Thinking Out Loud

February 15, 2016

The Changing Face of the Global Church

“The Meeting of the Waters” in Manaus, Brazil: Two visually distinct rivers converge to form the Amazon River

I am no doubt a better person for the various books I have reviewed here over the years., but honestly, I’ve probably forgotten some of them. There is however one title that I still find myself quoting in discussions, particularly on the subject of missions, but often about the global church in general. 

Two very different missionaries are presented, one the author calls “Mission Marm,” the other is “Apple Guy.” Two vastly different mindsets having to join together not unlike the branches of the river above referenced in the book’s title. Reading that analogy alone is worth the price of admission.

This was the second half of a two part review I did  — here’s a link to  the original first part — of a 2010 book by Fritz Kling, The Meeting of the Waters: 7 Global Currents That Will Propel the Future Church (David C. Cook, still in print). The book is based on what the author calls “The Global Church Listening Tour;” one-hour interviews with 151 church leaders in nineteen countries.



As Canadians, we often find ourselves despairing over the USA-centric approach of many popular Christian books. So one expects a book with a ‘global’ perspective to transcend any particular nation. However, in some chapters more than others, Kling would relate his findings to the church in America. In this case that’s a good thing. If the book were just theoretical it would not accomplish much. Some of the real value here — although it’s never truly spelled out in ‘macro versus micro’ terms — is the application of what’s happening globally to the local church; the church you and I attend on weekends. But then again, this is a very, very ‘macro’ kind of book.

So what are the seven currents? There’s a great economy of language in Fritz Kling’s writing style, so I can’t do this adequately, but here’s a few things that stood out:

  1. Mercy — Kling uses an anecdotal approach in this social justice section: a young woman who gives up a promising law career to work with oppressed people in India; a young man who is a native of India who operates a technology firm guided by Sermon-on-the-Mount principles.
  2. Mutuality — It’s hard to function in the global church if you think you or the country you come from has all the answers; and that bias leads to further believing that you (or we) should be the ones in charge. He also suggests that people in other parts of the world don’t understand our various debates about practices or behaviors or doctrines, since they simply take the Bible at literal face value.
  3. Migration — There are three issues here: Worldwide migration patterns in general; the migration taking place from rural areas to cities at a time when churches are fleeing the urban core for the suburbs; and the ministry opportunities that exist when you have displaced, and therefore lonely people all around.
  4. Monoculture — This chapter looks at the dominance of the English language as a symptom of the much larger, accelerating spread of Western culture, and in particular, Western youth culture.
  5. Machines — Kling begins with a look at technology as a tool in disaster relief. (He mentions a 2008 cyclone that hit Burma. As the book was being published a major earthquake struck Haiti.) He moves on to discuss the role of technology in evangelism, and backtracks to show how that motive led to some other technological applications now enjoyed worldwide.
  6. Mediation — Kling delineates several areas where there is a need for reconciliation and mediation. He notes this will be a challenge for Westerners to function in a world that has become, in particular, very anti-American. He speaks in detail of the conflicts that exist, “not between Muslims and Christians, but between Muslims and other [more militant] Muslims.” Kling believes Christians should be leading the way toward reconciliation on all fronts.
  7. Memory — Knowing the past can be a blessing and a curse, but in many places, Kling sees more downside than upside, with entire cultures having a depreciated view of themselves. Still, Christians need to fully enter into, understand and even embrace the history of the place where they serve, and from there aim to bring hope and wholeness.

As I originally stated, I still hope this book finds the wider audience it is deserving of. This is a book for pastors and missiologists for sure, but I think it’s also a title that business leaders, church board members and people who simply care about the future of the church should want to study.

Advertisements

October 12, 2012

Giving: Where We Left Off On Tuesday…

One of the greatest challenges in missions is getting the word out that you need funding. You could be the very, very best person for a position either domestically or overseas, but if you don’t have a collection of relatives and good friends that you can tap for monthly support, don’t expect to get the job.

