Friday, February 16, 2007

the most important person you don't know

Tim Stafford has an interview with Andrew Walls in the most recent edition of Christianity Today. Stafford says: "Andrew Walls may be the most important person you don't know. "

Walls describes
the astonishing shift of Christianity's center of gravity from the Western industrialized nations to Asia, Africa, and Latin America. In a short time, Christianity has been transformed from a European religion to a global one.

Andrew Walls is the person to help us understand what this means. One of the first scholars to notice and study the shift, he combines exhaustive knowledge of the worldwide church with a deep historical and theological vision. Scholars who know his work (almost all published in obscure journals) speak of him with something like reverence.

"Andrew was a pioneer," says Yale University historian Lamin Sanneh. "He is one of the few scholars who saw that African Christianity was not just an exotic, curious phenomenon in an obscure part of the world, but that African Christianity might be the shape of things to come." American church historian Mark Noll says that "no one has written with greater wisdom about what it means for the Western Christian religion to become the global Christian religion than Andrew Walls."

Walls's insights go even deeper than that, probing Christian history to gain a prophetic vision of what "Christian" really means across an extraordinary diversity of times and cultures.

The church is much bigger and richer [culturally and theologically] than the sometimes narrow focus of our local church.
The church is much bigger and richer than the narrow focus of the Canadian / North American church which too often tries to export western thinking along with the gospel.

The article goes on:
Evangelicals believe in the conversion of individuals, but Walls began to see that conversion refers also to nations and communities. Did not the Great Commission command the discipling of the nations? "Conversion to Christ does not isolate the convert from his or her community," Walls says. "It begins the conversion of that community. … [D]iscipling is a long process—it takes generations. Christian proclamation is for the children and grandchildren of the people who hear it."Walls began to think that this kind of Christian conversion is necessary in every place and time, and that Christian history is the story of how faith moves from one culture to another, translating and retranslating the gospel along the way.
Conversion... discipleship... in the context of community [the web of relationships, the city where we are]... this is what we are called to. Not just in Africa or anyplace far way, but right here, crossing and impacting race and culture [including post-modernism] and generations [with different ways of expressing life].

No comments: