Glocal Christianity (2008) and “Christian Cybernauts” (1998)

SUMMARY. A response to Matt Stone’s post on Tom Sine’s perspective of four streams of emergence: Emerging, Missional, Mosaic (multicultural), and Monastic. Matt focuses on the Mosaic approach for where he lives, Australia, which is not a “de-churched” nation because it never ever was a “churched” nation. Also, Matt’s particular neighborhood is highly multicultural, with representatives from numerous people groups worldwide. I pick up on the concept of “global + local = glocal” as I have seen it developed over the past 10 years, and share one of the scenarios I produced in 1998 on what I thought seminary students could look like in the year 2010. (This was part of my final assignment in a one-week intensive training on strategic foresight/futurist skills.) Ten years ago, I didn’t have the words to identify what these “Christian cybernauts” would look like. Now I would describe them as holistic paradigm, missional, everyday disciples who are learner-leaders in Kingdom enterprises. I also share three resources that would be of interest to those exploring the meaning and practices of “glocal” Christianity.

I’ve just finished reading a couple of Matt Stone’s blog posts at Glocal Christianity. He’s one of my two Virtual Abbey brothers (the other being Celtic Son, a “blogless commentarian”), who, along with Peggy Brown as The Virtual Abbess, all connected online in 2007. We found ourselves commenting on each others comments, mostly on Alan Hirsch’s blog, The Forgotten Ways (Thanks Alan!), and figured out if we were already able to pretty much interpret one another’s perspectives accurately, maybe we should do something about that. So, we’ve been co-encouragers, prayer partners, and blog buddies since then. I am immensely grateful for The Abbey as a group where I don’t have to explain myself, just be myself (although some occasional clarifications are required, but hey, that’s just life!).

Anyway, today being the weekend, I am treating myself to a “Saturday Sandwich.” Translation: Coffee. Blog. Coffee. Perfect, eh? So I’ve been flitting to the 10 or so blogs I try to keep up with. Whah … only 10? I know that probably sounds lame, but I take consolation from a term Andrew Jones suggested at the Missional-in-Middle-earth Lord of the Rings techygeek-missionalgeek Bilbo/Frodo-birthday get-together last month: post-post-literate. From his description, this term applies to those who write more than they read. Hmm … yeah, been there, do that. Since my day job is writing and editing, I probably average over 35 hours a week of writing. So, any leisure-time reading is actually a rarity. My brain starts leaking letters and I really do go dyslexic.

But today, I get to read! I got blogged down (in a good way) at Glocal Christianity. There’s always an immense amount of food for thought in Matt’s questions, comments, world Christian artwork galleries, descriptions, etc. But two posts in particular caught my attention today.

JUST TO EXPLAIN

In Matt’s post called “Just to explain … hopefully,” he talks about where he stands in relation to the various streams of emergence as detailed by Tom Sine in his book, The New Conspirators: Emerging, Missional, Mosaic and Monastic. Matt described his own highly diverse cultural setting in Sydney, Australia, and why he might be seen as a Oz-based representative of the Mosaic stream (although he has not read books by Erwin McManus of Mosaic Church). He finds aspects of discomfort with the various streams, and states that his ecclesiology is called forth by the cultural setting he finds himself in.

While I find much of value in the emerging, missional and neo-monastic conversations there is much that sits uneasy with me too, given where I am and where I have come from. I am seeking an understanding of postmodernity which is less monolithic than what I find the emergent stream is offering, I am seeking an approach to contemplative disciplines which is less Euro-centric than what I find the monastic stream is offering, and I am seeking an approach to church contextualization that is less tribal and more critical of the “homogenous unit principle” than what I find the missional stream is offering. I have friends who participate in each of these streams and I respect what they are doing, but my context demands I do things somewhat different. The diversity of art you find here is just one espression of this.

You might want to see that post’s comments from The Virtual Abbess on the word picture of homogenization, and from me on my own lack of comfort with the streams. But here is part of what I posted there that captures some of the essence of “going glocal.”

I find more appreciation all the time for your blog, Matt, as you attempt to expose us to the diversity of alternative spiritualities in community cultures and alternative traditions within the Church, and explore their significance. I keep sensing that in the coming era of Church reconstruction that parallels global paradigm shifts, we’ll need to process East-West and South-North if we’re truly to become a worldwide Body instead of just outposts conformed to an imported westernized Body. It’ll be bigger than any movement we’ve yet seen, and I’m thankful you’re helping point some ways forward. And actually, I think you’re closer than anyone I know to the substance of what I can only see now in shadow for the shape I think that final MRI composite looks like …

That last statement is not one I say lightly, but then, I’ve been reading Matt’s Glocal Christianity for over a year now, and I stand with that opinion. Matt’s context now is perhaps what more of us in the US will experience a decade or two from now. Matt asks excellent questions and lets people respond. Then he replies in a Socratic way to their comments, and so forth. It really is more of a dialogue than many blogs (including mine). And he’s highly engaged with people there, as well as with the broader issues posed online and elsewhere. His perspective has broadened mine immensely!

