Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Session Transcripts from Orlando 2011

In case you are interested in the goings on of Orlando 2011. Transcripts from the plenary sessions are now online here:

Mission America Coalition - Orlando 2011

The Chinese are Coming!

Check out this 1-hour BBC special on the amazing Chinese diaspora!

Church Planting: Reaching the Lost or Gathering the Saved?

Interesting article in CT about urban church planting, especially mega-churches. Take a look . . .

Urban Planters: Building off Believers? | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction: "David Fitch, associate professor of evangelical theology at Northern Baptist Seminary, believes churches like Tim Keller's megachurch, Redeemer Presbyterian, aren't reaching new converts, for the most part. Instead, they are attracting people who are already Christians who have moved to big cities like New York. They are bringing in the pre-churched—Christians looking for a new spiritual home.

'The attractional dynamics that often typif[y] these kinds of church planting depend largely on existing Christianized populations,' he wrote in a blog post in January."

Migration: The future of mobility | The Economist

Fascinating look at diaspora from an economic perspective...

Migration: The future of mobility | The Economist: "If rich countries were to admit enough migrants from poor countries to expand their own labour forces by a mere 3%, the world would be richer, according to one estimate, by $356 billion a year. Completely opening borders would add an astonishing $39 trillion over 25 years to the global economy. That is more than 500 times the amount the rich world spends on foreign aid each year. Migration is the most effective tool yet devised for reducing global poverty."

IRIN Asia | NEPAL: Bhutanese refugee census nears completion | Nepal | Aid Policy | Refugees/IDPs

Interesting . . .

IRIN Asia | NEPAL: Bhutanese refugee census nears completion | Nepal | Aid Policy | Refugees/IDPs: "KHUDUNABARI , 6 May 2007 (IRIN) - A joint exercise by the United Nations Refugees Agency (UNHCR) and the government of Nepal to register all Bhutanese refugees living in the country is closer to completion, say officials."

Monday, May 30, 2011

Danyabadko Satsang / Giving Thanks for Answered Prayer

About a week ago on our prayer blog, we asked you to pray for "G" who was seriously ill and in the hospital.  Since that time, much of our local Nepali community was mobilized to pray in the name of Jesus for this young woman, herself a fairly new Christ-follower.  At one point last week, some 30-40 Nepalis were at the hospital at the same time, praying in something like shifts for God to show His power.


Well, "G" is now well.  She left the hospital with a prescription for pain meds "as needed" and a recommendation to take some OTC vitamins. She's actually doing great and will, next Saturday, become the first graduate from an American high school in this community's history.  


Yesterday's worship gathering (we call them "satsangs") was thus a natural opportunity to simply pour our hearts out in thanksgiving to God through Christ.  2 Corinthians 1:10-11 deeply resonated with us:


"He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many."


There was laughing, tears of joy, and lots of dancing as we gave thanks.  The highlight was when young "G" stood up before all and shared her testimony of God's faithfulness.  Her faith had been immensely strengthened through this ordeal.  "Jesus saved my live," she declared.  "Nothing is impossible for Him."  She went on to movingly exhort those gathered, a mixture of Christ-followers and seekers, "When you have some problem, pray.  If God doesn't do anything, keep praying.  You cannot stop praying.  Nothing is impossible for our God!"


Well, of course, words will only take you so far.  To fully know what the Bhutanese-Nepali community of Wheaton, IL was trying to say to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit yesterday, you would need to be able to see the whirling and twirling, the bouncing and clapping, the smiling and laughing -- the dance.  God is doing a special thing here. I was so glad to see it expressed like this yesterday.  Please continue to uphold us in your prayers.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Christianity Today betrays shallow reporting/understanding of Bhutanese-Nepali Ministry Issues

Just alerted to an article in CT that highlighted some Bhutanese-Nepali work going on in Austin, TX. Here is the quote that stood out:

Migrating Ministry | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction: "Chris Merrell, pastor of global outreach at Austin's Hill Country Bible Church Northwest, describes Monger's (a Nepali pastor) evangelism style as bold and blunt: 'In his own culture, he knows how to speak to them and what their needs are on a totally different level than what any of us could. His lead-in is generally something like, 'Your name is not written in the Lamb's Book of Life. You're not alive.' He'll just start a conversation with that, and it's pretty fascinating to watch.'"

I've seen this with others and have been around after. I don't think I'd describe it as fascinating but rather sad. One wonders if Pastor Chris can speak Nepali and, if not, in what way he's able to assess fairly Pastor Monger's evangelism style. What is fascinating (as well as sad) is to listen to Hindus describe their encounters with Nepali Christians. Recently, I was in a city in North Carolina talking with a Nepali family that was very, very interested in Christ. They described how upon arriving in the US they were eager to learn about Jesus. However, they met a Nepali pastor-type person who shared with them in this so-called "bold and blunt" way. What they understood was that the pastor was calling them "Satan". From that moment, they decided that Christianity really wasn't the answer. I find it naive and irresponsible to simply assume that because someone is Nepali that he/she automatically "knows how to speak to them and what their needs are on a totally different level than what any of us could". I have very often discovered that this is not true.

