Song, culture, divine bounty, and issues of harmonization.
An old German proverb runs: "Wer spricht mit mir ist mein Mitmensch; wer singt mit mir ist mein Bruder" (the one who speaks with me is my fellow human; the one who sings with me is my brother). In the world Christian community today, nothing defines "brotherhood" more obviously than singing. As it was in the beginning of the limited Christian pluralism in 16th-century Europe, so it remains in the nearly unbounded Christian pluralism of the 21st century. As soon as there were Protestants to be differentiated from Catholics, Calvinists from Lutherans, Anabaptists from Lutherans and Calvinists, Anglicans from Roman Catholics and other Protestants—so soon did singing become the powerful two-sided reality that it continues to be. read more . . .
Posted on December 5, 2007
How short-term mission is becoming a two-way street.
A few years ago I was in a church service where a team of energetic young adults was reporting on their short-term international mission trip. Like most such groups, this one had plenty of cross-cultural experiences to report. "The food was so spicy," one wide-eyed young woman said, drawing laughter from the congregation. "It was terribly hot and humidwe had such a hard time getting to sleep," another team member said. Amid much hilarity, the team leader described their consternation when they arrived at a remote village only to discover that the Christians there were expecting them to lead a worship serviceon the spot. read more . . .
Posted on December 5, 2007
It's time to return to the priority of evangelism.
The Church is notorious for its course corrections. Toward the end of the 19th century, theological liberals began to emphasize the humanness of Christ. They presented Christ's life as the main focus of the gospel. Evangelicals reacted by emphasizing the atoning work of Christ (especially as explained by Paul), almost to the exclusion of the life of Christ. So liberals concentrated on good deeds and evangelicals on saving souls. read more . . .
Posted on November 5, 2007
When it comes to missions giving, donor dependency may not be the greatest problem.
Few principles have been as central to the modern missions movement as the "three-self paradigm." This seminal framework was popularized in the 19th century by three notable leaders: Henry Venn, Rufus Anderson, and John Nevius. It proposes that truly indigenous churches should be self-governing, self-propagating and self-supporting. For 200 years the three-self ideal has been nearly axiomatic. Modern missiologists have placed particular emphasis on the last point, interpreting it to emphasize financial independence and developing a whole stream of thought trumpeting "the dangers of dependency." These missiologists want to prevent the unhealthy dynamics they presume are unavoidable when outside funds are introduced into any newly developing indigenous movement. read more . . .
Posted on October 4, 2007
World Vision India head Jayakumar Christian on how the poor become movers and shakers, and movers and shakers become poor.
Nine years ago, World Vision staff discovered pervasive bonded child labor in the district of Gudiyatham in India: parents indenturing their children to moneylenders, in payment of debts as small as $20. The children rolled cigarettes, tanned hides, or made matches without freedom to go to schooland with little prospect of ever repaying loans made at ruinous interest rates. read more . . .
Posted on September 10, 2007
On March 17, people of Irish descent around the world celebrate "St. Patrick's Day." Nearly a million people stream into Dublin, Ireland, to enjoy the fireworks, concerts, parades, and street theater. St. Patrick's Day parades began in 1762, when Irish soldiers serving in the colonial British Army marched through the streets of New York City accompanied by Irish music. By the early 20th century, St. Patrick's Day parades in major American cities had become triumphant celebrations of Irish "arrival" in the hallowed halls of city government—victors over the old guard Protestant Yankees. The importance of St. Patrick to growing Irish self-confidence was expressed in 1921 by Seumas MacManus, author of the sentimental favorite Story of the Irish Race: "What Confucius was to the Oriental, Moses to the Israelite, Mohammed to the Arab, Patrick was to the Gaelic race. And the name and power of those other great ones will not outlive the name and the power of our Apostle."1 read more . . .
Posted on August 13, 2007
Theologian and educator Ruth Padilla DeBorst says true Christian mission addresses issues of power and poverty.
Your life has unfolded through a series of moves across cultures. read more . . .
I was born in Colombia to an Ecuadorian father and an American mother, but I grew up in Argentina. When I was in high school and university, Argentina was ruled by a military dictatorship and U.S. intervention in Latin America was pervasive. There was great anger among my fellow students about how American power was being used in Latin America.
Posted on August 8, 2007
Ugandan-born theologian Emmanuel Katongole offers a new paradigm for missions.
You've lived on three continents and in four countries, and your parents were from yet another country, Rwanda. How does your story affect your understanding of God's mission in the world? read more . . .
Being an immigrant can be a blessing. God's mission, as I read it in 2 Corinthians 5:17, is new creation. God is reconciling the world to himself. And there is a sense of journey that is connected with that. When, later on, Paul says that "we are ambassadors of God's reconciliation, God is appealing through us," he is inviting us into a journey toward a new kind of community. People looking at Christians should be confused. Who are these people? Are they black? Are they white? Are they Americans? Are they Ugandans? In Revelation, John sees people drawn from all languages and tribes and nations: an unprecedented congregation. Living on three continents has deepened my understanding of the church as such a congregation; at the same time, it has heightened my sense of Christian life as a journey and of what it means to live as a pilgrim, a resident alien.
Posted on July 3, 2007
Singaporean theologian Simon Chan says 'missional theology' has not gone far enough.
You have written a great deal about liturgical theology, but missional theology seems more popular these days.
