Archive for March, 2006

A song in the jungle …

Friday, March 31st, 2006

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It was miserable with the heat, humidity, and incredible fatigue. We’d been walking through jungle since before dawn, attempting to do a 35 mile trek in one day. For some of the men, their legs had already given out and we had to hoist them onto the few mules we had used to carry supplies. Most of us were close to exhaustion.

I was 19 and was in the midst of a summer at Wycliffe’s jungle training program near the Mexico/Guatamala border. Teams from five university ministries, all with the Navigators, were participating.

It was tough. Yet God met me in an unusual way on that trail. He did it through (more…)

Clinton on Major Leadership Lessons

Wednesday, March 29th, 2006

Leaders

Bobby Clinton’s “Seven Major Leadership Lessons from Scripture” are a provocative summary of the biblical realities of leadership. Each is worth a book unto itself:
1. Effective leaders view present ministry in terms of a life-time perspective

2. Effective leaders maintain a learning posture throughout life

3. Effective leaders value spiritual authority as a primary power base

4. Effective leaders who are productive over a lifetime have a dynamic ministry philosophy

5. Effective leaders view leadership selection and development as a priority function in their ministry

6. Effective leaders see relational empowerment as both a means and a goal of ministry

7. Effective leaders evidence a growing awareness of their sense of destiny.

Clinton and Leadership

Tuesday, March 28th, 2006

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I met Bobby and Marilyn Clinton in 1979.

I was taking the first course that Fuller Seminary offered on Church Planting, taught by Peter Wagner, and Bobby was the teaching assistant. Having been on the mission field, he was now at Fuller and beginning his teaching career. We later connected in a course on Homogeneous Units and Church Growth where he also helped in the instruction.

When Bobby was added to the faculty in the early 80s, I had the privilege, along with a couple of others, to be part of a pilot group that Bobby pulled together to begin testing some of his “leadership emergence” concepts and resources and the next summer, enrolled in his “Implementing Change” course, the content of which I still use and refer to today. These were the first of many courses, both formal and non-formal, where I worked to get as much of Clinton as I could. I felt I had struck gold!

In 1985, Bobby assumed a seat on the CRM Board of Directors and over the next two decades, as a member of the board and with several stints as chair, he made an invaluable contribution to CRM as an apostolic movement. His influence was enormous. Over the years we have drawn deeply from his work, applying it personally as well as to our calling to empower leaders for the church around the world.

And throughout it all, Bobby and Marilyn have remained dear friends and mentors, one of those life-long relationships for which Patty and I are immensely grateful.

Bobby’s capacity for cranking out material is renowned. He is amazingly prolific in what he writes and creates. His reputation for being a leadership “guru” in the contemporary religious context is well deserved when one gets into his stuff and experiences the sagacity of his insights.

The best introduction to Clinton for many years has been The Making of a Leader (Navpress). While most of us had to learn a whole new vocabulary to wade through the book, Bobby thinks it’s actually too watered down and popularize to a fault. That perspective speaks volumes as to the depth and voluminous nature of his work.

Thanks Bobby! Your contribution to our personal lives, our ministry, and our contribution to God’s kingdom purposes around the world has been immeasurable. It is an honor to be considered a friend and a small part of your legacy.

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Language and Culture Acquisition

Sunday, March 26th, 2006

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The Institute for Strategic Languages and Cultures does the best job of any place I know to prepare people to work cross-culturally in Russian, Chinese and Arabic.

I know from firsthand experience. I studied Russian there myself. And I would strongly recommend ISLC for anyone headed to life and ministry among any of these three major language/cultural groups.

The way most of us have learned language in secondary or higher education is horrible. Not so for ISLC. Students are immersed in the language and the methodologies used are light years away from what is done in most universities. We find it gives learners a huge jump-start on life and survivability in the culture to which they are being sent.

And there is ongoing training available for those who need to improve their competencies in these languages. Summer programs (which I did) are excellent.