At the end of the day, I felt that this article read more like a piece of promotional literature for a mission agency.  It is unfortunate that with the first Bhutanese-Nepali church in the U.S. just a few miles away from Christianity Today's offices they failed to do any better than just this little snapshot.  It is true that the Lord is doing a special work among these people but I fear that these kind of articles encourage Americans to stay basically uninvolved and rely on the "indigenous" leaders to do the work of mission.  This is a mistake in the context of diaspora when there are no longer any truly "indigenous" people.  All have entered the realm of liminality. American Christians must be called upon to pick up their cross and enter into this liminality -- to reverse assimilate.  Had we taken the approach highlighted in this article, we'd likely have only a bunch of quarreling Christians and no new Christ-followers.

Camping Claims He's Right & His Debate with James White

Here's probably my last bit of Camping "end-of-the-world" stuff.  First things first, he kind of issued a statement about his apocoflop.  It was a rather rambling thing that you'll never get through.  But here's part one anyway:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VwnCPMxjuD8

You can keep following on to parts 2-6 depending on your stamina.

Also, you may not be aware of the fact that James White actually debated Harold Camping a while back.  You can listen to those debates online now right here:

Part 1; Part 2

I also want to link here to James' "open letter" to Camping, calling him to repent. http://www.aomin.org/aoblog/index.php?itemid=4645

Okay, that's all.

Loaves and Fishes: How To by Alton Brown

In keeping with yesterday's barley loaves theme here's a fun video from Alton Brown:


Gospel Grains - Alton Brown from Jarrod Cecil on Vimeo.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Did you eat your barley loaves today?


