So What Am I Hearing? Post Cape Town Reflection

Alright, this is dangerous. I'm feeling just simply not ready to put things down on (cyber) paper yet. The Lausanne Blogger Network has been asked to write up some reflections post Cape Town 2010 and submit them before tomorrow, so here goes nothing.

I'm basically asking the question of myself that I so often ask other people, "What do you hear God saying?"

I got home only yesterday. Hugged my wife and kids. Talked. Distributed gifts. Eventually made my way to the bedroom for a nap. I had in my hand a copy of John H. Armstrong's new book, Your Church is Too Small.  Now this is a bit odd in my mind. I know John.  He lives in the same town as me.  And . . . well, can I just confess to you that in the past couple years I've secretly thought that John was going a little bit crazy.  With all his talk of "missional ecumenism" and everything.  I had been putting off getting a hold of his book.  In part because I have so much to read as it is.  And in part because I feared it would finally confirm for me that John really has lost his mind.

But here's the thing.  I'm hanging out in Cape Town sometime before one of the plenary sessions.  Out of nowhere, Phil Miglioratti comes up to me and says something like, "Hey Cody, I think you need this."  He hands me a copy of John's book.

So all during the Lausanne Congress, I've been hearing God on so many issues.  So many themes have flooded my heart and mind.  Diaspora, contextualization, priorities in mission, reconciliation, and so much more.  But nothing has been more overwhelming than the theme of God's Church.  I have never in my life had a stronger, fuller, or more intense encounter with God's Church than I did in Cape Town this month.  At one point, during the closing Holy Communion worship service, considering everything that the Scriptures say about the presence of God in his Church, I just stretched out my hand as if to "feel" God.  Thinking, God is so very here.

This is the big thing for me, friends.  God gathered His Church.  Granted there were people not there that could have been and perhaps should have been, but this was something historic and wonderful.  So, when I packed my bags late during my final night at the super cool Fire and Ice Hotel in Cape Town, I was sure to put my copy of Your Church is Too Small in my carry on.

I haven't finished it.  But I read half of the the thing on my way home.  Still hearing God emphasize the richness, diversity, and beauty of His Church -- the fullness of Him who fills all in all.  So yesterday, it made sense for me to carry that book with me to my nap time.  I only read a few more pages before my eyes started to get heavy with jet lag.  I set it aside and began a sleepy meditation.  I started thinking about the Church and how I had met God in the Church during the past week or so.  I thought about Alvaro, Ruth, Knud, Rekha and the rest of my table group, Paco, Binny, Tek, Christy, Sadiri, Evvy, Niove and others.  Soon my thoughts all sort of landed on one individual.  Which is odd and a bit anti-John Armstrong, but for me, my experience with the Church was all really crystallized in my experience with one sister from East Africa.

Here was grace, communion, love, edification, exchange of spiritual gifts, rebuke, fellowship, and joy.  But gosh, this is getting to be a long post and I really can't get into all the details for a number of reasons.  As I closed my eyes for good afternoon snooze, I asked myself, "What do I hear God saying through all these people and especially through that sister?"  I realize it would mean more if you knew the details behind it all -- another time perhaps.  But let me give you the simple and profound answers that are coming to me:

1. The normal way that God meets our deepest felt needs is through His Church -- This has come to me in a very strong experience this week of being met by God's Church in a critical moment.  I will really try to share the details later, but for now I will simply say that I was very much on the verge of having Cape Town 2010 turn into a total defeat for me personally.  But God intervened through His own Church and just rescued me.  I wept and wept on Sunday night during the closing ceremonies recognizing with joy that God had given me a tremendous victory.  And now, as I consider all that could come from this congress through my life, I realize that it is because of God's Church.

2.  Healthy and joy-filled relationships between God's people have Christ at the center and prayer woven throughout -- This doesn't require a lot of elaboration, does it?  Reflecting on why my connections with certain people at Cape Town were so joyful and profound helped me to realize that it was because we kept Christ right in the middle of every conversation and encounter.  And also that we prayed a lot.  I'm challenged coming back to do the same.  To look at my relationship with my wife first and then others around me.  How do I get Christ in the center of all these relationships?  How do we pray more?

There is more, but this is honestly all I can share at the moment.  This is just where I am right now and everything else is still far too blurry.  Keep praying for me as I reflect on all this.  I believe that God has accomplished and begun a tremendous work through Cape Town 2010.  It is very exciting to see fruit being born in my life.  I am excited to see all that will result.


Post-Congress Report

I've just arrived home after a seriously long set of flights from Cape Town to Chicago.  Ready to shower, chill, and hang with the family.  My personal report on things will come. I actually have 2-3 articles that I want to post in the next couple days on issues related to diaspora, contextualization, unity in the Church, etc.  For now, I want to share with you a brief video report produced by Lausanne.  I think you'll enjoy watching it.

And, in case you are wondering, my last day in Cape Town was spent mostly in prayer-filled and Christ-centered fellowship with a couple fellow Christ-followers -- one of whom is my new, ridiculously charismatic sister from Uganda!  Ate some pizza, visited Camps Bay, saw a whale playing in the water, watched the sun go down, nearly got into a fight with a homeless man, was called a "bad white man" by another. All in all, it was peaceful and joyful.  A really good way to end my trip.

So, be patient and I'll start posting some more meaty stuff. Blessing and thanks so much for your prayers for me all during my trip!


I was at Lausanne 3.