Spiritual Authority

Saturday, March 25th, 2006

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“Genuine authority realizes that it can exist only in the service of Him who alone has authority… The Church does not need brilliant personalities but faithful servants of Jesus and the brethren…” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Life Together

“Effective leaders value spiritual authority as a primary power base.” – J. Robert Clinton

In the study of leadership we know that leaders can lead from a variety of “power bases.” As the quote above states, the most optimal power base from which one in ministry should seek to lead is that of spiritual authority.

Clinton has written much on this, as have others. One of those that I particularly like is Mike Crow, serving with CRM in Asia, whose doctoral dissertation focused on spiritual authority specifically in an Asian context. (more…)

The Expulsive Power of a New Affection …part 2

Friday, March 24th, 2006

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Roberta Winter writes further regarding “the expulsive power of a new affection…”

“For Peter, fishing for mere fish lost its attraction…

The very proper young Wesley abandoned his high church connections for the field and mining camps because God’s hand was on him …

Carey, just a poor village cobbler, became history’s foremost missionary statesman …

Wilberforce poured his riches into legislation for the slaves …

And the list goes on….

I’ve often wondered, given the chance, what Christ would have done with the rich young ruler – the only one about whom it is written, ‘Jesus looked at him and loved him.’ But he ended up a rich unknown. Could he have become a Paul, a Luther, a Wesley?

But he was rich and ‘the attractions of this world and the delights of wealth, and the search for success and lure of nice things came in and crowded out God’s message from his heart, so that no crop was produced.’ (Mark 4:19)”


These are timely, poignant and convicting reminders.

Early in our ministry, Patty and I become friends with a young attorney and his wife. Through an array of ministry involvements, the husband had tasted some incredible results in the lives of people and was seriously considering whether God would have them change careers and pursue a role with CRM in vocational ministry. He was thoroughly infected with the ministry “bug.”

I vividly remember the evening in our living room when the discussion turned to the lifestyle cost of such a decision and the atmosphere became tense. (more…)

The Expulsive Power of a New Affection ….part 1

Thursday, March 23rd, 2006

In some old files, I came across an article written over a dozen years ago by Roberta Winter (of U.S. Center for World Mission fame) entitled The Non-Essentials of Life. In it, she outlines six principles regarding lifestyle that she and her husband Ralph lived by during their long and distinguished missionary careers:

Principle One: Our lifestyle must please the Lord, yet it should not in small matters be so shockingly different from those among whom we walk as to make unintelligible the message we wish to convey.

Principle Two: A simple lifestyle in the U.S. can still seem extravagant to most of the people in the world. Yet our geographic isolation does not reduce our obligation in God’s eyes to people at a distance.

Principle Three:
We don’t really need most of the things our culture would push off on us. Once we learn to resist social pressure, it is far easier to determine what we really want or need.

Principle Four:
There ought not be any connection between what is earned and what needs to be spent. You don’t buy things just because you have the money.

Principle Five: It is much easier to adopt a simple lifestyle if you join a support group (or be part of a community) that covenants together to live on less.

Principle Six: The foundation of the simple lifestyle is “the expulsive power of a new affection.”

The Emerging Church…Fish or Fowl?

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2006

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One of Ryan Bolger’s observations from the research that he and Eddie Gibbs did of emerging communities of faith, both in the UK and the US, is that many of these communities are morfing toward a contemporary form of monasticism. Some are increasingly taking on the form of orders.

As the emerging movement has picked up momentum from is beginnings in the UK in the 90s and after 2000 in North America, it faces the same dilemma that confronted the Protestent reformers and many other renewal movments throughout the history of the Christian movement. Are emerging churches apostalic structures/entities or are they churches in local form? Are they orders or are they contemporary “parishes?” Are they sodalities or are they modalities? They can’t be both. (more…)

Puritans, Holism and the Emerging Church

Monday, March 20th, 2006

One of the characteristics of the emerging church is the abolition of the sacred, secular divide and corresponding dualism that such an artificial and unbiblical distinction fosters in how followers of Jesus in postmodern culture live their lives. As Bolger and Gibbs put it, “For these communities, there are no nonspiritual domans of reality.”

