It’s 2:30 am, or 2:30 pm depending on what part of the world you are in. For all of my peeps back home in the States, it is in the pm. For me, it is 2:30 am, although my body seems resolute in denying this reality.
Yesterday, after my wonderful lesson in how to be an arrogant d**k (from a Canadian of all people!), we heard a number of presenters speaking about the many changes in global Christianity. Many of the changes described were ones that I (and many others) were already aware of. Christianity is growing in leaps and bounds in the South and East. Pentecostals and Evangelicals are leading the charge in with great growth. This is nothing new, but still significant and important to name and claim. However, the theme for the day seemed to be unity.
The first speaker was Dr. Dana Robert from Boston University. She suggested that church unity could be found within the four traditional “marks” of the church:
She made some very interesting arguments about the basic platforms of each mark and how all Christians could find some common ground with each. Within all this she argued that mission is integral and perhaps the key and center to unity. Remember this for later.
The second speaker, Dr. Sang-Bok David Kim, spoke about changes and trends in world Christianity. Again, it was nothing new. He did speak about two things that caught my attention. First was all he almost bragged about all of the Muslims that were being converted and how great that was. Second, he did brag about the evangelical effort to reach out to “nominal” Christians. Nominal Christians are Christians in name only who really do not have a personal relationship with Christ and aren’t fully with the spirit. In other words, Americans and Europeans (although he didn’t say it that specifically – it was coded language). He also spoke about the importance of mission.
I found his presentation to have a level of surety and bravado in suggesting that part of our “mission” is to convert people from other religions (rather than just reaching out to those who are lost and not in any belief system), and that someone can name who and who is not a “nominal” Christian. I guess I would fall into that category of being a “nominal” Christian, and I can’t wait for someone to come and bring me to Christ.
The words being used in this conference are powerful. Yesterday someone asked me if my home church (an American Baptist congregation) is Evangelical (I assume he meant it with the upper case). I was caught off guard with this question. He was asking a loaded question and I did not know the shibboleth to answer that question. I did not know how to answer in the way he wanted to hear. Evangelical is a loaded term.
People speak of the importance of mission but are not clear if it is strictly converting people or strictly offering services and working for peace, etc. We speak of holiness but in what sense. Someone even said that all Christians might be moving towards a greater sense of Catholicity, but what does that mean?
To a degree I think such terms need to be vague in order for everyone to find a space. Yet if they can be used as a litmus test to discern if you are a true Christian or a nominal Christian, then these words need to be unpacked and maybe even deconstructed. This is not an easy thing for me to write because I have been running from Derrida and his gang of French Deconstructionists for a long time. They hurt. They hurt a lot. They hurt a lot and then leave you with nothing. That is deconstruction and in this instance I think my weak understanding of it (lacking of nuance) would be very helpful.
Perhaps today (when everyone else wakes up), I will work to deconstruct the terms with charity and gentleness. After all, how can I even begin to have a conversation with someone if I do not know what they mean?
Anyway, I have been more reluctant to share in groups and a little more withdrawn. I will own some of that as my own issue, but also wonder again how safe is the space and I am sure I am not the only one who questions the level of safety.
Now I will go into the hotel lobby at 2:45 in the morning so I can post this on my blog (there is no internet in the rooms). I’ll let you know how many drunk/wasted folks are milling about in the lobby trying to decide what to do next because the bar just closed. Maybe I can label them as “nominal” Christians and try to bring them to a “real” relationship with Christ.