Welcome to the May 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, as the results of the election in India emerge, we analyze Hindu and other nationalisms and their implications for mission; and we consider the crackdown in China and how churches and foreign Christian workers can adapt to a tighter political environment there. We also ask how much we care about integrity and the struggle against corruption, bribes, and extortion; and we explore why wealth creation is central to our mission.
‘There has been increasing concern around the world for some years about the rise of Hindu fundamentalism or Hindutva’, writes the author (name withheld), who has taught at Indian and foreign universities. The political ideology of Hindutva is, according to its followers, an assertion of ‘Indian identity’ and ‘Indian nationhood’. Since Narendra Modi’s election in 2014, over 20,000 non-Hindutvan civil-society organizations have had their registration cancelled. Furthermore, threats are increasingly used to intimidate ordinary people. The next national elections are scheduled to be held by May. Hindutva has no real answers for the country. Harking back to an imagined glorious past is not going to help India face its enormous challenges today. It is therefore inevitable that there will be widespread disillusionment with Hindutva. That will provide an opportunity: mission needs to be done, not with traditional approaches, but with new ones which take seriously the desire of Indians to solve our very real national problems so that we can hold our heads high in the world—not on the basis of illusions but on the basis of the gospel which enables our people to be liberated from structures that result in bondage, ignorance, disease, and exploitation. Furthermore, the discipling of believers needs to be taken much more seriously. Even if we had many more evangelists, they cannot exercise their gifts in public where nationalisms become dominant. ‘That is why, in an age of rising nationalisms, the primary requirement for the global church is more believers embodying and communicating the gospel in their neighbourhoods and places of work’, he concludes.
‘After three decades of loosening Communist Party control and expanding freedoms, [President] Xi [Jinping] is systematically trying to reassert Party control over all sectors of society’, writes Joann Pittman (Senior Vice-President of ChinaSource). This is behind many of the recent reports of crackdowns and growing harassment/persecution of believers. This new political environment is also impacting foreign workers serving the church in China. In 2018, the government issued a new set of religious regulations that make it significantly more difficult for unregistered churches (house churches) to function. Registered churches (‘Three-self’ churches) are also feeling the pressure. Whereas the presence of foreign Christians and organizations over the past 30 years has been tolerated, that tolerance is waning now. They are increasingly viewed by the Chinese government as potential threats to national security. China has also become a surveillance state, and foreigners are not exempt. ‘Coloring outside the lines’ is likely to become more difficult and foreign workers will need to re-think the meaning of ‘under the radar’. No matter how ‘safe’ they think their situation is, they will need to engage in contingency planning and also to be intentional about indigenization strategies. Furthermore, the nature and impact of the changes taking place are not limited to internal conditions or to foreigners working within China. ‘While we do not know the specifics of what changes China will experience in the coming decades, we can be sure that, for local and foreign Christians, the next decades will not look like the past decades’, she concludes.
‘When we hear about corruption and scandals within Christian denominations, para-church organizations, or even local churches, we quickly look beyond the headlines for names we might recognize’, writes Manfred Kohl (Ambassador, Overseas Council International). Even then the effect on us tends to be minimal. We still accept this terrible situation as being wrong but consider it beyond our control. However, we must not simply accept the reality of corruption in the world. We are called to be the light of the world and there are many ways in which we can fight corruption. However, there is another side of this issue: the need to examine ourselves. Corruption is simply the reflection of a lack of integrity. Jesus himself was tempted by the idols of power and pride, popularity and success, and wealth and greed, and he resisted the temptation. With his help we can distance ourselves from all of these idols that tempt us, often on a daily basis. Integrity is the integrating element that unifies character, conduct, and one’s composite lifestyle. To address corruption and integrity one must begin with the condition of one’s own life. Do I strive to practice integrity, to be open to re-formation by God, and to become more holy? It is not enough to condemn big bribery scandals or power-seeking individuals. The Integrity and Anti-Corruption Network of Lausanne and WEA invite interested individuals to join them. There will be a major conference on Integrity and Anti-Corruption in June in Manila. ‘Everyone is invited to attend’, he concludes.
‘In general, the world is a much better place for most people today than it has ever been before’, writes Mats Tunehag (Chairman of BAM Global). The biggest lift out of poverty in the history of mankind has taken place in our generation. However, this has happened not through aid but trade, and not through UN initiatives but through businesses, especially small and medium size. Wealth creation through business continues to be a key driver for this welcome progress. The question is often asked: what causes poverty? However, should not we rather ask what causes wealth, because poverty will never be overcome unless wealth is first created? Several global consultations over the years have recognized the need for—and the importance of—wealth creation through business. The Bible condemns hoarding of wealth and encourages sharing of wealth, while the creation of wealth is both a God-given ability and a command. However, all too often the issue of wealth creation is misunderstood, neglected, or even rejected. This also applies to wealth creators—that is, business people—who often report feeling misunderstood or neglected by the church. The role of business and its potential as an agent for holistic transformation is widely recognized by economists and historians. Evangelicals around the world are increasingly embracing these concepts, often found under the rubric Business as Mission (BAM). ‘Business and wealth creation are not just activities or worthy pursuits. Rather, they are at their core related to who God is and who we are’, Tunehag 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 July.