I watched this film on DVD last night with my son. Though Wilberforce did not exhibit the machoism of a Rambo, Rocky or Arnie, in spirit he was equally as strong,courageous, patient and determined. Well worth watching.AK
Thursday, 28 February 2008
Dunbar's second point promotes the incarnational approach to mission as opposed to the attractional. Stott for years has argued that all authentic mission is incarnational and I must agree.Both of course should be used depending on the gifts within the individual church but certainly the incarnational approach should not be rejected.In general it is a ministry that all the members can be part of whereas the attractional approach can be a cop out by letting a few charismatic individuals do all the evangelism.
Dunbar's third point which encourages the cultivation of spiritual discernment is important especially in churches where 'programmes' have replaced the work of the Spirit. I remember reading Tozer who wrote said that if the Holy Spirit left the Church much of what it was doing would carry on as usual. The danger is for churches to get 'on a roll' and carry on an activity which seems to work but which sadly is not pleasing to God. We must both inquire and listen to God in regards to the Church's mission. Jesus and Paul used all means to 'save some' and we must be open to the Spirit to firstly discern his will: then do it. What do you think of his take on mission? Feel free to comment.
In the last issue of the Journal I suggested that the challenge for Christians in the West is re-imagining the shape of the church and its ministry in a post-Christendom environment where it must function on the margins of (worldly) power. Are there any obvious patterns that will characterize their structure and function?
At this point we see only the leading edge of the missional transformation. A variety of experiments are currently under way and more will follow if churches successfully navigate the transition period. While I am hesitant to prophesy about the future, I think it is probably safe to anticipate a number of distinctives.
1. Missional is not McChurch
Since the 1990s the term "McChurch" has referred to a consumer-oriented Christianity which pursues church growth by offering more and better spiritual goods and services. Sometimes the notion of franchising is even included, i.e. the practice of marketing to the larger Christian community the programs, practices, or strategies of churches regarded as particularly successful.
The popularity of the franchise approach is understandable. Church leaders passionate about reaching their culture are looking for help but don't know what to do in a time of cutural upheaval. Buying a program off the shelf, or looking for an external prescription that produces results when applied faithfully, is a strong temptation.
The problem with this approach is that it is not missiologically sound. It doesn't take into consideration the fact that the medium and the way the message is presented will vary, at least in emphasis, from one local context to the next. Most Christians recognize the need for missionaries to translate or contextualize the gospel in appropriate ways to specific cultures--our churches need to do the same.
Missional practitioners recognize that the principle of contextualization applies equally to churches in the West. From region to region, city to city, neighborhood to neighborhood, we see a kaleidoscope of cultures. One size will not fit all. Franchising is usually unsuccessful. Missional therefore means a local, culturally-specific application of the message.
2. Evangelistic/attractional → missional/incarnational
At this point I am borrowing the language of Alan Hirsch to distinguish two basic approaches to communicating the gospel. By evangelistic/attractional Hirsch means the traditional approach of the Western church in the culture of Christendom. In this context a church may grow largely on the basis of attraction--a nice building in a good neighborhood, with a charismatic leader and/or good programming, can bring in non-Christians to be evangelized (presented with the message of salvation).
By contrast Hirsch advocates a missional/incarnational pattern. It is missional because it is "an outwardly bound movement from one community or individual to another. It is the outward thrust rooted in God's mission that compels the church to reach a lost world. Therefore, a genuine missional impulse is a sending rather than an attractional one. The NT pattern of mission is centrifugal rather than centripetal" (The Forgotten Ways [Brazos, 2006], pp. 129-30).
It is incarnational because it understands God's action in Christ as the model for the life of the church. "If God's central way of reaching his world was to incarnate himself in Jesus, then our way of reaching the world should likewise be incarnational. To act incarnationally therefore will mean in part that in our mission to those outside the faith we will need to exercise a genuine identification and affinity with those we are attempting to reach" (Forgotten Ways, p. 133).
Incarnation requires a church's presence in the community. Missional leaders commonly speak of "moving back into the neighborhood," of learning to listen and build relationships and create a context in which the gospel may flourish in word and deed. In the words of Bryan Stone: "The reign of God proclaimed by Jesus and embodied in his person becomes a concrete possibility in the world when a space is created for it through the Spirit's formation of persons into the life, death, and resurrection of Christ (and thus into his 'body')" (Evangelism after Christendom [Brazos, 2007], p. 108). As the church confronts wide-spread cynicism about the Christian message, the gospel displayed will give credence to the gospel declared.
