Eddie and Sue Arthur

What Is A Christian?

Those who read this blog know that I’m an evangelical Christian and I believe the things that evangelicals believe. One of the distinctives of evangelicalism is a belief that people become Christians through a deliberate commitment to Jesus Christ. You can’t be born a Christian and the fact that your parents, your friends or even your country are Christian doesn’t make you a believer.

One of the results of this is a view that only people who have had a distinct conversion experience are real Christians and everyone else is nominal in their faith. I am deliberately simplifying a little, but not very much. One of the outworkings of this is that you will hear evangelicals say that Christians from other traditions, such as Orthodox, are not real Christians and yet those same evangelicals mourn the persecution of their Orthodox brothers and sisters in Iraq. You can’t have it both way.

I’ve been musing on this for a while and I’d like to make a few remarks about how I would define a Christian.

Only God Knows Who Are His. The starting point has to be that God is the only arbiter of who is and who is not a Christian. We can draw our lines where we will, but we will be wrong. One thing I am certain of is that whatever tribe of Christianity you belong to, you will meet many people from other groups in eternity – and you may be surprised at some people from your group who aren’t there.

We Are Justified By Faith. This is one of the key teachings of the Protestant Reformation and lies at the heart of evangelical belief. We are made right with God by trusting in Jesus Christ, not by performing any actions or doing stuff. It is simple but very profound. The problem is that many evangelical believers (especially, dare I say it, of the Reformed variety) get this wrong. Their position is effectively that we are “justified by believing in justification by faith”. That is, faith in Christ is replaced with assent to a particular theological principle. This automatically excludes anyone who belongs to a group who don’t espouse justification by faith, whether or not they have faith. Now don’t get me wrong, I believe that understanding the notion of justification by faith is a massively important part of Christian teaching and I believe that any disciple of Jesus will find their life enriched by understanding it – but you can have faith in Jesus without understanding all of the ins and outs. I have met believers from other traditions who clearly have a saving faith and who love Jesus. Yes, they do stuff that evangelicals find difficult, but they do them as a response to their faith and out of love for God – not in order to somehow earn God’s favour, they know they can’t do that. Obviously, not every person who claims to be a Christian really has faith – Jesus warned us that this would be the case. It’s also true that some traditions make life more difficult than others – but it is faith that counts not your church stream.

You Have To Believe Some Stuff. There are some basic teachings of the Christian faith that anyone who claims to be a Christian needs to hold to. I would argue that this means holding to the historic creeds of the church. If someone claims to be a believer but believes things that are contrary to the Nicene or Apostolic Creeds then some serious questions could be asked. Obviously, a little caution is needed here, because all Christians grow in their faith an understanding and new believers don’t emerge with a full understanding of, say, the Trinity. Yes, I believe that Christians would be better off if they all held to an evangelical confession of faith – but that doesn’t make you a believer.

You Don’t Need a Conversion Experience. I can remember when and where I became a Christian (in a field in Northumberland in August 1974), but this sort of clarity is not essential. Some people drift into faith through a long slow process which doesn’t involve a distinct point of conversion. The important thing is that they trust Christ for their salvation, not that they can sing “it was on a Monday, that somebody touched me”.

We Need to be Generous. To put it simply, if you believe that Roman Catholics and Orthodox believers can’t be real Christians, you are going to find heaven very uncomfortable.

If you believe that Roman Catholics and Orthodox believers can't be real Christians, you are going to find heaven very uncomfortable. Click To Tweet

The Value of Literacy

If you receive this post by email and the video is not showing, you can find it here.

Bible and Mission Links 37

I’m posting this on the 75th anniversary of the DDay landings and although it doesn’t quite fit the rubric, I thought it would be good to point people to this excellent piece from UnHerd: Imagine if We’d Lost DDay. It does a good job of setting right some of the misperceptions about the events in Normandy which are portrayed in film and some popular history books. By the way, if you don’t subscribe to the UnHerd emails, you should.