Here is the full-version of my meditation on the feeding of the 5,000 story. You may be a bit unfamiliar with it. If so, you can read up on it in Matthew 14, Mark 6, Luke 10, and John 6. I hope you find this encouraging. 
So, I’m thinking about the whole narrative here and especially the perspective of the disciples as it all unfolds. First off, we know that they have just gotten back from what was essentially a short-term mission trip. They’ve been going through towns and villages, preaching repentance, casting out demons, and anointing with oil to perform healings. When they came back, they were all very excited. They began reporting to Jesus all that they had seen and done. Meanwhile people were still coming to them. In fact, so many people where coming and going that the disciples were skipping meals in order to meet the needs of the crowds. And just when this rapidly growing revival was really starting to get going, Jesus broke in. Word had come to him at some point that John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin, had been executed – no doubt, this deeply affected Jesus. So, in the midst of the craziness, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s get out of here for awhile. You guys come with me to a quiet place, we’ll rest and eat.” So they left the revival – this powerful Messianic movement – to take a day off.
It wasn’t to be however. By the time they had anchored their boat at the “lonely place,” the crowds had found them. Now it seemed there were more people than ever. Thousands had gathered, bringing their sick with them. The weary disciples must have sighed when Jesus, filled with compassion, began healing and teaching. But he had looked at that crowd with a look the disciples had seen before – Jesus had been deeply moved. He saw a “shepherdless” sheep. “Here we go again,” the disciples must have thought.
Well, of course Jesus did and said amazing things as he ministered to the crowd all that day. The busy disciples grew more exhausted with every passing hour, but they couldn’t help but feel the excitement as well. Soon, the sun began to make its move towards the western horizon and the disciples agreed that it was time to wrap things up. Someone managed to pull Jesus aside for a minute to suggest that he send the crowds away to the surrounding towns and villages to find food and shelter.
And then, Jesus threw them all for a loop again, “They don’t need to go away. You give them something to eat.” I wonder if at this point the disciples began to try to figure this whole thing out. It seems they counted the people, scouted for food, and calculated the cost of feeding the vast multitude. Andrew had found the boy with the loaves and fish. Phillip had determined the budget was too small to provide such a meal. Their consensus? Nope. This can’t be done. Jesus has finally lost it.
And so, Jesus put them to work again. Now they were organizing the masses, bunching them up in groups of 50 or 100, getting them to sit down together on the grass. All of the sudden, the sheep didn’t seem so “shepherdless.” Here they were on a quiet day, in a lonely and beautiful hillside overlooking the Sea of Galilee—sitting together in the lush green grass, listening to Jesus’ wonderful words, experiencing his healing, and eating a satisfying meal. Truly, it seemed, the Lord was their Shepherd, they lacked nothing. He made them lie down in this green pasture, he led them beside these still waters, he was refreshing their souls.
So Jesus took the bread and fish, gave thanks to God, and fed the vast multitude. We don’t know whether or not the masses knew about this miracle, we only know that they ate and were filled. The disciples, while they didn’t fully understand what was happening, knew Jesus was doing something amazing. Perhaps it reenergized them, but they certainly didn’t have much time to take it in—to process it. After all, it takes a long time to serve thousands of people even if the food is being produced miraculously. And then there was the clean up. No sooner did they finish distributing the bread, did they have to begin gathering the leftovers. By the time they were finished, the adrenaline rush must have long passed. Each disciple stood before Jesus with a basketful of leftovers. They were panting, sweating, and wondering when their break would really begin.
The night had fully set in by now. Darkness shrouded the landscape and a strong wind was beginning to blow in from the sea. Perhaps the disciples were beginning to consider sleeping arrangements when Jesus surprised them once again. “Tell you what, guys, why don’t you get in the boat and cross the lake for Galilee. I’ll dismiss the crowd and catch up with you later.”
What?! He had to be kidding. The disciples were exhausted at the beginning of the day. The day had been extremely demanding and they all felt they could sleep for solid week. Not to mention the fact that in the midst of the miracle feast, the disciples-turned-waiters had barely had a chance to get a nibble. They were hungry and tired – physically and spiritually. And now they were supposed to pull an all-nighter struggling to row their boat against the wind for miles? But the look in Jesus’ eyes was unmistakable, so they got in the boat and set out.
Of course, even though it was very late, the crowds were still feeling very excited. Some were talking about Jesus as the Messiah, calling him “The Prophet.” Some had thoughts of making him their king—forcefully if necessary. For his part, Jesus calmed the crowd, bid them goodnight, and quietly slipped away. He knew what they intended and wanted no part of it. Besides, he had set out to pray many hours ago and now was the perfect opportunity. He had let his prayer plans be delayed, but not destroyed.
So, Jesus went up into the surrounding mountains, found a quiet place and spent the rest of the night praying. We don’t know what he prayed about. I’m sure he had to talk to God about his Cousin John’s death, about the crowds and Herod, about the disciples, and about where to go from here. I’d be surprised if there wasn’t a lot of worship happening during that prayer time and psalms quoted and sung.
Meanwhile, as the night dragged on, the disciples continued struggling to make headway against the contrary winds. Their arms and legs screamed with pain as they continued rowing. The fishermen among them were weak with hunger. The less-seaworthy were green with nausea. They all wished they were someplace else, preferably asleep. I wonder if they thought about Jesus’ invitation hours ago – to come away with him alone, to rest, to eat. The invitation was to get away from the swarming crowds. Now, as they fought the wind and waves, I wonder if any of them thought about how it was the crowds who ultimately got to spend time with Jesus, who ate their fill, and who were, even now, resting peacefully. The disciples, however, were still working, still hungry, and had left Jesus back on the shore. By now, the confusion and frustration had really set in. Hearts were hard. There was likely anger and hurt – no doubt, some of it directed towards Jesus. What the heck was going on anyways?
It was almost dawn when they saw it. It was still quite dark, the wind was still gusting, and the waves were still tossing the boat back and forth, but there it was—in the distance a figure was moving upon the water. Terror gripped them when they realized that it was a man—a ghost, it seemed. Funny, here was the same group of men who had just days ago been out in the villages casting out demons. Their report to Jesus must have included tales of the evil spirits that had fled. Now, at the end of themselves, they shrieked in terror at the sight of a single spirit.
Jesus knew they were afraid. Here they had been struggling for hours, 12 men at the oars and they had barely made it half-way across the sea. Jesus, in just a few minutes, strolled upon the sea effortlessly – gaining on them, heck, it seemed at first that he would pass them altogether—the wind and waves seemed to have no affect on Jesus, let alone the fact that you just aren’t supposed to be able to walk on water. But, as he neared the boat, Jesus took pity on his beloved disciples, shouting, “Take courage, it’s me! Don’t be afraid.”
The disciples cast skeptical looks at each other while they continued to wrestle with the oars. “Only one way to find out,” thought the impetuous Peter. “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” replied the Lord.
And then, before the disciples fully knew what was going on, there was Peter slowly creeping towards the mysterious figure on the water – walking on the water! The wind was still raging, so perhaps only the seasick tax collector, Matthew, hanging his head over the side of the boat witnessed the whole ordeal. There was Peter walking towards the ghost. A moment later he was looking disoriented and panicky at the sight of the wind and waves. And then he was sinking. A desperate hand was extended, a cry for help, and then there was Jesus firmly clasping the fisherman’s hand. Now, the two were making their way back to the boat, now climbing into the hull—Peter, wet and panting, practically falling in.
And then there was the Lord. Standing there in the middle of the boat like a conquering hero. Quite obviously now to everyone, not a ghost. And quite clearly no mere man. The oars were still now, like the sea which had all of the sudden grown strangely calm. The fierce wind had just as quickly become nothing more than a gentle, whispering breeze as the morning sun began to peak up over the Golan Heights in the distance. The disciples gaped, then knelt, then gave their spent and broken selves over to worship—“Truly you are the Son of God!” someone said. That seemed about right.
It wasn’t long now before the boat reached the shore. They dropped anchor at Gennesaret, near Capernaum. The disciples, bleary-eyed and racked with pain from hours of strenuous work, stumbled out of the boat and onto the beach. Their heads were spinning as they watched Jesus, the Son of God, wondering, “What’s next?”
And then someone recognized them. “It’s Jesus of Nazareth!” they heard a voice call out in the distance. As Jesus made his way towards the town, the Twelve followed closely behind and watched as the news of his arrival rapidly spread. Soon the crowds were swelling again. People were bringing the sick and afflicted, even carrying them on mats. They were pressing in, begging just to touch the edge of his cloak – this they did and were healed.
Jesus then made his way towards the synagogue of Capernaum. The disciples began noticing people from the night before and must have wondered if the whole world was now clamoring to see him. And then Jesus stopped. They were at the synagogue now and Jesus was standing looking at the crowd. Thousands had gathered—the multitude seemed countless, greater than the day before. A voice broke in, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”
The Twelve looked on as Jesus delivered a stinging rebuke to the crowd. He began to say things that the disciples weren’t sure they really understood, but couldn’t help but believe—after, well, everything. And then the grumbling began. It started slowly but it soon infected the whole crowd. Now people were shouting at and arguing against Jesus. Fact is, it all happened so fast and the disciples where so physically and emotionally drained, that they weren’t exactly sure of everything that took place that day. Somehow, someway, they found themselves at the end of the day—alone with Jesus. All they knew was that during the course of that day thousands had walked away from their Rabbi—what had only a short time ago seemed like the greatest spiritual awakening in generations had dwindled into nothing in a matter of mere hours.
Now, after all that time, they were finally alone with Jesus. They finally had some peace and quiet. But none of them, it seemed, could either speak or sleep. The sleep they had been so long deprived of now seemed to elude them further. Their bodies ached with soreness as their muscles slowly stiffened. The sensation of being on that storm-tossed boat was still felt by some of them as they sat in silence. Their minds were cluttered with images of Jesus multiplying bread and walking on water and the sound of his voice, “Come away with me. You give them something to eat. Don’t be afraid. I am the bread of life. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” The rollercoaster of the past couple of days had left them feeling utterly and completely wasted, confused, and broken.
“You don’t want to leave too, do you?”
Jesus’ words had broken the silence. They looked up at him and saw that wildness that was always in his eyes. Just then something seemed to click for a number of them. This Jesus-thing was simply not what they thought it would be. Maybe they’d never get their heads around it completely. Clearly, Jesus was not at all interested in following their game plans or the culturally acceptable scripts. As long as they followed him, he would continue to inspire, surprise, frighten, and confuse them. One day, he might even get them killed. But, what had been said about him last night on the boat was true—he really was the Son of God, the Christ sent from above. And they, or most of them, really did believe. Leave? No, this was it for them. Whatever fallback plans they had, had gotten lost somewhere between Capernaum and the middle of the sea of Galilee.
And so, after a moment, there was Peter, speaking again for them all—and, they had to admit, this time doing a pretty good job:
“Where are we gonna go, Jesus? Who else are we going to turn to? You have the words of eternal life. The bottom line is, we believe you. We know you are the Holy One of God!”