I found this out firsthand many times while still a single person in my twenties. They didn’t want me, they wanted my network. When I said, “I will gladly bring my gifts and abilities to do an amazing job for you, but I can’t do deputation;” the interview ended and I was escorted to the lobby. Not once. Not twice…

So when something like LoveGlobal comes along, I applaud.

Love Global is a foundation dedicated to helping missionaries become fully-funded. We offer charitable status and an online platform to help missionaries (and their supporters) share their story through text, photos and videos. We also provide ongoing support for our missionaries through weekly e-letters and fundraising assistance.

We believe in the power of storytelling and seek to facilitate the sharing of stories through our missionary and Champion networks. As we share these raw, uncut stories our hope is to see the bonds between missionary and supporter strengthened and the work of the Church furthered.

The idea for Love Global was birthed from the idea that missions could be done differently. A few of us got together to form the Love Global Foundation board to provide the support needed to invest strategically into missions for a new day. We launched officially at Missions Fest Vancouver 2012 to let the world know we were available and working hard to support missions around the world.

This is a great idea; both for the ‘givers’ who want to see where their money is going, and missionaries who simply need to promote their work beyond their existing personal network.

Find out more about how the whole process works by watching the video at this page.

December 10, 2011

Living in Two Financial Worlds

The large piece of Styrofoam has been put into position in the master bedroom for another winter. 

Measuring about 28 inches across and eight feet tall, it is placed so that it is propped tight against the wall by a dresser, a second-hand dresser manufactured in the 1940s. The two-inch thick giant surfboard’s purpose is to keep this particular section of wall, which has a chimney running behind it, from icing up in the winter.  Our belief is that there was a chimney fire in the house before we purchased it, and the effort of putting out the fire destroyed the insulation at that point. Or perhaps there just never was insulation.

The first winter we noticed that the wall was a large vertical skating rink was disappointing to say the least.  But through years of painting the kids’ rooms, replacing shower tiles, doing retrofit windows in seven rooms, and all the general maintenance homeowners do, we’ve never really attended to our own room.

Most people reading this will never see one of these -- or its equivalent in your country -- in their lifetime

We live a very ‘geared to income’ lifestyle which is complicated by the fact that we have no fixed income. And haven’t for about sixteen years now, which was the time I left the comfort of mixing part-time employment as Worship and Outreach Director for the local Christian & Missionary Alliance Church, with other part-time employment teaching grades seven and eight at the local Christian school, with part-time employment writing a weekly column for two local newspapers, with part-time employment running a mail-order book and music business.

Ah yes, I decided to leave the riches of all those part-time jobs behind and step out in faith, as if we weren’t already living rather hand-to-mouth. No the $35 weekly from the newspapers — as much as it bought all our groceries back then — and the stipend from the school and the honorariums from speaking and leading worship at other churches; all that was too secure and I decided what we really needed to do was open a storefront ministry that would augment the work of local churches, self supporting through the sale of Christian books and music.

I was nuts.

It had all the financial scope of a child’s newspaper route. I’ve seen better profit-and-loss statements from lemonade stands.

But it was my calling, and it became our lifestyle.  With my wife tied up with our then special needs child, we had one income stream, and we tried to keep that income from becoming a negative number.

If one partner wants to do something that is a ministry first and a business second; it helps if the other has something really good going on career wise. We still don’t. We were the subject of a federal audit a few years back because they couldn’t figure out how we were surviving without either under-reporting or doing something illegal. Fortunately, we got an auditor that understood the dynamics of walking by faith in response to a ministry calling.

A few years back my mom sold her home in Toronto and decided to give us some of the proceeds to see if we could learn a thing or two about money from the perspective of actually having some.  I decided that we were going to be good stewards, and reward the faith and trust she put in us by keeping it safe. 

Now we had a miniscule interest income, but we were still afraid to spend it.  The needs of our special needs child had diminished over time, and my wife started doing volunteer work among the poorest of the poor in our community. In many ways, we could relate to their economic condition. Every six months the bank calls to renew an investment, but beyond those phone calls our lives haven’t really changed all that much.

