From the blog of Jonathan Martin, a pastor in Charlotte:
The future has already arrived, and it has little to do with people like me. In the global body of Christ, we have seen a remarkable shift in the balance of power. Those of us in the west in general and North America in particular are used to being in the seat of power and influence; we are used to being those who shape global conversation in the Church. Our sense of self-importance is innate. Drunk on the rhetoric of America as a new Israel, our Christian faith a curious syncretism of sentimental piety and manifest destiny, we send missionaries into the world. We ship our virtues and vices wholesale into all the earth.
I am a Pentecostal by heritage and tradition, but culturally I am one of the bourgeois pastors whose day might seem to be coming, but in many ways has already passed. The whole white male, coffee-drinking, Apple product-using, Coldplay-listening type. It is a very small world that we live in that feels deceitfully large. We have blogs, we write books, we talk about the most recent issue of Christianity Today. So it is easy to think we are the center of the universe.
We did not notice that the world has already moved on. We didn’t notice that the wind of the Spirit left us, and that there is a new world coming in Latin America and Africa and Asia that rendered us inconsequential. We enjoyed our time in the mainstream well enough to forget that the move of God always comes from the margins . . . .
The average Christian in the world right now is an African or Latin American female in her early 20’s. She doesn’t read our blogs and she doesn’t read Christianity Today. She doesn’t know or care who I am and she never will. The names Piper, Driscoll, Chan, Bell, Stanley, Warren—mean nothing to her. Like most Pentecostal women coming into the kingdom around the world, words like “complementarian” and “egalitarian” are not in her vocabulary, nor Calvinism and Arminianism. Unlike some of my brothers would lead you believe (where their lunch table is the only one that cares about Scripture and THE GOSPEL while anybody who believes differently from them in these tired conversations are flaming liberals), she takes the authority of the Bible very seriously. But more importantly, she believes in the power of the Bible in ways that are incomprehensible even for our most rabid “conservatives.” The western filter and language that frames these issues will not be determinative for her, unlucky as she is not to read our blogs. She may well end up leading a church one day where she preaches Jesus like a woman on fire and lays hands on the sick and watches God heal them, though this will surprise those Reformed colleagues who are sure all female church leaders have been trained by godless-Unitarian-lesbian-leftist-radical feminist-seminarians (she didn’t have access to seminary at all–unfortunately she has read the Acts of the Apostles). Who knew?
The world has moved on, God has moved on, and we didn’t even notice.