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Not-so-Ancient Wisdom on Sleep & Rest


Today let me offer a fun little video that presents a simple truth that many of us in ministry should take to heart.
  
Are you an Edison?  I suppose there might be a few of you out there.  I think I'm probably much more of a George.
It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.
(Psa 127:2)
Blessings!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Inner circle member of Family Radio says Camping owes apology to public; preacher 'mystified': wife - International Business Times

Inner circle member of Family Radio says Camping owes apology to public; preacher 'mystified': wife - International Business Times: "Camping's wife said her husband was 'somewhat bewildered' and 'mystified' after his prediction proved a dud, said Tom Evans, who belongs to the inner circle of Camping followers."

Camping Devotees trying to Explain Away their FAIL

Evangelist Harold Camping's failed prediction that the world would end May 21 prompted humorous protests like this one Saturday outside the Oakland, Calif., offices of his Family Radio. But it's too soon to tell how Camping's followers will cope with the failed prophecy.Here's the first I've seen of post-"rapture-fail" statements from Camping-devotees. Follow the link below - looks like the stage is being set to say that it was a "spiritual" judgment and that now the world will really end in October.

Doomsday Believers Cope With An Intact World : NPR: "'God is God; God's going to do what he has to do,' he says.

True, he says, believers got some of the details wrong. But the thrust of the message is right.

'Judgment Day has come and passed, but it was a spiritual judgment on the world,' he explains. 'There is no more salvation. Salvation is over with. The fact is we have 153 days, and on the 21st of October, the world will end.'"

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Camping, "I forgot to carry the 2!" (by Angel Contreas)

Discipleship Triangles for Yeshu Bhaktas

Recently, I've been working on adapting the diagram that I showed you last week for use in thinking through discipleship issues, spiritual disciplines, and the like -- especially with regards to South Asian Christ-followers.  Here is what I've come up with.  Would welcome your feedback:


Instructions for teaching about the Discipleship Diagram:
This diagram is intended to help us teach several things:

1.      It provides us with a list of key spiritual disciplines and arranges the disciplines into three categories.  This isn't meant to be a comprehensive list of disciplines, but does cover the basic ones that I teach.
2.      It provides English and Nepali (Sanskrit) terms for many concepts that are very important for teaching about discipleship.
3.      It helps us to get some idea of how the spiritual disciplines are related to other vital areas of our spiritual life. And, importantly, depicts discipleship in a non-linear way rather than a typical, Western step-by-step manner.

Part A: Truth is the Core
Truth is at the center of our diagram because it is at the center of all things.  The difference between a Christ-follower and everyone else begins with their relationship to Truth.  Christ-followers are those who have heard, believe, and obey Truth (Rom. 2:8, Eph. 1:13, 1Pt. 1:22).  Others are ignorant of the truth, reject it, and even oppose and suppress it (Rom. 1:18, Eph. 4:18, 2 Tim. 3:8).  But the Bible says that freedom (Jn. 8:32), sanctification (Jn. 17:17), renewal (Rom. 12:2), and salvation (1 Tim. 2:4) all come from Truth.  Thus, Truth should be a central concern for the Christ-follower and the one who is trying to disciple others.  Also, since the Bible is God’s revelation of Truth, it must play a central role in all discipleship (2 Tim. 2:15). Disciple-makers must understand their task as essentially about the impartation of truth to others.

