Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Bhansala of India Ethnic People Profile

At TIBM, we have adopted for prayer the unreached and unengaged Bhansala people of India. I invite you to pray for them for 2 minutes today. You can find their Joshua Project profile here:

Bhansala of India Ethnic People Profile

Here's a prayer for you to pray:

Lord, You own everything. The earth is Yours, and everyone on it. You open doors that no man can shut. You are sovereign. If You are for us, no one can be against us. Lord of the Harvest, please send out workers to reach out to the Bhansala Of India.  Lord, I ask that Your favor would give them access to people and places that are impossible to reach. Let Your favor smooth the path before them, and open doors for them that no man can shut. Let Your wind be at their back today, Lord and enable them to push forward the cause of Christ among the Bhansala Of India.


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Canada's "Healthy Immigrant Effect"

I have had a number of refugee friends complain to me about the U.S. health care system. These complaints usually coincide with them coming to the end of their initial medicaid benefits and having to start paying for their own health insurance. Many have friends or relative in Canada which is sometimes thought of as magical land of free health care. So, it is with them in mind that I post the following - a very, very intriguing article about why moving to Canada can be hazardous to you health. Enjoy!

Why Canada is hazardous to their health: "Since the 1990s a growing body of data has suggested that most newcomers arrive in Canada healthier than the native-born population, only to have that advantage erode over time. New immigrants tend to live longer than the Canadian-born population, but within a decade of resettlement, their mortality rates creep up, as do their rates of chronic disease. In looking at almost a decade of data in its biannual National Population Health Survey, Statistics Canada also found immigrants were almost twice as likely as native-born Canadians to report feeling unwell. Recent non-European immigrants - the largest proportion of newcomers we currently admit - were the most likely to report their health declining from good or excellent to fair or poor."

Happy Maha Shivaratri! Now Pass the Bong!

Bhutanese-Nepalis just recently celebrated one of their less quaint and commendable festivals, Shivaratri.  In honor of Shiva, the god of destruction, the Bhutanese refugee community in Manchester, New Hampshire (see below link) put on a festive program at the local Hindu temple.  But what was going on behind the scenes?

Maha Shiva Ratri Observed in NH and in Bhutanese Refugee Camps | Media Network Bhutan: "Maha Shiva Ratri was observed in Manchester, NH last Monday on Saraswati temple which lies on 582 chestnut st by resettled Bhutanese Refugees and it was also observed in Bhutanese Refugee Camp with great interest and enthusiasm.  Bhutanese Refugee resettled in NH, Performing pooja to mark Shiva Ratri. The program was organized by Saraswati temple committee. The different cultural program was organized and demonstrated by American Vivekananda Academy and resettled refugees where around 500 people observed the program from Bhutanese Refugee Committee and the American residents."


Nepalis believe that Shiva was accustomed to smoking marijuana.  Thus, it has long been the custom of the ascetic sadhus to do the same especially during Shivaratri.  Having little interest in the theological and spiritual significance, Nepali youth have sought to seize the moment afforded by the festival to get wasted.  Pot use by Nepali youth during Shivaratri has become commonplace and destructive.

Of course, this article is a wee bit late for those of you looking for insights pertaining to this year's celebration. But I post it here just as a heads up.  Such things exist and are most certainly taking place among Bhutanese-Nepalis in diaspora.  It is very common for host country volunteers to sort of objectify refugees -- thinking of them as innocent little charity cases.  Every refugee is a real, complicated human being -- a bearer of God's image, now marred by the stain of original and personal sin.

'via Blog this'

Saturday, February 25, 2012

141 couples in the Bhutanese refugee camp divorced

An interesting little side story related to the Bhutanese-Nepali experience pertains to the fate of those refugees still in the camps who desire resettlement but have been denied the opportunity. A common reason for this is the "mixed marriage" problem. This refers to Bhutanese refugees who have married Nepalese citizens (non-refugees from the surrounding areas). In their cases, the United Nations does not want to process their applications for resettlement to third countries who have agreed to open their doors to those who are truly refugees and not to the wider Nepalese populace. Apparently, faced with this situation, a number of Bhutanese people in the camps are choosing to solve this problem by taking something less than the "high road". Below is the full story from Nepal Mountain News:

141 couples in the Bhutanese refugee camp divorced | Nepal Mountain News
"More than 141 couples in the Bhutanese refugee camp in Jhapa divorced in 2011 alone. Most of them had a Nepali spouse. The figure is rising as UNHCR is reluctant to forward documents of applicants in the mixed marriage category for third country resettlement.
“When the process of resettlement began, we were very hopeful, thinking that our hard days were about to end,” said Balaram Neupane, an administrative officer at Khudunabari Campus. “However, for people like us who married Nepali women, the marriage itself is turned out to be a major problem,” he added.
According to Neupane, refugees with Nepali spouse are in acute mental pressure. The fear that they would be languishing in the camp for unknown period while all their family members have already left for a third country has even turned a few of them mentally ill. “And, many of them are currently under the supervision of doctors,” he said."

Friday, February 24, 2012

Quadragesima - A Reflection

The Church has now begun an annual season of reflection, confession, repentance, fasting and seeking the Lord Jesus.  Traditionally known as "Lent" or "Quadragesima", this period of 40 days leads up to the Holy Week, Good Friday and our annual commemoration of Christ's Resurrection.  You may not be observing Lent in a traditional way, but I hope that you are doing something during this time that the Spirit of God can use to draw you closer to Himself.  I also hope you will take a moment to enjoy Adam Young's lovely little video called 40 to set you in the mood.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Why Contextualize? (Part 5) The Locus of Spiritual Transformation

It has been a long time since I wrote the first four installments of my "Why Contextualize" series.  However, as I spend more and more time in the field engaging the realities of cross-cultural mission and the complaints by some against contextualization, there is another (5th) issue that continues to arise.  Just last week, I was on the road teaching about contextualization and heard the following concern (paraphrasing):

"If new followers of Jesus keep the same customs and cultural forms as they had before they became Christians, won't there be confusion as to who is a Christian and who is not?"

I'm grateful for the question because it brings to light what is a dangerous but nevertheless widely held view among Christians (especially in the West) that being a Christian is something that should result in visible, outward signs which essentially equate to an assimilation with Western cultural forms.  Deep down, far too many of us are still trying to "make a man of our Friday's"-- dressing the "savages" up in suits and ties, handing them black leather Bibles and praising the Lord for the "transformation".

But this is neither desirable nor right.  It certainly isn't the gospel. From a Biblical perspective, the locus of spiritual transformation is not to be found in the external, visible realm of customs, clothing, technology, or dietary habits. Rather, transformation by the Spirit of God is an invisible phenomenon -- the giving of a new heart, the renewal of the mind, a re-born spirit.  To be sure, this all will result in a character conformed to the image of Christ and righteous actions.  But that is not to be equated with Windsor knots, Christmas trees, and Chris Tomlin songs (no offense, Chris).  You simply shouldn't be able to pick out a Christian in a line up and if you can, then you've created a kind of pseudo-Christianity that is just far too easy to fake.  You've created a system in which discipleship is reduced to meaningless attempts to pursue conformity to a set of external social cues and cultural forms.  In which case (and I speak from experience), the label "Christian" becomes little more than a way of saying, "Oh I don't celebrate that festival" or "I don't wear those kinds of bodily adornments".  It is a mockery of the gospel and is simply not the thing for which Christ died.  If cultural change is all you are after, why not become a Muslim or join a biker gang or become a mime?

If instead, we assume that God had something else in mind in the incarnation and sacrifice of His beloved Son,  that becoming a Christian is not tantamount to the abandoning of one's culture and traditions (although they certainly are to be scrutinized by the light of God's revelation), then discipleship also has to become something else.  If a person cannot simply trade in their old holidays for new ones, then true spiritual transformation must be located elsewhere.  The locus of spiritual transformation, we find, thus shifts to the unseen yet unmistakable realm of heart, mind, spirit, and character.  And this is precisely where it should have been all along. Hence:


And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. (Eze 36:26 ESV)


I leave you today with a lovely and ancient description of what I am talking about.  The following is from a late 2nd Century Christian writing known as the Letter to Diognetus (Trans. by D. Bosch):


Christians are not distinguished from the rest of humankind either in locality or in speech or in customs.  For they dwell not somewhere in cities of their own, neither do they use some different language, nor practice an extraordinary kind of life . . . While they dwell in cities of Greeks and barbarians . . . and follow the native custom in dress and food and the other arrangements of life, yet the constitution of their own citizenship, which they set forth, is marvelous, and confessedly contradicts expectations . . . In a word, what the soul is in a body, this the Christians are in the world.