Mission Practice

This article is probably the best thing I have ever read on the problems of orphanage tourism. If you or a friend are planning to spend a few weeks visiting an orphanage as part of a mission trip this summer, read this.

The foreign volunteers at the orphanage were incensed. Although the raid had followed a thorough and conclusive investigation into abuse at the orphanage, the volunteers were insistent that there was no abuse there, and tried to block the police and social workers from doing their jobs. The following day they invaded the NGO caring for the rescued children, demanding that the children be released back to the closed orphanage, or into their care.

The volunteers were from various countries and were newlyweds, gap year students, and men in their 40s displaying a keen interest in certain children. None had been volunteering for longer than three weeks, and all had plane tickets to depart within the month. At the raid, they had encouraged the children to run away from their foster families and parents, and actively tried to find the families to remove the children. Then, as their flight itineraries suggested, they all disappeared.

The orphanage had not had a child protection policy, nor had it required volunteers to provide a police background check from their own countries, and none of the volunteers had any qualifications in child care, youth work, or working with vulnerable children. Yet, here they were, demanding that local authorities ignore due process, and insisting that their demands were the best and safest course of action.

World Church

This twitter thread from missionary Chris Howles gives a fascinating insight into one strand of world Christianity.

Happy Martyrs Day. 3rd June 1886, 25 Ugandan Christian converts were burnt alive for refusing to recant their new faith in Christ. A few videos & pictures from yesterday and today, as over a million pilgrims, many walking hundreds of miles on foot, come to remember them.

Brian Stanley is one of the great scholars on the subject of world Christianity and in this short article, he busts 10 common myths about the world Christian movement.

1. Christianity is a western religion.
It neither began in western Europe, nor has it ever been entirely confined to western Europe. The period in which it appeared to be indissolubly linked to western European identity was a relatively short one, lasting from the early sixteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries. The Church in China, India, Ethiopia, and Iraq is older than the Church in much of northern Europe.

Many Western writers are swift to condemn the Church in Africa for the prevalence of the prosperity gospel on the continent, however, we need to deal with the log in our own eyes before being too swift to judge others as this BBC article points out. Thankfully, there are people willing to take these heretics on:

By way of contrast, Christians in Iraq don’t get to fly in private jets. This article captures the dilemma faced by one family.

The graph of the religion’s decline in the Middle East has in recent years transformed from a steady downward slope into a cliff. The numbers in Iraq are especially stark: Before the American invasion, as many as 1.4 million Christians lived in the country. Today, fewer than 250,000 remain—an 80 percent drop in less than two decades.

Despite the horrific situation they face, there are many examples of true Christlikeness in the face of persecution:

A 12-year-old Christian girl who was burnt to death in her home by Isis urged her family to forgive them with her dying breath.

Mission Language

If you’ve not read Transcending Mission by Michael Stroope (why not?) then you can get an idea of one of the central themes of the book here:

Two years after the publication of Transcending Mission, I am more convinced than ever that something is amiss and mission language must change. For all the biblical, theological, cultural, historical, and relational reasons detailed in the book, we must redouble our efforts to speak in more descriptive and meaningful language regarding how the church views itself and how it engages the world.

Languages

This is beyond my level of expertise, but it’s a fascinating article.

Scientists say they have traced the world’s 6,000 modern languages — from English to Mandarin — back to a single “mother tongue,” an ancestral language spoken in Africa 50,000 to 70,000 years ago.

Mission Agency Futures: Logistics

The previous posts in this series have suggested that mission agencies need to both shape their work in consultation with local Christians and to involve local Christians in all aspects of the work if they are to stay in tune with what God is doing around the world. In this post, I’d like to consider some of the logistics issues that may need to be addressed.

The first thing to note is that as a consequence of their missionary society heritage, many agencies have sclerotic decision-making processes which make any change and adaption both slow and difficult. Tradition, the agency-way and the comfort and security of members in their agency family can bring overwhelming pressure to bear when radical decisions have to be made. Most mission agencies are not particularly flexible and this is a major problem. There are complex reasons for this, and it isn’t really the point of this post, but it is an issue which needs to be addressed.

