30 April 2011

Times are a'changin'!

Original photo found here.
 ...or at least that is the premise of  Fritz Kling's book, The Meeting of the Waters .

"In The Meeting of the Waters, Fritz Kling identifies seven trends...impacting today's global church. Equal parts travelogue, character study and global documentary, this breakthrough book is for anyone eager to understand and make a difference in a changing world."

The above quote, from the back cover, pretty well sums up the book. An enjoyable read, simply from the point of seeing other parts of the world and missions through fresh eyes, it is also a challenging read. Kling forces his readers to consider our rapidly changing world and address this thought: Our world and times are changing. How do we, biblically, obey the commands to love God and people, and to go and take His message to the world? Technology and trends do not have to be the enemies if the church would learn to harness their power... and thus Fritz's purpose for writing this book: "...to address the issues of globalization and the church head on." (p. 21)

Fritz opens the book with a vivid word picture and analogy (hence the pictures included here). Traditional missions and methods need to merge with today's emphasis on mercy, techonology and shorter-term/frequent transitions mentality. He compares this to the meeting of the two tributary rivers which join together to form the Amazon. One is composed dark, clear water. The other is made up of muddy water and teems with life. The two rivers meet up, but flow distinctly separate for several kilometers before finally merging into one. Kling believes we are at such a point in missions endeavors, and instead of fighting each other or even just continuing simultaneously forward but distinctly apart with our individual projects, we need to find a way to blend and merge, working together and drawing on the strengths from each perspective, for God's glory and His Kingdom as we see a "changing of the guard" in missions.
Original photo found here.
The seven global trends he identifies, the results of a Global Listening Tour (151 one hour interviews with church leaders in 19 countries), are:
  1. Mercy - "an increasing emphasis on meeting physical needs in addition to continuing the long-standing emphasis on evangelism."
  2. Mutuality - "Leaders from traditionally poor countries increasingly have education, access, technology and growing economies... and they will demand to be heard. Global church leaders from traditionally powerful countries will need to account for these new perspectives and voices."
  3. Migration - "Relocation... is on the rise and will be rampant... All future Christian outreaches will need to adapt their message for radically diverse audiences."
  4. Monoculture - "The cultures of all countries will become more and more similar, thanks to the spread of worldwide images, ideals, celebrities and ad campaigns. Christians seeking to communicate...will need to be aware that marketing from outside their borders now shapes many of their deepest values."
  5. Machines - "The... church must recognize how newfound abilities to communicate, travel and consume are changing individuals' lives and values."
  6. Mediation - "While there is much talk of the world's flattening, partisan rifts are actually proliferating. Splinter groups now have more communication avenues for inciting discord and attracting sympathizers than ever, and the global church must find a mediating role amid increasing polarization of all kinds."
  7. Memory - "...distinct histories have profoundly shaped their societies. Visitors must understand how yesterday affects today, in ways potentially undermining because they are invisible and unstated."
For those who hesitate, arguing that the church has a timeless, culture-less message and that the church cannot follow culture... Kling would wholeheartedly agree - on one level. We cannot let culture determine right and wrong... his concern is that "the valuable treasure carried by the church -- the best news the world can ever hear -- will be risked because leaders lack the stomach, mind or heart to engage the challenging times... 'Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?' (Isa. 43:19)"

Original photo found here.

 As I've read this book and thought about it, I recognize that Tim and I have embraced, or are moving along that path, several of these global trends (i.e. machines, mutuality, mercy, in particular). The others? We've been largely clueless, although once pointed out, I believe their presence is clear, confirmed by my observations and experience, but infinitely more imporantly, by the ministry of the Holy Spirit within.

It has long been clear to me that we can't continue a practice just "because it has always been done that way," or even because the older believers or traditional local church leaders say something new just "won't work in this culture," or that a new idea cannot be "godly." Life is not static... neither is culture. Absolutely, we need discernment! We don't want to blindly follow the world simply because everyone else is doing something, even if it is "an effective something" to which everyone responds if it violates biblical principles. We also need courage to consider change, sometimes gently and respectfully confronting leaders so that we stop blindly following established practices and traditions that have become ineffective or obsolete in our constantly changing and evolving world. Much of what I gleaned from this book is the imperativeness of becoming more intentional with every part of our ministries, continually evaluating and re-evaluating progress and effectiveness with a heart and mind open to consider new alternatives and sensitive to God's leading. Continual education and learning, both formal and informal, is also critical, if we want to keep up with the changing world around us.

I included this one just because I know my hubby loves satellite images... and he'd find it interesting! To see the original image, click here. It is fascinating to see where the two rivers continue to flow along side by side.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from our organization as a part of their Continuing Enrichment/Education requirements program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 244: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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