Friday, August 27, 2010

Towards a Missional View of the Workplace

Today I'd like to begin by commending to you the Lausanne Advance Paper entitled "People at Work: Preparing to be the Whole Church" by Willy Kotiuga. Kotiuga has provided the Church with a stimulating article that highlights an extraordinarily important topic -- namely, what does it mean to be a follower of Christ in the workplace. This was a particularly helpful read for me as it forced me to think through the kind of discipleship that I should be engaged in as a pastor of Christ-followers who are spending 40+ hours each week in a "secular" work environment. Thus so much of their faith, their imitation of Christ, their spiritual growth, and their participation in God's mission will take place there. I must confess that the bulk of my discipleship is focused on what happens in the home and in the community. Almost none on the workplace. Somewhat subconsciously, I have set those 40 hours to one side -- as something that is essentially in the way of real life. Kotigua has helped me to recognize anew that such is not the case. The time Christ-followers spend at work is and ought to be of significant value for God's Kingdom and purposes. I have a responsibility as leader in the Church to equip God's people to engage fully their workplace with the message of Jesus Christ.

Stages of Discipleship for Christ-followers who are in the Workplace:

Perhaps it is too daunting a task to think in terms of transforming believers who are not missionally engaged at their workplaces into those who are. It is for me anyway. In particular, I'm thinking about the many Bhutanese-Nepalis that I pastor who work at various factories and warehouses around the Chicago suburbs. I recognize that these are mostly new believers who work alongside non-believers from their own cultural background as well as other people from many nations. To simply tell them to become missional at work is just too far a leap. I want to suggest instead some rather loose "stages" of discipleship. When I consider this, it seems much more doable. Allow me to explain:

1. Non-believer -- Of course, we must begin here. This is simply an individual at a workplace who does not follow Jesus Christ. My discipleship goal with them is share the message of Jesus with them.

2. Disconnected Disciple -- This, I think, is where I think a lot of Christians are. Kotiuga speaks a lot about the fact that many followers of Christ do not make the connection in their minds and hearts between their faith in Christ and their work. He points out that many see work as a "necessary evil" that essentially gets in the way of their Christian life. He points out a "gap" between theology and praxis and a disassociation between church and work. For those at this stage, I must help them to see that their faith is indeed tremendously relevant to their work. Think of the role of Mordecai in Esther's life to help her realize that her faith in God was deeply relevant to her role as queen.

3. The Disciple of Christ-like Character -- At this 3rd stage, we see followers of Jesus who have become convinced that their faith is relevant to their work. As a result, these disciples strongly desire to imitate the character of Christ in the workplace. My responsibility at this point is to help them to grow in areas of personal integrity, showing love and kindness towards others, being respectful towards those in authority, abstaining from inappropriate behavior that co-workers may commonly engage in, maintaining a good attitude about work, and more. Think of people like Rebekah (Gen. 24), Boaz (Ruth 2), and Uriah (2 Sam. 11) whose faith in God was manifest in acts of kindness, generosity, self-control, and integrity in their work.

4. The Disciple of Excellence -- As one matures in their imitation of Christ's character in the workplace, very naturally, they will find themselves pursuing excellence in their work. In the spirit of Joseph in Egypt, they will become increasingly convince that their relationship with God should be reflected in the level of care, dedication, and energy that they put towards their job. My responsibility at this point is to encourage this as Paul did when he exhorted the Colossians, "Whatever you do, work heartily as to the Lord and not to men" (Col. 3:23). And, like Joseph, the disciple at this stage cares little about the nature of the work (whether slave, prisoner, or governor), but seeks excellence in each task.

