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Globalization's Impact on Evangelism, Part 1

Let My People Think / Ravi Zacharias
The Truth Network Radio
June 20, 2020 1:00 am

Globalization's Impact on Evangelism, Part 1

Let My People Think / Ravi Zacharias

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June 20, 2020 1:00 am

How do you think globalization and the increase of technology has affected evangelism? What does a globalized society mean for the spreading of the Gospel? On this week's Let My People Think, Ravi Zacharias dives into what evangelism looks like in light of globalization.

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You can find out more about Ravi Zacharias and the team at The marketing of ideas, the marketing of products, and all that takes place in the commercialization of merchandise has given us the illusion that we live under one canopy of a hail fellow well-met wonderful family getting along together. It simply has not worked out that way. Ubiquity and brand preference doesn't equal unity among the nations. But a globalized society does mean open doors.

What does that mean for spreading the gospel? Hello and welcome to Let My People Think with author and apologist Ravi Zacharias. Fifty years ago, the world seemed much larger. Today, a kid in Minnesota can watch a video uploaded by a kid from Europe that features a kid from the Philippines. Thanks to technology, it's truly become a small world after all. And with that connectedness comes opportunity. Ravi Zacharias is speaking this week about the effect of globalization on evangelism.

Let's join him as he begins. So somebody sent me this from India while I was writing in Thailand before I headed back to my home in the United States. And this Indian gentleman sends me this and says, what is globalization?

Diana's death as an illustration. An English princess with an Egyptian boyfriend in a German car driven by a Dutch driver crashes in a French tunnel while being chased by Italian paparazzi on Japanese bikes treated by a Portuguese doctor with Brazilian medicine. This mail was written by an India to an Indian in Thailand who is using a Chinese laptop smuggled by a Pakistani via Nepal, India, and Myanmar to Bangkok.

And the mail is sent by an Indian living in India to somebody living in Atlanta. Please continue the story. Pretty interesting. In that one little historical narrative, how many countries and their products and their ideas really came to play and brought in the background to this story.

It was Peter Wagner. I remember once he was talking on this whole issue of America being a melting pot, and especially talking about the phenomenon that they called the Los Angeles-ation of the West. He said, where else but in Los Angeles can you see a fast food outlet where a Korean is selling kosher tacos? Pretty good culinary illustration of how the cultural mix came about. But long before all of this happened, I remember when I grew up in India and I spent the first 20 years of my life in India, born in Chennai in the South. My mother was from Madras, now called Chennai. She was Tamilian. My father was from Kerala speaking Malayalam. And we moved to Delhi where I learned to speak Hindi when I was just about five or six years old. So in my home, my mother was Tamilian. My father was Keralite speaking Malayalam. I grew up speaking Hindi. And I remember going to the Hindi movies, and there was an Indian comedian by the name of Johnny Walker who used to sing a song, Mira juta hai japani, but loon English tani. Sar par lal topi rusi piri bhi dil hai Hindustani.

What does it mean? My juta hai japani, it means my shoes are Japanese. But loon English tani, my trousers are English. Sar par lal topi rusi, my hat is Russian. Piri bhi dil hai Hindustani. But my heart is still Indian.

Shoes are Japanese, trousers English, hat is Russian, but my heart is Indian. So in this mix of all that was going on in global branding and global commerce, where now you can walk into a mall anywhere in the world, and if you are inside the mall, you will not know which country you are in. Because the brand names are all the same. It all looks the same, the marketing of ideas, the marketing of products, and all that takes place in the commercialization of merchandise has given us the illusion that we live under one canopy of a hail fellow, well-met, wonderful family getting along together. It simply has not worked out that way.

The tensions sometimes actually run much deeper than you realize, and when push comes to shove, the whole idea of what's the blood that runs within your veins emerges very, very readily at the press or at the nub. You know, I've lived now only for 20 years in my homeland of India. In the last 40 plus years, lived between Toronto, Canada, and Atlanta, Georgia.

Atlanta's been our home. And it is fascinating, I'm married to a Canadian gal, and we've been married 41 years, have three children. And Margie has often said to me, she says, you know, the older you're getting, the more I find you keep going back to India more often. And I say to her, how often do you go to Canada?