Part B: TriEak Parmeshwar
The Bible reveals that Truth is not a WHAT but a WHO. God is truth and all truth flows from Him.  He is the God of Truth (Isa. 65:16) who cannot lie (Heb. 6:18).  His Son, Jesus, said, “I am the Truth (Jn. 14:6).  The Holy Spirit is called the “Spirit of Truth” who will guide us into “all truth” (Jn. 16:13).  Clearly, our relationship to Truth is the same thing as our relationship to God.  In fact the most foundational Truth is that God exists eternally as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  He is TriEak Parmeshwar, the 3-in-1 God.  God is Truth and thus God is at the center of our discipleship. Thus, we may say that the disciple-maker's efforts to impart truth and her efforts to introduce someone to God are one and the same.

Part C: Regeneration
The beginning of our relationship with God is called regeneration.  This is what Jesus was talking about when he said that we must be “born again” (Jn. 3)  When this happens, our old, sinful, darkened, and shameful life passes away.  Everything becomes new in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).  Our sin and shame is taken away.  Satan and all evil spirits are rendered powerless against us. The Holy Spirit comes to live inside us. New spiritual and eternal life begins.

Key elements of regeneration from discipleship perspective include experience, sacrifice, and surrender.  Experience (anubhav) refers to a person encountering God as living and real.  Prayers are answered, God’s power is displayed through signs and wonders, God communicates through dreams and visions, the love of God is manifest in Christ-followers who serve and bless others. This also refers to the experience of regeneration – the result of the Holy Spirit indwelling a person.  Sacrifice (balidan) refers especially to the story of Jesus’ birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension.  A person experiencing God as living and real must be presented with the message of who Jesus is and what He has accomplished and promised.  Surrender (sharaana) is something of a culminating piece of regeneration.  The person God is regenerating will finally give their lives to Him in faith.  The Nepal/Sanskrit word we are using her is “sharaana” which literally means to “take shelter in”.  Surrendering to God through Christ means that a person runs into the shelter of Jesus’.  The disciple-maker must carefully consider the one(s) she is discipling. Are experiencing God as living and real? (not the same as believing God exists -- one can be a theist and ignore God, but cannot both experience and ignore God).  Are they being told the story of Christ?  Are they being meaningfully called to enter the shelter of Jesus?

Parts D & E: Discipleship Roots and Spiritual Disciplines
The regenerate person begins to experience transformation into Christ-likeness.  There is a sense in which this can be automatic.  Often the experience of regeneration will overflow in a zealous pursuit of God through worship, prayer, or other disciplines.  However, over the long-run of a Christ-follower’s life, this transformation process must be intentionally nurtured.  This may be called discipleship because it refers to the process of following Jesus as a teacher we desire to imitate (Luke 6:40). 

There are three roots for the discipleship of Christ-followers.  The first root, devotion (bhakti), is rooted in the soil of an individual’s personal relationship with God.  Growing from this root are Prayer (prarthana), Bible Reading / Study (shastra), Worship (puja), Meditation (dhyana), Fasting / Penance (uposhya), Confession (swikar), and Joy (anandena).  The second root of discipleship is spiritual fellowship (satsang).  The soil for this root is the relationship Christ-followers share together before God.  Springing forth from this are fellowship (sangati), corporate worship (upasana), the teaching ministry (shiksha), sacramental life (samskara), Body-connections (sharir-sambandha), accountability (sahadharma), giving (daana), and joy (anandena).  The final root is service (seva) which grows from the soil of Christ-followers who are engaged together with a world that needs the Truth.  From this root grows disciplines of service (seva), giving (daan), proclaiming the message of Christ (prachar), missions (prerit), intercession (antar-binti), and joy (aanandena).


-----
That's it. Again, would love your feedback and suggestions.  This is in the initial stages now and I'm sure will undergo many revisions.

Bhutanese Nepali refguees form churches, reach out to their neighbors

Here's a World Relief article that highlights some of the work we're doing. Enjoy!

Bhutanese Nepali refguees form churches, reach out to their neighbors: "Bhutanese Nepali refugees form churches, reach out to their neighbors
On a gray drizzly Sunday afternoon in November, drums and guitars mix with spirited, jangling tambourines radiating from a room in the back of Glenfield Baptist Church in Glen Ellyn."

RaptureFail | Harold Camping is SO wrong

Well, the end of the world is upon us. Or not. If you've been following all the Camping craziness, check out Rapture Fail below.

RaptureFail | Harold Camping is SO wrong

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Lausanne Younger Leaders Team: Cape Town Convictions

Okay, today I wanted to share with you a little known document that has arisen out of Cape Town 2010.  It is called "Cape Town Convictions" and was produced by the Lausanne Younger Leaders Team.  I have posted it in full below with a few of my own comments in highlighted italics.

Lausanne Younger Leaders Team: Cape Town Convictions

The Lausanne Younger Leaders Team (YLT) celebrates the faithfulness and grace of God that was displayed at Cape Town 2010.  It was an amazing gathering of global Christian leaders, and we are excited for the future of the global church with great hope for growing unity, humility, truth, passion for Christ and His mission, compassion for the lost and hurting, and partnership toward the whole church bringing the whole gospel to the whole world.