GOING GLOCAL

In his post of today, “Going Glocal,” Matt picks up some quotes from David Dunham’s September 19th post of the same title, and responds.

QUOTE FROM DAVID: In the last several centuries the world, and the Western World in particular, has been changing rapidly … The nature of this change has brought about a massive shift in the city so that to speak in terms of a “local” context really must include an awareness of the global context. When the majority of your city, or even a significant portion of it, is composed of various ethnic groups from various cultures your local context has taken on the flavor of the larger world.

MATT: Going glocal means, not only accepting that the familiar distinctions between world mission and local outreach are collapsing and blurring, but also accepting that the emerging diversity transcends what even world missionaries were used to facing.

QUOTE FROM DAVID: Does “going glocal” impact the “doing of church” in North America? I believe it does, though I confess I don’t know exactly how just yet.

MATT: I believe it does, and I think part of the answer is emphasizing the essentials and not getting hung up on optionals. A western perspective on Jesus is too small – we need to be informed by a world perspective.

I think both of these men are really on to something important – really important. In the coming/current reconstruction of our paradigms, we’ve got to find a way to maintain the paradox of missions and missional.

MISSIONS AND MISSIONAL IN DYNAMIC TENSION

Mission catalyst Carol Davis of Global Spectrum and LeafLine Initiatives was the first person I ever remember hearing talk about “GlobaLocal Church” and adopting a double-emphasis on “glocal.” That was over a decade ago, though the GlobaLocal Church link is for an article by Carol Davis and Paul Kaak from 2002 (Yo – Carol and Paul!). Sometimes, just hearing the concept puts it on our radar, and ever since, I’ve had my antennas attuned for signs of those times.

The other day I just happened to run across some emails and tutorials on “postmodernity” from back in the day when that term was still a mystery to most in ministry (i.e., late 1990s, early 2000s). I was having email dialogues with something like seven strategy coordinators and missionaries in Europe, from three or four different mission boards. They were seeing the shift as “postmodern generations” emerged in their local settings, and as “postmoderns” from elsewhere moved to their areas – sometimes as new missionaries under their supervision. Even these missionaries – who often have at least some background in cross-cultural contextualization – were flummoxed by the presence of postmoderns. They were at a loss, with few clues for how to respond. At that point (and who knows, perhaps still), their mission boards had nothing much to share in terms of training. So, they were pretty much on their own.

Now we’re all facing similar situations, whether we’re missions-minded or missionally-minded. Many of us find our communities and neighborhoods dramatically more diverse because of multiple shifts in people and perspectives. We have changes in generations as the Builder generation fades, Boomers age, and leadership batons need to be passed. There is increasing influence of post-Christendom cultures from Western countries, continued patterns of global immigration, increased migration of non-resident international workers, and significant relocation to urban areas. And, oh yes, did I mention radical upheavals due to paradigm shifts at the global level?

Lately, I’ve been wondering if part of the “theological reconstruction” for both missions and missional involves more than just amping up our strategy coordinazation and contextualization. I’m not against those kinds of strategies and structures. However, there’s more to this than systems and structures, important as those are – especially when they’re missing! It’s about people. In many branches of the Church, missionaries are trained to identify what Jesus called a “person of peace,” such as in Luke 10:5-12. Around the same time as I heard Carol Davis talk about “globalocal missions,” I also started seeing cultural trends come into place for a shift where disciples – singles, couples, families, and/or community clusters – might move into neighborhoods, implant themselves there for their lifetime, and encourage their children to invest themselves there likewise.

SEMINARY STUDENTS 2010

I had no accurate language to label this with, just an underdeveloped picture of it happening. “Christian Cybernauts,” I called them. I wrote the following about this group in my 1998 futurist studies “final exam,” which required discerning cultural trends and extrapolating from them a set of four scenarios of what I thought seminary students of 2010 would look like. Here are some notes from that paper:

What if, in 2010, the Seminary student body consists mostly of thoroughly postmodern people who are more socially oriented than individualistically oriented?

