Two Grids in Church Ministry

Ed Stetzer has a good post up on Christianity today in relation to the two ways pastors and or church planters need to look at church ministry in general (theologically and missiologically).  It’s really good!

These two grids to look at church ministry are theological and missiological grids. The tendency, as is always the case, is to drift to either extreme to the detriment of the other end. There are some who are only concerned about theology, without ever considering how to relate to their community. Others are obsessed with being relevant and will cast aside biblical convictions if they clash with cultural values. I don’t think either of these are healthy ways to lead churches. A balance is needed. Church leaders must think both theologically and missiologically.

In an age of pragmatics – this is a breath of fresh air!  Theology is important, and so is seeing all from a missiological perspective – its another reason I think missiology degrees can be good for pastors, even the PhD in Intercultural Studies.  🙂    These two things are just SO foundational to church life in general.  Why?  Because many churches are theologically anemic and too many think “relevance” has to do with being hip and cool and where “peace, love, harmony” rule.  Its a big misunderstanding for so many.

Well, give it a read and keep it in mind!  Blessings,

on promoting theological education

theological famineIF you need an example of how NOT to do it – read this.   I find this approach not one that I could recommend.  I think maybe it has noble intentions as there is great need in the world for better resources for pastors and teachers in less developed areas of the world and especially in the global south where the church is growing faster then it can keep up with.   At the same time I think it somewhat misrepresents what theological education and “training for the ministry” is supposed to be about.  And perhaps unwittingly devalues the staunch realities and problems AND pain of true famines from which real people suffer.  It basically turns its back on the poor, the suffering, the oppressed.

As I see it, it is based on false juxtapositon of physical hunger and spiritual hunger.  They are not mirrors of each other.  They are worlds apart.  Many in the Western world are a far cry from true physical hunger and yet ALL human beings, rich or poor, free or slave, white or non-white are spiritually depraved and in desperate need of a SAVIOR.  It trivializes real hunger, real poverty, real suffering.

I think it reveals some ignorance (either they just don’t understand don’t know or are just not paying attention to it) of larger missiological contextual issues that are face in cross-cultural work.  It is a imposition of Western values on to other cultures which is a big big no-no in cross-cultural missions.  It reveals ignorance of the changing role of Westerners in world missions and or evangelization.  While there are plenty of places where westerns can be and are quite effective in evangelizing the lost where the national might be less effective (for a whole host of issues and reasons) the increasing responsibility of the Western Missionary is that of PARTNERSHIP, a coming along side nationals to reach the lost and to teach, tran, equip men and women for teaching/preaching roles in their own contexts.  The end goal of mission is not transference of one set of cultural values to another, it is TRANSFORMATION of the target culture to the glory of God.  I think it is not a good way to go about it and in my personal opinion, it would be best not to support this movement either financially, emotionally or any other sort.

It is true, there is a DERTH of theological and or ministerial resources for pastors, teachers, and leaders in the now dominant Christian world.  They are really truly asking for and desiring materials for them to tach and train folks in the Word to be sure the Bible is being well understood and followed  and adhered to in their own contexts.  But see even that raises issues as to the idea that they are looking to us for resources because (and I happen to have just enough world experience to know) they see us as successful and good and blessed by God so they want to learn from us and to emulate us.

Instead I think it would be good to help the best we can but not from the point of view of “theological famine” necessarily but in partnership in obedience to the great co-mission.  Partnering with them to teach and train their own people and maybe even from their own cultural perspectives – seems to me like a kind of theological colonialism to think we should go there and train them from our view so we know they are getting it right.

This is why I am a HUGE advocate for promoting Inductive Bible Study and that in a community context much like what we see in Mike and Tim’s book: People of the Book: Inviting Communities into Biblical Interpretation (Wipf and Stock).  That way we are working best to not IMPOSE our theology on them, but instead EQUIPPING them to study the Bible and draw their own conclusions in a way that is faithful to the Bibilcal text.  That way, we could learn something too!  🙂

Well I think that is enough of that!


missiology matters!

i have come across a new (to me )blog, it’s called missiology matters!  my two passions are the Bible and cross-cultural mission – this is a blog I have subscribed to so I will be following it!  If you have similar interests you may want to do the same.