We particularly rejoiced over the fellowship in Cape Town of the 1000 leaders under the age of 40 from around the world. [Well, we did rejoice, but let's not overdo it. I mean young leaders are not the Messiah or anything. We also rejoice in our elders. In fact, we want to ask them to invest in us, to pour themselves into us more and more.] We not only represent the future of the global church, but all of the issues, challenges, and opportunities discussed and prayed about in Cape Town will impact our generation and our world more than any other generation represented at the Third Lausanne Congress.

Cape Town 2010, however, was an event, and we have a sober and hopeful conviction that the event did not exist for itself but rather to serve the vision that the Lord has given to Lausanne and to the global church. Therefore we invested a significant portion of the week of the Congress together in discussion, prayer, and consultation with younger leaders, older leaders, and valued counselors and mentors toward the goal of leaving Cape Town with a unified understanding of and commitment to our calling, our values, and our plans for the post-Cape Town years informed by what we learned and experienced during the Congress. [Wow, that was a tough sentence to get through. I think the reality is that most of us don't feel that there was enough prayer, but okay. And I'd rather us be talking about leaving Cape Town with a "unified understanding of and commitment to God's calling, God's values, and God's plans ...".]  Here is a summary of those convictions.


Our Calling -

1)    We reaffirm our calling to advance the purposes of God through Lausanne towards the goal of world evangelization and the whole church bringing the whole gospel to the whole world [Amen. Though I wish there was less dissension among the younger leaders as to what "evangelization" actually entails.]
2)    We have deep conviction about the stewardship we and the Lausanne Movement have been given for global younger leaders who represent both the present and future; Cape Town will impact the younger generation more than any other; it will impact OUR world [Well, okay. I know what is meant here, but come on. It isn't "our world". It is going to be the world of those over age 40 for a good half-century more. Let's not float them out on blocks of ice just yet.]
3)    We commit to participating as a vital part of the Lausanne Movement as movement - not to exist for our own perpetuation or to set up inflexible organizational structure but to facilitate relational links, facilitate dialogue & partnership, and seek to connect the greatest needs of global younger leaders with the best resources (people, ministries, information) [This is a good affirmation. To keep Lausanne like it has been from the beginning, a light-on-its-feet movement.]


Our Values -

1)    We reaffirm our commitment to displaying Christ-like humility and joy in words, attitudes, and actions
2)    We reaffirm our commitment to Christ-honoring relationship building within the Lausanne Movement both inner-generationally and inter-generationally; in particular we commit to and ask for your continued commitment towards developing deeper trusting and entrusting relationships with the Lausanne Board and the IDD's (International Deputy Directors).
3)    We reaffirm our conviction that God has called our team to trust Him first and foremost, to also trust the leadership that He has placed over us, and to ask also for the trust of the Lausanne leadership to pursue by faith the purposes and passions that He has given to us


Our Plans -

1)    CONNECT

We rejoice that the Lord has provided an amazing network of global younger leaders.  This YLN (Younger Leaders Network) consists of YLG '06 (Younger Leaders Gathering 2006) alumni, regional YLG alumni, Cape Town 2010 alumni, and even the possible inclusion of GlobaLink alumni.  We feel a call to connect this YLN through:

a)    Utilization of a younger leaders section of the Global Conversation that we hope can be a source of on-going connection and cooperation post-Cape Town; this will include the establishment of subgroups for regions, ministry area foci, and other affinity groups in multiple languages [I applaud this, but haven't seen it take place yet. Wish people would engage the GC more.]
b)    Continued organizing of national and regional YLG's with IDD support focused on gathering starting in 2011 through 2014
c)    Prayer and planning towards the Third Lausanne YLG in 2015 [Well, this would be fun. The Global Diasporas Network is also looking at 2015 for a global consultation. I wonder how many other organizations are planning something during that year. I'm hoping there won't be a conflict.]

We affirm that we are not event focused, but events contribute towards the depth, breadth, and richness of the movement and its purposes. 


2)    INFORM

There is an evident eagerness and desire among the younger leaders to get more involved in inner-generational and inter-generational activities of Lausanne.  There is also a general lack of awareness of what people can get involved in and how.  Towards that end we will focus over the next year in systematic introductions of Lausanne working groups to the YLN.  These will likely start with the LDWG (Leadership Development Working Group) and other groups particularly focused on and relevant to younger leaders.  This will take the form of consultations with various working group leaders and clear descriptions of the vision, activities, and opportunities of these working groups for younger leaders.  One working group will be highlighted every 3-4 months.


