I've recently discovered "Member Care Radio" and I'm thinking -- awesome! If you or someone you care about is engaged in cross-cultural missions, you really ought to check this out. They state their goal as follows:
Our goal is to encourage cross-cultural workers in their places of calling so that they will stay effective and fulfilled. Isolation due to culture, language or religion can discourage otherwise healthy Christian expatriate workers. Missionaries, tentmakers, and Christians on foreign business assignment all need encouragement to keep the ‘salty’ kingdom outlook on life that Jesus encouraged us to pursue.
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, ex- cept to be thrown out and trampled by men. ” Matthew 5:13
Here's another good article that I feel it is important for Americans to read. Often, I have found that American Christians who volunteer among Bhutanese-Nepalis have a sense that the new refugee families will have almost nothing but love for their new country. However, as this article points out, the American dream is deceptive. Many who arrive quickly and frequently find themselves wanting to return to Nepal.
Another important point that this article brings out is the issue of suicide. Suicide is a concept that is deeply ingrained in the Nepali mythic structure -- that is, in the stories of the people. Take some time to watch a few Nepali films and you will see that suicide is a prominent theme, not nearly as taboo as subject as it is in American culture. Bhutanese-Nepalis often speak of suicide, of wanting to "go away from this world." Christ-followers who desire to bear witness to Christ among the Bhutanese-Nepalis must be mindful of this and know how to respond.
I've been given the opportunity to write a chapter on Cape Town 2010 for an upcoming missions history book and would love to get your feedback. My desire is to really capture what the significance of Cape Town appears to have been for the Kingdom of God and the advancement thereof. So, if you went to Cape Town, participated in a Global Link site, or have been engaging online through the Lausanne Global Conversation, I am very interested in getting your thoughts on this. Just leave your reflections in the comment section.
Still in the midst of researching and refreshing my memories of Cape Town 2010. Watched Lindsay Brown's message from the closing ceremony. I don't mind saying that it is one of the most potent and weighty sermons that I've ever heard. If you've not had a chance to listen to it, I believe it represents well what the Spirit is saying to the Church today.
Found several videos online and thought I'd just post them all here in one, with some comments.
The above video is from the Christ-centered worship portion of the program. These are some of the young adults and youth from TriEak Parmeshwar Mandali singing a worship song. The audio isn't very clear, but they did a great job.
This was one of the best performances of the night. These three ladies are (I think) from the Bhutanese community in Aurora. They perform here a traditional folk-style dance. So nice!
Finally, this is Narayan Gajmer from Chicago performing a song with the aspiring young Nepali rock band. Yes, that's a harmonica!
Just saw this video up on YouTube and thought I'd post it here. These boys are from the Bhutanese-Nepali community in Chicago and were kind enough to share this exciting dance at the Christmas program hosted by TriEak Parmeshwar Mandali. Enjoy!
I'll post more as I find them! Oh, and I don't know why the video says "Christmas Eve". The program was on Christmas day.
It made me want to cheer, but others got upset with Piper's attempt to bring together the old missions tension between "word" and "deed" ministries. Reflecting much on it today as I study and write on Cape Town 2010. Wondering if this might not have been one of the key moments of the Congress. Your thoughts?
Doing some research for my writing project on Cape Town 2010. Thought I'd share with you a bit while I do so. Here is what I just finished watching again. Piper's handling of the text here is sharp. I personally want to place more emphasis on the "with all the saints" phrase in v. 18. But, you know, they didn't ask me.
Today is the 2nd (of 12) day of Christmas and in our home, our annual tradition of moving the wise men towards the manger has begun. We like this little way of extending the Christmas season and centering it more on Christ -- and our kids love it. As usual, we're making use of a really great picture book called The Real 12 Days of Christmasby Helen Haidle. The book combines great, colorful pictures with an explanation behind the Christ-centered symbolism of the famous "12 Days of Christmas" song. Today, for example, we read about the two turtledoves which remind us of the sacrifice that Mary and Joseph presented at the temple after Christ's birth in accordance with the Law of Moses.
So, you may want to pick up your copy of the book. If not, still plan to use these "days of Christmas" as an opportunity to meditate on the incarnation with your family.
Here's the first video that has appeared on YouTube from our recent Bhutanese-Nepali Christmas program hosted by TriEak Parmeshwar Mandali in Glen Ellyn, IL. This performance is by Dhanisha from Rochester, New York. The dance is a great example of a traditional Nepali folk song. Enjoy!
