Sunday, 30 April 2017

Hebrews 11:6

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”


The Circularity of Voter Disenchantment

Young people often claim that they don’t vote because they are disenfranchised with politics and politicians. They have no buy-in to the whole system. I think part of this can be written off to laziness. Many people simply don’t motivate themselves to find out about politics, to get involved because these things actually affect their [Read More...]


Teams in Mission: Are They Worth It? (Part One)

TEAM missionaries research teamwork.

Do teams work? What does it take to develop and maintain a healthy team? Is it worth the effort? Does a healthy team really produce better results than a dysfunctional team?

Teamwork has been a popular concept in missions theory and practice for decades, but there is a persistent sense among missionaries that teams may be more work than they are worth. Working alongside others, especially those of different cultures, is no easy task. It takes time, effort, and energy to work in a team, and it doesn’t always produce the fruit we look for.

We’ve all heard this comment: our younger generation values teamwork, but the older generation doesn’t get it. Twenty-five years ago, as a member of the new generation of missionaries, I nodded my head in agreement. I thought, Yes, we value teamwork and the older generation doesn’t get it. Today, I am a member of the “older” generation. When I hear the familiar refrain, I’m tempted to respond, “Yes, the younger generation values teamwork, and we don’t get it.”

Why is that? Is it because veteran missionaries have learned from experience that the ideal of teamwork is unrealistic? Personally, I have experienced enough frustration and disappointment in working with others that I have justifiable cause to question an idealistic view of teamwork in missions. And yet I always come back to the principle I have believed since I started my missionary journey: We can do it better than I can. I believe we have more to gain by working together that we have to lose.

In this article, I share my own missionary journey of working with others in teams. It is a journey characterized by both joy and frustration. This prompted a search for a deeper understanding ...

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Free Will: “We are influenced, but not determined” – the 80-20% approach invalidated

I was having a conversation by email the other day concerning free will, and I was reminded of this I wrote some time back. It is as a result of one of the most common (and I would argue rather naive) defences of libertarian free will that I hear. So here goes: One of the [Read More...]


Saturday, 29 April 2017

Ephesians 4:15

“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”


Friday, 28 April 2017

Job 19:25

“I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth.”


Warming to the Idea

Global Warming, or Climate Change if you prefer, is quite political, as this very sentence demonstrates. It is political in that the more hierarchically oriented (i.e. Conservative) politicians (in the US, at least) saw it as appropriate to debate whether climate change was even happening, rather than what to do about it. Of course, there [Read More...]


Missions Mapmaker Folds Due to Donor Shifts

In today’s landscape, Christians are less likely to give to support agencies than straight to missionaries.

Global Mapping International (GMI) will close its doors on June 30, more than three decades after it began as a two-year global mapping project.

“We thought we’d get it done and disband in two years,” GMI president and CEO Jon Hirst told CT. “Then we realized the monumental nature of gathering information for the Great Commission was essentially never-ending, and that led to GMI becoming a third-party independent research organization supporting the global church.”

Long before Google Maps, GMI began as an innovative way to support the church, helping foreign missionaries become more effective with custom maps, infographics, and other resources. This week, the organization announced that its outdated funding structure, underscored by a changing approach to mission, will force it to close.

GMI relied too heavily on donors who would rather see them lean on service and product pricing for revenue. “Donors now tend to come out of the business world or entrepreneurial environments,” Hirst said. “They look at GMI and say, ‘We love what you do, but you should be charging ministries for that.’”

“The easiest way to describe what happened is that research costs a lot of money to do well, and it was always dramatically subsidized,” he said. “When we tried to make the transition to multiple revenues streams, we couldn’t make it quickly enough to stay sustainable.”

The organization is best known for its work on the resources in Operation World and for producing mission infographics. Over the past 33 years, GMI also pioneered digital mapping, researched Christianity in India, and taught many missions organizations how to conduct research.

“In ...

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When Failure Isn’t an Option: How to Press Forward in Sharing Jesus Even When We Stumble

Failure and repentance secure for us a more ample conception of the grace of God.

When I was in college, one of my InterVarsity leaders introduced me to the book Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders. Even though it was published in 1967, the guidance I found in those pages changed my life.

One summer break, when I was back home with my family, I found the same book on my father’s shelf. Like many college kids, I was sure that I knew more than my parents. So you can probably guess how surprised I was to learn that my father and I had both been shaped by the same writer! All these years later I still find direction and wisdom in that dog-eared copy my father passed to me.

Chapter 15 is titled “Searching Tests to Leadership,” which Sanders lists as compromise, ambition, the impossible situation, failure, and jealousy. Recently, I was reflecting on his comments about failure:

If we could see into the inmost hearts of many men whom we think are riding on the crest of the wave, we should experience some great surprises. Alexander Maclaren, the peerless expositor, after delivering a wonderful address to a large gathering, went away overwhelmed with a sense of failure. “I must not speak on such an occasion again,” he exclaimed, while the congregation went away blessed and inspired. Allowance must always be made for the reaction which comes from the rebound of the overstrung bow. Nor can we ignore the subtle attacks of our unsleeping adversary.The manner in which a leader meets his own failure will have a significant effect on his future ministry. One would have been justified in concluding that Peter’s failure in the judgment hall had forever slammed the door on leadership in Christ’s kingdom. Instead, the depth of his repentance and the reality of his love for Christ ...

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Dispatches from Baylor: Let Women Lead

We see female professors excel when the people around them support their callings

“A ploughshare is a nobler object than a razor. But if your natural talent is for barbering, wouldn’t it be better to be a barber, and a good barber—and use the profits (if you like) to speed the plough? However grand the job may be, is it your job?”