The author of the blog is Robert Priest, a missiology professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

You might wonder what is missiology?  Very simply is it the study of missions.  Here is a brief statement from the blog:

Missiology is an interdisciplinary discipline which, through research, writing, and teaching, furthers the acquisition, development, and transmission of theologically-informed, contextually-grounded, and ministry-oriented knowledge and understanding, with the goal of helping and correcting Christians, and Christian institutions, involved in the doing of Christian mission.

For more read the blog and give it a follow (and this post too)!

Even so, I think these kinds of things are important for pastors to be reading up on.  You’d be surprised how much of missiological thinking and praxis can be applied to local church life and contexts, especially given the increasingly diverse (even pluralistic) our congregations and communities become.  Good pastors and exegetes of the Bible need to be well read in a broad area of issues, missiology is one of those.  That is, in my personal opinion!


Christ centered only = Christo-monistic.

In responding to Jeff Clarke’s post here, in asking the question: Do Pentecostal, Charismatic, and Third Wave movements reflect the New Testament focus of the Holy Spirit?, Jeff makes this pertinent and hardly disagreeable assertion:

Every authentic move of the Spirit will always have as its primary focus the person of Jesus Christ.

For obvious reasons, at least to me, while a very good and quotable comment, so far as I see it, it is hardly disagreeable.  I mean, after all, is not the person and work of Jesus Christ front and central to the historic Christian faith?

At issue seems to be the notion the somehow a more “pneumatological” focus of Christian worship in Pentecostal or Charismatic settings somehow detracts from the person of Jesus Christ.  This is in fact, I think, a significant fallacy.   It is a fallacy because seeking the presence and power of the Spirit is a major element of the Christian live in relation to the Trinity.  To seek the presence of the Spirit isn’t taking from Christ nor the Father – if anything, most churches are Father centered enough.   Pentecostal and Charismatic churches are not less “Christ-Centered” than other churches – they may actually, in many ways, be more “balanced” (I would suggest rhythm more than balance), if not more Triune in their worship than many other settings.  This is of course not without exceptions.

But the main reason I wanted to post about this is to share my friend Monte’s thoughts of which he posted on the Facebook page.  He writes:

I thought I would offer several brief yet relevant strands for forwarding the conversation here, while acknowledging the warranted concerns and exhortations that Jeff has provided us.


Notwithstanding the excesses which Jeff calls attention to, I will first begin by pointing out, as has been argued by others elsewhere, that the historical Classical Pentecostal four/five-fold theological motifs of Jesus as Saviour, Sanctifier, Baptiser, Healer, and Coming King have in fact served, at least on a doctrinal level— to narrate the christocentric focus of a robust Pentecostal spirituality. Incidentally, the themes I am raising here largely reflect the following text: “Toward a Pentecostal Ecclesiology: The Church and the Fivefold Gospel,” ed John Christopher Thomas (2010). This is important to note because the four/five-fold motifs demonstrate that common Protestant/Evangelical assumptions that characteristically presume that Pentecostalism is largely pneumacentric are actually inaccurate.

As Church of God theologian Kenneth Archer points out, the experiential orientation of Pentecostalism is thus wholly centered on Jesus: encountering Jesus via the Holy Spirit. Yet also as Assemblies of God theologians Simon Chan and Frank Macchia respectively point out, this experiential orientation stresses coming to Jesus as our Spirit Baptizer. As both Chan and Macchia respectively demonstrate— “Spirit baptiser” is perhaps the most attested identity of Jesus in the New Testament, at least in the Gospels.

As many of the essays in the “Toward a Pentecostal Ecclesiology” text point out, and as consistently stressed in Macchia’s and Chan’s respective works elsewhere, we can attribute many of the failures that do occur in Pentecostalism, to a failure of adequately integrating the functional motif of Jesus as Sanctifier in Pentecostal spirituality. I moreover find this significant since both Macchia and Chan represent the more Keswickian orientation of Classical Pentecostalism (eg, AG).

However, while I appreciate Clark’s concerns, I am oftentimes a bit ambivalent when I read or hear admonishments suggesting that the primary criterion of an “authentic move of the Spirit” is that we keep Jesus as the “primary focus.” Well, on one hand, how can anyone argue with this? Yet on the other— I would argue however that the very weakness of historical Reformed Protestantism and much of Evangelicalism is— christo-monism, meaning, an overly nuanced stress on the Son, to the neglect of the Father and the Spirit.

