Globalizing Pop ChristianityBy Steve | January 22nd, 2010 | Category: Academics | 2 comments
Setting out on my global journey, one of the things I fully expected to see a lot of was USAmerican/Western influences in the churches and Christian communities I was visiting. So it came as no surprise to me that Purpose Driven this, and Willow Creek that have been pretty visible in several places, as have been the worship songs (whether in English, or translated). I’ve been to a church services with a live worship band, but the pastor’s sermon on a screen – a.k.a. video venue. I’ve seen an African church website advertising it’s latest sermon series that riffs on the U.S. television show “Extreme Home Makeover.” Even some of the voices from the emerging church are pretty well known around the world.
In my opinion, this is one of the things that may most hinder truly missional expressions of church in the years ahead. While it is true that the forces of globalization have given the world more common experiences and cultural elements, there are significant differences in local areas, because of history, language, economics, politics, and values. These differences require theological insights and expressions that are responsive, meaning that local Christ followers (and not just pastors, seminary professors, or denominational leaders, either) must become more skillful at understanding their times and places, and how to take the message of Jesus to the places of need in ways that work.
In one sense, Christian culture is replicating in some similar ways as the rest of global culture. I’ve heard Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the USA,” on at least four continents now, and likewise, I’ve seen Joel Osteen, John Maxwell, and TD Jakes books in an “impressive” number of locations. Broader pop culture is homogenizing, so why wouldn’t Christian pop culture? The problem with this, of course, comes when Christians in a particular local culture are familiar with the ministries, theology, and spiritual dynamics of their own homes because they’re so caught up in the bland, lowest-common-denominator kinds of products available in the globalized market. And while good, orthodox Western Christians smugly wouldn’t even consider the thought that their version of the faith has accommodated culture to a dangerous degree, I would argue that there is some pretty solid evidence that capitalism, nationalism, and pop culture have become more than merely tools through which the church of the Western world communicates its message.
For the sake of clarity, I’m not opposed to all forms of this kind of globalized Christianity. Honestly, a lot of aid for Haiti is being mobilized through this avenue. I simply believe that citizens of the Kingdom of God – whether they live is Nashville or Nairobi – need to come to the gospel and come to the people they live with, with fresh eyes and a prayerful heart, so that the particularity of relationships doesn’t get swallowed up by the generalized platitudes of preachers half a world away. It’s the local, personal connections that ultimate produce a proper depth of relationship, theology, and mission.