5. Missional Disciple -- Ultimately, spiritual growth will lead to mission. This, of course, is the goal we started out with. I want to see followers of Christ whom I pastor to become fully engaged as ambassadors of His in their workplaces. As it was in Daniel's case, I think we will see that the disciple who is striving to imitate Christ and pursue excellence at work will experience natural opportunities to share their faith with others. However, this may not happen often or at all. I must disciple people at this stage in their maturity to start thinking and behaving missionally at their workplace. They must begin to (1) pray for co-workers, supervisors, clients, and others; they must find opportunities to (2) worship and read the Scripture at work individually and with other Christians (if there are any); (3) they must enter into authentic relationships with those who don't know Christ and be faithful to share the gospel in the context of those friendships; (4) they must seek to "plant" the Church in that workplace in some way. "Planting" the Church at the workplace can be as simple as praying regularly with another Christ-follower. In other cases starting a weekly Bible study during a lunch break or actually planting a full-fledged church at the workplace may be more appropriate. The point is to create communities of faith for Christ-followers at that workplace. It is important for us to move away from the notion that we must invite our co-workers to "come to our church". Instead, we recognize that God has sent the Church (i.e. me and you) to them in order to be the Church for them.

Okay, I hope that is as helpful to you as it has been to me. Practically, I'm thinking through these things as a way to evaluate where specific people in my congregation are and how I can help move them on to the next stage of maturity. Again, don't forget to check out Kotiuga's article. And, I'd love to read your comments. In particular, if you can think of a stage in there that I might be overlooking, please share that in the comment section.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Towards a Missional View of the Workplace

Today I'd like to begin by commending to you the Lausanne Advance Paper entitled "People at Work: Preparing to be the Whole Church" by Willy Kotiuga. Kotiuga has provided the Church with a stimulating article that highlights an extraordinarily important topic -- namely, what does it mean to be a follower of Christ in the workplace.  This was a particularly helpful read for me as it forced me to think through the kind

of discipleship that I should be engaged in as a pastor of Christ-followers who are spending 40+ hours each week in a "secular" work environment.  Thus so much of their faith, their imitation of Christ, their spiritual growth, and their participation in God's mission will take place there. I must confess that the bulk of my discipleship is focused on what happens in the home and in the community. Almost none on the workplace. Somewhat subconsciously, I have set those 40 hours to one side -- as something that is essentially in the way of real life. Kotigua has helped me to recognize anew that such is not the case.  The time Christ-followers spend at work is and ought to be of significant value for God's Kingdom and purposes.  I have a responsibility as leader in the Church to equip God's people to engage fully their workplace with the message of Jesus Christ.

Stages of Discipleship for Christ-followers who are in the Workplace:
Perhaps it is too daunting a task to think in terms of transforming believers who are not missionally engaged at their workplaces into those who are.  It is for me anyway.  In particular, I'm thinking about the many Bhutanese-Nepalis that I pastor who work at various factories and warehouses around the Chicago suburbs.  I recognize that these are mostly new believers who work alongside non-believers from their own cultural background as well as other people from many nations.  To simply tell them to become missional at work is just too far a leap.  I want to suggest instead some rather loose "stages" of discipleship.  When I consider this, it seems much more doable.  Allow me to explain:

1. Non-believer -- Of course, we must begin here. This is simply an individual at a workplace who does not follow Jesus Christ.  My discipleship goal with them is share the message of Jesus with them.

2.  Disconnected Disciple -- This, I think, is where I think a lot of Christians are.  Kotiuga speaks a lot about the fact that many followers of Christ do not make the connection in their minds and hearts between their faith in Christ and their work.  He points out that many see work as a "necessary evil" that essentially gets in the way of their Christian life. He points out a "gap" between theology and praxis and a disassociation between church and work. For those at this stage, I must help them to see that their faith is indeed tremendously relevant to their work.  Think of the role of Mordecai in Esther's life to help her realize that her faith in God was deeply relevant to her role as queen.

3. The Disciple of Christ-like Character -- At this 3rd stage, we see followers of Jesus who have become convinced that their faith is relevant to their work.  As a result, these disciples strongly desire to imitate the character of Christ in the workplace.  My responsibility at this point is to help them to grow in areas of personal integrity, showing love and kindness towards others, being respectful towards those in authority, abstaining from inappropriate behavior that co-workers may commonly engage in, maintaining a good attitude about work, and more.  Think of people like Rebekah (Gen. 24), Boaz (Ruth 2), and Uriah (2 Sam. 11) whose faith in God was manifest in acts of kindness, generosity, self-control, and integrity in their work.

