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Someone said, “When you come to the fork in the road, take it.”
Yesterday, Mary (my wife) and I drove from the sleepy village of Burtigny to the bustling Swiss city of Lausanne to do some errands and visit YWAM Lausanne for a meeting with one of our IT teams. We downloaded the turn by turn instructions to get to our destination. Mary played co-pilot, reading the French street names to me as I drove through the city to Office World where we would buy special envelopes for Tom Bloomer, the Provost of the University of the Nations.
Neither of us speak French. Between Mary’s interpretation of the street names and my reading of the street signs, we made several u-turns. In fact, we passed in front of Office World three times, before we noticed the big red English letters on the building.
I like the adventure of going to new places and meeting new people. However, the process of getting there can be stressful, and hilarious, especially if you heard our feeble attempts to pronounce French!
How do you find your way to a new destination? How do you respond when you suddenly realize, “I have not been this way before.”
There are key moments in our lives when a decision must be made, a direction must be chosen. And there are moments when a generation faces a similar choice of major significance to the future. Our choices, especially the choices made by leaders, will effect the destiny of a generation, and perhaps hundreds of millions of people.
I see the two choices this generation of emerging leaders are given today. I see the fork in the road, and the signpost with clearly inscribed names for the two pathways.
One road is named “The Way of Increase” and the other is named “The Way of Decrease”.
Both pathways are the way of influence and change. Both ways will impact the generation. Both ways are the way of personal sacrifice. Both ways shape the future and the way power is distributed.
The Way of Increase is exciting. It is the way most will choose. It’s the way of increased power, increased popularity, and increased numbers. The way of increase is called “blessed”; it’s the way of apparent abundance.
God promises blessing and abundant life, so choosing the path will not seem foreign. It’s easy to read the sign; it’s easy to choose the path way.
The other pathway is the Way of Decrease. This sign is very difficult to read; it’s foreign, unfamiliar, and unwelcome.
Why one would to take that sharp turn toward decrease is difficult to imagine. It appears to be a complete reversal of direction. Whatever progress was made seems to be lost the moment you take this turn. The way is narrow and difficult. Suddenly the smooth road becomes a steep incline and a very rough terrain. Few take this road, and most would mistake it for a path for sheep, anyone but me.
And that’s the choice. Will you take the easy road, or the narrow road?
The Way to Increase is filled with spiritual excitement and expectations of triumphing over any that might get in your way. It is the way to power. It’s a highway with speed and comfort, and many are on that road. You can congratulate yourself when you look in your rear view mirror to see multitudes following.,.you.
The Way to Decrease is the way of surrender. It is quiet there. Few are seen of this road. Tears fall on this difficult path, but few notice. Why would anyone take this path? Why did John the Baptizer say, “I must decrease?” It can’t be God’s way. It’s not producing the numbers and the excitement we have come to expect with our great and powerful God.
But those who choose the Way to Decrease have seen the top of that steep incline on that difficult path. They have seen the One who went that way to the top of that hill of the skull, calvary’s hill. They have seen Jesus hanging on that cruel cross on the Way of Decrease.
Why did Jesus choose the Way of Decrease?
It is THAT way, the Way of Decrease, that brings true Increase to others. The way of abundance is life-giving, life-surrendering, and power giving.
So the choice is clear. Take the path to gain power, or the path to give power. For every true revival in history has been a moment when a generation of emerging leaders have chosen the Way of Decrease, giving away and distributing power to the powerless.
One of the most significant shifts in world missions during the past several decades is the demographic shift in the center of gravity of World Christianity from the western world to the global south and the east. Certainly such an adjustment will require a new paradigm for world missions. Could it be a paradigm of partnership with short and long-term cooperation between established and emerging leaders in communities around the world?
If university students have historically been on the leading edge of new missionary advances, how will they be involved in the twenty-first century? Will creating partnerships with the new majority church of the global south require that some of the western models of evangelistic outreach be revised? Perhaps. We have confidence that God does want all to be saved, however the gospel from the western world has been presented as a private decision. To be sure, this is an uncertain foundation for the future. In much of the western world, this method of evangelism has too often produced a faithless, self-absorbed church, actively involved in evangelism out of fear or passivity, waiting for the rapture. Many young people have abandoned traditional church for a more secular activism.
This generation of students are uniquely positioned to travel globally with an increased awareness and engagement in social concerns, including globalization, environmental concerns, human trafficking, HIV/AIDS, and poverty. However, they lack biblical understanding of the meaning of justice. While they cry out for social justice, they fail to recognize that the scriptures, when they speak of justice, refer to the justice due to God.
What students require is biblical instruction. More importantly, students need personal input from a mentor. At a recent gathering of young leaders of the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization, they concluded something incredible:
“We believe that the most pressing need in developing (and sustaining) young leaders is personal, relational investment from the older generation, as well as some like-hearted, peer-level friends.”
Many said they feel isolated and alone in their leadership. Many agreed that they do not need more skills training or instruction.They said, “We need intimate relationships, above us and beside us, so that we can provide the same for others.”
What is required for a new thrust in short-term student missions?
If thousands of initiatives already exist around the world, such as projects that relate to the fields of politics, economic development, cultural studies, the arts and religion, then these ongoing projects offer ample opportunities for short-term participants to come alongside and help. What is required is leadership for a new generation. That leadership will produce the structure for a new paradigm. What is needed is a new way to collaborate with the multitude of amazing initiatives.
While student volunteers for missionary endeavors were typically western during the 19th and 20th centuries, today’s student volunteers are from every nation. A new structure for missions mobilization should therefore be a way to offer a world-wide emerging generation of students the means to serve and learn alongside on-going projects around the world. This new structure must be a user-friendly and self-initiated program, with personal guidance.
This new structure will require a wide collaborative network of missions-minded hosts, mentors, and donors, working together to facilitate a new generation of student missions mobilization.
What is the lasting impact of a short-term cross-cultural student service project?
Internships benefit both the field project and the student. Many project leaders have expressed concern about the efficacy of short-term participation in missions. Therefore, rather than request the opportunity to send students to their field project, field hosts will initiate the invitation and determine the timing, the number of students, and the education level of those they invite. Qualified field projects that express the need for short-term assistance become hosts for student volunteers. The problems of short-term missions are many, however they can be resolved as mature and experienced leaders, such as our Hosts and Mentors, assist the Student with issues of language, culture, theology, and service.
Not only will they provide specific assistance at the invitation of field projects, students with international experience have proven to be “landing careers with international or multinational organizations.”
Practical service and careers are important, however the ultimate aim is lasting relationships, which are the fruit of a person following God’s call. From short-term participation comes long-term relationships, including the possibility that former student volunteers become donors or staff of the project they serve.
How are lasting relationships sustained?
Communities of christians are no longer merely local. Just like the apostle Paul extended his circle of missional partners through letters, today’s communities are more and more virtual. This new missions mobilization movement will require that we utilize all the collaborative tools of the internet. Individuals and groups are connecting and organizing themselves, often with missional purpose everywhere. Relationships begin in the short-term with close communication and prayer, and are sustained for the long-term through re-engagement and as new projects and participants are added to the community.
This new structure will partner with projects in poor communities.
Projects that extend the mercy and grace of God to communities in need, especially among the poor, will provide the deepest and widest possible impact. Projects will vary. The whole system of poverty, including the restoration of relationships, are addressed through service to the cultural, social, spiritual, personal, or physical needs of a community. Jayakumar Christian writes “what is often missed when speaking of poverty from a western perspective is the tendency to view poverty from a purely materialistic worldview.”
In order to address poverty, students should be mentored in a biblical christian view of poverty, understanding that poverty is a loss of identity and vocation.
Why is the mobilization of university students strategic?
University students will remain on the leading edge of new missional thrusts and structures because the university is God’s idea. The university is a cathedral of worship to the ways of God in every arena of society. God is the original creator, gardener, artist, law giver, communicator, builder and architect. etc. Missional engagement in a community, when emphasizing restoration of relationships, will include a myriad of approaches, including the restoration of relationship with God (religion, philosophy, theology), restoration of relationship with community (political science and economics), restoration of relationship with the environment (biology, ecology, engineering), restoration of relationship with neighbors (sociology, international relations, justice), and, finally restoration of relationship with the self (psychology, health care).
The need to create new structures for the mobilization of students into world missions cannot be under-emphasized. What is urgently required are leaders for a new generation of student volunteers.
Being an innovator and change agent can be challenging, especially when it takes time to define, develop, and produce the results of an idea.
Discipleship training is not a program; it’s a command to every believer. The way we have traditionally fulfilled this responsibility has been through formal instruction in a classroom or auditorium setting. We have called those formal gatherings “church.” In time this tradition of gathering and sitting in formal settings became more important than fulfilling the command to “go, make disciples.”
Let’s get back to the command; let’s get back to where we once belonged, making disciples. Let’s let Jesus be our example. Yes, Jesus did have people sit down and listen to him, sometimes in the Temple, sometimes in a field, on a mount, or in the intimate setting of a home. However, we should notice that the setting for his instruction was rarely formal. Instead, he practiced a non-formal and often informal method of making disciples. He said, “Come and follow me.” This was Jesus’ invitation to a life of a disciple.
Let’s “flip” discipleship.
What I am suggesting is that we change things up a bit. Let’s “flip” discipleship. If we were intentional about a reversed teaching model we could deliver instruction on the go, in the regular rhythms of life. If we were to “flip” discipleship, we could follow Jesus’ model and use the education tools of the 21st century.
Everywhere, in nearly every corner of the world of education, learning is going online. Some like it and some don’t. Let’s step back a moment and consider how today’s online learning tools might help us “flip” discipleship training.
Consider a moment how an interactive online learning environment might enhance discipleship of today’s Christ followers. What if we created hundreds of short Youtube videos to deliver content and we made discipleship more personal? What if we moved lectures outside of the classroom and allowed teachers, mentors, and disciplers to spend more 1:1 time with each disciple? What if Christ-followers had the opportunity to ask questions and work through problems with the guidance of a personal mentor/teacher and find the support of others on the same journey? What if we “flipped” church and made it a community learning on the go? What if church became a community on mission, making disciples?
We have developed just such a method with online tools and videos for discipleship training. It’s called the IPO Connection (Internship Placement & Outreach Connection). Through the ipoconnection.org and corresponding online course site, we are matching students (disciples) with field projects through homestays (sharing biblical hospitality), and equipping the students through dozens of short video lessons followed by personal interaction with a mentor (discipler).
What are the advantages of flipping discipleship training?
- Gives teachers/mentors more time to spend 1:1 helping students
- Builds stronger student/teacher relationships
- Offers a way for a collaborative community of students, mentors, project hosts, and donors to move together on mission with Jesus
- Produces the ability for students to “rewind” lessons, review them, and share them with peers. These video lessons are powerful!
Visit ipoconnection.org for more information.
The SMC is equipping campus ministries leaders and SMC staff for multiplication around the world. After running the School of University Ministries & Missions (SUMM) four times on three continents in 2010 & 2011, we will again run the SUMM in North America in 2012 and South America in 2013, this time as mobile schools incorporating mobilization events in various cities into the curriculum. In addition, our six friends from Madagascar who took the SUMM last year in Seoul are requesting the SUMM to be run in Madagascar for their growing university ministries; they’re completing their sixth UDTS and they are pioneering a second university ministry in another city. Aldrin Bogi and his team in Bangalore, INDIA are planning to run the SUMM again soon, perhaps in 2013.
The SUMM is UofN Student Mobilization Centre’s core training for all YWAM staff and students serving university students. (UofN Code: STU/HMT 293). The following is a rationale and purpose statement for the next SUMM in North America, scheduled to begin on December 27, 2012 at the URBANA Student Missions Convention in St. Louis, MO.
Mobile SUMM North America 2012-2013
During 2011, we convened two Consultations, one in Northfield, MA and one in San Francisco, CA, where we met leaders representing several new YWAM campus ministries which have emerged in the past few years in North America. The universities in North America represent a particularly urgent context with strategic importance to the future of the Western missions movement and the need for partnership with the new majority Church outside the West. It is time to cultivate and assist those new ministries and equip leaders for greater effectiveness and growth through collaboration and pioneering new ministries.
The SMC’s commitment to student involvement in world missions will be evidenced not only in the curriculum of the SUMM, but also through active mobilization and prayer with potential student volunteers at various campus events during the North American Mobile SUMM.
Since 1986, SMC’s Field Ministry Internships (FMI), the principal program of the SMC, has mobilized students from over 100 different colleges/universities onto 75 internship teams in over 35 countries. We have mobilized students, as learners and not experts, for every sphere of society. To date, the FMI program has been designed by and directed by SMC leaders. Beginning with this SUMM, we are making a change to the FMI program; we are emphasizing internship placements.
Participants in this Mobile SUMM will not only practically experience the mobilization process at events, they will also be involved in the planning and coordination of internship projects for which they are recruiting students. Every SUMM participant will identify Field Partners (YWAM and non-YWAM organizations) to help them design and register their own internship programs for students in 2012 & 2013. During the SUMM, we plan to have 100 internship FMI Field Partner Hosts and their Field Projects posted on the SMC website.
We are championing university students to serve Christ’s Great Commission through their life-work. Students and Associate Field Partners are challenged to partner together in the next major wave of collaborative missions and holistic witness in and from university communities worldwide.
North American Mobile SUMM Context:
Today’s university students are more diverse, more pluralistic, more internationally aware, and more cross-culturally connected than previous generations. Students travel abroad and study abroad more than any previous generation. The number of internationals studying in the United States has more than doubled in the past twenty years, from 325 thousand to well over 700 thousand today, most of whom are from nations in the 10/40 window. Those seeking to plant churches among unreached peoples ought to make ministry to these strategic persons a priority. International concern about human tragedy and injustice, such as impure water, human traffiking, and HIV/AIDS orphans, have captured the conscience of this generation. Today’s students, both Christian and non-Christian, are seeking to make a difference and they are seeking a vital community that shares their concerns. Christian students, many of whom have desperate need for family and community, are at the same time seeking God for his justice and his mercy to be extended through a shared vision of a community and through their own life’s work.
North American Mobile SUMM Strategic Objectives:
This twelve-week interdisciplinary course emphasizes the impact and strategic importance of the mobilization of students toward their life work and calling. It is the SMC’s objective to recruit, equip, and place student volunteers ready to practically serve communities caught in a cycle of poverty resulting from unproductive worldviews. International Student Ministries (ISM) are a priority of the SMC. It is our objective to help North American YWAM centers within reasonable reach of university communities to adopt this priority. In addition, we will be encouraging YWAMers and former YWAMers currently enrolled in university to form missional communities with fellow students. It is the aim of the SMC for students to learn more deeply the importance of a biblical worldview, their calling from God, and what it means to love our global neighbor. Participants in the SUMM will therefore:
- Examine and practice teaching how God’s calling relates to the destiny of nations.
- Research the migration of students, the growing international student population, and learn how to equip university students for effective witness in their generation and in various areas of society: arts, business, education, government, media, science and technology.
- Gain understanding and practical knowledge of university student ministries as a mission strategy with particular application the variety of cultures in the North American context.
- Study the historical and biblical basis of university student ministries,
- Learn how to lead an intensive and integrated discipleship and outreach experience, and
- Gain practical instruction for pioneering and leading a campus ministry and for leading Field Ministry Internships.
We accomplish our objectives through a four-part strategy, which will be applied to this SUMM:
- We Gather - We will gather students & leaders from university communities in several North American cities through mobilization events.
- We Train – We will further develop curriculum through contextual and practical research in university communities in North America.
- We Send – We will recruit students for 100 different service projects related to global human need, their individual fields of studies, and their future influence in the spheres of society. Students will have opportunity to participate in short-term outreaches, serve long-term field projects, and discern their life-work and calling.
- We Network – We will cultivate missional collaboration and partnerships with various organizations, churches, and agencies in and around university communities in North America for the purpose of mobilizing an emerging generation of student volunteers serving Christ’s Great Commission.
North American Mobile SUMM Plan:
This Mobile SUMM in North America will visit several cities to observe and serve some of the most effective campus ministries and leaders. The SUMM mobile community will participate in and/or help organize mobilization events in several cities, including St. Louis, MO for the URBANA 2012 Intervarsity Student Missions Convention (Dec. 27-31, 2012). Every SUMM participant will enroll with the expectation of participating as one of the YWAM international exhibitors at the URBANA 2012 event. (SUMM tuition fees will include URBANA 2012 exhibitor registrations fees.)
SUMM staff assignments are limited to those who have completed the School of University Ministries & Missions -or- current YWAM staff with a Four-Year College Degree and Student Ministries Leadership Seminar (STU 195). All staff members for the North American SUMM will make a full 12 month commitment, in order that they may serve as participant mentor/overseers for SUMM Field Assignments.
The Foundational Values of Youth With A Mission are integrated into the teaching/learning experience in a variety of ways. The Values we find most closely relating to the School of University Ministries are:
- Godly Character & Servant Leadership: SMC seeks to build Godly character and demonstrate principles of servant leadership; humility and integrity are essential to produce in the student a trusting relationship with God.
- Championing the potential of young people: The SMC seeks to mobilize today’s university students recognizing this population may be the most potent missionary force on earth.
- All ministries and functions are equal in the Kingdom of God: the SMC course seeks to promote calling in relation to a broadened understanding of the character and ways of God to reach and teach all nations;
- Commitment to the Word of God: SMC is committed to the authority of the Word of God, to seeking to know and hear God’s voice, and to a lifestyle of intercessory prayer.
- Visionary: Students come with a desire for revelation of how their field of study in university (other than the UofN) relates to God’s call on their life. The SMC curriculum is designed to foster the development of that vision.
- Great Commission & Discipling Nations: Believing that the Gospel of Jesus can transform not only individual lives but the structures of society, SMC is dedicated to fulfilling the Great Commission to disciple all nations.
- Hospitality: The Biblical meaning of hospitality is ‘friend of the foreigner’. God has always instructed His people to love and care for the strangers and sojourners in their land;
- Communication: SUMM participants will communicate and methodically follow up with students and leaders from a wide variety of backgrounds and cultures. Participants will articulate succinctly and clearly what today’s students need to be able to serve as missionaries in a 21st century mission field, emphasizing YWAM’s commitment to the Christian Magna Carta and a spirit of collaboration in response to dramatic shifts in the Church globally and extraordinary economic and societal crises. Communicating to mobilize students on cross-cultural, serving-learning experiences is an integral part of YWAM’s discipleship of students in every campus ministry location.
If you or someone you know would be interested in the SUMM course in North America or another part of the world, or if you can host the North American Mobile SUMM for a campus event at one of the cities we plan to visit (St. Louis, Minneapolis, Madison, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Boston, Baltimore, Richmond, Atlanta), or if you know of an organization leading a project that needs interns to serve and learn for a few weeks or a full semester, contact us. We’ll be really glad to help you connect with this exciting series of events.
William Carey’s influence on “Haystack” Students
Setting the stage for the historic prayer meeting with the five students who gathered under that haystack to find refuge from a storm in August 1806 was a little booklet written only a decade or so earlier by William Carey. The booklet was entitled: “An Enquiry Into the Obligations of Christians to use Means for [...]
A “New” Kind of Church Minister: George Isley
My pastor, George Isley, who went to be with the Lord five years ago, modeled a kind of leadership in the Church that is, from my perspective as a missionary of 25+ years, too rarely seen. One of George’s classmates, Dr. Don Lundgren, Missions Minister at College Church in Northampton, MA, said George had been [...]
Introduction to Missional Collaboration
As I develop a new training course on Missional Collaboration for the University of the Nations, I will be unveiling several aspects of the course through this blog. Today’s post originates from one of my papers and in response to an article on the Trinity by Mark Avery, professor of a course on Collaboration at [...]
New, Old Meaning for Hospitality
Hospitality has taken on fresh meaning to me lately. I’ll explain. I understood hospitality to be mainly “friendship with the stranger,” and NOT primarily how to set your table to impress your dinner guests. Welcoming strangers, radical as that view seemed, isn’t broad enough. Recently, while doing some research on church eldership, the word hospitality [...]
Our table is the center of our home. It’s the place our family comes together, the place we welcome friends, neighbors, and strangers. We invite others into the kitchen where we chop and sauté vegetables, bake bread, stir sauces, pour the fruit of the vine (juice or wine, you choose), and prepare to savor the [...]