3)    EQUIP

We cannot do everything, but we can focus on the most important things.  We choose to focus our efforts for younger leaders in the areas of mentoring and partnerships.  Mentoring is a priority as it is crucial towards the healthy spiritual development of younger leaders.  Partnerships and collaboration training and facilitating is crucial towards the connecting, mobilizing, and collaboration of younger generation leaders for the purpose of the fulfillment of our vision to see the whole church bring the whole gospel to the whole world.  We will focus in the years to come on three areas: [Yay! Mentoring. Note this http://codylorance.blogspot.com/2010/10/from-younger-leader-to-my-elders-thanks.html]

a)    Mentoring through the development of the Lausanne Younger Leaders Mentoring Partnership.  This will be a program sponsored by the YLT and facilitated by MentorLink and other similar ministries with potential for 1000 younger leaders partnered with 200 mentors.  A dedicated website will be developed with the possibility of new research and technologies being developed to aid in this endeavor. [At Orlando 2011, the desire for mentors was among those top-tier requests given by younger leaders. So, this seems to be a very important point.]
b)    Collaboration Implementation Training (CIT) will be offered as a part of the regional YLG's.  This will focus on training younger leaders in how to move from vision/passion to the building of strategic ministry partnerships, all towards the goal of the whole church bringing the whole gospel to the whole world.  In addition a core network of global younger leaders will be trained to mentor younger leaders who are currently in their teens and early 20's.
c)    Resource mobilization towards the goal of world evangelization efforts in our generation.  We will pray and work toward the development of a culture of generosity and stewardship through Biblically-based teaching and the strategic deployment of resources.  This will be supported in partnership with the Resource Mobilization Resource Group of Lausanne and other similar groups/organizations.

We, the YLT, ask for your prayers, counsel, and support towards these endeavors.  The future is at stake, and we rest assured that the future is in God's hands. 

"Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord.  They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn - for he has done it." (Ps 22:30-31)

Michael Oh (coordinator)
Grace Samson   
Adel Azmi
Gabriela Gencheva
Jacob Isaac
Marcell Steuernagel
Mark Kolo
Rike Huettmann
Remo Paul
Larry Russell (advisor)

The Cape Town Commitment Dismisses the Supposed Link Between Contextualization & Syncretism

I've been stuck on contextualization all week. Which many of you may be happy about. If not, well, seriously, I'm not the only blog in town.

Today, I want to point you to the full statement on contextualization from the Cape Town Commitment. I mentioned yesterday some of its positive elements in light of its definition of "insider movements". Today, I will point to what I believe is an even stronger reason why the statement is so important. You can see my comments in highlighted italics below:


Love respects diversity of discipleship

So called ‘insider movements’ are to be found within several religions. These are groups of people who are now following Jesus as their God and Saviour. They meet together in small groups for fellowship, teaching, worship and prayer centred around Jesus and the Bible while continuing to live socially and culturally within their birth communities, including some elements of its religious observance. This is a complex phenomenon and there is much disagreement over how to respond to it. Some commend such movements. Others warn of the danger of syncretism. Syncretism, however, is a danger found among Christians everywhere as we express our faith within our own cultures. [Here it is. This is such an important thing to point out. There is no inherent connection between contextualization and syncretism. Syncretism is born not out of contextualization but out of poor discipleship or a deficient commitment to God's Word. It thrives most in settings where individuals are not reflective about their faith -- which is rarely the case where contextualization is intentionally pursued by followers of Jesus seeking to incarnate Him in a particular cultural context. As for those who have willfully abandoned a pure and sincere devotion to Christ, whatever they do beyond that should not properly be deemed as contextualization. Contextualization is about the imitation of Christ's incarnation and crucifixion. It is about mission and manifesting the Christ-life to particular peoples in the clearest and most compelling way possible. Any discussion of "how far do you go" is out-of-place and betrays a failure to grasp this essential point. Ask rather, "How far did Jesus go? How human did He become? How Jewish? How Galilean?"] We should avoid the tendency, when we see God at work in unexpected or unfamiliar ways, either (i) hastily to classify it and promote it as a new mission strategy, or (ii) hastily to condemn it without sensitive contextual listening.
A)    In the spirit of Barnabas who, on arrival in Antioch, ‘saw the evidence of the grace of God’ and ‘was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord,’[72] we would appeal to all those who are concerned with this issue to:
  1. Take as their primary guiding principle the apostolic decision and practice: ‘We should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.’[73]
  2. Exercise humility, patience and graciousness in recognizing the diversity of viewpoints, and conduct conversations without stridency and mutual condemnation.[74]

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Response to James White on Insider Movements in Light of the Cape Town Commitment

I think I've mentioned before that I liked what the Cape Town Commitment had to say about contextualization. In particular, it has defined "insider movements" in a way that is very helpful as you will see below.

"So called ‘insider movements’ are to be found within several religions. These are groups of people who are now following Jesus as their God and Saviour. They meet together in small groups for fellowship, teaching, worship and prayer centred around Jesus and the Bible while continuing to live socially and culturally within their birth communities, including some elements of its religious observance."

A couple important notes on that.

First, IMs are not just something that is the domain of the Muslim world. I praise God for this clarification, because the debate/discussion surrounding contextualization is clouded by it being too associated with Islam and reaching Muslims. There is just much more to it than that. Critics of insider movements often make the mistake of painting them all with the same brush as if all IMs were in the context of Islam and as if they all looked the same and agreed on the same points.

Second, it defines IMs as missional communities of Christ-followers who seek to obey the Bible.  Thus, a so-called IM that isn't following Jesus, seeking to obey Scripture, or seeking to engage its cultural context isn't really what we are talking about.

