A theologian who I have read and respected for some time, Simon Chan, is interviewed in the June 2007 issue of Christianity Today. The theme of the piece is missional theology and one question in particular challenged some long held beliefs about ethnic churches. The interviewer, Andy Crouch, asks What does the Asian church have to contribute to our understanding of discipleship and mission?
I believe the traditional Asian family structure, with its emphasis on extended family and authority within the family, could be very helpful to the Western church and its tendency to atomize the Christian community into autonomous individuals. Western people have great difficulty understanding that a hierarchical structure is not necessarily opposed to individual freedom. They tend to think of hierarchy as an arrangement of domination. But that is not the way we see it in Asia.
There is much to be said for a restoration of the community ethic within our churches. Perhaps too much emphasis has been placed on the idea of our ‘personal’ relationship with Christ, damaging the notion that we are created for community and hindering our acquisition of the theology that derives from it.