the weblog of Alan Knox

How big is your church?

Posted by on Mar 20, 2007 in blog links, community | 4 comments

Ben Witherington has a new post on his blog called “On Being a Global Christian“. He calls us to think beyond the borders of our Christian community into the expanse that is rightly called the house of God. For example, consider these two paragraphs:

One of the many forms that this tribalizing tendency takes is cultural parochialism or elitism, the assumption that it ought to be obvious that our culture and cultural expression of Christianity is so clearly superior (and more blessed by God) than any other such form that the best way for the lost in other nations to become saved is to re-create them in our own cultural image. Never mind that our culture has the huge besetting sins of greed, various forms of idolatry, rampant sexual immorality, materialism and a host of other self-centered and selfish practices that in no way honor Christ and his self-giving love. And yet we take it as without question that we should want to preserve many of these aspects of a culture at the expense of life, limb, and sometimes even liberty and at the expense of our Christian commitments and obligations.

One of the things that can be done to change this sort of cultural myopia is spending time regularly in cultures different than our own, going on cross-cultural mission trips, learning a foreign language since it is the gateway into the life of another culture, and in general working on our xenophobic tendencies. What happens, after one gets over the cultural vertigo is one discovers that we all have a lot to learn from each other. In many ways, many other cultures have simpler, more healthy , less self centered lifestyles than most Americans have or aspire to. Learning to see the world through the eyes of others not like ourselves is learning to see the world with eyes like that of God himself, who as the Bible says is impartial and no respecter of persons (see Acts 10).

A few years ago, my family had the opportunity to go to Nicaragua. Honestly, I went with the attitude that we Americans were going to tell the Nicaraguans what it meant to be Christians. Little did I know that they would teach me much more than I taught them. Much of my understanding of community and care and hospitality was birthed through hours of broken conversation with people who loved us so much that they would spend the time and effort to struggle to communicate with us.

Do you have a global perspective of Christianity? Do you believe that God can teach you through those who are not part of “your church”? Are you willing to learn from those who are different from you? Are you willing to go to them in order to learn?


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 3-20-2007


    I tried to comment earlier, but I don’t think it went through – I apologize if this is a repeat.

    I’m so glad that you posted on this. I think that American Christians find too much identity in being American. So, when we talk with people from other cultures, we present the “American Gospel” because our understanding of the Kingdom of God is too intertwined with American culture. We haven’t figured out how to be in the world but not of the world. I feel sick when I think of all of the damage we have done to people in our quest to make them American, oops, I mean, Christian (I’ve been guilty of doing this to people as well). I think the suggestions in the post for changing our cultural myopia are some of many great ideas. We must interact with people from other cultures with humble, teachable, and serving hearts. Then we can truly see and appreciate the beautiful and dynamic nature of the Body of Christ.

    Thanks for bringing this up.


  2. 3-20-2007


    Thank you for the comment. You are absolutely right when you say “our understanding of the Kingdom of God is too intertwined with American culture.” I also want to “see and appreciate the beautiful and dynamic nature of the Body of Christ.”


  3. 3-20-2007

    Alan –

    Brandon was once speaking with a guy that is a missionary in Cuba and he spoke of how they actually are hoping that they don’t become free, by American standards … he said they’re afraid that they’ll become fat, dumb and lazy like us – what an indictment on American Christianity! But yet, how true!

    Our friends are missionaries to Muslims in Africa and I love to sit and talk with them and listen to their stories. We were supposed to go on a trip there last November, but the husband fell ill and they are now stateside for a time. They’re perspective is so interesting, so insightful, so eye-opening, so convicting.

    A global perspective is necessary … God created the entire world, not just this little piece of land we call the USA.


  4. 3-20-2007


    We can all benefit from a perspective different from our own American perspective. Thank you for sharing some of what God has shown you.