History: Adoniram Judson
In September 1809, college student Adoniram Judson began to ponder seriously the subject of foreign missions. At the age of twenty-one, he had just finished his first year of theological studies at Andover. Judson read a sermon which was preached in the parish church of Bristol, England, by Dr. Claudius Buchanan. Buchanan had been a [...]
Calling: What I’m looking for…
U2 singer songwriter Bono expresses a spiritual yearning in the 1987 album The Joshua Tree hit single: “Still haven’t found what I’m looking for…” New Musical Express (a pop music mag in the UK better known as the NME), points out that the popularity of the song may be due to the way it showed [...]
Easter Note: Holiness is Intimacy with God
“What language should I borrow, to thank Thee dearest friend, for this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end? O make me Thine forever, And should I fainting be, Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee.” This line comes from “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded,” a 12th century hymn by Bernard of [...]
Sitting here warming in the sun and listening to the gentle spash of the waves along the jagged lava rock of the Kona Coast of the Big Island of Hawai’i, I find it difficult to believe this is where a tsunami slammed the small shopping center along the shore on March 11, 2011. That contrast [...]
Holiness is MORE than Intimacy with God
At Easter I wrote about Holiness, that holiness is intimacy with God. (Here’s that post.) I described how Bernard of Clairvaux’s 14th century hymn, O Sacred Head Now Wounded, was a personal and public pre-Reformation plea for intimate relationship with Christ. I return to this subject because I did not adequately describe the beauty and [...]
#11 Special Tribute:
It Happened at a Haystack
I first learned of the monument on the Williams College campus in 1988 while researching student missions. In 2006, I joined several student ministries leaders from across the nation at the 200th anniversary of the event that led to the establishing of this memorial. Do you know why there is a monument on the small [...]
Thank you for a great year! – John Henry
1. To foster missional partnerships, placing interns to serve field projects worldwide.
2. To recruit and place students and staff ready to serve and learn a biblical worldview as a missional strategy worldwide.
3. To establish an international coordination office, including guest house, study center, and library.
‘… Yet if the gross national product measures all of this, there is much that it does not include. It measures neither the health of our children, the quality of their education, nor the joy of their play. It measures neither the beauty of our poetry, nor the strength of our marriages. It pays no heed to the intelligence of our public debate, nor the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our wit, nor our courage, neither our compassion nor our devotion to country. It measures everything in short, except that which makes life worth living, and it can tell us everything about our country except those things that make us proud to be a part of it.’
Robert Kennedy, US Senator;
Kansas city, 1968.
Amid all the protests of 2011, Robert Kennedy’s words are a timely reminder of what is really important for the citizens of a nation. Of course, the famous words of Jesus of Nazareth are most appropriate for the citizens of his kingdom. Jesus instructed his disciples by telling a story about a king that went on a journey. He told them to “Occupy Until I Come.” He told them to stop concerning themselves about when the end of the world would come (hello 2012!) or when the world would somehow suddenly have justice (hello “Occupy”). Instead he told them to remain faithful and fruitful in their life and work.
Ps. 90:12 (Message) reads: “Teach us to live wisely and well!”
Before this New Year begins, stop a moment to consider making these three things your priorities for 2012. I’m convinced by doing so, we will avoid the dead-ends of life, such as climbing the corporate ladder, joining a protest movement, or sitting in a religious sanctuary waiting for the return of the king. Instead of measuring our bank accounts or the days until Jesus returns, we can choose to measure what is really important.
1. Be Creative.
Eleanor Roosevelt said it well, “Do one thing everyday that scares you.” Invest the time to do that big project you hoped to do “someday.” I’m not getting any younger. I’ve been around the world several times, but I still have very big dreams. So, this year I recommit to getting some big projects started and some smaller projects accomplished. This year, I recommit to closing the door and shutting myself off from distractions so I may finish my book manuscript and seek to get it published. I also recommit to a radical redesign of our student outreaches. By the end of 2012, I commit to identifying 100 Field Projects for student outreaches doing things like volunteering in orphanages and clinics in China, helping start businesses in the Middle East, and teaching forgiveness in war-torn cities of Africa and Ireland.
What about you? Stop dreaming and start doing. There’s no better time than now.
If you have dreams, or ideas that you think would change the world for the better, write them down.
“And then God answered: “Write this. Write what you see. Write it out in big block letters so that it can be read on the run. This vision-message is a witness pointing to what’s coming. It aches for the coming—it can hardly wait! And it doesn’t lie. If it seems slow in coming, wait. It’s on its way. It will come right on time.” Habukkuk 2:3 (Message)
2. Enter the Story
The thought of making New Year’s resolutions is a bit annoying. Lose weight? Pay off debt? If you are like me, you can get a bit overwhelmed with the realities of life. Paying bills, family pressures, deadlines to meet, and the barrage of bad news and suffering we read about and see on the nightly news, it’s too much to handle. And yet, this is our reality. It’s a drama playing out in our lives and the lives of our families and neighbors. Some may seek escape from the pain with a diversion. That diversion may start as a harmless hobby and become an obsession, a wall around your heart to protect you from seeing and hearing the suffering all around. Whether you drown your sorrows with a six-pack of Budweiser, smother the pain with another brownie, or resolve to lose the weight, fit in those jeans, and buy that new car, you may have lost something important along the way. You’ve lost your story.
This year I am committing to enter the story more fully, to listen, and pay greater attention to the drama playing out all around me. I recommit to engaging with the grand narrative through prayer.
“Stay alert; be in prayer so you don’t wander into temptation without even knowing you’re in danger. There is a part of you that is eager, ready for anything in God. But there’s another part that’s as lazy as an old dog sleeping by the fire.” Matt. 26:40b-41
When we are wide awake, we can learn the art of storytelling. I recommit to learning from the stories of the Bible. But I want to learn from the stories playing out on the world’s stage, in my neighborhood, and in my family. I also want to learn from the great fiction writers. Their stories may not be “true,” but it’s “truth.”
3. Enjoy God’s Presence and Listen to His Voice
If you are reading this post, you are likely “connected” to Facebook or Twitter and the expanding blogosphere. I’ve found it tempting to get distracted, to check Facebook before reading the Bible in the morning. True, God can speak to you through a friend’s post. However, you need your time with the Father. In order to share the good news of the Father’s love with a hurting world, you and I need to first enjoy his presence. I recommit to time with my dearest friend, my hope, and my king in 2012. I love his presence.
Though I may experience pressures and fears of failure, and though I may not have a lot of money, I know I have a calling from God to fulfill. He’s my source and my supply. He does not call the qualified; he qualifies the called. The concern for paying bills and raising funds sufficient to accomplish all that God has called me to do may weigh heavy on my, but when I am in his presence there is joy and hope with faith to fulfill all he asks of me.
Whether you are rich or poor, we all have the same precious and practical asset. It isn’t money or even knowledge; it’s time. I read recently that time is the currency of the most successful people in the world. My prayer for you in 2012 is that you really live in the time you have this year, that you really live each day before the face of God.
Oh! Teach us to live well!
Teach us to live wisely and well!
Come back, God—how long do we have to wait?—
and treat your servants with kindness for a change.
Surprise us with love at daybreak;
then we’ll skip and dance all the day long.
Make up for the bad times with some good times;
we’ve seen enough evil to last a lifetime.
Let your servants see what you’re best at—
the ways you rule and bless your children.
And let the loveliness of our Lord, our God, rest on us,
confirming the work that we do.
Oh, yes. Affirm the work that we do!Ps. 90:12-17
- To foster missional partnerships, placing interns to serve field projects worldwide.
- To recruit and place students and staff ready to serve and learn a biblical worldview as a missional strategy worldwide.
- To establish an international coordination office, including guest house, study center, and library.
Watch this video and consider taking one of the Perspectives Courses taking place around the world. I will be teaching in two courses, in Madison, WI and in Elgin, IL. On January 15 at Door Creek Church in Madison, WI, I will be teaching on “Your Kingdom Come” (Lesson 3). And on February 21, I will teach at the Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Elgin, IL on the “Expansion of the World Christian Movement” (Lesson 6).
Watch the Video and go to Perspectives.org to find a class near you.
Interested in partnering with SMC hosting student interns for a Field Project serving the poor?
In order to become a Field Partner with SMC, your organization must be leading (or in partnership with an in-country organization) a Field Project, which will at least:
- Have a history (at least 2 full years) of serving the poor, excluded, and/or vulnerable people for the purpose of alleviating poverty or reducing vulnerability.
- Be registered as a legal entity in your country of operation. (Note: We understand that the Field Host may not qualify. For this reason, we encourage the Field Host to place students with legally registered organizations.)
- Provide opportunities for the intern(s) to practice and/or research components of your Field Project related to the intern’s field of study.
- Provide the intern a weekly schedule, including participation in your community/team practices of worship and intercessory prayer, and community living work duties. The FMI intern will function in the regular schedule as if he/she were a member of the Field Project staff team.
- Be personally available to the intern(s) for advising, including at least a (one-hour) One-on-One interview at regular weekly intervals. You will agree to offer timely and candid feedback on the quantity and quality of the intern’s work.
- Provide a short online evaluation on the intern’s performance at monthly intervals (after every 30 days at your location) and upon completion of the internship term. All hours accumulated by the intern will be signed off by the Field Project Internship host supervisor.
What SMC Offers:
- We offer you the widest possible participation in the internship program decision-making. We want you to actively engage in the process. We agree to actively recruit qualified student interns on your behalf if you allow us to post your Field Project opportunity on the SMC web site and at various mobilization and recruiting events throughout 2012 and 2013.
- With your help, we are creating a registry of 100 Field Projects for university student internships to be displayed at YWAM International’s URBANA 2012 Exhibit. Registration as a Host for student interns is just $50 USD until June 1, 2012. After that date, the fee will be $100 USD.
In this short post, I invite you to think a bit about this quote from a book I read by Lesslie Newbigin, The Open Secret:
“Significant advances of the church have not been the result
of our own decisions about the mobilizing and allocating of resources…The significant advances in my experience have come through happenings of which the story of Peter and Cornelius is a paradigm, in ways of which we have no advance knowledge. God opens the heart of a man or woman in the gospel. The messenger (the ‘angel’ of Acts 10:3) may be a stranger, a preacher, a piece of Scripture, a dream, an answered prayer, or a deep experience of joy or
sorrow, of danger or deliverance. It was not part of any missionary ‘strategy’ devised by the church. It was the free and sovereign deed of God, who goes before the church…this mission is not ours but God’s.” (1995:64)
In this respect, we can see that significant missionary advance is not primarily a human enterprise. We should be fully and actively involved in missions. However, we must reorient our posture, because it is not God’s Church that has a mission. Instead, it is God’s Mission that has a Church.
Every church community must recognize the Lord Jesus, not merely for their own salvation and acceptance, but for their orders and instructions in His Mission to all people.
If we properly understand our Identity as “members” of the Church, we will then fully participate in our Responsibilty in Christ’s Mission.
What Happened in San Francisco at the SMC Consultation Sept. 14 & 15, 2011?
A brief summary report by John Henry.
A big “Thank You” to Tim and Karol Svoboda and the team at YWAM San Francisco for extending their gracious hospitality in the Gold Rush City and the Tenderloin District of San Francisco. Thanks especially to Karol who was so engaged in hosting us that she rarely sat down, let alone sat in on our meetings. Bless you!
I must apologize to everyone for the delay in writing this summary report on our consultation. Thank you all for coming and participating. For me, the meetings and conversations kindled new and growing friendships. I must admit I did not keep very good record of all that was said. I invite you to pass along your notes if you can complement what you see here. In any case, I came away with an expanding vision and a deepening sense of the call of God to the universities, especially as they relate to the cities.
Exegeting the City and the University – Tim Svoboda
Tim, you gave us an excellent picture of the contrasts, the “Geek”/Silicon Valley with its algorithms on one side and the artists/wealth and wine community on the opposite side of you. You helped us feel the tensions between Berekley, and its Prophetic voice, and San Francisco, with its extending of Mercy without boundaries, which may have a tendency toward anarchy. I wish we could have stayed longer to experience the small, organic church life, the marina, and the multi-lingual mosaic of peoples, the Vietnamese, Yemmeni, Cambodian, and Afghani, etc.
As I was departing the city at the end of our consultation, I was struck by the story of William Taylor, the Methodist preacher, who in the 1850′s wrote the book, “Seven Years of Street Preaching” and how hundreds would come hear him sing on the streets and then preach. Though his church is now a law college, I am also moved by the continuing story of how a Hastings Law College student, Randy Shaw, applied his studies to reality in the Tenderloin. The start reality of the story is both at your front door and inside the Ellis room where institutionalized poverty and homelessness now costs over 1 billion, with several non-profits enriching themselves off government system.
Yes, I was struck by the thought that God may intend for the Bay Area to be ground zero and the epicenter of the next major move of missions and the transformation of a Church caught up in the Fourth Wave of Missions. I was struck with the thought that it may all begin with students, prepared to act “Because Justice Matters” and collaborate, because they are equipped with tools unlike any previous generation. Perhaps, God in his mercy is calling for a new generation of followers to get their own “better cut of steak,” like NYC Tenderloin’s “Clever or Cleaver” Al, without the extortion and beatings, of course.
Perhaps God is calling for a new engaged church community, those Donald McGavran would say are not “birds of the same feather” and do not “tend to flock together.” The newly engaged church with a broad vision for the city must include students in university, especially the vastly different demographic of today’s universities. (i.e. Berkeley Enrollment: African American 3.4%; Asian American 45.7%; Latino 11.5%; White 31.7%)
Amid the wasteland of broken dreams where 11,000 people live in SRO’s and where police are social workers, God still offers hope and a future. The YWAM community and the Ellis room is not only a peaceful place to drop in: it’s also a peaceful place for guests. The Ellis room is a beautiful “third-space” between the streets and a 10×10 over-priced single, where conversations can lead to relationships and relationships can lead to prayer.
The Ellis room and the ministries of YWAM San Francisco are ripe with opportunities for university students like Randy Shaw. However, I believe God may be calling a different generation of Christ followers to leave the lecture halls of universities to enter a live-learn laboratory of urban life. Yes, the city is a funnel for 360 discipleship, your 1 year program in 4 phases of 3 months each. However, there are many more learning-serving internship experiences that may be also be honored in academic institutions, as Doug Batson so adroitly told.
I came away from our meetings with some action items and some books to read. Among them, I am committed to read The University and the City (1988). Tim, you are modeling the way by asking the right questions to exegete the city. And you began a process I will continue when you began to exegete the university.
Theology of Evangelism & Place
Tim, you and Karol and your team are helping provide a “Theology of Evangelism and Place”, which will be most readily adopted by university students. Church folk, even YWAMers, may be a little slow to see and hear, smell and taste, the gut level “pull” of the gospel to the city. However, students will need far less convincing; they will respond as you (and we) present a gospel big enough for the city, living as stakeholders and adding value to the city.
What is missing in university community? Yes, they are transient neighborhoods.
There are few automobiles, particularly on campus. Everything is roughly in walking distance. The are institutionalized young adult free agents cloistered in a tightly defined neighborhood. The contrast of the diverse typically cloistered university to the diverse un-cloistered urban community must be examined. We must come to grips with the fact that we are, most of us, not insiders; we are outsiders. As with any missions endeavor, there are implications and consequences for the missionary. Tim, you said it well: “If you are an insider, it’s because you are a resident and have a theology of place.”
And then you asked, “How does a city transforms a university?” and, inversely, “How does a university transforms a city?” Hmmmm….Good questions. “The world is the domain of the university, not just the city,” you added. Yes, in the origins, the university would pick up and move if they did not receive the benefit of the city. However, the earliest prototypes of universities were on the frontiers where the need was great. Today’s urban centers are areas of incredible need, including the spheres transportation (GO), communications (PREACH), and cultures (ALL NATIONS).
What I saw in San Francisco are myriads of opportunities for students in the Bay Area’s 200 colleges/universities looking for ways to apply their studies to reality. Everything from urban agriculture and art to law and economic development, from health and beauty to medicine and social work, every field of study has application in the city. There’s opportunity to study and serve as we all exegete the city, including issues related to the Poor, Suicide, Church, Media, Family, Prisoners, Muslims, Government, Business, Gutter Punks, Homeless, Drug Addicts, Migrant workers, Elderly, Street Kids, Handicapped, Arts, Education, Prostitutes, Sports, Middle Class, Unemployed, and Hindus.
Opportunities for University Students
I came away with some important words ringing in my ears, “The weakness in YWAM is the need for a central database.” That statement is something I have been giving a lot of thought to. How can we connect students in universities outside of YWAM with the myriad of opportunities for student internships/outreaches both at YWAM ministry locations and at partner organizations around the world? I have been working furiously to answer that call through our new web site and Salesforce.com cloud-based database. The programming I am doing (way over my head, so I hope to get some expert help from Kyle and Angie) is linking many-to-many applicants-to-projects, all though a web-based applications and approval system. To see the new SMC web site (embedded applications not all operating yet), go to http://www.studentmobilizationcentre.com.
Tim mentioned another book, Salt & Light, about Knoxville, TN and how partnerships have formed across the entire city. This approach, city leaders setting the stage for collaboration, is necessary to begin the mobilization of students into city projects. What kind of partnerships can be created for internships? One of the partners can be the university or college. For example, Grand Canyon College wants to plug their students into internships. Their goal: “Break their hearts for the city.” Another example: Westmont Urban College, which offers internships in city, and their professors visit YWAM. The city is divided up according to majors, partners, etc.
For SMC’s Field Ministry Internships (FMI) teams, students participate in five phases, including:
- Orientation (mini-DTS type; one-week),
- Enculturation (history of project, leaders and cultural background),
- Assessment (listening, observing, and interviewing while serving the project),
- Ministry (serving the project while writing a research paper or proposal for ministry related to the students’ field of studies), and
- Debriefing (final 3 days of reporting and celebrating). – initial times
Note that FMI students are not experts. They serve as learners, with the accompanying vulnerability. In so doing, the students observe, listen, and interview leaders and clients of a project in order to discern, while on the ground serving, how their field of study may best be offered as a research or proposal for an extended ministry project. The posture of a learner is fundamental to FMI. YWAMers who work with FMI student teams are few and far between, however this kind of ministry project with students could help us “get YWAM out of YWAM.”
How to Mobilize a New SVM – Doug Batson
Doug Batson, Human Geographer with US Gov. DOD, and Analyst for Turkic Speaking World spoke about adult continuing education, which he did mostly while with the Department of Defense DOD. Doug notes that missionaries (and missionary candidates currently in high school) are a traveling constituency, like the thousands of soldiers and family members he has helped to earn college credit. Doug suggests an approach to education that examines and addresses global needs, which thereby can fuel a new Student Volunteer Movement. What would that look like…tens of thousands from North America every year? Doug writes:
“Today, millions of 18-23 year olds pursue an increasingly costly campus-based undergradaute education with decreasing relevance to globalized business environments and their own life goals. Many believers would rather choose the mission field as a place of Christian service, learning, and building relationships, if only that were a valid option. Good news! With the right counsel, it is a very valid option! Via exams and portfolio assessments (not on-line courses), young adults can serve Christ cross-culturally and, as a by-product, earn a B.A. degree from a State University in the same 4-5 years, and for the same $40,000-$50,000 charged by traditional institutions! How? Through assessments of relevant learning acquired from missions fields: foreign languages, cross-cultural communication, comparative religion, social sciences, administration and leadership.”
Why pursue such a radically different education path?
- Offer the first fruits of one’s life to make Christ known where He is not
- Test one’s God-given gifts and talents in real-world environments
- Avoid student loan debt
- Become a local church missions catalyst and mobilizer—before age 30
- Choose graduate education based on reflections from a purposeful personal journey
Students may desire to go, but they are too often caught in debt trap, and therefore, despite their best intentions, often do not get involved in missions. There are currently 1,000,000 students in North American colleges every year. If 10% are evangelical enough to desire Christian service, then that’s quite a few candidates for missions mobilization!
