AUSTIN, Texas (ABP) — If Christians worldwide can network with each other, the global Christian church will be poised for effective ministry in the 21st century, according to Anna Robbins of the London School of Theology.
That networked church is the solution to the dichotomy of a world pulled in opposite directions simultaneously by two realities: a shared worldwide bond and an awareness of cultural differences, Robbins said.
People are connecting with others across the globe, but they also understand that the culture in which a person lives shapes that individual's life. That creates a dichotomy that affects how people relate to each other around the world, Robbins said Feb. 19 during the Ethics Without Borders conference, sponsored by the Texas Baptist-affiliated Christian Life Commission.
“On the one hand, the world is growing more and more connected, more and more homogeneous,” Robbins said. “On the other hand, the world seems to be fragmenting through a recognition of difference, a plurality, a significance of context and culture.”
Even in the realm of Christian ethics, the connected-but-fragmented nature of Christianity can sometimes affect relationships across borders.
“We even wonder sometimes if we're speaking the same language across diverse contexts, let alone employing the same concepts or engaging the same rationality,” Robbins said. “We're more and more the same, yet more and more wanting to stress our difference.”
The church is built upon believers working together to make it an international network, Robbins said. But unlike other networks, the church has something that can unite people from around the world — a common belief in Jesus as the messiah. According to Robbins, the nature of Christ transcends cultural differences.
“We say Jesus is Lord, and that overcomes all of our contexts,” said Robbins, a Baptist and native of Nova Scotia who lectures in theology and contemporary culture at the evangelical London seminary. “That overcomes all of our pluralities, and it's not just words. It's a reality. If Jesus Christ is who he is, he is Lord of all people at all time. We are one people, no matter where we find ourselves.”
While the church may be built upon the notion of being a network, connections must be developed further for it to serve as effectively as possible, Robbins said. The lives of people within the network must impact the lives of others within it. What's more, the plight of one group of believers should affect the actions of another group of believers.
“What difference does it matter for my church community that this church community doesn't know if they're going to be allowed to gather to worship tomorrow?” Robbins asked. “What does it mean when I get together with my friends Sunday that a community I have a contact with has nothing to eat tomorrow? These things have to have mutually life-changing consequences. A network can do that, but only if we take more responsibility for it.”