Amen!  

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Without Thee, I Cannot Live: A Theology of Nominating Committees

Today I was praying for the Nominating Committee of our local association of Baptist churches and a thought or two came my way.  Do you know what a "nominating committee" is?  Basically they are the group in an organization responsible for getting other people to agree to fill voluntary positions and offices.  It's a rather thankless task to be sure.  On another level, however -- on a more spiritual level -- there is something else going on.  Something that I think we do well to ponder.

There is under-girding and thus birthing and sustaining the existence of such a thing as "nominating committees" in Christian circles a truth so central to our lives that it seems all other truths may just hang on it like ornaments on a tree.  It isn't the same thing which gives rise to "nominating committees" outside the Church (or at least it shouldn't be).  Outside it is this, "There are jobs which must be done and positions which must be filled; we need a group whose sole purpose is to berate, guilt, or sucker people into filling those posts."  No! In the Church it is another thing:

"Without Thee, I cannot live!"

Say again?

Consider:

"'Without Thee, I cannot live!' Whatever our small practice, belief, or experience may be, nothing can alter the plain fact that God, the Spirit of spirits, the Life-giving Life, has made or rather is making each person reading these words for Himself; and that our lives will not achieve stability until they are ruled by that truth." (E. Underhill)

Can the follower of Jesus doubt this? Without God, we are hopelessly lost are we not?  Is not our complete and utter dependence upon Him perhaps the uppermost reality governing our lives?

Sure, but what has that to do with "nominating committees"?

Well, only the truly loyal readers have made it this far in a post about "nominating committees" (which is really about God), so let me reward you with a parable:

A little girl goes to school.  Her lunchbox in hand having been lovingly prepared by her attentive and thoughtful mother.  At lunchtime, the girl devours the peanut butter and jelly sandwich, small bag of Cheetos, pickle spear, oatmeal cookie and juice box.  The banana, however, gets tossed into the garbage.  Same as always.  The girl isn't a fruit lover.

And this is a picture of us.  Saying we need God; saying in a voice of triumphant piety, "Without Thee, I cannot live!" Then proceeding to open the lunchbox of what God has prepared.  We pick through and consume what we desire and chuck the rest. We never stop to consider the far greater wisdom of a Parent who has prepared these things (all these things) for us.

So . . . "nominating committees"?

Ah, yes.  Here we are. Well, what exactly has God prepared for us?


1Co 12:7-19 ESV  To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.  For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit,  to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit,  to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.  All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills . . . .  For the body does not consist of one member but of many.  If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body.  And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body.  If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell?  But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.  If all were a single member, where would the body be?

And also . . . 

Eph 4:4-7 ESV  There is one body and one Spirit--just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call--  one Lord, one faith, one baptism,  one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.  But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift.


God has provided a Body.  The Church. And my point is simple (though I've certainly taken the scenic route to get here).  When we presume that we do not need the Body, when we arrogantly cut ourselves off from noses or fingers or kidneys,  when we foolishly set out to conquer the world as solitary ears or hair follicles or even as a covenanted coalition of knuckles,  then we (to brazenly mix metaphors) are chucking items from the lunchbox carefully and lovingly prepared by our Parent, the Father.  We may say "'Tis but a speckled banana," or (switching back) "merely an ear lobe" but in the act of chucking we are not simply saying, "I don't need bannanas or ear lobes or church planters or Christians who care about the homeless or ESL teachers or "black" churches or "white" churches or Pentecostals or Calvinists or __________ -- No, we are saying something far different. Something much more serious.  We are saying, "Without Thee, I will be just fine!" For when we reject what He, in infinite wisdom and love, has prepared, we reject Him.  But really, we are dead without Him. As a friend of mine is fond of saying, "Without Him, we cannot move an inch!"

So it is upon this foundational truth that all great Christian "nominating committees" through the ions of salvation history have been built.  Or, at least, should be.  Why? Because it is the noble task of the "nominating committee" to say to the Church (or to their little corner of it anyway),

"Everyone, this is Sam. He's a deacon down at XYZ Church. God has given him such and such gifts and experiences.  You need him and Sam needs you, and we'll all be richer, fuller, healthier and happier with him in the lunchbox."