Doug suggests a plan to move these missionary candidates from institutional structures of universities to a Christian missional community, with options to gain academic credit, saving thousands of dollars, through testing. Some institutions will recognize genuine learning and offer transcripts with minimal expense. Should we present an alternative to earnest missionary candidates currently in high school? Should we help them save 4-5 years, and $40 to $50 thousand dollars for education and career training? For many parents and many forward thinking high school students, this will be a very attractive option.
Goal: Minimize Tuition cost and residency.
Doug listed three regionally accredited secular state colleges/universities that require have no residency requirement:
- Excelsior.edu – part of SUNY system
- Thomas Edison State College – tesc.edu
- Charter Oak State College in CT
What would it look like ON a university campus?
Imagine a missional community of students with a few students taking courses, but with no intention of graduating. Those students could graduate with far less expense and far less time from Excelsior.
The plan would be different for every student, so making this work will require some basic information accessed perhaps by a web site and a deeper consulting service for those needed additional help. Here’s an example of College Level Examinations that Doug says every high school student could do…
- Analysis and Interpretation of Literature. (6 semester hours.)
- American Lit. (6 semester hours.)
- British Lit. (6 semester hours.)
- Gen’l Humanities (6 semester hours.)
- UNC challenge exams. (pay $150 for proctor) NT & OT as Lit. 3 semester hours.
What kind of savings would this mean for a student/family? For 30 semester hours, it’s $10,000 = One year of college credits.
Doug suggests a supportive missional learning community could help prepare students for these exams.
Doug is a living example of this method of gaining credit. He has a Ph.D. and he’s never been a resident. Most all of his credits were gained through testing. He got 36 hours credit, saving $12,000, by taking German language tests while a soldier in Germany. He didn’t get German degree, but he said he didn’t need it. Then he took the GRE Subject Test – Aptitude predictor in Grad School, testing content knowledge of a full grad degree. He asked Excelsior.com: “What if I took a GRE Subject Test and got a top half score? Would you give me degree?” They answered: “YES. We’ll give you 30 sem. hrs and a degree.” He did it all for just $89.
Doug says this is a matter of educational justice. The University of the Nations does not have regional accreditation, but has excellent training. He asks: “Why shouldn’t UofN students be recognized for their knowledge of the subjects?”
Consultation Summary: Take Away Action Items
Most participated in our wrap up session, listing take away actions on PostIt Notes. That list is below. Thank you again for praying and participating in this important gathering in San Francisco. I believe God has already formed new friendships. I trust the fruit of our time will be new partnerships and a focused mobilization of university students.
The following is a summary of all action items:
- Continue study of Worldview/cultural studies.
- Spend more specific prayer time for campus-on campus.
- Read Salt & Light book re: Knoxville, TN
- Read University & the City book.
- Be a servant-hearted minister to current campus ministries.
- Be more intentional about prayer.
- Write a blog for student audience.
- Pioneer house of worship to strengthen and encourage campus ministries.
- Focus our outreach teams around prayer.
- Create a summer opportunity to immerse students in city-wide evangelism locally and overseas.
- Develop closer working with international bases for partnership, especially in Latin America (Mexico).
- Encourage campus groups in strengths to develop love of place and to engage.
- Develop alongside to provide symbiosis at UC Berkeley & YWAM
- Networking between campuses through quarterly combined prayer meetings.
- Evangelism & Service workshops held off campus in central location (maybe YWAM SF?) and/or Niko?
- Join in meetings of campus ministries alliance
- Participate in campus ministry activities whenever possible
- Survey: Inventory what’s present on campus (CM’s, service orgs, student orgs) What does each do? What are the gaps?
- Create a tool to assess campus issues and various projects
- Create database of projects
- Create a web-based platform to highlight and help students to find overseas ministry opportunities.
- Challenge students to take language courses to gain long-term affinity with that people group.
- Perspectives Course was originally designed for secular campuses, but gravitated to churches. Praying for it to return to campus, with result of sharing Christ.
- Presence on Campus; regular place, meetings, and exegetes campus.
- Present models for communities of faith, with best practiced on web site. Restart more on UW campus.
- Start a UDTS
- Continue to pray for for the start of a YWAM engagement at Berkeley
- Launch DTS with focus on releasing students to support and strengthen ministry outreaches.
- Visit YWAM bases with university focus.
- Develop relationship with regionally close based (Tyler, CSprings, Denver)
- Connect base leaders to vision through regular SMC updates
- Christians and mission orgs= student-led and missionary mobilized prayer mtgs. & missionaries equipping supporting students in leadership& students leading other students on mission trips= Missional generation of influence.
- Connecting students & Professionals
- Have a network of Christian professionals who would mentor/be available for students looking to go into that field. E.g. Med students connecting with Christian doctor once a month?
- Investigate running perspectives intensive Boise In mendecino (w/college credit)
- Maintain contact with this group of direction seekers: mutual prayer, shared resources.
- Adopt-A-People group incorporated into campus ministry. Many of us have been processing deeply the implications of a fourth wave of missions, which we believe will include a flourishing of missional communities, a fresh movement of church planting with missional focus. Our goal is to ride this wave of change by fostering missional communities in university settings. We believe these missional communities will be very strategic if they work in collaboration with global missions, leveraging the resources of universities and NGO’s, and churches of all kinds.
Rituals are among several ways we picture and practice our ideals, our vision of a kingdom with human flourishing. For example, the marriage ceremony is the ideal of marriage. The bride is in white, representing purity, and celebrated for her surrendered devotion to one man. The groom is in tuxedo, honoring the bride with his commitment to love and cherish one woman.
In a few months the two will be settling into married life, with daily chores, and other habits. Some habits are not bad at first. However they can grow in their influence, often with ill effects on cherished institutions like marriage. Shopping at the mall or jockeying a recliner in sweats for weekend football games are not harmful if we are attentive to their potentially destructive power.
In his book, Desiring the Kingdom, James Smith outlines how over time our rituals, especially our most cherished practices, help train our desires. Rituals mold and shape our worldview, our precognition of the world. Our daily motions and rhythms, our embodied routines, train our minds and hearts so that we develop habits. Habits are like attitudinal reflexes; they make us tend to act in certain ways toward certain ends.
For example, most of us use a keyboard pretty regularly. So, where is “d” key. Do you know? Not so easy to say where it is, is it? But, your hands “know”, don’t they? How? By practice. rituals, routines, and exercises. It’s not reasoned thought that tells you where to find the “d” key.
Philosopher-scientist Blaise Pascal writes, “The heart has reasons of which reason knows nothing.”
There are different levels of habits according to Smith: thin and thick.
The thin habits are mundane, like brushing teeth; they are the instrumental things we do. Thin habits do not touch our identity, or our fundamental desire, our love.
Thick habits are meaningful, significant to identity. They are representative of our core values. Often, they are religious habits.
Cultural anthropologist Charles Taylor emphasizes that we understand before we “know”. And we love before we know. Ancient Christian ascetic tradition had the axiom: “Desire forms knowledge.”
So James Smith proposes: “We must shape desire in order to know.”
He continues: “What we do (practice) is intimately linked to what we desire (love), so what we do determines whether, how, and what we can know.”
Maximus the Confessor in One Hundred Chapters of Love, writes about the key to directing and increasing one’s desire for God; it’s in the acquisition of virtues.
How are Christian virtues acquired? Through concrete practices like confession, communion, prayer, service, etc.
According to research by Bargh & Chartrand, “the development of most acquired forms of automaticity (habits/virtues/skills) depends on the frequent and consistent pairing of internal responses with external events..over time, conscious choice drops out as it is not needed.”
In my final post on this book, I will ask several questions to help us think through the implications for our lives, particularly as habits and “cultural liturgies” relate to Christ’s mission. Of course, for those of us in university life, the implications are culture forming. Look for that final post very soon.
The Student Mobilization Centre is a centre of the University of the Nations, a ministry of Youth With A Mission. The SMC is not a local ministry; we are an international network of YWAM staff fostering the emergence of a new movement of university students serving Christ’s Great Commission through their life-work and calling.
Through our ministries, university students are challenged to lead the next major wave of collaborative missions by partnering with global projects with holistic witness in every arena of society and major field of studies. In addition, we are affirming and assisting the emergence of student missional communities in universities worldwide.
To recruit, equip, and place students ready to serve and learn cross-culturally.
We Gather - Students & Leaders through Consultations, Events, and Projects.
We Train - Developing curriculum through contextual research, and conducting seminars and schools.
We Send - Mobilize students into service projects according to their field of studies and the spheres of society. Our short-term programs, while bolstering long-term projects, serve the students as they discern their calling.
We Network - Cultivating missional collaboration in and around university communities for the purpose of mobilization of an emerging generation of student volunteers serving Christ’s Great Commission.
Immediate SMC Goals
- We will host Passion Points Conferences: 3-day events in 2013.
- We will host Consultations in Australia, Europe and Africa – By Sept. 2012.
Train: We will post Best Practices and Curriculum Resources for all our SMC Programs and Courses on web site by Mar. 2012
Send: We will send hundreds of Field Ministry Interns (FMI) by Jan. 2013
- Redesigning to attract non-christians
- Tie internships to UDTS outreaches
- Focus FMI for Thematic, Passion Points, Causes, and Projects in Society
- International & year-long projects: Megacities/Africa
- We will unveil a new Web-based Project Development Registration Process for Hosting FMI – By Jan. 2012
- Develop new Strategic Alliances/International Partners (Call2All-Students, UofN Colleges, YWAM CMI, Christian Colleges, Churches, National & International Student Organizations, IJM, etc.)
In addition, the new SMC Web Site will provide a collaborative information gateway for strategic networking.
The SMC offers student organizations and churches access to a missions networking centre where credit card payments, donations and field support can be channeled to mission projects globally. The SMC is providing a new framework for student groups and campus churches to cooperate with YWAM and other global partners and nongovernmental organizations.
The SMC represents a global Kingdom community for the emerging student missions movement. Our goal is to provide the arena—the forum—where students who are embracing a missional life-style and life-work can learn from one another.
John Henry – SMC International Leader
“What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”
Participants at CULTIVATE, our consultation on the Future of University Missions, were inspired to gather so close to the birthplace of the Student Volunteer Movement and just steps from Roundtop, the gravesite of D.L. Moody. The weekend was awe-inspiring and it was a joy to be with friends and co-laborers on the mission fields of the university.
Like so many other consultation gatherings we have had around the world, including N. American Consultations (’97 and ’99), Africa Consultation (2001), S.E. Asia Consultation (2003), European Consultation (2004), and South American and China Consultations (2005), the Northfield gathering-Cultivate! (2011) has helped us build friendships, partnerships, and some collaborative projects. At Cultivate, we met new friends and began the first steps to coordinate some new projects to reach students on campuses in North America.
Who Was There?
Eleven people attended the consultation. Here’s a list of those who attended, their backgrounds, and prayer requests:
- John Henry – SMC International Centre Team Leader – Madison, WI – with YWAM for over 25 years. For the development of a new SMC/UofN course on Missional Collaboration, for next SUMM’s, for help with a virtual centre office via Salesforce.com, and for a new international centre for operations.
- Todd Johnson – Assoc. Prof. Global Christianity at GCTS. Worked with YWAM 33 years. Great Need: Two excellent missions profs at GCTS. Tim Tennent, now at Asbury. Another is gone. Todd is doing too much, writing, research, and teaching two courses a year. Need grad students to work with him.
- Deonn McDowell – YWAM Tyler – 23 yrs mobilization coordinator – 1994-5 met John on PHOS mobile team. SMC since ’97. Mentoring SOE students. Getting ready to lead an outreach to Israel in Fall. Wrote a book for young adults: Love Needs – Getting them met in the best possible way. Publication and outreach are prayer needs. And to get what God wants here.
- Justin Henry – John’s son – Sr. at St. Olaf College – History – Prayer for guidance, what next.
- Tae Oh Kim – YWAM Atlanta – Came to States 3 yrs ago in MD. Working with Int’ls at U of GA. Staff, but no students. Prayer: Focusing on family for God. Take good care and fruitful ministry.
- Jihoon “Peter” – YWAM Boston – CM in Korea since ’99. Called to Boston 3 yrs ago. USA needs missionaries. In Boston about 1 yr. Not yet sure what to do. Need H.S. to speak and lead. Call: Reaching out to international students in English in USA. Looking for better view of what God is doing and why he called us here to do CM. Experiencing culture shock working with YWAM in USA. Need courage…to overcome fear. Seeking strong confirmation from God.
- SuCheor Jang – working in MD. SMC staff. CM in Baltimore area. Worship meetings on Thursdays for UMBC and Towson. Prayer on Tuesdays. For Church, Campus, and Nations. Still few gather, but all you need is 2 or 3 and keep going. Now doing UDTS in YWAM Richmond with Tae Oh and UnJae (sp?). Next phase will be campus outreach. Planning outreach abroad.
- Daniel – UMBC – Music, Sociology, Psychology – working with 2nd gen Korean church. Seeking direction.
- Sungwon “Paul” Park: Work with Peter in Boston. From CM Seoul – Came 5 months ago. Learning English. First prayer request is surviving in Boston. Need money and ability to have conversation in English. Also pray that I am close with YWAM Boston staff, especially leader. Help the leader to understand CM more and release our team. Last week at MIT campus worship. God said “Your praise is received and your prayer is answered.”
- Ryan Dutra – Ryan’s wife Crystal is due in Oct. Just returned from 10 month trip to 11 countries. Learned about selves, how to be led by Spirit, and do a documentary. CM Pitt – mobilization, international students…but for now working with Pastors, churches, etc. Helping re-locate the base to the international heart of the city with a building with 100 rooms. Need wisdom, timing, people to come help, build a team…near Carnegie Mellon and UPitt. 10 minute walk.
What Did We Talk About?
We enjoyed several short presentations including the following: Each of these short 15 minute presentations was followed by 35-40 minute process/discussion times.
|Overview and History of Students in Missions||John Henry||Madison, WI|
|Global Christianity||Todd Johnson||S. Hamilton, MA|
|Korean Campus Mission in USA||Tae Oh Kim||Atlanta|
|Cultivating Truth on Campus||Deonn McDowell||Tyler, TX|
|Jesus People & Implications for a Movement Today||Justin Henry||Madison, WI|
|Kingdom Partnerships||Phill Butler||Edmonds, WA|
|MobilizeMe Documentary Project||Ryan Dutra||Pittsburgh, PA|
|Report on Campus Ministries in Baltimore||Daniel & SuCheor Jang||Baltimore, MD|
|Processing and Committing to Action||All||Northfield, MA|
What Was Memorable?
Our weekend was framed partly be the historic setting in which we met. The prayers of a brother and sister during DL Moody’s summer bible camp in Northfield, MA in 1886 led to the Meeting of Ten Nations and therefore the first 100 volunteers to sign the Princeton Declaration & launched the Student Volunteer Movement, which had over 100 thousand volunteers and over twenty thousand sail overseas. The place we met was awe-inspiring.
Sadly, I did not capture all the wonderful statements made at this gathering. We have yet to transcribe the video that Ryan Dutra took of each of the presentations. Look for clips of our gathering on our web site in the coming weeks. Here are a few quotes that were captured:
John Henry: “To be called to be with Jesus will always result in being sent out by Jesus.”
“The church on earth is by it’s very nature missionary.” (Vatican II)
“Western Christendom has been Christianity without mission.”- Wilbert Shenk.
Todd Johnson: Missions once was “from West to rest”, but today it’s all mixed up. And that’s good news for us.
More Memorable quotes:
• “Churches and our missional communities need to sing African, Latin, and Chinese worship from the new Majority Church.”
• “Resources for equipping us in community are best those who come from cultures that emphasize community.”
• “We need to sing African, Latin, and Chinese worship from the new majority Church.”
TaeOh Kim: “There is a lack of Christian education in Korean Churches USA. The Reasons Koreans come to USA: Education 47%, New Business 35%, and a Better Job. Ultimately it is for “my money” or “my children’s money”. “There is a big gap between Koreans and Korean Americans (twinkies/bananas).”
Deonn McDowell: How do we help students really know God? We must model it. We must go to them. They are tired of being fake; they need authentic relationships.
Justin & John Henry: “How do we mobilize a civic generation, very different from the idealist Jesus Generation, who are concerned less about the inner life and more about public institutions?”
• “Before partnership formation meeting, you may need to have up to 50 one-on-ones.”
• “Get to know the people who know your area of concern and learn from them. Ask questions.”
• “Become an expert to be credible so that you can begin to form a partnership.”
• “To start, learn what’s going on. Calling or concern alone is not enough.”
• “We all believe in collaboration, but we don’t know how.”
• “Reaching internationals on campus requires partnerships with families and churches.”
• “No people group remains unreached where there is a working partnership.”
•“For the gospel to be believed, churches must work together.”
•“Transformation leading to working together is fundamental to the gospel message.”
• “We were designed by God for open, trusting and fruitful relationships.
What Questions Were/Are Being Processed?
As a result of this gathering, all of us have begun processing more deeply the implications of a “Fourth Wave of Modern Missions,” which some of us believe will include a flourishing of missional communities, a fresh movement of church planting with missional focus. The aim of this consultation was to consider how missional communities can be strategic if they work in collaboration with global missions, leveraging the resources of universities and NGO’s, and churches.
What was the result of this gathering? During the wrap up final session, we considered specific action items and possible partnerships to work together and create momentum in our ministries on campus and off. Each participant wrote on Post-It notes the various take away action items that God spoke to them. Then we posted them on several large flip chart sheets entitled: On Campus, UDTS, FMI and Outreaches, Seminars, and Other (gatherings and communications). We then closed with a prayer time over each of those major items and dedicated ourselves to complete the “easy wins”. Here are those items we committed to:
- University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) – SuCheor Jang, his volunteers and new staff will lead intercessory prayer gatherings with Campus Worship participants. They will meet up personally before the fall semester and begin to regularly message all the campus leaders. They will talk about the urgent need for unity and collaboration. And they will help foster a prayer and worship movement on campus.
- Harvard, MIT, Boston University, & Berklee College of Music – Peter & Paul will do evangelism on campuses. They will begin Campus Worship at Berklee College of Music every Monday, at Harvard every Tuesday, at MIT every Wednesday, at Boston University every Thursday beginning in September.
- Meeting existing international student ministry leaders.
- Pittsburgh – Ryan Dutra will seek partnerships with churches and begin to recruit families to host international students. He will help organize a monthly international student dinner.
- Deonn McDowell (SMC/YWAM Tyler) offers herself as resource teacher on Intimacy with God (Created for Relationship, Hearing God’s Voice, Intercessory Prayer, Meditation on Scripture, Nature & Character of God, and Love Needs), Also Spiritual Warfare, & Humanism. (Can teach 2 sessions of 6 sessions)
- SuCheor Jang (SMC MD), Peter & Paul (YWAM Boston), and TaeOh (SMC/YWAM Atlanta), will serve the next bi-lingual East Coast USA UDTS in 2012.
FMI & Outreaches
- SuCheor Jang (SMC – MD) will go with Summer 2011 UDTS from Richmond, VA
- Paul & Peter (YWAM – Boston) will take 3 week campus evangelism and English teaching outreach to Delhi, India in Jan. 2012
- John Henry (SMC Int’l Office) will coordinate FMI team leadership training for any who need it in 2012 & 2012.
- Deonn McDowell (SMC/YWAM Tyler) will attempt to go to campuses on outreach to Israel with SOE in Oct. 2011.
- Deonn McDowell (SMC/YWAM Tyler) offering to assist with mini-DTS Seminar.
- Ryan Dutra (SMC/YWAM Pittsburgh) will run a seminar at a new church and possibly at YWAM base this winter 2011/12
- SuCheor Jang (SMC MD) will run a seminar on individual and group collaboration in UDTS.
Gathering & Communicating
- A Korean Ministry Staff Conference/Consultation in the USA – TaeOh
- Write Staff Job Descriptions for SMC and CMI North America – John Henry
- Meet with Boston and Pittsburgh YWAM leaders – John Henry
- Lead Consultations in San Francisco and Perth – John Henry
- Lead Monthly Online Meeting for all SMC Staff – John Henry
- Complete MobilizeMe Documentary in time for Fall 2012 Tour
- Talk to Faithful and Like-minded brothers in MD for better collaboration and setting up a “capital” for prayer and worship gatherings to break the “viscious” cycle in Korean local churches.