Logistics is almost certainly one of the most complex issues that agencies need to address, they have systems which have developed over the years to do one job and if that job changes, then the systems will need to change, too. Let’s just take one case; what happens if Christians from the host country join the agency as missionaries in their own right?

The first thing that will need to happen is that the candidate processes which exist in the UK will need to be replicated in the host country. Generally, joining an agency involves a host of forms, interviews and assessments and all of this will need to happen in a new context. This may be a very good time to rethink candidate processes and consider what is essential and what is just extra bureaucracy which has grown up over the years. Whatever happens, the candidate systems used in the UK and the host country should be functionally similar. There are two reasons for this, the first is that being a cross-cultural missionary isn’t easy wherever you come from and an adequate screening process is necessary. Secondly, in order to deal with some of the attitudinal issues that I raised yesterday, it needs to be abundantly clear that national missionaries are not in any way of a lower quality to their British colleagues.

Then there is the issue of finance. As I mentioned yesterday, we should not automatically assume that missionaries from other parts of the world cannot raise their own financial support. However, it is quite likely that some missionaries from some parts of the world will not be able to raise all of the money needed for their ministry and some sort of external finance will be required. This can lead to a division between the “real” missionaries who “live by faith” and raise their own support and the local missionaries who receive some sort of salary or organisational income. In many agencies, these differences are exacerbated by structures which say that only those who raise their own support get to vote on issues or can take on leadership positions. If local missionaries are to play their full role, then policies like these need to be changed, but given the sclerotic nature of agency decision making and the fact that missionaries may effectively have to vote to reduce their own privileges, this could take a while.

The question of how much support the local missionaries should receive also needs to be addressed. It is not uncommon to see adverts for agencies who insist that we should support local (or native) missionaries because they need less financial support than expats. However, where expats and local missionaries work in the same agency, this is manifestly unjust. What this effectively boils down to is saying that local Christians should not have access to the same medical care as foreigners, their children shouldn’t be able to benefit from the same educational opportunities and that they should be excluded from the social life of their mission because they can’t afford the cinema or restaurant trips that their expat colleagues enjoy. It is not unusual to hear expat missionaries object to this sort of thing by saying that if local missionaries receive the same support as expats, then some will “only do it for the money”. I have two responses to this, the first is that this is why you need good candidate procedures, the second is that many expats thoroughly enjoy having access to good beaches and good food which are available for far less than at home – are they in it for the money, too?

This whole area is a minefield and I’ve only just scratched the surface of the logistics issues that need to be addressed.

The bottom line for this whole series is that God is at work in remarkable ways around the world and if mission agencies want to remain relevant, they will need to adapt. The specifics will vary from agency to agency, but I hope this series gives some food for thought as agency leaders and boards grapple with the issues.

The Whole Series

  1. Mission Agency Futures: The Present
  2. Mission Agency Futures: The Problem
  3. Mission Agency Futures: The Process
  4. Mission Agency Futures: Mission Stuff
  5. Mission Agency Futures: Getting People Involved
  6. Mission Agency Futures: Logistics

Mission Agency Agency Futures: Getting People Involved

In the first post in this series I wrote the following:

In broad terms, agencies aim to get people to give, pray or go. They need people to fund their work through (ideally, regular) financial giving, they rely heavily on people praying for their work and they seek to recruit more missionaries to carry out the work.

What I didn’t say, though it was implied is that (for the most part) these efforts are aimed at people in the UK (or the home country of the agency). Agencies seek to raise funds from Brits, to get Brits to pray for the work worldwide and to recruit Brits to work as missionaries. However, in an age in which the UK church is in decline as compared to much of the rest of the world, this is a short-sighted strategy at best and, more importantly, it is out of step with what God is doing around the world. Agencies could (and, indeed, should) be seeking to involve people from all around the world in their work; especially those from the countries in which they work. This means getting people involved in all three aspects that I have mentioned; giving, praying and going. Let me swiftly say that this doesn’t necessarily mean that people will join the British mission agency; there is a wide range of other possibilities. The important thing is encouraging people into mission – not which structure they should belong to. I’ll talk more about the logistics of this tomorrow, but in this post, I want to concentrate on attitudes.