I don't want to argue for missional to the exclusion of all attractional aspects of current church practice. Many people are drawn to the church by good preaching, good programs, and fine facilities. The problem is that 1) many of those attracted (not all) will be disgruntled members of other churches and 2) the percentage of the population who can be reached in this way is rapidly shrinking.
3. Cultivating spiritual discernment
In the culture of late modernity many churches adopted a corporate model for leadership, decision-making, and planning. Pastors became CEOs, elders (or deacons) transformed themselves into corporation directors, and top-down, vision-driven planning became the order of the day.
It is a sign of biblical-theological health that this paradigm is being questioned in the missional church movement. Here is a good place to begin "re-imagining" the nature and function of the church for a post-Christian and postmodern era. What is there about the decision-making and planning process of the church that makes (or should make) it distinctively Christian? Or, to ask the question differently, what is missing from the older model?
The short answer is sensitivity to the leading of the Spirit. Or, in the words of Craig Van Gelder, "An essential dimension that Christian leaders must attend to in the midst of a discernment and decision-making process is how to keep God in the conversation" (The Ministry of the Missional Church [Baker, 2007], p. 99).
One can hardly read the narrative of Acts and fail to note the level to which God is "in the conversation." From Pentecost onward the Holy Spirit is repeatedly identified as the directing and empowering force in the expanding mission of the church. Individuals like Philip, Peter, and Paul experience the direct leading of the Spirit at missionally strategic points (Acts 8:29; 11:11-12; 16:6-7).
However, there are also critical points at which the gathered body discerns the leading of the Lord. Luke tells us (Acts. 13:1-3) that the commissioning of Barnabas and Paul for the expanded mission to the Gentiles was the result of the Antioch believers hearing from the Holy Spirit during a period of worship and fasting (likely focused on discerning "next steps" in God's purposes for the congregation). The Jerusalem Council is another example of communal listening for the voice of the Spirit which allows the apostles and elders to speak with (for us!) surprising assurance: "it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us . . ." (Acts 15:28). Luke also records the warning given to Paul by the Spirit through the community of disciples at Tyre, which Paul ignored to his own detriment--and perhaps that of the mission (Acts. 21:4).
The point is that missional churches need to cultivate what for many of us is a forgotten art--the ability to discern what God is up to in our world (or neighborhood). This is best accomplished in a community of believers who are able to listen prayerfully for what the Spirit is saying in Scripture, in and through the voice of the congregation, and in the specific context where the church is located.
From a practical standpoint, it is important to realize that good listening/discerning is often dependant on asking good questions. So perhaps I should close by listing a few questions that can help churches and leaders who desire the Spirit's guidance toward a new day of missional engagement. For instance, consider a retreat for your church in which small groups wrestled with these questions:
o What means or activities in the history of our church have proven most effective in introducing non-Christians to the gospel? (This is not the same question as what activities have been most effective in adding members/attendees to the congregation.) What can we learn from this that might guide our present efforts?
o Jesus taught us to pray "your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven." If the kingdom were to come today, what things would be different in our neighborhood? How might the answers to this question guide the participation of our church in the mission of God?
o The Abrahamic covenant promises that Abraham's descendants will be blessed in order that they may be a blessing (Gen. 12:2-3). How is our church a blessing to our community? How would our neighbors answer this question?
Now imagine a congregation posing such questions, listening carefully to the answers, and with prayer (and fasting?!) asking for the Spirit to guide them toward one small missional experiment. And, perhaps six months later, another missional experiment. And then . . . well, just imagine!
Tuesday, 19 February 2008
This is a challenging piece of writing by Richard Sudworthy of Life Words(formerly Scripture Gift Mission). Immigrants and assylum seekers are flooding into Western Europe at an incredible rate.It is also not just a Western European problem:due to political unrest,war,famine etc it is happening in many parts of the world.How should the Church respond? Certainly the churches must have a policy towards them that is biblically based and expresses the love of Christ.Personally I believe it is a gift to the Church so that it can exhibit God's compassion for the alien and stranger;before a watching world.No matter what, they are increasing in number each week and we can either befriend, ignore or resent them. The choice is ours.AK
If you’ve ever been to a football match or a rock concert, you’ll get a feel for what was happening around Jesus in Luke 8. The writer leaves us in no doubt that it was chaotic: “the crowds almost crushed him”. Jesus and the disciples were en route to the home of Jairus and his twelve year old daughter who was dying. This was not to be missed: this Jesus had already healed a demon-possessed man, his followers reckoned that even the winds and waves stopped raging at his command. Rumour had it that some time ago, he’d even raised a widow’s son from the dead.
