Welcome to the March issue of Lausanne Global Analysis, which is also available in Portuguese, Spanish, and English in audio format. We look forward to your feedback on it.
In this issue we continue our exploration of how we should respond to growing religious persecution around the world, focusing on Islamic State (Daesh) atrocities and legal/political responses to them; we examine how we can present the gospel to cultures dominated by secularism, relativism, and ‘tolerance’ worldwide; we consider how to develop an effective multicultural team in cross-cultural Christian service; and we make the case for the use of local languages and resources in urban ministry.
‘Some of the most glaring recent examples of religious persecution are the mass atrocities perpetrated by Islamic State (Daesh)’, writes Ewelina Ochab (legal researcher and human rights advocate). Daesh became infamous because of its genocidal atrocities against Yazidi and Christian religious minorities in Syria and Iraq in its attempt to establish an Islamic state. These atrocities required an urgent response. Some steps have been taken but have not been fully implemented yet. These include stopping the atrocities, assisting the survivors, and bringing the perpetrators to justice. Despite a growing consensus that Daesh committed genocide and crimes against humanity, not a single Daesh fighter has been charged with either. Justice will not be achieved if we continue to downplay the level of the atrocities. In addition, we need to put the victims and survivors first. They have to have their ‘day in court’ and have an opportunity to tell their stories. Their full participation will also assist the process of reconciliation that is essential to build a better future for the survivors and generations to come. It is also crucial for us all to engage politicians and diplomats to influence our governments’ foreign policy so that they take pro-active steps to protect vulnerable religious minorities and make protecting them a policy priority. This requires a united response. Evangelical leaders could play an important role in uniting the church in a common purpose to protect religious minorities. ‘Unity of purpose is key, and we all have a part to play in this’, she concludes.
‘Much of the formerly ‘Christian’ world is leaving its roots behind and is dominated by secularism (death to religion) and relativism (death to truth)’, writes Ben Pierce (missionary of Steiger International). The Bible is no longer considered the moral compass; rather, everyone is free to decide for themselves what is right and wrong. Young people see the church as irrelevant to their daily lives. Secularization, a trend closely tied to the globalization of culture among urban youth, is impacting cultures in urban centers of every region of the world, including the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. At the heart of any culture are the core ideas that form its view of the world. For the globalized youth culture, these core ideas are secularism, relativism, and ‘tolerance’. In a culture dominated by secularism, relativism, and tolerance (at least as it is liberally defined and applied), it is no wonder that Christianity, with its exclusive truth claims and absolutes, is incompatible. More and more young people reject Christianity because to follow Jesus is to swim against the current of our times—the road is too narrow, the cost too high. As followers of Jesus, we need to respond by developing authentic relationships, by gently challenging presuppositions, by seeking God in prayer, and by stepping through fear. We must boldly preach the cross, take Holy Spirit-inspired risks, and not wait. ‘We may feel as though we have all the time in the world, but we do not’, he concludes.
‘Playing a healthy and contributing role on a multicultural team in cross-cultural Christian service is increasingly part and parcel of the normal requirements of serving Christ well’, writes Scott Moreau (Professor of Intercultural Studies and Academic Dean of Wheaton Graduate School). Over the years many have noted both the benefits and the challenges of multicultural teams. Their development parallels in several ways the process of culture adaptation that individuals go through when they cross from one culture to another. For healthy cross-cultural teams, that process often comes in four phases: 1) the Honeymoon phase; 2) the Shock phase; 3) the ‘Third Way’ phase; and 4) the Effective Synergy phase. The two most significant challenges multicultural teams face in arriving at the Effective Synergy phase are getting stuck in the Shock phase and the ever-changing composition of the team. Teams may get stuck because they cannot move beyond one or more unhealthy approaches to team relationships. Furthermore, multinational teams in cross-cultural ministry are rarely static. How the remaining core of the team handles personnel changes will determine what happens next. Much more may be said about each phase and about getting stuck (and unstuck). This simple overview hopefully helps you put your own team(s) in perspective. Perhaps it makes it easier for you identify where you are as a team, and whether you are stuck or not. ‘If you are, take the time to check out the resources noted in the article—they may provide just the thing you need to progress towards becoming an Effective Synergy multicultural team’, he concludes.
‘Urban ministry has obvious attractions for today’s missionaries’, writes Jim Harries (chairman of the Alliance for Vulnerable Mission). Missiological arguments have also been made in its favour. This articles asks specifically how satisfactory it is for a missionary to reach and engage urban people in regional or international languages and how important it is to make (quite likely ‘costly’) efforts to reach them in their indigenous tongues. The sound of newly introduced ways of life, such as the good news of Jesus, when communicated using non-indigenous languages, will make them appear to be foreign. The categories presupposed in Western languages are not the familiar categories known by people in the majority world. The foreignness of communication means that gospel teaching can appear to be addressing someone else. Furthermore, learning and then using an indigenous language will demonstrate that a missionary is serious in wanting to relate to nationals. Having ears that enable hearing of debates engaged by locals will enable a missionary to begin to understand the local contexts actually faced by native people, as they themselves understand them. Vast literature points to the importance of contextualization in cross-cultural mission, where use of an indigenous tongue enables contextualization. The importance of accurate contextual understanding is the prime reason given in this article for advocating that it is appropriate to use indigenous languages, even in urban contexts, in the majority world. ‘So my practical advice is to use local languages and local resources in what you are doing’, 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 Lausanne Global Analysis will be released in May.