If your mission agency can see no further than mobilising Brits for mission work, then you are out of step with what God is doing. You might want to consider shutting up shop. Click To Tweet

The first thing to say is that some agencies do this really well, while others hardly do it.

Money: Agencies should be encouraging Christians worldwide to contribute financially to the work of God’s mission. Yes, people in some places are much poorer than their Western counterparts and can’t give as much – but they can still give. The automatic assumption by some in the West that poor Christians have nothing to contribute to God’s work not only robs those people of dignity, but it also restricts the ability of local people to take ownership of mission activities.

Prayer: Encouraging people to pray for mission work should be a no-brainer. As a generalisation, the people in the growing churches around the world tend to pray more and with greater dependence on God than those in the West (cause and effect?). Dedicated smartphone apps, WhatsApp groups and such like can all be used to getting people praying – and you don’t even need to go to the expense of printing. prayer letter!

Going: Agencies should seek to encourage people from around the world to go as missionaries. There are logistical issues involved – more of that tomorrow – but the principle stands. However, often the biggest issues are not ones of linguistics, but of attitudes. I have heard people say things such as “Africans can’t be missionaries like us” or “these people don’t have what it takes to be Bible translators” far too often. These sorts of attitudes may not be common (though I believe that they are commoner than one might expect) but they are out there. I might offend some people by saying this, but there is only one way to describe this sort of thinking – racism. I’d like to expand this point, but I don’t want to detract from the central point of this post.

God is at work around the world, building his church and calling people from everywhere to be involved in the work of cross-cultural mission. If your agency can see no further than mobilising Brits for mission work, then, frankly, you are out of step with what God is doing. You might want to consider shutting up shop.

The Whole Series

  1. Mission Agency Futures: The Present
  2. Mission Agency Futures: The Problem
  3. Mission Agency Futures: The Process
  4. Mission Agency Futures: Mission Stuff
  5. Mission Agency Futures: Getting People Involved
  6. Mission Agency Futures: Logistics

 

Mission Agency Futures: Mission Stuff

This is the fourth in a series of posts on the future of mission agencies, the first three focused on the present situation for mission agencies, the problem that they face and the process that they need to follow in order to stay relevant to the wider world.

This fourth post eschews the alliterative pattern of the early posts as I am now moving on to look at the three areas of mission activity which were outlined in the first post, mission stuff, getting people involved and logistics. It may be possible to make all of these start with “p” but I can’t be bothered (waits for some bright spark on Twitter to suggest something).

Mission stuff consists of the things that the agency exists to do; plant churches, translate the Bible, run clinics etc. Reflecting on the issues raised in the first three posts in this series, the central feature of this one is simple enough; the things that a mission agency does and they way they do them must be worked out in negotiation with Christians in the country or region where they are working. Local churches may not have the finance or the all-powerful publicity machine that the agencies can bring to bear, but they must not be treated as passive actors who should just stand around and watch while the experts from overseas get on and do their stuff.

The things that a mission agency does and they way they do them must be worked out in negotiation with Christians in the country or region where they are working. Click To Tweet

The key word here is “negotiation”. Churches and agencies may well have different priorities and expectations and these need to be worked through with each partner learning to understand and respect the other’s perspective. For example, in some parts of the world, it is not unusual for church planting missions to build schools or hospitals; something that they may have no experience, expertise or interest in doing. In this sort of situation, the agency would be unlikely to be able to help with the specific request; though they may have other contacts who could do so. But it is important for them to understand why the local church has the priorities that it has and for the church to understand where the agency is coming from.

However, in many other cases, some sort of understanding can be reached and the agency is able to shape its mission in the light of how God’s people who are living in the context (and who will be there after the agency shuts up shop) see reality.

