Dr. Daniel Gluck joins Mark and Rex to talk about his experience with the African church. Rex also shares insights from his time pastoring in South America.
Welcome to Jessup Think. I’m your host, Mark Moore, and your co host, Rex Gurney. Right. And this is part two of our global Christianity series. And we really looked at kind of theoretically last time. And so today’s storytelling time today is storytelling with Mark and Rex. And we have a special guests, we have Daniel Gluck, he’s professor of Christian Leadership, and just has extensive experience with church in Africa and working in mostly East Africa. So we’re really excited to have him on and to kind of hear those stories, hear what he has seen happening in the church, right. And then we also get to hear some stories from you, Rex have
spent several years in Latin America,
yeah, in Colombia, and Ecuador.
And you yourself have to have extensive experience with the church in Asia and
East Asia. So we got a little you know, combo of all the churches. So we hope you enjoy this episode, and we hope it kind of pushes you to, to see the church in a bigger light, right, and to see the church as the church universal.
But no, yeah, no, Rex, and I last week talked about global Christianity and really highlighted just kind of that shift that is, is happening, and then obviously projected to, to really take an effect in the next, you know, 25 years. Yeah, really just that shift from the center of the church being, which traditionally has been in the global north. So European, North American, to the global south. And we also highlighted that, that part of that terminology, is tied to, to geography, but it’s also tied to economics as well, that that global north to global south, is that transition to churches in the global south that have traditionally been among the developing countries in sub Sahara Africa, South America and Southeast Asia. And, and so we just kind of highlighted that that shift is happening, and what that kind of looks like that, that maybe power center or the center of Christianity is now shifting over and and what does that that look like? What does that mean?
Should we be like, even concerned about that? And why should it make a difference in the way we
look at the faith? Right, and, and we knew and, and rexton had talked a little bit in the last episode about some of the experiences in Colombia, and we’re gonna get more into that. We also want to do on the show, too, because I know your experience with the African churches. Sure. In your work in Kenya, what where all in Africa? Have you worked, particularly East Africa, so
I’m not as knowledgeable on South Africa, West Africa, you know, North Africa, they actually usually consider the Arab World Rally, right? So because it’s very Muslim influenced and stuff, but yeah, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, especially in East
Africa. And with that kind of work, like what are what are some of the things you saw within the African church? And maybe some of the changes that have happened even in the last 10 years?
Yeah, certainly, there’s a couple of key themes that I would note, you know, from my experience, and study, one, you know, and this fits with this whole topic, which I think is a fantastic one is really a shift from, you know, sort of Western denominational movements to African indigenous movements. And there’s actually a term for that call, there’s actually a denomination called the aiic. In Africa, which is a separate thing that’s African inland church, which was a splinter off of China inland mission that Hudson Taylor started, but also we talk broader about AI sees, which are African indigenous churches, and that’s where the greatest growth statistically, in Christianity is. These are very Pentecostal, Pentecostal influenced movements, and they’re starting congregations here actually, in the United certainly, some are actually growing. And they’re thriving, because I think I think it stems from some of the nationalism that’s also happened in post colonial Africa, where they’re saying, you know, my friends who are pastors are saying, Hey, thank you for bringing Jesus to Africa back to Africa, really, because Jesus was in Africa before Europeans came, right? not physically, but obviously through the movements of Coptic Christianity and all that kind of stuff. Thank you for bringing him but we’re not sure we want to keep running with this denominational brand of Christianity. We want to take our take ownership of Christianity and read the Bible ourselves and interpret the Bible and have theologians and all this stuff. And so that’s where the church is absolutely exploding in Africa. So that’s a big theme, that I would certainly Notice we get into this conversation.