In amidst all this pushing and pulling, a woman who had been bleeding for twelve years was desperate to meet Jesus. This is her story:
“People don’t understand what it is like to face my life; with no prospect of change, no real future. It wasn’t just the bleeding, though that was bad enough. I was “unclean”; all women are once a month. But for me, there was no let-up. This meant that I couldn’t go to someone else’s house. I could never go to the synagogue or the temple. I couldn’t touch anyone without them being unclean; no husband, no children, no intimacy. Nobody could come near me. I’d done nothing to deserve this; well, nothing more than anyone else. And this Jesus: the miracles are amazing, the stories almost beyond belief. But he seemed to give a priority to people like me: lepers, the sick, women, the poor, even foreigners. All those categories of people that the rich, the powerful, and the very religious keep outside. We’re too messy for their world.
Anyway, I guess I thought that Jesus would make it all better. The trouble was, I couldn’t go near him, couldn’t ask him for help so I had to hatch a plan. Getting into the crowds, where everyone would be looking at Him, that was my best option. They’d be too fussed following his odd groupies to the next miracle to worry about me and if I put a scarf around my head, then I’d be insured against any nuisance of a neighbour pointing me out and keeping me from the action. If I wore some extra layers to hide the give-away stains, maybe I could get near. I’d seen him heal someone before. It seems that he just places his hands on them. I’d heard he’d even done this for a leper. Sounds insane doesn’t it but I reasoned that if I could touch him, he’d understand that it was against the rules for me to be around people and just heal me anyway; no fuss, no bother. It was worth a try.
Well, there we were, hundreds of us, dozens screaming for help. Some people were falling over, pulling his clothes; his followers were trying to be bouncers, steering him in a particular way. But Jesus seemed to find his own path even if the crush got worse. I was trying so hard to get to him, I was pushed over and fell onto the road, getting kicked and shouted at in the process. And then He was there, barely an arm’s distance from me. I stretched and just managed to touch the hem of his cloak, trailing in the dirt of the road. Instantly, the constant warm trickle of blood that has plagued my life for twelve years stopped. I knew Jesus had healed me. The pain and discomfort that were my permanent companions had gone. I was on my hands and knees in the road, with the crowd all around me, weeping with joy.
The next thing that happened was like a blur. Jesus shouted out something to the crowd because it all went quiet and then he shouted out again, “Who touched me?. I knew exactly what he meant but one of his bouncers laughed and pointed out that hundreds of people had been touching him. Jesus knew, and I knew. I slowly got to my feet, shaking with fear. I’d done wrong; I shouldn’t have been here, let alone touched God’s prophet. I’d got Him all wrong; I thought He’d be more compassionate with people like me. So there I was, standing in a crowd, the “sick woman” that no-one went near, ready for their abuse, shaking with shame in anticipation of their rage. How many of them were now unclean and would have to make a detour to the priests and get ritually “included” again?
But Jesus wasn’t angry: “Daughter”, he called me. Can you believe it? Me? A man, a teacher, clearly someone from God and he calls me his daughter! “Your faith has healed you. Go in peace.” Peace: “Shalom”. I know what that word is meant to mean: peace inside, peace with other people and holding it all together, peace with God. All the stuff of peace that had been dream territory for twelve years, was possible. Jesus had made it so. And what’s more, hundreds of my neighbours, the community leaders, the religious types, they had just heard I was healed and was ok to be around again. All those witnesses: I was acceptable, healed, could be hugged again, could worship God again, could love again. Life had opened up beyond measure!”
I hope that we see in this encounter something of Jesus reaching out across boundaries, typically breaking convention but embracing people that were excluded. Many of us working alongside refugees and asylum seekers recognise the similar needs and patterns and are convinced that Jesus would make a priority of the excluded strangers in our community.
1) It’s good to get a feel for the backdrop of the story and notice, as so often with Jesus, that he will not be squeezed by other agendas. There are huge demands on him but Jesus will never be rushed. Responding to the grave request from Jairus, Jesus is too late, waylaid by dealing with the sick woman. Jesus is “late” to heal Lazarus and criticised by the family for his seeming callous disregard for the urgency of the situation. We are presented with a picture of Jesus as someone who, dare I say it, knows his limitations, “will only do what he sees the Father doing”, and refuses to be railroaded into action. This Messiah does not have a Messiah-complex!
