Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Mystery ingredient in coffee boosts protection against Alzheimer’s disease

June 22, 2011 by Editor
(Credit: iStockPhoto)
A yet-unidentified component of coffee interacts with caffeine, a possible reason why daily coffee intake protects against Alzheimer’s disease, researchers at the University of South Florida have found.

One clue: they found that caffeinated coffee induces an increase in blood levels of a growth factor called GCSF (granulocyte colony stimulating factor) in mice. GCSF is greatly decreased in patients with Alzheimer’s disease and is demonstrated to improve memory in Alzheimer’s mice.

The researchers said this is not possible with other caffeine-containing drinks or decaffeinated coffee.

An increasing body of scientific literature indicates that moderate consumption of coffee also decreases the risk of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, Type II diabetes, and stroke. Recent studies have reported that drinking coffee in moderation may also significantly reduce the risk of breast and prostate cancers.

The researchers suggest that moderate daily coffee intake (4 to 5 cups a day) starting at least by middle age (30s–50s) is optimal for providing protection against Alzheimer’s disease, although from their studies, starting even in older age appears protective.

Ref.: Gary Arendash, et al., Caffeine Synergizes with Another Coffee Component to Increase Plasma GCSF: Linkage to Cognitive Benefits in Alzheimer’s Mice, Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 25(2), June 28, 2011

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

This Week in Leadership

This Week in Leadership Worship
Taming the Image
People engage electronic media an average of 8 hours a day. Do they really need more at church?

The band is rockin', arms are swayin', and you're about to come on screen in high definition with such stunning visual clarity that even people in the nosebleed seats can see your perfect smile.

Is this a rock concert? A beer commercial? Or just a typical Sunday morning?

These days, it could be any of the above. | Finish this article |

This Week in Leadership Soul & Spirit
Human Hands, God's Fingerprints
Can you plan worship experiences that generate worshipful people rather than spoiled consumers?

9 pastors respond with what they're doing to encourage Christlikeness.

We asked pastors and worship planners how they design times of worship that lead to Christlikeness, not just to more hard-to-please consumers of worship services. | Finish this article |

Leader's Insight"How's your church doing?"
God's plans for your church may be bigger than you imagine

Somebody asked me recently: "How's the church going?"

How do you answer that?

Is it going well if you make the budget? Or fill a building? Or beat last year's average attendance? Is it determined by comparing your congregation to how other churches are doing?

Of course the tricky part is figuring out how God thinks we're doing. What does he want of us?

I can think of three possible gauges that might guide our response. | Finish the article |

Monday, June 20, 2011

Fathers: Key to Their Children’s Faith

Sun, Jun. 19, 2011 Posted: 10:04 AM EDT
S. Michael Craven
Christian Post Guest Columnist
I am afraid that our culture in general has reduced the role of fatherhood (along with marriage itself) to something nonessential or unnecessary. Even many men today regard parenting as being primarily the mother's role and somehow no longer associated with masculinity or “real” manhood.

Instead, many have succumbed to modern cultural caricatures-encouraged by feminist psychology-and the primitive label of hunter-gatherer, and thus assume that this is their main contribution to the family. As a result too many men, including professing Christian men, express their role as father exclusively in terms of financial provider. The fact is children are not looking for financial provision; they are looking for love, guidance, and a role model for what it means to be a man.

During the colonial period in America men defined themselves by their level of community involvement and fatherhood. Marriage and fatherhood were seen as being among the highest aspirations in a man’s life. Today the highest aspirations of men seem to be career success and personal leisure; and against these they seek to balance marriage and family.

The lack of actively involved fathers has produced societal conditions necessary for the intervention of government. It is a sobering fact when the government is compelled to respond to the failure of such a fundamental institution as family! In 2001 the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services under President Bush launched its Fatherhood Initiative with this statement:

The President is determined to make committed, responsible fatherhood a national priority … [T]he presence of two committed, involved parents contributes directly to better school performance, reduced substance abuse, less crime and delinquency, fewer emotional and other behavioral problems, less risk of abuse or neglect, and lower risk of teen suicide. The research is clear: fathers factor significantly in the lives of their children. There is simply no substitute for the love, involvement, and commitment of a responsible father.