Again, thanks to all for praying for the program. It was a big success. We had probably 200 or so people in attendance from all over Chicagoland and beyond. The program was 3-4 hours of singing, dancing, drama, food, games, and sharing a message of who Jesus Christ is. I will post more video as it becomes available.
Greetings friends, followers, readers and web crawlers! Many of us involved in the Lausanne Movement received a email message from Doug Birdsall, the Executive Chair of the movement. Doug has provided a helpful update on where things stand right now and where we're headed, which is great. However, he's also laid out the financial needs that remain in the wake of Cape Town 2010. I'm reposting Doug's letter below because I'm a poor, lowly little cross-cultural missionary who himself needs all of you to send financial support.
And that's true. We really don't bring it up often, but Trinity International Baptist Mission needs your support. We are doing a tremendous amount of Kingdom work on a shoestring budget -- which is as it should be. However, we could do so much more. There is so much more to do. Your financial gifts could go a long way in helping us to bring the hope and wholeness of Christ to the nations here in Chicagoland and beyond.
So, do take time to read Doug's request below and I strongly encourage you to give to the Lausanne Movement. I am so convinced that the work of Lausanne is important to Christ's mission in the world that I will say this- If you can only give to one ministry this Christmas, don't give to us. Give to Lausanne. I really mean that. Now, on to Doug's letter:
Thank you for your investment in advancing God’s Kingdom through your support of The Lausanne Movement and Cape Town 2010: The Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization.
This Congress, perhaps the widest and most diverse gathering of Christians ever held in the history of the Church, drew 4,200 selected participants from 198 nations to Cape Town. Leaders from around the world, unable to be in Cape Town, also participated through GlobaLink sites and the Lausanne Global Conversation. Many of the participants stated that the Congress provided them with new vision, inspiration and courage for their ministries and businesses—and because of the global nature of the gathering, a little slice of heaven! By God’s grace and His provision of an excellent technical team, we overcame fierce attacks on our websites by cyber-hackers who did not want the world to see what God was doing in Cape Town.
The first part of the Cape Town Commitment has been well received by the global church (read part one here: http://conversation.lausanne.org/en/conversations/detail/11544). The Statement Working Group, led by Dr. Chris Wright, will complete part two in the next few weeks. The first six months of 2011 are already full for Lindsay Brown, Lausanne International Director, and me as we respond to invitations to participate in consultations and conferences around the world which have been energized by Cape Town 2010.
We are eager to build on the global momentum that was generated by Cape Town 2010.
However, we must quickly resolve one issue before we can lay hold of the opportunities that are on the horizon. We must raise US$2 million in the next two weeks so that Lausanne can end the year with all bills paid and all financial commitments fulfilled.
Let me offer a word of explanation. Prior to the Congress, nearly US$15.5 million had been given. At the time the Congress opened, we needed just US$1.024 million (in addition to pending pledges) for the budget to be fully subscribed. During the week of the Congress, additional gifts of just over US$200,000 were received leaving us with a balance of approximately US$800,000. We anticipated that this gap would be covered by additional gifts and by an expected significant refund of the South Africa Valued Added Tax (VAT).
Several factors have contributed to significant additional costs of over US$1 million that we are now facing:
We were assessed more VAT than anticipated and our VAT refund was reduced by nearly two thirds to just US$175,000.
Planning a global Congress means that we are also subject to international currency exchanges. During the month of the Congress the US dollar hit a three-year low against the South African Rand, resulting in a currency exchange loss of US$486,000. Ouch!
Wehad approximately 300 invited participants come to the Congress who had not completed their registration, so we were not expecting them to attend. The majority were from very poor countries in Francophone Africa and South Asia where they have limited Internet access (meaning we weren’t able to send and receive regular communication from them) and where their culture does not emphasize long-term planning horizons. Though we had not anticipated their coming we did accommodate them, paying for hotels and local transportation which added nearly US$300,000 to our costs. While this was a major increase in expense for Lausanne, it was a great encouragement to these dear brothers and sisters in Christ and a strategic Kingdom investment in the leadership in that part of the world, as well as a significant blessing to the global body of Christ to have them in attendance.
We also experienced US$500,000 in extra costs to cover additional furniture and meals due to the higher number of participants and the increased technology expenditures incurred in responding to the cyber-attacks on our websites.
