Outlook not so bad for God after all?

Fascinating interview from Lateline’s Tony Jones with secular economist John Micklethwait, author of “God is Back” (Hat Tip to Steve Addison).

One reason is the Government has cleverly hit on the one formula to make religion grow. It’s something the ancient Romans did to Christianity, and it was a brilliant way inadvertently to cause religion to grow. The Chinese have set a limit on the number of people that can meet in a place, basically 25. Once you reach 25 people meeting in one of these house churches, which take place in somebody’s home, once it’s at that level the church has to split and start again. Automatically it’s almost a formula for amoeba-like growth.

What’s interesting though is as Christianity spreads throughout China, really incredibly quickly. I think China will certainly become the world’s biggest Christian country and probably become the world’s biggest Muslim country. It’s already more Muslims there than there are in Saudi Arabia.

via Lateline – 30/06/2009: John Micklethwait discusses global faith revival.

It’s interesting to see a fairly neutral observer professing the same theories that Hirsch and Frost have been putting out there for some time – in terms of the “amoeba-like growth” of the church in China. This is a fascinating interview, and you should read it all, but I wanted to highlight one more quote:

Our guess, which is against the experience of the 20th century, is that Islam will have a tougher 21st century than Christianity, and one reason why is that we think evangelical Christianity, and Christianity in general, have had more the acids of modernity, if you want to call it that, it’s been tempered by that, it’s easier to get on with it. And Islam faces some limitations in terms of being able to spread around the world, not least the fact that you can’t translate the Koran in the same way that you can translate the Bible, and it doesn’t have the same degree of flexibility. Obviously it’s dangerous to predict anything about religion, but it would seem from our perspective at least that Christianity is the one which is forging ahead.

That’s a fascinating thought: that the process of Christianity being able to “get on with” modernity means that it is ideally placed to push forward in the 21st century. I’m not sure how much I agree with that: in one sense I feel that it is often the ways in which Christianity has allowed gospel to become compromised by the modernist culture that has seen our decline, but equally I think that there is an element to which the contextualisation of Christian theology in the past leaves us in a good position to continue to contextualise the message of Jesus into the next century and beyond.

As I say – fascinating interview and you should read (or watch) all of it.


Jonathan Brink put out the call for a synchroblog on leadership, to coincide with the Federal election over in the US. Given that I’m not exactly in that context, I thought that I’d ignore the context to a certain degree, and just take the opportunity to spew out some thoughts on what leadership starts looking like in the post-modern missionary context.

For starters, I think that it’s fair to say that the church model of having one person or a small group of people, authoritatively setting the agenda for “what we do” and “how we do it” is headed for obsolescence. It’s not a match with the relationally-centered, cynical post-modern mindset. The post-modern mind tends to be deeply skeptical of single points of truth, believing that every person has a bias, each is sub-consciously effected by the sliver of the world that they live in, and will only start to believe what they are being told when they feel they understand where some of those preferences and biases have come from.

So the easiest solution naturally seems to be to reject the concept of leaders and leadership, and instead opt for some kind of mob rule. But of course, this is completely unsustainable. Communities gather and grow together because they share something, whether that is a shared interest, a shared need, or shared goals. Without leadership, community either becomes a hostage of the loudest voices or else it loses all sense of purpose. There will always be leadership in churches and communities: an absence of leadership gets filled – just not always positively.

What then, does good leadership look like in the context of a relational, participatory community necessary to take seriously the post-modern culture we are hurtling towards? The role of the leader must become about building a community who are clear on “Who we want to be” a long way before being defined by “what we do”. And that must be a consistent and clear message – it’s first and foremost about how you act, how you lead your own life, how you interact and the priorities you have in your own life that has the opportunity to lead others.

And that’s the scariest part. A culture that has rejected positional authority as a barometer for reliability, will not believe leaders whose message they cannot see. Though the church has been frightened of post-modernity, we could discover that post-modernity will force the church to rediscover the need to incarnate the message we preach, if we are to survive at all.


This post is part of a Synchroblog on Leadership.  The following blogs took part in the experiment:

Jonathan Brink – Letter To The President

Adam Gonnerman – Aspiring to the Episcopate

Kai – Leadership – Is Servant Leadership a Broken Model?

Sally Coleman – In the world but not of it- servant leadership for the 21st Century Church

Alan Knox – Submission is given not taken

Joe Miller – Elders Lead a Healthy Family: The Future

Cobus van Wyngaard – Empowering leadership

Steve Hayes – Servant leadership

Geoff Matheson – Leadership

John Smulo – Australian Leadership Lessons

Helen Mildenhall – Leadership

Tyler Savage – Moral Leadership – Is it what we need?

Bryan Riley – Leading is to Listen and Obey

Susan Barnes – Give someone else a turn!

Liz Dyer – A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Polls…

Lionel Woods – Why Diverse Leadership is Good for America

Julie Clawson – Leadership Expectations

Ellen Haroutunian – A New Kind Of Leadership

Matt Stone – Converting Leadership

Steve Bradley – Lording or Leading?

Adam Myers – Two types of Leadership

Bethany Stedman – A Leadership Mosaic

Kathy Escobar – I’m Pretty Sure This Book Won’t Make It On The Bestseller List

Fuzzy Orthodoxy – Self Leadership

Sonja Andrews – Leadership In An Age of Cholera

Tara Hull – Leadership & Being A Single Mom

Glen Hager – Election Day Ponderings On Leadership

Beth Patterson – Leadership:Being The River

Bill Ellis – Spiritual Leadership And The Rehumanizing Of Our World

Liz Dyer – A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Polls

Forty Feet Gopher

Wanted to point out a few things of interest on the interweb. The first is to (belatedly) let anyone who didn’t already realise know that Hamo (the National Director of Forge now that Alan Hirsch has taken off for the US) has picked his blogging back up again, and has got already been putting out some amazingly good content. He can be found over at Backyard Missionary (www.backyardmissionary.com) and quite frankly, if you’re here for intelligent theological and practical missional discussion, go there first – he does it much better. Of course, if you’re here to find out what’s going on in the life of Geoff, he’ll have significantly less of that.

The second thing to draw your attention to is that Dan Wilt has got a wonderful piece on his blog called “The Scandal Of Particularity: Facing Jesus In A Postmodern Age” which strikes exactly the line that I think I’d draw in dealing with the tension between the battle-stations, hard-line fundamentalist, militant view of Jesus’ claim to exclusivity and the opposite side where Jesus becomes “one path to the same God”, which preaches a gospel that is more culturally acceptable but which loses a huge chunk of the meaning and mission of who Jesus is. But don’t take my word for it: have a read – it’s a long one but utterly worth the time.

The third thing is much less theological and a lot more silly. “Say No To Crack” got me onto the “Internet Anagram Server” – which is where the post title comes from: it’s an anagram of “TheGeoffReyport”. You put in the words you want anagrams for and away it goes. Other highlights for “TheGeoffRe(y)port” include:

  • Thy Groper of Feet
  • Top Ferret, eh Fogy
  • Heft Reef Orgy Pot
  • They Free Frog Pot

OK – enough silliness. You’ll have noticed a lack of posts on here: life’s getting busier with moving house and wedding stuff and youth all combining to rob me of blog posting time.