We discovered that money as a concept was something somewhat foreign to us. We could do poverty better than we could do investments and fund management. It’s actually more relaxing being poor, though we don’t want to be like the servant who buried his master’s money in the ground, which, in today’s economy is a fairly good description of what the banks have to offer. So we know we need to step up at some point and get financially creative. I think we’re both watching for the right opportunity that reflects both an entrepreneurial spirit and an interest in Christian mission. So far, we haven’t found it. 

I also have an understanding as to how it is that people of modest means can win millions in a lottery one year and have burned through it all a couple of years later. You tend to school yourself in the relationship to finance that you know from experience. The guy asking you if you’d “like fries with that” rarely knows what the Dow Jones Index doing that week.

In the meantime, the piece of Styrofoam shifts when there’s movement in the room and it can wake you up in the middle of the night. It’s a reminder that at least we have a roof over our heads, which is more than some people have. And that roof is located in what is probably the top 2% of the world’s wealthiest communities, given the state of the world right now.

It does look really ugly, though.

October 18, 2011

We Have Identified The Source of the Problem, And It’s…

Filed under: evangelism — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:13 am

I found today’s item at the blog, Jamie The Very Worst Missionary, which is, I suppose, a story all by itself, but we’ll save that for another day.  The guest writer was Alise Wright who blogs at the similarly sounding Alise…Write (took me a while).

The Reverse Missionary

When I start thinking about missionaries, I think about people are sharing Jesus with people. A missionary is someone who knows the gospel message and whose life goal it is to tell that life-giving message to anyone who will listen. I’ve been in the Church long enough to know that you don’t have to go to Africa to be a missionary (though it totally helps your missionary cred), but missionaries have a group they’re out to make sure to tell the story to. The unsaved.

I’m a Christian and my husband is an atheist.

So we all know who MY mission field is, right?

Yeah, not so much.

I’ve met a lot of atheists in the past two years and one thing I’ve found about almost all of them is that they know the story. They know who Jesus is, they know what Christianity teaches, they know what we believe. They’ve visited our churches, listened to our songs, read our holy book. The message is not the problem.

We are.

We, the Church. We who talk about grace, but are quick to cheer when the bad guy gets his. We who talk about talk about forgiveness, but would rather hold a grudge. We who talk about desiring persecution for His name’s sake, but make sure that we do our fair share of persecuting of “the other”. We who talk about God’s acceptance, but are loathe to share our filth with one another.

And I can look at this and point to all of the reasons why we suck, but I think it boils down to one thing. We don’t believe that God really and truly loves us the way he says he does. And when we don’t believe it, we can’t live it, not really. We serve a God can do “immeasurably more than we ask or imagine” and yet we place limits on how much he can love. We place them on ourselves and as a result, on others.

So my mission? To show love. God’s wide, long, high, deep, immeasurable love. Love that is wild and free. Love that reaches further than we can think, further than we dare to hope. Because when we get that, deep in our bones, we don’t have to worry about making sure people know the gospel.

We will BE the gospel.

~Alise

click graphic for image source

July 14, 2010

Wednesday Link List

We’re back with the links… some of these have been accumulating for a few weeks, and there have been many great posts lately at Christianity Today, which are represented here:

February 19, 2010

Seven Currents Affecting The Global Church

"The Meeting of the Waters" in Manaus, Brazil: Two visually distinct rivers converge to form the Amazon River

This is part two of a review begun on Sunday of a new book by Fritz Kling, The Meeting of the Waters:  7 Global Currents That Will Propel the Future Church (David C. Cook, publishing March 2010).   The book is based on what the author calls “The Global Church Listening Tour;” one-hour interviews with 151 church leaders in nineteen countries.

As Canadians, we often find ourselves despairing over the USA-centric approach of many popular Christian books.   So one expects a book with a ‘global’ perspective to transcend any particular nation.   However, in some chapters more than others, Kling would relate his findings to the church in America.   In this case that’s a good thing.   If the book were just theoretical it would not accomplish much.   Some of the real value here — although it’s never truly spelled out in ‘macro versus micro’ terms — is the application of what’s happening globally to the local church; the church you and I attend on weekends.  But then again, this is a very, very ‘macro’ kind of book.