Harriet Vane, a fictional character created by Dorothy L. Sayers in Gaudy Night, posed this question during a college reunion at Oxford in 1935.

A former classmate, the “outstanding scholar of her year” who “had married a farmer and everything had gone wrong,” reasoned that despite her own difficulties, farming and marriage was “a finer thing than spinning words on paper.”

We can almost hear Sayers’ voice in Harriet’s response. “Look here! I admire you like hell, but I believe you’re all wrong. I’m sure one should do one’s own job, however trivial, and not persuade one’s self into doing somebody else’s, however noble.”

Simple yet profound. Women should do the job to which they are called.

I love Gaudy Night. I loved it even before I realized what a progressive argument it makes about female vocation. As a first-time reader, I was so absorbed with the story that I didn’t pay attention to the author. I was oblivious to how Harriet Vane mirrored controversial moments from Sayers’ own life, including the unhappy end of a long-term relationship and an illicit sexual affair. She also mirrored her exceptional aspects, such as Sayers’ degree from Oxford and her professional success as a single woman outside the hallowed halls of academia.

It wasn’t until I taught Gaudy Night that I really began to understand the implications of its argument: that women ...

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Together for the Gospels: Unprecedented Unity Among Bible Translators Transforms Giving

Lessons learned from illumiNations initiative could transform giving to other causes.

This fall, ten Bible translation agencies—from Wycliffe Bible Translators to Pioneer Bible Translators to the United Bible Societies—will invite givers to visit a single website to see how Bible translation is progressing around the world and to join in this effort by making their contributions. Rather than competing against one another for website visitors, the agencies will allow the collaborative site to connect visitors to the initiatives and organizations that best fit their interests.

That sort of others-centered cooperation is unprecedented in the Bible translation sector, said Dal Anderson, former chief operating officer of Seed Company and Every Tribe Every Nation. As of late 2016, this network of ten heavyweight Bible translation agencies and several resource partners was involved in 90 percent of the translation work done globally. “Those of us working in the Bible translation world know how big of a miracle this is.”

The dramatic shift toward collaboration has delighted givers, who are looking for proven leadership, extraordinary vision, and clear momentum, said David Wills, president emeritus of the National Christian Foundation, one of the largest privately funded nonprofits in the United States.

“If you add collaboration to the mix, the attraction and potential for growth becomes exponential,” he said.

In fact, this time the givers led the way.

“The investors have really challenged us on this,” said Bob Creson, president and CEO of Wycliffe Bible Translators. In some cases, large givers were being pitched by several translation agencies for nearly the same work.

“They patiently said, ‘I love what you’re doing. Please get your act together,’ ...

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Thursday, 27 April 2017

Philippians 2:5-8

“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!”


Is Orality Really Effective in Sharing the Gospel?

o·ral·i·ty: the quality of being spoken or verbally communicated

Increasing numbers of church and mission leaders are beginning to pay more attention to the orality movement that has emerged over the past 40 years. Some would say that the movement is one of the most significant breakthroughs that has taken place in the church/mission world over the last 500 years. Others have said that it’s changing the face of missions around the world.

These are bold statements and may seem to be overstatements or exaggerations. However, those who have been involved with or observed the movement over any length of time usually agree that God is in fact doing remarkable things in this time of history through the movement.

An interesting phenomenon we often observe is the creativity and innovation that the Holy Spirit gives to those who are properly trained in orality-based methods and strategies. There is an increased recognition of the multiple applications of the concepts, principles, and practices of orality. The mission/purpose statement of the International Orality Network is “Influencing the Body of Christ to make disciples of all oral learners.”

In other words, the ultimate objective in the Great Commission is communicating the gospel to everyone, everywhere, and making disciples among all people groups. That is introducing people to a vital relationship with the Living God and nurturing them to become reproducing followers of Jesus. An important consideration is doing so in ways that are biblical, international, cross-cultural, and reproducible.

On our learning journey in the orality movement, we are discovering many aspects and applications of orality methods and strategies. A very significant feature is simplicity and reproducibility. Actually, orality-based methods are the most ...

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Adam and Eve Can’t Save Your Marriage

What Bruce Feiler’s reading of ‘the first love story’ leaves out.

I’ve often wished for a book to hand to wives and husbands preparing to walk out on their families. I could have used half a dozen copies this year. I picked up Bruce Feiler’s The First Love Story: Adam, Eve and Us with hope. Maybe this was it!

Feiler is the best-selling author of nine books, including Walking the Bible, an account of a 10,000-mile journey retracing the steps of the Hebrew patriarchs. He’s widely recognized as an expert on religion and family, and has hosted two PBS series, Walking the Bible and Sacred Journeys with Bruce Feiler. His most recent book was The Secrets of Happy Families. The topic of marriage, then, was a logical next step.

I began the book with enthusiasm. What a fabulous idea! To harness the power of perhaps the most famous story in the Bible and employ it as an apologetic for the enduring kind of love that God desires in all marriages. Indeed, this is Feiler’s aim: to offer an antidote to our culture’s love affair with pleasure and narcissistic romance.

The need for the book is obvious. Feiler doesn’t waste much space reminding us of our pitiful state, including the staggering number of marriages that end in divorce. Recent challenges of online pornography, polyamory, technology, and a pervasive individualism all threaten our already fragile unions. Under this onslaught, Feiler asks, “Are there any values, lessons, or stories worth preserving?” Which lands us in Genesis, in the Garden, ready to take notes from the first couple.

A Radical Re-reading

Feiler anticipates yawns of irrelevance. He spends a lot of time disproving such charges, tracing our ongoing conflicts—from equal pay to household chores to same-sex marriage—all the way ...

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