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The Glocal Church

We are living in the midst of what I consider to be the third great revolution of the modern world. The first was the Industrial Revolution, the second was the Technological Revolution, and these two have given birth to a third: the Social Revolution. The result of the first two revolutions was to make available to the masses what was once available only to the few. The result of this third revolution is to make the masses available to the masses. Not only do we now have access to creative innovations that can enhance the quality of our lives; we now have access to each other!

The two primary contributors to this revolution have been advancements in the realms of transportation and communication. Advancements in transportation have given us greater physical access to each other and advancements in communication have given us greater virtual access to each other, and the way in which the tension between these two areas of advancement is resolved will determine the shape of the future of the modern world.

I say ‘tension’ because it seems that transportation and communication are rivals at heart; the more you have of one, the less you need of the other. Traveling to visit a friend is unnecessary if you can communicate with that friend just as effectively in the privacy of your own home, and communicating with your friend remotely is not so attractively if you find that you can travel to their location without inconvenience. We are finding that moderns highly value both efficiency and intimacy and the realms of transportation and communication are advancing as transportation becomes more efficient and communication becomes more intimate. Because both of these values are entrenched in human nature, we can be sure that both realms will continue to advance and neither will ultimately overshadow the other. There will always be contexts in which we prefer the efficiency of virtual presence over physical presence and there will always be contexts in which we prefer the intimacy of physical presence over virtual presence and for each of us the balance between the two will be at a slightly different place.

While these two areas of advancement seem to be working against one another, in actuality they are working together in a powerful way. (To put it in Hegelian terms, the thesis of transportational advancement and the antithesis of communicational advancement has produced the synthesis of Social Revolution.) The result of the Social Revolution has been the radical redefinition of the term ‘local’. Remember when ‘local’ calls were restricted to your area code and calling even just a few cities away was considered ‘long distance’? Now nationwide calling plans are the standard! That means that – as far as calling plans are concerned – California and New York are ‘local’ entities. What is more, Skype, iChat, Facetime and the like have given us the capacity to have communicate with people in other nations just as easily as we communicate with someone across town. This means that, from a communications standpoint, the concept of ‘local’ is relative to the availability of technology. The ‘local’ and the ‘global’ are becoming less and less antonymous and more and more synonymous. The local and the global are coming together, and this is where the idea of ‘glocality’ is coming from.

So what does this mean for the church?

What the concept of glocality is doing is expanding our understanding of the nature and meaning of the local church. Every other sector of society has transcended a regional concept of locality except the church. Companies are outsourcing and offering remote employment opportunities and communicating through telepresence, etc. Clubs are providing international memberships. Schools are offering satellite programs and online degrees, and the list goes on! What all of these entities are discovering is that locality is about accessibility, and if we can utilize communication technologies to supplement the lag in the development of transportational technologies to make local resources accessible at a global level, we have effectively localized the globe!

The next wave of revival will be sustained by the glocalization of the church. The future of church in the 21st century is glocality, and this applies not only to the mission of the church to reach the nations for Christ, but to the membership of local churches as well. This element of glocality will come into being not simply as more religious resources (like podcasts, live streams, books, etc) are made more readily available at the global level, but as the element of commitment/covenant is added. We already have access to a surplus of information, but what we are starving for a corresponding surplus of intimacy. What we are finding is that information without intimacy is ultimately empty!

The availability of information, goods and services was the product of the technological revolution, but the availability of community is the promise of the social revolution. The social revolution gives us access to relationships that we otherwise would have no access to because of physical distance. The church of the 21st century must learn to harness this power of connectivity and exploit it for the purposes of the kingdom of God! We must go beyond the dissemination of religious goods and services and actually bring the people of God into covenant relationships. When this happens we will exchange the pervasive consumerism that plagues contemporary Christianity for a robust sense of global presence facilitated through covenantal relationships. Satellite memberships: its the next wave for the church of the 21st century, and in my humble opinion, the future looks bright! 

In the next several posts I’d like to explore this idea further in order to reflect upon the biblical, theological and practical implications of it. I hope you join me for the journey, and I'd love to hear your thoughts and responses!


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Author: admin
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  1. Yes. The massess are now available to the masses! I'm right there with you!

  2. What depth and insight you've provided in this blog PB. Awesome �� This is a message that I hope our local pastors capture the vision of. It's beautiful that we as LHCC walk in this very example of glocality. In all the ways that transportation and communication are used in a negative aspect, we As the collective body of Christ need to fight back and use it to further the kingdom of God. Loving your teaching. Can't wait for the next blog. I'm hungry!