Yeah. Which is a really a really interesting observation. And also I feel like it’s something that the the North American or European missionary movement, desired, right? That’s true. Or at least they said, Yeah, I said they do. Yeah. And that might be that might be the better kid. Yeah. And then when they see that happen in like, wait, wait, you want to do that and act from Yeah, our denomination you want to? And and yeah, it does seem to be obviously so important for for African churches for Latin American churches to be growing from within. Yeah, it’s huge. And, and seemingly growing to a point where obviously they’re outpacing, yeah, in North America. We talked about that last time with some of the stats. And in by 2050 2060, you know, Phil jingan kind of highlights that Africa will be the center of Christianity. Yeah. Right. By 2050. And then obviously, large numbers growing in Southeast Asia, and Latin America. And even now, those churches are sending like you’re saying, Rex, there’s a I see God congregations in Sacramento,
I was at our they are already sensing kind of missionaries like they are they are transitioning from receiving missionaries to sending missionaries when I was pastoring, in San Jose, that before I started teaching with Jessup. There was an abandoned movie theater on, I think, East Santa Clara Avenue. And suddenly, one weekend, one of these, I think there were from Brazil, but it was sort of the same theological family as these African initiative churches, or, and they set up shop in this movie theater. And for about a year, it was a huge going concern. And both Protestants and Catholics in San Jose were kind of worried about it. Because they were taking folks from Yeah, from from everybody. Yeah. And then they kind of disappeared after a year, which was just sort of strange. I never really knew what was going on. But if I had not been familiar with some of these Brazilian movements, I would never have put two and two together and got four. They were setting up shop. Interesting enough ministering in Spanish instead of Portuguese. It was a going concern for a while they got the crowds I tell you,
and then it’s interesting that it would be a concern. Yeah, you know that it well. What’s the concern?
Well, the concern was, yeah, we have we have no control over what’s going on. Yeah. What if these people go here? It’s fascinating. It’s sort of, I have to do my little church history thing here. It’s sort of like when aimee semple mcpherson was. Building Angela’s temple in LA and kind of starting the Foursquare thing, right. Yeah. What happened is her main services were like on Sunday evening, and so what happened was people would go to their churches, you know, Methodist, Baptist Presbyterian on Sunday morning. And then they go to sister Amy show at Angela’s temple on Sunday night. Yeah. And then kind of bring back stuff from that experience into their churches. And you can imagine what happened with the pastor’s of you know, these upstanding churches in LA they did not like that at all written. Yeah. Very threatened by it. Yeah.
Yeah. Kind of threatened and that maybe they used to that word control is, is
and that’s an interesting word. Of course, her you know, she she founded a Pentecostal denomination, and many of these African and kind of developing world churches are very, very Pentecostal. Yeah.
There’s another interesting paradox I would point out in Africa, at least that I’ve seen, which is, although the indigenous churches are separating from these Western dominations. What I’ve seen, and especially in rural Kenya, is that the indigenous pastors who are wonderful men and women of God, are highly influenced by Western media, Western Christian media, let’s call it so they listen to the televangelists on TV, and they they mimic them and they have the same tone of voice and the same phraseology and all these little things. And so it’s like the trying to push away but they’re also trying to you know, that’s that’s
their own piece of really an interesting phenomena. I remember when back in the summer of 87, and that was when several Jimmy swaggin Jim Baker, but I remember when that when you know that it seemed like the televangelists are falling like dominoes, right? Yes. Right. Which was really scary to me because that was when I first pastor my first church. And I was like, no. I The good thing about that, and the bad thing about that is that people have short memories. Right? And it’s both are happening again. Yeah, but what was interesting is even after some of these folks fell in love, Lost part of their media empires here in the United States. They were still going huge, strong overseas and folks down there had no idea about the scandals in the state. Yeah. And, and so they just sort of shifted, you know, their their power base, which is, you know, problematic, right all over the place here. But you’re right, you’re right. You’re right.
And that highlights the, the influence maybe of the American church through media and global media, and theological influence, though, especially theological, we correct with hope you don’t want. Right, right.
And that leads us to another big fear, I think of the Western church, which is that, you know, what I’ve seen in, especially Kenya again, is, you know, most of my friends who are rural pastors in Kenya, and I’m talking small churches, you know, it sounds crazy, but still churches with mud walls, and tin roofs are sometimes roofs. 102, you know, 200 is big. And in rural East Africa, they, you know, they’re doing the ones I know, that are the most educated have a high school degree, you know, like a high school diploma, they don’t have any formal theological training whatsoever. So there’s this tension of, at least in my heart, it’s like, I love seeing the African indigenous church rise up and the African continent, you know, especially Sub Saharan Africa, take ownership of Christianity and press into the word and stuff. But we get threatened sometimes in the western church, oh, these people don’t have the right theological education and all this kind of stuff. So I wonder, you know, what is the role of the Western church when it comes to? Do we still have a role in education? Is that something we should have tried? So it’s a huge issue right now? Yeah.