Over and out.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Vote Yes 4: Great Commission Baptists

It is official, in case you haven't heard, that the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention has voted overwhelmingly to approve a taskforce's recommendation that the name "Great Commission Baptists" be adopted as a sort of informal "nickname" for the denomination. Word is that churches will have the "option" to utilize the new name, but that those who didn't want to could stick with the old Southern Baptist label.

That a legal name change is not being put forward should come as no surprise to those following developments closely. The word for some time has been that pursuing more of an informal or "doing business as" approach to a name-change was likely (ala Baptist General Convention a.k.a. "Converge"). For those who have been worried about the legal ramifications or excessive costs of a name change, this should quell their concerns.

As the pastor of Trinity International Baptist Mission, I was quietly rooting for "International Baptist Convention", but "Great Commission Baptists" is okay too. It has the effect of capturing much of what many name-change opponents claimed the term "Southern Baptist" stood for. It is pretty clear as the missional heart and focus of our denomination and it is pretty impossible to conceive of it becoming dated (obeying the Great Commission will be relevant till Jesus comes). GCB moves us away from the regionalizing yoke of the term "Southern" and is free from the associations of slavery and racism.

So, in short, I am happy with the name and plan to be enthusiastically voting in favor of it at the SBC this year. Maybe I'll pack up a van of messengers and make it a New Orleans road trip. It should be a very historic time with not only the name change on the ballot, but also the opportunity to vote for our convention's first black president.

Illinois Baptist State Association: Home: IB: Convention will vote on optional 'Great Commission Baptist' identity for use by churches, while keeping legal name ‘Southern Baptist’: "NASHVILLE | Messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention will decide in June whether to call the denomination “Great Commission Baptists,” at least informally. The SBC Executive Committee approved a task force’s recommendation to adopt a name for optional use by churches, while keeping the legal name of the denomination in use since its founding in 1845."

Friday, February 17, 2012

That Which We Call a Vomit Blossom: The Southern Baptist Name Change

Shakespeare has, on the lips of his Juliet, famously declared, “That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.”  This, of course, is true enough.  However, if we called them “vomit blossoms” or “poisonous red buds of death” I doubt too many of us would venture to get a whiff.  The ancient pundits of India were going for something similar when they said, “God is one but theologians call him by different names” (Rg-Veda 1/164/46).  Again, there is an element of truth here as Christians certainly employ a variety of names in their worship of the Triune God.  He is Creator, Lord, Almighty, El Shaddai, YHWH, and more.  However He isn’t Krishna or Buddha or Oprah or you.  The tenor of Scripture suggests actually that Bill Shakespeare and company are fundamentally wrong if they are trying to claim that names and naming are irrelevant and insignificant.  Rather we read of God naming things from the beginning of creation (Gen. 1:5) and of the first man quickly following suit (Gen. 2:20), we see the Lord changing the names of key figures in salvation history to mark life-altering moments or to signal divine promises (e.g. Gen. 17:5, Jn. 1:42), we hear of God’s command that we should revere His name and not take it in vain (Ex. 20:7), and we cherish the promise that our own names have been written down in the Lamb’s book of life (Rev. 20:15).  Clearly, from a Biblical and Christian perspective, the substance of a thing and what you call it are linked – names indeed matter.

And so we come to the matter at hand.  Should the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in North America and my own denominational family, change its name?  With apologies to my many non-SBC readers who perhaps don’t really care, allow me to dig in.

If you are just joining us, let me try to get you up to speed.  Last year, SBC President Bryant White announced that he was forming a volunteer taskforce for the purpose of studying changing the name of our denomination.  Essentially, White called upon the taskforce to figure out whether or not changing the name would be a good idea, make suggestions as to a replacement, and determine the financial and legal ramifications of such an action.  A taskforce of 18 leaders representing various aspects of the denomination was assembled and set to work, completing their project and bringing a recommendation to White this past December.  That recommendation remains enshrouded in mystery for now, awaiting its “reveal” at the upcoming (Feb. 20, 2012) meeting of the SBC’s Executive Committee.

Meanwhile, Southern Baptists big and small are weighing in on the issue.  As you can imagine, a fair number of voices (often from the South) have expressed concern and, at times, outright opposition over the idea of changing what has been our denomination’s name since its founding in 1845.  The Tennessee Baptist Convention has even gone so far as to adopt a preemptive resolution opposing the idea.[1]  The concerns being raised essentially fall into three main categories. 