I realize that some of you  are waiting for me to post something. I didn't post yesterday and cannot really do so today either.  The reason in both cases has everything to do with the weightiness of God, the continued reverberation of His voice, the enduring heat of His presence.

In short, I'm just not ready yet.

Please be patient. Thanks be to the Lord, that in his kindness, He's given me now two full days of resting before Him before I leave Cape Town and head back home. A friend told me that margins are important in life. Be sure to make them wide.

I'll get to do a bit of site-seeing tomorrow with a dear professor from my Wheaton days. I believe it will provide a tremendous opportunity to process.  Thank you for your continued prayers for my sake and for this great Congress in which God gathered, spoken to, and blessed His Church. Please don't stop now.

Grace and Peace.


From a Younger Leader to my Elders: Thanks, but . . .

Let me begin by saying that I feel so blessed and privileged to be a part of the Lausanne Younger Leaders here at Cape Town 2010.  I applaud my elders who have made it a point to intentionally ensure that a significant portion of this Congress consists of the participation and contributions of Christian leaders under the age of 40.  Let me start there.  Thanks, truly humbled, truly grateful -- this is changing my life.


Last night we were treated to a Younger Leaders Reception following the third plenary.  I was inspired and blessed to see so many delegates of my age group and to hear Michael Oh and Doug Birdsall's words of encouragement and affirmation.


Doug said this, "My generation looks at things as they are and says, 'Why?' But your [meaning younger leaders] generation looks at things as they could be and says, 'Why not?'" [Pause for applause, some of which are mine].


That's not the full picture. I mean I get what Doug was saying and I agree to an extent and felt excited and clapped my hands and have been doing that very thing much of this week.  Still, I think it is important that we are also the generation that so often looks at everything and simply says, "Whatever."  We are a generation that is also often marked by arrogance, complacency, triviality, unhealthy cynicism, and an often too critical spirit.  Some of us have noted this in our conversations this week.  We are a generation that needs our elders to not only applaud us, but rebuke us, speak into our lives, shepherd us and sometimes even kick us in the teeth.

I have a friend that I love who isn't here.  He had a spot.  He deserved it.  He's someone you'd probably know.  But he gave it up for someone else.  Someone younger.  Who hadn't, like him, had the chance to be at Lausanne stuff - something he's been privileged to be on the inside of often.  His decision was noble and probably from God, but when he was sharing with me about his thought process I told him my perspective.  "What about the young leader that ends up at your small group table, who is thus privileged to interact personally with one of the great mission thinkers in the world today, who never forgets it and is forever changed by it?"

What I was really saying was, "What about me?" I'm really grateful for my elders here at Cape Town 2010 who have made us younger leaders feel that we really belong at the table.  Truly, deeply grateful.  But please don't forget that we still desperately need you.  We don't like to admit it.  We will often resist and resent your rebukes, but please, please rebuke us anyway.  Correct us anyway.  Shepherd us.  Lead us.  Listen to us, sure.  We have some things to say, but we desperately need your wisdom, experience, and maturity.

Proverbs 20:29 preserves the intergenerational tension nicely, "The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendor of old men is their gray hair."

So I have an especially deep appreciation for someone like my new friend, Knud.  An older leader who doesn't need to be bothering with me.  But last night, he just saw me and sat with me and ate dinner.  Here's a man who's seen the world, been a leader in missions for years, is now experiencing his 3rd Lausanne Congress.  He sat with me, talked, encouraged, subtly challenged.  It is what I need.  It is what my generation needs.  I also appreciate deeply Alvaro, whom I've already mentioned, Pastor Tek, and others that have taken the time to wisely speak with me and into my life.  Please don't forget that we need that.

We tend to kick at the goads.  But mothers and fathers, please goad us anyway!

We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.
(Psa 78:4)

Something Else: The Dialog Session I Keep Looking for . . .

It has been noted that the emphasis on World Faiths at this Congress has been largely focused on Islam.  This is probably true and I trust the leadership and their careful discernment process on this.  However, it still is a fact that everyday I keep looking at the same sheet of dialog sessions that I've been carrying around all week thinking, "Maybe something on Hinduism and contextualization is there."  But alas, the list doesn't magically get amended at night by magical Lausanne fairies.

So, I still have this longing to have a forum to exchange ideas between the few of us here (in part it would just be nice to know who we are) who are interested in pursuing contextualization among Hindus for the cause of Christ.  And it's the dialog session I would lead if I were slightly more famous.  Still, if you are out there and reading this (there's the big filter, if you're reading this) and interested in this topic, please post a comment or drop me an email so we can begin to identify each other.  It might be helpful to have some kind of network in place.  And, by the way, I do have several copies of a resource that I want to provide to people who are really ready to pursue this in their contexts.

I leave you today with a shoddy video taken from my phone of one of the best worship teams I've ever been around.  Blessings!


Maybe Nobody is Hindu

(The following post is a "blast-from-the-past" article that I'm transferring over from my old blog especially in light of some new conversation going on at the Lausanne Global Conversation as well as at Cape Town 2010.  It is intended as "food for thought" and I look forward to your discussion.)

A friend of mine recently sent me a couple articles that I thought were worth passing your way.  The first here is an article by Lisa Miller entitled "We are All Hindus Now."  It appeared in an August 2009 issue of Newsweek. Miller's basic argument is that while Americans still tend to self-identify as Christians, their worldviews are becoming much more Hindu than Biblical. Miller's position is that America is on its way to becoming Hindu in terms of the worldview shared by most of the population.