All of these factors combined have placed us in a situation with a steep financial hill to climb. However, we have a great community of deeply committed friends around the world. Rich Stearns, President of World Vision US, when making his emergency gift, had this to say, “[Cape Town 2010] was such an important event for the Church of Jesus Christ and the bills must not go unpaid.”
I am writing to ask you to pray with me about this critical financial need and to consider making a special year-end gift to Lausanne. Would you please be in prayer that God would provide through His people? I am sure we will reach the summit in a short time through a concerted global effort.
At this moment in time, I believe it is safe to say that The Lausanne Movement is the most dynamic movement in the world for the future of world evangelization and global Christianity. We have an opportunity to further strengthen the Church so that it can be a source of hope and reconciliation in the decades to come. Your gift can help us in this significant opportunity.
While in Cape Town for the Lausanne Congress, there were numerous individuals and groups that distributed information of different types. This was a basically unofficial activity that didn't necessarily reflect views being put forth by the Lausanne Movement. One of those pieces was an 8-page document entitled "Missionary Activity and Human Rights: Recommended Ground Rules for Missionary Activity." The piece was produced by The Oslo Coalition on Freedom of Religion or Belief. I excitedly snatched it up because I thought that the idea of a code of ethics for missions was a good one.
I have since gone through the document a few times and have found that while in some places it has value, it ultimately doesn't seek to reflect a Biblical world view and doesn't hold the extension of Christ's Kingdom and fame among the nations as its primary impetus. At best, the document provides something of a starting point upon which to build, but it is major reconstruction that is needed and not just fine tuning. If anyone knows of a truly Christian document like this, do tell. Short of that, I feel the Lausanne Covenant and Manila Manifesto, while not seeking to do exactly the same thing, are far superior to the Oslo statement (we are all anxiously awaiting the Cape Town Commitment).
Today, I did want to highlight one article that I found especially objectionable in the Oslo statement. It comes at part 2.1.2 bullet #2:
"The missionary organization should be careful in adopting terminology, rituals and customs from other religions, so as not to create misunderstandings about its identity. It should not attempt to achieve acceptance through adopting the outward appearance of other religions."
I find this to be a clear anti-contextualization statement that reflects a fundamental ignorance of issues related to culture, contextualization, and missiology in general. Let me explain a bit.
1. On the notion of "adopting" terms, rituals, and customs "from" other religions -- Here is where the ignorance about culture and religion becomes clear. The writers seem to be under the impression that certain religions can claim a kind of ownership over terminology, rituals or customs. But this is utterly false. Whether we're speaking of circumcision or Sanskrit, incense or images, such things must not be considered the domain of any single religious group. Rather, these are inherently communication tools - signs, symbols, and ceremonies that are designed to carry and express meaning from person to person and person to God. One should not assume that a different understanding of the nature of God requires a different means of communication. That is, perhaps my view changes as to which Scripture is truly divine in origin - from say the Vedas to the Bible. I may nevertheless still find that the use of Sanskrit mantras is the best means of memorizing and meditating upon that scripture.
2. On the notion of creating "misunderstandings about its identity" -- First, this phrase is somewhat demeaning. It seems to communicate the image of a conniving and cunning Western missionary who sinisterly dupes the uneducated and unsophisticated savages, tricking them into religious conversion. I have not found my non-Western friends to be so easily confused. What is more, the pursuit of contextualization, far from being a strategy to confuse, is motivated fundamentally by a desire to improve and clarify communication. By avoiding the unnecessary and unbiblical introduction of foreign religious externals, missionaries are better able to locate Christian identity where it belongs - in the heart.
3. On adopting the "outward appearance" -- Contextualization is not rooted in an attempt to adopt the outward appearance of another religion. Rather, it is rooted in the imitation of Christ's incarnation. That is, the contextualizer seeks, as far as is possible, to dwell among a particular cultural context as a full member of that culture. This has implications for the way one dresses, eats, relates to others, etc. But it also has tremendous implications for the way one expresses, practices, and communicates the Christian faith. To the unsophisticated eye, this may look like a missionary is adopting the "outward appearance" of Islam, Hinduism, or whatever. But the true, Christ-imitating contextualizer is rather seeking to adopt a people as his or her own including their means of verbal and non-verbal, spatial, ritual, corporate, individual, and chronological communication. This is done so as to more faithfully and clearly communicate the hope and wholeness of Jesus Christ.