And the joke continues out there. She said, no, I don't mean that as a criticism. She said, it's fascinating to me how much you go back to your roots as the years are going by and your heart sort of tugs towards the place from whence you came. Breeds there a man who's also dead, who never to himself had said, this is my home, my native land. And so while globalization may take place in terms of the way we function commercially and the way we function in our communication channels and the way we interact with each other with phraseology that has been co-opted from this social media and so on, the question remains, what is the kind of heart that beats within us? What is it that we ultimately look for as a context within which we cradle the truths that are given to us? It's a fascinating question to try and wrestle through.

What is the cradling of the message that really comes to us? Because I'm quite fluent in Hindi, I many times will talk to my friends and they'll say something in the Hindi language and I'll start laughing and my wife will say, don't bother, I know it loses something in the translation. Because I don't know how many times I would say to her, I'll tell this to you, but it will lose something in the translation. One day some fellow said something that he went somewhere in India and they were so mean to him and he said in Hindi, Now, if you don't know Hindi, it's very difficult to translate. What it literally means is he took my self-respect and made vermicelli out of it.

Faluda is vermicelli. You know, izzat is self-respect. You're flayed my self-respect. Now to the Indian, that is a very descriptive sentence. You have basically just shredded my self-respect and language therefore carries with it cultural memory and the context from which you make connections. When I listen to Hindi bhajans or Hindi hymns, I can feel tears welling up in my eyes because suddenly I'll see the word and I'll say, wow, it's so much deeper than it actually sounded when it was put into another language. And so there is a soul within you and me that is framed and cradled within the context in which we are raised linguistically, in memory, in the cultural context. And oftentimes when we try to communicate something that comes from over and above or from far and distant, the listener may be responding, but not often identically with the capacity with which you want to actually communicate it. As an evangelist, I noticed this.

As an apologist, I have to be very careful what kind of illustrations I give in what particular country so that you do not run the risk of offense in the way you are even phrasing what it is you've said. Now I want to talk to you tonight particularly about the Western idea of what has happened in the cultural context. I'm doing this even though we are talking global.

The reason is tomorrow is going to be the Asian. And so I think a balance would be set between the two. And sometimes I will just cross the ideas both back and forth between the two. In the 1980s, there was a series of articles in Atlantic Monthly and there was an article written by Daniel Yankielewicz talking about changes in America. And he quoted Daniel Bell, the sociologist, and he gave these two paragraphs which were really quite prophetic in what was happening in the West.

Here's what he says. Culture is an effort to provide a coherent set of answers to the existential situations that confront all human beings in the passage of their lives. Immediately you take a note of what that first line says. It is an effort to produce a coherent set of answers to the existential questions, the questions of angst, the questions of longing, the questions of meaning, the questions of destiny. Culture is an effort to bring together a coherent set of answers to these existential questions that confront all of us in the passage of our lives. Then he said in the West, we are witnessing a genuine cultural revolution.

And here's what he says. A genuine cultural revolution then is one that makes a decisive break from the shared meanings of the past, particularly those which relate to the deepest questions of the purpose and nature of human life. A cultural revolution is underway when you make a decisive break from the shared meanings of the past. There's a severance that takes place from the things that brought a culture together.

You are breaking that cohesiveness apart, especially with the questions of what life actually means and our destiny. I moved to the West in the mid 60s. The America of this time is so radically different to the America of the mid 60s and the 20th century. And it is changing almost by the minute. Even in the last year or two, the way issues are being redefined and the collective consciousness is being reconfigured and reshaped so that things that once upon a time which would have come with shock value are now passe. It's what we become accustomed to hearing or seeing. And I'll tell you what, for a generation past their mid 50s or so particularly, it's pretty traumatic. Pretty traumatic for them to see what exactly is happening. And I don't just mean what's happening socially out in ideas of moral reasoning.

For some it is difficult to even understand when they walk into a church and say, my goodness, what was that all about? They cannot really connect and we are making some huge strides and only time will tell whether these strides were wise or catastrophic in the process. Culture therefore is an effort to find us a coherent set of answers to an existential questions that confront all of us. And I want to give to you the process by which all of this came about and what it is that led the West to where it is today.