In an October article published by Break Point entitled "Are We Really Hindus?", Regis Nicoll provides a well-conceived rebuttal.  He doesn't totally dismiss Miller's contentions, but provides a balanced perspective that should give the follower of Christ pause.  In Nicoll's mind, Americans aren't really becoming more Hindu.  Rather the problem is that American Christians have traded in a belief system based on creeds for one based on personal needs.

I thought both articles were interesting.  At the end of the day, I'm not sure it matters a whole lot for my daily life as a follower of Jesus engaged full-time in God's global mission of redemption.  Lost is still lost, regardless of the label.  It is essential to understand an individual's worldview and background, sure.  But I feel that believers sometimes read these kinds of articles in a doom and gloom sort of way. Like they'd be happier if people were lost but didn't believe in reincarnation.  I don't get that.

As for the question at hand, "Is America becoming more Hindu?" I'd like to suggest a totally different option.  That is, maybe no one is really Hindu.  Now, wait, I'm actually a little serious.  The word Hindu itself has very little meaning.  It is a term that was coined, it seems, by Persians to refer to the Indus river valley and the people who lived there.  Later generations of Arabs and other foreigners to India used the appellation to refer collectively to everyone living in "Hindustan" (India) regardless of their religious beliefs. It was only in relatively recent times that Europeans started using the term as a religious label, but they did this somewhat uncritically -- lumping different religious groups together that often had little in common. 

Literally, "hindu" just means someone from India, but the Hindi / Sanskrit word for India isn't even "India".  It is Bharat.  So, if "India" is no more than what foreigners call Bharat, can we really say that anyone is from India?  Are there really any Hindus?

More seriously, "Hinduism" can claim no universal tenets, doctrines, practices, or literature that explain why Buddhists are not Hindu, BAPS devotees are, and Jains are kinda-sorta.  Just try. Just try to explain what makes a Hindu a Hindu and not a Christian, Scientologist, Taoist, or Muslim.  Try.  Really, I'm not looking to be difficult, but I'd love to get a conversation going.

An Alternative Way to See a City

There are different ways to see a city.

There is one approach that finds a travel book, video or website. Discovers those “must-see” spots and proceeds to plan their trip around seeing those things.  After all, it seems strange to return from Paris not having seen the Eiffel Tower or New York City without seeing the Statue of Liberty.  This tourist approach is really fun. I myself like it to a point. Ultimately, however, I find it rather unsatisfying.

The travel buff goes a step further, priding themselves on discovering those “lesser known” places.  They hang out at the Shakespeare & Co. book store in Paris and know the best place for hotdogs in NYC. I’m much more this kind of person.  I love finding the hidden treasures of cities.  But this is also ultimately dissatisfying to me.

A third approach to seeing a city is rather simple by comparison. It is focused on simply going about, keeping your eyes and ears and heart open.  It is focused on seeing the people.  I have a friend that has been to Cape Town, South Africa several times but has never been up to Table Mountain.  He took this third approach.  It is a much more missional gaze because it flows out of a desire to connect with God’s image-bearers. As was said last night at the Lausanne Congress here in Cape Town, “cities feature more image of God per square inch than any other place in the universe.” 

So, here towards the end of my mid-congress day off, having not even set foot out of my hotel room (I really needed the rest), it is becoming clear that I may or may not make it to Table Mountain or Robben Island.  I may not cage dive with the sharks or see any penguins (though I would really like to do all these things). But I’m very grateful for the people of this city that have allowed me to see them – at least a bit.

We in the U.S. have a view of apartheid and the "new" South Africa that I’m learning may not be the full picture.  I suppose my view has been a bit simplistic. I don’t think I quite felt it was hell during and utopia after apartheid, but that’s not too far off from what I’ve thought.  But there’ve been some interesting encounters this week that have helped to complicate my view of things. 

One that stands out was a late night conversation with my Cape Malay cabbie.  She, a fourth generation Malaysian South African, gave me her perspective on the country.  “It was better before,” she declared. “Now, it’s just the reverse.  Mandela did a good thing, but his successors are too stupid to cover up the corruption.  At least the white government could sweep everything under the rug.”

What a statement! I asked her how the Cape Malay people were affected by the end of apartheid.  She described loose immigration policies that allowed for what she described as a free flow of immigrants from other African nations.  “It’s great for them, but they take all our jobs.”

I thought about how I have enjoyed meeting the numerous Malawian and Somali immigrants who work in various places in and on my way to the convention centre.  There seems to be a basic goodness to the fact that such people can immigrate to this country and find work.  But my friendly and opinionated cabbie reminded me that it’s more complicated than that – it always is.

Now, staying in downtown Cape Town with limited ability to move around town makes it challenging to see the whole city – the whole story.  It might be tempting to see and interact with the many (usually very friendly) black South Africans working around here and just assume that all is well. But I was grateful to happen upon a protest on morning being held at a housing office in Cape Town.  Here’s a short clip.  I managed to speak with the organizer who was a bit hard to hear over the loud singing.  Still, you get some idea of what she’s saying.

So, while apartheid is over, the healing process continues. Not to be critical of South Africa.  I really just post this today to illustrate the fact that the reality of things are often very complicated.  Working for reconciliation and the peace of Christ in our world today necessitates that followers of Jesus exert enormous effort to understand the complexities of our world.  I’ve said a number of times: for the gospel to be understood as “good news” by its hearers, it must speak to what they already understand to be the “bad news.”