So what are the seven currents?   There’s a great economy of language in Fritz Kling’s writing style, so I can’t do this adequately, but here’s a few things that stood out:

  1. Mercy — Kling uses an anecdotal approach in this social justice section: a young woman who gives up a promising law career to work with oppressed people in India; a young man who is a native of India who operates a technology firm guided by Sermon-on-the-Mount principles.
  2. Mutuality — It’s hard to function in the global church if you think you or the country you come from has all the answers; and that bias leads to further believing that you (or we) should be the ones in charge.  He also suggests that people in other parts of the world don’t understand our various debates about practices or behaviors or doctrines, since they simply take the Bible at literal face value.
  3. Migration — There are three issues here:   Worldwide migration patterns in general; the migration taking place from rural areas to cities at a time when churches are fleeing the urban core for the suburbs; and the ministry opportunities that exist when you have displaced, and therefore lonely people all around.
  4. Monoculture — This chapter looks at the dominance of the English language as a symptom of the much larger, accelerating spread of Western culture, and in particular, Western youth culture.
  5. Machines — Kling begins with a look at technology as a tool in disaster relief.  (He mentions the cyclone in May, 2008 that hit Burma.   One wonders if delaying the book to include mention of Haiti might have made it more pertinent.)   He moves on to discuss the role of technology in evangelism, and backtracks to show how that motive led to some other technological applications now enjoyed worldwide.
  6. Mediation — Kling delineates several areas where there is a need for reconciliation and mediation.   He notes this will be a challenge for Westerners to function in a world that has become, in particular, very anti-American.   He speaks in detail of the conflicts that exist, “not between Muslims and Christians, but between Muslims and other [more militant] Muslims.”   Kling believes Christians should be leading the way toward reconciliation on all fronts.
  7. Memory — Knowing the past can be a blessing and a curse, but in many places, Kling sees more downside than upside, with entire cultures having a depreciated view of themselves.   Still, Christians need to fully enter into, understand and even embrace the history of the place where they serve, and from there aim to bring hope and wholeness.

As I stated in part one, I truly hope this book finds the wider audience it is deserving of.   This is a book for pastors and missiologists for sure, but I think it’s also a title that business leaders, church board members and people who simply care about the future of the church should want to study.

February 14, 2010

Currently Reading: The Meeting of the Waters

When David C. Cook sent me a review copy of a fiction title last month, I immediately shrugged my shoulders sighing, “Boy, have they got the wrong guy.”   I almost felt that way with the arrival this month of what appeared to me to be a missions title.

I grew up in a very missions-focused church.    I’ve heard all the missionary stories, seen all the native costumes, listened to John 3:16 recited in the indigenous tongues, and endured the playing of familiar hymns in foreign languages with decidedly non-western harmonies on a bizarre collection of musical instruments.

In other words, I’ve grown immune to missions in general, and that’s too bad because I ran the danger of completely missing the point of The Meeting of the Waters by Fritz Kling (Cook; March 2010).

In a kind of Future Shock for the global church, Klung points out that what’s happening in missions around the world has massive implications for us in the west.   We are part of a global church where changes are taking place rapidly. Quoting hockey great (and Olympic torchbearer on Friday night) Wayne Gretzky, Kling reminds us, figuratively speaking, that we don’t want to aim for “where the puck is” but rather, “where the puck is going to be.”

Kling also turns our missions concept on its head with the reminder that we in the west are now as much a missionary-receiving culture as well as a missionary-sending culture.  His extensive experience in both the western Church and the third world gives him a somewhat unique perspective.

He also reminds us of the example of Timothy Keller, whose ministry in Manhattan was born out of a need to put a new spin on the term, “unreached people group.”  I loved this quotation from Keller:

For many outsiders or inquirers, the deeds of the church will be far more important than words in gaining plausibility.   The leaders of most towns see ‘word only’ churches as costs to their community, not a value.  Effective churches will be so involved in deeds of mercy and justice that outsiders will say, ‘we cannot do without churches like these.’  [italics added]

I started reading after lunch and — just as I’m being called for supper — I’m already half-way through.   I really hope this title doesn’t get lost in the ‘missions’ section of your local bookstore.    The full title is The Meeting of the Waters:  7 Global Currents That Will Propel The Future Church.

