Saturday, August 16, 2008

Our Changing World

Chogblog caught my attention when Lloyd Moritz mentioned Patrick Nachtigall’s new book: Faith in the Future: Christianity's Interface with Globalization. He purchased it “because it covers a compelling topic that I don't hear discussed much in our circles."

Nachtigall's purpose, Lloyd wrote, is to "look at some of the new things that are currently happening in our world so that Christians can be better informed and more prepared to engage the world with the gospel" (p. 2). Further along, he referred to the “many Americans who seem to be somewhat insulated from the global trends happening around them.

That started my loose marbles rolling. I recalled an older book I found in our North Avenue church library that told the story of a Ukrainian soldier who became a Jesus convert. His new-found faith led him to launch two generations of devoted non-atheist families, although living under the boot heel of atheistic communism

I heard about the “Siberian Pentecostals” when they were in the news back in the eighties. John Pollock, author of The Siberian Seven, shared the saga of suffering faithfully endured by two Siberian Christian families. That Ukranian soldier, linked first with Baptist Christians and later became a dominant Pentecostal leader in Siberia.

Their story recalls others--Gracia Burnham, widowed in the Philippines by terrorists. The number grows almost daily, Chinese Christians being the most recent focus.

The Siberians offer a model for all denominations, as they exemplify simple New Testament faith and practice. They are too exemplary for us to not learn from them, whatever we think of their theology or national politics.

Pollock conveyed their genuine love for God. He revealed the seriousness of their lifestyle of faith as they faced social rejection--a persecuted minority--rejecting ridicule. Although they lived as peasants, they presented a very credible witness.

The testing of their faith, and others--like the boy publicized by the Voice of the Martyrs--whose hands and feet were nailed to a board and abandoned because he held firm to his faith. Such examples should challenge every Christian to a new level of interfacing with our one-world global community.

Patrick Nachtigall happens to be a missionary, the grandson of Pastor Sam, Cleveland, OH. Patrick‘s father, Harry, once played in a popular AU Trumpet Trio). However, it isn’t solely a religious issue. I began reading Albert Gore in the late eighties, in Southern Baptist Home Missions magazine, alerting us to environmental issues. I just finished Scott McClellan’s book, What Happened (“Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception”). I will soon finish Kevin Phillips, the historian, as he follows what he calls Bad Money.

A common thread strings together religion, technology, history, politics, finance, the environment, and most issues common to humankind. We are on-the-scene witnesses to an extraordinary time in history. My two Golden Gopher grandsons will live in a substantially different USA, with its changing global neighborhood, than did my son and daughter.

Dramatic realignments could reshape politics, religion, and most human issues. Americans can no longer take our dominant role in the world and our “American Dream” for granted. Christians face ever new challenges, at home and abroad.

I have two conclusions to this: (1) Americans--Christians in particular--need to get their heads in the ballgame and begin learning how to interface with a global community that may look very different from what we have been accustomed to; and, Get Ready; God Uses Transitions.

I am not worried about the Who in charge of our universe, but I am concerned about those people--many Christians--living with their head in the sands of denial. I‘m satisfied they will ultimately find their lives rather drab and disappointing.

I am thankful to enjoy a few of the comforts of our culture. That means, however, I (we) must be prepared to share those blessings. As I finish my journey, I pray that I might bloom as beautifully as did the Siberian Seven, Gracia Burnham, the young African lad, and many faithful Chinese Christians, as well as others.

May I live as faithfully in my circumstances, as did those many others who struggle with more difficult assignments. Business as usual is no longer good enough--as Christians, as Americans, as world citizens.

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