Let me briefly further describe the problem of christo-monism. Given limited space here, I will focus on the “worship” of the Church. I would argue that actually, a consistent nuance on the Son as the centre of our worship and perhaps even preaching, is not healthy. What results is a very poor sense of spiritual direction in how, ironically, the life of Jesus should shape the direction of our life, both personally and corporately as a church. Hence, we end up with a very poor “via salutis” (way of salvation). We should rather consistently directly our address in worship and mediation towards the Father— and hence therefore more broadly— towards God as Trinity. I believe this is indeed a major theme stressed in Acts, which incidentally accounts for the greater emphasis on the “kingdom of God” in the preaching of both Jesus and the early church.

Both historically and existentially, we can in fact argue that “pentecostal experiences” in Spirit baptism are in actually, encounters with God’s Triune life and mission as Father, Son, and Holy Life. There is moreover, substantial literature arguing this thesis, which can be explored, including literature representative of early 20th century Pentecostalism.

We can conversely argue that a robust Pentecostal spirituality is not only primarily grounded on a strong consciousness of the Trinity, but conversely with primary understanding of Jesus according to recapulatory themes (eg, Jesus coming as the Perfect Human to re-script the human story) that are informed by the Spirit-Christology narrated via the Luke-Acts story. Hence, Christ is existentially present with us (christus praesens), He is “contemporaneous” with us (Kierkegaard)— and it is through the Spirit He is present with us. The recapulatory and Spirit-Christology themes of Luke-Acts also demonstrate that our coming to Jesus is indeed that of disciples following our model Teacher and Lord— looking to Him as our pattern for life. Given the true Trinitarian center of Pentecostalism, Pentecostal spirituality thus duly affirms on one hand, the Son and Spirit as the “two hands” of the Father,” while on the other— the Spirit as the “shared love” between the Father and the Son.

So to recap, the inherent resources within Pentecostalism that provide us the integrity we need as a healthy expression of Christian spirituality are:

1. Holding in tandem the Pentecostal vision of Jesus as both Sanctifier and Baptizer.

2. An understanding of Spirit baptism as existential encounter with the Triune life and perichoretic mission towards creation.

3. And a strong recapulatory understanding of Jesus as our standard for spiritual and life formation.


Having shared quite a bit of theological musing in the preceding posting, I want to now add some thoughts more directly affirming certain experiential and transrational dynamics of Pentecostalism— with reference to how those dynamics are illustrated in the book of Acts.

I will begin here by drawing attention to Gordon Anderson’s illustration of Pentecostal resonance with spiritual encounter as narrated in Acts [“Pentecost, Scholarship, and Learning in a Postmodern World,” Pneuma 27, no 1 (Spring 2005)].

Anderson suggests: “If you want to see a funny movie, run this one in your mind. Picture Peter explaining what happened (Acts 11) to a . . . rationalistic . . . audience. His lines go like this:

“You see, I was in a trance, and saw a vision, and heard a voice, then some men came who had been sent by an angel, and so I went with them to the house of a Gentile and they were baptized in the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues, so I baptized them in water. And, despite my training in the scriptures, it just seemed to be the right thing to do!”

Incidentally, I would point out that every major missiological decision narrated in the book of Acts, was linked to some kind of transrational, “visionary” experience, usually involving hearing either the audible voice of God, or that of an angel, or some kind of visual vision. Of course, these dynamics are in truth, to be programmatically expected by believers— as demonstrated in Peter’s Pentecost sermon (Acts 2). Therefore, I whole heartedly affirm Terry Cross’ description of Pentecostals, as those who “are open to hearing voices.” [Terry Cross, “The Divine-Human Encounter: Towards a Pentecostal Theology of Experience” (Pneuma 31 (2009)].