The first two have to do primarily with logistical issues.  There have been many voices criticizing the process that White has taken in raising the issue, a process they describe as “top-down.”[2] Fearing controversy, these critics proclaim that the proper place for this issue to be brought forward and debated is on the Convention floor.  However, as White has done nothing outside the parameters of his authority as the duly elected president of the SBC and since ultimately any action on a name change will indeed be decided at the Convention, this line of criticism appears rather moot.  Somewhat related are those who raise financial and legal concerns over the issue.  These fear that a name change would be terribly expensive and could force a dramatic restructuring of the denomination.[3] Of course, as I’ve already mentioned, studying such ramifications was a key part of what White had asked the taskforce to do in the first place.  Certainly whatever proposals are brought forward will consist of more than just a catchy name scrawled on a scrap of paper.  We can (and should) expect a thoughtful and detailed plan of action which Southern Baptists will then be free to either approve or reject.

The most passionately held concerns, however, seem to center on the idea that the term “Southern Baptist” has come to mean something of significance.  We are told that the label stands for Biblical integrity, conservative theology, an unwavering commitment to missions and evangelism, and strong family values.  One SBC pastor has declared that “to take ‘Southern’ out of our name would be to water down our theology.”[4] But this idea is simply incorrect. “Southern” means “Southern” and has no inherent theological significance.  In reality, it stands for the region of the United States in which our denomination was born and points unmistakably to the unfortunate historic circumstances that conceived it.

And this is what brings us to the reasons why the SBC should indeed change its long held name.  For one, holding on to a name that is inextricably tied to a region (i.e. the U.S. South) suggests a smallness of vision unworthy of the calling that we have received and effectively perpetuates missiologically shallow thinking which will pose severe limitations to our ability to faithfully participate in the fulfillment of God’s “Great Commission”.  We are not called to the South, we are call to the world.  We are not from the South, nor does mission today flow exclusively from South to North or from the West to the rest of the world.  We now find ourselves firmly enmeshed in a new era of mission from everywhere to everywhere and our denominational brothers and sisters are from every state and practically every nation.  We must come to recognize that the planting of Baptist churches in New York and Chicago, Duluth and Boise, Khartoum and Kathmandu that are “Southern” is not only difficult to achieve, it is antithetical to our cause.   We are called to incarnate Christ, to make disciples, to raise up indigenous leaders, and to bring the Kingdom of God to bear on families, communities, cities, and societies. The extent to which we instead try to import the “Southern” identity and heritage along with its assorted cultural and historic baggage to various non-Southern mission fields, is the extent to which we fail in our global missions mandate.

Rev. Michael Allen, Senior Pastor of Uptown Baptist Church in Chicago and member of the taskforce assigned to study the possible name change agrees, “We have long outgrown the regional geography signified by our name.  By God’s grace, a lot of hard work, and faithful giving to the Cooperative Program, we have grown into an international ministry.  We are one of the largest and best mission organizations – planting churches and making disciples all over the world; yet we find that many people outside the Southern states do not readily identify with the SBC and they tell us it is because of the ‘S’.”[5]

Indeed a recent Lifeway study seems to support this.[6] Most Americans believe that Southern Baptist Churches are not for them; only 10% would consider visiting a church if they knew that it was Southern Baptist; and the majority of unchurched people in the country have an unfavorable view of Southern Baptists. Beyond the American landscape, we must also bear in mind the connotations and implications of the term “Southern” in international mission frontiers such as Sudan, India, the Korean peninsula and elsewhere where loads of unintentional meanings might be brought to mind by the term.  And for my readers from the US South who still can’t grasp exactly why the term “Southern” might be an obstacle and hindrance for those outside the South, consider what one Alabama pastor confessed:

“Being a Southern Baptist isn’t a problem in Fairhope, Alabama.  It is a proud thing.  But if we were to say the ‘Yankee Baptist Church’ here, that would be a real turnoff.”[7]    

But Michael Allen goes on to point out that for some, the “S” in the SBC stands for our denomination’s “sordid past”.  The Convention, says Allen, “was founded in part due to the split between Baptists in the North who wanted to free the slaves and Baptists in the South who wanted to keep the slaves.” For Allen, the term “Southern” is a powerful symbol of past sins which should be removed.  “Isn’t it interesting,” he adds, “that whenever God did a great work in the lives of his saints he often changed their names?” Fellow taskforce member and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Dr. Albert Mohler agrees, “There is much to celebrate in the heritage of our beloved denomination, but there is also a deep stain that is associated with slavery, the nation’s sectional division prior to and during the Civil War, and the legacy of racism.  If these issues can be resolved, even to any significant degree, by a name change, a Gospel-minded people would never hesitate to consider such a proposal.”[8] Honestly, when the issue of slavery is brought into the equation, the name change question appears to be a bit of a no-brainer.  If the Southern Baptist Convention is serious about racial reconciliation today, the voices of our African-American brothers and sisters must be heeded on this issue.

