The Global Church: Myth or Reality?
We preach the body of Christ and talk about the global church and the global community as if we are all connected and part of a universal, tightly knitted community with a single purpose and goal. My religious tradition would say, “that preaches.” In other words, that works from the pulpit.
Unfortunately, as with many things in the Church – it is a myth of convenience. In other words, we preach it, or we use it when we talk about compassion, or speak of global outreach and evangelism. Yet, when it comes to “doing” compassion or “doing” the outreach, we are rather parochial. We are universal in theme but balkanized in implementation. The cultural anthropologists and the missiologists in our community would say that is appropriate. After all, you have to account for cultural diversity and communities of distinction based on race, geography, and gender. All this when the entire globe has a smart phone.
The Church of the northern hemisphere must be careful not to overreach in its work with the southern hemisphere. Or for that matter, the southern hemisphere should not overreach in its work with the north. Language of the body of Christ disintegrates in the face of control and power discussions. Recently, I participated in a discussion about how to limit the capacity of a community because of fear that the community might be overly influenced by “outside” thinking. Forget the body of Christ discussion, it was who is in charge that dominated the exchange. All of this of course is safely couched in the language of accountability. Yet, I find accountability to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Authentic accountability builds capacity in a spirit of love and grace – disingenuous accountability is about being sure you know who is in charge.
A client of mine, not from my religious tradition, was recently chastised because a donor contributed resources outside the mainstream channels of giving. The fear of leadership was that this would circumvent accountability. No, what it really circumvents is control. The body of Christ would acknowledge that a gift from one of the members of the body is probably a good thing, especially if it achieves “kingdom” goals. The reality behind that myth – it is a good gift if the institution can control it; if it is not a threat to the rest of the body; and alas, does not have cultural trappings that exerts external control. All legitimate concerns, but understand what is at work here – not accountability but power.
The myth of the global church will move from myth to reality when we can acknowledge that it is the spirit of trust and grace that knits this body together. Just maybe we can learn from each other and recognize that gifts are diverse and the body is made up of many parts with many roles and functions. We must still be one body. However, these things are difficult to change. Colonialism is a bad thing regardless of who is exercising the power. And by colonialism, I mean autocratic control from one source exercised over another source claiming some sort of sovereignty. This is not about the British, the Spanish, or the Portuguese any longer. This is about us and our need for power. Paternalistic control is still control regardless of its source.
We should put down the reins of power and open our hands to each other as brothers and sisters working side by side in a helping community regardless of our country of origin, our race, our gender, or tradition. For when you cling tight fisted to the reins of power and control, it is difficult to use your hands for compassion and charity. The Global Church is the Church that recognizes that truth.
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