School of University Ministries & Missions — North America
- Co-Leading Mobile SUMM in NE USA Fall 2012 – John Henry
- Staffing/Hosting for the Fall 2012 – Ryan Dutra
- Redesign Curriculum to include Partnership/Collaboration Model, Emphasis on Global Community, and Worship from New Majority Church – John Henry
What Questions are We Still Processing?
Challenges in Pioneering Campus Ministries: Where do we start? Who do we meet?
Campus Ministries is not familiar to YWAM leaders in USA. We need to communicate better. We need video clips with YWAM International Leaders declaring importance of Campus Ministries.
Do we keep international students, including 1st and 2nd generation Koreans, divided or should we intentionally combine them into the same gatherings, with all the accompanied cross-cultural challenges?
How do we help YWAM Leaders understand Campus Ministries?
• Too much expectation to stay in office and run program.
• Not understanding value of college education.
• Field based ministry requires time on the field (university)
- They think Campus Ministries is only Korean.
This is especially challenging for experienced YWAM Campus Ministries staff who are serving in a cross-cultural setting. (e.g. South Korean CM staff moving to USA to serve in CM in cooperation with a YWAM Base.)
Additional Deep Processing to Continue:
What great call/declaration for this generation?
How are students different today? How are they leading the way for a new era of missions?
How can we encourage Missional communities without controlling them?
Todd Johnson invited us all to the Conference at the 200th anniversary of first Christian missionaries in Boston: Feb 17, 2012. (Ryan has been invited to present a portion of the MobilizeMe documentary).
Next Cultivate Consultation – YWAM San Francisco – Sept. 13-14, 2011. Learn more. Join us!
Learning to Listen, Learning to Teach: The Power of Dialogue in Educating Adults (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2002), by Jane Vella, will challenge you to adopt principles of listening, learning, and teaching, useful for leadership, relationship, and ministry.
Vella educates adults; however, she does not simply teach. And she does not merely stick to her own cultural group. She facilitates learning in many cultures and for many different groups, mostly community development projects.
I’m personally very familiar with this kind of work and many of the places and people Jane Vella writes about. Vella’s books are important to me because my goal for summer outreach teams of interns is for the students to have the best learning experience of their lives. I want students to gain a deep revelation of who God is, His love and grace for the world, and their calling to engage the world in response to His amazing grace. Vella refers to this kind of learning as the ‘quantum’ concept, that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
To teach effectively, we must listen.
To teach effectively, we must listen.To truly listen, we must ask open-ended questions.
Our Student Mobilization Centre (SMC) team is in the process of writing their own job descriptions. This is a very open process, requiring each of the members to engage, initiate, and define their contribution to the whole. That process and this book has helped me realize I need to be even more effective at listening and giving open questions when teaching.
Open questions need to be put to the ‘safe’ environment; they are usually best when posed in small groups. For example, when I teach I ask participants the question,
“What was your best learning experience?”
When forming small groups to process questions, Vella encourages teachers to define learning tasks and follow through on them so that the participants truly participate in the learning process. Defining the learning task is done when we apply Vella’s Assessment Principles, which is simply done by asking questions.
Applying Vella’s Principles
Who needs What and defined by Whom? or ‘WWW’
Vella’s key assessment principle is the question:‘Who needs What and defined by Whom?’ This assessment is best accomplished by building questions into the application process, either before or immediately after acceptance to a training program or internship. Prayer for participants and decisions about what should be emphasized in a training experience can be made with greater effectiveness when we ask the right questions, keep record of responses, and assess the information gathered. This WWW assessment is not only for training; it is also an important leadership tool for assessing the needs and capacities of our team, their staff and their projects.
Field Ministry Internships (FMI), a principal program of the SMC, is a serving/learning outreach project for university student teams. Students integrate their field of study with a cross-cultural ministry over an eight-week summer intensive. Jane Vella, her books and other web resources for Dialogue Education, have confirmed that many of the aspects of our FMI program help students gain that quantum learning experience.
For example, to help students feel ‘safe’ we form small teams of 4 to 7. During the first few days in the host country, we typically send small teams out on a scavenger hunt in order to expose them to the new surroundings and help them learn how to get around with some measure of independence. However, this exercise is also a bonding experience that takes place within the safety of their small team.
Another reason for small FMI teams is that they may integrate well as a short-term team on a long-term field project. In this way, the students also gain a greater level of participation in the serving/learning process. The students design their own field projects on site as they learn to observe and listen to nationals and long-term project leaders. They are taught to assess the needs of the long-term personnel and projects while they are serving.
The safety challenge for FMI is the uncertainty of a cross-cultural experience. This challenge is overcome when FMI participants are safely embedded into the long-term project team. Within that safe environment for learning, FMI participants become more deeply involved in the learning process, which raises the creativity and energy level. Participants are therefore offering more of themselves in service and learning more about the contribution God has specifically called them to make during their summer internship, and perhaps, over the course of their lives.
3. Listening: Student Participation in the Assessment
Applying the Assessment Principle is a leadership challenge. We set the example of Listening and we invite our participants into the Learning process by giving them a Leadership assignment: Participate in an Assessment.
Before reading Vella, FMI was structured with four phases:
- Orientation – an intensive seminar, like a mini-Discipleship Training School, and project preparation.
- Cultural Awareness – the first few days at the site of the field project, getting acquainted with the new surroundings/people, including a scavenger hunt.
- Ministry - while serving the field project, participants write a proposal for a 5-year ministry project.
- Debriefing – the final few days reporting, saying good-bye to new friends, and evaluating.
I have since added a fifth phase, an Assessment Phase, just after the Cultural Awareness phase and before the Ministry phase. The assessment of the project was originally assumed by the FMI leaders. However, students had little appreciation for that important phase. To better equip the student participants for leadership in learning, we now require them Listen and to document their Assessment before writing their project proposal. By doing so we are showing more respect to the field project and the community they serve. We also show more respect to the FMI students, giving them more opportunity to participate and take responsibility for their project proposal.
These are only three principles, however Vella’s books outline 7 steps for course design (PDF download). I commend this amazing teacher and her principles to you as you develop training in your context. Pay particular attention to the key words, RESPECT and ENERGY, which are at the top of my list of priorities for equipping students for the life-work and calling.
If you or your group would like to learn to apply these principles for outreach and training, please contact me. If you would like to know more about the Field Ministry Internships program, and the Student Mobilization Centre network of Youth With A Mission‘s University of the Nations, send me a note.
I am expecting quantum changes as we train emerging leaders for every arena of society in response to Christ’s command to ‘make disciples of all nations’. (Matt. 28:19)
Cultivating Communities of Practice, by Wenger, McDermott, & Snyder (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2002), is one of several required books I read for Fuller Theological Seminary‘s MA in Global Leadership. The following are my reflections:
I have a great interest in how organizations, particularly those with Christian leadership, work and how they respond to change. This book is rich with practical insight as to how non-profit organizations, churches, and christian ministries may develop in a globalized society.
One trend I have observed helps me see the way forward. In recent years several international conferences, training courses, and outreaches have been convening around points of passion and global human need, like water, women’s issues, slavery, and children at risk. YWAM International and other Christian missions agencies have also begun to look at a new mapping paradigm for global strategy called Project 4K wherein the map is divided into about 4000 geographic units, Omega Zones, highlighting those areas still requiring engagement.
What appears to be needed is a new cross-platform, multi-disciplinary team approach to properly engage each of those geographic regions.
Through the Student Mobilization Centre‘s School of University Ministries & Missions, we are equipping field leaders who will be able to coordinate multi-disciplinary field project teams. During the past 15 months, we have presented this 12-week training program in India, USA, Korea, and Colombia. I leave today to teach on Missional Collaboration for the final week of the school. Participants in the SMC school learn how to collaborate with leaders and communities to harmonize outreach teams to serve broad-based long-term community development project goals while mobilizing students for field based learning.
YWAM’s University of the Nations operates according to what Wenger, et al conclude in Communities of Practice; that is, “useful knowledge is not a downloadable commodity.” It requires participation.
The best learning experiences are in the context of relationships, especially those experiences with others that at the same time unfamiliar and familiar. In my experience, students learn best when taken out of their familiar culture to serve and learn in a context that challenges their expectations and status quo learning experiences. They also learn best if put in a situation where they are challenged to work together with those who share their skill set, academic training, and/or missionary goals.
By cultivating these communities of learning and serving, I believe we will ourselves learn how to do world missions and how to participate as a global church in the twenty-first century. By developing this field project model of university ministry, placing students as interns into a wide array of community development projects with national leaders who require their service, we will all learn, we will become a community of practice.
By requiring students as part of their internship to research and write about their cross-cultural serving-learning experience, we will thereby share knowledge gained both with the field project leaders and with the universities and professors that sent the students. These project teams will help us steward and share the knowledge gained. These long-term community development field projects could serve as “laboratories” for curriculum development as well as cross-disciplinary field project leadership development.
By working together across cultures toward a big vision of collaborative ministries, leaders of missional communities, churches and organizations, will increase their ability and speed generating and implementing creative ideas for community development, evangelization, and training.
To accomplish this, we will need to form missional communities in university settings, and cross-platform, multi-disciplinary, communities of practice at field sites where internships may be hosted and field project staff leadership may be trained.
The most essential element of this field-based learning community is the authentic cross-cultural ministry that must be the foundational intent and the fruit of the project.
Where missional communities of practice exist, the witness of the Kingdom of God will be evident in a much greater way, both in the university and at that field projects’ community. These communities of learning and leadership equipping may in turn affect a change in the whole of the Christian missionary enterprise through an integrated development model of field ministry and leadership equipping.
This book is ‘salty’. I am thirsty for more with each page turned. Even more so, I am hungry for the practical outworking of this vision within the context of my own life and ministry. That is why I am developing a seminar and a 12-week course on Missional Collaboration. The challenge to me is to deliberately form communities of practice in my ministry context, the universities of the world.
The noise of the one hundred students moving their metal chairs into circles was deafening. The Nairobi Church auditorium echoed with loud screeching as students from nearby University of Nairobi shuffled to form their groups according to the spheres or domains of society; arts, media, business, education, family, government, etc.
The room was buzzing with excitement. The intensive seminar, “Calling Quest 2001 – Transforming Your Nation Through Your God-given Vocation” is one of a series of seminars I have presented around the world for Youth With A Mission‘s Student Mobilization Centre. At this event, I had the help of three of our YWAM Madison School of the Bible interns. After the first of several presentations, the students were anxious to discuss and search the Scriptures for answers to the hard questions.
Accompanying us was a team of thirteen students from Brown University, Providence College, Rhode Island School of Design, UC San Bernadino, and UVA, all of whom had been prepared to lead the Domains Small Group discussions during our week-long Field Ministry Internships orientation in Switzerland. When we arrived in Kenya, they came with questions too. Ju Rhyu, one of the Brown students, brought these questions:
How can I bring transformation in a world of injustice? What is my place in this world? Though I yearn to see justice in a world with nations rejoicing, the burdens and problems that stand before me seem too daunting, too massive. AIDS, poverty, corruption – how do I even begin to think about these things?
It was the week of July 24-27, 2001. Yes, only a few weeks later the world would be shocked at the events of September 11, 2001. (Several American colleagues and I were still in Nairobi on that day. We were attending an international conference for the University of the Nations. We were stranded in Kenya and then Europe, waiting for the airports to unclog so we could return to our families and friends in the USA, and a very different world.)
Ju’s questions loom even larger in the face of a world terrorized by a few radicals. What could a few Christ followers do in the face of such evil? How could they help end the injustices of the poor? What is God’s good purpose for humankind? What does it mean to be created in the image of God? And are we called to serve the needs of the world?
Actually, we have two calls from God. Enjoying friendship with God, not merely right relationship, is our first call. Adam and Eve, the first inhabitants of the world in our God Story, enjoyed friendship with God. They were called twice. First, they were called to serve in the garden with the words “dress it and keep it” (Gen. 2:15). God made human beings in His image to rule and to be fruitful under His reign with full dependence on Him. Second, after Adam and Eve disobeyed and sin entered the world, God’s call became a cry seeking his lost friends. “Where are you?” (Gen. 3:9).
However, calling changed after the tragic Fall of humankind. Because of the Fall, our first call is not to service, but to restored relationship. St. Augustine expressed the call to restored relationship to God in his Confessions,
“Thou has made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.”
When we are lost and outside relationship with God, our first call is to restored relationship through faith.
Calling to do something in the world was not separated from the call of intimate friendship. Both callings are integral to our relationship with God; both are integral to the imprint of God’s image.
Sadly, most of the students I spoke with in Nairobi that summer were not able to see a valid contribution or calling beyond the domain of the church.Though many were students of architecture, business, and communications, they did not understand the God-given calling to be an architect, or business person, or journalist. They thought the call to be a pastor or evangelist was the highest calling.
What do you think?
Our Domains Small Groups continued to press in diligently with their questions. They began to understand the imprint of God, what it means to be created in God’s image. The student groups searched the daily newspapers to see what was happening in their chosen sphere of society. Then they sought the Scriptures to understand God’s ways of governing the world.
Our team of student leaders prayed together with the Nairobi students for the very real and very current needs in the domains of health care, education, business, family, etc. They began to see past the stigma and blindness to the ills of their own society. For example, though there were already ten million AIDS orphans, it was only that summer that the first newspaper article reported that AIDS was the cause of someone’s death.
After the intensive seminar, the students continued to meet weekly to study and pray in their groups. They even took prayer walks around major centers of business, education, media, etc. They became activated in God’s calling to “dress and keep” the world. One group was ushered into the Deputy Mayor’s Office to present some of their findings and discuss the need for a better sewage system.
The students began to understand the high calling of living according to God’s design, offering their gifts, skills, and natural abilities in service to their neighbors and their world. Much of our ministry to the Poor is in helping our them understand their high calling, that they are created in the image of God. This leads us to Key #4.
Key #4: Defend the Image of God in the Poor.
The Nairobi university students at that CallingQuest and other seminars conducted over the summer of 2001 were among the most privileged of Kenyan society. However, they were missing something. We too are “Poor” if we fail to know our identity and vocation, our calling in God.
Those who know God have responsibility to the Poor. We are called to define and defend the image of God in the Poor. Because we know we are created in His image and we know His voice calling us to intimate friendship and purpose in this world, we must be diligent to defend the image of God in the Poor.
The Poor are not lazy or stupid. Jayakumar Christian writes,
“A people so close to the edge cannot afford laziness or stupidity. They have to work and work hard. Most of the lazy and stupid are dead.”
We too should be diligent. Our church life and worship should celebrate our relationship with Jesus Christ, our reconciliation with God. However, we also have the responsibility to minister to the Poor. We must look for ways in which the Poor have been limited in their access to love, justice, or peace.
Ministry to the Poor is not merely about access to material needs; it’s about removing obstacles and giving access to the cultural, social, spiritual, personal, and biological spheres of community.
Our outreach to the Poor should affect the whole system of poverty, the diabolical web to which they are bound. Our ministry is reconciliation. We are called to restore relationships, including relationship with God (religion, philosophy, theology), Community (political science and economics), the Environment (biology, ecology, engineering), the Wider World (sociology, international relations, justice), and Individuals (psychology, health care).
Ju Rhyu expresses her deepest desire that:
Through our time in Nairobi we would be able to teach that God reigns over and in and through all. He is Lord of government, business, science, technology, education, family, the church, arts and communications. The sacred should not be self-contained and relegated to a position of non-influence, but rather, should extend itself to influence holistically.
Goliath (pronounced: “Go-lee-at” in Spanish) was an especially big baby born to a single mom in a four-foot high cardboard box with only a straw mattress on the dirt floor of the Guatemala City garbage dump. Thousands of squatters made their home living on top of the garbage. They made their “homes” out of scraps, tires, boxes, and other discarded items found on the dump.
It was our Field Ministry Internship health care team’s first day at the clinic at the City Dump. The clinic might have closed that summer in 1991 if we had not arrived. The YWAM staff team leading the clinic were all enrolled in the first University of the Nations Introduction to Primary Health Care School for Spanish speakers. They were glad we came. Our FMI team, led by Nurse Bonnie, kept the clinic open and operating.
Our journalism and social work interns took a walk with me through the Dump community. We met a man with bright yellow eyes, a key symptom of an acute and fatal case of hepatitis, probably due to alcohol abuse. He was silent, but his facial expressions betrayed the fact that he was a dangerous man. After we directed him to the clinic, a woman told us the same man regularly beat his wife.
Smoke rose over the mass of garbage burning at the center of the dump. Our eyes began to burn and I wondered how anyone could live in this place. We continued to visit families in their “homes.” One family of twelve seemed very well settled with a larger one-room hut, probably 12×15 feet, which included a large family bed and hammocks for the smaller children.
On our return to the clinic, we almost walked passed the “box.” But we heard the whimpering of a baby inside. I stooped down to look inside. This small box was a woman’s home and she held her oversized baby, Goliath.
We were welcomed “in,” but only one of us could fit on the straw mattress on the ground next to her. I looked in the sad dark face of the woman and joined her. I held her big baby.
I didn’t know whether to choke from the smell, or cry for the conditions this baby was born into. With the help of a translator, I spoke to the woman about her baby and the Child Jesus, who was born in an animal stall.
The woman paid close attention and I sensed the Holy Spirit drawing her as my words were simple and direct. I spoke of a hope that was beyond all hope. I shared Jesus.
Goliath’s mom prayed with me that day. As I opened my eyes I could see something happened; her grin was from ear to ear. The next day, Golaith’s mom was at the clinic asking to help. She became a true follower of Jesus that day.
Key #3: Power from the Throne of God.
The third key to ministry among the poor is “Power from the Throne of God.” The Poor are powerless in many respects. The Poor are most often born into poverty, like a lottery of life. Most of us, certainly most Westerners, would likely not survive in such conditions.
The Poor are denied access; they are held in powerlessness primarily because of broken relationships. All their relationships are working against them. It’s as if they were caught in a spider’s web, a diabolical trap from which there is no escape.
The Bible says there are “principalities and powers,” or rulers of darkness, which keep people in bondage to sin and misery. The evil spirits lock the Poor out of healthy relationships, especially from “seeing” Jesus Christ.
“In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the likeness of God.” 2 Cor. 4:4
The enemy keeps the Poor in the cycle of poverty, a cycle of broken relationships. Relationship is the key dynamic of the throne of God.
What do the Poor need?
They need to be connected in relationship with God and others. They need a right relationship with their family, their community, and the resources of this world.
What is the problem with sin? It separates.
Sin separates us; relationships of all kinds suffer due to sin. The poor are no different from anyone; they need to be connected to others. The connection with others should not be primarily for the sake of provision; providing food, shelter and medicines has often been used as a means of control.
The poor need to be connected with the broader community where they have been restricted from access.
Kingdom-based Responses reflect Power from the Throne of God
A kingdom-based response to poverty will reverse the “process of dis-empowerment.”
A kingdom-based response will confront spiritual powers and principalities, including “god-complexes” that pins one group of people over another.
A kingdom-based response will heal bodies and relationships; it teaches and models a more complete worldview based on Christ’s character and authority to set them free.
A kingdom-based response will challenge the principalities and powers of darkness (including institutions that are instruments of those powers).
A kingdom-based response will establish “truth and righteousness”, and proclaim that “all power belongs to God.”
A kingdom-based response will restore a person’s relationship with himself/herself. As I wrote in the previous post, poverty, ultimately, is the poverty of “being” and of “purpose.” Conversely, abundant life is the abundance of “being” and “purpose”. It is from the vantage point of the throne of God that an individual and a people may find their God-given identity and vocation conferring the essential being and purpose.
My son, Justin, was there at the garbage dump clinic with my wife, Mary. Justin was just 15 months old. I held my son that evening and prayed with him as he went to sleep. We had little to no money, only $25 USD, on the day Justin was born. For many, we would be considered poor. What’s the difference?
Key #2: A Kingdom View of the Poor.
“Line up!” shouted the man who climbed out of the Ford Econoline 350 box truck. “Stand back! Stand de vuelta!” Clowns, balloons, and face painting helped attract people from the nearby pueblos. The dry wind swept up the grey dirt as the crowd of people from Cuidad Juarez, and the surrounding Mexican border squatter villages, gathered to receive clothes, food, and other donated items. Obediently, the people stood in line and waited for the man to open to back of the truck. I have no doubt the man and the others with him had kind intentions, however my heart sunk as I watched these people reduced to pitiable passive recipients of American excesses.
