I was struck by a quote blogged by Jason Goroncy (via Kevin Ward). It was taken from an interview between Ed Stetzer and Distinguished Professor of History Dr. Phillip Jenkins (Baylor). Its an interesting quote and much in it rings true, especially as I reflect on the local churches in my town, and what I see in the wider denomination in which I find myself on the “inside of the outside.”
The quote in question is highlighted in bold text almost immediately below. The first part of the Phillip Jenkins interview can be found here. The second here, and the third part (which contains the quote) is here.
Dr. Phillip Jenkins: So much of this change has happened very recently – within 30, 40, 50 years, which in the span of Christian history is not great. It's hardly surprising that some institutions have not adapted fully to take account of that. Other churches, however, recognize it. On a typical Sunday, there are more Assemblies of God worshippers in the greater San Paulo, Brazil area than in the United States. It's a radical change.
Let me suggest to you that in 30 years, there will be two sorts of church in the world. There'll be the ones that are multi-ethnic, transnational, and multi-continental. They are constantly battling over issues of culture, lifestyle, worship, and constantly in conflict, debate and controversy. And those are the good ones. The other churches will have decided to let all these trends pass them by. They'll live just like they've always done with an average age in their congregations of 80. Personally, I'd much rather be in one of the ones that is recognizing, taking account of the expansion with all the debates and controversies.
We are dealing with a movement that comes out of a uniquely American birth. I don't think anyone would argue that Pentecostalism was born anywhere else. But one of the great challenges is how do America and other Western nations make the transition from parent to partner with these other countries that are now taking the lead in some respects.
Ed: What are some of the principles or characteristics you've seen from churches or movements that have successfully moved into partnerships, moving away from the parent/child relationship that defined missions for centuries?
Dr. Jenkins: Sometimes the greatest mistake that an organization can make is deliberately trying to be flexible or accommodating or have any particular policy at all. I sometimes tell the story of Jean-Baptiste Colbert, the French finance minister, calling a meeting with a group of businessmen and entrepreneurs in the late 1600s. Colbert asked the men, "What can I do to help you?" They replied, "Let us be" or in French "Laissez-nous faire," which is the origin of the phrase laissez-faire.
I sometimes think that instead of trying to come up with policies about how to do this, the answer is let things evolve. Let things emerge.”