4. The Disciple of Excellence -- As one matures in their imitation of Christ's character in the workplace, very naturally, they will find themselves pursuing excellence in their work.  In the spirit of Joseph in Egypt, they will become increasingly convince that their relationship with God should be reflected in the level of care, dedication, and energy that they put towards their job.  My responsibility at this point is to encourage this as Paul did when he exhorted the Colossians, "Whatever you do, work heartily as to the Lord and not to men" (Col. 3:23).  And, like Joseph, the disciple at this stage cares little about the nature of the work (whether slave, prisoner, or governor), but seeks excellence in each task.

5. Missional Disciple -- Ultimately, spiritual growth will lead to mission.  This, of course, is the goal we started out with.  I want to see followers of Christ whom I pastor to become fully engaged as ambassadors of His in their workplaces.  As it was often in Daniel's case, I think often we will see that the disciple who is strive to imitate Christ and pursue excellence at work will experience natural opportunities to share their faith with others.  However, this may not happen often or at all.  I must disciple people at this stage in their maturity to start thinking and behaving missionally at their workplace.  They must begin to (1) pray for co-workers, supervisors, clients, and others; they must find opportunities to (2) worship and read the Scripture at work; (3) they must enter into authentic relationships with those who don't know Christ and be faithful to share their faith in the context of those friendships; (4) they must seek to "plant" the Church in that workplace in some way.  "Planting" the Church at the workplace can be as simple as praying regularly with another Christ-follower.  In other cases starting a weekly Bible study during a lunch break or actually planting a full-fledged church at the workplace may be more appropriate.  The point is to create communities of faith for Christ-followers at that workplace.  It is important for us to move away from the notion that we must invite our co-workers to "come to our church".  Instead, we recognize that God has sent the Church (i.e. me and you) to them in order to be the Church for them.

Okay, I hope that is as helpful to you as it has been to me.  Practically, I'm thinking through these things as a way to evaluate where specific people in my congregation are and how I can help move them on to the next stage of maturity.  Again, don't forget to check out Kotiuga's article.  And, I'd love to read your comments.  In particular, if you can think of a stage in there that I might be overlooking, please share that in the comment section.

Friday, August 20, 2010

YouTube - James White "Discussion" with Ehteshaam Gulam

The cross-examination was aaaaamazing! What a joke! I have a deep respect for Dr. White's ability to not throw anything at Gulam. Did this guy just wander in off the street? I mean wow!

Best quote from Gulam, "I wish I had more substance in my presentation." Hey, you and me both, buddy.

YouTube - James White "Discussion" with Ehteshaam Gulam

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Principles of Dharma in Manu & Vedic Texts

Just doing some work and noticed something in need of correction. The below link has the following quote:

"Centuries before the revelation of the Ten Commandments to Moses by God as described in the Old Testament, the Vedic Seer Adi-Manu, the first Man created by Brahma to civilize the world, has described the ten 'attributes of Dharma.'"

However, it generally agreed that the Manusmriti ( मनुस्मृति) to which this "Hindu Voice" refers dates from 200 BC at the earliest (or as late as AD 200).* Even the earliest date of 200 BC is significantly post-Old Testament which was already translated into Greek by that time. The later dating is even post-New Testament.

Note that by this I don't intend to dispute the value of the so-called "10 principles of Dharma" elucidated in the Manusmrti, but rather to challenge the notion that they predate the 10 Commandments of the Torah (Old Testament).