The truckload of donations was part of an outreach ministry of a church on the El Paso side of the Rio Grande. It was the summer of 1990. We were in Juarez for six weeks with our Field Ministry Internship student teams of Youth With A Mission‘s Student Mobilization Centre. On this hot July afternoon, we were assisting the American group that came to plant a church. We were asked to conduct simple health examinations, primary health care, in a makeshift medical clinic. This personal contact also gave us opportunity to ask if we can pray for the children and their families.
However, the oversized sound system and overzealous worship leaders made it difficult to pray, let alone conduct any thorough examinations in the clinic. The loud and raucous singing and music was giving me a headache.
I stepped out of the clinic to observe the open air meeting. The music continued as young American evangelists, many with clown outfits, went into the audience to pray for the sick.
Please understand, I am a firm believer in prayer and God’s power to heal.
But this disturbed me.
A small Mexican child, obviously frightened by the clowns laying their hands on him, was crying and reaching out toward his mother. Others were surrounding “Mom” and praying for her. The noise and confusion even had me anxious to leave. I wondered what this child and family would think of Jesus after this traumatic day.
This brings us to the second key to ministry among the poor.
Christian ministries will always reflect their leadership’s view of the poor, their understanding of the nature of poverty. That view may be less biblical and more the prevailing view of the surrounding culture.
What is your view of the poor?
The way we approach our ministry to the poor communicates value, either positively or negatively. No matter how many dollars or valuables we donate, our posture and attitude in what we do and say communicates far more than what we give.
When Christians reach out to the poor, we too often unintentionally communicate what we think of their value.
This is what the poor “hear”:
“We are complete, you are not.”
Simply put, the goal of our outreach to the poor should be to avoid communicating that lie. Our goal should be to identify with the poor in our mutual recovery of identity in relation to God’s creative design and purpose.
How do we do that?
In order to communicate value to the poor, we must first communicate value to the volunteer serving alongside us in ministry to the poor.
This is why we emphasize “Calling” in our university student ministries and outreaches. If our outreach emphasizes the discovery of vocation in the life of the volunteer, the Christian participant in ministry to the poor, then we will effectively communicate the value of the design and purpose of God to the community in which we minister.
Then we will fulfill the commission to preach the good news to the poor.
Our aim is the same as that of Jesus’ public ministry:
“And He opened the book and found the place where it was written, ‘THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR. HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES, AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED, TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD.’” (Luke 4: 17-19)
Our goal is to ‘set free’ the poor from their destructive relationships so they may enjoy Shalom, a Hebrew term for peace, completeness, and welfare. All of us are called by God to an abundant life of healthy kingdom relationships.
The way we reach this goal must begin with the right posture, the right attitude. We must begin by demonstrating a servant heart, the nature of our servant King Jesus.
In our outreach to the Poor we must represent a kingdom community, demonstrating the biblical story and representing God’s identity and purpose in our relationships.
Our outreach should portray the kingdom of God, which represents the character of God in all the various expressions of his callings.
God is healer, communicator, builder, author, creator, artist, counselor, teacher, etc. Therefore, these vocations are representing God’s character in community.
Outreach is best when we represent the kingdom of God in a community of servants. We represent the character of God and the holistic and interrelated spheres of His ministry.
Ministry to the Poor requires a view of the poor and a vision of the kingdom of God.
In this series, I am referring to the book: God of the Empty-Handed: Poverty, Power, and the Kingdom of God, by Christian, Jayakumar.
Looking into the hollow eyes of Paulo, I wondered what we could do. Paulo was emaciated and gaunt, but with a bloated belly. His parents asked us to come see him. They worried that he would no longer eat the corn tortillas they had been feeding him. Because he was weak, his mother kept Paulo hidden in the dark corner of the small mud brick house. She feared that the sun and the warm air in the mountains of Guatemala would harm him.
It was 1991 and our university student Field Ministry Internship teams visited this mountain village to serve the Rabinal Achi people, a poor community with little or no access to health care and education.
Bonnie, a nurse and our health care team leader said Paulo was dying; he was at the final stages of starvation.
With the mother’s permission and Bonnie’s recommendation, I picked up the frail boy and held him to pray. He was light as a feather. I carried him into the sun. A member of our team ran to get some 7Up and soda crackers to attempt to rehydrate him, but he would not eat. I fed him the liquid with a tea spoon, which appeared to help him. We prayed earnestly as tears welled up in our eyes for the boy and his family. “Jesus, please heal this one today.”
The clinical name for the condition is called Kwashiorkor. The belly swells due to the lack of protein. The parents did not understand that the diet of tortillas, the only food available for their little boy, was insufficient. Paulo was not getting the nutrients he needed to survive.
We learned the next day that Paulo died. Even as I write this today, I agonize over the loss of this small child that had so little hope of survival. Even now, I want to bring a good report; I want to say, “Jesus healed Paulo!” But that is not what happened.
Paulo’s family is among the poorest of the poor. He is not merely a statistic, but he is among three billion people, almost half the world’s population, who live on less than $2.50 USD a day. Approximately 24,000 children like Paulo die every day due to malnutrition and impure water. (See Facts on Global Poverty.)
That experience, and dozens of others like it in as many countries over the past two decades, shaped my vision and passion for mobilizing university students toward their calling in Christ’s mission to a needy world. I ache to see a generation of university students offer their lives, including their studies and their careers, as living sacrifices in worship of Jesus. I long to see communities of faith, churches, devote more of their resources to mission and less to the one hour event on a Sunday morning. I long to see Christian business leaders, educators, scientists, communicators, food growers, builders, health care specialists, and families connect, conspire and collaborate to serve the world’s poor, starting with one small boy or girl in one small village.
One of the most important books I have read on the subject of ministry to the poor is God of the Empty-Handed: Poverty, Power, and the Kingdom of God by Jayakumar Christian. (Amazingly, this book is not available for less than $200.00. Therefore, I will provide a brief synopsis for my next four blog posts.)
As I read this book I was challenged to understand several keys to ministry among the poor. I’m convinced these key principles are important for any ministry, any Christian desiring to serve Christ’s mission. Additional posts with stories of our ministry among the poor will follow soon.
(Note: The name “Paulo” may not be accurate, but the story is true. I may have confused this boy’s name with another we ministered to some time later.)
Sitting here warming in the sun and listening to the gentle spash of the waves along the jagged lava rock of the Kona Coast of the Big Island of Hawai’i, I find it difficult to believe this is where a tsunami slammed the small shopping center along the shore on March 11, 2011. That contrast is stark, but the story of a young boy named Henry who lived here two hundred years ago details an even more striking contrast. For more than a generation the island was inhabited by a war-like Tahitian tribe that enslaved the more peaceful Polynesians through violence and fear. I wonder what it was like for the first known Westerner, British explorer Captain James Cook, when he arrived in 1778. The inhabitants thought Cook was Lono, the god of fertility and peace. In time, they realized he was merely human, so they killed him. Henry’s is the story of Hawai’i, beginning with violence and fear, but ending in hope and joy.
I’ve been to this island many times over the years. For over 20 years, my work with Youth With A Mission has brought me here over a dozen times. This island is home to University of the Nations-Kona Campus, one of our largest training locations. I made this place home and had offices for our ministries here in Kona two times, once in ’89-’90 and later in ’98. My son, Justin, was born on this island in 1990. The story of this campus is significant; it is found in the book “Is That Really You, Lord?” by Loren Cunningham, the founder of Youth With A Mission. The back story, the story you will not find in Loren’s book, is how the gospel first came to the Kona Coast.
When I first moved to Hawai’i with my wife in 1989, I was surprised by the contrasts. This island is volcanic and hazardous. The barren expanses of jagged black lava fields are contrasted by amazing vegetation and beautiful aromatic flower trees. Amid the harsh surroundings is a rich dark soil producing coffee beans, pineapples, and coconuts. The amazingly diverse climate has several micro-environments with unique weather, plants and animals. When we lived here, we took a few long drives around the island, which took us through tropical rainforests, cool alpine regions, stony deserts and sunny beaches. This is the place Henry grew up about 200 years ago.
When Henry Opukahai’a was just ten years old he saw his parents killed as two warring men fought to show their manhood. Henry took his baby brother on his back and fled. Sadly, Henry’s brother was killed by a spear and he was captured. Orphaned and alone, he was forced to live with his uncle, the man who apparently killed his parents. Henry was being trained to become a pagan priest. Henry saw the emptiness of the rituals and chants. He and a friend Thomas Hopu successfully escaped swimming out to the Triumph, an American tall ship and became cabin boys. Some time later, the ship was anchored off the shore of New Haven, Connecticut. Henry was found weeping on the steps of Yale College. He is quoted: “Someone please teach me the truth.” Timothy Dwight, the president of Yale, took him to his home and Henry began his formal education. He studied Greek and Hebrew and translated parts of the Bible. It is important to note that Timothy Dwight’s daily messages in in the chapel are attributed to have sparked the Second Great Awakening.
Henry and Thomas became the first Hawaiian Christians in 1815. They were befriended by Yale students. Henry was later introduced to and discipled by Samuel Mills, the leader of the Haystack Prayer Meeting in William’s College, Williamstown, MA. (See my previous post about the Haystack.) Henry was very intelligent and his zeal for Christ led him to pray for his homeland, the Islands of Hawai’i. In his memoirs, which sold 500,000 copies, Henry Opukahai’a wrote:
“My poor countrymen who are yet living in the region and shadow of death, without knowledge of the true God, and ignorant of the future world, have no Bible to read, no Sabbath.”
Henry’s faith and courage led him to sign up as an original member of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, the earliest foreign missionaries in the new nation. He intended to return to Hawai’i as a missionary. But Henry died of typhoid fever in 1818. His life and faith inspired Thomas Hopu and Hiram Bingham, and a team of others, to be the first missionaries to Hawaii. The words of this sermon show the influence of this faithful young Hawaiian native who died at the early age of 26 years:
“‘It is the Lord’s doing, and marvelous in our eyes.’ To him it belongs to bring good out of evil and light out of darkness… Ah! Opukahaia cannot go with you. He will not, however, forget you. Perhaps, if you should prove steadfast in the faith, he may look down and smile upon you from heaven. …. From a land of Bibles and Sabbaths and churches, where you have been nurtured and instructed in Christian charity; where you have enjoyed the prayers and counsels of the wise and good; and where some of you hope that you have been made savingly acquainted with the Lord Jesus Christ, you are going back to that land of idols and darkness, from whence you came…”
They landed at the Kona Coast on April 12, 1820. Before they arrived, the ruthless King Kamehameha the Great died. Idolatry and human sacrifice had ended by King Kamehameha II and his Queen mother Ka’ahumanu. The queen soon became a Christian and helped spread the Gospel in the islands.
Revival swept the islands. By 1840, 20,000 Hawaiians had become Christians. Just prior to her death, Queen Ka’ahumanu was presented with the newly completed version of the New Testament in the Hawaiian language. Her last words were: “I am going where the mansions are ready.”
In September 1809, college student Adoniram Judson began to ponder seriously the subject of foreign missions. At the age of twenty-one, he had just finished his first year of theological studies at Andover. Judson read a sermon which was preached in the parish church of Bristol, England, by Dr. Claudius Buchanan. Buchanan had been a chaplain in the service of the British East India Company. The sermon entitled “The Star in the East” had a profound impact on Judson. The sermon text came from Matt. 2:2: “For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.” Through this brief publication, Judson learned of the progress of the gospel in India, and it sparked a flame in Judson’s soul.
In February 1810, just six months later, Judson decided to become a missionary. This decision was stimulated by his close contact with several other young men, members of the secret Society of Brethren, an inter-collegiate student movement to mobilize prayer and missions.
This earliest American student ministry organization had it’s roots in the Haystack Prayer Meeting, which took place at Williams College the summer of 1806. At that haystack near the campus, these students prayed and committed to to join Christ’s mission to communicate the gospel to those who have not yet heard it. The students of the Haystack Prayer Meeting transferred to other colleges to spread the vision and within three years, they established student groups committed to world mission in almost every one of the 25 colleges in the young nation. Four of the original “Haystack” men from Williams College — Samuel Mills, James Richards, Luther Rice, and Gordon Hall– visited Andover with the simple challenge that came from their own example; they told the story of their commitment to become the answer to their prayers. This changed the life of Adoniram Judson, who became the first American foreign missionary.
Adoniram Judson sailed for India to work with William Carey in India. Shortly thereafter, Judson moved on as a missionary to Burma (modern day Myanmar). More students continued to go to the foreign fields. Over 263 students became missionaries. About 80 years later, this early impulse of student involvement in world missions came into full bloom with the Student Volunteer Movement. This marvelous story began as a few students answered the call to perseverance in pray and corresponding obedience to become the answer to their own prayer.
U2 singer songwriter Bono expresses a spiritual yearning in the 1987 album The Joshua Tree hit single: “Still haven’t found what I’m looking for…” New Musical Express (a pop music mag in the UK better known as the NME), points out that the popularity of the song may be due to the way it showed that the band cared about something which could not be reduced to a few words, principles, or statements to “save” them. The spiritual yearning, “climbing mountains” and “scaling these city walls” with a singular aim, “only to be with you”, made U2 “special” with a message that resonated making the song among the most popular of all time. Why?
Bono captured the heart-cry of a generation. Harvard University graduate Noah describes his own spiritual yearning: “My education has prepared me better than most to ‘make a living’. But once I have that living, I haven’t the faintest idea what to do with it…” He continues, “My expanded intellectual capacities make it more difficult for me to find anything to believe in… the American educational system has armed me with so much cynicism and has not allowed more opportunity to contemplate what I truly want of life.”
What I truly want…
The search, seeking what you truly want, should not cause any shame. If you are not on a search for something more, then it may be you have lost hope for the future. Or worse, it may be your search has resulted in a dead end, a fatalistic future, which requires no participation. Fatalists, whether Christian or not, have no reason to invest their lives, their resources or their work, toward something meaningful. The future is fixed and cannot be changed, according to their fatalistic belief system. To know that the course of your life has meaning, you must consider ‘what?’ or more appropriately ‘Who?’ will give your life significance.
Os Guinness writes, “First we must resolutely refuse to play the word games that pretend calling means anything without a Caller – and we must not allow people to play such games on us.” He continues,“If we don’t recognize the Caller, there are no callings; all that can remain is work without true meaning.”
A spiritual quest for meaning
Be encouraged. There is more and the future is made by those who seek a better world, those who are really living in this world as a witness of the goodness of their Creator, the God who is both the beginning and the end. The call of God is a spiritual quest. It is a call to be like him, believing in the future and creating it through our words and actions, our work and our investment, our hopes and our prayers. Even God seeks. He is the One who calls. With all his power and knowledge, God seeks those of us who will respond to his call:
“Heaven is my throne, earth is my footstool. What sort of house could you build for me? What holiday spot reserve for me? I made all this! I own all this! But there is something I’m looking for: a person, simple and plain, reverently responsive to what I say.” Isa. 66:1-2 (The Message)
Responding to God’s call is taking this spiritual quest for meaning very seriously. I believe this generation, probably more than any other, is on a search for significance. Unfortunately, the search requires resources not readily available. Though some have been on the journey and could serve as guides, they often go unnoticed; the people who might serve as a guide or mentor are hidden in plain sight. They do not hang a shingle advertising their availability to lead you on a journey of significance. If they do, you might check for references. Those who can lead you on a journey of the discovery of God’s calling will not self-promote because the act of self-promotion is contradictory to the call of God. If you seek someone to help you on your quest, do not turn to a “professional” who has reduced the process of discerning the call of God to a “12-step program” or a costly university diploma. Instead, get on with your quest, respond to God’s call with all your heart. That quest, whether you are enrolled in university or not, will likely lead you to become more of a student, more discerning, and more prayerful. A quest is a “mystery discerning enterprise,” rather than a “problem solving” project. Your quest is not a self-help program and it is not merely an adventure. Those who go on adventures experience amazing things, but they return to their routine; their lives are not changed. Those who go on a spiritual quest are changed. If they return, they are never the same. They cannot return to the same routine. They have become pilgrims on a quest that will continue throughout their lives.
Should I seek a guide?
Keep your eyes open, especially the “eyes of your heart” (Eph. 1:18). Paul the apostle prays that you may “know the hope of his calling.” Discernment and humility are needed when considering who may be a guide as you seek what is really important. The guide will be someone who is on their own journey, discerning and seeking to obey their own call from God. That they are on their own quest will likely conceal their spiritual identity from you and their value to you as a guide. Recall the characters from J. R. R. Tolkien‘s Lord of the Rings? Frodo’s quest came after Bilbo gave him the “One Ring” and Gandalf charged him to take the ring to Rivendell. On their way, Frodo and his friends met a stranger at the Prancing Pony Pub. Little did they know the stranger is the son of a king. Aragorn’s identity is concealed to others and partly concealed to himself. He is first introduced by the name Strider. Strider joined Frodo’s quest while serving as a guide and protector for the hobbits.
Please understand: This is not a formula for seeking a guide for your spiritual journey. However, Tolkien’s story is useful here. From my experience, the most valuable mentors/teachers to me have been humble individuals who were/are on their own spiritual journey. Their identity and their significance was largely concealed from me when I first came to know them. The extent of their service, guidance and protection, and their ultimate contribution to my spiritual quest is immeasurable. These individuals have been like spiritual fathers, investing themselves unselfishly as part of their own spiritual journey.
The struggle…the work
Your search will take you far from familiar territory. You cannot respond to God’s call hidden safe behind the comforts of your own culture, whether material comforts or theological/ideological comforts. Responding to God’s call takes the honest seeker both deep inside the needs in their own heart and out to a world of desperate needs. If there is deep within you a passionate desire to make a difference, you will need to become desperate enough to free yourself from the shackles of your own culture, your own hurts, and your own false beliefs. To get to know your own identity, which includes your family, your culture, and your personal trauma in life, is hard work. The call of God will always lead you to a thorough assessment of your motives and values, your woundedness and your strengths. To know that passion and the difference for which you are called is not found by taking an online survey for $50. Bottom line, it takes work to discern your calling.
“Doing anything as a calling-especially doing something quite difficult-is a lot more fulfilling than merely drifting.” Michael Novak, from his book, Business as a Calling.
I first learned of the monument on the Williams College campus in 1988 while researching student missions. In 2006, I joined several student ministries leaders from across the nation at the 200th anniversary of the event that led to the establishing of this memorial. Do you know why there is a monument on the small elite college campus in Western Massachusetts? Sadly, even some graduates of Williams College do not know the importance of this monument. What happened there?
In 1806, a small band of students at Williams College in Massachusetts led by Samuel J. Mills, Jr., prayed every Wednesday and Saturday afternoon. Walking home one day after prayer, they were caught in a rainstorm and found refuge in a haystack. Apparently they sensed something of God’s urgency in their prayers that day. Rather than tell jokes or talk about how crazy the storm suddenly became, they gave themselves to continue in prayer for the topics they had been in prayer about that afternood. They prayed for Asia and for missionary involvement among students.
This solemn moment changed history. “Whatsoever we beg of God, let us also work for it,” said Mills. Fervent in prayer and determined to live their lives with integrity, they committed themselves to become the answer to their prayers.
The Haystack Prayer Meeting marked an early beginning of a great wave of thousands of missionaries serving around the globe over then next century, particularly students. Before that time no missionaries had been sent from the North American continent. (Though there is evidence of one former African slave who went to Jamaica. If you know more about this earliest American missionary, please let me know.)
Within four years, the zeal and vision of these students brought about the formation of the first American mission board. Adoniram Judson, the first N. American missionary, sailed for India to work with William Carey. Williams College students continued to go to the foreign fields. The students of the Haystack Prayer Meeting transferred to other colleges to spread the vision and within 3 years, they established student groups committed to world mission in almost every one of the 25 colleges in the young nation. (To offer some historical perspective: In 1804, President Thomas Jefferson sent Lewis & Clark to the Western Frontiers to explore territories recently acquired in the Louisiana Purchase.)
