The World is In your Parish: How The Changing World will Touch You

A Group of University Students Share Smoky Mtn. National Park with Tourists from India

Take a long walk today around your city.  Discover anew the emerging culture in your malls. Look around at the rest stops of our highways and on the farms of our byways.  A bike ride would be even better.  Keep your eyes open.  Our globe is changing.  The world’s population is on the move.  And with them is coming a change in business as usual for our historical communities.  Once we lived under the “West reaches the Rest” paradigm.  Our goods, our shows, and our military benevolence used to be world’s oyster.  Now, we are moving into a demand for greater mutuality.  For Christians, this means that the whole gospel will now be delivered from angles of the globe.  For North Atlantic societies, we can forget about our values informing the rest.  We must be ready for the clashing and swirling of different ideas about the good life.  We stand to loose much, but the gains may be worth it.

For the West, there are more changes afoot.  We are moving from Christianity dwelling at the center of society to Christianity living at the margins (just look at today’s national news headlines.  You don’t even have to read between the lines).  We are moving from encapsulation inside our provincial theologies into a cacophony of global theologies.  The questions we used to ask about God no longer are the only ways to see things.  We are moving from “ministry for us/ missions to them” to “Missions for us and them (local church planting, influx of missionaries to the West).   Where values are concerned, we are moving from dominant Western Values to Western clothes, technology, music filled with local values.  A recent issue of the magazine “Today: India” lauded Western educated youth who deeply retain the value in arranged marriage.   In the arena of hospitality we are going from “expressions of Western forms” given from a few hands to varieties of local forms given from a multicultural community.  That’s a big shift.  In terms of inclusion, we will be moving from a norm community with orbiting marginal communities to tribal realities woven by clusters of Diaspora peoples.  And in terms of aesthetics, we are shifting from, “exhibiting strange sights, people, and artifacts” to exposure to the “other as integrating inter-formation.”  This means that if I don’t learn to let the world’s people shape me, I am in for a rough future.  These are turbulent times indeed, which confuse everyone who has a pulse.  Whether or not we are positive contributors and pioneers, that’s another story.