Welcome to the November 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 tackle the problem of false prophets in Africa and consider how we can help the church strengthen its foundations; we showcase the Uzbek Bible App and examine how such apps can advance discipleship, evangelism—and cultural heritage; we ask how we can pursue integral mission without promoting individualistic materialism; and we seek to reimagine retirement and recover a vision for elderhood in the church.
‘Ever since the missionary era, Christianity has had a positive impact on the socio-cultural arena throughout Africa’, writes Moses Owojaiye (CEO of the Centre for Biblical Christianity in Africa). As a result, Christianity continues to grow across much of the continent and has achieved public acceptance as a force of social good. Now, however, its credibility is being eroded by the rapid rise and media visibility of ‘dodgy’ pastors, who are the false prophets of our day. Among them, the values that have traditionally distinguished Christian ministry are increasingly absent. The self-proclaimed prophets have perverted the prophetic ministry. Africans see religious functionaries as people who possess supernatural abilities to intervene in the uncertainties of life caused by the activities of spiritual forces in the invisible world. False prophets have cunningly learned to parrot what impoverished or troubled followers are desperate to hear. Despite awareness of the abuses, self-proclaimed prophets retain thousands of followers, who fund their activities. Interventions need to include evaluating existing leadership recruitment and training models, including a rethink of the theological curriculum used to train leaders. It is urgent that the church promotes the kind of biblical literacy and discipleship that will address the contemporary problems that lead congregants to these prophets in the first place. These solutions will require intentional collaboration and coordination. ‘Finally, those who know the truth and are concerned about the current state of the African church should be praying for the building up of its foundations and its maturity as the temple of Christ in Africa’, he concludes.
‘The Uzbek language has approximately 33 million speakers, most of whom live in Uzbekistan and surrounding Central Asian countries’, writes Feruza Krason (Bible translation consultant for SIL International). The Uzbek Bible App, originally introduced in 2013, gives Uzbek believers the chance to read the Bible in their mother tongue and has been praised for its user friendliness. It is popular among people with diverse ages, education, and literacy levels. Besides being used for their personal growth in faith, believers are able to share the Bible with anyone who shows interest without any restriction and with just the click of a button. Oppression of religious activity is still very real in Uzbekistan, which makes tracking the usage of the app difficult. However, this should not deter programmers from making and distributing such apps. There are situations where obtaining an actual physical copy of the Scriptures is simply impossible. Furthermore, the existence of the Uzbek Bible app has been a great blessing for the Uzbek church and the Uzbek diaspora worldwide. It is an easy way to access the Bible in their own language, not only for edification and evangelism but also for keeping up their native language skills to a good level. ‘Here lies the beauty of making the Bible available in electronic form to a wide range of readers—be it to encourage, exhort, and teach the church or to help diasporas not to forget their own culture or language in order to not lose the beautiful heritage they have’, she concludes.
‘Globalization is spreading Western-style, market-based economies across the planet, resulting in a world that is converging on a fairly common set of narratives, practices, and institutions’, writes Brian Fikkert (President of the Chalmers Center at Covenant College). While massive reductions in poverty should be celebrated, there are also reasons for us to be concerned about the global economy. Well-being does not automatically increase with economic prosperity. Both mental and physical well-being are on the decline in the US. Due to the fall, there are both internal and external forces that seek to re-shape us into something other than what we were created to be. We are transformed into the image of whatever we worship; so worshipping false gods is profoundly deforming. The current global economy reflects the idolatry at the heart of mainstream Western economics. Life is often reduced to a consume-earn-consume-earn treadmill in a never-ending quest for greater material prosperity. The process of globalization is spreading this deformation to the rest of the world, even as the spread of markets lifts people out of material poverty. What the church needs is economic discipleship that equips God’s people to live faithfully into King Jesus’ economy in the midst of the globalized economy. They need to be taught to offer their work and wealth as an act of worship to God every moment of every day. The church also needs models of integral mission that empower poor people to be priest-kings rather than worshippers of homo economicus. Economic empowerment can be enslaving. ‘We all need King Jesus and his economy to set us free’, he concludes.
‘The world—and the Christian church—is aging quickly’, writes Jeff Haanen (Founder and CEO of Denver Institute for Faith and Work). In an age of human longevity, people are asking how they are going to spend what could be 20, 30, or even 40 years after official retirement. Globally, paradigms for aging are beginning to show cracks. Why in an age where people are healthier for much longer than at any time in modern history, does the idea of ‘retirement’ persist? The time has come to change our views about retirement—not only for the sake of the global economy, but for the sake of the millions of men and women, who are longing to make a meaningful contribution with their lives, but live in a society that has relegated them to the margins. We need to encourage rhythms of rest, renewal, and re-engagement as people enter retirement. We also need to change the conversation from one of benefits to championing the work of elders in our communities. Elders were once associated with wisdom, character, and leadership ability, the assumed fruit of experience and age. They have much to give a coming generation. Rather than practicing age-segregation, many churches are deploying the elders of their congregation for the well-being of a coming generation. A biblical picture of retirement is not one of heroism nor hedonism, but listening to God’s voice and responding in love as elders, intent on sharing wisdom and blessing with the next generation. ‘It is simply a life of service, pointing beyond our self to the Servant in whose image we are made’, 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 The Lausanne Global Analysis will be released in January.