The beginning of a wave of missionary involvement among college students had begun. Over 263 students became missionaries. About 80 years later, this early impulse of student involvement in world missions came into full bloom with the Student Volunteer Movement. This marvelous story began as a few students answered the call to perseverance in pray and corresponding obedience to become the answer to their own prayer.
How then should we pray today?
What does revival look like? I was in a pastor’s meeting recently where the topic was discussed. I think they were correct when they said it’s like a wave that you cannot control. All you can do is begin paddling like a surfer to prepare to catch the wave.
What I have noticed, paradoxically, is that revivals down through history have rarely been met with a great welcome by the religious leaders of the community. When revival comes, it raises the hope of the community for a future with Jesus at the center of every home and every conversation. Revival brings a transformation of culture, a culture of hope.
I believe the way to create hope in a community or even a wider culture is to proclaim the good news by word and deed. The message of hope gets drummed up like a political slogan, but hope is much more than that. What is taking place in the Middle East today is the activation of a fervent hope for a future that honors individuals, families, communities, and whole nations.
We cannot control the destiny of nations, but we can participate. As a missionary, I believe hope can be realized in a community by consistently reporting the good news. The good news is the gospel story, but it is much more. Christians need to engage their world with active involvement, even in small ways. We can visit prisons, hospitals, shut ins, and neighbors. We can invite strangers, the lonely, and the lost into our homes. We can enjoy a simple meal with the hungry and share our time and belongings with the poor and needy.
Proclaiming the good news is done, not only through word, but also through deed. And hope is fostered in a community when those words of Scripture are matched with actions of love. Hope grows as we report on the many small actions that are making a difference in our community. You might call them “achievable wins”, simple acts of love in community.
Hope is not found merely in acts of charity, however. Hope must be firmly rooted in the Person of Jesus Christ. That hope should not be rooted in this world. Neither should the hope be rooted in heaven, which has caused too many lovely Christians to ignore the needs of this world. So proclaiming the good news, reporting on our “achievable wins”, must include a clear presentation of the overarching vision of relationship with Jesus in our daily lives and in our neighborhoods.
A culture of hope will grow under that vision and mission of Jesus. What grows in that culture are is a spirit of missional unity, which produce many missions partnerships. The hopes of pilgrims in the no-man’s-land of collaborative culture, those who recognize each individual, family, church, and organization’s identity as a contributor to the whole task of Jesus’ mission, is what makes up the culture of hope.
Some people will be early participants in this “culture.” They are the boundary spanners who are willing to examine and work to span the chasm between different groups, churches, and organizations. Though each expects something different from their emerging partnerships, they will work to enhance their part so that their group may in turn develop a culture of collaboration, a willingness to enhance the vision of Jesus in their community.
The early participants will often begin the task before everyone else is on board. They continue to remain open and hospitable, content to not be leading a large public movement. They choose rather to open their homes and share meals and prayer times with those who would catch the vision later. These courageous ones are willing to address difficult questions. They do not study theology; they DO theology. Their every conversation is dripping with theological hope. They are students. These disciples of Jesus are learning together in community. They are learning to manage tensions and complexities of the new places God is leading them and the new culture that God is promising. They are working like gardeners, creating a collaborative environment in order to produce a culture of hope.
These people embrace a high cultural value of personal responsibility, the language of stewardship and shared responsibility, recognizing the task of collaboration is not everyone else’s responsibility. These people are accountable to each other and to the overarching vision. They may work toward achievable wins, however they are not seeking immediate rewards; they are looking toward the long-term.
This culture shuns the zero-sum game with competitive winners and losers so often found in the religious movements of yesterday. This new culture resists isolation and looks for synergy. It is not stuck in past structures; it is open to a variety of possibilities and structures to serve the purpose of accomplishing Jesus’ vision. This culture is like a bridge, easy to get on and easy to get off, as necessary to the current task.
The question is when and how do we collaborate. Ultimately, these people embrace and create a culture that recognizes Kingdom values, that we are all already working together. Our calling is not to create unity, but to preserve it.
The effective Kingdom partnership culture is breathing out Spirit-filled prayers and exhortations, speaking truth with mutual humility. It is a “place” where Jesus is Lord, and the voices of all constituencies are heard, especially the voice of God. It is a partnership “by people in Christ from within organizations for the Kingdom.”
Setting the stage for the historic prayer meeting with the five students who gathered under that haystack to find refuge from a storm in August 1806 was a little booklet written only a decade or so earlier by William Carey. The booklet was entitled:
“An Enquiry Into the Obligations of Christians to use Means for the Conversion of the Heathen.”
Carey was a cobbler and lover of maps. He was homeschooled and he made several world maps out of leather which hung in his shop where he made shoes. In that little booklet, Carey asks:
“Are Christians under an obligation to help transform societies that live in intellectual, moral, social, political, and spiritual darkness?”
This profound question provoked at least one elder in his church while listening to Carey’s presentation. The elder said:
“Young man, if God had wanted to save the poor heathen, he would do it himself and he would not need your help.”
Ruth and Vishal Mangalwadi have written an excellent little book about William Carey entitled: “The Legacy of William Carey: A Model for the Transformation of Culture” (formerly: “Carey, Christ, and Cultural Transformation: The Life and Influence of William Carey”). I am referring here to what I have learned from the Mangalwadi book.
Carey was known as the Father of Modern Missions because of his work in India and his written appeal to the institutional Protestant church of his day to respond to the Great Commission. Carey is mostly known for his commitment as a missionary to India, but few have understood that commitment or his understanding of the gospel and its power to reform society, Hindu Indian society as well as the powerful East India Company (a precursor to multi-national corporations). Though largely still unreached today, Carey had an incredible impact on India.
William Carey began his life work as a cobbler in England. Educated by his parents and a life-long learner, Carey developed a true concern for the calling of the Church to obey the commandment of Christ to preach the gospel to every creature. His understanding of that calling became personal as he endured the opposition of Church leaders and his own wife and set sail to serve God’s purposes in India for over 30 years.
What most do not know about William Carey is the extent of his work and vision for Christian missions. Mangawadi writes:
“He was a pioneer of the modern Western Christian missionary movement, reaching out to all parts of the world; a pioneer of the Protestant church in India; and a translator and/or publisher of the Bible in forty different Indian languages. Carey was an evangelist who used every available medium to illuminate every dark facet of Indian life with the light of truth. As such, he is the central character in the story of India’s modernization.”
Today India is the largest democracy in the world. What most do not know is that this simple cobbler from England was much more than a clergyman. His vision for the church and his understanding of the gospel to transform culture included nearly every arena of society, every sphere of influence.
Carey was not only a preacher and translator; he was a botanist who published one of the first books on science and natural history in India. He was an industrialist who developed the first indigenous paper for the publishing industry in India. He was an economist who introduced the idea of savings banks in India. He was a medical humanitarian who campaigned for humane treatment of lepers. He was a media pioneer who built the then largest press in India. He was an agriculturist who founded India’s Agri-Horticultural Society in the 1820′s, thirty years before the Royal Agricultural Society was established in England.
Carey was a translator and educator, a professor of Indian languages at Fort William College in Calcutta. He was an astronomer, introducing India to the scientific culture of astronomy, which made it possible for India to devise calendars, study geography and history, and plan their work and social order.
Carey was a library pioneer who started lending libraries. He was a forest conservationist who wrote essays on forestry and said that as the gospel flourishes in India, “the wilderness will, in every respect, become a fruitful field.” Carey was a crusader for women’s rights who was the first man to fight against the ruthless murders and widespread oppression of women, which was virtually “synonymous with Hinduism in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.”
Carey lived the life of a missionary, not hidden behind the confines of a church structure busying himself with merely religious duties. Carey was a public servant and moral reformer; Carey was a cultural transformer.
This man, his writings, witness, and work, is what inspired five students in a new nation, the United States of America, to pray and fervently seek the Lord for the people of Asia and for their own fellow students. And history continued to unfold…
BTW- Do you know what happened to that church in England where one of the elders told Carey to sit down?
That church is a Hindu temple today.
The story of the Haystack Prayer Meeting is an account of the power of prayer and a portrayal of the courage of colleges students who provided a new generation of Christian mission leadership. Led by Samuel Mills, this small, seemingly insignificant gathering of five students from Williams College in the Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts in 1806 changed the course of history.
“History is a search for wisdom from the past to help us today,” writes Kenneth Scott Latourette, Professor of Missions and Oriental History at Yale University. For example, understanding the Christianizing of the Roman Empire requires an analysis of the story, which was more than the deterioration of a corrupt society. The expansion of Christianity is “a series of power encounters, exorcisms, and healings,” writes Latourette. Ultimately, he adds, “the ‘mustard seed’ toppled the Empire.” History, it would seem from the Christian perspective, requires an understanding of the power of prayer. (Latourette 1970)
We will return to the story of Samuel Mills and his friends in this new series of posts. This new page on the Barefoot Blog will broaden the story of universities, their role in the discipling of nations in fulfillment of the Great Commission, and of students, professors, and others who have served God’s purposes as part of His-Story.
Our table is the center of our home. It’s the place our family comes together, the place we welcome friends, neighbors, and strangers. We invite others into the kitchen where we chop and sauté vegetables, bake bread, stir sauces, pour the fruit of the vine (juice or wine, you choose), and prepare to savor the meal. Rich conversation with others around food is how we live, how we love each other, how we teach our children, and how we learn about others and our world.
We thought everyone enjoyed meals as families. We thought everyone invited people into their homes to share their lives. Sadly, we’ve met a growing number of people who rarely if ever sit at table with their families, let alone anyone else. By sharing our table with international students, young people from various religious and non-religious backgrounds, happy homes and broken homes, we’ve learned how very desperate this generation is for authentic relationships.
But that’s not all. The simplicity of sharing meals and intimate conversation may be more than we thought.
Think about it. Table fellowship was central to early church gatherings. Long before all the complex religious practices, the beautiful sanctuaries and the hierarchy of leaders were added to the simplicity of sharing life in Christ with others, believers shared meals from house to house. Though some gatherings may have been in the synagogue or a rented hall, much of the growth of the church came about in the intimate spaces, especially table fellowship. Without the New Testament scriptures, people gathered to remember the words Jesus spoke. They experienced the power of the Holy Spirit and spoke the simple gospel message and the church rapidly grew. People opened their homes and others brought their appetites, desiring to grow in their relationship with Jesus, which caused the growth of the “spiritual house”, the new temple of worship. It appears Jesus intends, and the early apostles taught, that we should be priests offering spiritual sacrifices from the altar of table fellowship. Peter writes:
“Like newborn babes, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation; for you have tasted the kindness of the Lord. Come to him, to that living stone, rejected by men but in God’s sight chosen and precious; and like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” – 1 Peter 2:2-5
There’s more. The New Testament “priesthood” is very different from the Old Testament priesthood and their focus on Temple worship. Before Jesus went to the cross, he prophesied the total destruction of the Temple, which came about before the end of the first century, and which resulted in the end of Temple worship. Jesus instituted a new form of altar worship, table fellowship. He instructed his followers to remember his sacrifice. Paul writes to the Corinthian believers:
“the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 1 Cor. 11:22-24
Jesus instructed us to “remember” and Peter instructed us to “offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God”. Priests offer intercession, prayer for the people, including all nations. The Old Testament priests were born priests; they were from the tribe of Levites. The Levites offered the blood of bulls, goats, and doves for the remission of sin. Some became corrupt, seeking and maintaining power, and failing to intercede for the nations. Of all the words Jesus spoke, he spoke most harshly to those corrupt leaders that failed to be priests and a light to the Gentiles.
The “tribe” of priests in the New Testament are also born to a priesthood; they are born of the Spirit. They are not individually priests with special callings. The priesthood is all those born of the Spirit. New Testament priests do not shed blood, as the Levites did. Instead, they recall the complete and finished work of Jesus’ blood shed on the cross, our high priest:
“The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office; but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues for ever. Consequently he is able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, blameless, unstained, separated from sinners, exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people; he did this once for all when he offered up himself.” – Heb. 7:23-27
So this priesthood is not for a select few in the Church, not a specialized role that must be earned and not a special class of people within the Church. This priesthood of all believers is the call to intercede, to pray and offer a different kind of “sacrifice” on a different kind of altar.
Table fellowship had become very controversial in the early church. Peter struggled with the issue and Paul confronted him about it:
“But when Cephas (Peter) came to Antioch I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he ate with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party.” – Gal. 2:11-12
Jewish believers needed to learn Christ’s mission. They needed to be free from their cultural and religious systems of power. They needed to recognize how those systems resist Holy Spirit.
Finding freedom in the Spirit will lead us to cooperate with him. He is here to make Jesus known in all the earth. The Holy Spirit is spreading the good news. Our part is to be that priesthood, inviting our neighbors to table fellowship. Preaching is important, but we must not neglect breaking bread with neighbors as part of our intercession for our neighborhood as a kingdom of priests.
Did I get a “Blue Letter Bible” for Christmas? Well no. I
don’t think there is such a thing. Instead, I’ll be highlighting
portions of my bible this year in blue. The red letters in our
bibles are used to indicate the words of Jesus. I like seeing the
words of Jesus highlighted, but could it be I’m missing something
when I read my bible? Recently I re-read David Bosch’s classic
Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in
Theology of Mission. Bosch writes: ”I realize
that my theological approach is a ‘map’, and that a map is never
the actual ‘territory’.” (p.187) Bosch’s ‘map’ had me thinking
about those red letters. Maps are not all cartography with
mountains, rivers, cities and roads. Maps are any tools we use to
refer to and navigate our reality. The bible is read as a map, but
each of us ‘sees’ the landscape of reality differently, depending
on our theological, cultural, and historical perspective. The Bible
is a collection of sacred and ancient texts written over the course
of centuries at the hands of many authors, many of whom risked
everything to respond to God’s call to participate in his mission
to extend his grace to their world and beyond. It’s difficult for
me to truly grasp the words of the writers of the bible because I
have difficulty understanding their experience, where they were
living and what they were doing. I have not lived in any other time
or culture than my own. However, I have traveled and studied and
listened with the posture of a disciple. The more I learn and
listen, the more I realize I cannot speak with objective authority
about what the writers of the bible were saying. My own life
experience is a frame of reference for my understanding. As I read
my English bible and worship in my cultural context, I am aware
that there are millions of others reading and worshipping Jesus
from their own frame of reference. In addition to English, there
are 45o other translations of the bible into different languages
and 1185 New Testament translations. (And there are currently 1300
additional translations to new languages in progress.) It’s quite
possible that billions of people from many cultures, speaking many
different languages, have searched the scriptures for clues to find
their way in life. And each has a different human context out of
which they are seeking to be faithful followers of Christ. Of
course, that appears to be God’s intention for everyone in every
nation, community, and family. For me, the call to follow Jesus is
the call to discipleship. It is the call to be a student, or rather
an apprentice to Jesus. If you wish to become a bible scholar, you
will be expected to study the original texts written in Hebrew and
Greek. Interestingly, the red letters in my bible used to indicate
the words of Jesus are also highlighting words that were actually
spoken in Aramaic. Very few bible scholars are expected to learn
Jesus’ original language. I’m not suggesting we should all learn
Aramaic. Instead, I’m suggesting that we may be missing something,
perhaps we need to learn how to be apprentices and not merely
students. Our “map”, though useful for much of our life as
disciples, may be insufficient to help us see the full reality. Our
“map” may show us in part how to live, how to be faithful as
followers of Jesus. However, there are cultural blind spots we all
experience as we read the scriptures. For example, our “map” of
higher education (good as it may be) is designed to help
individuals. Our universities are borne out of a Western context.
The primary strength of formal university training is its strong
emphasis on a Cartesian epistemology, an individual-centered focus
on knowing and developing new thought. That perspective places a
major focus on words and the notion that a subject studying an
object can be objective, not influenced by personal feelings,
tastes, or opinions. Much of the fruit of this impartial, detached,
and impassive scientific inquiry and analysis through higher
education has been good. It has produced an extraordinary period of
development. However, the modern Western Cartesian mindset has also
produced a sacred/secular divide and a hermeneutic of suspicion (an
essential mistrust) where truth is always moving and changes. If
you are still with me, you may argue that life in Christ only
requires the faith of a child. True. But isn’t it also true what
the Psalmist writes: “The word is lamp to my feet, and a light to
my path” (Ps. 119:105). The bible is intended to help us find our
way, even through fearful places, such as the “valley of the shadow
of death” (Ps. 23:4). The bible can help us in our context, but
without careful study, careful appreciation for the context out of
which each of the books of the bible were written, we can misread
the map. The meaning of words evolve and change over time and
across cultural barriers. Consider the word “source”, for example.
Even in the English language the word has multiple meanings
relating to waters, to locations, to history, to time, to people,
and to authority. Understanding the meaning of a word and how it is
used in its original context is vitally important to understanding
what the author intended. The bible is a “lamp” and it will shine
more light onto our path if we will allow it to shine beyond our
theological, cultural, and historical perspective. Discipleship is
not a twelve-week mini-course. Discipleship is life-long, a journey
to the “high countries” of C.S. Lewis’ classic book The Great
Divorce, an allegory of a bus ride from heaven
to hell. The passengers are met by inhabitants of heaven as escorts
for those who would follow them on the journey to the high
countries, to meet with God. Lewis writes: “There are only two
kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be
done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’
All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there
could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy
will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is
opened.” So in 2011, I will be highlighting my bible with blue
letters. The blue will highlight the actions of God the Father,
Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. The blue will highlight what Jesus DID
alongside the red letters that highlight what Jesus SAID. Paying
attention to what he did may change my map just enough to change my
behavior, to more faithfully follow God’s ways in 2011. Blue
highlights will provide a better map to help me see, shining light
on something that I have not seen. Notice, for example, what Jesus
did when he taught: “At dawn he appeared again in the temple
courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down
to teach.” (John 8:2
NIV) “That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat
by the lake.” (Matt
13:1 NIV) It seems Jesus sat when he taught, while others
stood. What does scripture say he is doing now? “He was taken up
into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God.” (Mark 16:19 NIV)
He sits now too. But when does it say Jesus stands up? “I see
heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
(Acts 7:56 NIV) He stands for Stephen, the martyr. The questions
this blue highlighting raises for me: If Jesus stands for Stephen,
will he stand for me? When he looks at my life and witness, will he
stand in applause? How about you?
Run!” “Keep going!” “You are almost there!”
If you are like me, that is what these final days and hours of 2010 feel like. The year has been chock-full, jam-packed, and well, overflowing with ministry, travels, and fruitful activity.
To all our friends, thank you for supporting our family serving with Youth With A Mission.
“Keep going!” Yes, I still hear that. Do you? As we come to the end of 2010, I need to ask you for a favor. Would you take a moment to make a contribution, ANY amount, to help us finish the year and extend our ministry in 2011? This year-end request will help us overcome a personal shortfall this year AND help us get a good start in 2011.
“You’re almost there!” There it is again. A call to finish strong. Would you help? You can also forward this note to a few friends who might also join our team of supporters for 2011. Would you do that too?
“You can do it!” In response, and as we reach our goal of $10,000, we will sponsor the full school tuition for an emerging missionary in Latin America to take the next School of University Ministries & Missions.
As you may know, our work is with university students. It is no surprise to us that students all over the world want to be spiritually equipped to respond to God’s calling to engage issues of global human need, such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, clean water, and children at risk. Since 1989, we have prepared and sent students from nine nations and over 100 universities to integrate their field of studies serving long-term projects that minister to the poor and needy in 34 countries.
“Run!” To expand the work, we began a training course for YWAM staff. With the help of our nine member international team, we started the School of University Ministries & Missions (SUMM). We launched in Delhi, India in 2004 with 24 participants from nine nations. Since then, the 12-week course has run in Thailand, Korea, the USA, and three additional times in India. Our most recent school had participants from Madagascar, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Thailand, India, and Korea. To date, we have trained over one hundred of our YWAM campus ministry workers in 32 countries.
“Don’t stop now!” The next course is scheduled to take place in Cartagena, COLOMBIA in January 2011. Our goal as a ministry is to provide full tuition scholarships for all qualified Latin American YWAM staff who enroll. By faith, my family and I are granting one full scholarship. But we need you to help right now. Any gift will help.