In order for this to happen, it is imperative that the field leadership of the agency have good relationships with local and national Christian leaders. If you are the field director of a mission agency and you haven’t met up with the denominational leaders in your country, then you aren’t doing your job. I would also argue, that mission boards in the UK need to take steps to ensure that they gain an insider’s perspective on the countries where their agency works; field reports from missionaries or talks from local mission staff can only ever tell part of the story. You have to invest in meeting local leaders – especially those who might not be very positive about your agency’s work.

Now when I say things like this, one type of response is inevitable; people will say that working with the local church is fine, but they don’t care about unreached people groups, or they don’t understand the priority of Bible translation… The problem with this sort of reply is that it makes an assumption that our conceptions of mission, be they UPGs, Bible translation needs or whatever, are universal truths which should be shared by all Christians everywhere and that anyone who doesn’t see things our way is deficient in their faith. However, our conceptions of mission are not universal truths and it is perfectly legitimate for people to see things differently. it is quite possible for people to care about the unreached in their country without subscribing to a socio-religious view of people groups which emerges out of another culture on the other side of the globe. If we continue to conceptualise mission through our own framework, rather than trying to understand the priorities and concerns of local Christians we will almost certainly miss seeing how God is at work in that context.

The Whole Series

  1. Mission Agency Futures: The Present
  2. Mission Agency Futures: The Problem
  3. Mission Agency Futures: The Process
  4. Mission Agency Futures: Mission Stuff
  5. Mission Agency Futures: Getting People Involved
  6. Mission Agency Futures: Logistics

 

 

Mission Agency Futures: Process

This is the third in a short series of posts looking at the way in which mission agencies will need to change in the future. The first post looked at what mission agencies are and the second considered the pressures that are pushing them to change. This post will look at the process that agencies need to consider in order to make the sorts of changes that the future will require.

The first thing to note is that simply making changes in order to attract more supporters, financial donors or to recruit more missionaries is not enough. These sorts of changes may ensure the viability of the agency in the short term (but see this post), but they do nothing to address the underlying issues which were raised in yesterday’s post. Although agencies may have significant problems regarding finances or recruitment, these are not the most important things that they face. It would be possible for an agency to have a stable financial situation, without it dealing with the underlying issues of demographics, theology, mission and power that I outlined earlier. In this situation, the agency would be viable, but it would not be relevant to what God is doing in the world today.

What agencies (W=when I say agencies, I mean their leadership teams and boards) need to do is to engage in what is sometimes called missiologigical reflection. Though this sounds rather jargonish, it simply means taking time, to reflect and pray together about the significant issues that the agency is facing. The reflection needs to be done by bringing in input from a number of fields; Scripture and mission theology are clearly key issues, as are current trends in worldwide mission and the activities which the agency itself is involved in. The process should be corporate, involving a group of people and it should eventually lead to action in some form or another – and this action should eventually be the subject of a new round of reflection.

The actual process itself can take on a number of forms. It could be as simple as reading a missiological text together (say The Cape Town Commitment) and reflecting on the way in which the agency’s field work is (or could be) shaped by the ideas in the book. Or it could be a much more complex facilitated process involving receiving reports from the agency’s workers as well as reports from other agencies and considering them in the light of Scripture and changes in the global church.

The key is to take time and to draw together information and concepts from a variety of sources. If the process does not challenge some long-held traditions and does not make people uncomfortable, then it probably isn’t going deep enough!

The Whole Series

  1. Mission Agency Futures: The Present
  2. Mission Agency Futures: The Problem
  3. Mission Agency Futures: The Process
  4. Mission Agency Futures: Mission Stuff
  5. Mission Agency Futures: Getting People Involved
  6. Mission Agency Futures: Logistics

 

Mission Agency Futures: The Problem

This short series will take a look at the sorts of changes that mission agencies will need to make in the future, but before getting to the specifics, we need to lay some groundwork. Yesterday’s post considered what it is that mission agencies actually do and today’s will look at why they need to change.

Today’s mission agencies emerged in a context where the west was broadly Christian and the rest of the world was not. The role of the agencies was to take the Christian message – in word and deed – to the wider world. However, things have changed.

