Archive for March, 2007

Art?

Saturday, March 31st, 2007

Tate Modern[1]
I came across this stark, provocative reference in the latest issue of First Things.

Paul Johnson, author of Art: A New History had this to say in The New Criterion:

“Nor do I believe that art can flourish for long without a spiritual element.

I grieve over what happened to painting in the twentieth century, vitiated by a kind of barbarism not unlike the actions of government which cost the lives of scores of millions. When I visit galleries today, I long for the fifteenth century with its tender Madonnas and the outstretched arms of the infant Jesus on their knees, and even the paintings of the martyrs in woeful suffering have a purpose missing from the pointless images of violence now cast up, or the descent into depths deeper than any Hell of Hieronymus Bosch.

I recall attending the opening of Tate Modern. I found a room there empty except for a large video screen and three children, a girl of about ten and her younger brother and sister. They were sampling modern art—a video of a man masturbating. That this kind of episode was no accident I deduce from the latest obiter dicta of Charles Saatchi, said to exercise enormous power over our art: ‘I know I sound like some ghastly creep, but there is something enchanting about seeing children sitting around a Chapman brothers piece showing penises coming out of girls’ eyes, and drawing it neatly to take back to their teacher.”


While all modern art is certainly not of this ilk, these observations are all too accurate of a culture in the West that has increasingly lost its way and a milieu into which the Christian movement struggles to speak with living, relevant power.

Sadly, under the iceberg …

Friday, March 23rd, 2007

Guernica

  • Christians spend more on the annual audits of their churches and agencies ($810 million) than on all their workers in the non-Christian world.
  • Despite Christ’s command to evangelize, 67% of all humans from AD 30 to the present day have never even heard his name.
  • 14 million converted Hindus, buddhists, and muslims have opted to remain within those religions in order to witness for Christ as active believers in Jesus as Lord.
  • Some 250 of the 300 largest international Christian organizations regularly mislead the Christian public by publishing demonstrably incorrect or falsified progress statistics.
  • Trusted church treasurers are embezzling each year $21 billion out of church funds, but only 5% ever get found out. Annual church embezzlements by top custodians exceed the entire cost of all foreign mission worldwide.
  • The total cost of Christian outreach averages $330,000 for each and every newly baptized person.
  • Of a total “Christian” population of slightly over 2 billion, approximately 648 million are active in Christ’s world mission; 1,352 million Christians ignore this mission.
  • Over 20 centuries Christians have announced 1,500 global plans to evangelize the world; most failed. 250 plans focused on AD 2000 fell massively short of stated goals.
  • Each years, 180 million bibles and New Testaments are wasted, lost, destroyed, or disintegrated due to incompetence, hostility, bad planning, or inadequate manufacture.
  • 70 million Christians have been martyred since the time of Christ. The five most dangerous vocations are: bishops, evangelists, catechists, colporteurs, and foreign missionaries.
  • Over 90% of all Christian evangelism is aimed at other Christians and does not reach non-Christians.
Statistics gleaned from the World Evangelization Research Center, (World Christian Trends AD 30 - AD 2200. Interpreting the annual Christian megacensus. David Barrett and Todd Johnson. Pasadena: William Carey Library, 2001. 934p).

God at work in Asia

Thursday, March 22nd, 2007

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This was the scene Monday morning at the dedication of CRM-Singapore’s new office space.

Friends, business people, pastors, and leaders of the Christian community in Singapore gathered to worship and thank God for the work this team has carried on the past few years and the addition of Singaporeans as full-time partners in the ministry.

It was an impressive time characterized by a deep sense of God’s presence. Most notable was the address by Pastor Lawrence Chua (below left) and then the prayer of dedication by former Anglican Archbishop, Moses Tay (below middle).

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From Singapore to the World …

Saturday, March 17th, 2007

Singapore Prayer Singapore Dinner-1

I just returned from a three day retreat in Indonesia with the CRM Singapore staff. It was a milestone because included were three Singaporeans who have made the decision to join CRM Singapore. Pictured here is one of our times of prayer for these new missionaries.