While the research confirms that paternal absence (whether it is physical or emotional) is a significant contributing factor in almost every category of societal ill, my concern is the spiritual consequence.

A rather obscure but large and important study conducted by the Swiss government in 1994 and published in 2000 revealed some astonishing facts with regard to the generational transmission of faith and religious values. (The full title of the study is: “The Demographic Characteristics of the Linguistic and Religious Groups in Switzerland” by Werner Haug and Phillipe Warner of the Federal Statistical Office, Neuchatel. The study appears in Volume 2 of Population Studies No. 31, a book titled The Demographic Characteristics of National Minorities in Certain European States, edited by Werner Haug and others, published by the Council of Europe Directorate General III, Social Cohesion, Strasbourg, January 2000.) Sounds like a page-turner right?

In short, the study reveals: “It is the religious practice of the father of the family that, above all, determines the future attendance at or absence from church of the children” (Emphasis mine).
The study reports:

1. If both father and mother attend regularly, 33 percent of their children will end up as regular churchgoers, and 41 percent will end up attending irregularly. Only a quarter of their children will end up not practicing at all.

2. If the father is irregular and mother regular, only 3 percent of the children will subsequently become regulars themselves, while a further 59 percent will become irregulars. Thirty-eight percent will be lost.

3. If the father is non-practicing and mother regular, only 2 percent of children will become regular worshippers, and 37 percent will attend irregularly. Over 60 percent of their children will be lost completely to the church!

What happens if the father is regular but the mother irregular or non-practicing? Amazingly, the percentage of children becoming regular goes up from 33 percent to 38 percent with the irregular mother and up to 44 percent with the non-practicing. This suggests that loyalty to the father’s commitment grows in response to the mother’s laxity or indifference to religion.

In short, if a father does not go to church-no matter how faithful his wife’s devotions-only one child in 50 will become a regular worshipper. If a father does go regularly, regardless of the practice of the mother, between two-thirds and three-quarters of their children will become churchgoers (regular and irregular). One of the reasons suggested for this distinction is that children tend to take their cues about domestic life from Mom while their conceptions of the world outside come from Dad. If Dad takes faith in God seriously then the message to their children is that God should be taken seriously.

This confirms the essential role of father as spiritual leader, which I would argue is true fatherhood. Fathers are to love their wives as Christ loves the church, modeling the love of the Father in their most important earthly relationship. Fathers are to care for their children as our Father in heaven cares for us and finally, fathers play a primary role in teaching their children the truth about reality. It is the father who should instruct his children in their understanding of the world from a consciously and informed Christian worldview. It is the father who is essential for sending his children forth with a biblical view of reality and a faith in Jesus Christ that is rooted in solid understanding.

It is time for fathers to return to honorable manhood and reconsider their priorities and realign them with God’s commands, decrees, and laws, teaching these things to your children “when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6:7 NKJV).

Have a happy Father’s Day!

S. Michael Craven is the President of the Center for Christ & Culture. Michael is the author of Uncompromised Faith: Overcoming Our Culturalized Christianity (Navpress). Michael's ministry is dedicated to renewal within the Church and works to equip Christians with an intelligent and thoroughly Christian approach to matters of culture in order to demonstrate the relevance of Christianity to all of life. For more information on the Center for Christ & Culture, visit: . Michael lives in the Dallas area with his wife Carol and their three children.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Viewing the Church Through the Lens of the Holy Spirit