“We’re with you!” The love and support of family, friends, church communities, and some former student interns have helped us keep going after over 25 years of living by faith and serving Jesus’ mission. Thank you. Truly, we could not do what we do without your support. God bless you!
Your help is so appreciated!
“Almost there!” Donating through our online donation site is simple, fast and totally secure. It is also one of the most efficient ways to support our fundraising efforts. All gifts are income tax deductible and are requested with the understanding that SMC has complete discretion and control over the use of all donated funds. If you prefer to give with a check by mail, send it payable to “YWAM” with a separate note “for the Henry’s” to:
YWAM-SMC, PO Box 6412, Madison, WI 53716
Many thanks for your support — and don’t forget to forward this to a few people and ask them to join our support team in 2011 too!
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” 1Cor 9:24
Follow this link to our secure online donation page. Thank you!
Dave Fitch, Life on the Vine in Chicago area, writes…
“attractional and missional churches are such because they have divergent understandings of basic Christian doctrines. What we need is a theologically robust understanding [of] the relationship between the the Missio Dei [God's Mission], the gospel of the Kingdom of God, and the Church. This will lead us not to the ‘best’ of these two models, but to a cohesive vision of a missional ecclesiology. This is the great error of ‘AND’ thinking; you never get to core issues because you spend all your time trying to artificially hold incompatible things together.”
Fitch is right. Simply trying to do both Missional and Attractional forms of Church will not work. We need a little perspective to understand and communicate a “cohesive vision of a missional ecclesiology”.
As a mobilizer for missions these past 25 years, my attention has always been directed toward Missio Dei, or God’s Mission, not to be misunderstood with “missions,” which is traditionally understood to be the Church’s missionary activity or a department of the institutional Church of the West. Consistent with a vision for God’s overarching Mission in the world, my part has been to work with university students, helping them grasp the love of God and global neighbor through obedience to God’s calling. My hope remains that if a sufficient movement of students engage with God in his Mission, a significant reform of higher education must follow.
That hope for the reform of higher education is only part of God’s Mission. Another reform is necessary. As my understanding of God’s work in human history has grown, my attention has become focused on reforming the Church, especially in the Western world, where christendom has been the established norm and expectation.
My missional journey began in 1982 when I was embraced by the members of Christian Community Church in Kinderhook, NY, a small community that worships in a renovated barn called “Solomon’s Porch” and celebrates community and mission as a lifestyle. The team leadership, led by George Isley (my spiritual father in the faith), the warm hospitality, and the commitment to listen and cooperate with God’s Spirit at Solomon’s Porch are the characteristics of community that have sustained me as a “sent one” in a wider world of mission mobilization with Youth With A Mission and the Student Mobilization Centre.
In recent years I completed a MA in Global Leadership at Fuller Seminary. That reflective period of study coupled with my extensive travels around the globe has deepened and widened my appreciation for what God is doing on planet earth. Many of you may know that the Majority Church is no longer in Europe and the USA. The Majority Church is outside the West; it’s the Global South, including Africa, Latin America, and much of East Asia. Not only is the Church larger in numbers, the Church of the Global South (see article from Lausanne Congress) is also now sending more missionaries than Western nations. Thanks to Lesslie Newbigin and David J. Bosch, (including Bosch’s book Transforming Mission, which I am currently re-reading) my understanding, and the understanding of most of the Church’s leaders around the globe, has shifted.
That paradigm shift in understanding is evident in the many African churches that are now sending missionaries to Europe and the USA. The fastest growing churches in Europe are led by Africans. Back to Jerusalem, a growing movement taking the gospel from China through Central Asia and back to Israel, has emerged out of the Chinese house church movement, where there is an estimated 100 million believers today. Like my brothers and sisters in the Global South, I now see the Western world, especially Europe but also the USA, is a key mission field. The need for reforming our understanding and practice of Church in our Western context is quite urgent.
In fact, I believe the call for reform today is greater than at the time of the Protestant Reformation, which began 500 years ago with Martin Luther’s appeal when he nailed 95 complaints against the established church on a university bulletin board, the Wittenburg Door. Reform today should, in my view, re-emphasize scripture, faith, and the grace of God. However, reform in our day should not be a re-instatement of a 16th century Western understanding of scripture. Instead, we would do well to be faithful to the scriptures by digging deeper. We should explore more thoroughly the authors of the New Testament texts, their backgrounds and understanding of words they introduced, such as Paul’s use of the word “Justification.” We would do well to pay attention to the “New Perspectives on Paul”, including N.T. Wright’s pursuit of a more faithful understanding of Jesus and the gospel Paul preached, and not only a 16th century European take on Jesus and Paul.
The current reform of the Church should not be merely structural, replacing the altar with the pulpit as in the Protestant Reformation. Neither should it be the putting on of a new image, a new marketing scheme, so often associated with Western “success” stories. Reform will require a recalibration of our spiritual and cultural posture in the West, from privilege and power to servanthood and simplicity. Certainly, reform will change the way we equip our leaders; it will reform higher education, beginning with seminaries and bible schools. However, I do not believe reform today will require a great struggle between two opposing ideals or two opposing structures, as was the case in Europe’s Thirty-Years War. Instead, reform will come quietly as believers follow the voice of God’s Spirit calling them toward a lifestyle of surrender, which can only result in a simpler, more relational, more sacrificial love of God and neighbor.
This reform is toward a missional ecclesiology. It’s not a dichotomy, an either or, Attractional vs. Missional. It’s a thoroughgoing change from the inside out, a heart-change in the lives of an emerging leadership, many of whom will not be well known even at the time of their greatest influence. These emerging leaders are fathers and mothers ready to open their homes, appealing to a generation longing for permission to dream with God, to hear his voice, and to create with him. This kind of leader is not new; like Paul, these leaders have always been in our midst offering a quiet and authentic, affirming and releasing example. They offer an example to those with eyes to see and ears to hear and hearts to understand that God’s mission is his Church and it is through his church. As Fitch writes, ”we need … a theologically robust understanding [of] the relationship between the Missio Dei, the gospel of the Kingdom of God, and the Church.” It’s happening.
Learning, the kind of learning that can only transpire in vibrant community through service to the needs of neighbors, is foundational to the purpose of the Church. The modern university was borne out of such communities and, by design, served to benefit the Church. Pope Innocent 12th, 1243 AD said, “Universities are rivers of knowledge that feed and fertilize the universal church.” The attitude of the Church toward universities was at one time positive, however many in the Church today overlook the missional origins of the university. Jesus told his followers to “Go, make disciples,” that is to say, “Go teach students.”
Paul’s testimony of the “school” he ran for a few short years in the lecture hall at Tyrannus shows the mentor teacher role can be extremely effective with a wide area of influence in a relatively short period of time. Though we do not know much about the dynamics of that “school”, we must assume that there was mobilization toward practical application of what was taught. Paul, it may be assumed, mobilized his students to spread far and wide with a living witness of his message.
The formation of communities of learning was a response to Jesus’ command and core methodology for ministry and our task of completing the Great Commission. However, because many church communities have “failed to revisit the theological and biblical underpinnings of our mission,” we have reduced the scope of the Church and the scope of our mission. (Taylor 2001:7) “Crippling omissions,” such as reducing the gospel to proclamation, created Christianity without regard for culture or the nations. (2001:4) The mission for the Church is to make disciples of all nations, including the powerful institution of the university, which will in turn “feed and fertilize” the Church.
How then shall we again engage university communities, not merely to proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God with students, but in addition to obey all that Jesus commands, extending his reign beyond individual hearts, into all the world, every nation, tribe, and tongue?
Biographers and historians have conferred the title, “Father of Modern Education,” on John Amos Comenius primarily due to his contribution to modern educational methodology. Comenius was born on March 28, 1592 in Moravia, now in the Czech Republic. Much of this Moravian theologian’s writings suggest that the overarching objective of his life and work was of greater consequence than reformed educational method. The examination of the life and works of this seventeenth-century educational reformer will help us to understand if it was the intent of Comenius to influence positively the work of world mission.
Kenneth Scott Latourette writes that Comenius was “a pioneer in an educational theory which was to exert a wide influence.” Comenius’ set out to organize the teaching process in a way that “everything be [sic] taught through the senses.” He demonstrated this idea by including pictures in a textbook on foreign languages, something that had never been done before. Comenius’ chief task may be lifted from the title page of his Great Didactic, “teaching thoroughly all things to all men.” However, the purpose of his task of teaching was broader; he sought to “shape the human creature into an image of the divine.”
His proposals for universal education and the use of pictures in children’s education make him a forerunner of many modern developments in the field of education. Comenius advocated many basic principles of our modern educational system, such as “the free and universal opportunity for education of members of all classes, and both sexes.”
He is considered the first educator to have put forward the concept of international education. Comenius’ efforts on behalf of universal education earned him the title of “Teacher of Nations.”
At the time of Comenius’ birth, the Catholic Church sought to recover territories lost to the Protestant Reformation, doing so by purging heresy and burning renaissance thinkers at the stake. The pope who had the greatest influence on Comenius’ early life was Paul V, a pontiff who was intolerant of the growing numbers of Protestants in Europe, including the Bohemian Brethren. Comenius lived during the time of the first truly worldwide war, the Thirty Years War (1618-1648), which caused the destruction of wealth, cultural values, and freedoms the Bohemian Brethren had enjoyed. The Bohemians faced the fears and dangers of tyranny, accusations of heresy, and martyrdom. As we shall see, Comenius was not only aware of the over-reach of papal authority in previous generations; he was intimately acquainted with that tyranny in his own generation.
Exile and International Influence
The first decisive battle of the Thirty Years War between the Protestant and Catholic States in Europe directly affected Comenius when Catholic armies defeated Czech Protestant armies in 1620 at the “Battle of the White Mountain.” Comenius witnessed the horrors of Protestant leaders publicly executed in Prague and the brutal imposition of Catholicism on the total population of his people in Bohemia and Moravia. Comenius lost “all his property and library in 1621, when the town was taken by the imperialists.” All protestant clergy were banished from Bohemia by an Imperial mandate in 1624. Comenius fled to the mountains to hide, but secretly visited his congregation as often as he could. Exiled from his congregation, his home and his family, Comenius began the life of a writer who eventually had an international influence.
Comenius had an extraordinarily large circle of acquaintances, including royalty, and people from all branches of the Church. His life of travels afforded the breadth of multi-cultural relationships he developed. “I led a wandering life, I had no homeland. I was constantly propelled from one place to another, never and nowhere did I find a permanent home.” As a refugee, he came in contact with many of the intellectual leaders of his time in Germany, Poland, Sweden, England, and Holland. In 1641 he was called to London and in 1642 he traveled to Sweden and then to Prussia where he lived until the end of the Thirty Years War in 1648. After the war, he lived in Hungary, in Poland, and finally in Amsterdam until his death in 1670. Comenius maintained correspondence communicating his ideas with several learned men, church leaders, publishers, and historians. His extensive travels granted an ever-widening influence through which to share his dream.
Comenius possessed a passionately optimistic view of the future. His optimism appears to have come from his understanding of the character and purposes of God. He writes: “Focus on Jesus Christ as the Coming One, the Lord of the Future, Christus Renovator.” He apparently lived in expectation of God’s promises and at least their partial fulfillment in human history. As Comenius saw it, education was the best way out of the Thirty Years War. Comenius lived in a time when war was tearing apart the political, religious, and social fabric of Europe. His view of the world and apparently his work as an educational reformer was informed by his faith in God’s plan. He writes,
Jesus Christ is Lord. He is not only the Savior of souls and the teacher of wisdom, but the king of the Church and of the world. He will reign! What really matters, then, is to live in conformity with his coming kingdom and in this light to shape the alienated world, first within the Church, and then also in society.
Comenius’ dream was that “all men would participate in a universal civilization.” Out of his biblical view of the world, he pioneered an educational system that promised that all people could acquire the knowledge that led to understanding and peace. He called it “Pansophism”, an integrative and holistic system embracing all knowledge. If he indeed intended this system to make a positive contribution to world missions, further examination of his major published works will reflect that intent.
His major work, Labyrinth of the World and the Palace of the Heart, was written in 1623, his first year in hiding. The Labyrinth describes the “wanderings, bewilderments, errors, vanities, and miseries of all of every age and sex, in all circumstances and conditions.” It is a devotional classic written in the Czech language in which he describes “the journey of a pilgrim through the marketplace of seventeenth-century Europe.” Comenius identified with the “pilgrim” who he portrays as “an outsider, a voluntary exile, searching for a spiritual home,” and “a wandering scholar who worked in seven countries and was doggedly pursued by war and personal misfortune.”
By examining this personal disclosure, we can learn something of the difficult personal journey and profound calling of Comenius:
I came to the decision that I should first look into all human affairs under the sun and then only, having wisely compared one with another, choose a vocation and arrange for myself the things necessary for leading a peaceful life in the world. A pilgrim who wishes to visit the world in order to choose his vocation views all the ranks and occupations of mankind, and finds shams and confusion reigning everywhere, he withdraws from the world into his inner self and, as a true Christian finds solace in converse with Jesus Christ. Jesus reveals to him a society constituted by his true disciples whose lives are governed by the precept of disinterested love for one’s fellow man.
The Labyrinth reveals how Comenius saw the turbulent social system of his day and the way that God called him to love his fellow men, bringing reformation to more than the Church. Comenius took on huge projects such as his Didactica Magna or The Art of Teaching All Things to Everybody. Apparently this is a change from his earlier work. His concern was no longer only with teaching children; his vision was broadened with concern for all human beings.
Comenius was a theologian of hope, hope for a new generation. He believed a new order of society could be established, but with special devotion to Jesus Christ. He writes of the need to prepare “for generations of those and future times, a simple system of training . . . to qualify youth for the discharge of the important duties of life and fit them for their highest, their eternal calling.” He set out “to accomplish the means of disenthralling the world from the meshes of false principles in the affairs of religion and state,” and to compile “suitable educational works.”
Through the “means” of education, Comenius devoted his life to bringing peace to the church, the state, and ultimately in the world. He stood out among the Reformers as a true peacemaker. “In his day, we hardly find any theological thinker who was as energetically involved for the unity and harmony of Christians as he.” His hope was for the unity of all Christians. However, it was not limited to the Church alone; he hoped for “the integration of all civilization under the leadership of religion.” He wished to unite the warring Christian factions, “whose strife was wreaking an unprecedented havoc upon Europe of the Thirty Years War period.”
His passionate concerns were for the souls of all humankind, his own devastated country, and his fellow expatriates from the Unity of the Brethren. All of these things “completely engrossed his soul.” However, disappointment and failure seemed to stalk him. His greatest discouragement came in 1648 when he felt deeply betrayed by the Swedish Chancellor who failed to support the Unity of Brethren’s case in the Peace of Westphalia, a treaty that completely altered the socio-political framework of nations. No provision was made for the Protestants in Bohemia or Moravia. If they returned, they would live under the rule of the Hapsburgs with no permission to practice their Protestant faith. Rather than accept failure, the indomitable Comenius decided to work for the unity of the universal Church.
Comenius was an “apostle of reconciliation who dreamed a better future that could be built only by better men.” While war and destruction were brought through the unbridled powers of the State or the institutional Church, he argued “the only constructive task capable of really changing the world [is] molding better men by educating and inspiring them to strive after more humane ideals.” “Comenius’ inspiring motive was that of all leading educationalists, social regeneration,” writes the historian Laurie. But society, as the secularists see it, was not all he intended to reform. In his final work published in 1668, Comenius writes of his hope for “a utopian church to unite all religions in Christian love through education.” His view of the goal of schooling was “to mold students into the image of Christ.” For Comenius, Christian character, not just absorption of facts, was the goal. Comenius was an early pioneer for ecumenism, but not at any cost. He disagreed with Michael Servetus’ idea that unity could be achieved even with the Turks, if we sacrificed the Trinitarian dogma. He believed unity must be sought, but not at the cost of the truth.
Vision for Education
Comenius wrote a tract, entitled The Way of Light, with the purpose of bringing about a “national disquisition as to the manner in which wisdom, the intellectual laws of minds, may now at length towards the evening of the world be felicitously diffused through all minds in all nations.” The university is important as a teaching institution, but what is essential, Comenius writes, is “learned men in all parts of the world devoted to the advancement of God’s glory.” It is in his unique vision for the university that Comenius stands out as a true pioneer and apostolic leader in Church history. Not only did he call for universal education, Comenius had vision for his pansophic encyclopaedic college to “be found in every kingdom or large province.” His plan was for an international university that would have the same curriculum for training young men and women to embrace all knowledge, scientific and biblical, and teach all peoples of all nations the truth. His hope was that this universal education scheme would bring an end to all war and discord. His pansophic vision was to begin in Christian nations “and go from there to the Muslims, Pagan, and finally the Jews.”
Comenius understood that “neither one man nor one generation is sufficient for this great task.” To accomplish this vision, he needed a place to start. Despite the failure to raise the needed funds, his Reformation of Schools tract outlining his pansophic college vision was distributed and read throughout Europe. “It was the pansophic proposal which aroused such an enthusiastic interest in England that in 1641 he was called to that country by an influential group of churchmen and the nobility.” The English friends who invited him to England had in mind to present him “a plan for the propagation of the gospel among the heathen.” Parliament actually considered assigning the “Chelsea College, near London, as a suitable place for the Pansophic College with which the Comenian scheme was to be inaugurated.” Once again, Comenius faced disappointment and failure when the Irish Rebellion of 1641 put the plans for his pansophic college in England to an end. Parliament was permanently distracted from the Chelsea College project.
The fame of Comenius reached distant America. According to Cotton Mather, in his Magnalia Christi Americana, Comenius received an invitation to emigrate to puritan New England, possibly with a view to becoming president of the newly founded Harvard College. Mather writes:
“That brave old man, Johannes Amos Commenius [sic], the fame of whose worth has been trumpeted [sic] as far as more than three languages could carry it, was indeed agreed withal, by one Mr. Winthrop in his travels through the LOW COUNTRIES, to come over to New England, and illuminate their Colledge [sic] and country, in the quality of a President, which was now become vacant. But the solicitations of the Swedish Ambassador diverting him another way, that incomparable Moravian became not an American.”
SO THEN, WHO WAS COMENIUS?
Comenius has been remembered for the reforms that began the modern secular field of education. During his life span, his books earned him a reputation through much of Europe. He was invited first to England, and then to Sweden and Hungary to reform school systems. Comenius completed the reformation of the Swedish schools in 1648. His book, Orbis Sensualium Pictus, 1658, the first illustrated textbook, was used for 200 years. Czechoslovakia, which passed into history in 1992, celebrated the four hundredth anniversary of the birth of Comenius throughout that year. Recognition of Comenius was given in seventy other lands as well. The influence and fame of Comenius is reflected in a 2002 poll that shows over 27 percent of the Czech people consider him the most famous Czech in history. University projects, societies, and centers of language study have developed in honor of Comenius as his work has been interpreted in recent generations.
It is evident that John Amos Comenius was a pioneer in the task of world missions. With apostolic zeal, he worked toward international peace through universal education. Comenius may be remembered as an educational innovator, but he lived his life intentionally working to advance the cause of Christ and world mission. His vision was more than proud human optimism. Comenius dreamed of the equality of human races and an all-embracing community. However, he was far too experienced and too familiar with the forces that destroy and divide humanity to conclude that he was just a pious dreamer hoping for a pure utopia. His own words and his work exemplify a life responsive to Christ’s Great Commission, “Go ye therefore and teach all nations” (Mt. 28:19 KJV). His apostolic passion is revealed in this paraphrase of the Lord’s Prayer in The Way of Light:
“Through the whole of Europe, of Asia, of Africa, of America, through the Magellanes [the southern parts of the present-day Chile and Argentina], and through all the islands of the sea, may thy kingdom come, may Thy will be done!… raise up men to write Thy purpose in books, but books such as Thou Thyself mayest write in the hearts of men. Make schools to be opened in all parts of the world to nurse Thy children! And do Thou raise up Thine own school in the hearts of all men in the whole world that they may ally themselves together for Thy praise.”
[From a paper I wrote in June 2004 as part of my studies at Fuller Seminary.]
© Copyright 2008 John Henry. All rights reserved.
Paul writes to his friends at Corinth:
“I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.” (2 Cor. 11:26-27)
Why was Paul going through so much trouble? Because he lived his life preaching the good news of the kingdom of God.
