This blog entry, by guest blogger Jean-Luc Krieg, continues from yesterday’s entry.
While we will discover much sacrificial faith, vibrant dedication to the cause, and sincere dependence on God’s powerful intervention in the 2/3 world, and while we are seeing an impressive growth of the church in Latin America, Africa and parts of Asia, many countries of the world where this growth is taking place are countries of ongoing brokenness, political instability, corruption, material poverty, and disease: Philippines, Nigeria, Guatemala, Zambia, Haiti, Kenya, Nicaragua, Honduras…the list could go on.
So while the protestant-evangelical-charismatic Church worldwide has done a commendable job of doing what she set out to do—evangelize, save souls for heaven, and plant churches – the slogan ‘Change people and you will automatically change society’ has not always proven to be true. Data shows that higher percentages of Christians in a country do not necessarily translate into more just and moral societies. While there has been dramatic change in some communities where churches have grown, often there is little evidence of Christians being salt and light in their cities and nations.
Just look at social indicators such as crime, domestic violence, poverty, corruption, malnutrition, and racial/ethnic reconciliation, and you’ll get the picture. But why? Why has the fantastic church growth and seeming vibrant faith in nation after nation not led to the transformation of society? Why hasn’t church growth been able to hinder genocide in Rwanda; to decrease child mortality rates among the indigenous population in Guatemala; to curb corruption in Zambia; and to overcome racial prejudice in Brazil? I won’t be able to respond to these questions here in full – but only raise further questions that may hint at possible answers.
Ivan Illich, the Austro-Croatian-Sephardic-Mexican-American philosopher and social theorist once said, “If you want to change society, then you must tell an alternative story.” You see, the reason I believe the church has largely remained ineffective in its transformational agenda is that we have settled for a much lesser vision and a much lesser story by which to live our lives – whether that be the church in the 2/3 world or in the USA. As Vishal Mangalwadi, the Indian theologian commented, “The tragedy of our times is that while many Christians have confidence in the power of the Lord to return and change the world, many of us do not have confidence in the power of the gospel to transform society now.”
And so it’s no wonder we’re not making much transformative impact on our nations as a whole. Very few churches equip their people to become God’s hands and feet in all spheres of life. Indeed, little has been done to help ordinary followers of Jesus adopt a theology of public life – a theology that engages culture, builds on its positive traits, yet knows how to resist and transform its destructive characteristics.
I know this is easier said than done and that instead of offering neat answers I am raising a whole set of new questions. At this point I will simply close this blog entry with the following quote by Mahatma Ghandi, a quote that may serve as food for thought: “You Christians look after a document containing enough dynamite to blow all civilization to pieces, turn the world upside down, and bring peace to a battle-torn planet. But you treat it as though it is nothing more than a piece of good literature.”