Biblical Reflection for the Solemnity of Pentecost 
By Father Thomas Rosica, CSB
TORONTO, JUNE 7, 2011 ( Pentecost is the 50th day that signals the start of the universal mission of the Church -- a mission that overcomes human obstacles and has the Spirit as its driving force. The mighty breath of God and the fire of the Spirit's presence engulf the group of disciples gathered in prayer around Mary, Mother of the Lord in the upper room.
Luke's narrative of Pentecost in today's first reading from Acts (2:1-13) consists of an introduction, a speech ascribed to Peter declaring the resurrection of Jesus and its messianic significance (14-36), and a favorable response from the audience (2:37-41). The Twelve were not originally in a position to proclaim publicly the messianic office of Jesus without incurring immediate reprisal from those religious authorities in Jerusalem who had brought about Jesus' death precisely to stem the rising tide in his favor.
Psalm 104 reminds us that this Holy Spirit, this breath of God that we as Christians have received, is the same Spirit that sustains the constant renewal of all created things.

Paul's theology of charisms

In today's second reading (1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13), St. Paul reminds the Corinthian Christians that the different gifts of the Holy Spirit are given for a purpose: a service to be offered for the good of all. They are not ends in themselves. Christians are called to establish a unity that brings together in Jesus Christ all peoples, religions and states of life.

Ecstatic and charismatic activity was common in early Christian experience, as they were in other ancient religions. But the Corinthians seem to have developed a disproportionate esteem for certain phenomena, especially tongues, to the detriment of order in the liturgy. Paul reminds the Corinthians that ecstatic phenomena must be judged by their effect.

Power to confess Jesus as Lord can come only from the Spirit, and it is inconceivable that the Spirit would move anyone to curse the Lord. We learn that there are some features common to all charisms, despite their diversity: all are gifts (charismata), grace from outside ourselves; all are forms of service (diakoniai), an expression of their purpose and effect; and all are workings (energemata), in which God is at work. Paul associates each of these aspects with what later theology will call one of the persons of the Trinity, an early example of "appropriation."

The image of a body (12-26) is introduced to explain Christ's relationship with believers (12). Paul applies this model to the church: by baptism all, despite diversity of ethnic or social origins, are integrated into one organism. The reading then develops the need for diversity of function among the parts of a body without threat to its unity.

He breathed on them

The Gospel of John (19:20-23) describes another way the Holy Spirit is given to the apostles: the risen Jesus breathing on the apostles to impart the Holy Spirit. The power of the Spirit not only authorizes, but also empowers the apostles to forgive and to retain sins. Jesus formally sends out to the world his apostles, as he had been sent to the world by the Father. Jesus' breathing on the apostles huddled in the Upper Room recalls Genesis 2:7, where God breathed on the first man and gave him life; just as Adam's life came from God, so now the disciples' new spiritual life comes from Jesus.

Behind the scenes

In my work at Salt and Light Television Network in Canada, I have had to quickly learn about broadcast technology, and all that goes into making a good film. One important aspect of television is the intricate camera work "behind the scenes."

The close up and wide-angle camera shots make all the difference in filming and telling a story. If we use too many close-ups, we lose sight of the bigger picture. If we overuse the wide-angle lens without attention to the particulars, it doesn't make for good television. Good television combines the wide-angle or panoramic shots, the intermediate views of the surface, and finally the close-ups that offer attention to detail and often provide necessary depth for understanding the whole picture.
I would like to offer three lenses through which we might consider this feast: 1) the wide-angle lens that looks at our belonging to the Church; 2) an intermediate lens that focuses in on the ideologies at work in the Church today; and 3) a zoom lens to sharpen our hope, the great manifestation of the Holy Spirit to the Church.

"Sentire cum ecclesia"

Pentecost is considered to be the birth of the Church. Our baptismal consecration in service to Christ cannot be separated from consecration in service to the Church. One of the main themes permeating the thought of St. Ignatius of Loyola is his exhortation "Sentire cum ecclesia" or "think with the Church." "Sentire cum ecclesia" also means to feel with the Church and to love the Church.
Pentecost invites us once again to walk with the Church, breathe with the Church, hope with the Church, feel with the Church, "sentire cum ecclesia." What does the Church mean for me as an individual? What is my personal relationship with the Church? Do I love the Church? Do I feel loved by the Church?