As has been true with other renewal movements, this not a new perspective. While powerfully articulated at various junctures throughout the history of the Christian movement, one of the more interesting case studies of such holism is the English Puritan movement of the 16th and 17th century.

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LeLand Ryken calls them “…worldly saints – Christians with earth as their sphere of activity and with heaven as their ultimate hope.” Few in Christian history have lived out biblical holism as fervently where all of life belongs to the Lord and His kingdom rule permeates all. (more…)

The presence of Christ among the poor

Thursday, March 16th, 2006

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I saw and experienced one of the ways being the presence of Jesus in word and deed is lived out among the poor in Cambodia.

Sunrise – a ministry of InnerCHANGECRM’s “order among the poor” – lovingly and compassionately walks with those suffering from HIV/AIDS. I visited the hospice where the very sick come, some to die. And spent time in “home visits” with families where parents or children are infected.

I also observed ways children are helped in preventative ways in order to stem the tide of the disease before infection. Most of all I was privileged to meet and interact with a cadre of men and women, all Cambodians (pictured above), who sacrificially give of themselves on a daily basis to the the suffering.

It all gives street level meaning to the words of the prophet Isaiah, “...if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness and your night will become like the noonday.”

It was a joy and an honor to experience firsthand such light rising in this remote corner of Asia.

Arachnid al a carte

Wednesday, March 15th, 2006

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Spiders as a snack are one of the joys of life in the cross-cultural realm.

These tarantulas are raised for eating and are a source of protein in this particular region of Cambodia. Gives new meaning to the old missionary adage, “Where God leads I follow, what God feeds I swallow.”

Just part of the missional adventure!

Are cross-cultural goers out of date?

Monday, March 13th, 2006

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I hear it too often: “Missionaries aren’t needed in our era …there is no reason to send people to cross cultural, economic, linguistic or geographic barriers as kingdom representatives …it costs too much so let’s just support nationals …sending people to live , immerse, and identify in a culture is an ‘old paradigm of missions’ ...the future is flooding the world with short-termers,” etc ….

Not so. Never has been. Never will be.

“Many years ago a little Chinese girl fearfully stepped into the house of some newly-arrived missionaries 100 miles north of Beijing. Her parents had insisted that she listen to nothing these “foreign devils” would say to her; she was only to help with the children, for her family desperately needed the extra income.

She didn’t listen. But she saw the husband open doors for his wife and treat her lovingly in other ways. She was totally astonished. Christianity was for her!

Her grandson, Thomas Wang, is one of the most widely-known Chinese believers in the world today.

Only foreign missionaries physically present can make such an impact. In many countries the mistreatment of women, even by pastors, continues precisely because something else has not been modeled for them by redeemed believers from afar. Sending money to such pastors won’t make those changes. Sending money cannot take the place of sending godly people, godly families.

This is what it means to respond to Jesus’ call for us “to be my witnesses,” not just send words. Sending money is not sending witnesses. In all of the remaining untouched people groups there are, by definition, not yet any local pastors to pay to evangelize. Actions speak louder than words – or checks. The sheer example of a Christian family is the most often under-rated factor in missions!”

Ralph Winter’s editorial in Mission Frontiers, Nov-Dec, 2005

(Painting is “St. Paul Preaching to the Thessalonians” by French artist, Gustave Dore, 1832-1883)

Emerging church interest in Singapore

Sunday, March 12th, 2006

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Along with Tom Middleton (back row center) I spent an afternoon with this remarkable group of people in Singapore. They wanted to interact about the “emerging church.”

I had no idea I would find such understanding or interest in Asia. Among the questions we delved into together were:

1.What are emerging churches? What are the characteristics and commonalities?

2. To what extent is it a western/urban phenomena with western values and does it look differently in Asia and in their culture?

