Welcome to the September issue of Lausanne Global Analysis, which is also available in Portuguese and Spanish. We look forward to your feedback on it.
In this issue we examine Venezuela’s descent from wealth to despair and how Christians can respond to the country’s populist disaster; we consider the ‘Walking with Jesus Movement’ that seeks to respond to the crisis in the Korean church resulting from the challenges of secularisation; we analyse the lessons we can learn from the ‘vanished church’ in North Africa including the need for unity in diversity; and we address the global phenomenon of shame and how Christ is the answer.
‘The recent history of Venezuela represents the unfolding of a Faustian tragedy’, writes Wolfgang Fernandez (Director of Next Step). A nation with immense resources, whose people have lived as if there were no end to the party, now finds itself with some of the most complicated problems of any country. Most Venezuelans basically just try to survive, and an unprecedented exodus has ensued. As Venezuelans are scattered, new opportunities arise for them to be used by the Lord to bless the nations. Also, expatriates are privately sending food, emergency supplies, and funds back to support their families and others. The crisis has enabled others who have courageously chosen to stay in the country to explore fresh ways to bring hope to a broken people, starting with groups of believers that model the values of the kingdom of God. We need to equip our Venezuelan brothers and sisters to meet needs, giving hands and feet to the gospel. The nation desperately needs food and humanitarian aid but also the salt and the light of the kingdom. There is a lot of work to do, and we need the global community to assist them practically and to pray for people of peace to arise. ‘With prophetic fervor, we must broadcast everywhere the atrocities that are being carried out in this country; and with merciful hearts, let us work together with our Venezuelan brothers and sisters, to bring renewed hope to their nation’, Fernandez concludes.
‘The Korean church has achieved tremendous quantitative growth since the 1980s, but there has been too little focus on qualitative growth’, write Kisung Yoo (senior pastor of Good Shepherd Church in Seungnam, Korea) and Paul Sung Noh (missionary and mission scholar). An inability to find Christlikeness is at the heart of the Korean church’s crisis today and is the reason why the Walking with Jesus Movement (WJM) movement began. WJM, which is growing rapidly in Korean and other Asian churches, aims for people to live every moment with a sense of God’s presence and to enjoy intimacy with the Lord in daily life. WJM uses the spiritual journal as the key tool to develop a sense of presence and intimacy with the Lord. The use of information technology in keeping the journal allows people to communicate with others in cyberspace. WJM can be an answer for the global church to the challenges of secularization. It is astonishing news that Christians in Seoul, who live in a highly developed and secularized metropolitan city, have experienced living with the presence of Jesus and enjoying an intimate walk with him in their daily lives. As a first step, WJM sought to renew Korean churches and help them to overcome their moral and spiritual crisis. It has now spread to Japan, China, Taiwan, and Indonesia. In the long run, we are confident that it will spread to quench the spiritual thirst and hunger of numerous churches around the world. ‘We are working to enable the blessings of WJM to become available to the global church’, they conclude.
‘At one point, the largest cities in the Roman empire were, besides Rome, Alexandria in Egypt and Carthage in present-day Tunisia’ write Mons Gunnar Selstø (missionary with Norwegian Lutheran Mission) and Frank-Ole Thoresen (President of Fjellhaug International University College, Norway). These cities also became strongholds for the Christian church. Early Christian thinkers, such as Tertullian, Cyprian, and Augustine, were all born in North Africa and served in Carthage. With such a proud history, one might be puzzled by the outcome of the Arab expansion in the region, from the seventh century onwards. Many scholars have battled with the question of why the church could not withstand the new masters. During the 300 years leading up to the Arab expansion in the region, two separate churches had been established, and the divide between the two was growing. They would stigmatize each other as false, and efforts at unity always failed. This division highlights an important tension between the church as a global, and as a local, contextualized entity. Furthermore, several studies have demonstrated how religious conversion and the religious development of various groups have often been inter-related with greater socio-political and ethno-political dynamics. Experiences of ethnic and cultural marginalization may play a significant role in strengthening the ethnic identity of a group, in opposition to the dominator. The history of the Berber population in North Africa follows this pattern, which has also been identified in various other contexts, including in modern times. ‘Churches worldwide might gain from embracing a “unity in diversity”’, they conclude.
‘Social media have given everyone a megaphone, and reputations can be destroyed in seconds with a viral tweet. As a result, we are all becoming more sensitive to shame and its power’, writes Simon Cozens (missionary with WEC International). When we feel ashamed, we want to hide and put a distance between ourselves and the situation or people that shamed us. We cannot remove the shame from ourselves; so, we remove ourselves from the source of the shame. Baptism as death and rebirth is a powerful image for those whose old life carries the burden of shame. Furthermore, shame is a problem of community; it happens because I am deriving my identity from the people around me. You might not be able to change the opinions, but you can certainly change the people—as well as putting the old self to death, baptism is also the gateway to a new community, the community of the people of God. The gospel gives us a new society, a new family, and in our new family we are accepted without shame. We can see from this that the church itself has a key part to play in God’s solution for shame. Christ gives a brand new life to the person suffering from shame; the church gives them a brand new arena in which to live. ‘When these two things come together, real freedom is possible’, he concludes.
We hope that you find this issue stimulating and useful. Our aim is to deliver strategic and credible analysis, information and insight so that as a leader you will be better equipped for the task of world evangelization. It’s our desire that the analysis of current and future trends and developments will help you and your team make better decisions about the stewardship of all that God has entrusted to your care.
Please send any questions and comments about this issue to [email protected]. The next issue of Lausanne Global Analysis will be released in November.