news spreads quickly across the media, often due to political agendas. Social media have become the main way we access news. Fake news is also driven by greed. However, often on social media, it is merely careless, unverified reporting that quickly spreads. Social media platforms persuade us to share content by ‘social proof’. We also share posts that push our emotional buttons. When ‘alternative facts’ take over from truth, a culture is in big trouble. When public discourse becomes nothing but competing viewpoints claiming to be ‘facts’, any appeal to a source of authority, such as the Bible, is neutralised by writing it off as just ancient fake news. Moreover, suppressing the truth brings God’s wrath. Christians should be passionate about truth because we follow the One who is the Truth. We must be prepared to challenge false assertions and spin. ‘If the church is to have a prophetic role within society, we must dare to speak precisely those biblical truths which most challenge and discomfort society’, he concludes.
‘The “first hundred days” is a yardstick commonly used… to measure the effectiveness and impact of US presidents’, writes Tom Harvey (Academic Dean of the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies). In evaluating President Donald Trump’s first hundred days, one should look not only at his record internationally and domestically, but also at the ‘Trump Effect’. This may be his most enduring legacy. In spite of having solid Republican majorities in Congress, Trump has at the time of writing been unable to ratify any significant legislation. Yet no one can deny his impact on the international and national stage. His constant use of Twitter has been petty or tawdry at best when challenging critics or settling minor affronts. His populism will catalyse charismatic leaders around the world who trade on nativist ethnic biases and anti-immigrant bigotry. His likely legislative failure will further erode effective US governance. As a result of championing Trump, his personal and political character flaws are hurting the perception of US Evangelical Christians. The deepening partisan ideological divide in all sectors of US society will have major ramifications for the church, while ‘internationally, Trump’s “America First” does not bode well for mission’, he concludes.
We hope that you find this issue stimulating and useful. Our aim is to deliver strategic and credible analysis, information and insight so that as a leader you will be better equipped for the task of world evangelization. It’s our desire that the analysis of current and future trends and developments will help you and your team make better decisions about the stewardship of all that God has entrusted to your care.
Please send any questions and comments about this issue to [email protected]. The next issue of The Lausanne Global Analysis will be released in September.
Lausanne Global Analysis seeks to deliver strategic and credible information and insight from an international network of evangelical analysts to equip influencers of global mission. Browse all the past issues at lausanne.org/lga. The publication of the LGA is overseen by its Editorial Advisory Board. Articles represent a diversity of viewpoints within the bounds of our foundational documents. The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the personal viewpoints of Lausanne Movement leaders or networks. Inquiries regarding the Lausanne Global Analysis may be addressed to [email protected].