Moving beyond ideology

From the wide-angle view of the Church, let us take a closer look at our current ecclesial reality. Today, some of us seem to be stuck in the ideological battles that followed the Second Vatican Council. Perhaps we are frozen in categories of left and right; traditional vs. avant-garde; male vs. female; hierarchical vs. lay-led, or prophetic vs. static.

Our inter-ecclesial and inter-community fixations and polarizations on all sides of the ecclesial spectrum can distract us from addressing with requisite depth and discernment the issues facing us today. Whatever is not purified and transformed within us is transmitted to others -- especially to the next generation.

When we sell ourselves to cynicism and despair, meanness of heart, smallness of spirit and harshness in ecclesial discourse, we betray our deepest identity as bearers of joy, hope and truth. Is joy present in our Christian witness? What prevents me as an individual and us as a community from giving a robust, joyful witness to Jesus Christ, the Catholic Faith and the Church?

Zooming in on hope

Finally, let us zoom in on hope, a true manifestation of the Spirit at Pentecost. Is it not true that many of us in the Church today feel like we are caught in a flash flood that is unexpected, powerful, destructive and filled with despair? The flame seems to have gone out and our influence is terribly diminished. The media exerts a powerful influence on the thinking, the attitudes and the faith of people.
The flash flood bears down with immense force on all of us. Some view our present situation with great pessimism and grow disheartened, depressed and even cynical. Perhaps we have chosen to look at everything only from the data of sociology, psychology, polls and predictions, blogs and brief Twitter messages, and foresee an inevitable, almost deterministic future designed more or less by demographic, social, and economic forces, a future which is dismal and dark.

For the world of sound bites, hope usually means that we make ourselves believe that everything is going to turn out all right. We use the word hope lightly and cheaply. This is not the hope of Christians. We must be icons of hope, a people with a new vision, a people that learn to see the world through the lenses of Christ, the Spirit, and the Church.

Signs of the times

Vatican II encouraged Christians to read the signs of the times, and for Pope John XXIII, these were signs of hope and glimpses of the Kingdom's presence in our midst. It is not a kingdom of this world, so that it cannot be identified specifically in this or that location, but it is nevertheless here already, fostered by the Eucharist which is the pattern to be reproduced in all society, as well as still to come.
The Kingdom manifests itself through the gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, courage, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. And the Spirit's fruits make the Kingdom palpable and palatable: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, long suffering, mildness, faith, modesty, continence and chastity.

It is also possible to follow a "via negativa" and to say where the Kingdom is not. Where there is no justice, no peace, no sharing, no mutual trust, no forgiveness, there is no Kingdom. Where there is rancor, envy, distrust, hatred, ignorance, indifference, a lack of chastity, cynicism, there is no Kingdom and certainly no life.

"Duc in altum!"

We cannot weigh the life of faith and judge the vitality of the Church solely on the basis of demographical or sociological indicators, numbers, polls, and outside statistics, as helpful as they may be. The fire of Pentecost invites us to rediscover the depth, beauty and vastness of the Church's mission. 
What is required of those imagining and building the Church is to think big, and to cast our nets into the deep. "Duc in altum!" We must shape our vision on the firm conviction in the victory of the Cross and in Jesus Christ's triumph over sin and death. Individuals and communities without vision and a Church without a mission are like a person without relationships.

Unless we are able to go beyond ourselves, we will remain undeveloped personalities. When the Spirit truly dwells within us, we will be blessed anew with creativity, imagination and hope.

Guarantee of the Spirit's presence

What is the deepest and surest assurance and intimation that the Holy Spirit is present in our world and Church today? The answer is: joy. If there is joy present you can bet that the Holy Spirit has something to do with this precious gift.

