Rio’s win for the 2016 Olympics: an impact on world missions?

A Brazilian celebrates in Copenhagen after Rio de Janeiro won the right to host the 2016 Olympics.
A Brazilian celebrates in Copenhagen after Rio de Janeiro won the right to host the 2016 Olympics.

The Wall Street Journal had a terrific article on Saturday October 3rd about Rio de Janeiro winning the bid for hosting the 2016 Summer Olympics. The article was written by Matthew Futterman in Copenhagen, Matt Moffett in Rio de Janeiro, and Douglas Belkin in Chicago. Here are some quotes:

… Rio de Janeiro, in a dramatic victory over much-wealthier cities, won the right to host the 2016 Olympics, bringing the Games to South America for the first time and crystallizing Brazil’s rise as an economic and political power. …

… Brazil’s strategy tapped into a strong current of resentment among delegates outside Europe and North America whose countries had also never hosted the Games. Brazil had lobbied these voters behind the scenes in a bid to win over a contingent they thought would be sympathetic to their cause. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva pleaded with IOC voters to send a “powerful message … that the Olympic Games belong to all people, all continents, and to all humanity.” …

… The pitch [by President Obama] contrasted the one given by representatives of Rio, who spoke of an entire continent yearning for acceptance. …

… “This throws a little cold water on the Obama dream that simply having a fresh face and open-minded rhetoric will change the way the world views America,” said presidential historian David Greenberg. …

After the announcement of the final vote, Mr. da Silva said, “Brazil has moved from being on the level of a second-class country to a first-class country.” …

For the full content of the Wall Street Journal article, along with photos, click here.

After viewing the photos and reading the article I smiled. It is great to see the overwhelming enthusiasm of the Brazilians for gaining the the privilege of hosting the 2016 Summer Olympics.

I began to ask myself, what impact will this have on the world Christian movement? I doubt that this will have much direct impact, but I believe the indirect impact—an impact on attitude—could be very significant. I wonder …

  • Could it be that American leadership in the world is waning and that in the work of Christian global missions, the role of Americans will be increasingly that of a servant and partner rather than leader?
  • Could it be that the voices of western and American Christians will be marginalized as more majority-world Christian leaders emerge on the global scene?
  • Could it be that the wealth of the church in some nations in the majority world such as Brazil, India, China, South Korea, and South Africa will become increasingly significant forces for world evangelization while conversely, the status of America as a debtor nation will reduce her influence in the world Christian community?
  • Could it be that this makes cross-cultural ministry partnerships all the more vital for the future of the world Christian movement?

I think the attitude of confidence and celebration shown by Brazil and other majority world nations relative to Rio’s winning the bid for the 2016 Olympics will influence the church worldwide. I believe this is healthy. After all, Christianity is not a western religion. The more that Christianity is not dominated by one culture (and here I am thinking of western culture) … the more that Christianity is seen by the world as a faith for all nations, and that Jesus is Lord and Savior for all peoples … the more it fulfills God’s original promise to bless all the families of the earth (Genesis 12:3) …

“…so that as grace extends to more and more people
it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God” (2 Cor. 4:15).

Rio wins. It’s a good thing. What do you think? Go ahead, leave a comment below.


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