By Annalise Williams
Hipster Christianese emphasizes trendiness over holiness
Recently I got an email that opened with the hook, “Want to move forward in becoming a Global Christian?” What is a “Global Christian”? Someone with all the Christian movements on their newsfeed, with the t-shirts, the computer stickers, and the conference experiences; someone who has seen dozens of movie clips about starving children in Africa and who has the Voice of the Martyrs devotional on their bookshelf; someone who knows the estimations of how many sex slaves pass through the Atlanta airport; someone who only purchases Fair Trade coffee; someone who knows all the latest International Justice Mission stats and success stories?
It is easy to become so social in our “global” concerns that we forget our call. We are to be the light and the salt, to carry the revelation of Christ to the local world, and to invest our time and selves in the local church. Without fulfilling this primary call, we cannot fulfill the call to support and love those further away from us. It’s easier to send our resources to the inner city outreach or to an overseas rescue mission than it is to commit to the local body of believers who obviously struggle with the childish things of faithfulness and commitment and grace in spite of grouchiness — to commit to the people who annoy us and so pollute our sense of holiness. It’s easy to be a self-satisfied Christian from the role of a distant benefactor. It’s hard to be a self-satisfied Christian while gathering together with other Christ-followers who, like ourselves, are not Christ.
Once we disconnect from the immediacy of a situation, we lose the potency that localization requires. Everything becomes a cerebral problem and the possibility of action diminishes to sending something or knowing facts. Yes, we love with our minds but our minds (with their built-in credit-card-swipe solutions) are not strong enough love. Long-distance actions usually don’t require the forgiveness or long-suffering patience and grace that, as iron sharpens iron, molds us more closely to the image of Christ.
As G. K. Chesterton points out, specificity is the beauty of love, for love is choosing. The man loves the one woman, and this is sacred. We can’t ethereally love the catholic church in the same way that we love the local body because love is an action, borne out in many particular actions. We bring food to the widow down the street, visit the neighbor in the hospital, pray with the friend who has a migraine. We can indeed pray for individual men and women who are far away, but this is still a local kind of love because it is directed specifically. Love cannot be delocalized.
Removing the immediate situation removes the burden of the necessity of effectiveness from us. If we simply support another ministry to the neglect of our own ministry, we do not feel as responsible. “They” — the organization — determined how the money was spent and where and why. We just provided it. Our responsibility is diminished.
This reminds me of Christ’s indictment in Matthew 15: “But you say, ‘Whoever shall say to his father or mother, “Anything of mine you might have been helped by has been given to God,” he is not to honor his father or his mother.’ And thus you invalidate the word of God” (v 5-6 NASB). Christ was addressing a situation where people who should have been placed in a position of respect and honor were being ignored, pushed out by more “spiritual” concerns. I fear, my friends, that many of us, too, have allowed the culturally impressive to dictate our support. Just as we are called to care for our parents, so also we are called to minister to and within the body of local believers. This assumes an authority we do not have to direct our resources as we please.
There are no “Global Christians;” only local servants of Christ. Those God calls from one place to another are still called to serve in a specific way in a specific place, even if they are only called to that place for a time. They become local Christians in a new locale, not some detached benefactor.
So let’s be where we are called to be — in the physical place where God put us, living church with the body of believers in the same place. Yes, we should support the rest of the church in other parts of the world with prayer and finances, but this is an aspect of being a faithful, local believer. Just as it is ridiculous to define ourselves as the Tithing Christians or the Praying Christians or the Bible-reading Christians, so it is foolish to define ourselves by something that is simply one single aspect of the immediate, constant call to be knitted to the fellow believers who are physically near us. In following this command, we lose the superiority of choosing who is worthy of our attention and our resources that comes with “globalization” and must humbly love the people God has placed in our path. We’re not supposed to be slick, trendy, global. We’re the aliens, remember? We’re the bond-servants of the despised and crucified King who washed the feet of the disciples who constantly argued around him. This is the service to which we are called.