Allen grew up in the Midwest as the son of a pastor. While the civil rights movement had changed things in some places, the full ripples had not quite reached where he lived. His world exploded, however, when his family moved to southern California during the summer before he started high school. Suddenly, he was surrounded by more languages and skin tones then he could have imagined. As a white male in the minority, he learned quickly to adapt. Today, Allen pastors a 99-percent white, suburban, upper-middle-class church. But the neighborhood around him, in Alabama, is filled with ethnic diversity from all parts of the globe. He desires to effectively minister to his neighbors. If he wants to be successful, he can’t be colorblind.
Globalization is a catch-all phrase that describes how social institutions of the world (political, economic, family, religious and educational) are moving toward forming global citizens. The challenge for all 21st-century institutions is how to function well in such a context. Years ago, Thomas L. Friedman, in his book The World Is Flat, proposes that the pace of globalization is quickening and will continue to have a growing impact on how institutions function. As ministry leaders, we must pay attention to this shift.
Reap the Harvest
I once led a workshop on globalization and reconciliation, with great response, in Wichita, Kan. There, I addressed hundreds of church leaders who were from mainly Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri. When I would ask a leader where he or she was from, the opening comment always seemed to be, “Well, it’s in the middle of nowhere, but I’m from…”
Why on earth would church leaders from the middle of nowhere — places not necessarily known for ethnic diversity — want to hear about reconciliation? Well, a common thread was how their towns were being flooded by people from all over the world, mainly due to the decisions of global corporations.
I know a pastor in Florence, Ky., who translates his worship service from English to Japanese. Why? Toyota has its North American manufacturing headquarters nearby and they are taking advantage of the opportunity to bring the gospel to the executive management that works there. That’s a prime example of how globalization should affect our ministry practice. God is in the middle of bringing the world to our doorstep.
Is your ministry ready to reap the harvest?