2) When doctors receive patients, they will ask about what they term the “presenting needs”, the outward signs of ailments that may point to a particular diagnosis. The woman seeking Jesus’ help had a very clear presenting need: an end to the constant bleeding. As doctors try to see beneath some symptoms to perhaps deeper behaviours, contexts or emotions that trigger physical reactions, Jesus goes way deeper with this woman. Taking the social and historical context of the woman’s life, the sickness would mean that she was excluded from society. Wonderfully, Jesus does not let her slip away healed, unobtrusively but brings her story to light. The whole community would now know that she was restored. A ceremonial cleansing could be performed and touch, friendship, worship could be hers. Jesus had pronounced on her healing, endorsed her in public and given her that right of entry into a fuller life.
3) If we’re honest with ourselves, we can see our own hunger for security and significance, for a sense of belonging. Jesus was especially able to relate to the marginalised because he himself took that place. In what ways can we be honest with asylum seekers and refugees about our own struggles? Do we feel it is even good to share our own vulnerabilities or should we always be giving from a position of strength?
4) This whole process of Jesus drawing attention to the woman is worth reflecting on. Luke tells us that she was “trembling”. As well she might; she HAD broken the rules. Why did Jesus have to be so cruel as to put her through this ordeal? We so often sanitise and domesticate Jesus as “meek and mild” in an ineffectual, do-gooder hippy type. The reality of the Jesus of the gospels is so very different. He is robust and focused, unable to be manipulated by the agendas and priorities of others, direct and uncompromising about hypocrisy and scathing of those in power. The “meek and mild” stuff tells us about the equally bold ability Jesus had to shun the trappings of power and self-service. He never seemed to justify himself, assert himself over others or seek the easy route of fame or influence. And Jesus was robust with those he healed: “what do you want?”, “your sins are forgiven”, “stop wailing”, “it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs”. Jesus was not a Disney fairy godmother who responded to each request with a benign smile in a world divided between goodies and baddies. There was a toughness about Jesus healing this woman, a toughness that was hard for her to bear, and painful, but it was necessary for the deeper and richer intentions that Jesus had.
Are we conscious of our own limitations and boundaries in our work of service? In what ways might we be tempted to think that we can solve all the problems of asylum seekers that we know?
What are the presenting needs of asylum seekers and refugees that you know? What surface issues do they bring to you?
What deeper needs and perhaps more fundamental help do they seek? How can we be more sensitive in responding to some of the deeper needs and getting to a point of listening and “hearing” those?
Jesus clearly saw the inclusion of this woman in society as a priority concern. Though we may be powerless to change anything legally on that front, what kinds of work and ministry foster communities and churches that are genuinely inclusive? How might we be able to gauge progress in “inclusivity”?
Jesus brought some pain and discomfort to the woman in the process of bringing healing. Are there situations where some discomfort and pain might be helpful in the process of independence and dignity for refugees and asylum seekers who have become dependent on the help of others? In your own situation, are there practical measures that reveal something of Jesus’ robust approach to the woman that you can adopt that ultimately put refugees in a stronger place in our communities?
Sunday, 17 February 2008
I hope you will be both challenged and blessed by this great spiritual song.
When it's all been said and done
There is just one thing that matters
Did I do my best to live for truth?
Did I live my life for you?
When it's all been said and done
All my treasures will mean nothing
Only what I have done
For love's rewards
Will stand the test of time
Lord, your mercy is so great
That you look beyond our weakness
That you found purest gold in miry clay
Turning sinners into saints
I will always sing your praise
Here on earth and in heaven after
For you've joined me at my true home
When it's all been said and done
You're my life when life is gone...
Tuesday, 12 February 2008
THE 'AMSTERDAM AFFIRMATIONS' TWENTY FIVE YEARS ON. Are they still applicable for evangelists in a postmodern culture?
1. We confess Jesus Christ as God, our Lord and Savour, who is revealed in the Bible, which is the infallible Word of God.
2. We affirm our commitment to the Great Commission of our Lord, and we declare our willingness to go anywhere, do anything, and sacrifice anything God requires of us in the fulfilment of that Commission.
3. We respond to God's call to the biblical ministry of the evangelist, and accept our solemn responsibility to preach the Word to all peoples as God gives opportunity.
4. God loves every human being, who, apart from faith in Christ, is under God's judgment and destined for hell.
5. The heart of the biblical message is the good news of God's salvation, which comes by grace alone through faith in the risen Lord Jesus Christ and His atoning death on the cross for our sins.
