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It has been too long since I posted here. Please forgive this long absence. I will be sharing several brief posts over the next several days to, hopefully, make up for my absence.
Recently I attended a YWAM North American Cities Conference in the beautiful French Canadian city of Montreal. My friend and colleague in the University of the Nations leadership team, Jeff Fountain, was the keynote speaker. I gave a couple workshops on Missional Collaboration, which were surprisingly well attended.
That YWAM leadership team and the community of city missionaries I have had the privilege to engage with on several occasions continues to inspire me. This expression of YWAM is doing deep theological reflection as a matter of daily living in their respective city ministries. This network of ministries teams in North America is doing more theologically because they are concerned with more than the “seed”, the Word of God; they are also concerned with the “soil”, the context in which they are ministering. Typically, missionaries will reflect deeply on their context, the people and the cultures represented in the place where they are ministering. But far too rarely do ministers in the North American context reflect with true missionary intent on the theology of place.
Our Student Mobilization Centre team plans to follow their lead in a couple ways.
- First, we plan to have several of our class lecture times for our mobile School of University Ministries & Missions (SUMM) in a dozen cities in N. America in coffee houses and student lounge areas.
- Second, rather than fly speakers to us, we’re going to the lecturers, campus ministry leaders, in their context. We’re inviting them to exegete their university community.
We’re starting the first week of the SUMM at the URBANA Student Mission Convention (Dec. 27-31, 2012), where all participants will also be representing YWAM Int’l at our exhibit booth. We’re partnering with YWAM Emerge, traveling with their band, doing mobilization events in cities in the Midwest and Northeast USA. So all SUMM participants will also be recruiting on this mobile mobilization school.
We welcome you to participate with us according to your ability or calling:
- YWAM: If your YWAM ministry team needs a recruiting boost, and you are praying about engaging the colleges/universities in your city, this mobile SUMM may be just right for you or a member of your team. Go here for details and application.
- Ministry/Project Leaders: If you could use interns at your ministry location, the mobile SUMM will be recruiting students for internship around the world. Go here for details and an online application.
- Student Group: If you are with a student ministry or church interested in having us do a missions mobilization and/or prayer event with live band and an awesome challenge to respond to the Call of God and you are in Madison, WI, Minneapolis, MN, East Lansing or Ann Arbor, MI, Boston, MA, New Haven, CT, Williamstown, MA, Charlotte, NC, Pittsburgh, PA, or anywhere near those major cities, contact us. We would love to invite you to an event.
UofN Student Mobilization Centre
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.
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.”
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!
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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.
How do people react to individualism, environmentalism, and poverty in Madison? These forces may be at the same time subtle and powerful. Globalization is having a paradoxical effect, connecting people and resources through technology and isolating people in reaction to the enormity of global needs. “As the [global] demand for water continues to increase, there is greater pressure placed on an already shrinking water supply,” says Joel Pedersen, a UW-Madison environmental chemist. “More people are considering the reuse of water.” While most expect individual freedoms to continue, others are sounding the alarm to warn us that individualism in Western culture is a major contributor to global problems. In Madison, research on water resources, HIV/AIDS, and global poverty is churning in the laboratories of the University of Wisconsin. How should today’s Jesus follower respond? Followers of Christ believe in community, but most have so aligned with the culture of individualism that they take little notice of urgent global human needs. Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Perhaps, like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, evangelical believers in the 21st century should ask “Who is my neighbor?”
Secularism and pluralism present a problem for the notion of progress. The Wisconsin State motto is “Forward,” calling all subjects of the state toward progress, including the university. But how can a society move forward without acknowledging its own history and knowing the core beliefs that produced it. If the core of belief is supplanted by the state itself, it will soon fail to produce the “good” it purports to do. In his book, “The Spiritual Situation in Our Technical Society”, Paul Tillich writes “education without a determining center is impossible. The nation became the ideological center that demanded absolute devotion, though itself was above criticism.” (Tillich 1988:17)
Once the state became the central defining institution, all religious influence was sequestered into the private arena, hidden behind stained glass windows. Os Guinness writes, “Secularization is the process by which religious ideas, institutions, and interpretations have lost their social significance.” How shall Jesus followers in Madison respond? Do they stir up their confidence in Jesus’ victory by redoubling their spiritual exercises, attending to religious duties, and gathering in religious settings? Or should they instead return to the God of their fathers who interpreted the words of the Lord for a public arena?
In that public arena, we no longer find the predominant values of a society informed by Biblical principle. Madison is home to many religious groups with very different values. Pluralism is what exists when there are “a competing number of worldviews available to its members, but no worldview is dominant.”
With no roots or absolutes, people in Madison represent “all religions and no religion;” they are “seeking for a sense of roots, an affirmation that there is something bigger than the existence we know-something of ultimate value.” In his book, “The Soul of The American University,” which traces the history of the secularization of American universities, George Marsden calls for academics of religious faith, including those in Madison, to re-think the connections between their faith and their scholarly endeavors.
Madison is progressive, leaning forward into a vision of the future with little reference to Biblical values. Without that Biblical reference and religious values, what should we expect to be the result of that progressive vision?
Marsden’s challenge is to re-think, and re-interpret a progressive vision of the future by reviewing the vision of those who have gone before us.
