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For Such a Time: Glocal not Gatherers

September 28, 2010

With a click of the mouse, you can zoom in on any place on earth and get a visual that is up-close and personal.  Google Earth is just one example of how our world has gotten smaller (Walt Disney would be so proud).  We are a global society more than any other generation before us. 

It is this trend that led some to coin the term “glocal.”  That’s no typo.  It is the word “local” and “global” blended into a hybrid state.  Wikipedia defines “glocalization” as the “individual, division, group, unit, organization and community that is willing to act locally and think globally” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glocalisation). 

Jesus was glocal before glocal was cool (see Acts 1:8).  What would a glocal church be like? 

I would suggest to you that a glocal church is one that is very aware of the world they live in, including the devastating effects of poverty, disease, genocide, and unreached people groups (people who have never heard of Jesus).  This knowledge would lead that church to two things.  First, to be global advocates as a testimony of God’s grace to the nations.  Second, to act locally to meet the needs of those in their own city or region. 

One main impediment exists for this to happen:  our churches tend to be “gatherers” rather than generous activists in the name of Jesus.  We tend to count our worth on what we gather.  How many did we have Sunday?  How much money did we take up?  How much chicken and dumplings did we eat in a year of potlucks?  In this mode of church, pastors become local competitors for religious consumers.  We spend money on our members for the betterment of our lives while the world around us starves, murders, enslaves, infects, and lives without Jesus.  We must be careful, or we will end up like the insignificant man who built more barns to house his stuff (Luke 12:13-21) or the man who hid his talents in the ground rather than investing them for the master’s business (Matt. 25:14-30).

Glocal churches “mourn” for the state of the world (Matt. 5:4).  Our pain over the pain of the world moves us with compassion to act on behalf of those who are broken, needy, and spiritually lost.  The word passion means “to suffer.”  We tend to think our passion comes from that which brings us joy.  Actually, passion comes from that which bothers us so much that we are willing to act and sacrifice on its behalf.  So to be glocal, we must have a heavy heart.  It has to bother us that those who are lost will die to eternal condemnation.  It has to bother us that people will suffer and even die today of things preventable.   

Even if we have this heart, how is it that we can be truly glocal?  Here are some errors that churches often make.  First, some do a lot for those in the rest of the world, but won’t lift a finger for the people in their neighborhood (my homage to Sesame Street).  Second, some will send a good deal of money but never get their hands dirty through personal involvement.  Third, some only care about people who can join the church and give back or at least seem to be changed by our efforts. 

Here are some suggestions if your church really wants to be glocal.  First, have an individual or group of people keep up with global crises, and be a liaison concerning these crises to the rest of the church.  We have to know about genocide in Darfur, or mass rape and murder in the Republic of Congo.  Without a flow of information, we will lose touch with our global God and create a god of our own culture.  Second, pick one local need to meet.  The goal of local action isn’t to fix society but to build relationships and testify of the mercy of God.  This creates a local mission opportunity that will be ongoing in your church.  Third, become what Palmer Chinchin in his book “True Religion” calls an “expatriate.”  This is a person who travels and stays informed about the world.  You can do this by going on short-term mission trips.  It is difficult to really love a culture from afar.  When you visit, something gets inside of you (besides a stomach bug).

If the world around us, a world we seem to be losing, sees us only gathering for our benefit, then our message about a Savior who sacrificially loved for the benefit of others is diminished in power.  However, a glocal community is a powerful community – a community of givers, not gatherers.

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