My thoughts are divided between Africa, Africa, Africa, and my blog series on First Peter. Probably in that order. Hence the silence. But here I am. Halfway through an evangelistic effort in a dusty corner of beautiful Zimbabwe, and deeply moved.
In the west we sometimes think these people, (this continent?) primitive. Backward. Opressive. Old fashioned. I mean, mud huts? Really?

If only they were more like us… You know, valued the things we value. Paid more heed to women’s rights. Were a bit more theologically progressive. A bit more advanced. More contemporary. If only…

Come on, you’ve thought it too.

Hear me, because I’m only going to say this once.

I actually don’t think we have a point. Um… at all.

When our dying church in the west so much as shows up for anything outside of the church service;
when we sing like this over new souls saved;
when we come to church early and stay all day, eating nothing till the sun is done and gone;
when the deaconesses on duty can be recognized within seconds of stepping into the tent, not just by their presence, but the glory of their joy at serving;
when the elders take their role so seriously they are stopping what seems like constantly to join hands and pray, again;
when we have shared with enough neighbors that pratically every third hotel employee, taxi driver, and business man on downtown main street is one of us…
In short, when our lukewarm western church is operating with half of the fire common in the primitive corners of the world,
then we might have a point; a voice.

Until then, perhaps we should be examining our own hearts.

A recent report (which you’ve probably seen, so I won’t send them any more traffic) observed that the parts of the world most resistant to contemporary renderings of doctrine, and hermeneutics with a bit more cultural gloss are also the parts of the world where women are most generally repressed.
I don’t claim to be an expert on the worldwide realities of womens’ opportunites. And while I may have some personal (and professional) questions about our ability to even gather accurate statistics on the subject, this essay isn’t about spreading any such doubts.

I do, however, think that the above mentioned line of reasoning overlooks a very key fact. Namely, that the selfsame regions of the world are the only regions where both the quality, and the quantity of church membership shows explosive growth. While in all of the more progressive and “culturally sensitive” regions, church growth is slow, or in extreme cases, moving in the negative…
Is it possible that in our (western) quest for relevance and contemporary competency, we have actually lost something that would make us great in the world?

I do not mean to make light of the tragedy of failing to cherish either the lives, or the gifts of the women in our midst. It is strange fire that inspires a man to rise by crushing others underfoot— especially when that “other” (or “others”) is the only one (ones) capable of complimenting and completing His own work and service. It happens far, far too often. And truly, some cultures seem to blatantly sweep the issues under the rug. That it happens is not only unfortunately true, but also a testimony to the selfishness and pride of a race on course to destroy itself.

But I can honestly say, that while I certainly find myself in a “backwards corner” of the world, my evangelistic site cradled in a little villiage in the backcountry (with 400+ members in attendance, along with the visitors) shows no signs of such. Men and women serve together, and though their roles are distinct, they work with a harmony I’m not sure I’ve ever seen in the States. For what it’s worth…

But all that aside. I return to my former question.

Is it possible that in our (western) quest for relevance and contemporary competency, we have actually lost something that would make us great in the world?

Maybe the “backward” have as much to teach, as to learn…