Friday, February 8, 2013


Lamin Sanneh's book Summoned from the Margin: Homecoming of an African will become a much discussed book among American Evangelicals, I hope. Sanneh teaches World Christianity at Yale. One of his concerns is that American Evangelicals are not aware enough of World Christianity so the lens through which they view World Christianity is too limited to Western Christianity. He cites the numbers showing how Western - centered Christianity was in 1900 when it accounted for 82% of all the Christians in the world. Today, about 35% of the world's Christian live in the North Atlantic region. The Church is growing faster in Africa than anywhere else in the world and has been for some time. Sanneh says our mental map of World Christianity is very different from the physical map. In America and Europe the "new gods of secular materialism have been provoked into staging something of a comeback, with churches turning into cultural and entertainment monuments."

"Jesus did not speak English."
Islam has a sacred language. The Koran is written in Arabic. There are translations but they are all unofficial. The official language of study and worship is Arabic. Even if you don't know Arabic, that's the language of the Mosque. The truth of God's Word only comes in Arabic. Christianity has no sacred language. We believe God's Word speaks the same way in any local language. The Incarnation is a foundational belief of Christianity. It says that God became real flesh and blood human in Jesus Christ. So God's Word is fleshed out in our indigenous languages, too. God can speak to us in the KJV or the NIV or The Message as well as any translation. That's a very good thing. God came down to our size to reveal Himself to us. But, we shouldn't misunderstand that. It does not mean God is our size. That God is one of us. The danger of the Incarnation is that we will domesticate Jesus. He becomes our pal. Worship becomes mostly about us and how Jesus makes us feel (listen to our worship choruses). Preaching becomes the central focus of worship. "How am I being fed" becomes a major criterion for choosing a church home. Sanneh writes, "Preaching is for us; worship is only for God." We believe that God accommodated Himself to us when He became human and that's a good thing. But He is still God, the Holy LORD of the universe. Do we get that sense in much of our Protestant Evangelical worship today? Can we still worship if the sermon did not feed us, or if the music was not to our liking? Is there anything else in our worship services besides the sermon or the music? What scriptures are read, what prayers are prayed, what creeds are said, how often is the Lord's Supper observed, what is done to engage us in the worship of God? Do we go to church to worship or do we go to be entertained, to be fed, to feel good afterward?