And you can make your extensions because this is happening globally. This is coming through into your culture too and you're well aware of it as moral frameworks and moral decisions are being made and the winds are blowing from the West as it were to change the values even in the East. You know, if you went back to the 19th century, the high critical theories and all of the newfangled philosophies were coming from Europe and 50 years later, they would be sensed in America. Whether you talked about the German theologians and all of their new orthodox views and then you moved into secular philosophy in the existentialist worldviews starting of course from Nietzsche, then moving to Sartre, Camus and so on coming into the West. All of this came as kind of a delayed impact and then finally postmodern philosophy which came also from Europe took hold into North America.

And if postmodernism maybe just simply reduced to three phrases, no truth, no meaning, no certainty, that was the end result carried on the backs of deconstruction in literature and so on. It's an incredible wave that came from Europe, affected North Americans. So much of theological education in the middle of the 1900s was actually generated by what they were responding to in terms of ideas that were coming in from European theologians.

Now the whole gamut and the whole mix with so many of Asian theologians being trained in the West, bringing some of it and moving into the Asian culture and so on, the globalization of this is taking place very, very steadily. How did this happen? What brought all of this about? There were three moods that I think took place starting in the early part of the 1900s. You could see it coming.

You could not see the unintended consequences of whether this was headed. So the three ideas that shaped the middle of the 20th century and have brought us in now, and you as young men and women studying in the academic world will understand very readily when I bring to you the logical outworking of all of this. So please bear with me if it sounds a bit academic, you will bring it down to exactly where you are and you'll understand how it brought about this kind of an impact. Secularization is the process by which religious ideas, institutions and interpretations have lost their social significance.

Let me redefine it because every word matters. Secularization is a process by which religious ideas, institutions and interpretations have lost their social significance. If in the 1970s or so when people like Francis Schaeffer and all were around writing whatever happened to the human race, if you'd looked at a television program then where in the 70s the issue of abortion was so front and center in North America, the Roe v. Wade thing was all in hot news then. If you remember what happened then you would see all kinds of discussions going on. And if you picture in your mind a panel discussion on this subject of whether abortion was legitimate or illegitimate, ultimately it was legalized. And I'm not trying to deliberately raise something controversial.

I'm just trying to tell you how secularization took its toll here. If you were discussing something like the abortion issue and other issues in our day now have the same application and you had a platform full of experts, you had a lawyer, you had a medical doctor, you had a psychiatrist, you had a university president, you had a philosopher, you had an ethicist, you had a genetics expert and you had a minister all discussing the same thing. Who do you think would be considered by the audience to be the most prejudiced of that group?

The minister would be considered the most. It's very predictable. We know exactly what he's going to say because you know he comes from the Judeo-Christian worldview here and he's going to tell us life is sacred and on and on and on. The fascinating thing is what happens subtly here. They assume that the ethicist is very objective. That the lawyer has no self-serving motive here. Neither does the medical practitioner two years, purely seeing it as chemistry and genetics, but that the minister has got a vested interest and is prejudiced in this. Religious ideas, institutions and interpretations had lost their social significance.

You could not ideationally defend something if it was religiously laden. I told this afternoon at a luncheon, one of the young women who works in our office is a recent addition to our staff. She's our media specialist. She graduated from a very prestigious institution in the United States.

I'll leave it unnamed. And she came to see me in my office for the first day I was back just to meet with me and greet me and so on. And she said to me, she said, you know, my whole college days were very turbulent and all of that. She said, I went through a tremendous court case in my university and would you like me to tell you about it? I said, yeah, I'd like to hear well about it. She said, well, every lecture class, one particular professor was mocking Christianity, shock value, just constantly berating it and insulting the Christian faith, mocking anybody who was a Christian.

She said, I put my hand up and I said, excuse me, sir. I am a Christian and you are mocking my faith and what is sacred to me. I don't appreciate this.

You've been doing it day after day after day. I just think I have to tell you, I don't appreciate what you're doing. It's got nothing to do with the subject matter on hand. He sent her to the Dean. So she goes to see the Dean and she says to the Dean, I don't know why I'm here. He said, because you're being very disruptive in the classroom. She said, disruptive in the classroom. She said, I just raised a question of the professors constantly mocking something that's very sacred to me.

Now, interestingly enough, this gal happens to be an Indian who's living in the United States and graduated from this university. He says, well, you know what? I want to tell you, you are here for an education. She said, I realize I'm here for an education, but what's going on in that classroom is an indoctrination.

He said, no, you got this all wrong. Let me tell you something. For 18 years, you have been indoctrinated by your parents. We are now here to educate you.

