Perhaps you've witnessed it in your own congregation. The past 10 to 15 years have brought dramatic change. Maybe you get regular email updates from a missionary you support. Perhaps the church missions committee uses an internet phone service like Skype to talk face-to-face with a sister church in a remote part of Africa. Or maybe you attend a church where a foreign missionary from overseas has come to help spread the Gospel here in the U.S.
And because of immigration, perhaps your church looks a little more like that picture painted in Revelation, with worshippers from every tribe, tongue, and nation.
We may take changes like this for granted, but they are rippling through the global Church, creating challenges and opportunities like never before.
One of BreakPoint's Centurions, Fritz Kling, has seen these changes up close. He shares his insights about what they mean in a new book: The Meeting of the Waters: 7 Global Currents that Will Propel the Future Church.
This book is based on Kling's years as a foundation executive, which took him to over 40 developing countries. He also conducted a year-long survey of 158 indigenous leaders, finding out how their faith communities are being affected by changes in the world.
He asked questions like: How have relationships between foreign missionaries and local Christians changed in the past 10 years? Are there ministry approaches that are no longer as effective as they used to be because of changing times?
From those surveys, 7 "Global Currents" emerged, which Kling unpacks through stories of mentors and friends from around the world. The 7 Currents are Mercy, Mutuality, Migration, Monoculture, Machines, Mediation, and Memory.
Let's take a look at just one of these currents and see how it is affecting the larger church.
Kling uses the term monoculture to describe how the cultures of diverse countries are growing more similar. This is because of the spread of worldwide images, ideals, celebrities, and ad campaigns.
In Singapore, for example, the population woke up one morning to a Nike ad campaign with graffiti-like posters plastered across streets and subways with the face of an American basketball star, LeBron James. Suddenly, young people across Singapore were saving for a pair of Air Zoom LeBron II Nike basketball shoes.
The growth of this monoculture presents challenges and opportunities. Suddenly, faith communities across the globe are struggling with rising consumerism, materialism, and the burgeoning celebrity culture. And ironically, the importation sometimes of unwanted images in places which, like Singapore, ban all graffiti.
But at the same time, the spread of the English language means that we have shared cultural icons. We have a common cultural currency, in fact, that makes, for the most part, better cross-cultural exchanges.
Effective outreach begins with understanding. And today, that means understanding the forces that are shaping the church here at home and around the globe.