When SBC President Bryant White assembled his name-change taskforce last year, the driving question for him was, “Do we have any unnecessary barriers in reaching people for Jesus Christ?”[9] That the retention of the term “Southern” in our denomination’s name is such a barrier is a fact beyond dispute.  As we have seen, it is descriptively inaccurate, missiologically limiting, and irreparably stained by a sinful past that we must not forget, but must nevertheless move beyond.  Writes Mohler, “No Gospel-driven movement of churches would want to retain any preventable barrier to faithful and effective evangelistic and church planting efforts.”  And with this, we cannot help but agree.  Even in the face of great costs or unforeseen consequences, prayerfully moving forward with a name change is the right thing to do for the cost of retaining such unnessesary barriers to our faithful participation in God’s global mission of redemption would surely be far greater. Names indeed matter, and the Southern Baptist Convention’s must change.



[1] Wilkey, Lonnie (Nov. 16, 2011). “SBC Name Change Opposed by Tenn. Baptists”, Baptist Press. http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?id=36581
[2] Smietana, Bob (Sept. 23, 2011). “Southern Baptists Consider a Name Change to Broaden Appeal”, USA Today. http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/story/2011-09-21/southern-baptist-name-change/50491954/1
[3] Lemke, Steve (Sept. 23, 2011).  “The SBC Name Change: Why and Why Not”, SBC Today. http://sbctoday.com/2011/09/23/the-sbc-name-change-why-and-why-not/
[4] Associated Press (Dec. 8, 2011). “Southern Baptists Study Possible Name Change”, Fox News. http://www.foxnews.com/us/2011/12/08/southern-baptists-study-possible-name-change/
[5] Lorance, Cody (Feb. 3, 2012). Personal Interview with Michael Allen.
[6] Lifeway Research (2011). “Perceptions of Faith Groups: Survey of Over 2000 American Adults”. http://msnbcmedia.msn.com/i/MSNBC/Sections/NEWS/A_FOR%20EDIT/111207_FullSBCStudy.pdf
[7] Hoffman, Roy (Feb. 16, 2012). “Southern Baptists mull whether ‘Southern’ still fits” The Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/on-faith/southern-baptists-mull-whether-southern-still-fits/2012/02/16/gIQAqltKIR_story.html
[8] Mohler, Albert (Sept. 20, 2011). “Will the Southern Baptist Convention Change its Name?” Conventional Thinking. http://www.conventionalthinking.org/2011/09/20/will-the-southern-baptist-convention-change-its-name/
[9] Associated Press (Dec. 8, 2011). “Southern Baptists Study Possible Name Change”, Fox News. http://www.foxnews.com/us/2011/12/08/southern-baptists-study-possible-name-change/

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Illinois Baptist: Should the Southern Baptist Convention change its name?

Just by way of announcement, the most recent issue of the Illinois Baptist is out and features several pieces related to the possible Southern Baptist name change. My own piece is presented in a kind of point / counterpoint fashion in the issue. I encourage you to check it out and let me know your thoughts. Lord willing, you will hear more from me on this issue in the coming days/weeks.

The Illinois Baptist – February 13, 2012 : Should the Southern Baptist Convention change its name?: "Shakespeare famously declared, “A rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.” However, if we called them “poisonous death blossoms” I doubt many of us would venture a sniff. The point is that it is fundamentally wrong to claim that names and naming are insignificant. We read of God naming things at creation and of Adam quickly following suit; we see the Lord changing names of key figures in salvation history to mark life-changing moments or signal divine promises; we hear of God’s command that we should revere His Name and not take it in vain; and we cherish the promise that our own names are written in the book of life. Clearly, from a Biblical perspective, names matter. And so we must ask: Should our Southern Baptist Convention change its name?"

Monday, February 13, 2012

Earliest Manuscript of the New Testament Discovered?

I find the following exciting . . .

