The Gospel according to Woman

Photo by: Moyan Brenn

In that moment, it seemed like a good thing
to eat the fruit -- plump, beautiful, juicy.
But then her lips started puckering,
her throat felt dry, her stomach empty.

With her face burning and heart pounding,
she tore off branches and hurriedly
covered her raw skin before hiding
as the rustling steps approached, slow and steady.

All she could think was that he knew.  He knew.

The color drained from her pores as the pool
of bright red soaked the dirt beneath the trees.
With wet cheeks and trembling lips, she received
the new work -- the garment, another gift
to replace what she had tattered and ripped.

Years later, through her sweat, pain, blood and tears,
she looked to the day when they'd smile to hear
those slow, soft, measured footsteps on the Earth
and her laughter rang out as she gave birth.

- By Katherine Lorance


Some Quick Diaspora Snippets (Including Indian)

I enjoyed hanging out with some new and old friends this past weekend where I also had the opportunity to speak twice on issues related to things like contextualization, diaspora, and more.  I was, however, asked a couple questions about the Indian diaspora which I wasn't fully able to answer.  That has prompted today's post.  So, today, I refer those who are interested to an article that appeared in Economist several months ago entitled "The Magic of Diasporas".

If you don't have time to read the whole thing (which is worth your time, by the way), here are a few nuggets for you:

  • The global Indian diaspora consists of 22 million first-generation immigrants.
  • Economist now says that the total number of first-generation migrants is 215 million (up about a million from the number many missiologists have been using).
  • The article argues that the phenomenon of "diaspora networks" actually has the effect of boosting the economies of rich countries that have "loose" immigration policies.   


You Can't Just Plant Churches!

Thoughts are formulating in my heart.  

My mission board, which I love, is energized.  Zealous to plant churches.  Hundreds.  Thousands.

I cringe when the well-intentioned talk sounds too much like denominational franchising.  But at the end of the day, that isn't my largest concern.  I am encouraged that people like me (and people far better than me) are intentionally given seats at the table -- even prominent seats.  When my leaders invite my critiques and the critiques of many of my wiser colleagues, I am given hope.   They want the accountability.  They sincerely desire to advance the gospel and not just the Southern Baptist Convention.

So that's good.

But on a deeper level, I am concerned about the passion to just plant churches.  In Chicagoland, the zip code with the highest number of churches per capita is also the one with the highest crime rate.  However you interpret that (i.e. there is more crime there or perhaps there is something wrong with the way the justice system works there), the point is made.  We don't simply need more churches.  We need the Kingdom of God.

So, I have been listening carefully to what my friend, Andrew Jones, has been saying.  He's a hippy who actually lives in a yurt.  So there's that.  And I just saw Titanic for the first time a couple weeks ago, so I have a tendency to feel more comfortable on the anti-bandwagon bandwagon.  So, I don't think I'm reading Andrew because he is cool.  He is cool. And that's kind of intimidating for someone who still thinks that clothing from the eighties is better off left there.

But I digress.  Sorry, haven't blogged since Easter and am still shaking the cobwebs off.

Mission strategies -- even sweeping church planting strategies -- must account for the brokenness of the world.  That is, if the multiplication of churches does not mean the proclamation and demonstration of the gospel as good news where people need it most, then, well, perhaps God won't bless it.

So, a while back, Andrew posted this article about a community of Balinese ex-prostitutes who are finding new life in Christ.  A quote:

Like the young ladies who have been cooking breakfast for us each morning, without complaint. Shining brightly as God's new people. They still have HIV but they are cleaner than anyone around them. They shine. They are new creations. They are the children of God. According tothe Bali Times, one quarter of Bali's 8,800 sex workers are HIV+. The other major HIV+ group in Bali is the businessmen who visit the prostitutes . . . and their wives. Add to that group the HIV+ drug addicts and you have a sizable group of people who need the grace of God.

And I'm just thinking that if our mission strategies don't include that kind of "bringing the Kingdom to bear", then I am not sure they are really from God.  I'm not saying that they will necessarily be from Satan.  They may indeed be derived from insights gleaned from the Bible and good traditions.  But we may not be able to confidently say, "This is what God is saying to us!"

Let's be thinking about it.  More to come.


Sacred Art Meditation: The Last Supper

My friend, Scott Rayl, on his killer blog has recently highlighted a website called "Sacred Art Pilgrim". I've been looking it over and it seems fantastic. So, on this Maundy Thursday, I want to direct you straightaway to the site's meditation on the Last Supper.  And, for a taste of what awaits you there, this picture is from the site. It is by an unknown Ethiopian artist -- "this injera is my body, which is for you."


Go into all the world and Westernize it!

Writing of the Puritan era, David Bosch (Transforming Mission) spoke of a rather disturbing idea that was beginning to develop:

Cultural uplift as an aim of mission was still relatively undeveloped . . . . Western Christians believed that their culture was superior to those of non-Western nations, but they did not isolate cultural uplift as a goal of mission.  It was simply assumed that the people would live a better life once God's rule was established over their respective societies.  In John  Eliot's words, it was "absolutely necessary to carry on civility with religion". 

In the generations that followed however . . .

Some decades later Cotton Mather would formulate it even less unequivocally, "The best thing we can do for our Indians is to Anglicize them".  In the subsequent period . . . this view would sometimes be so dominant that it was hard to distinguish between mission and "Westernization."

How about now? What is the difference between the way you engage in mission and the practice of "Westernizing" or "Americanizing" others? Can you imagine the gospel lived out in non-Western forms? Do you think that is still the gospel? Is cultural uplift an legitimate aim of mission?