St. Augustine who was the most musically passionate of the Fathers of the Church memorably evokes the experience of this joy with these words: "Whenever people must labor hard they begin with songs whose words express their joy. But when joy brims over and words are not enough they abandon even this coherence and give themselves to the sheer sound of singing.

"What is this jubilation? What is this exultant song? It is the melody that means our hearts are bursting with feelings that cannot express themselves. And to whom does this jubilation most surely belong? Truly to God who is unutterable, if words will not come and may not remain silent what else can you do but let the melody soar? This is the song of the Holy Spirit."
On this great feast of the birth of the Church, let us ponder anew the whole reality of the Church, from the wide-angle view of its vastness and beauty, to the sometimes turbulent and complex surface, zooming in finally on hope, one of the deepest manifestations of the Spirit alive in the Church. In doing so, we can marvel once again at the mercy and generosity of God and give thanks to the Lord who continues to call us to fidelity and joy.

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, / and reignite in us the fire of your Love! / Make us joyful witnesses to your hope in the Church! / Move us beyond our ideologies that divide and blind us. / Lord, send us your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth... / the face of our Church, the face of our local communities, our own faces, our own hearts. Amen.

[The readings for Pentecost are Acts 2:1-11; 1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13; John 20:19-23]
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Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, chief executive officer of the Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation and Television Network in Canada, is a consultor to the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. He can be reached at:
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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

This Week in Leadership

This Week in Leadership Personal Life
Surprised by Addiction
These ministers faced their compulsions—and stayed in ministry.

For Richard Yasinski the depression began soon after he turned 40. The Springfield, Missouri, coffeehouse church he had planted four years earlier didn't seem to be growing beyond the few dozen tattooed and pierced teenagers who had been around since the beginning. Yasinski began comparing himself with other pastors his age that he viewed as more successful, which made him feel like a failure. In addition to his career woes, Yasinski had medical issues. A diagnosis of ulcerative colitis resulted in surgery to remove his colon. His doctor had prescribed a narcotic to ease the pain, but Yasinski didn't give any thought to the label warning that the drug shouldn't be taken by those susceptible to alcohol addiction.

| Finish this article |

This Week in Leadership Church Life
Getting Volunteers on Track

Jack, a local businessman, had a passion for outreach, but our church had a hard time finding a place for him to serve. His schedule kept him from committing to any regular responsibility.

Renee was different. She signed up for almost every ministry and time slot on our volunteer registration form. So I plugged her into everything she showed interest in. After a month, her enthusiasm faded.

Figuring out the limits and preferences of volunteers is a challenge even for seasoned pastors. How can we know if we are asking too much or too little of our volunteers?

| Finish this article |

Monday, June 6, 2011

"Third culture" leaders are the future of the church.

May 24, 2011

The Post-American Church (Part Uno)

