When we asked a dozen international evangelical leaders to report on the state of the church in their regions, we didn't receive just cold statistics or idealized stereotypes. Instead, we heard from flesh-and-blood believers with attitude, telling their churches' stories from specific points of view. At some points, old hurts poke through (brace yourself for a bit more scolding on the failures of Western imperialistic missions); at other places, joy for the work God is doing among them bubbles to the surface.
Perhaps the most practical reminder they give us is that the same problems and temptations that plague North American evangelicals-materialism, judgmentalism, evangelistic apathy, unchecked emotionalism, infighting-are found in full measure elsewhere in the church. From Russia we hear that the decades of persecution under communism have not automatically led to evangelistically effective churches now that there is more freedom. Religious fervor in Brazil has not directly translated into spiritual maturity. And material gain in South Korea has not necessarily turned into Christian generosity. The lesson: Christians everywhere walk their faith with feet of clay.
But we also learn that it is the clay-footed that God uses to do his work. Cutting through the fog of problems and issues is the clear sunlight of God's work, specific and local, throughout the world. He is not the heavenly ceo giving target figures to his regional directors to meet. Rather, he is friend and partner to the local jungle pastor of Malaysia and the suburban missionary in Berlin. Our God is involved with the details.
One reason these reports reveal clay feet so clearly-unlike the glowing articles in old-time missions bulletins-is because of the unfiltered directness of the reports, thanks to e-mail and the rise of English as the lingua franca of the world. In our "global village," such unmediated directness keeps us from romanticizing the faith of faraway Christians and presenting our own faithfulness with ostentation. It also calls for greater measures of not just honesty, but charity, and not just openness, but respect.
The following reports necessarily represent only a sampling of the global evangelical fellowship. Whole regions go unmentioned, and in those regions we do cover, other worthy spokespersons could have described the state of affairs with a different interpretation. Still, we hope that the following pieces will help us both to see the big picture and to connect at a more personal level with our brothers and sisters around the globe. Most of the contributors have listed their e-mail addresses and welcome your comments. Let the conversations-and prayers-begin.
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