The Good Samaritan — Profiled

The Eighth Sunday after Pentecost, July 10, 2016  Luke 10:25-37

After the Samaritan left the inn where the man was recovering, there were a few comments heard inside.

“Do you think his money is any good?”

“Who does he think he is, coming in this establishment like that?”

“Anybody want to take bets that he does not come back tomorrow?”

Profiling gives credibility to stereotypes, which, in turn, render the person in the least favorable light. Profiling diminishes the person to the lowest expectations. At best it doubts respect, and at worst, it abolishes any spot of honor, worth, and dignity.

Profiling puts filters into the person’s hands through which he or she views the world The filters, of course, eliminate certain characteristics, whether they are there or not.

In the mission work of the church and much of its international life, the residue of time gone by has left filters in the hands of some, and these some are mainly white Anglos. The reasons go back to the past two hundred years when most Christians were white and most of the pioneering missionaries of that era were also white.

Holding these filters today removes from sight the changes in God’s fields. I’ll just mention a couple. Two of the liveliest Anglican congregations in the Ukraine and in the United Kingdom are led by Nigerians. in India the surge of growth of the church can be traced back to the great Bishop Azariah. At the Edinburgh Missions Conference of 1910, he told the assembly, “Do come to India, but come as friends. India will be evangelized by Indians.”

The residue of the past two centuries firmly established the footholds for these filters, so they have disappeared slowly. My formal education reflects this. It lasted between the years 1949 and 1969. In those 20 years I had no more than two years of schooling with girls. There were no “people of color”—of any color other than white—but for a small number enough to be counted. As for religion, I grew up in a family of 9 other Episcopal clergy in my immediate family. My hands were full of filters!

It is a euphemism to say that “exposure to others” helps us see better. It takes cracks in our pride, direct hits, for us to receive God’s grace that allows a wider vision of His world and the people He loves. The lesson is an easy one to identify—to grasp the profiles that God designs.

World Christian Trends

When profiling rears its very ugly head in the church, the lamentable result is diminishing God, overlooking His people, forgetting what He is doing, and replacing all that with a serious myopia that leaves the world out of sight. We must gain the vision that sees God at work.

I bring to your attention the church in two countries—Brazil and China: Brazil because the world sees that country only in turmoil and not what God has established there; China because its church is one of the largest in the world, as is the nation itself.  Overlooking China only shows our myopia.  (Can you remember the name of China’s Prime Minister? Do you know how to pronounce his name?)  The statistics on these two countries are eye-opening.

First, Brazil.  Just consider the size of its two largest cities: Sao Paulo has 10 million, Rio de Janeiro has 17 million people. In Christianized countries, the population of Brazil will be second only to the United States in 2025 with an estimated population of 217,930,000

In 1900 Brazil was the 10th largest church in the world with 17,319,000 believers. By 2000 the. church had swollen to 155,545,000. Among Pentecostal/charismatics, they lead all countries with almost 80 million. That represents 47% of the church.

Among the ethnic peoples, the Branco Brazilians are the largest Christian ethnic group, with just over 80 million. The 7th largest Christian group is the Mulato Brazilians, numbering 35 million.

There is more going on in Brazil than the Olympics.

China has firsts in enviable categories as well as some less.

China is the largest country by population, with 1,460,000,000 projected in 2025. After India, China has the most cities over 50,000 – 463.  The nation has 254 different ethnic groups, many with subgroups that speak dialects unintelligible to others in the same ethnic group. It also ranks second to India with the number of blind, deaf, and lepers.

The church has reaped the fruit of the tears, the prayers, and the martyrs and missionaries of the 19th and 20th centuries. In the last decade of the 20thcentury the church was estimated to be increasing by one million people per month. By 2025 it is estimated that the number of Christians will number over 135 million, just after the churches of the United States and Brazil.

The predominate affiliation is categorized as Independents. This reflects the strength of the House Church movement. The Chinese church is second only to the United States with the number of Great Commission Christians, 81 million.

An interesting insight into the enormity of the population of China comes with the Han people. There are 810 million Han. These must be divided into numerous subgroups. Among the Han groups are the Mandarin Han, the fourth largest Christian group with 61 million. But there are three Han subgroups among the largest unreached peoples. These are the Jinyu (47 million), the Hunanese (44 million), and the Kan (25 million).

As might be expected with a nation of this size and with the growth of the church being so recent, the needs for the church’s work are clear. These same Han groups are among the largest ethnic groups without the printed Gospels, much less the entire Scripture. The Jinyu have lacked a mission agency as recently as 2000.

In my appreciation for the 4th of July and the United States’ unique history, I have been reading Alexis de Tocqueville on Democracy in America. His wisdom and insights make it clear how well we have molded ourselves and society around the pillars of democracy. Reading him also makes it crystal clear that expecting democracy to appear and flourish in China as it has here is unreasonable. The manifestation of the influence of the Body of Christ in China will have its own distinct and very powerful shape.

Photo: Dai women in Yunnan Province, China, with their first blue chewing gum! It broke the ice.

About Tad

This trip accompanies several of the friends of St. Paul. We will eaves drop on their correspondence, look into their lives and ministries, and find some insights about what they were doing. I suspect that much of what we see will surprise us, some will challenge us, and all will fill in some spots of God's work then and now.
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