I think that missional theology is a very positive development. But some missional theology has not gone far enough. It hasn't asked, What is the mission of the Trinity? And the answer to that question is communion. Ultimately, all things are to be brought back into communion with the triune God. Communion is the ultimate end, not mission. read more . . .
Posted on June 4, 2007
Anyone who is sent on a mission had better be clear about what is being asked of her and why. If she is not clear about the nature and rationale of the mission, she risks trying to do too much, or not enough, or the wrong thing entirely. She also risks trying to do the wrong thing for the right reason or the right thing in the wrong way. read more . . .
Posted on June 4, 2007
Nairobi Chapel pastor on mission trips, and working well across cultures.
What happened to change Nairobi Chapel from a dwindling group of discouraged whites to a vibrant, international, church-planting fellowship?
They began to pray that God would show them what to do, and they sought new leadership to help them reach the African students around them. That's how I got to come to the Chapel. I was finishing my studies at Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology.
Any given Sunday maybe ten, sometimes only four people were there! They probably figured, "He can't do much damage." read more . . .
Posted on May 1, 2007
Multinational businessman and politician Ram Gidoomal talks about 'translating' the gospel in today's world.
You come from a Hindu religious background and attended Muslim schools in Africa, yet you became a follower of Jesus during your studies at university.
At the university, I was out of the family context, with the need for something that could make sense of the wider world in which I found myself. I started reading about Jesus. I was intrigued by the strong basis for his historical existence. read more . . .
Posted on April 27, 2007
A year in Pakistan gave me a glimpse of what Christian witness might look like today.
It was, by any measure, a rather large funeral. When I arrived on the morning of the third day, the weary-looking colonel at the gate told me that "about 125,000" people had already filed through the Durrani ancestral home to pay their respects. It was a staggering number for such a remote corner of northwest Pakistan, but I believed him. No one goes to Bannu just to visit. Yet when news spread that the uncle of the province's chief ministerits top elected official, representing the mma Islamist alliancehad been killed, people came. read more . . .
Posted on March 30, 2007
A supple faith.
Be careful what you wish (or pray) for: you may get it. For some centuries, European and American Christians prayed fervently for the conversion of the wider world, especially in Africa and Asia, and many devoted their lives to achieving this end. And to an astonishing degree, they succeeded. During the 20th century alone, around 40 percent of the population of Africa converted from animism or primal religion to some variety of Christianity. Within a few decades, the African continent could be, in numerical terms, the center of world Christianity. Growth in Asia has also been impressive, while enthusiastic new forms of Christianity have blossomed in Latin America. Many denominations are discovering, to their surprise, that large numbers of their adherents, even majorities, no longer live in those areas that could once be claimed to represent the "Christian world." read more . . .
Posted on March 21, 2007
Thanks to William Wilberforce, we already know the key to defeating slavery.
Wouldn't it be ironic if Western Christians were more excited about what God did through William Wilberforce to fight slavery in 1807 than about what God wants to do through us to fight slavery in 2007? read more . . .
Posted on February 26, 2007
A young organization models what it might mean to be the church in a suffering world.
Several years ago, I made my first trip to Freetown, Sierra Leone, just as that country's civil war was winding down. One of my first stops was a camp for the war wounded. read more . . .
During the war, nearly 250,000 people had their arms or legs amputated by rebels, militia groups, or government soldiers. The mutilations killed the great majority of victims. But a few survived: Those who had the presence of mind to run to safety with their bleeding stumps lifted above their heads to avoid fatal blood loss.
Posted on February 12, 2007
Pilgrim, Pilgrim, where have you been?
I've been to London to visit the emerging church scene.
Pilgrim, Pilgrim, what did you there?
I found a little queen sitting on her chair.
What did we go out to see? The same thing we always see. The same thing, but in a different place. We seek out sameness. We go to a foreign city to eat noodles, and end up with a hamburger and fries. We know that global church growth is largely happening in the margins, among ordinary people, without big budgets or impressive credentials. But when we go out to worship with the "indigenous" church in Colombia or Malaysia or Italy, we end up sitting on a pew singing expat choruses with a national pastor who has colonized himself for our approval. To be discovered. To be seen by people who do not have eyes to see. read more . . .
Posted on February 6, 2007
One Sunday Pastor Bob Roberts asked everyone in the congregation at NorthWood Church in Keller, Texas, to invert the collar of the person in front of them, find the label, and call out the nation where the shirt was made. China, India, Vietnam, Mexico, Chile, Kenya, Dominican Republic, and Spain were all mentioned before someone finally said "USA." read more . . .
The shirts on their backs came from all over the world. It was Bob's way of reinforcing his recurring theme of glocalization, synonymous with Thomas Friedman's "the earth is flat." It describes today's seamless integration between the local and global, a comprehensive connectedness produced by travel, business, and communications.
Posted on January 31, 2007
Distinguishing between home and mission field no longer makes sense.
The map of global christianity that our grandparents knew has been turned upside down. At the start of the 20th century, only ten percent of the world's Christians lived in the continents of the south and east. Ninety percent lived in North America and Europe, along with Australia and New Zealand. But at the start of the 21st century, at least 70 percent of the world's Christians live in the non-Western worldmore appropriately called the majority world. read more . . .
Posted on January 22, 2007