Description: The “Christian Cybernauts” group is a take-off from Jason and the Argonauts, a challenge-and-response myth [i.e., go on a quest and reap the reward, or die trying] from ancient Greece. It’s about the adventures of Jason and his compatriots of male and female heroes who went in search of the Golden Fleece. Our root word of “cyber” comes from the Greek word kubernates, meaning “navigator” or “helmsman.” The ancient Greek navigators had no compass or other external, manufactured tools to guide their way – only their ability to keep sight of land and their internal, intuitive skills. Appropriately enough, a few scattered benchmarks and a finely honed set of intuitive skills may be all that the cybernauts of the 21st century may have as they navigate into creating a new paradigm that interconnects seminary, church, and community.

Classical Plotline: In the Greek epic, a large group of closely related men and women sail on an adventure that will make or break a Kingdom. As a team, they encounter many challenges, meeting some and failing others. The Kingdom is won, but at a high cost and with much “survival grief.” Will the team be scattered, or create a situation where an entirely new kind of social partnership thrives? In the postmodern version,

Postmodern Scenario: The group of men and women (one or two couples, several singles of each gender) have been living together in community. They come from a small but gradually increasing number of students who are applying themselves in “strategy coordinator” roles. When not all applicants were able to attend seminary, they send several representatives to engage in biblical and intercultural ministry studies, part-time or full-time. These few come home and teach the rest. As they continue studying scripture, theology, missiology, and cultures as a community, they undergo their own paradigm shifts. This puts them into an increasing state of conflict with certain seminary professors and fellow students. The primary contention: They had concluded that not all people were meant to “go” internationally, especially to the 10/40 Window. They believe some are meant to live in national urban centers and/or to reach out to people with postmodern subcultural identities. They receive more flak over time. Finally, they are subjected to harsh condemnations suggesting that they are “not really in God’s will” because they are capable of cross-cultural ministry but “refuse” to go overseas. Eventually, the group secures backing for down-payments on several houses in a San Francisco neighborhood [thanks to Linda B. for this concept on co-housing!], and they covenant together to settle there for at least 25 years and serve this neighborhood, whatever the demographic changes that may come.

Now I have more language to talk about that 1998 scenario, and actually, that’s kind of exciting! Maybe that is, in part, what reconstructing our theology is about. Some things just have to steep for a long time before we’re ready to synthesize or clarify them. It may not seem like that big a deal for others, but it is a delightful thing for me – seeing things make sense, even if it took 10 years for it to happen.

Anyway, this group chose to live in the missional counterpart to traditional missions. Namely, instead of us going somewhere to find a person of peace and plant a church there, we go somewhere and plant ourselves there as people of peace. Instead of us being the border-crossing sojourners, hoping to be welcomed, we stay in a locale as resident aliens who welcome others into our homes.

In the glocal world of mix-and-match people groups and cultures, I suspect we must find a way to integrate both the missions concept of border-crossings and the missional concept of neighborhood building. We should consider being/becoming both cross-cultural (intentionally experiencing The Other) and intercultural (integrating lessons from The Other), because we will all sooner or later be multicultural (living near The Other).

SOME DIY RESOURCES ON GOING GLOCAL

Could I suggest two books and a movie that I believe may be of interest here:

People of the Dream: Multiracial Congregations in the United Statesby Michael O. Emerson with Rodney Woo. Professor Emerson teaches Sociology at Rice University in Houston, Texas. I found the social research to be well conceived and well done, and the technical research results were written in a very accessible style for non-specialists.

Also, it features case studies from several kinds of multiracial congregations – including some which are predominantly Americans, and others with significant international contingents, like Wilcrest Baptist Church in Houston, Texas, where Rodney Woo serves as senior pastor. A friend of mine serves on staff at Wilcrest and I visited there, and saw some of how they’ve accommodated a very diverse congregation. It is more within a traditional to contemporary ecclesiological model overall, but with definite international flair and influences due to welcoming the presence of immigrants and refugees, international students at area colleges, global business people, etc.

Speaking of “multi” issues, I really like the movie The Second Chance (2006) as a complementary media piece to go with People of the Dream. It was directed by Steve Taylor, and stars Jeff Obafemi Carr and Michael W. Smith. The tagline for the movie is: “Same faith. Same city. Different worlds.” It is a rich film that addresses conflicts between multiple generations, races, economic classes, urban-suburban, politics of city vs. neighborhood, ecclesiology models, approaches to context and ministry, plus probably way more stuff than I’ve been able to absorb and analyze with only three or four viewings so far.

The Second Chance made me reflect on how urban-center ministry transcends most titles in contemporary North American movements like “missional” and “emerging” and “neo-monastic.” I doubt that leaders of inner-city churches/ministries would identify with dynamics in those movements, and yet it seems to me that they embrace a core feature in common with them: contextualization. The Second Chance shows what it looks like to be committed to the people in your context: Refugees with good education but no credentials here for finding commensurate work. People with addictions to overcome – some open, others hidden. Socio-economic range. Various forms of abuse, injustice, and violence.

