8 Things North American Believers Can Learn from Believers around the World

In my various roles, I’ve been privileged to travel the world, talk to global brothers and sisters in Christ, and learn from them. I may be the professor, but they always teach me. Here are some things we North American Christians can learn from them:

  1. The Bible is precious. We who have multiple copies of the scriptures miss this point. It would do all of us good to spend time with a believer who stays up all night to hear and read the Word of God because he doesn’t have his own copy. 
  2. Holiness matters. I’ve been with some believers around the world who lean toward legalism, but seldom have I been with any who are as lax about sin as North Americans tend to be. Global believers often struggle with our brand of non-life changing Christianity.
  3. Worship is more than head-centered. Every culture is different, but I love worshiping with believers who give themselves fully to worship. From the African who jumps when he worships to the Ukrainian who sings with all his might, believers around the world challenge my often- too stoic approach to worship.
  4. Prayer makes a difference. I once stood for two hours praying non-stop with believers in a war-torn part of the world, and they were just getting started. When Christ is genuinely your hope and peace, you understand better the necessity and the value of prayer.
  5. Persecution is real. For many believers, persecution is not just somebody else’s story on a sheet of paper. It’s their story. No article or website can speak the volumes that a believer who’s been faithful under persecution can.
  6. Church membership means something. I’ve talked with local church leaders around the globe who shepherd large networks, and they can tell you much of the spiritual state of each believer. They take seriously the need for accountability and growth among believers.
  7. North American Christianity is not the center of the Christian world. We tend to think we are, simply because our world revolves around us. Many believing groups around the world, though, have longer histories, more followers, and much more to teach us.
  8. Heaven will be really sweet. I already knew that, but thinking about the peoples of the world gathering around the throne is that much more powerful after meeting many of those folks. 

What would you add to this list? 

14 Comments

  • Worship doesn’t have to be convenient or comfortable.

  • If Jesus was as significant to N. American believers as He is to believers around the world, the great commission would become our #1 priority.

  • Barry Agnew says:

    Thank you for all you do Dr. Lawless. I love to share your work with our people here at RFBC.

  • Casey Deaton says:

    The “American Dream” has nothing to do with the Gospel.

    Believers in a lot of countries are so small in number that they don’t have time for church politics or getting over run with tradition.

  • There is nothing new under the sun. If they persecuted Jesus, we ought to EXPECT, rather than try to extinguish, persecution. (Those are 2 separate things, there.)

  • Roy says:

    My name is Roy. A year ago I retired from overseas work and returned to the U.S. having spent nineteen years in a part of Asia when there are very few believers and the church suffers a high degree of persecution. Prior to that I served as teacher, deacon, or pastor in small churches in small communities in America for twenty years. What I have seen in this past year is a very disquieted church that seems to be unhappy even when wildly “successful” by it’s own definition. There is only one body of Christ so a depressed “member” in America is of concern worldwide. On that note I offer the following:

    Ten things North American believers do that would be seen as signs of bad health by most believers I know around the world.

    1. When we rely almost exclusively on “classroom” methods such as the pulpit, seminars, how to books and small group studies to grow believers. We rarely get a chance to see these lessons demonstrated by leaders in day to day life.
    2. When our pleasure is the yardstick by which to measure the quality of our worship. Our Sunday service has digressed to a modern form of “high church” where everything is a choreographed performance designed to please the audience.
    3. When we put far too much reliance upon the outcome of elections and other acts of Caesar. We even do this to the great cost of our witness.
    4. When we retreat from “bad” neighborhoods, “bad” schools, and even from “bad” art and science. We act as though our fortress can withstand the evil of our age when if fact it is the gates of hell that can not withstand our faith.
    5. When something works well and we copy it and keep repeating it until makes us deaf to the Holy Spirit. Good ideas may only work once. A good ear and a bold obedience is the only methodology worthy of the Kingdom.
    6. When we have taken local ownership of the task that rightfully belongs to the whole church. Local congregations are competing with one another for bragging rights and the smaller have already given up. We have forgotten that expanding the Kingdom is a cooperative effort.
    7. When we have accept the world’s very low definition of what a Christian is. Jesus called His followers disciples and set a very high standard for what it means to wear that title. Disciples are always free to pay the cost and never expecting the world to grant them “rights”.
    8. When our congregations are built on a business model with a boss and a chain of command. When church goers are encouraged to shop around for the “product” that best suits their personal needs and tastes. I call this Church, Inc. I remember when we were more like a co-op of equals who sometimes disagreed but at least made some attempt to submit to one another. Strong equal relationships even messy contentious ones are the stuff of a successful healthy church.
    9. When we applaud one another in church and hand out trophies and titles for every sacrifice as though sacrifice was not the norm.

    10.When yard signs, bumper stickers, and tee shirts declare our allegiance as though we are at war with our neighbors. The flesh and blood of our unsaved neighbors is not the enemy against whom we wrestle. No wonder the American church is so unhappy, it is fighting the wrong war and losing.

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