"Third culture" leaders are the future of the church.
A week ago I returned from a trip to Spain where I was speaking with a team of missionaries working in different regions of the country. Yes, I was suffering for the Lord on a Mediterranean beach. Apart from the breathtaking beauty of Peñíscola, Spain, I was blessed to share time with some spectacular people engaged in very good work.
When many Americans think about missionaries they picture a team of Western, Anglo, people doing evangelism and church planting among dark-skinned “natives.” Perhaps that image was true at one time, but it’s definitely not anymore. As someone has recently remarked, missions today is “from everywhere to everywhere.”
The team of missionaries I spoke with in Spain included people from the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, Brazil, and the Netherlands. And they were serving among Spaniards, Portuguese, Chinese, Moroccans, Latin Americans, and Arabs. In many cases they reported greater receptivity to the gospel among immigrant populations in Spain rather than among native Spaniards. It was a striking example of how globalization has radically “flattened” our planet.
And the nature of the ministries engaged by these workers was just as diverse as their passports. Some were planting churches, others had started a mission to rescue women from human trafficking, another team was doing marriage and family counseling, and others were helping immigrants from North Africa learn Spanish and find jobs. In other words, despite having a shared denominational background this team was not limited to a single missions playbook.
I came way from my time in Spain with two observations that may have some relevancy to the church on this side of “the pond.”
OBSERVATION ONE: The future leadership of the church belongs to “third culture” kids.
With only a few exceptions, nearly every missionary on the Spanish team was raised in a culturally diverse context. Some were missionary kids themselves who grew up in Southeast Asia or Latin America. Others were the product of diverse communities or multi-ethnic homes.
One couple from the U.S., for example, were both children of Chinese immigrants. They grew up having to navigate both American culture and the Chinese language and culture of their families. This equipped them with the skills necessary for cross-cultural ministry. Now they serve in Spain among Chinese immigrants in Madrid. And their children are taking it a degree further. They are ethnically Asian, fluent in Spanish language and culture, but carry American passports.
The examples are endless. I met 10-year-old Puerto Rican kids who spoke Spanish, English, and Arabic. Families from the Netherlands fluent in Dutch, English, Spanish, and Portuguese. And one leader responsible for church planting in Europe, the Middle East, and Central Asia was the son of Dutch immigrants to Canada. He’s spent his adult life in Africa and Europe and speaks French, English, German, Dutch, and who knows what else.
What’s my point? As demographics shift and populations continue to mix, it won’t be enough for us to master the leadership dynamics of our small community. We will need the skills to move between and among diverse groups and draw them together--often utilizing very different leadership values in the process. Kids with diverse cultural backgrounds who do not find such accommodation threatening, even second-nature, are going to be better equipped for this task. But many American churches, and the homogeneous unit principle they’ve been built upon, will not be the incubators for this kind of leadership.
Dave Gibbons has spent the last several years talking about the importance of “third culture” leadership which he defines as “the mindset and will to love, learn, and serve in any culture, even in the midst of pain and discomfort.” And while folks in the American church have been willing to listen to his exhortation, I’m wondering how seriously they’re taking it. It seems like most of what I read concerning “leadership principles” in the church are really “upper/middle-class Anglo-American leadership principles.” While such ideas are helpful and legitimate, they are often blind to the rapidly changing reality both overseas and right here in the U.S. (I remember being blindsided by African-American and Latino church leaders explaining why small groups are only effective among white people.)
If the dominant Anglo-American church doesn’t starting opening it’s ears, minds, conferences, books, magazines, and blogs to more global voices, it will quickly find itself unprepared for life in the post-American church world. But allowing diverse and divergent voices into the conversation is not only challenging, it’s messy. That is why we also need to begin cultivating church leadership environments that are not predicated upon uniformity and efficiency.
What to I mean by that? Most of what I’ve read/heard about church leadership says we should fight tenaciously to maintain clear purpose, vision, and values within our organization. And recruiting other leaders who conform to these is vital. Allow too many people inside who hold divergent ideas and you’ll derail the organization. But this mindset assumes that efficiency is the ultimate value to which all others must surrender. The best organizations, this view teaches, run like well-oiled machines with high capacity and high output. But in many cultures efficiency is not the highest good. And third culture leaders understand that in many cases clinical efficiency simply is not possible when seeking to lead diverse populations.
The future, as I saw in Spain, is both beautiful and complicated. It is marvelous and messy. If the Anglo-American church remains enamored with institutional corporate values and efficiency, we will not be positioned either to lead within or benefit from the changing world.
Stay tuned for Skye’s second observation concerning the post-American church.
Skye Jethani is senior editor of Leadership Journal, Out of Ur, and Catalyst Leadership. He also serves as the senior producer of This is Our City, a new project for Christianity Today. He is the author of The Divine Commodity: Discovering a Faith Beyond Consumer Christianity, and he blogs regularly at The Huffington Post and
Skye's new book, WITH: Reimagining the Way You Relate to God, will be released in August by Thomas Nelson. Read the first chapter online now.