Late in the week, I’ll get back to the book with a look at the seven global currents themselves and why they matter.

Update:  To read part two of this review, click here.

April 17, 2009

Missionfest: A Ministry Trade Show

missionfestAfter 35 years working in and around various types of ministry organizations, today I attended my first ever ministry trade show.    After several years of getting snowed out in the winter months, Missionfest Toronto moved both its date and its location and today’s balmy weather in Canada’s largest city rivaled that of Southern California.

After one aisle, I turned to Mrs. W.  and said, “We’ve only seen a fraction of this  and already it’s overwhelming.”    Basically, I suppose I always knew that a large number of ministry organizations like these existed — probably a fraction of what one might see at a similar event in the U.S. — but there was something else about having them all set up their booths in the same room.

Missionfest exhibitors consisted largely of:

  1. Actual mission organizations doing evangelism and church planting in the third world
  2. Local, urban mission organizations working in Canadian cities
  3. Relief and development agencies
  4. Christian liberal arts colleges and universities, Bible colleges and seminaries
  5. Christian residential summer camps and retreat and conference centres
  6. Christian radio and television stations and ministries
  7. The teaching ministries of various authors or pastors, many of which are also broadcasters included in (6) above
  8. Ministries focused on Bible and Christian literature distribution
  9. Commercial businesses which provide specialized services to churches and non-profits (i.e. insurance, printing, internet, etc.)
  10. Organizations with a specialized focus on ministry to children
  11. Organizations with a specialized focus on ministry to the Jewish community
  12. Umbrella organizations, Christian political organizations, denominational groups.

From my wife’s point of view however, there were only two types of exhibitors:

  1. Those who were giving away wrapped pieces of chocolate at their booth
  2. Those who were not giving away chocolate at their booth

To be fair, my wife and I probably had the longest and most productive conversation with someone she previously only knew through e-mail, concerning the ministry project with which she is engaged.   He and she are probably getting together later in the spring to continue sharing ideas.

From the outset, we wondered what motivates the various organizations to drop their day-to-day ministry agenda to go through all the trouble of displaying their magazines, flyers, literature samples, etc. at an event like this.    Some reasons might include:

  1. There’s no doubt that for missions professionals, trade shows like this provide the benefit of any professional trade show, which is social in nature, or what we Christ-followers call ‘fellowship’
  2. Mission organizations are always looking for donors.   A few times someone came out in the aisle and told us, quite clearly, that they are looking for support.    It also occurred to us that conversely, someone of a philanthropic bent might attend this seeking out a target organization for their giving.   (We were actually keeping an eye out for something that would fit this particular criteria for someone we know who is in this position, but couldn’t attend; but nothing in particular jumped out at us.)
  3. Many organizations are looking for recruits; either as volunteers, missionaries requiring deputation, or perhaps even paid staff.   The colleges and universities are looking for prospective students.
  4. Apart from considerations in (2) and (3) above, everyone is looking to raise the profile of who they are and what they do; to get their name known in the Christian community, or in this case, more accurately, the Evangelical community.
  5. I would like to think that in addition to people giving their time and talents, or their money, that these organizations are also seeking specific prayer support.    I didn’t get that particular message today, though I’ve yet to sort through the large bag of literature we brought home.

The event also features a number of seminars dealing with various aspects of mission and ministry.    Many of these were on Saturday which conflicted with another event my wife is involved in; and some were part of a ‘Master seminar’ track which wasn’t in our budget.   (Some were simply capitalizing on who was available, such as Brian Doerksen’s songwriting workshop, prior to his concert tonight with Shane Claiborne; and no, I don’t think Shane is singing but I’ve actually heard him teach a song to about 2,000 people and he’s not bad.)

For me the “star” highlights were meeting Charles Price, pastor of Toronto’s Peoples Church, and also running into Shane Claiborne in the restroom.   I went back to the Crawford Broadcasting booth hoping that Neil Boron was free.  He hosts a four-hour afternoon talk show on WDCX-FM in Buffalo, which is the closest I get to coveting someone else’s ministry.   What a fabulous opportunity he has each day.    Unfortunately, he had left for lunch when I went back.

