Newsletter #471 – Glocalization

Recently I taught a seminary course on global leadership. Most of the students were successful senior pastors who knew about coaching and missions so I read some textbooks that were used in their other courses. Glocalization, by Bob Roberts, Jr. is one of those books. It reminded me that coaches, counselors, academics, business people and other leaders can learn from the experiences of pioneers in global and local missions. Here are some highlights:

  • Glocalization is a term indicating that we cannot divorce global perspectives from what happens in local settings.  No longer do knowledgeable leaders separate what happens locally from what’s global.
  • Quickly fading is the old model of the white, Western expert or church group going abroad to tell others what to believe, how to do church and how to lead. More effective is going as partners and servants with pre-trip knowledge of the places we will visit and an ability to relate cross-culturally, in part based on doing this in our own neighborhoods.  “We must leave behind models of the church [or of leadership and education] that focus on a superstar speaker, singer, educator or shepherd. Instead glocalization involves everyone, center stage.”
  • Glocalization also builds longer-term cross-cultural relationships instead of quick-trip in-and-out visits with no follow-up.
  • This is not the old social gospel that ignores a personal relationship with Christ. Glocalization involves learning about other cultures—their histories, worldviews and unique characteristics. Glocalization is showing respect and serving without promoting an agenda. Even so it lets others see that we are Christ followers, even when we go as business people, teachers or people helpers.
  • Roberts concludes his book by arguing that a danger of glocalization is in doing this with our own strength and creativity. Instead we need to accept and reflect the belief that the Holy Spirit is present wherever we go. He leads the way, giving us opportunities to teach, encourage and show that we are Christians by the way we live and relate (See Acts 11:19-26).

The glocalization concept inspires and motivates me. Increasingly I want it to characterize me. What about you? Please comment about your reaction.


  1. Gary, this blending of global and local has momentum. I’m involved in two events that are presenting glocal concepts/workshops – Ethnic America Network’s Summit in Spartanburg (April) and the Mission America Coalition Leadership Consultation in Denver this October.

    Our praying, caring and sharing must reach out to both our neighborhoods and the nations.


  2. I TOTALLY agree with your article, Gary. Having experienced grassroots church planting in a cross cultural context for almost 28 years I saw this change happen over time before my eyes. We had to adjust as missionaries to the change. It is much more effective to partner with the locals. It has it’s own challenges but it’s worth it. I’ve seen too many people coming out for short and long term with their own ‘agenda’s’. A book that I found really helpful in bringing the truth of this out is a book written by Greg Mortenson called “Three cups of Tea”. Although it isn’t a ‘Christian’ book there are some really good lessons we can learn from what he experienced in going into another culture and wanting to make a difference. We must know the heartbeat of the people we are going to serve. My last year or so on the field I was committed to coaching new workers in language/culture. Greg Thompson’s approach to language/culture learning is the BEST thing out there (The Growing Participator approach) which also relates STRONGLY to your point of the importance of learning the language and culture AMONG the people you are called too serve.
    Attitude is a KEY to all of this and being led by the Holy Spirit day by day.


  3. Gary, this so good! The term “glocalisation” spurs me on as well, particularly to link the global mission of Lausanne…”the whole church taking the whole gospel to the whole world”, with the local mission …thus…”the whole church, connecting with and understanding the whole person, within their whole system, takes the whole gospel to the whole world”. As you highlight, there needs to be indigenous, relational colaboration, rather than domination. The Capetown declaration ( ) highlights these issues with 4 core values: to be Christian (followers of Jesus, Holy Spirit led, as you say), wholistic, indigenous and collaborative. John Warlow, Australia.


  4. Thanks for sharing this resource Gary. I will purchase the book. This applies to my ministry to intercultural couples in France ( How can a foreign spouse actually become a long term expat? How can the national / local spouse actually show sensitivity to his or her foreign spouse? How can the local Church minister to them? Great challenges that involve the global with the local… Thank you for sharing.



  5. Dear Gary,
    What an interesting word: glocalization. I guess that is what we in SIL/WBT have been doing for the last few decades. We just did not have a name for it!

    The language group I worked with made a sudden turn to Christianity many years ago when the government threatened the whole state with imposing another religion on them that they did not want. When I returned to the country having had the training I needed, I was amazed at what the Lord had done. Many of course were just hangers-on, but there was Christian leadership in place, and it was their project to work on and tell me what to do and when 🙂 I was the exegetical expert only.


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