Timothy C. Tennent’s Theology in the Context of World Christianity: How the Global Church Is Influencing the Way We Think about and Discuss Theology (Zondervan, 2007) is tremendously rich. Dr. Tennent’s breadth of knowledge and experience in this arena is just stunning. He brings together the works of a variety Christian theologians from around the world in this one volume. I think it’s a major contribution the work of global Christian mission.
I love the perspective he gives in the preface (page xviii).
We still see the West as the ecclesiastical center of the world, even though the vast majority of Christians in the world today are located elsewhere. What African or Asian Christians are doing and writing seems so marginal to us, and it penetrates our own theological discussions only in a vague, ephemeral way.
We as Westerners continue to vastly overestimate the role of our trained theologians, missionaries, denominations, and mission agencies in the actual task of global evangelism and church planting. We continue to talk about church history in a way that puts Europe in the center, and church history outside the West is reserved for those preparing for the mission field or church historians pursuing specialist studies. We continue to think that our own theological reflections are normative and universally applicable to all people from all cultures. In short, the Western church has not yet fully absorbed how the dramatic shifts in global Christianity are influencing what constitutes normative Christianity. … We must learn to think bigger, listen more, and look at the church from a wider vista.
Dr. Tennent is asking Christian leaders, missionaries, and lay persons from the West to … develop better listening skills … adjust their attitude from assuming a leadership role to a servant-oriented “team player” role … and to broaden their understanding of what God is doing in the world. It’s all very fitting for Christians in the West who are pursuing healthy cross-cultural partnerships.
Could it be that cross-cultural partnerships give us the opportunity to deepen our theology … that is, to deepen our knowledge of God, our ability to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, and our maturity as followers of Christ? Could the pursuit of healthy cross-cultural partnerships be that important?