So, there you have it. The complicated brokenness of image-bearers -- a way of seeing a city that I recommend trying from time to time. 


Alvaro Unpacks My Day and Puts it in Historic Context

I don't really know where to begin.  Perhaps from the end?

Alvaro was sitting near me on the bus to the hotel.  I felt that I was just about finished talking for one day -- there was so much already on my heart and mind.  But the choice to not strike up a conversation is, I am beginning to think, nearly always a mistake at Lausanne. We were talking about how God was speaking here in the Congress.  He was reflecting on the message by Ruth Padilla, the theme of reconciliation, and his own context of ministry among the indigenous people of Mexico.  Then he sort of tossed the ball back to me.

I said that I wasn't really sure how I could take several more days of this.  It's not that I feel that too much information is being given to me.  It's just so much substance, weightiness.  I told Alvaro how I'll often find myself at big Christian meetings of various kinds and in passing through the crowd I'll overhear snippets of conversations -- the latest trend, the insider denominational gossip, the political stuff, the mind-numbing small talk.  But something different is in the air here.  Today, I walked down a crowded hall and overheard phrases like -- "Evangelism!"; "It's about discipleship!"; and similar things. I looked around and saw that it would often be people from different continents locked in the most intense conversation, praying, hugging, laughing.

As I walked that hall (and now, as I spoke with Alvaro), I had in my mind a captivating conversation that I had earlier with Mahima*. Mahima is from a nation in east Africa.  She spent two years as a missionary in Nepal. And now, she was planning to go to a completely different part of the world to find Nepalis there and work among them - sharing the hope of Christ.  We talked intensely for two hours (during which time, I actually broke a chair), prayed, and parted.

So, I told Alvaro (remember, we're still on the bus), "I've just been thinking for the past hour about how weighty and significant and Spirit-filled my encounters with other people have been this week.  And that as I walked the hall, I realized that what I've been experiencing -- which is nothing less than the most significant encounter with God that I've ever had -- is multiplied by about 4,000!" I told him, "The Holy Spirit is here."

Alvaro sat back in his seat and effortlessly began a discourse that not only took us all the way back to our hotel, but through a significant amount of the history of mission.  He told stories. He quizzed me. But here's what stood out most:  "I was almost at the first Lausanne in 1974," he said with a hint of longing in his voice. "I had the papers in my hands.  I knew Dr. Ralph Winter." Alvaro proceeded to talk about Winter's historic "people groups" speech at Lausanne '74. "That speech has shaped my life for the last 36 years of ministry!  And that's Lausanne! That's what this is!"

So, coming back to my room.  I'm beginning to think that perhaps I'm not so naive as I thought.  Alvaro has been around the block a few times, and he just likened this Congress to the Jerusalem Council. Is this what it feels like to consciously participate in something of truly historic significance?  Will I look back in 36 years, when so many of the implications of this Congress have been realized and say, "I just knew it!"

Questions that arise . . .

Can TIBM (our local ministry here, in case you're wondering) do something of significance in response to HIV/AIDS? Global sex trafficking? Modern day slavery? The Hindu caste system?

What is God really saying to me about reconciliation?

Who do I really need to buy souvenirs for?

And now for something completely different . . . 

I talked with a friend today who is neat and cool for a lot of reasons.  One of those being that she is actually, really and truly a friend of Don and Lori Chaffer (whose music is my all-time, no-contest favorite and woven into the very DNA of my marriage). And Christy told me that Don and Lori are working on producing a musical that Christy, who's in the biz, says is "Really good!" and she honestly thinks it could make it to Broadway! The musical is based on the Khrusty Brothers.  So I'm smiling about that.  Also, Christy thinks that Don would like me . . . Did you hear that, Don?

Okay, that's all. Sorry it's not more of a blow-by-blow. Such is not what I need to be writing right now.  Thank you for reading.  Thank you to everyone who has taken time to talk with me and bless me in so many ways -- even some people who have sought me out.  I appreciate that. To the guys from ITeams who invited me to hang out tonight - please invite me again.  I will take you up on it next time.  To the Nepali delegation, thanks for the invitation to eat lunch with you all tomorrow.  May the Lord richly bless our time together.  To my new connections on the Lausanne Global Conversation, thanks for adding me.  To the great people of Cape Town, thanks for being so friendly and helping me to learn a bit of Xhosa.

Good night!

(* pseudonym) 

(Note:  I'm sorry that so many people are having to wait a bit longer for the Lausanne videos, etc to be available online. I know they're working hard and around the clock trying to get it going. Pray. I know you remember that it isn't just you that wants to see them -- it's thousands of people around the world.  Until then, there are a bunch of us bloggers that are doing our best to help you know what's happening here.)


God at Cape Town: What I saw and heard today

The first full day of the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization in Cape Town, South Africa has come to a close. I am exhausted. My fatigue today was so extreme that I know it would be unwise for me to go on for very long.  Still, let me just give a few moments to reflection.

What did I see God doing today?

More than anything else, I see God gathering His Church from every corner of the earth and knitting our hearts together as one. Again, I know that I'm extremely naive.  I'm sure there is all sort of carnality going on here and there.  But I don't really care much about that right now. I'm captivated.  I saw a tweet a few moments ago from Ines Franklin that said it perfectly, "When we get to heaven we are going to want to meet every single person there. Getting a feel for it at Cape Town 2010."  Yes, that's it exactly.  I see God in His people today. In my table (which is now complete with the addition of a pastor from Germany), His Spirit is stimulating very fruitful conversation.  My ear is straining to hear His voice there -- I know He is speaking. I'll be posting insights from our table discussion on the Lausanne Global Conversation.  Not there yet.

