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WORLDVIEW: Transforming a globalized world

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–China’s economy expands, bringing new jobs to your town -– or taking them away.

The Japanese yen soars in value, sending world financial markets into a tailspin overnight -– along with your 401k.

At home, your kids are playing computer games online with teens living on the other side of the planet -– the same teens they’ll be competing with for careers in the global economy.

Globalization is no longer a grand theory. It’s a daily reality that shapes nearly every aspect of our lives. We can either deal with it or deny it, but it isn’t going away. The new global reality is exciting –- and frightening. Societies, cultures and economies have always mingled or clashed, but never so instantaneously.

History is accelerating in ways humanity has never experienced, and we don’t know where it will take us. But God does –- and He bends history to His purposes. One of His purposes is the globalization of the church. We are seeing it become a reality in our day.

“The map of global Christianity that our grandparents knew has been turned upside down,” reported Christopher J.H. Wright recently in an article for Christianity Today. “At the start of the 20th century, only 10 percent of the world’s Christians lived in the continents of the south and east…. But at the start of the 21st century, at least 70 percent of the world’s Christians live in the non-Western world -– more appropriately called the majority world.

“More Christians worship in Anglican churches in Nigeria each week than in all the Episcopal and Anglican churches of Britain, Europe and North America combined. There are more Baptists in Congo than in Britain [and] more people in church every Sunday in communist China than in all of Western Europe.”

As the church globalizes, the missionary movement is becoming “multidirectional,” Wright says. “The U.S. remains the largest single contributor of Protestant cross-cultural missionaries. But which country is the second-largest? Not a Western nation, but India…. Already, 50 percent of all Protestant missionaries in the world come from non-Western countries, and the proportion is increasing annually. So you are as likely to meet a Brazilian missionary in North Africa as a British missionary in Brazil…. Mission today is from everywhere, to everywhere.”

Even China has become a missionary-sending country. You can find Chinese missionaries working across Asia and the Muslim world. According to Lausanne World Pulse, church leaders under pressure in Afghanistan, Tajikistan and other Central Asian nations are asking for Chinese workers to come teach them the meaning of suffering -– a topic with which Chinese believers are well-acquainted.

These remarkable cross-currents of missions reveal the creativity of God, as well as His determination to extend the Gospel to all nations. When one ministry door closes, He opens two more. When the world persecutes His followers, He redeems their hardship -– just as He has done since the earliest days of the church.

And He still has plenty of room for participation by American believers in the years ahead. But He needs followers who will venture beyond the narrow mental and cultural borders so many of us occupy.

Time magazine recently ran a cover story on the skills and abilities American students will need in a globalized world.

“Kids are global citizens now, even in small-town America, and they must learn to act that way,” Time proclaimed. “Mike Eskew, CEO of UPS, talks about needing workers who are ‘global-trade literate, sensitive to foreign cultures, conversant in different languages’ -– not exactly strong points in the U.S., where fewer than half of high school students are enrolled in a foreign-language class and where the social-studies curriculum tends to fixate on U.S. history.”

To cope with the new reality, said the experts Time interviewed, students must learn to:

— see patterns “where other people only see chaos.”

— think across disciplines and make connections between them.

— distinguish what is important and reliable in an age of “overflowing information and proliferating media.”

— develop strong communication skills and the ability to work in teams and with people from different cultures.

That’s an essential set of tools –- not just for young people who want to succeed in the new global marketplace, but for Christian workers who want to transform it for the glory of God.
Erich Bridges is senior writer with the Southern Baptist International Mission Board.

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  • Erich Bridges