That seems to be where it gets tricky, too. Because we, we probably have to resist the temptation of still wanting to be the troll. Troll, the theology or the the the theological police, right? And especially, not be some type of modern or even postmodern theological police to have maybe a pre modern a God
of Christianity, the subtitle of one of Jason’s books was, I think, believing the Bible in the global south, which is a really interesting subject just south because as we talked about last time, what happens when you have a Christianity that hasn’t gone through the enlightenment? Right, we have, and we view everything through our enlightenment lens. I mean, I can’t not do that. Yeah. Right. And we’ve been trained in it. Exactly, exactly. But, you know, I guess the worldview of the Old Testament, particularly, and then a lot of the New Testament is sort of a pre enlightenment. Yeah, it’s like, we try to explain the miraculous away. I mean, even if we believe it, we don’t, you know, we live in it, our hands around, we live in a disenchanted universe, right. But in, in a lot of places, it’s an enchanted universe. And so they’ll open up, you know, the Bible, and it’s like, you know, these aren’t just stories about stuff that happened 2000 years ago, this
happens all the time, it happened last week, I experienced it. And that’s really interest. And that’s absolutely true of Africa. Because by nature, you know, in all the research I’ve seen, Africans are spiritual, they believe in the supernatural, whether or not they believe in the Christian narrative, you know, of angelical Christian narrative or whatever they believe in the spirit world, they believe in ancestors and influences and omens and all these things, they get it, it’s not something you have to explore, right? You know, or you have to wade through the hole, the wrong way. To fix that.
But and what’s interesting is, is when, right when the maybe the full shift in the center shifts in the next 25 years, 50 years, and Africa and Latin America become even more of maybe the main centers of missionaries. Yeah, it’ll be interesting if, as they send missionaries, if they will, if those missionaries will then come to America and and be like, Hey, you guys.
Yeah, yeah. And I’ve often thought about that. I have, because, you know, I spent two years doing missionary work in Colombia. Yeah. And, you know, I remember feeling nothing about going to some of the barrios in foreign key in Cali and knocking on doors trying to, you know, present the gospel of folks and get them to our church. Right. Right. Right. And, you know, I, but because, of course, I had something that I was bringing that they needed. Yes. Right. That Yeah, no compulsion with that, but honestly, I’m wondering about, you know, my cul de sac and West Roseville. If someone from a Nigerian aiic comes and starts knocking on our doors. Yes. Just like call the police. Yeah, right. Right. But why not? I mean, they have every everyone Right. And and yeah, it’s a lot of interesting cultural dynamics,
I have a no soliciting sign. So I
might I just make my boys answer the door. Okay, that’s good. That’s good. You know, it’s it makes, you know, cuts the conversation shorter.
I will say, though, you know, like when it comes to what the western church can offer, you know, in the indigenous movements in Sub Saharan Africa, Latin America, Asia, you know, East Asia, Southeast Asia. I do think, you know, education. This is a, you know, it’s a little bit complex, but I think education plays a role I think it has, we have a great resource of knowing, you know, methods for studying God’s word, and all this kind of stuff that we can share with, you know, these wonderful men and women who are pastors and have no biblical training whatsoever. Yeah, it’s, I think it’s the how we do it, that’s probably important, which we do it, I think we’ve got a present, you know, and I’ve seen some really healthy models of this presenting wonderful biblical training. But also, making sure that at the center of that biblical training is space for the indigenous leaders to contextualize that approach to their given culture and sort of apply it through, you know, their cultural context and maybe welcomes a dialogue instead of a monologue. Absolutely, because it has the questions I asked a lot to my Christian perspective class, and we talk about global Christianity. And, you know, most of them have never even thought about it before. Sure, I
try to make them think about what is Christianity and other parts? But But the question is sort of the I mean, literally the so what question Yes, like so. So what should this matter to you? You know, is there anything that you can actually learn from from these folks? Yeah, why should I share is it just gonna be a one way sort of thing and and in my experience, I’ve seen good and, and less good way, diplomatic way. So I was in repasser, First Baptist Church, Quito, Ecuador for a summer, and it was an international congregation mainly made up of expat Americans and embassy people and different things like that. Don’t ask me how I ended up with that. It was a great gig anyway. And I really enjoyed our time. My wife took a leave of absence from her job, they give a house in the car, the whole shootin match, right. But since I was interim pastor of, of one of the churches there, I got to attend, like the national pastors meetings, and so on. Right. And I remember once, in one of the meetings that one of the national pastors was speaking about something that was almost like liberation theology. Like, I mean, it wasn’t even the full on Gustavo Gutierrez or anything, right. But I do remember one of the missionaries that was there standing up and shutting this guy up, basically using a financial club. If I hear you that kind of language, you’ll not get another cent support from and the sad thing was the guy sat down. Yeah, yeah. And another thing I saw, and I loved my time in Colombia. But one thing that really saddened me there was some of the most successful national pastors, they had these large churches in Bogota, or maybe, you know, Cali. You know, I mean, 1000s of folks, right, and really vibrant ministries, really doing a great job for the kingdom would would leave those churches and end up pastoring some storefront in Miami somewhere, and thought that that was actually like a good thing, graduation, the graduation and yeah, after seeing that happen time, and time and time again. And knowing that these guys all went to, you know, got their theological education there. I’m just wondering what kind of subtle message was given to them? Yeah, in the theological education, and like, it wasn’t just, you know, Bible and theology, it was also sort of this subtle America as the promised land kind of right, which was not the message there. In Africa, it was just really sad and losing a lot of the best folks because of that, yeah, that just should not be.