I'm seeing God in lots of conversations here and there.  I met so many great people today.  From the famous like John Piper, Doug Birdsall and Ajith Fernando, to the awesome like Ruth. Ruth was a great blessing to me tonight.  I sat down at an empty space where several Nigerians and Ruth (a Rwandan) were eating.  Ruth had already finished, but she settled back in and started to talk with me.  She runs a ministry called Pan African Christian Women Alliance in Rwanda where she minsters to women who have been victimized in various ways by the massacre that happened in that country in the 1990s.  Widows, orphans and others are taken care of there.  She teaches them skills that empower them to earn a living.  She teaches them about forgiveness and reconciliation.  She teaches them about Christ.  In other words, she incarnates our Savior in a remarkable way.

Ruth took her time with me.  She lived right on through the unspeakable tragedies of her country.  She told me about the losses and the pain.  "But you cannot grieve for 15 years. You cannot stay in the past.  You have to hope for the future."  So mostly she told me about forgiveness and reconciliation.  "So, it's like that . . . it's like that."

This is a solemn moment in the history of God's Church.  I believe it with all my heart.  Ebenezer from Nigeria said as much to me over dinner when he spoke of God unifying His people right here, right now, before our very eyes. Praise the Lord!

What did I hear God saying?

Allow me to be simple.

I have heard God saying to me through a number of voices, "Press on in the pursuit of contextualization." This word has come now through God's people from Norway, India, the Middle East, and elsewhere.

God is also bringing a question to my mind about partnership.  He seems to be impressing on me that He has some kinds of partnerships for me here at Cape Town 2010.  So the question swelling in my heart is, "What does the partnership look like?"

I heard God say, "Truth is not a what, it is a who -- Jesus Christ."  And, that "truth must be shared relationally, contextually, and dialogically." Finally, that "discipleship must involve the utter transformation of an individuals concept of God."

And, randomly . . . 

Did you know that there are now more cell phones than toilets in India?

Okay, time for bed. Thank you for reading and praying!


Cape Town 2010 Begins!

Nearing midnight, I'm back in my room.  I have so many thoughts going on in my mind.  My body needs sleep, my heart needs to share.  I can't get over the feeling - almost magical - about being here at Lausanne. Some of you have heard me teach about the presence of God in the past. His omnipresence (Ps. 139:7), his presence in the believer's life (Eph. 1:13), his presence in the company of saints (Matt. 18:20), his presence in the God-wardly focused Church (Ps. 22:3), his presence in the missional Church (Mt. 28:20). Well, tonight we sang -- more than 4,000 of us, from 200 nations -- "Jesus is here." I just looked around the room.  My heart swelled within me contemplating that truth.  Yes, indeed. He is here.  He will speak.  He will move.  He will do unspeakable and unimaginable things.

Today, from the podium, Doug Birdsall said something like, "May it be that by the time we meet again for the 4th Lausanne Congress, we'll be able to say, 'Now there are no more unreached people groups. Now there are no languages spoken in which there is not a Bible.'"

It is humbling to be here.

Around my table is a church planter from Pakistan, a long-time scholar, journalist and missionary from Norway, a pastor from Burundi, and a woman from Mumbai who has a ministry to sex workers in that city.  Today, we met and shared our names, families, strengths, weaknesses, hopes for the Congress, and prayer requests.  This experience is truly awesome.  I've been in multicultural worship services before.  I've heard others and said myself of such services, "This is a foretaste of heaven." No, no. This is.  You can't even imagine it, friends. There is a sense of the Holy Spirit's presence that moves me to tears even as I write this.  I am convinced that I've never been a part of something more important.

I snap photos and sometimes video and think all the while, I can't really share this.  No one can really get it unless they are here.  Still, I want to plead with all of you not to miss the amazing opportunity that you have to engage the Congress.  Make it your habit to visit very often during the next week. Look at pictures, pray, watch video.

My Today:

Today, was strange for me though.  I woke at 5AM and thought, well I don't have to be at the convention center until about 2PM, so let me sleep more.  Next thing I knew, it was 2PM.  I got ready in minutes and walked as fast as I could to the center.  I arrived sweaty (it's hot today) and frazzled.  So, it was difficult to calm down today.  I was in a mad rush getting back tonight also; I wanted to be able to call back to my church in the U.S. and had forgotten to bring my power adapter for the laptop.  So, there's that. I really don't want to be frazzled.  I want to be open to the Lord.  Please pray for me in this.

Table Leader:

Some of you already know that I was selected to be a table leader for this congress.  It is a great opportunity in my mind.  Yesterday, I spent 6-7 hours in a training for this role.  It will be a demanding job.  I need your prayer.  As I understand it, my responsibility will be to facilitate the discussion around our table, to prayerfully intercede for my table mates, to listen and feedback to the congress leaders what is going on and being said at our table, and to essentially shepherd those at my table -- knowing and helping to meet their spiritual, emotional, and physical needs. The Lord has given me a strong willingness to perform these things.  I want to surrender myself and my agenda and my needs in order to serve my group.  Will you pray that God empowers me for this?

