The Global Nature of the Future Methodism

June 10, 2022

The current reality and the future of Methodism (and all of Christianity) will be global in nature.

The past years in the United States has made us weary of globalism. We have seen how supply chain issues during the pandemic have pointed out the fragility of our global infrastructure. We have seen jobs shipped over seas and the detrimental effect it has had on industries like steel as thousands of workers are displaced.

Yet, our legitimate worries about globalism should not make us weary of the global nature and mission of the church.

Here is brief survey of the Holy Scriptures with my emphasis added in bold.

  • In Genesis 22:18 (CEB) God tells Abraham, “All the nations of the earth will be blessed because of your descendants, because you obeyed me.”
  • In John 3:16 (NIV) Jesus says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
  • In Acts 1:8 (ESV) Jesus says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
  • In Revelation 7:9-10 (NKJV) we see what future worship looks like, “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!'”

Recently a group of scholars gathered together to discuss the future of my stream of Christianity, Methodism. The key note speaker, David F. Watson, concluded his address by focusing on the global nature of the future Methodism.

One way in which change has already come to the church is in its global nature. As we think about this peculiar Methodist future, we must bear in mind that Methodism is now a global phenomenon, not just a Western one. This is a positive development, but it complexifies things quite a bit. The character of Methodism is already being shaped by people all over the world. It will be crucial that we enter into ongoing conversations about how core Methodist ideas such as holiness, sacramentalism, and accountability translate into different cultures across the globe. I have had the privilege of teaching Methodists in places such as Kenya, Cuba, Vietnam, Mexico, and Indonesia. Others of you have experience with Methodists in many other parts of the world. There is great need for both theological education and academic theological discourse in places outside of the Global West, and we need to be involved… 

As Philip Jenkins told us years ago in The Next Christendom, the church’s center of gravity has moved east and south. We in the West are the outliers. We are no longer the head, but the tail.  We are a rich tail, but a tail nonetheless. After centuries of Western dominance, the bulk of the Christian world is now in Africa and Asia, and Pentecostalism is making massive inroads in Latin America. 

We in the West are going to have to recognize that the Next Methodism will not be primarily a Western or white phenomenon. And as scholars of the next Methodism, we are going to have to learn to speak and write and listen across cultures. We would do well intentionally to collaborate with people from the majority world. It cannot simply be the colonial model of us teaching them. They will also teach us. We are going to have to make our work accessible to people who make less than $100 a month.

I can not say this emphatically enough. To shy away from the global nature of the church is to the detriment of God’s Kingdom and your own understanding of it. I know there are sincere concerns about globalism. To tie those concerns to the global nature of the church is misguided and incorrect. They are simply two different things.

To shy away from the world mission of God out of worries of globalism is the equivalent of giving up running 5k races out of concern of critical race theory being taught in schools. The two sound the same but are completely different.

Will your church continue to be a part of the global mission of the church? I pray it does and will continue.

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