Finally, I want to add a very shorter word about the Toronto Outpouring. As for myself, I was personally “touched” through one of the streams linked to the Toronto Outpouring back in the mid-90’s. the “touch” I experienced on several occasions included on one of those occasions, crawling around on all floors for some reason, then passing out for some time. It certainly does not make any sense, although I was obviously beside myself. Consequently, concerning other strange happenings and excesses that accompanied the “move,”

I don’t have all the answers, as I cannot help but leave a little bewildered space in my reflection— that allows the possibilities that sometimes such invasive outpourings of the Spirit may prompt people to behave a little strangely. Moreover, why else were also so many onlookers prompted to exclaim on the day of Pentecost, “Ha! These people have drunk way too much wine!”

The danger of opening windows on a very windy day, is that the neat and orderly piled papers on the desk might actually be blown everywhere on the floor. The alternative of course, is to lock up those windows.

Well, whew!  Now THAT should give some good food for thought for a while!


the church in China

is really growing!  God is on the move!

Over at the Gospel Coalition website: Matt Smethurst interviews (via translation) Liao Yiwu, whose book God Is Red: The Secret Story of How Christianity Survived and Flourished in Communist China (HarperOne, 2011) won the Books & Culture 2011 Book of the Year award.

It is pretty interesting to read.  There was one segment that stood out to me about how Christianity in China has or is beginning to become distinctively “Chinese.”   Here it is:

You observe that in China “there is now a new Christian identity that is distinctively Chinese.” What do you mean?

One hundred fifty years ago, the London-based China Inland Mission started to send missionaries to China. Many of those brave Christians set their sights on the villages hidden up in the mountains. Because modern transportation was lacking, they journeyed for many days to reach them, arriving just in time to save the mountain people from a devastating bubonic epidemic with Western medicine and their knowledge of modern hygienic practices. They also preached Christianity, which, to the locals, was as foreign as their own appearances.

Gradually, these brave men and women won the hearts and minds of villagers, who for generations had found solace in the chanting of local shamans and the worshiping of pagan gods. Over the past century, the Christian faith has passed down from generation to generation despite the government’s brutal persecution against Christians in the 1960s and 1970s. In those villages, Christianity has taken root and become a part of the local heritage. It is as indigenous and life-sustaining as qiaoba, a popular buckwheat cake. During my visit there, I never felt that the locals had embraced a foreign religion. It blended seamlessly with the local cultures. Villagers held their services led by local leaders in their native tongues, and celebrated their Eucharist or Christian holidays in a way that they knew the best—local delicacies. It definitely had a distinctive Chinese identity.

Isn’t this really good news?  Isn’t how things should be?  That the nations receive the gospel and make it their own?  Now I could see a bunch of conservative Christians getting their pants in wad over the people using local delicacies to take communion as though it “must” be bread and wine specifically.  But hey?  Where does it say that in the Bible?  Sure Jesus says the bread is his body and the wine is his blood, but would that not be a case of contextualization in that setting?  Getting in a fuss over this, I think, would be to miss the point and miss out on the fact that the many peoples of China are taking on this ordinance as their own, they are taking on the person and work of Jesus Christ as their own and applying it and I think that is and should be the ultimate goal of the Christian missionary task.

Good things are happening in China and the Far East!   And do take note, Liao Yiwu does say China is still in great need of missionaries, those who will go to the vast number of isolated (and unreached) villages to bring the gospel to those peoples!

Isaiah 6:8

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”

And I said, “Here am I.  Send me!”

Alan Hirsch on being a missionary incarnational church

Check out this amazing video with Alan Hirsch on the missional and incarnational DNA of the church! He says a lot in this video and its like every statement was a loaded one that needs unpacking – this is the kind of stuff that gets me fired up! lol!

Here’s Alan Hirsch explaining why he thinks that the church has to be both missional and incarnational. .! … Read More

via scientia et sapientia

this is why I have a goal to do a ThM in Bible (to get as much Bible as I can) and then do a PhD in Intercultural Studies. All in good time I suppose. All in good time. 🙂

on being relevant

has it gotten us in trouble?  I wonder.   Dan linked to an interesting article over at Christianity Today talking about the problem of the Crystal Cathedral and its founder Robert Schuller.  Here is part of the asessment:

Some are tempted to hit the man while he is down, but this is unwise.  Robert Schuller is not the problem—contemporary evangelicalism is. Schuller was only leading the parade of those who believe they are responsible for making the gospel relevant. The lesson is not that Schuller got it wrong or that his theology is out-of-date; it is not that we just need to find a better, more current point of cultural contact. The lesson is that our attempts to find and exploit a point of cultural contact inevitably end in bankruptcy.