Encouraging People:

There are some really great people here.  I've loved mingling and meeting.  I usually don't like that component of a conference.  Maybe it is because I'm kind of arrogant often.  This has been different.  Niove from the Dominican Republic found me today and we had a chance to encourage each other.  Greta from Zimbabwe talked with me for a long time about youth ministry and allowed me to share our struggles with 1.5-2nd generation immigrant youth.  Several church leaders from Nepal blessed me today with warm greetings and a promise to meet together later.  Vijayesh and Knud both encouraged me to continue on with the pursuit of contextualization in cross-cultural mission.  I feel great joy.

Tomorrow Awaits:

So, tomorrow awaits.  God know's what is lying ahead.  Please don't forget to pray for me.  Especially for the rest and energy I need.  As well as for my ability to discern what the Lord is telling me to do moment-by-moment.  I need to sleep now. Blessings!


दशैंको चिन्नहरु (The Symbols of Dashain)-- An Explanation

The Symbols of Dashain
     Dashain is a great time for devotees of the Lord Shri Jesus Christ!  This is a wonderful opportunity for us to worship the Holy Spirit. Together with all our Nepali and Bhutanese friends and family, we can use the rich symbols and traditions of Dashain to express our faith, honor our families, and celebrate Nepali culture.  There are many symbols and traditions in Dashain. Two of the most important are called “tika” and “jamera.” Beginning on the day of “Bijaya Dashami” tika and jamera are used to show love and blessing to family and close friends.
     Followers of Jesus should feel confident to use these symbols also. First, all these things were created by God for His glory. Second, the red tika reminds us of the blood of the Lord Shri Jesus that provides our salvation. The rice in the tika reminds us of the seed of faith that we have in Christ. Finally, the jamera reminds us of the Holy Spirit’s work to help us grow.   Together, these symbols provide a powerful reminder of the victory that we have through TriEak Parmeshwar. So, we can say with joy, “Bijaya Dashami!”

दशैंको चिन्नहरु
     दशैं येशु भक्तहरुको लागि एकदम राम्रो समय हो । यो पवित्र आत्मलाई पूजा गर्नुको निम्ती मङ्गल बेला हो सबै नेपाली-भुटानिहरुसंग हामिले दशैंको चिन्नहरु संस्कृतिद्वरा हाम्रा विश्वास प्रमाण् दिनु हाम्रा परिवार्हरुलाई मान्नु सकौं   दुइटा ठुलो चिन्नहरु टिका जमरा हुन् । बिजय दशमिदेखी मनिसहरुले टिका-जमरा परिवार र नजिक साथिहरुलाई आशिष दिनु प्रयोग गर्छन् ।
     येशु भक्तहरुले पनि यि चिन्नहरु प्रयोग गर्नसक्छन् । पैले, त्रीएक परमेश्वरले सबै थोक उहाँका महिमको निम्ती सृष्टि गर्नुभयो । दोस्त्रो, रातो टिकाले प्रभु श्री येशुको रगतले हामिलाई सम्झाउछ । यो रगतद्वरा हाम्रो मुक्ती आउँछ । टिकाको चामल विश्वासको बिउजस्तो छ । यो विश्वासको बिउदेखी मुक्ती आउँछ । र, जमराले पवित्र आत्मको काम हामीलाई सम्झाउछ । उहाँले हाम्रा जीवनमा आफ्न फल उब्जाउनुहुन्छ । जम्मा, यि चिन्नहरु हाम्रो परमेश्वरको विजय एकदम शक्तिशाली सम्झौटो हो । साँच्चै, हामीले भन्दछैं, "बिजय दशमि!"

बिजया दशमी! (Victorious Dashami)- Explanations & Invitation

Join Us on Sunday, October 17th at 2PM
Victorious Dashami
सत्सङ्ग, पर्सात्, आराधना, भजनहरु
Satsang, prasaath, tika & jamara, worship, bhajan-singing
TriEak Parmeshwar Mandali
(Prabhu Shri YeshukoTika & Jamara may be received from the Mandali beginning at 7AM this day) 

What Should Be our Priorities in Making Disciples of All Nations

Okay, I want to be simple here. First, super grateful for your prayers. I thought there would be no way for me to finish this paper - to stay awake. I even got in bed.  But as I started reading, my energy was renewed. Twenty pages finished. The paper?

"World Evangelization in the 21st Century: Prioritizing the Essential Elements of the Great Commission" by Paul Eshleman on behalf of the Lausanne Strategy Working Group (LSWG).

The paper is simple and crucial. It seeks to say to the Global Church, "As we look at the work of mission in the world today, here are the things that should be our top priorities." It is specific, Biblical, and compelling.  I read it with the eyes of a pastor, church planter, missionary, and ministry leader.  If you find yourself occupying one of those roles, read this paper.  If you are a disciple of Jesus concerned about the Great Commission, read it.

There is a lot I could say here and there in response to the LSWG paper.  However, I want to limit my comments to several specific questions that came to my mind as I thought through these priorities and specific calls.  I kept asking how this related to Trinity International Baptist Mission.  What is God saying to us?  I am expecting God to speak in powerful ways to me and to my context of ministry.  So, it is important that I bring my ministry and every component of it to the table.  I challenge you to do the same with your church or ministry as you read the LSWG paper.  Here are the questions I am beginning to ask (note: TIBM refers to Trinity International Baptist Mission and all our related ministries):

1. Can TIBM recruit and deploy one team tasked to produce an "Oral Story Bible" for one of the 2,252 language groups that still do not have one verse of Scripture in their language?