And that’s maybe where some of the, you know, Western media influence, I would say, particularly of prosperity, gospel kind of influences can, I think create some very negative patterns of Hey, you know, what it means to be a successful Christian or if God blesses you, you’re gonna end up,
you know, and from what I understand the prosperity gospel is like a major sort of part of some of these African indigenous videos. Yeah,
absolutely. And it, you know, there’s a connection to liberation theology of, you know, true and so how are we right, right away?
Exactly. Yeah. And there’s been some, you know, it’s not quite what we sort of think of when we think of prosperity, gospel or neighborhood and climate rule. Agenda there. There was some studies done. I read about years ago about, you know, what happens to family incomes and family structures in some of the bottles in Santiago, Chile, when the men end up getting converted to some of these sort of prosperity gospel movements, right. And, of course, what happens? And this is just you, I mean, you know, it’s empirically verifiable to say that, you know, the, the family, economic situation improves drastically, really, now. Now, there’s a bunch of explanations for that, right. Is, is, you know, the guy’s not spending all this money drinking. Okay. And you know, so yeah, it makes sense. So there’s this sort of this moral reformation, and therefore, there’s more food on the table, you know, and so, if you want to look at that, just that way, I guess it works. Well, I was looking for something that works, you can prove it work. But the question is, what is working
there? Yeah, that’s liberation from you know, these vices and sins that are holding them back and create a
fascinating that we tend to have a sharper dichotomy between the prosperity gospel and liberation theology then happens in some of the churches in Latin America. Absolutely. Right. And so the liberal conservative divide is not quite as cut and dry down there as we try to make it right. Because the categories are different. Yeah. And that’s a fascinating thing.
And that’s, I mean, the categories being different, I think, is a really interesting part of, of missions on both sides that often sometimes in mission work, we, in theological mission work, we export the issues that our culture is going through to the new culture, and they might not, like those aren’t our issues, you know, there’s, and, and even from some different, even from differences from Europe, to America to even Australia, like, issues like inerrancy, or something you hear theologians, you know, like Michael Byrd, who is very evangelical, very, in Australia, he’s like, inerrancy, is not the issue that we’re going to talk about in Australia. Like we’re in some ways, they’re, they’re beyond that, right like that. But I think, yeah, like we’ve maybe export some of our issues, theologically, and, and then in in those countries and be like, those aren’t even
the whole question on IRC makes no sense at all in a pre enlightenment way of looking at, it makes. Why even why would that even be an issue?
Yeah, yeah. So even trying to explain it as a segment,
isn’t it? Exactly. You’re making a problem that doesn’t exist? And then trying to solve that problem? Right, which is, you know, I guess worth the mission dollars that somebody’s paying for you down there with and please don’t misunderstand me. I loved missions. That was some of the greatest times in my life. I married an MK I mean, the whole shootin match. I’m a real believer in that. Quarter of that. But yeah, but there are complications with it.
Right. And there are within the kind of going back to the education aspect, like I think there are some good movements that like you were saying, they’re not the spirit with which we do it that there does seem to be still a role within Washington Church of educating and and maybe providing resources. I mean, I think of like the Bible project, who’ve been doing a great job in North America on YouTube, like, making videos that really helping people be able to read the Bible better. Yeah, one of their pushes over this last year, and that is translating those, not for the sake of controlling theology, but like, hey, how can we get these and they have, they have, you know, kind of promo from people in China, people who haven’t been like, thank you so much for these videos, because they’re helping us. And so yeah, I think there is a way to do that. That doesn’t have to feel like well, we need you know, you you don’t we don’t want you to believe this believe this. But it’s providing resources. Yeah. And, and then definitely making it a dialogue, not a monologue. I think that is for me, these last couple episodes has has centered on that. Like, how can it be a true dialogue? How can we shift from thinking us taking the gospel to them? Yeah, to shift now to hate it is to Jesus together. Yeah, we encountered us together and, and and in a few short years, it’ll be them bringing the Gospel to us. True and understanding that get us back to Christianity for me, honestly,
we are a mission field. I tell you, there’s no reason why somebody from Nigeria shouldn’t be knocking on doors in my in my subdivision. Yes. totally true. Yeah.