Wow. I'm wondering if you would have said that to a six foot five guy sitting in front of him. The blood would have started to boil and saying, what? You are telling me what my parents have taught me about life's values are skewed and you're going to set me straight? Secularization, religious ideas, institutions, and interpretations have lost their social significance. Now, what happens to the gospel when something like this has taken hold?

I want to give you a little illustration here. And that is the fact that in Atlanta, Georgia, where I live in the 1980s, there was quite a trial that took place. It was a renowned pornographer by the name of Larry Flint who produced such horrific stuff that the witnesses of the trial said, it made Playboy magazine look like a child's magazine.

So I guess it was pretty perverted stuff. But Larry Flint found one of the best lawyers to defend him. And the lawyer took a particular track in defending the right of his client to produce this pornography. And so he started interviewing prospective jurors. And if a juror belonged to a church, he didn't want them on the jury. Because he said, if you're a church-going person, you're prejudiced on this kind of subject. And in the South, it was very difficult to find somebody who didn't go to church. It took them days to find him. What they were really looking for were moral zombies, not anybody who had any idea on these things.

People had no idea on who had no idea on pornography. When the trial began, he would look at the witnesses testifying against his client. And the lawyer would say this, have you ever gone into an art gallery? Yes. Have you ever paid to go into an art gallery? Yes. Have you ever paid to go into an art gallery where there are paintings of unclothed people, nudes? Yeah. You have paid to go into an art gallery where in the gallery there were paintings of disrobed people?

Yeah. Would you please tell this jury why you called that art and call my client's stuff pornography? What do you say? What do you say? Certainly, you're not going to get into a philosophical discussion on art or ethics with the lawyer.

But if you're sitting across the table from the lawyer, what would you say? And I came to the conclusion, this is such a difficult subject. Just two thoughts raced through my mind when I thought about it at first.

I was fairly young, just starting out. And the one thought that came to my mind when I read the biography of Michelangelo in the Agony and the Ecstasy, how when Michelangelo started painting unclothed people, his teacher called him aside one day and said, why are you doing this? And he said to his teacher, because I want to see man as God sees man. And the teacher said, but Michael, you're not God.

He planted just enough of a thought to get this brilliant young artist to start thinking about the role as an artist he could play. The move to a more secular society has cost us some of our most sacred beliefs, a sobering conclusion to Ravi's message. You can listen to this episode of Let My People Think again by visiting our website at and clicking on the Listen tab.

If you're listening in Canada, that web address is You can also purchase this entire message by calling us at 1-800-448-6766 and asking for the title Globalization's Impact on Evangelism. We see it everywhere, from musicians and movie stars to neighbors and friends at work. People aren't interested in having a spiritual life, but treat faith more like an a la carte menu at a restaurant, choosing what they like and dismissing the rest. Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra are the cheerleaders calling on Western culture to embrace a spirituality devoid of the biblical Christ. Cutting through the hype and seduction is the clear voice of author and apologist Ravi Zacharias.

In his book, Why Jesus? Rediscovering His Truth in an Age of Mass-Marketed Spirituality, Ravi answers the attraction known as the New Spirituality. They have sort of hijacked everything under the nomenclature of Eastern spirituality.

There's value, there's value in silence, there's value in reflection, there's value in solitude, something that we in the West have forgotten, so I think they harnessed something of value and made it exclusively their own. As if the Christian faith never talks about it, spirituality in the Christian tradition, too, has had a lot of these ideas. The only difference is they don't gaze inward, they have to gaze outward towards God.

God is the ultimate vision, not yourself. Billy Graham calls Why Jesus? a powerful defense of how Jesus Christ brings meaning and hope to an individual life. And Charles Swindell says, I am not acquainted with a brighter mind or a more relevant and devoted defender of the faith than Ravi Zacharias.

Why Jesus? Available online at Another great way to connect with us is to visit our website where you can find a variety of content to help answer your questions and to see some of the important issues discussed in today's culture. If you're interested in a specific subject, you can search our content by keyboard or you can look for content from a specific RZIM speaker. Be sure to visit our website or check us out on Facebook, Instagram or YouTube. This has been another episode of Let My People Think and it is your generous donations that make this radio program possible. If you'd like to learn more about RZIM or discover ways you can partner with us, be sure to call us or visit our website.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-03-10 10:48:54 / 2024-03-10 10:58:10 / 9

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