Dr. Wallace: Earliest Manuscript of the New Testament Discovered? - Daniel B. Wallace: "On 1 February 2012, I debated Bart Ehrman at UNC Chapel Hill on whether we have the wording of the original New Testament today. This was our third such debate, and it was before a crowd of more than 1000 people. I mentioned that seven New Testament papyri had recently been discovered—six of them probably from the second century and one of them probably from the first. These fragments will be published in about a year."

Friday, February 10, 2012

By Committee Procedure or By Crucified Prayer

The following struck me as being quite fitting for me just now.  It is from the book Victorious Praying by Alan Redpath.  Enjoy:

     We say, "Thine is the glory," but if we do not get a bit for ourselves, we resign. And we seek to do by committee procedure what can only be done by crucified prayer.  By that I mean praying which turns aside every other concern, and which is so desperate that it refuses to let go until God blesses. 
     The disciples waited and the power came.  We do not wait, and the power does not come.  The disciples witnessed unto Him -- we witness to our program, and the program becomes an awful burden.  We speak to others of our talent and our ability, and we lose the battle.
     It is impossible for me to get alongside you each one personally -- God knows how much I wish I could, but I would urge upon you to wait upon God until you know again His power in your own soul.  I urge upon you to refuse to plan a program until you ask yourself, "Can the world see anything about me to commend Him to others?"
     D.L. Moody was told, "The world has yet to see what God can do through a man fully yielded to Him." And the world has yet to see what God can do through a church or a Christian who refuses to take the glory to themselves.  Oh that God would give us crucified men in the leadership of our churches, in every part of the work, on every committee! May everyone who has a voice of authority be a man who has died to his reputation, a man who is dead to himself, a man who can look up to the Father and say, "Thine is the kingdom -- thine shall be the power; thine shall be the glory."

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Sex Trafficking in Nepal

I found the faces of these sisters and their story to be heartbreaking. What is your church doing to end Human Trafficking?


Hope In Motion - Episode 4 "Nepal Safehaven" - Clip from CaveLight Films on Vimeo.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

On the Issue of a Southern Baptist Name Change (pause for a breather)

I have just submitted an article that, Lord willing, shall soon appear in our Illinois State Baptist paper on the issue of whether or not the Southern Baptist Convention -- the denomination of which I have been a part for many years now -- should change its name.  And while I shall not at this time disclose where exactly I have come down on the issue (have to read the paper folks), I do want to pause for some comedy relief. 


As I was engaging in a bit of research for this article, I came across a genuinely funny article on an intriguing blog called The Wardrobe Door.  There I discovered the "proceedings" of a debate between Rev. "Jimbo" Jones and Luther "Presbyter" Calvin on what the SBC should change its name to.  Definitely worth a few minutes of your time, if for no other reason than to find out what BASCAR stands for.

The Jimbo v. Presbyter Debate
http://wardrobedoor.blogspot.com/2011/09/humor-top-5-new-names-for-sbc.html

And for those of you that love a good conspiracy theory, Peter Lumpkins is usually a sure bet.  Check out his intriguing (and slightly crazy) post on this issue here.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Stop human trafficking at Super Bowl XLVI!

A little info to keep in mind during your Super Bowl Party . . . 


The Super Bowl is the most-watched program on TV every year. But many people don’t know about its dark underside: the Super Bowl, like other large sporting events, is a magnet for sex trafficking and child prostitution. It is possibly the largest sex trafficking event in the US. As more than 100,000 football fans descend on Indianapolis, sex traffickers and pimps will also arrive in droves to take advantage of the demand. The event is actually near the Detroit-Toledo corridor, which has one of the highest incidences of trafficking in the country.

Sister Pat Bergen: Stop human trafficking at Super Bowl XLVI - chicagotribune.com: "The crowd is starting to swell in Indianapolis for Super Bowl XLVI, many looking for amusement until game time. And, the commercial sex industry is ready to oblige. You can be sure they've imported a generous supply of victim-prostitutes to be at the pleasure of countless game-goers in town. Local and federal officials acknowledge that organized prostitution accompanies major sports events like the Olympics, the World Cup and the Super Bowl. That's where the big money is."