Sometimes when I read of all Paul’s troubles, I find myself identifying a little bit with his story.
My family and I have been on the move too. As missionaries with Youth With A Mission, we went to Asia during the months of September and October to help with the outreach phase of our Discipleship Training School, YWAM’s introductory training course.
Are we missionaries to China? No. It’s not one people group or nation that God has called us to. We’ve got a global calling.
We’ve spent sleepless nights in countless airports and transcontinental flights. We’ve endured Montazuma’s revenge in Mexico, a Military highjack of our bus in Guatemala. We’ve gone without as faith missionaries, taking no salary for 25 years. We had $25 to our names the day our first son was born. And three weeks after our second son was born, a Hurricane left us homeless and deeply in debt.
We’ve faced dangers too. A Virginia river flooded taking out 25 bridges and stranded us and our outreach teams which were heading to Albania, Brazil, and Ghana. We’ve endured blowouts and breakdowns on highways across the USA. We’ve worked in war torn villages in El Salvador, taken treacherous white knuckle bus rides to work among the Quechua people in the Andes Mountains of Peru, the Rabinal Ache people in the mountains of Guatemala, and the Maasai People in the Savannahs of Kenya.
I’ve been stranded and up all night talking to people about Jesus in train stations in Vienna and with gang leaders in New York. My family took a 53 hour train ride from Beijing to Nanning where we held babies in an orphanage in China. I’ve had doors slammed in my face, slept on a flooded basement floor, in tents in the Mexican heat, and in houses filled with every kind of animal across the USA. I’ve preached outside the Justice Department and the White House in Washington, D.C. and in poor communities all over Central America and the islands of the Caribbean.
About 24 years ago, I walked through the streets with a blow-horn announcing a revival meeting and slept in a trailer in a vacant lot guarding sound equipment in South Philadelphia.
I’ve bunked in a thatch roof hut in the bush-bush of Africa, with no electricity and no water, except by generator for one hour a day. I’ve prayed until my throat was raw in campus meetings around the world, preached until my voice was gone, and had sleepless nights talking and listening to Christian moms and dads about their kids, and with university students who argue about God’s existence. Why would we go through all this trouble?
What good has come from all this?
Today the fruit of our ministry is spreading around the globe. For example, the first outreach team I led planted a church at seventeen thousand feet in the Andes Mountains of Peru. We’ve started businesses, established HIV/AIDS counseling clinics, medical clinics and pharmacies, water pumps, and schools in slum communities in the Belize, Brazil, Philippines, Mexico, India, East Timor, Guatemala, and Kenya. We’ve equipped and deployed hundreds of students to follow God’s call and watched some of them become doctors in remote places like Kazakhstan and Viet Nam. When we were not already busy abroad, we helped church congregations in the USA become more missional.
Since 1986, we have sent 75 Student Internship Teams from nine nations and over 100 universities. All these students have served long-term projects that minister to the poor and needy in 34 countries. Our interns want to be spiritually equipped to respond to God’s calling to engage issues of global human need, such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, clean water, and children at risk.
SMC also trains YWAM leaders for university ministries around the world. We started the School of University Ministries & Missions (SUMM) in Delhi, India in 2004 with twenty-four YWAM participants from nine nations. Since then, the 12-week course has run in Thailand, Korea, the USA, and three additional times in India. To date, we have trained over one hundred campus ministry staff now working in 32 countries. Our next SMC course will take place in Cartagena, COLOMBIA in January next year with a focus on 20 Latin American nations.
Why do we work with College Students? Because today’s college student is tomorrow’s leader. My passion is to train world-changers who will proclaim the kingdom of God in every nation and in every field, every sphere of society. Why should we be so concerned about filling the earth with leaders who serve Jesus, the king of kings? Because the Bible says, “The whole earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord like the waters cover the sea.”
Why go through all this effort? Because our task is to represent Jesus as messengers of the kingdom of God.
What is the message we are called to carry to the ends of the earth? What is this kingdom of God? The best place to get understanding about the kingdom of God is to look at some of the parables Jesus taught.
Jesus said his primary purpose was this: “I came to proclaim the kingdom of God.” He said: “The time is now, the kingdom of God is near.”
WHEN YOU HEAR THE WORD “KINGDOM”, WHAT DO YOU THINK OF?
Do you think of Kings, Princes, Princesses, Armies, Power, Thrones, Palaces?
Jesus taught parables about the kingdom of God because people had the wrong idea about what happens when God rules! He was trying to change the expectations of the people. What was their expectation?
While the people listened to Jesus, they “thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once.” (Luke 19:11) The people had an expectation that Jesus was going to overthrow the Roman Empire. SOON! or Sooner!
The Jewish people thought the kingdom of God was all about a revolution. Kicking Roman butt! A great deliverance! A King that would deliver the Israelites from their Roman oppressors!
Many of us think this way when it’s time to elect a President of the United States. We put our hope in a person. People naturally look to a leader to make their world a better place, but that was NOT what Jesus was talking about when he preached the Kingdom of God.
When he taught the kingdom, he knew the people had the wrong idea. His parables were simple stories that could only be understood by those who were humble and hungry.
A parable does not fully explain what something is like. Like trying to describe a song or a painting, a parable is a story with words that are laid alongside the thing you want to describe. The parable can’t fully explain, but it can give a hint. Or it can be a story that describes exactly what the kingdom of God is NOT.
Look at this parable from Matthew 22:
“Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ But they made light of it and went away, one to his field, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests. “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”
So, are you excited about THIS kingdom?
I think this parable is very misunderstood. What kind of king is Jesus describing? It should be obvious that the king in this parable is NOT “like” God.
In this parable, Jesus did not say, “The kingdom of God is LIKE”, but rather “the kingdom of God is compared to” or more literally, “is made to look like”.
God is not a tyrant, or a narcissistic sociopath, who kills people that do not come to his party. In this parable, the king calls everyone and anyone to come to his party at the last minute. That sounds fine, but then this king binds and drags one person to outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, just because he doesn’t look right to him. It’s no wonder the man without a wedding robe was speechless.
Some people read, “many are called, few are chosen” and think God probably doesn’t love them. In fact, I know someone who believes they are NOT chosen. Because of this parable, people wrongly think God is an angry unjust judge. But that is not what Jesus was saying!
And most of us know that where God is king, it’s NOTHING like the kingdom in that parable. Instead this parable describes what happens when the people demand a king, when they turn to a human leader. In fact, the original Greek in verse 2 literally translated reads like this: “The kingdom of heaven has been made into one in which a human king gave a wedding banquet for his son.”
The people wanted Jesus to be the king of Israel, a king who would deliver them from all their enemies and make the world a better place. They wanted to take him by force to make him their king. But Jesus was teaching what the kingdom of God is NOT like. It’s NOT a human kingdom… okay?
I think we can all agree that the Israelites had the wrong idea about the kingdom of God, but many Christians today still think the wrong thing about the kingdom of God. Too many Christians think we will only experience the kingdom of God when the end comes, after Jesus returns to earth to establish his kingdom reign.
But Jesus says, “No.” It’s not an overthrow of the Roman Empire or any country’s government. It’s not the setting up of a human king, or prime minister, or president. AND it’s NOT a heavenly kingdom that we need to wait for until he returns.
So then, what was Jesus talking about?
Read this next parable, the one Jesus told his disciples was the most important parable: Luke 13:1
That day Jesus went out of the house and was sitting by the sea. And large crowds gathered to Him, so He got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd was standing on the beach. And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying, “Behold, the sower went out to sow; and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. “Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. “But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. “Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. “And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. “He who has ears, let him hear.”
Doesn’t sound too exciting, does it? It sound boring. Like farming? What?
WHEN YOU HEAR THE WORD “SEED”, WHAT DO YOU THINK OF?
Tractors, Fields, Soil, Plants, Crops, Workers…Work! Eventually, we think of work to be done in a garden or a field.
Jesus goes on to teach another parable of the kingdom and it’s about the workers. See Matt. 20:
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner (FARMER) who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard (FARM). After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
This parable seems to point at two different responses related to WORK and PAY. One response is jealousy, envy, and inequality (the First Workers), and the Second response is grace and gratitude for generosity. Both responses have work and workers, but they are very different.
My story? I have learned a few things about work. lived in Wisconsin where there is a lot of snow, so in 5th grade I began knocking on neighbor’s doors to ask if I can shovel their walks and driveways so I could make some money. I also raked leaves and then in 7th grade, I bought a lawnmower to cut neighbor lawns. I had a morning paper delivery route in 6th grade through 8th grade. I delivered papers during the cold winters in Wisconsin and one hot summer in Hollywood, CA.
In 7th and 8th grades I sold cokes at football and basketball games at the University of Wisconsin. The summer after 7th and 8th grades, I worked as a caddy at a golf course. I had to wake up at four in the morning to go wait on the caddy’s bench to get hired each morning.
As a young adult, I had a bunch of jobs too. As I worked my way through college, I worked as a dishwasher, a cook, an electrician’s laborer, a landscaper, a sewer pipe layer, a waiter, a clerk in a liquor store, a door-to-door salesman, car salesman, and a security guard. I even worked as a sub-contractor in a steel mill cleaning soot off the beams six stories over the Old Hearth Furnace. After I graduated college, I took a job as an accountant with a major accounting firm and I hated it. Then I took a job as an executive with the Boy Scouts of America, where I worked for three years.
When I was 27 years old, I resigned from the Scouts. My home church prayed over me and sent me out to preach the kingdom of God. For the past 25 years, I’ve not worked for money. I’ve worked as a faith missionary and God is the one who supplies my family’s needs. This kind of lifestyle does not happen without at least some understanding of the kingdom of God.
So what IS the kingdom of God like? It is like working in a field, sowing seeds…
Jesus sums up his kingdom parables saying…
Mt 13:31 “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed.”
Like a seed, the kingdom starts small, gets buried in a field, in the dark earth, it dies, quietly without excitement, with nothing visible. Only faith and hope remain. And then, without any control by the worker who sows the seed, it grows like a plant really big…
Jesus again sums up the kingdom with this parable…
Mt 13:44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”
This parable highlights the value, and the joy of the kingdom. It’s like a treasure, hidden in an open field, not a forest, not a jungle. It’s hidden in plain sight, in a field. And to get the treasure, you gotta buy the whole field? Why?
Why do you have to buy the whole field before you get the treasure of the kingdom of God? Perhaps it is because the field and the treasure are connected? Could it be compared to water buried deep below desert land? If you want the water, you have to buy the land. You can’t have the water without buying the land.
Let’s recap what Jesus is teaching us so far:
• We must remember. The kingdom of God is not a human kingdom. It’s not better when human beings try to control everything. The kingdom of God is the place where God rules!
• We must remember that the kingdom of God is not a kingdom that will only arrive when Jesus returns. It’s near, now.
• Jesus will return and he is the king, but he has taught us that his kingdom is like a seed sown into a field.
It’s a treasure in a field, waiting for you to buy it right now. But where is this field?
Many very intelligent people have searched the scriptures and researched the holy land and thought about this question for 2000 years. Where is the field?
Jesus already answered this question:
LUKE 17:20-21 Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.”
Your heart is the field and the seed is the word of God. The kingdom of God is near you when God rules your heart.
But not everyone allows God to rule their hearts. Jesus taught about that too. He said:
Mt 6:23 But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
Lu 11:35 See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness.
It’s your choice. You can live in the kingdom of darkness, where there is jealousy and envy, or with hunger and humility, you can enter the kingdom of God, where there is grace and gratitude for God’s generosity.
Jesus’ brother James writes:
James 4:1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?
The message of the kingdom is not a one-time confession of faith, like a contract that God must fulfill to save your soul. Instead, the kingdom of God is near you, in your mouth and in your heart. Your heart has two spaces in it: one space for a cross and one space for a throne. You and Jesus take up those two spaces. Which space should you take and which space will you allow Jesus, the king of the universe to fill. If you remain on the throne, he must remain on the cross. If you come down from the throne, and surrender your life to him, then Jesus can take his rightful place as the king of your heart. That leaves only one place for you, the cross. In order for Jesus to reign in our hearts, his kingdom, we must live a life of full surrender.
When you do, you will find yourself like Paul, willing to go to the ends of the earth to proclaim the kingdom of God. You will be willing to “be constantly on the move, be in danger from rivers, from bandits, from my own countrymen, from Gentiles; in the city, in the country, at sea; and from false brothers. You will be willing to labor and toil and go without sleep. You may know hunger and thirst and go without food, but you will know the love and generosity of king Jesus.”
Today we celebrate the American holiday, Thanksgiving. Typically our house fills up on Thanksgiving as we host students from far away lands and friends with no immediate family nearby. One year we had 25 people at our elongated dining room table(s). It’s a lot of work, but we count it pure joy, especially when international students experience a bit of our family life, a home away from home, and learn of our national tradition of giving thanks to God for his goodness and mercy.
These past two years we have traveled long distances to gather with family we have not seen for some time. Last year it was Texas; this year, Pennsylvania. It’s another American Thanksgiving tradition. We traverse the congested interstate highways to gather with family, hug, laugh, listen to stories, catch up on all the events of the year, and we eat. We feast with lots of good food. Family joy!
I typically wake early to put the turkey in the oven. This year, with no cooking chores, I woke early anyway. I slept on the sofa at my brother Rob’s place. Not yet fully awake I decided to begin this Thanksgiving by literally giving thanks.
I’m thankful for everything. Family, friends, health, home, every breath I take. I’m thankful for the gift of an active mind. I’m thankful for the example of men and women who have taught me how to live. I’m thankful for the example of Christians with minds wide awake.
It was November 24, 1654 Blaise Pascal, a French mathematician, physicist, inventor, and Christian writer was converted to Christ. I’m thankful for Pascal’s life and example, his passion, and his mind.
Though raised with a general acceptance of the Bible, Pascal had no genuine faith in God. Following the Augustinian tradition, Pascal developed an acute sense of guilt for sin. He once wrote: “If one does not know himself to be full of pride, ambition, concupiscence, weakness, pettiness, injustice, one is very blind. And if, knowing this, a man does not desire to be delivered, what can one say to him?”
After Pascal was nearly killed on the road by an accident with his horses, he experienced a profound Christian conversion. According to his diaries, light flooded his room. He experienced the presence of Jesus, and he became impassioned for the Word of God.
I first read about Blaise Pascal in Os Guinness’ book The Call. Apparently, after this intense conversion experience, Pascal carried around a piece of parchment sewn into his coat with these words:
“God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, not of the philosophers and scholars…Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy…’This is life eternal that they might know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.’ Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ…May I not fall from him forever…I will not forget your word. Amen.”
I’m thankful for Pascal’s example. I’m thankful that such a brilliant scientist was not ashamed to reorient his life toward God. I’m thankful that I too experience the presence of Jesus in my life.
Pope Innocent 12th, 1243 AD said, “Universities are rivers of knowledge that feed and fertilize the universal church.” The attitude of the church toward universities, including the UW – Madison, was at one time positive. “We do not want to repeat the errors that have come from not revisiting the theological and biblical underpinnings of our mission.” (Taylor 2001:7) The mission for the Church in Madison is to make disciples of all nations, including the powerful institution of the university.
“The way of the Christian leader,” Henri Nouwen writes, “is not the way of upward mobility in which our world has invested so much, but the way of downward mobility ending on the cross.” (Taylor 2001:9) The challenge of the cross today, is to enter the halls of the universities as reformers. Luther, a professor in a university, never intended to be a reformer. Christian professors at the UW may be unwilling, however these professors may be called to be the leaders in a reformation that is as significant for the university as Luther’s was for the church.
Prophetic engagement with the university is underway through various agencies, such as New College in Madison led by Vern Visick. The challenge is to allow that prophet call to stimulate apostolic response. The apostolic call to the Church in Madison is to engage global issues. With effective church partnership, for example, a challenge could go out to the Church in Madison in response to the global HIV/AIDS crisis: “If you adopt an HIV/AIDS orphan (of which there are over 10 million today), the church in Madison will sponsor that child’s education.” “If the Church of Jesus Christ rises to the challenge of HIV/AIDS it will be the greatest apologetic the world has ever seen,” writes Ravi Zacharias. The Church in Madison’s acceptance of a new apostolic call to engage the university with its influential role in the world, it will present a powerful apologetic of the love of God and the love of our global neighbor.
Why is it sixty-two percent of the churches in Madison, including ten congregations with one thousand or more weekly attenders, identified no missionaries serving on mission fields? (Jericho 1997:7) Perhaps the lack of significant cross-cultural engagement is the result of an insufficient biblical model of the church. Perhaps the weakness of the “modern” church is the preoccupation with growth and size as a measure of success. Many say that “bigger is better”, but this has no biblical foundation.
The church is a complex system, “a living organism.” The church is called to bear fruit. Jesus taught us the “mustard seed” principle, which like complexity theory “illuminates the long-range significance of small actions.” When individual decision is made the foundation of church identity, the fruit that is borne is a culture of individualism. Individual choice and personal need becomes ultimate, rather than the unswerving purpose of God to share his mercy with every person in every culture. To begin to overcome this culture of individualism, one must first deny self and then lead a community of believers to do the same. Only then will the church fulfill her mission.
With no epistemological base on which to build, the secularist in Madison grasps for a utopian future in which tolerance is the ideal. This ideal, however, is inconsistently applied to those with fundamental Christian beliefs.
Since September 11, 2001, the UW has created opportunities for dialog with the world of Islam. The vision and history of Mohammed contains the implication of violent Islamic expansionism; non-Moslem territories are Dar Ul-Harb, or the “Sea of War.” From the Maghreb to Pakistan, the jihad, properly translated as “struggle,” for a new world order is underway. How should the Church in Madison respond? Several families in Madison, some of whom are Christians, befriend and/or host Muslim students who come to the UW or seek to learn English at the Wesli school. Christian mission has always been the expression of the gospel across cultural barriers, including hospitality to strangers. The opportunity for such gospel witness in Madison is significant, since over 4000 international students attend the UW.
The secularized Madisonian may fail to recognize the conflict within a pluralist culture is more than modern, economic, political, or ideological. William Taylor writes, “We cannot seek harmony by revitalizing the truth claims of religions. We (must) commit to be agents of reconciliation.” As agents of reconciliation, we must see that we are in the midst of a spiritual war with amazing biblical promise:
“In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria (modern day Iraq). The Assyrians will go to Egypt and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth. The LORD Almighty will bless them, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance.” (Isa. 19:23)
Rather than react to the forces of secularism and pluralism, the Church in Madison has opportunity to proactively respond by loving our neighbors in the public arena of the university community.
The Madison Senior Pastor Survey conducted in 1996, found eighty-four percent of the congregations placed “some” or “a lot” of emphasis on meeting the needs of the poor. (1996:7) Madison area Christians may disagree, however it is obvious that their standard of living has gradually increased so much that they are blind to the influence of materialism. Living in the comforts of Madison, it is difficult to see the effects of materialism. Until we are shocked into awareness by a trip to a country, and not to the confines of a typical tourist hotel, where the annual income is less than an American child’s allowance. Those who earn more than ten thousand dollars per year share the top ten percent of the world’s wealth. (Barret 2001)
Michael Budde writes, the “Protestant ethic is dysfunctional in the consumption-driven postmodern era.” Budde adds that the apostle Paul’s admonition has been turned on its head in our materialist economy; it “dictates that if people will not eat (and drink, and buy compact discs, the latest in fashions, and home appliances) in sufficient volume, then no one will work.” If the Church in Madison does not allow herself to be shocked out of her slumber, she will fail to be effective confronting the desperate human needs of the world.
The good news is that technology has opened new vistas of communication and broken down centuries old barriers to the gospel. “The Information Age is boundary blind,” William O’Brien writes in his article “Mission in the Valley of Postmodernity” (from the book ‘In Global Good News: Mission in a New Context’). O’Brien adds, “There are no unique continental or regional areas identified exclusively as ‘mission fields’.” Easy access to people of every nation and culture is suddenly made available through the world wide web.
This access provides opportunity for the flow of up to the minute information for prayer, generous giving, and a deepened understanding of the plight of peoples around the world. However, as desperate needs cascade across our computer screens, there may not yet be sufficient spiritual equipping for the Church in Madison to respond appropriately.