3. What’s are the consequences and the reach of globalization and the secular, postmodern elements of such?

4. How do fresh expressions of “church” occur in their context? Will these expressions be within existing evangelical instititutions or something new?

5. What price may they have to pay as they cooperate with God to engage their own generation with the Gospel, living it out in forms of community that are authentic, creative and missional?

6. What is apostolic giftedness and calling? How does that affect each of them as they discover God’s kingdom purposes, particularly as it relates to finding their niche in some form of the church local as well as some form of the church missionary or apostolic?


These men and women have the ability to be and to influence the next generation of leadership for the Christian movement in their nation and beyond. May God give them the courage to live out their growing convictions. May they be in our day the missional pioneers not unlike some of their ancestors who were key, formative leaders of the Singaporean church in decades past.

Missionaries from Singapore?

Saturday, March 11th, 2006

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With churches which by most measures are some of the healtiest and most vibrant in Asia, a strategic geo-political location, and an economy/standard of living that is the envy of the world, what are the obstacles that prevent Singaporean Christians from serving as full-time cross-cultural workers in countless needy areas around the globe?

While I have not studied it in depth, I have seen enough for it to mystify and concern me. Several cursory reasons stand out from my interaction with Christians in this city-state that is an anomaly for Asia.

1. Attitudes toward higher education stunt the missionary sending compulsion. The drive inherent in Confucian-based cultures for educational achievement results in few feeling they are “qualified” for such ministry. This is puzzling in light of the corresponding corollary that too often, higher education increases ministry ineffectiveness.

2. Family ties and obligations are particularly strong. As in many Asian societies, the demands of Luke 12:26 are particularly challenging.

3. An uncomfortable percentage of Singaporean churches adopt an attitude of “going it alone” when it comes to missions. This basic misunderstanding of missional ecclesiology means that far too many Singaporeans who do follow God’s leading cross-culturally are sent by local churches that are structurally and missiologically incapable of overseeing, leading, or caring for them. It is an interesting case study, to use Ralph Winter’s phrase, of the “amateurization of the missionary task.”

4. Would that Singaporeans demonstrate the zeal, commitment and spirit of sacrifice evidenced by their Korean brethren. If it is happening, I haven’t seen it. Unfortunately, it may be that the materialism and pursuit of personal peace, prosperity and job security so prevalent in North American Christianity has likewise begun its neutering, numbing affect in Singapore as well. How sad.


Singapore has enormous potential. May it step up and take its rightful place as a major contributor to God’s Kingdom purposes around the world.

AIDS in Asia

Thursday, March 9th, 2006

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This little boy, Chantol has AIDS. His father died from the disease. His mother is infected. He lives in the house in a squatter community on the Mekong, in the interior of Cambodia.

He and his family are being helped through Sunrise, a ministry of InnerCHANGE, which is CRM’s order among the poor.

Sunrise personnel, both Cambodians and Americans who work and minister in this region, are living out Jesus’ concern for the marginalized, not just talking about it. And their work is on the ground, hands-on, and deep. It’s not the short-term, drive-in and drive-out stuff that is faddish and sells in the West but accomplishes little.

They are doing it in areas of the world where the needs seem overwhelming. It is privilege to rub shoulders with such men and women who in word and deed live out the redemptive presence of Christ among the most needy. May God bless and multiply their work.

Singapore

Saturday, March 4th, 2006

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This is the view out the window of one of the homes of a CRM staff family living and ministering in Singapore. I’m here for five days, speaking several times, meeting with varioius Singaporean leaders, and interacting with the CRM men and women who are making a significant Kingdom contribution here and in neighboring countries. Those traveling with me have had side trips to Indonesia and Malaysia.

We head to Cambodia on Monday. Singapore’s contribution to what God is doing in this region of the world, and beyond, could be enormous. I’ll post more regarding the nature of the Christian movement in this fascinating, complex Asia nation in the days to come.