June 1, 2011

The Post-American Church (Part Dos)

Despite our problems the church in the U.S. still has enormous influence.
Read Part One of Skye Jethani's article, "The Post-American Church."
OBSERVATION TWO: The American Church still has a vital role to play as the global church rises.
In 2008, CNN’s Fareed Zakaria wrote the best-selling book The Post-American World from which I borrowed the title for this blog post. In his book Zakaria refuses to join the “America is in decline” bandwagon. Instead he uses the term “Post-American” to describe the emergence of new economic super-powers into the zone previously occupied by America alone. China and India are the two most obvious nations in this category with Brazil increasingly being added to the conversation. To paraphrase Zakaria’s argument, it’s not about the decline of the West, but rather the rise of the rest.
Like the doomsday prophets that have nothing positive to say about the American economy, there seem to be no shortage of doomsday prophets surrounding the American church. (Remember the “Letter from 2012 in Obama’s America” released by James Dobson’s political group in 2008?) Reading too many of these dire predictions about the American church would lead one to believe that everyone under 30 has abandoned the faith, every pastor is a closeted bi-sexual, and Muslims are salivating at the chance to convert abandoned mega-churches into mosques.
Well, I hate to disappoint the “prophets” profiting from this fear-mongering, but the evidence suggests the American church is far from dead. Sure, we have problems and many of them are significant, but the Christian religion in America is actually more robust today than it was two centuries ago. (Only between 10 and 20 percent of Americans belonged to a church in 1776. See more here.) And the idea that the U.S. is just one generation behind the secular and Islamic forces influencing Europe is like comparing Lady Bird with Lady Gaga.
My time with the missionary team in Spain in May, as well as my time at the Third Lausanne Congress on Global Evangelization in Cape Town last October, revealed that the American church still has a very important and influential role throughout the world. Consider just three areas: money, resources, and ideas.
Money is a no-brainer. The majority of the funds needed to assemble 4,000 global church leaders in Cape Town, South Africa, last year came from North America. And the United States remains the largest funder of international missions. While giving among Christians has been declining in the U.S., it would be tragic if we abandoned this very significant area of missional responsibility. Of course there is a danger with being the wallet of the Body of Christ. At times we can be tempted to use that role to micro-manage or control. These colonial instincts are hard to reprogram.
The second area is resources. My presence in Spain last month was to teach and encourage the international missionary team there. I was sent, with funds from the U.S by the way, as a resource to the growing Spanish church. The American church’s large infrastructure of ministries, schools, and publishers means a great many of the resources utilized by the global church have their origins here. (Check out this video just posted by Dave Ferguson showing church planters in Siberia using his book, Exponential. Siberia!) I’m proud that Christianity Today and Leadership Journal are part of the American church’s attempts to resource our sisters and brothers around the world.
With these resources and money, of course, come influence. Many of the ideas that begin in the American church find their way around the world. One missionary in Spain was explaining how his home church in another country had been heavily influenced by American values--both practically and theologically. And, according to his view, that was not always a positive thing. On the flip side, my week with the missionaries included a lot of Q&A time about trends I’m observing in the U.S. church. They were very eager to know what the American church is learning, trying, and utilizing. They very much believed that what is happening here matters over there. And they’re right.
My time overseas, which has not been nearly as extensive as some of my colleagues, has shown me that the global church is shifting. New values and leadership qualities are likely to emerge as a result. We may find that some of the highly celebrated values within the American church begin to lose favor as new values ascend. But we shouldn’t assume that America’s influence in missions is over. Far from it. We may be entering an age when the role of the American church is more critical than ever. But it means learning to cooperate with, and not just control, the rising global church.
Skye Jethani is senior editor of Leadership Journal, Out of Ur, and Catalyst Leadership. He also serves as the senior producer of This is Our City, a new project for Christianity Today. He is the author of The Divine Commodity: Discovering a Faith Beyond Consumer Christianity, and he blogs regularly at The Huffington Post and
Skye's new book, WITH: Reimagining the Way You Relate to God, will be released in August by Thomas Nelson. Read the first chapter online now.