Many thanks for reading. I would sincerely enjoy reading your feedback in the comment section. Blessings!
Here's a good and helpful link for any of you that are using Operation World in your church or small group. If you aren't using Operation World, I would love for you to include in the comment section how you are corporately praying for the nations.
This past Sunday, I had the privilege of preaching/presenting our ministry to the great people at Grand Avenue Baptist Church in Ames, Iowa. In preparing for this time, I decided that it was an ideal opportunity for me to begin a process of exploring what the Scripture has to say about the global human diaspora.
I said the "global human diaspora." My friend Sadiri Joy Tira refers to this phenomenon as "scattered people" and has provided the following explanation:
The term “diaspora” is originally a Greek word referring to the Jewish dispersion, i.e. to the scattering of Jews outside Palestine (Leviticus 26:33; Deuteronomy 28:64; Ezekiel 36:19) and also refers to the scattering of Christians of the early Church in the New Testament (Acts 8:1, 4; 11:19). Over the centuries, the term “diaspora” has been added to contemporary vocabulary in reference to the People on the Move who will cross national borders, i.e. the scattered peoples. Other terms such as “migration,” “emigration” and “immigration” have been used in reference to People on the Move.
So, the diaspora consists of Punjabi fabric store owners in Hong Kong and Tibetan day laborers in Korea; the Filipino house maid in Singapore and her sister in Qatar; the homeless Mongolian man who hangs out in Little India (Chicago) and the Algerian woman we met in Ames, Iowa. It is refugees, immigrants (documented and otherwise), international students, professionals and even slaves. It is, as Joy says, the scattered people of the world. It is an old but an increasingly important anthropological and, I believe, missiological phenomenon that Christ-followers must take very seriously.
When I was preaching in Ames last weekend, my focus was on answering the question, "Is this scattering a negative or a positive thing from a Biblical perspective?" My thinking is that when we do consider the phenomenon of diaspora, we tend to think of it as an essentially negative thing. The portraits we have of it in Scripture, like the Babylonian Exile or the Tower of Babel, seem only to be acts of judgment. But I am beginning to see that upon closer examination, while judgment is indeed an important factor to consider in understanding these events, the scattering itself is a basically good thing. Let me explain.
When God created the first humans, he commanded them to "be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth" (Gen. 1:28). Humanity had no right to simply stay in one place. God desired that men and women would scatter, filling the entire planet with divine image-bearers. So important was this command, that when Noah and his family exited the ark, God repeated it -- "Fill the earth," He said (Gen. 9:7). It is only in light of this command that we can really understand the events of Genesis 11.
I think ordinarily when American Christians interact with the story of the Tower of Babel, they read it as a story of human pride and self-dependence. The notion of "making a name for ourselves" is what really stands out. When God acts, confusing the language and scattering the people, we tend to see this judgment against pride. But if we read it in light of the "fill the earth" command, we can see something else at work.
This is the beauty of preparing weekly sermons on old, familiar Bible stories for an audience for whom the stories are totally new. My Bhutanese-Nepali brothers and sisters do not bring the same "pre-understanding" to the text that I do. As a result, they see things that I don't. In this case, they were able to easily see why the people of Genesis 11 wanted to "make a name for themselves." For someone born in Bhutan and forced to flee to makeshift refugee camps in Nepal, who lived 17-20 years in those camps before relocating to the altogether foreign surroundings of suburban Chicago, there is only one phrase that holds the key to this story -- "lest we be scattered throughout the whole earth" (Gen. 11:4).
The builders of the tower were not motivated by pride as much as they were motivated by a desire to not be scattered. The tower to be built by this mass of people united in language, culture, and geography was to stand for all generations as powerful centering symbol that was intended to prevent the frightening prospects of dispersion -- the diaspora that God intended from the beginning. When God intervened, confusing the language and scattering the people, we should note that an important element of judgment is there. However, the end result was the accomplishment of God's original intent, the filling of the earth with His image-bearers.
So, if we take off our anthropological glasses for a moment (nice as they are), and put on our missiological ones, we arrive at a different kind of definition for the global human diaspora:
The phenomenon of the global human diaspora is God's activity of purposefully scattering His image-bearers around the world in order to gather disciples to Himself from every people, nation, tribe, and tongue.