The Super Bowl attracts tens of thousands of fans to the host city, and millions of television viewers, making it the most watched broadcast each year. But it also attracts a sector of violent, organized criminal activity that operates in plain sight without notice: human sex traffickingHuman trafficking is defined by the United Nations as the “recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of threat, use of force or other forms of coercion, for the purpose of exploitation.” Sex trafficking is particularly heinous: Young women are abducted and sold into an underworld network where they are forced to engage in sexual activity for no pay, and from which it is extremely difficult to escape.

The Lovely Strangeness of Matt Soerens: "Seeing Our Immigrant Neighbors"

Matthew Soerens is a strange chap -- an American, white suburbanite who has taken to an incarnational-type of life among the immigrant poor here in the seemingly prosperous western burbs of Chicagoland. Pretty cool actually. As I have often said, "When their bedbugs become your bedbugs, then you are doing something right." I mean, I'm not saying that Matt has bedbugs . . . but, well . . . nothing.

Anyway, I like what Matt has contributed in the article linked below entitled "Seeing Our Immigrant Neighbors". "Seeing" is indeed a critical first step in faithful missional engagement among diasporas. Only when we learn to see can we move on to faithful prayer, relationship, advocacy, incarnation, discipleship and the like. I hope you'll read the article below and pay attention to what Matt is saying.  It is, in my opinion, flowing out of genuine and sacrificial experience.  Also, I'd love for you to share in the comment section of your experiences about learning to see immigrants among you. What are some of the best ideas you know of for helping others to see them?

Seeing Our Immigrant Neighbors: "In DuPage County, where I live, about one in five residents is foreign-born, and one in four speaks a language other than English at home. In many neighborhoods, like mine, a large apartment complex easily visible from a major thoroughfare but never noticed by many white suburbanites, the vast majority of the residents are either immigrants or their children. I have started to realize immigrants are all around me, not just in my neighborhood, but at the grocery store, our local public elementary school, and at the Laundromat."

Thursday, February 2, 2012

What if this was Church?



Discovered this video online. I think it does a good job of bringing balance to what is often pretty out-of-whack in the American church scene. Thoughts?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

50,000 Bhutanese-Nepali Refugees Now Call America Home

Those of you engaged in work and life among the Bhutanese-Nepali refugee community will be interested to know that as of January 30th, the total number of people to leave the camps in Nepali bound for the United States has now passed 50,000. A few missiologically significant points to consider:

1. Together with some 9,000 Bhutanese refugees gone to other nations, we can now say that more refugees have been resettled to third nations than still remain in the camps. 55,000 remain in the camps today in Eastern Nepal where conditions are reportedly worsening due to the gradual departure of community leaders and the most educated young people. Another article predicts that some 10K are likely to remain in the camps permanently.

2. Originally the United States had committed to resettling 60,000 of the Bhutanese. However, the US Embassy has seemingly changed its position, "The US is committed to accepting as many of the Bhutanese refugees whom UNHCR refers to us for consideration in Nepal and who meet the requirements of US law for refugee admission". This statement potentially opens the door for the US to surpass the 60K mark.

3. For the most part, future Bhutanese refugees will resettle where they already have family. Thus, established communities can expect to continue to see new Bhutanese-Nepali families arrive. Secondary resettlement points (especially Pennsylvania and Ohio) are likely to experience the most growth.

4. Contextual and holistic church planting strategies need to be in place soon (read "already"). The situation of the Bhutanese-Nepalis is rapidly changing and the time for airport pickups, new apartment orientations, and other new refugee-oriented ministries will be gradually ending. I would challenge cross-cultural workers and Bhutanese Christian leaders to come to a collaborative agreement that a one-size-fits-all approach to church planting in this community is woefully insufficient. Typical Nepali Churches which are largely Western in flavor must encourage the planting of radically more contextualized church planting (Yeshu Satsangs) in a (minimally) two-church planting approach. This will allow for the broadest possible proclamation of the message of Jesus Christ, which I believe all Bhutanese-Nepalis deserve the opportunity to hear and consider apart from barriers of understanding and cultural acceptance.


Here are the news articles below from which I got this latest info:

MYREPUBLICA.com - News in Nepal: Fast, Full & Factual: "KATHMANDU, Jan 30: The number of Bhutanese refugees leaving for the United States as part of the ongoing third country resettlement reached 50,000 on Monday. Together with 9,000 others already relocated to various Core Group countries, the number of Bhutanese refugees resettled has reached 59,000."


The US Embassy Statement: http://www.ipajournal.com/2012/01/30/resettlement-figure-reaches-59000/