Archive for July, 2008

Earthquake

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

Well, we had an earthquake in Southern California, the epicenter not far from home. We shook! A few things fell off some shelves in our house and broke, but no damage beyond that.

Shortly afterwards, I got a call from the leader of the CRM team in Beirut, checking on us to see that all was OK. His observation was the best: “At least we don’t die in Beirut of natural causes!”

Flying Fears

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

This week, a hole blew out in the underbelly of a Quantas 747 over the Pacific. For anyone who does a considerable amount of flying, we all harbor those “what if” fears about what could happen on an airplane. Apart from the catastrophic, my shortlist includes:

1. Using the lavatory, my passport falls out of my shirt pocket into the toilet and I have to retrieve it, no matter what the ramifications.

2. Stuck in a window seat on the last row of the plane, next to a 300 lb person who snores.

3. At 35,000 feet, eating one of a couple of foods to which I am deadly allergic, beginning an anaphylacic reaction, and having to stab myself with an EpiPen (spring loaded injection).

4. Trapped on a 19 hour, full flight to Asia in a seat that does not recline.

5. Flying Aeroflot transatlantic, or anywhere for that matter.

6. Being a British Airways customer and losing luggage in the bowels of one of their new terminals at Heathrow.

7. Finding out what ingredients are really in those hard bread rolls that get served in plastic wrapping.

8. Sitting next to a baby with colic on a pan-oceanic flight when the parents are too tired to care.

9. Flying Northwest in the winter and being stuck on a runway for 12 hours.

10. Severe turbulence and no barf bags.

Telling the truth in the UK

Saturday, July 12th, 2008

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I spent part of yesterday with a insightful missiologist who lives here in the UK. He is not some young, radical, grenade-throwing deconstructionist, rather a respected, older (than me) mission expert with extensive experience in church planting movements and particularly ministry in the Islamic world.

His comments about Christianity in England, and about Europe at large, were jolting. His observations sobering. Here are a few gems, or bombshells depending, on one’s perspective:

“In Europe as a whole, little can be done missionally with the existing, institutional church. It’s over.

At the same time, there is no use criticizing the existing institutional church. It is a good “holding tank” for modern people who are believers.

The existing church is helpless in relating to the culture around it with spiritual reality and relevance. Take for example, the Alpha course. Only 5% of the people converted through it are in the church 5 years later. 85% converted through it have had previous contact with the church. But only 8% of England is made up of such 1st or 2nd generation Christians. 92% is 2nd generation “pagan.” That means that 92% can’t even understand what the church is talking about.

The church in England, of all persuasions, has no idea how to converse with people outside its doors. The institution here is fortressed. Christendom is hunkered down in the bunkers.

The Celtic model is a good model for Europe. Small, apostolic communities which were a blessing to the community but were “outside” of the existing social structure.

Being non-conformist is not esteemed in England. For things to start outside of the box, they need to be started by people outside of the box and by people who are willing to be persecuted.

People with apostolic gifting plant new vineyards and don’t stop and become winemakers.

The Christian movement in Britian does not know how to stand up in the face of radical Islam. To do so will need a dramatic realignment within the culture and within the family. Instead, most Christians are terrified of Muslims.

Of the 20-25 initiatives I am aware that are actively attempting to minister among Muslims in London, all are church-based and none are effective.

Statistically, 2015 to 2020 is the tipping point where Muslim influence will be predominant in Europe.

Modernity in Europe is absolutely entrenched in the institutional expressions of church. Europe doesn’t need a new reformation. We need a whole new expression of the Kingdom of God in the West that embraces community and family, where individuals are important but not more important than the group.”

James Choung

Thursday, July 10th, 2008

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I’ve tried most of it over the years …all the formulaic versions of how to communicate the good news of Jesus to those around me. And most of it simply doesn’t work anymore here in the West in the secularized post-modernity of our culture.

But this book is different. It captures the essence of the biblical message in a way that is refreshingly authentic. And it’s just not theory or idealized theology. It connects deeply with real people not afraid to grapple with real issues and how the Jesus of the bible relates to both.

A couple years ago, I saw the basic concepts of the book scribbled on a piece of paper when having lunch with James. It’s great to see what he has tested and experienced so thoroughly in his ministry with students in San Diego is now available in this new volume.

It is a book for those who want to live out, in word in deed, the good news of Jesus with integrity and intellectual honesty. It is a practical and profoundly biblical approach to communicating God’s “big story” in a way that authentically connects with the realities of the world around us.

Only in the Local Church?

Saturday, July 5th, 2008

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I continue to be amazed at the number of people whose paths I come across who have mistakenly been led to believe that if God is calling them toward some form of ministry, doing it in or connected to a local church is their only legitimate option.

It is sad to see such a truncated, warped ecclesiology hold back what could be a wave of highly committed, gifted, apostolic leaders. I am grieved at the wounds that are inflicted by such a view of the Church that is so biblically, theologically, historically and missiologically deficient.

Conversely, it is amazing when the “lights go on” for such leaders, particularly those who are thrashing around trying to find a structure into which they can fit. Too many get stuck in the unfortunate cul-de-sac of local church supremacy.

One of my greater joys is blowing out their limited understanding of where God’s calling can be accomplished, expanding the scope of what he could do with their lives, and helping these men and women find the right venues where they can break out of their shells and soar.

As in every age of the Christian movement, apostolic people need apostolic structures if their contribution to God’s kingdom purposes are to be fulfilled.

Developmental Narcisscim

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008

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In the arena of leadership development and training, there is a subtle trap that one can all too easily fall into. It is the dark side of something very good. I have grown to call it “developmental narcissism.”

Developmental narcissism is when some wonderful concepts get twisted ever so slightly so that the focus becomes inordinately self-centered. It’s all about me …my fulfillment, my calling, my purpose, my ultimate contribution, my life plan, my role, my gifts, natural abilities and acquired skills, my values, my vision, my ministry, my, my, my….

The wheels come off of healthy leadership development and it morphs into developmental narcissism when:

One forgets that never in all of redemptive history does God raise up a leader for the leader’s sake . It’s always for the sake of God’s people.

One fails to realize that leadership is an entrusted commodity. Those who have it are only stewards of a God-given responsibility.

One mutes Luke 9:23 and the fact that the cross is still a cross.


Developmental narcissism means that a healthy developmental mindset and self-care are hijacked and subtly used to justify selfishness and self-absorption. It is a spiritualized form of individualism. I’ve heard it from the lips of leaders I have respected and it sounds something like:
“I need to make this decision, leave this role, turn down this responsibility, take this job that pays better, etc… because I have to be true to myself. If I am going to accomplish my calling, I have to do this. I come first.”

While it may be hard to admit, developmental narcissism is all about the world rotating around me.