Paul articulates this nicely in his sermon to the Athenians:
"From one man, [God] made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us." (Acts 17:26-27)
So, there is a latent call here in the knowledge that the diaspora is a part of God's sovereign plan of redemption. And that call is to resist that tower-building tendency in us--to resist the fear of otherness and that which is unknown, to resist the urge to do something other than sojourn here, to never forget that we are aliens and strangers here called to intentionally scatter and gather.
The following is a reading plan that I developed for some newer disciples / followers of Jesus to help them get a good picture of what is going on in Scripture from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22.Our English Bibles do not follow a clear chronological order (particularly in the Old Testament), so many people who read the Bible straight through aren’t able to, say, summarize the Biblical narrative as a whole.This is a bit of a problem as I believe that developing a healthy understanding of the Bible’s story (and my/your place in it) is an essential component of discipleship.
I post this here because I want you to be able to make use of it if you find it helpful in your personal discipleship or in your relationships with others.You’ll notice that the plan focuses mostly on narrative while giving only a brief sampling of other genres.In most cases, I’ve also provided a very brief description of the content as a way to introduce someone to the material.You will likely want to make adjustments here and there in order to fit this plan to your disciple-making context.
A Chronological Survey of the Whole Biblical Narrative
Name of Book
Chapters to Read
This is a law book that emphasizes that the Israelites were to be a holy people.You may want to skim through some of this.To get a taste of what’s going on in the book read: 8-10, 18, 20, 22-24, 26.Some of the details here will help you understand what is going on later in the Bible.
This book contains census information and laws with some stories here and there.To get a good picture of this book, read:6, 9-17, 20-25, 27, 30-36.
The book is essentially several sermons preached by Moses to the Israelites at the end of his life.It is called “the second reading of the Law” because Moses goes over all the material in Leviticus again since a new generation who has never heard it has arisen.I suggest reading: 1-13, 16-17, 20, 26-34.
1-11, 14, 22-24 (The other chapters basically describe how the land was divided among the twelve tribes of Israel.)
1 & 2 Chronicles
You can skim through both these books.They cover the same information as in 1&2 Kings.If there are particular people—for example, David—that you are interested in, you can read those parts more thoroughly and thus get a few more details that you didn’t get before.
At the end of 2 Kings (and 2 Chronicles) the people of Israel enter the period of their history known as the Exile.The book following 2 Chronicles (Ezra), however, picks up their story after the Exile.To get an idea of what life was like during the Exile you’ll want to read chapters 1-12 of Daniel first.
1-10 (This book picks up the story after the Israelites return from exile.)
1-13 (This book continues the story after the Israelites return from exile.)
1-10 (Gives some information about the Jews who did not return to the promised land after the Exile.)
Much more remains in the Old Testament that you have not read.Really famous books such as Psalms, Proverbs, and Jonah remain as well as many other that are very important.I would suggest, however, moving on to the New Testament at this point.Between the end of Nehemiah and the beginning of the New Testament (Matthew) is a gap of about 350-400 years that the Bible says little about.Historically, we know that the Persians (who ruled the world during the period described in Ezra and Nehemiah) were soon defeated by the Alexander the Great and the Greeks.Sometime later, the Romans became the dominating world power.At the beginning of the New Testament period, Rome was in control of all the known world including the regions of Judea and Galilee where Jesus spent most of his earthly life.
Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John
These books, known as the four “Gospels” all describe the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus.They are four different people giving different perspectives (think of reading four different biographies about the same person).Reading them all will help you to develop a really good picture of Jesus’ life.
1-28 tell the story of the first followers of Jesus Christ after his ascension and how God began to accomplish his global mission of redemption through them.
Upon completing Acts, I would encourage a person to review the whole Biblical narrative with a mentor or spiritual leader/director*.Can they summarize the essential elements of the Bible’s story?If so, then a good next step would be for them to go back into the Old Testament and begin reading the books they skipped or skimmed.Make sure they have access to Biblical tools that will allow them to place whatever book they are reading into the larger Biblical narrative.That is, they need to be able to find out that Haggai was written to the Jews after the Exile before they can begin to really appreciate the contents of the book (many English Bibles have basic introductions that will work fine, but you shouldn’t assume that non-English translations have these—in any case, here is a concise set of introductions that you can point people to).
[* I have found a film calledThe Hope to be quite a good resource for helping disciples summarize the Bible’s story.I don’t like everything in the movie (they make a few theological leaps that I wouldn’t make), but I love the concept and think the execution isn’t bad.What is more, the film is available in a variety of languages from their website.]