2. Can TIBM drastically increase our intentional and strategic distribution and use of the Scripture?

3. Can TIBM recruit and deploy one full-time worker to go to one of the 2,365 people groups (with populations over 5,000) that are totally unengaged with the Gospel?

4. Can TIBM launch a new ministry focused on reaching out to members of a major religious group that we aren't currently engaging?

5. Can I effectively teach effective Bible storying and narrative preaching to those I lead and mentor?

6. Can the entire TIBM team get trained in orality ministry?

7. Can TIBM start more churches where there are actual needs?

8. Can TIBM become a "house of prayer for the nations" - developing a 24/7 missional prayer ministry?

9. Can TIBM form new boundary-crossing partnerships that result in extending God's Kingdom?

10. Can TIBM become for faithfully mobilized in compassion ministry?

11. Can TIBM be renewed and refilled by the Holy Spirit?

12. Can TIBM become more effective and intentional in mobilizing followers of Christ to pray, give, and go for God's global mission?

13. Can TIBM become thoroughly and constantly informed as to the status of God's mission in the world?  Can we increase our access to and use of resources like Christian World Encyclopedia, Operation World, Ethnologue, Joshua Project, People Groups, and more?

14. Can TIBM conduct regular research and produce reliable results that are helpful to the Body of Christ?

And that's it. I am particularly looking forward to the plenary session on this topic and the interaction around the tables.  Let's pray that God will give us very clear direction.

Chinese Lausanne Delegation Issues Open Letter After Being Prevented from Attending Cape Town 2010

The sad news has been coming in that the Chinese delegation has for the most part been prevented from attending Cape Town 2010, the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization, by the Chinese Government.  In some cases, the government's attempts to prevent the delegates from coming have reportedly involved detentions, house arrests, confiscation of passports, and even the forced closing of churches.  This act of persecution is intolerable.  I still hold out some hope that the God who can do all things will make a way.  But if not, we have the confidence that God will use this to gain glory for himself.  I am yet unclear as to whether or not any of the delegates from mainland China have made it through.  I'm sure we'll know more tomorrow. I have heard a rumor that there are some, but I can't confirm it.  For now, please pray for a miracle.  Additionally, I believe it could be helpful to call attention to this gross injustice.  I ask you to forward this on to those who care about human rights, religious liberty, and the like.

I've located a couple articles online that have been helpful to me.  The Compass Direct article is fairly thorough.  There is also a NY Times article.  Additional articles are posted below.

The Chinese Lausanne Delegation has itself issued an Open Letter in response to these events. I'll close with it:

The Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization takes place in Cape Town, South Africa on 17-25 of October, 2010. This massive global evangelical gathering brings together more than 4,000 representatives from nearly 200 countries. The Lausanne organizers have invited over 200 members of house churches in China to attend the conference.

Recently, some relevant departments of the Chinese government has kept the Chinese delegates from joining the Lausanne Congress. They used a variety of means such as persuasion, surveillance, obstruction, detention and confiscation of passport at international airports. As a result, the vast majority of the Chinese delegation has not made it to the meeting.

In response to the event, we have decided to issue this open letter to expound our position and approach.

First, the house church is the main part of the Chinese church. It is a church with independence, self-governing and self-support.

In recent decades, the house church in China has abided by the principle of the separation of state and religion. It has witnessed continued growth. From villages to cities, from the coastal areas to the hinterlands, from the central plains to the frontier, the house church can be found across China.

And from a worship gathering of dozens of people at home, the house church has grown to considerable sizes of hundreds or even thousands of worshippers meeting at office buildings, convention centers of hotels and church buildings. The members of the house church has amounted to tens of millions of people from all walks of life. Now, it still keeps on rapid growth. The house church has already become the main body of the Chinese church.

Second, the co-workers of the house church in China have been yearning to attend the Lausanne Congress.

The Lausanne Congress is a worldwide Christian conference. It confronts the critical issues in promoting the evangelization all over the globe. As part of the global church, China’s house church wants very much to join all the other churches discussing how to be a witness of God’s love toward the world by spreading the gospel of Christ.

We believe to attend the Lausanne Congress will strengthen the friendship between Christians all across the world by giving testimony of God’s love toward China and sharing the huge changes of the Chinese church over the past decades.

Since receiving invitations, many people of the house church have devoted much to preparing for the conference. Numerous churches and their members have made substantial donations. The house church has prepared not only all the money needed for the Chinese delegates but the expenses for 100 representatives from some neighboring and African countries. This has shown the growth of the Chinese church.

Third, that the relevant government departments barred the Chinese delegates from participating in the Lausanne Congress has gravely violated the religious freedom of numerous believers entitled by China’s Constitution.

As the pastors and other members of the house church prepared to attend the Lausanne Congress with much enthusiasm, almost all the delegates were contacted by the relevant government agencies and were asked not to attend. As the delegates sticked to taking part in the conference, they faced even greater obstruction and pressure. Some delegates have been under surveillance. The passports of some delegates have been confiscated. Some delegates’ churches have been under crackdown. Even some delegates have been detained. Some delegates have been blocked to the airport. The vast majority of the delegates have been prevented from passing the passport control at airports. All these acts of obstruction have constituted a clear violation of the liberty of faith among the Chinese citizens entitled by China’s Constitution. They have deeply hurt both the dignity and the feelings of a great number of religious believers.

