As a Global organization, the NewThing Network is continually having conversations about culture and context. We don’t teach or provide models but, instead, we present principles. Models are almost always culturally bound while good principles are almost always void of culture. We ask questions like:
Can what they’re doing there work in other places around the world?
What do we need to alter for this to be contextually relevant here?
Is this going to serve local leaders in every region?
Do these principles truly cross seamlessly into every culture?
Culture, and the study of it, is one of my side hustles or pet projects. When I moved from southern Wisconsin to Nairobi, Kenya I knew my life would never be the same. I discovered a passion for studying how the world works in conjunction with a desire to experience God in new and fresh ways through engaging with other cultures.
Now, as a multicultural global citizen serving as the Regional Director for Sub-Saharan Africa, I am often confronted with the realities of leading in a highly diversified world. A multitude of cultural factors are at play in every conversation and in every training that we run. The Sub-Saharan Africa region alone has 44 countries and I have to have some idea of how to meaningfully engage with Christian leaders from each location without offending them. It’s absolutely beautiful and amazing and also quite challenging. Now, extrapolate that cultural dynamic to the 196+ countries of the world and it makes your head spin!
I was talking to a good friend from Lagos, Nigeria yesterday, and he spoke of a global coaching call that he was a part of earlier this week. In our conversation, he mentioned the value of being on a call with other global leaders and how that added to his perspective in this season. He said it was comforting, in a way, to know that he’s not the only one facing the challenges of the Coronavirus outbreak.
I immediately thought, “The Coronavirus is the great church equalizer.”
I believe there has never been a season, at least in our lifetimes, where the disparity between what churches are facing globally has been as narrow. Normally, the cultural, economic, social, political, and historical disparity is so great that “church” looks drastically different from one country to the next. But we are living in an era where, for possibly the first time ever, that is no longer the case. The “playing field” has been almost completely leveled because every church has literally been reduced to the basic minimum.
To my knowledge, there is not a single country in the world where churches are currently able to gather as “normal.” Most countries can’t meet in groups of more than 25 people and many can only meet with as few as 3 people. Everyone is facing the same obstacles and asking the same questions:
How do we stay connected relationally?
How do we equip and empower our people to lead and serve where they are?
How do we care for and support people who are sick, hurting, in need, etc.?
How do we make ends meet financially?
How do we remain focused on the Jesus Mission?
Of course, there are still many cultural nuances at play around the world. It’s not that overnight every cultural difference was eliminated. I’m simply saying that the cultural gaps we faced a month ago are significantly – and I mean, significantly – less evident.
The Church has the opportunity to unite globally with an exponential force never before experienced because never has the church world been so flat. This perfect storm allows us to learn more from one another and do more together. This crisis has the potential to bring the church back to the being The Church in powerful and never before seen ways.
We can’t wait this out and then simply go back to church as usual. We, as The Church, must act and we must act TOGETHER now!