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Wednesday
May262010

Shift happens - where is the Christian faith heading? A reflection on GDOP 2010

Last week was an incredible week of blessing, encouragement, discovery, friendship, and learning.  We had close to 1000 persons at the Cape Town International Convention centre for the Global Day of Prayer 10th Anniversary Celebration conference.  The Global Day of Prayer started at Newlands Rugby stadium in Cape Town in 2001 and this Sunday (23 May 2010) was the 10th anniversary of what God has done in and through the Global Day of Prayer.

As Graham Power, the initiator of the prayer movement, says - the Global Day of Prayer is truly a testimony to God's power and grace.  No person or committee or organization could ever have put together such a massive prayer movement.  In 2009 and again this year in 2010 every single country on earth registered their participation in the Global Day of Prayer on Pentecost Sunday.  From the rising of the Sun in Fiji until it set over the Hawaii Islands there were people in cities, towns, rural areas, schools, stadiums, Churches and homes praying together in repentance and prayer.  It truly is the largest recorded prayer gathering in history!  The conference was as great a blessing as the day of prayer.  Our team started working on putting together the venue, speakers and participant care well over a year ago. I was in charge of setting up the program (simply visit the GDOP 2010 website and click on the list of speakers in each of the 5 streams for details of the speakers in the Church, Transformation, Prayer, Missions and Youth streams).

What struck me most significantly was the fact that God is using 'new', 'fresh' and 'emerging' movements and groups to achieve great things across the earth.  The them of the conference was 'His Story, His Glory, His Call' and we emphasised that we wanted to hear from the global South and the emerging world.  This was indeed the case as speakers and groups from Asia, Latin America, and Africa shared incredible testimonies of what God is doing to redeem both people and places.  There were many stories of salvation coming to individuals and groups, as well as many stories of God's justice and mercy bringing healing and tangible transformation to political, social and economic systems throughout the world.  It was such an encouragement.

I spoke in three sessions (a plenary and two track sessions).  In the Youth / emerging generation plenary I used a quote from Philip Yancey (that comes from Philip Jenkins' great book The Next Christendom:  The coming of Global Christianity (Oxford University Press), 2002):

As I travel, I have observed a pattern, a strange historical phenomenon of God “moving” geographically from the Middle East, to Europe to North America to the developing world.  My theory is this: God goes where he’s wanted

Now of course this observation is true (I add a few subtle steps).  Christianity began in Israel, then shifted to Asia (and North Africa), from Asia it moved to Europe under the rule of Constantine, then from Europe to England, from England to North America, and from North America the 'weight' of global Christianity has shifted to Africa, Asia and Latin America.

But, where is Christianity shifting to next?  I my presentation (entitled 'Shift Happens') I made the conjecture that Christianity's next global shift will not be a geographical shift, rather it will be a shift onto the internet.  If you were to take the registered users of facebook as a population group, facebook would be the 3rd largest country on earth (behind China and India).  It is a simple fact that most of the emerging generation do not posit their primary identity in their geographical or primary cultural context, rather their identity and sense of being is shaped by global interactions through the internet, television, movies and others forms of rich media!

The title of my presentation 'Shift happens' comes from the incredible video below:

The question is:  If this shift is so powerful why are there so few ministry groups and Christians doing strategic work on and through the internet?  Most of the Christian groups I know use this 'new media' in an 'old media' manner - i.e., as a broadcast mechanism (posting reports, putting up text that does not allow for interaction, using 'long form' posts (such as this one!) instead of the short form posts like twitter's 140 characters...)

I've made a short video reflection on my thoughts in this regard which you can watch below.

Reflection on GDOP 2010 new media and ministry from Dion Forster on Vimeo.

 

The two persons I mention in this video post are @jaesonma and @olgalvaro - check them out. Of course you can also connect with me on twitter @digitaldion.

Also, consider this.  Long after the next Lausanne congress has met, hundreds of thousands of people from all across the earth would have interacted around the issues of bringing the whole Gospel to the whole world.  And, after the participants in the third Lausanne Congress have left Cape Town, after the World Cup Soccer has come and gone, the conversation will continue!  Rather than a 'static' medium (such as a journal with conference papers) the collective wisdom, and immeasurable wealth of international connections and relationships will be the force that sustains and informs evangelism going forward!

Shift is happening - my prayer is that more Christians will get ahead of this shift.  This does not mean an abandonment of the 'established' ways of being faithful in worship, service and community.  But, we do need to engage people where they are moving to!

The theologian Helmut Thielicke summed it up best when he said:

The Gospel must be constantly forwarded to a new address since its recipient is constantly changing his place of residence.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this point!  Do you think I am missing something?  

By the way, I have a more critically researched article on this phenomenon being published in the Lausanne World Pulse in the next month or so.  I'll post a link here once it is published.  That has both statistical and empirical research as well as clear references.

Reader Comments (1)

Thank you for your inspiration and engaging our minds to the world we live in

May 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Barbour

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