Most churches run on the January through December calendar. Therefore, the first week of January is a time of multiple reports and analysis. There are budget reports, attendance reports, baptism reports, wedding reports, funeral reports, community outreach reports and mission reports. While some churches shy away from number and analysis, the Bible does not. In fact we have an entire book called Numbers and in the Book of Acts we’re told often how many people were converted when the Gospel was preached.
In our area, there are congregations that have an older membership, but their giving was very good this past year. There are other congregations whose membership is very young, but who are not meeting their budget. There are congregations that have baptized new believers and there are congregations that have not received a new member for a long time. There are small congregations that have a positive outlook and there are large congregations that are concerned about their stagnation.
How does one talk about the church these days? There are people who are emphasizing the global development of the church. They talk about the decrease of the church in the Northern Hemisphere and they emphasize the fantastic growth of the church in the South. There are people who talk about the fabulous growth of the church in China, while others talk about how places where the dominant religion is Islam, Hinduism or Buddhism are almost impenetrable to the gospel. Some people talk about the local church and some talk about the global church. Some people have even coined a new term – glocal – a combination of the global and the local.
I think that each congregation has to be a glocal congregation. It is important to remember that Jesus said to Apostle Peter (and indirectly to each one of us who are in any type of Christian ministry) to feed the lambs and the sheep. A pastor should be always be concerned about the spiritual feeding of the congregation. Likewise, the pastor and the church leadership should think globally because Jesus Christ has commanded us to go in the whole world and preach the gospel and make disciples.
At the same time there are ethnic churches developing all over the world. Even in the United States, where we are used to ethnic churches, we have seen ethnic churches that we did not have before. There are Ethiopian Churches, Syrian Churches, Burmese Churches and Arab Churches (just to mention a few). While one rejoices in the formation of these new churches, one becomes concerned because the creation of a Burmese or Arab Church in New England means that believers have been persecuted in their own countries and they have been forced to leave. While we are increasing in ethnic churches here, the churches in their own countries are weakening.
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The 21st century is forcing the church to think about how to use the glocal church that exists. What is happening to the Western Church that it is becoming weaker? While it is becoming weaker numerically, it is still continuing to be in the best financial position. Is it better for us to send missionaries from the West to other cultures who need to spend close to 10 years in order to be effective, or can we find indigenous people who are trained more quickly? We need to start thinking glocally by forming alliances with younger churches throughout the world, sharing resources, and learning from one another. William Carey, the Father of Modern Missions, challenged the church of his day by giving examples from the business world of making adjustments in order to become a global force. It may be that we have to look again at the business world and to see some of their effective methods. The Gospel remains the same, but the methods can always change.