Here's the link:

10 Principles of Dharma enunciated in Manu Smriti: "Patience, forgiveness, self-control, non-stealing, cleanliness and purity, restraint over the senses, wisdom, knowledge, truth and calmness (UnitedHinduFront@hotmail.com)

Actually, for the one who is interested in considering Dharmic principles, I would refer them to the Atharva Veda (12-1-1) (which, by the way, is also later than the Torah). The AV presents 6 principles of Dharma:

1. Satya (Truth)
2. Rta (eternal justice)
3. Diksa (communion)
4. Tapas (austerity)
5. Brahman (prayer)
6. Yajna (sacrifice)

Consideration of these principles is vital in understanding the nature of God, our status as fallen and separated from Him, and our need for God to graciously provide salvation. One may then meditate upon how Sanantan Putra, Prabhu Sri Yeshu, is the provision of God for the salvation of all peoples -- how these six principles are fulfilled in Sri Yeshu.

Blessings.



* Avari, p. 142; Flood (1996), p. 56; Keay, p. 103; Hopkins, p. 74; Kulke and Rothermund, p. 85; Encyclopedia Britannica Concise, retrieved 2007-06-24

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Bible or the Quran: Which is God's Word

Link to a great video of Sam Shamoun v. Shabir Ally

Answering Muslims: Sam Shamoun vs. Shabir Ally: The Bible or the Qur'...: "Thanks to Nazam for forwarding the link."

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Last Airbender- Shyamalan's Fall from Grace

Without hesitation, I can say that "The Last Airbender" was the worst movie I've seen in a long, long time. M. Night Shyamalan, what happened to you, buddy? He's fallen a long way from "The Sixth Sense" which was an ingenious retelling of the pey myth contextualized for an American audience (which I actually recommend to people who are seeking to understand Folk Hinduism better). Shyamalan's attempt to produce a Middle Earth-type franchise just makes me want to die. Yes, sadly, this film sets itself up to be the first in a series. We can only hope that the producers wise up and scrap the sequels or, dare I say, Shyamalan.

Actually, it pains me to say that, because I've always been something of a Shyamalan fan. I even liked "Unbreakable." But, he's driven off a cliff on this last offering, and I can't go there with him.

And, someone needs to say this, I used to think it was kind of clever when Shyamalan would make little cameos in his films. It made for a fun "Where's Waldo" type of experience. But, now he's just kind of forcing himself on us by taking on major roles. Not nearly as fun.

So, moral of the story, spending lots of money on special effects, sets, and imagery of vast beautiful landscapes does not make your film the Lord of the Rings. Now, just for fun, here's a few others giving their review of Airbender:



The Last Airbender | Trailer & Official Movie Site | Now Playing In 3D

Friday, August 6, 2010

Keong Racun & Jesus is a Friend of Mine

I wanted to post this here because I am simply intrigued by what people really respond to on the internet nowadays. This simply video of two Indonesian teeny-boppers lip-syncing to a song about a poisonous snail has grabbed nearly 3 million views in just over a month. It really illustrates the power of Web 2.0, social media, etc.



And what is the effect. Well, I suppose it is an essentially trivial one. However, we may at least say that these two girls have endeared themselves to hundreds of thousands of people. Moreover, they've not hurt the popularity of the song - effectively making a locally known song an international hit.
Compare that with the infamous "Jesus is a Friend of Mine" (approaching 4 million hits on YouTube). In this case, another mega-viral video of a silly song. However, the effect has been basically negative from the perspective of God's Kingdom. The video inspires mockery of the performers, the song itself, and probably even of Jesus himself.



I guess in this I am just wondering if there is a way for followers of Christ to truly seize social media, Web 2.0, etc for the promotion of the Kingdom of God. I'm wondering how to call on young Christians especially to consider the fact that they have the potential for such tremendous impact (just ask Sinta and Jojo). To seek to utilize that potential fully for Christ's glory among the nations.
My generation is the one that has seen the internet develop from being essentially non-existent to what it is today -- all-consuming. It is easy for me to note the negatives. However, I doubt the Church has even begun to fully realize the potential. I can't quite put my finger on it myself, but I'm telling you -- Sinta and Jojo are on to something.

For more thoughts on this, I recommend checking out the Lausanne Advance Paper on Kingdom Stewardship that has a very helpful section on Web 2.0 and what it means for the global Church.

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