by Ted Esler
At the recent Asian Missiological Association meetings in Manila I had the opportunity to present a short paper on globalization. As a warmup for the audience, I asked them (in a rather animated way), “Are you excited about globalization!?” The room exploded in clapping and there was even some cheering.
I rather expected that – most non-Westerners that are involved in the Great Commission see globalization in the best possible way. They see it as empowering and a force that has enabled them to take the stage in the pursuit of global mission.
I wonder, though, how many have recognized that for all the empowerment that globalization brings there is a dark side to globalization that we need to observe as well. Here are just a few high-level critiques of globalization:
- It is not evenly distributed. Despite the empowerment of many, it also ushers in an era of deep distance between those that have access to globalized markets and those that do not.
- It has created privacy concerns in all sectors of life as information flow has multiplied.
- Yes, it has vastly increased the influence and reach of the gospel. It has provided this same platform to violent radicals.
- As travel has gotten cheaper and increased, so too has human trafficking, the drug trade and other harmful human endeavors. Pornography has never been as globalized as it is now.
- It could be argued that it destroys local culture with its overarching global influence.
From a missions standpoint, it has not led to the releasing of financial or human resources from the West to the “rest” in the ways that it could. Many Western churches are simply disengaging from the larger objective of the Great Commission and opting instead for local ministry. Part of this stems from guilt about colonialism. Another reason for this is the redefinition of mission. This redefinition, while perhaps necessary to reach those in the West, is harmful to the global vision of Western churches who sometimes see their participation as no longer necessary and uninvited.
We can’t control globalization: it is a fact. Our response, however, is something we can control. The celebratory attitude that I witnessed gave me pause: let’s be think a little more deeply about both the good and bad that come with globalization.