6. In our proclamation of the Gospel we recognize the urgency of calling all to decision to follow Jesus Christ as Lord and Savour, and to do so lovingly and without coercion or manipulation.
7. We need and desire to be filled and controlled by the Holy Spirit as we bear witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, because God alone can turn sinners from their sin and bring them to everlasting life.
8. We acknowledge our obligation, as servants of God, to lead lives of holiness and moral purity, knowing that we exemplify Christ to the church and to the world.
9. A life of regular and faithful prayer and Bible study is essential to our personal spiritual growth and to our power for ministry.
10. We will be faithful stewards of all that God gives us, and will be accountable to others in the finances of our ministry, and honest in reporting our statistics.
11. Our families are a responsibility given to us by God, and are a sacred trust to be kept as faithfully as our call to minister to others.
12. We are responsible to the church, and will endeavour always to conduct our ministries so as to build up the local body of believers and serve the church at large.
13. We are responsible to arrange for the spiritual care of those who come to faith under our ministry, to encourage them to identify with the local body of believers, and seek to provide for the instruction of believers in witnessing to the Gospel.
14. We share Christ's deep concern for the personal and social sufferings of humanity, and we accept our responsibility as Christians and as evangelists to do our utmost to alleviate human need.
15. We beseech the Body of Christ to join with us in prayer and work for peace in our world, for revival and a renewed dedication to the biblical priority of evangelism in the church, and for the oneness of believers in Christ for the fulfilment of the Great Commission, until Christ returns.
Thursday, 7 February 2008
China is facing a difficult time. The Chinese government has to make sure it doesn’t lose face before the world at the Beijing Olympics this March, and they’re ‘cleaning up’ anything that might not make them look good. Unfortunately, that includes some Christians and foreign workers, North Korean refugees, and some humanitarian aid workers!
From behind the great wall of Chinese censorship, evidence of ongoing persecution of Christians continues to emerge, with China Aid Association (CAA) yesterday reporting a significant increase in harassment, arrests and detentions in 2007 compared with 2006. In its annual report on persecution in China, CAA reported a total of 60 incidents in 2007 but cautioned that, due to censorship of communications in China, the total number of incidents was likely much higher.
Incidents included the arrest and sentencing of Christian rights defender and pastor Hua Huiqi in Beijing on January 26, 2007 and the arrest and detention of Christian bookstore owner Shi Weihan in Beijing on November 28. Authorities released Shi on January 4, citing “insufficient evidence,” although a source said he is awaiting a formal trial. No date has been set for the trial, nor have authorities revealed what the new charges against him would be.
Let’s remember our Chinese brothers and sisters in our prayers in the run-up to the Olympics. Let’s not forget to pray for the government, too: the Bible talks a lot about submitting for God’s sake to those he’s put in authority over us (1 Peter 2:13, for example, or Titus 3:1), so they need our prayers to govern wisely.( Open Doors Youth)
Sunday, 3 February 2008
This is a video response to the Bullhorn guy from Tom Friel of the Way of the Master. His approach is very different from Rob Bell's. He is certainly convinced of what the gospel is, and because he believes that it is such an urgent message that everyone needs to know, he is compelled to share it.
He believes that man is lost and destined for hell because of his sin. Man can not earn salvation by his own good works and therefore needs a Saviour. God is a righteous Judge but at the same time he is also a God of love. It was therefore because of his love for humankind that he sent his only Son to die on the cross to take the punishment for our sins.
It was here that God’s perfect justice was satisfied; His perfect Son taking the rap for sinful humankind – the just dying for the unjust to bring us to God. Though Christ died to take our sins it is only those who respond through repentance and faith that will be forgiven and become children of God.
Todd therefore can not understand the reticence of Mr Bell and others to warn and persuade others to follow Christ, to be forgiven through Christ’s sacrifice and gain a certain hope of heaven and escape the pains of hell.
Many Post modern Christians find this almost impossible to believe. They can’t believe that God would send his son to die on a cross. It was the Romans and the Jews that killed Jesus but certainly not God because God is love.
The question is: Is Todd right in his approach and message or has he got it wrong? In a few of the articles I did on evangelism Presence, Proclamation and Persuasion ( see the links on this blog) Mr Bell would seem to be more of the ‘Presence’ sort whereas Friel’s mode of evangelism would be that of Proclamation and Persuasion.
Also,what doctor would you be according to Todd?