In this way, the gauntlet is sort of laid out for those who have been so adamant in their opposition to IMs. James White is one of my favorite persons who has spoken out against them. And I mean that. I repost lots of stuff from James and rarely miss his podcasts. However, his blanket condemnations of IMs are, I think, unfair and unhelpful.  I would ask Dr. White to consider the CTC definition below and explain what exactly he opposes. It isn't the Christ-following, small groups, or Bible focus. So it would have to be the continuing connections to birth communities and the idea of maintaining certain religious observances.  Well, it is one thing to oppose the holding over of particular, named observances. It is quite another to throw all IMs under the bus. White ignores the possibility that there exist insider movements who are genuine, theologically orthodox, Christ-followers seeking to obey the Bible and reach their kinsmen.  He ignores the fact that these people are often persecuted just as much as those do not pursue contextualization. So, not that James would likely read this, but I would ask that he pull back a bit on his broad condemnation of IMs.

Tomorrow, I will post the CTC statement in its entirety and tell you another reason why I think it is a good thing.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Pioneers Statement on Contextualization

Recently, Pioneers, a major mission organization based in Orlando, Florida, released a "statement on contextualization."  I found the statement on Ted Esler's blog here.  I like the statement and want to commend it to you.  Check it out and let me know what you think in the comment section.  I have included my own comments on the statement in highlighted italics below.



PIONEERS STATEMENT ON CONTEXTUALIZATION
Messengers who bring the Good News have the privilege and responsibility to faithfully communicate the biblical Gospel message. They should model and teach obedience to all the Scriptures under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Thus PI [Pioneers] workers desire to minister in ways most likely to yield faithful disciples and the reproduction of biblical churches among those with least access to the Gospel. [Maybe the weakest part of the statement is this opening. It grounds everything in the motivation of missional effectiveness. While this is certainly part of why we contextualize. It isn't the full picture. Read my blog series "Why Contextualize?" here.]
We believe God normally desires new believers to remain connected with their social context (1 Corinthians 7:17-24), [This is a strong application for this text.  It is new for me to consider this kind of application, but I like it.] while not compromising biblical teaching in their beliefs or practice (e.g. permanently retaining their former non-Christian religious identity). [I find the discussion about identity to be a bit vague.  I can only guess here about what is meant by "non-Christian religious identity".  The notion of religious identity is not constant across all cultures.  I want clarification here.  Does this mean "anti-Christian" identity.  That is, I'm a blank AND NOT a Christian. But I think the notion of Hindu, Muslim, or Jewish Christ-followers must not be quickly dismissed. Rather these must be taken case-by-case. The implications of living out this creative tension and Gospel witness are best worked out by groups of believers, through prayer and diligent study of the Scriptures, informed by the story of God’s people throughout history and the global body of Christ. [Good. Prayer, the Bible, the Church, and God's work in history all must inform our pursuit of contexutalization.]
This affects key issues, including:
Allegiance:
We encourage believers to live in such a way that those around them become increasingly aware of their wholehearted submission to Jesus as Lord. He calls all believers to a process of transformation into the image of Christ (Romans 12:1,2; Colossians 3:10), giving courageous and respectful testimony of Christ’s work in us (1 Peter 3:14-16). [This is so good I can't even tell you. People around us must become increasingly aware of our wholehearted submission to Jesus as Lord. This REQUIRES contextualization. Where contextualization is not pursued, non-Christians around us don't understand the transformation they see in us as a result of our devotion to Christ. They understand it as a rejection of them and their culture. I really like this statement and want to teach it to those whom I disciple.]
Identity:
We want believers to understand their biblical identity in Christ and his church, and to embrace the implications of that identity as active members of a local community of believers (Ephesians 2:19-22; 1 Peter 2:9). [I believe that this is essential but I would want to add that these local communities of believers should be actively engaged in the global body of Christ. I must not deny my brother or sister in Christ anymore than I should deny Christ himself.]
Obedience:
Our passion is to see believers obey all that Jesus commanded (Matthew 28:20). This involves an ongoing process whereby believers are empowered by the Spirit and nurtured through the Scripture (Galatians 5:16-25; 2 Timothy 3:16,17; 1 Peter 2:2,3). [It is important to emphasize that our spiritual nourishment comes by the Spirit through the Bible.]
Worldview and Beliefs:
Believers are intentionally discipled in such a way that their worldview and beliefs are increasingly transformed into conformity with Scripture (Romans 12:2; Hebrews 5:14). [Good. Conformity to Scripture and not to some other standard.]
Suffering:
God grants us suffering in this world to refine our faith, strengthen his church and bring glory to Christ (Phil 1:29; 3:10; 1 Peter 1:7). Together, we recognize that persecution is not to be feared, and “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12; Matthew 10:28; Hebrews 10:32?34). [Clearly, this is a statement that is directed at the notion that some pursue contextualization out of a fear of persecution. I suppose this may be the case. However, I wouldn't call that contextualization. Contextualization is, at its core, about imitating Christ's incarnation and crucifixion. Doing so will not shy away from suffering but rather seek to incarnate suffering -- presenting it in context to the people around us.]
Culture:
All cultures reflect elements of God’s creative goodness and human sinfulness (Romans 2:14,15; 1 John 2:15?17). We encourage believers to live out biblically sound and culturally appropriate worship, witness, relationships and lifestyles (Ephesians 5:15; 1 Timothy 5:8; 1 Peter 2:11,12,16,17). [Much more could be said on this point.  However it would probably be difficult to do so without delving too much into specifics.]