So in a nutshell – what I am calling “the addiction to the need to be relevant” lead to the demise of the Crystal Cathedral?  This is a fascinating assertion indeed – one many of the rest of us would do well to pay attention to.

I am in full agreement with my friend Lionel who wrote on my FB page:

What is relevant is that Jesus has redeemed us by hanging on a bloody cross. If you are bored with that, you are bored with the metanarrative of the Scriptures.

I think think the problem isn’t the issue of relevancy, the gospel is always relevant and relevant across cultures – the issue is contextualization – how do we communicate the ever relevant gospel in an understandable way – in language people will understand?  To me that is more the issue and one we as Christians need to get back on track with.

The greatest hinderance to missions

says Christopher Wright is idolatryHere is a portion of what he had to say at the recent 3rd Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization:

God’s people today, like in the Old Testament, have fallen to worshiping the false gods and idols of the world, said the international director of U.K.-based Langham Partnerships as he spoke before the thousands attending the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization.

“Idolatry … is the biggest single obstacle to world mission,” said Wright, who will be the main drafter of the much-anticipated Cape Town Commitment that will come out of the weeklong gathering of mission-minded Christian leaders.

According to Wright, the three idols are: power and pride, popularity and success, and wealth and greed.

Many evangelical leaders, he said, have become obsessed about their status and power in the Christian church and have become disobedient to Christ in the process. They worship popularity and therefore exaggerate or report dishonest statistics to make themselves look more successful than they are Similar to the false prophets of old, these leaders claim to speak the word of God but really act in their own self-interest.

The Church was dazzled by these super apostles who boasted about their credentials and their impressive speaking and great popularity,” said the theologian, whose ministry was once led by John Stott, the evangelical leader who was the main drafter of the first two Lausanne covenants.

But the Kingdom of God cannot be built on the foundations of dishonesty and lies, such as questionable statistics of success, he said. It also cannot be built based on the false teaching of prosperity gospel, which distorts what it means to be blessed by God and does not properly teach about suffering and the cross, Wright added.

“We are a scandal and a stumbling block to the mission of God,” Wright stated.

Ouch!  But I think Wright is dead on.  There is a serious problem in the church when there is, for example, in the case of one congregation I know of, a 25-30 year gap between the time one congregation sends out one or more long term career missionaries, and when they send the next one out, if at all.  Maybe this indicates a shift in thinking about missions, but still, it is not a good sign.

I happen to know a few long term missionaries who are nearing retirement and they are all wondering where the new missionaries are going to come from, especially when missions conventions are either altogether non-existent or done in haphazard fashion where the missionaries are only allowed a few minutes to share their visions, aren’t given much time to interact with congregations and so on.

Why?  One possibility is as Wright is suggesting – congregations have lost the vision to engage in cross-cultural mission due to various idolatrous practices and attitudes.   I am concerned too this can happen as well when we sing the song “everybody is a missionary” because, as one Stephen Neill once said, “When everything is missions, nothing is missions” and when everything becomes missions then, I think, urgency to proclaim the gospel can be lost because areas of the world where it needs to be more strongly supported or emphasized end up loosing out, and then, unreached peoples continue to go on unreached while we stay safe in our nice big mega-church buildings patting ourselves on the back for being such good and faithful Christians, when more likely we’re just participating in a closed system of self congratulation and idolatry – which is what Christ Wright is getting at.

Time is short people, we can’t waste time on ourselves and our echo chamber conversations – the work of the gospel must go on and carried out with urgency and diligence.



3rd Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization

For those interested in things related to cross-cultural mission – Oct 16-25 worldwide mission leaders are holding the 3rd Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization.   It is being held in Cape Town, South Africa – it is an invitation only event and is a growing network of some 4000 Christian leaders (from across all denominations and Christian ministries) who are solely committed to the cause of world evangelization.

The event will be live bogged (blog post will be put up daily reflecting on the conference and things said during the conference, etc) and podcasts put up.   Here are a couple of sites to follow the live blogs and podcasts:

One is with the Assemblies of God on their Ministry Direct website:

And the Lausanne website:

Finally, if you are interested, final papers for the conference are here:

Should be lots of good stuff!