We all want to change the world. Perhaps I’m just too old AND too young, but I’ve always disliked the word “revolution.” I was born in ’58, just old enough to really dislike the impact of the 60′s Revolution. That period was probably really from ’68 to ’74.
I can’t say for sure if it was due to the radical ideas of the ’60s, but it was during that time my family ripped apart with divorce. I lived in Madison, Wisconsin then. I witnessed the student riots (another excuse to skip class?) and the bombing of Sterling Hall (killing an innocent person). I saw the “peace” marchers turn violent. What do you think? Did those Sixties radicals, the ones who wanted to change the world for the better, have any core beliefs? Where are they now? Some are journalists, some in government, and some are teaching the next generation of university students. We’re hearing those voices more and more.
The word revolution has made a comeback in recent years. Today’s students, many of them, are wanting to change the world again. That’s good. We all want to change the world. But why are Christians using the word revolution? I’m all for social justice as part of God’s mission to the world, but I’ve felt a huge disconnect with those who call for revolution today, those who march, sign petitions, and claim by doing so they can end poverty. The way Jesus taught his disciples to turn the world upside down was by dying to self with open-handed surrender. Perhaps, if we are going to use the word “revolution,” we should be clear in our definition. We should not promote the closed fist posture, demanding of rights, with marches on Washington.
The dictionary definition of “revolution” includes “forcible overthrow of government,” “class struggle,” and “political change through uprising.” If instead, today’s revolutionaries could re-interpret the word to mean reorientation, making Jesus the center of our reality, both spiritual and physical reality, then I could join in the call for a revolution. I want to see every person, every family, community, people group, and nation find their hope in Jesus. Some argue that Jesus is too exclusive, that Christians are too narrow in their beliefs. My reply is that Jesus is the most inclusive personality in the universe. Christians are not exclusive, their particular; they want everyone to meet the One who created everything and everyone with good intention.
What the Church often gets wrong, I think, is that they set up a “missions department,” as if the Church were the center of all things. This posture communicates to church-goers and the surrounding world that the task of reaching every person for Christ is just one of the many things the Church must do, a line item in their budget, a committee, something to remember at the annual missions conference.
Reformation, not revolution, is needed. I propose a different attitude and posture for the Church. The Church does not have a mission. God has a mission. The Church must once again apprehend the Misseo Dei, that God is on a mission. We should reorient the Church to join Christ’s mission. The Church is not the center, Jesus is the center. God has a mission and his mission has a Church. Now that is a revolutionary idea!
This question, “Can we transform the world through students?” calls for serious reflection regarding this generation, historical examples, biblical precedent, and issues of leadership credibility.The following reflection is an exercise I have undergone to refocus my own efforts and the ministries of Youth With A Mission’s Student Mobilization Centre.
First, we must ask, “What problem? What needs transformation?”
I believe the Glory of God is revealed as Jesus’ followers portray the truth of the gospel both by proclamation and by loving our global neighbor. The good news: There is a growing number of young people who are activated to help solve the world’s problems, poverty, HIV/AIDS, Malaria, etc. They want to serve among the poor and needy and make a difference. The problem: Those who desire to do something about global human need have little grounding in biblical truth; they either see little need or have insufficient understanding to proclaim the gospel.
Next, we must ask “What harm would be done if the problem isn’t solved?”
If this problem is not solved, a hopeful generation of emerging leaders may lose heart after facing the enormous global challenges without sufficient biblical christian worldview training. I see the urgent need to mobilize a new generation of student missions volunteers from every academic discipline who will learn to think biblically and who will preach and practice the gospel of the kingdom with relevance to the issues and needs of today.
Next, we need to consider the solution or solutions and why the solution(s) are desirable.
Why is it a good idea?
Jesus method of training was simply, “Come, follow me.” While classroom instruction has value, Jesus simply modeled his lifestyle and his followers experienced that life and learning while serving alongside him. Our solution for mobilization of today’s university students into short term mission projects complements the specialized training students are getting in universities. Our solution specifically engages the student’s worldview and motivation for service, providing a biblical framework, personal discipleship, and community involvement to help them relate personally with Jesus while they serve. The distinctive of our summer projects for students is the integration of the theoretical with the practical, the sacred with the secular, studies with service, the local with the global, and the personal with the corporate calling to make disciples of all nations.Students come to grasp the height, width, depth and breadth of God’s love for a needy world as they portray his kingdom through loving relationships in community.
We must also ask “Why is solving this problem relevant?”
More specifically, “Is this problem and solution relevant to you and to your community? Your church? Your ministry? Your profession? Your family?”
Our student ministries are designed with partnership in mind. Our Centre partners with student groups, church groups, professionals, and field projects. I believe today’s Church must be both a sending and a receiving church, which means we must make our commitment to the developing world a more complete partnership between the sending and receiving communities. The Student Mobilization Centre invites new partners to participate in these community bridges of 21st century missions.
Finally, “Is our solution credible? Do we have some kind of track record of results?”
The Student Mobilization Centre facilitates practical opportunities for university students to integrate into working cross-cultural ministry situations related to their fields of study. Our Field Ministry Internships teams are short term learning-serving summer experiences for students and christian leaders. Students gain academic credit serving collaboratively with one of our many integrated development and church planting projects in the developing world. FMI students from over 100 colleges/universities in nine nations have participated on 75 teams in 34 countries since 1989.