As Christians, we love God and we love our country. We earnestly long for a China with love, justice and peace. We hope every Chinese will love one another without considering the status. We look forward to a China where God’s sunlight of love shines everywhere. We are thirsty for a China where justice rolls on like a river and righteousness like a never-failing stream. We hope peace no longer just remains a hope but becomes a reality in this land. For this, we appeal to the relevant government departments to take away all the pressures and restrictions imposed on the delegates. This will serve to prevent the conflict between government and religious believers from worsening. We hope the government will improve its religious policy and build a harmonious relationship between state and religion so that the church will become an even greater blessing for the Chinese society.

May God bless China!

China Lausanne Delegation

Beijing, October 15, 2010

Additional News Articles:
CBN News
Religion News Blog
Mission Network News
Christian Persecution Blog
Associated Baptist Press

Dashain Daily Prayer (दशैं दैनिका प्रार्थना): Self-Control Day

Saturday, 10/16/2010
नवमी (Ninth Day)
Self-control Day

पवित्र आत्माको फल संयम हो ।
The fruit of the Holy Spirit is self-control.

पर्खलहरु भत्किएको नगरझैँ आत्मसंयम नभएको मानिस हो । (हितोपदेश २५:२८, Proverbs 25:28)

Today, pray especially for Nepali youth to have self-control. Ask God to give you victory over sin and temptation. Fix your mind on TriEak Parmeshwar.

आज, प्रार्थना गर्नुहोस्-

प्रभु श्री येशु, म मेरो चित्त तपाईंमाथि ध्यान गर्छू । मलाई र सबैलाई संयम दिनुहोस् । मेरो पाप क्षामा गर्नुहोस् ।


Equilibrium: Revisited

I had just settled in to my seat on a South African Airways flight from Jo'burg to Cape Town.  I had my copy of Complete Nepali (excellent, by the way) in my hand, ready to be read.  Then Greg sat down.  Followed a bit later by Azim. Both men were my age.  Both native South Africans. Both 3rd generation Indian immigrants.  What followed was a lively conversation about Cape Town, life, world affairs.  

At one point, I said to my traveling companions, "I'm curious about your perspectives on things going on in the U.S.  What does it look like to a South African?"  There were some attempts to answer me, but eventually Greg explained, "You know, we all pretty much feel that Americans are arrogant.  That they have no idea about what's going on in the rest of the world.  So in response, a lot of times, we just don't care about what's going on in the United States."  The conversation continued, building on the theme that Americans must learn how to listen.

Greg told me of a time he was in the U.S. on business, consulting for an American company. One of the American's asked him if he knew what an "MP3" was.  Well, Greg was taken aback.  He felt offended that the American assumed that since Greg came from the majority world, that he knew very little about technology. "This guy didn't even know that actually MP3s were already an outdated form of technology!"

Let me paint a different kind of scenario:

A kind of coalition of churches is formed in an American city. The several churches represent several different ethno-linguistic groups.  There is property involved.  Electric bills.  Space and time negotiations.  Etc.  The assumed head of this coalition is the one American church.  Not that this was ever mutually agreed upon.  It just was.  It is simply assumed that since the property that is being used by all is legally owned by the American group, that they are the ones who have the final authority.  And, by the way, it isn't just the Americans who make this assumption.  Everyone else does as well.  At the end of the day, it appears that finances and power are woven together very tightly.  We should pause and consider if this is true and if it is as it should be . . . ok, now let's move on.

Then there is a meeting. The Americans have been struggling for some time, but recently some of its leaders have experiences a fresh vision and hope for the future.  They call the meeting to discuss their vision with the other churches – the immigrant churches.  Their exciting new plans are laid on the table.  The other churches are invited and challenged to get on board in prescribed ways.  The immigrants are encouraged to consider how they might make adjustments to their plans and ministries in order to prepare for growth.  In as sense, it sounds very exciting.

Except . . .

Here’s the thing, the immigrant churches have already been growing.  Some of them have planted daughter churches after only existing for a couple years themselves.  The growth is heavily through making new disciples.  They are already vibrant, hopeful, excited.  Beyond that, some of the leaders in those immigrant churches have accumulated very significant experience in evangelism, church planting, missions, and more.  As a matter of fact, from the perspective of a fly on the wall, the meetings seems very strange.  The one church that has not been growing, is the one leading, the one casting the vision, the one (indirectly) demanding to be listened to.  But the question is never raised, nor does it appear to enter the mind that the Americans should go to the immigrants and ask, “Will you teach us how to reach our neighbors?”

Greg said it.  Americans like me just have no idea how to listen. How to learn from the rest of the world.  How to be humble before them and recognize that our brothers and sisters in Christ from the majority world have been gifted and blessed by God in ways that we need.  That I need. 

So, these thoughts are very much on my mind today in Cape Town, South Africa.  Because of the people I’ve been talking with.  Because of what Greg said.  Because of what Paco said. And Niove.  Because I’ve been asked to lead a table and I want to listen.  Because of David Ruiz’s tremendous paper, “Cooperation in the Body of Christ: Towards a New Equilibrium”.  There is so much good stuff in his paper that trying to quote something or sum up something seems an injustice.  Just read it.  Pay careful attention to what he says about COMIBAM. It made me write in the margin of my paper, “What if the Cooperative Program was actually cooperative?” Some of you will understand that.

Take note of what Ruiz says about the best “motor” to empower and drive missions. Take note of the “high price” of cooperation.  Take note of this, “a united group starts with me.”

Together with Patrick Fung (who’s paper I review here), Ruiz will be presenting here in Cape Town on Sunday the 24th.  I have a feeling that’s a plenary you’ll want to download the podcast for.