Do we sometimes get too hung up on formulating our abstract strategies for contextualization, so we can then go implement them? What if we focused on witnessing the concrete, everyday issues of those around us, and committed to respond – wouldn’t that give us street cred for eventual strategies? And then, do we need to pit those two approaches against each other? Is there a way that “going glocal” can be infused with both?

The Way of Jesus: A Journey of Freedom for Pilgrims and Wanderers by Jonathan S. Campbell with Jennifer Campbell. If traditional apologetics and discipleship materials are designed for modernists/skeptics who stand aside until they’ve more certain of the concept before applying it, then the Campbells’ book is the opposite. It is designed for those who readily embrace spiritual transcendence and transformation, who plunge into experiences and reflect on what they are learning both during and afterward.

Jonathan and Jennifer share insights from their everyday experiences in connecting with more “easternized Westerners” (e.g., Caucasian Americans who practice Buddhism or paganism) than many disciples have had contact with, along with some “westernized Easterners” (e.g., South Asians now working in the US and assimilating to this culture). Jonathan’s and Jennifer’s journeys have settled in an approach to processing spiritual life through The Way of Jesus – through a Person who answers the deepest questions of East and West, and in that resolution also brings transformation. Not a system, and not syncretism. As East, West, east-West, and west-East all meet in our glocal futures, this book can help prepare the way by expanding our perspectives.

I’ve known Jonathan for about 10 years – about a third of his journey through and beyond the contemporary models, then house church movements, and missional multiplications, and organic reconstructions of “spirituality” that led to this book. I edited both his Ph.D. dissertation for Fuller School of Intercultural Studies (on globalization and the effects of the modern/postmodern culture shift upon church organizational systems and leadership), and a preliminary version of this book. Also, when I sense the timing is right, I’m planning to blog my way through their book …

Okay, enuff for now – and huh … didn’t know that a second cuppa coffee could make you lose all track of time! Umm … I should maybe try that more often when I’m doing work instead of leisure?

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8 thoughts on “Glocal Christianity (2008) and “Christian Cybernauts” (1998)

  1. So honored to have you (and Matt and CS) with me at The Abbey!

    I particularly resonated with Matt here: “… I think part of the answer is emphasizing the essentials and not getting hung up on optionals. A western perspective on Jesus is too small – we need to be informed by a world perspective.”

    And reading about Carol’s work it doesn’t surprise me that you should understand CovenantClusters … that is so much of the vision!

    Yes, looking forward to moving into the reconstruction stage … and am grateful that the Lord restrained me enough to allow me to pass through deconstruction and come out on the other side before launching. His timing, as always, is impeccable.

    Loved “The Second Chance.” Had a lot to say for those with eyes to see and ears to hear….

    Shalom, bro.

  2. Brad, thanks for your encouragement, perspectives and book recommendations. Speaking of the latter, one book I found helpful along the lines of the first you mentioned is “One body, one spirit: principles of successful multiracial churches” by George Yancey.

  3. …so glad I stumbled upon this fascinating post. I’m going to read through it a few times, ’cause there’s some good meaty stuff in there I can find some resonance with.

    I’m familiar with Matt’s excellent blog, so I’ll have to get to know the other two.

    Peace & blessings

    Johnny

  4. Hi Johnny and hey, aren’t the providential stumblings-upon-stuff sometimes the most intriguing? Glad you found food for thought. Perhaps I can join you sometime as cross-International Director of drinkin’ coffee and stuff if/when I get over your way. And yeah, Matt’s a great guy and fantastic blogger.

    Thanks for dropping in …

  5. Hullo-o-o
    It seemed entirely inappropriate not to drop in and add my cyberthanks to all three Abberians… you really are a quite brilliant trio and it is an honour to be a novice in the midst.

    Slainte

    A Celtic Son

  6. Hullo-o-o back atchyuh, friend Celtic Son, and thanks for dropping in! And without invalidating your kind compliment, might I suggest that who we are as “A Quadrology of [Resident] Aliens” [yo! film shout out to Sigourney!][a quadrology – that’s like a pride of lions with the lions and hopefully with more humility] is far more than any of us could be as individuals or in any other combination? I think I would have gone through emergimeltdown, had we not connected when we did …

    And Johnny, good to have your invite for the Abbey and a coffee in your neck of the woods. And might I request a mega-frappe-mocha-latte? Don’t quite know what it is, but it sounds like it’d either be reeally good, or reeally bad!

    Speaking of coffee, time for a second cuppa …

    Blessings you all …

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