Singapore has enormous potential to contribute to the worldwide Christian movement. It’s strategic location, wealth, number and health of existing churches, all add up for it to be a place and a people to whom much has been given and much can be expected.

However, whether it will “step up” to assume such a role hangs in the balance. Most honest observers see:

1. An inordinate reluctance on the part of Singaporean Christians to leave comfort, financial security, family and jobs to risk it all in a missional vocation. Such an overly responsible commitment to the status-quo is in the fabric of the culture and reinforced by the government.
2. Lots of short-term mission experiences which send people every which direction but result in little long-term commitment, a phenomena characteristic of other rich nations which can afford to dabble.
3. Over half of the present career missionary force of approximately 500 are completely sent, supported, and controlled by existing local churches rather than apostolic, missionary sending entities. Such a short-sighted, inadequate ecclesiology invariably stunts the missionary thrust.

Our prayer is that the three Singaporeans who have joined CRM will be the “tip of the iceberg” of those who will eventually represent Christ throughout Asia and the rest of the world.

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Southeast Asia

Tuesday, March 13th, 2007

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Am in Singapore and headed to Indonesia today.

Colin Crawley (CRM-Enterprise) and Bobby Booze (CRM-Hungary) are with me. We’ll be working on a three day training event to help in orientation for a group of Singaporeans who are new missionaries with CRM.

Is the “Right” right?

Wednesday, March 7th, 2007

 Images Uploads Claretyconsulting Angry Face

For years I have been uncomfortable with the awkward and even unholy alliance in America between the political right and evangelical Christianity.

I think it boils down to two issues that leave me so cold when those who are identified as Christians become uncritically linked with political conservatism.

1. Selectivity. Many of those who are followers of Jesus gravitate toward the political right because there are some views on moral and social issues that are shared in common. But the problem is that the list of issues is rather narrow and selective. It is rare that this strange alliance goes beyond the issues of abortion and homosexuality. There is a whole slew of other issues that people on the American scene who are committed to biblical fidelity need to take seriously and these issues are usually nowhere to be found on the agenda of the political right.

Civil rights, the poor, the environment, social justice, racism and gender bias, business ethics, war and peace, genocide, HIV/AIDS, the treatment of immigrants, human trafficking, etc., are all issues to which the good news of Jesus directly applies but about which the “right” is strangely silent or espouses a position that is shockingly antithetical to the clarion commands of scripture.

Way too many of us who name the name of Jesus are selective in our obedience. We seem to be more intent on protecting our social prerogatives and sticking with our political biases than we are committed to applying biblical truth to every aspect of life.

2. Shrillness. Too often I am embarrassed. I am ashamed by those who may believe many of the same theological truths that I hold dear but in their behavior and speech are shrill and accusatory. I don’t want to be identified with such.

There is no excuse for the incivility that too often oozes out of the unholy marriage between the political right and Christian faith. The language is hurtful, adversarial and repels those whom we should be attracting. What is genuinely redemptive becomes ugly and repulsive. Christians unfortunately get stereotyped as a bunch of culturally marginal, angry, bitter and even bigoted people rather than gracious mediators of the love of Christ.

What results are what many social observers call “culture wars.” The sad thing is that I doubt being victorious in such a battle will make any contribution whatsoever to Jesus’ Kingdom agenda for a lost and suffering planet. Quite the contrary, such fights may actually inhibit God’s redemptive purposes and and do little to help his name be renowned among the nations. How sad.

Conspicuous Consumption

Sunday, March 4th, 2007

 Bel-Air-Home

I realize that lifestyle issues can be volitile. Where to draw the line between legitimate expenditures and self-indulgent, narcissistic waste can be slippery and relative to determine in light of a variety of factors.

However, I find it hard for anyone with an awareness of a world in need and even a mildly sensitive conscience not to be saddened and even disgusted by what regularly appears in the Real Estate section that comes with the Sunday Los Angeles Times.

A letter to the editor in today’s paper says it better than I can:

“I was stuck by stories in two sections of the February 25 Times. The first was “Napa Medieval,” the fanciful castle-winery in the Napa area featured in the Travel Section and the second was “Bel-Air Home Has Two Lanes, No Waiting,” Home of the Week.