Demographics

There is no need to spend a lot of time on this, it’s an issue that has been hashed and rehashed over the years on this blog. Today, the majority of Christians are found in the southern continents, not the historic Christian heartlands of the West. This, in itself, poses an existential problem for agencies, but other issues flow out of this.

Theology

This is another topic that I’ve addressed over the years and this quote captures the issue (read more here):

First, let us recall that within the last century there has been a massive southward shift of the centre of gravity of the Christian world, so that the representative Christianlands now appear to be in Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, and other parts of the southern continents.This means that Third World theology is now likely to be the representative Christian theology. On present trends (and  I recognize that these may not be permanent) the theology of European Christians, while important for them and their continued existence, may become a matter of specialist interest to historians

Read this post for similar thoughts.

The point of this is that not only are the majority of Christians around the world, non-western, but they also don’t think and theologise in the same way that westerners do. Mission agencies don’t just have to address a demographic issue, they also need to face up to some theological ones, too.

Mission

Likewise, as the church expands and broadens her base, our understanding of what constitutes mission is changing, too. This post discusses some of the issues. The missionary scholar, Andrew Walls says that the Western mission movement is in its old age, while the Korean Scholar, Moonjang Lee makes says the following:

“The modern Western missionary era has ended, and a new paradigm for global mission has not yet been devised. Although various aspects of the colonial paradigm for Christian mission have undergone revisions in order to negotiate with the changing environment in global contexts, we might say that we are still trapped in an old habit of thought and practice in Christian mission that needs radical adjustment and modification.”

Lee, M. (2016) Rethinking the nature of Christian mission: a South Korean perspective. In The State of Missiology Today: Global Innovations in Christian Witness, (Ed, Van Engen, C.E.) IVP Academic, Downers Grove, pp. 125-139.

Power

The numbers and the innovation in the church may lie outside of the west, but the power, influence and political clout almost all lie in North America and Europe. The disparity between the affluence of the western church and mission agencies and many of those they seek to serve contrasts sharply with Paul’s experiences in the Book of Acts.

What this all boils down to, is that mission agencies find themselves in a changing world; all this is summed up in a quote from David Smith, which I have used many times on this blog:

“… agencies and institutions that once did pioneering work at the cutting edges of the Christian mission have too often been left facing in the wrong direction as the battle has moved on. In this situation they face a stark choice: either they engage in a radical re-formation, repositioning themselves to respond to the quite new challenges of the twenty-first century, or they are doomed to rapid and rather sad decline and extinction.” (David Smith: Mission After Christendom)

... agencies and institutions that once did pioneering work at the cutting edges of the Christian mission have too often been left facing in the wrong direction as the battle has moved on. Click To Tweet

The Whole Series

  1. Mission Agency Futures: The Present
  2. Mission Agency Futures: The Problem
  3. Mission Agency Futures: The Process
  4. Mission Agency Futures: Mission Stuff
  5. Mission Agency Futures: Getting People Involved
  6. Mission Agency Futures: Logistics

Mission Agency Futures: The Present

Over the last few years, I’ve written a good deal about mission agencies, you can find the majority of those posts here. Over the next few days, I plan to write a few posts which suggest possible ways forward for agencies in a changing world, but before I get to the future, I’d like to lay a foundation by considering what it is that mission agencies actually do. Then tomorrow, I’ll consider some of the issues which are driving the need for change.

Broadly speaking, the work that mission agencies do fits into three categories. Each agency will describe things differently and they may lump together functions that I have separated, but as a generalisation what I say below is good enough to work with.

Mission Stuff

This is the work at the coalface of mission; Bible translation, church planting, running schools, hospitals and what-have-you. It’s the basic stuff that the agency exists to do. Some agencies do the majority of their mission stuff through financing local initiatives and making grants to other groups. However, for the most part, my focus will be on agencies which do their stuff by sending long term missionaries to plant churches, translate the Bible and so on.