I heard a wonderful pastor who’s a pastor in Nairobi, his name is Oscar Moody, oh speak about the set of bigger band a conference one year and he said, You know what? We as Africans, I’m, I think I’m quoting him accurately. You know, we are so grateful for the western church bringing to us, you know, resource and church trainings and structures and all this kind of stuff. Thank you. And, you know, certainly the western church plays a role financially, which is a whole nother topic, right? You know, how do you have healthy financial influence and support? That’s not not. That’s for sure. But then he said, there’s one thing Western church more or less, that you’ve kind of missed, this is a two way street, that African church can teach you something about family and about marriage and about African collectivism and how to, you know, support each other and see things holistically and all this stuff. And I was so moved, because I thought, Man, we need a shift in the growth of the global church in that it will be a two way street, we’re not like the story, you told Rex, we’re not holding the financial carrot in front of them and leveraging that or manipulating with that, but rather doing it in a way that’s truly empowering to these indigenous movements.
And maybe we can kind of learn to foster that, that. Look at the Bible that comes from that more and chanted lens to Okay, you know, I’m saying, Yeah, getting that back of like, being able to read the Bible, like, like that subtitle would say, right, believing the Bible, and they’re,
like, why do you should write that?
And, and, and I do think the, that, that, for me, brings up interesting aspects. And I saw this a little bit, just I’ve been in East Asia kind of the last couple years, and in going from a very individualized society in America, and then going to a very collective society, how that affects faith, too, and, and how we can learn from that, and how viewing faith as that more community oriented and collective, not just, what am I individually getting out of this? What is my individual salvation status, you know, maybe they say the Lord’s Prayer with more integrity than we do. Yeah.
Right. Could be, or when I’m thinking when the, you know, the gospel, say, Jesus was sharing or whatever, on a hill, and then the man and his household were saved, you know, and we go, ha, how did the whole household get saved? But that’s a collectivist mentality, that’s, we’re making this decision together, we’re embracing this as a culture or a family versus an individual, like from the western lens. So
well, this has been really good. I think these two episodes have have combined Well, just to just maybe for for us and for some of our listeners, too, just to realize the shift that has been happening that we’ve seen, but to realize like, this is not these are no longer like way far out projections right? around the corner. 2050 is not not speculation, right? Yeah. And it’s not speculation. And seeing even I mean, those numbers, we looked at what happened in Africa just in 100 years, I mean, from 1900, having less than 10 million Christians in the continent, to having, you know, by 2050, having over 700 million animals. Yeah. And, and just that, that shift, and, and, and I think getting to a place within the western church, of moving from that role of, of controller of center, but to partner and Sunday, we want you that we’re talking about like a Western church. Yeah, Eastern, Southern church. Yeah, I’m talking about, you know,
the Navy, that alone is an indicator that we still haven’t quite figured out the shared thing, one that
and that’s what’s interesting, it, and that, in some ways, gets us back to the early church. And, you know, I was talking to a student and he was talking about the, the creeds and, you know, he was like, why didn’t any of the Creed’s make any statements about like, racial equality or things like that? You know, and we were talking, I was like, when you look at those councils, those councils were extremely diverse. Like those councils didn’t have to make a statement like that wasn’t an issue built them I mean, that those councils were people from North Africa, people from the Middle East, people from further out into Europe as as forming and, and yeah, if we could get to an end at that time, they viewed themselves as the church. Now they’re obviously splinters and it doesn’t take long for it to to, for it to fracture. But yeah, maybe this movement are The power center shifting can help us move back to a place of looking at the church as the church not just the church in the West church in the global south, like there has the church. Thank you for listening to Jessup. Think Be sure to follow us on Twitter at Jessup think we would love to hear your thoughts on the episode and engage with any questions you have. Our aim is to provide a framework for further reflection and deeper exploration of these important topics. You can also help the show by leaving a review on iTunes these reviews help the podcast reach new listeners. Until next time, I’m Mark Moore and this is Jessica.
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