Any thinking, caring human being must register upon reading about these two huge developments, the extraordinary expense and scope of the projects and what the amount of money could do if even some of it was invested in a greater good. As long as a significant number of people are without decent shelter, adequate food, clean water and opportunity for basic healthcare, it is shocking to see the excess on which people with wealth choose to spend their money.

I just can’t comprehend a house with 20 bathrooms in 34,000-plus square feet or a winery that could hold 50 average sized homes. While even one person anywhere in the world is suffering unnecessarily, it is a travesty to continue building ever-bigger monuments to peoples’ egos.” — Carol Palladini, Santa Barbara

Who to Choose?

Thursday, March 1st, 2007

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“Effective leaders view leadership selection and development as a priority function.” – J. Robert Clinton

I was asked recently by a person with whom I enjoy a mentoring relationship why I spent time with another person in such a relationship. In other words; “What did I see in that other person? Why would I invest in that relationship?”

Afterwards, I sat down and tried to capture in writing my answer to that question more thoroughly than I have in the past. It’s an answer honed by my experience and by my own personal sense of calling from God.

So at the risk of being labeled “elitist” and perhaps being too transparent about my own philosophy of ministry, here’s the list of what I look for in people with whom I will go deep in relationships and/or mentor:

Spiritually Alive: They are enamored with Jesus and willing to follow him no matter what. They evidence a palatable spiritual hunger and thirst for the Spirit of God to flow through their lives. They are consumed by love for Christ and what it means to be his Kingdom followers in all areas of life.

Teachable: They are responsive and teachable. They display good followership which I believe to be an unconditional prerequisite for good leadership. They don’t have all the answers and are not contentious or argumentative. They are not in theological cement.

Passionate: I am not interested in motivating the unmotivated. I can help steer a moving horse but I’m not going to invest the limited time I have left in life trying to get an obstinate horse off its rump. I want to see passion for much of the same values and vision for which God has captured my own life.

Character: I am drawn to people of unquestioned character. When push comes to shove, they will default to doing the right thing.

Apostolic Gifting: There are indications that they are apostolically gifted. There is a holy discontent with the way things are and they want to be agents of change. They are flexible, adaptable, and mobile. They are catalytic and evidence an entrepreneurial drive by wanting to create and start new things. They want to pioneer and to create.

Servants: I’m not interested in investing my life in self-absorbed people who struggle to get beyond themselves. I’m looking for individuals who are “other oriented” and willing to sacrifice for the needs of those around them.

Thoughtful: I work best with those who can be intellectually engaged and stimulated. There is great curiosity and they can think for themselves. I resonate with people who are comfortable in the world of ideas yet who also are compelled to see those ideas worked out in real life so change is the result. I am not drawn to theory for theory’s sake.

Culturally Savvy: I gravitate toward those who can read a culture and know how to adapt, whether it’s their own culture or one into which they parachute. There is a winsomeness about them. They are contagious. They attract others because of the depth of their character, their spirituality, and their love of people.

Leadership Gifting: They have clear leadership giftedness. I look for those who will have a reproductive influence in the lives of others.

Sense of Calling: I desire to invest in people who, because of the way God has gifted them, have a sense of calling to vocational ministry. This is not to say that I do not value other callings, only that I believe that God has asked me to focus with the limited resources and energy that I posses on people who are headed in that direction. This is not elitist. I am certainly willing to help scores of people figure this out, but that smaller circle that gets my time and attention are those where this question has some sense of finality.

Chemistry: I want to relate to those individuals with whom I have a personal sense of chemistry. They like me and I like them. We want to hang out together. We enjoy each other’s company. There is a genuine and growing sense of love and appreciation.

The Hand of God: Ultimately, I am looking for people on whom the hand of God rests. It’s that unquantifiable quality of God’s anointing where the holy has indiscriminately blown on a life and the result is a sense of supernatural unction. It is the reason Jesus appears to have agonized over the calling of the 12 in the gospels. Even for him, the master selector, it was a divine process where the Father made the choices in the final analysis.