Getting People Involved

For the most part, agencies talk about “mobilisation”, but I find the term rather jargonish and, in the current context, I’m uneasy about using military terminology to describe sending westerners into other parts of the world. In broad terms, agencies aim to get people to give, pray or go. They need people to fund their work through (ideally, regular) financial giving, they rely heavily on people praying for their work and they seek to recruit more missionaries to carry out the work. Behind all of this is a publicity/marketing arm of the agency which may be quite large and very sophisticated. Some agencies intentionally include education about broader mission issues as part of their publicity, but most simply focus on their own work.

Logistics

Agencies have to have structures which allow them to get missionaries to the field and to keep them there. This will typically involve a finance function to make sure they can eat while they do their work. There will be an HR function to make sure they are doing the work they are supposed to be doing and surviving in the process. Contingency planning for emergencies is an important part of the logistics operation, especially when the agency has people working in scary or insecure locations. Networking with churches (around the world and in the UK) and other agencies will also be a significant feature.

Undergirding all of this is an administrative infrastructure, which is vitally important to the life of the agency, but not something that I will be looking at during this short series.

The Whole Series

  1. Mission Agency Futures: The Present
  2. Mission Agency Futures: The Problem
  3. Mission Agency Futures: The Process
  4. Mission Agency Futures: Mission Stuff
  5. Mission Agency Futures: Getting People Involved
  6. Mission Agency Futures: Logistics

Bible and Mission Links 36

Interesting Bible Stuff

The title of this article is misleading, it isn’t about the oldest Bible in the world, but it is about the oldest illustrated copies of the Gospels.

 

On a different note entirely, Ian Paul explores the significance (or otherwise) of the catch of 153 fish in John 21. On a slightly related Theme, James Bejon tweeted an extraordinary analysis of the last few chapters of Ezekiel, which he subsequently made available on academia.edu (you may need to register to see it).

Language

I loved this short piece about the way that Ubang (Nigeria) men and women speak different languages. I vaguely remember that something similar happens in the west of Ivory Coast among the Toura people.

World Church

This is very interesting (and sad) about why the church in Korea has stopped growing.

It’s not hard to see what’s going on—“the younger generation is leaving the church in startling fashion,” said Steven Chang, a New Testament professor in Seoul. The reasons are complex, ranging from Western secularization to materialism to high-profile corruption in the church.

There has been a fair bit about the persecution of Christians in the news lately; from a report by the Bishop of Truro, to this article on the penalization of Evangelicals in Russia.

Mission

Coincidently, I have come across two articles suggesting that we need to rethink the language around short term mission trips. I thoroughly enjoyed the introduction to this one from Craig Greenfield.

Imagine if I wrote this letter to my local dentist.

“Dear Sir, I’d like to come and be a dentist for 2 weeks. I’ve been meeting once a month with a small group of others who also want to be short term dentists, and we have our t-shirts printed and we’re ready to come.

PS. Can you drive us around, translate for us, and help take cool photos for our Facebook pages?”

I’d like to be a fly on the wall when the dentist received that letter.

We don’t have short term Social Workers, or short term Bio-Scientists.

We don’t have short term Gastro-enterologists or short term Politicians.

So why, why, why, WHY, do we have short term Missionaries in ever-increasing numbers?

We don’t have short term Social Workers, or short term Bio-Scientists.We don’t have short term Gastro-enterologists or short term Politicians. So why, why, why, WHY, do we have short term Missionaries in ever-increasing numbers? Click To Tweet

The other article isn’t so funny, but it is thought-provoking.

I write a fair bit about money and mission – always a delicate subject. This article covers the way in which one agency has had to settle a lawsuit with donors. While this one is not actually about mission agencies, but it would be naive to think that agencies are immune from the temptation that it describes.

I firmly believe that church leaders should visit their mission partners and this article agrees.

When you sent your mission partner out, part of the partnership package was mutual encouragement. Sitting across the sofa from your mission partner, you’ll provide 10 times as much encouragement as you can on the phone. And encouragement can be just what your mission partner needs to keep them doing what they’re doing!

This story is remarkable (don’t take my word for it, read it), while this one describes some very real struggles while helping to break some mission stereotypes.

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