But the interactions with everyday people doing everyday mission and ministry were also valuable.

I walked into the exhibit floor someone cynical, reminding myself that missions — especially some of the 12 categories listed above — is very much run like a business, and that many of these people are in a very real sense competitors for items 2 to 5 in the second list.

I also know that some people are equally skeptical of the missions paradigm because — unlike (for example) a Christian bookstore which is theoretically self-supporting, or any model whereby the staff are ‘tentmaking’ at some other remunerative vocation — mission organizations merely have to “ask” to get money.

But my viewpoint was softened very quickly, as I was impressed by the earnest sincerity of the people we met.

If an event like this hits your community, I would encourage you to check it out; especially if you’re at a personal crossroads and wondering if God may have some avenue of service — either short term, long term, or life long — for you to consider.


 

March 3, 2009

How Much is Your Time Worth?

Filed under: Christianity, ethics — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:56 pm

I’m having a bad week inasmuch as I am having this week to interact with people who work in what is generally referred to as “the trades.”   A couple of them are doing work on my house and a couple of them are doing work on my car.

All of them are people I know through various churches, and there is no 100% guarantee that they would not read anything written here, so I want to be careful in what I say.   I should also add that thankfully, one of them is taking payment in a barter for books and music from our store.

dollar-signFor those of you who read my industry blog, you know that my wife and I do not draw a salary from the business.    We are like farmers, who toil all year not knowing whether there’s going to be a good crop in the fall (i.e.  A good Christmas sales season, the only time the stores are profitable) until we add up all the costs (and in the case of retail, the cost of the unsold merchandise left over.) Our last holiday was five days to and from Washington, DC in December 2007, though someone offered us a cottage for three days this past September. (It rained all weekend, but there were some good memories.)  We’re not quite “living on faith” missionaries, but at least the farmers are entitled to agricultural subsidies; so we’re somewhere in-between.

It’s been estimated that in the past few years, given the time we’ve worked, we’ve been working at rates ranging from $1.55 to $4.30 per hour in different years.   That’s much less than we pay our employees.  (And pay them on time, too.)

It’s easy to be bitter.   I have to remember that I chose to take on this particular commercial ministry venture.   Still, I’m also a University graduate with an above-average IQ.   Don’t I deserve better? (Okay, maybe none of us deserve anything, and it’s all the grace of God that we have what we have. Especially on a world scale.)

In all of this, I do have to really question some things; particularly the nickel-and-dime invoice I got today from one of the trades in question.   From my perspective, he certainly did me no favours.   He certainly doesn’t get the financial conditions under which we have been living.

Maybe I need to rethink my whole, “Let us do good to all men, especially those of the household of faith;” criteria for picking tradespeople.

But I also need to change what I’m doing.   If you do reach a point where you find you are getting bitter,  then it’s possible that the original calling has reached its expiry date.   I think part of the reason I am so frustrated today is that we go out of our way to provide deals for others.    We make it a point to be sensitive to those who can’t afford what we have, because we see some of these as “must have” products.    If we were grocers, would we not try to help out the hungry or the homeless?

My goal is that by the time 2010 starts, the majority of our income will come from other sources.   I’m still not sure what that is going to look like, but I hope that it will allow me to declare the season of our commercial ministry venture over and done with.    It’s not fair that a ministry which benefits the entire Christian community in an entire county should place a huge financial burden on one individual family.    Especially when the “brothers and sisters” with whom we have to interact aren’t willing to work alongside us.

So back to the question at the top.    What is the maximum that an individual’s time is worth.   (Not a surgeon or doctor, mind you; there’s too many U.S. readers here for whom medical costs are apparently based on a model from another universe.)   But the average tradesperson.   The carpenter, painter, mechanic, plumber, etc.    Is there a ceiling at which we say, “That’s too high;” or, as we were taught in Economics 101, is the price simply “the highest the traffic will bear?”

Blog at WordPress.com.