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Crosswalk the Devotional - Apr. 21, 2008


April 21, 2008

A Universal Faith
by Sarah Jennings, Family Editor

“I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." John 17: 20-23

Living in a culture that highly values individualism, I find I am often tempted to think of my faith strictly in terms of the personal – as a relationship just between me and God. Certainly, a personal relationship with the Lord is vital to knowing Him and living out our faith. But I think, at times, I’ve been a bit too isolated in my faith. When I take a look at the early church in the book of Acts, I see that believers then lived out their faith in the context of community, supporting each other through fellowship and learning from the apostles even as the Church grew rapidly.

Today, the greater faith community is just as relevant. This weekend our pastor, while reflecting on some of the TV coverage of the Pope’s recent visit to America, shared his excitement over how large and diverse the body of believers has become in the 21st century. That small group of frightened disciples in the early years of Christendom has blossomed into a big and beautiful population of those seeking to follow Christ.

Probably the most encouraging aspect of this growth over the centuries is how the Gospel has truly crossed all cultures. In a Baptist Press article titled “Transforming a Globalized World,” Erich Bridges examines the demographics of modern Christianity. Pulling from a Christianity Today article by Christopher J.H. Wright, Bridges points out that 70 percent of Christians now live in the non-Western world.

And these Christians from around the world are reaching out to one another. Gone is the era of predominantly European missionaries sailing to unknown lands. Wright notes that the second most common source of Protestant cross-cultural missionaries is now India. And Bridges shares, "According to Lausanne World Pulse, church leaders under pressure in Afghanistan, Tajikistan and other Central Asian nations are asking for Chinese workers to come teach them the meaning of suffering -– a topic with which Chinese believers are well-acquainted."

Not only can a Chinese Christian offer a unique kind of hope to an Afghani Christian, but Christians from other areas of the world have much to offer the Western Church. Statistics reveal that American and European Christians are not flourishing as much as their brothers and sisters in other countries. Less than 2 percent of Europeans attend church, and many Westerners practice vague spiritualities or have strayed from the original Gospel message.

As disheartening as it might be to see a culture move away from Christ – especially when it’s your own -- this “globalization” of the Church could truly be a goldmine of opportunity for Christians to deepen their faith as we learn and grow from one another. It also opens more doors to discuss unity among various Christian communities – something Christ saw as vital to spreading His love to others.

So where does this leave you and me? Well, for starters, we can garner much strength and joy in knowing that we are not alone in our faith. We have spiritual siblings all over the world.

It’s also an opportunity to reflect on how plugged in we are to the Christian community. Are you attending a local church regularly? Are you involved with their ministries or reaching out to other members? The times I’ve been out on my own have been notably difficult. Growth wasn’t happening and discouragement came too easily.

I'm not sure who made this analogy first, but I once heard the Church is like a tree. It started out as an acorn, and over the centuries grew into a mighty oak. Although the mighty oak may not look like the little acorn any longer, it is still the original tree. We can move forward with confidence knowing that no matter what challenges lie ahead, even on a global scale, the Holy Spirit will continue to work through believers around the globe to bring us closer to Christ and each other.

Intersecting Faith & Life: In your time with the Lord this week, ask Him where He wants you to serve in His church. If you’ve been isolated, seek out fellowship and support from others.

Further Reading

Acts 2: 42-47
Revelation 7: 9
In Pursuit of Community: What Can We Do?

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