THEOLOGY & New book biblically dissects weaknesses of a prosperity theology

Commentary by Prof. B:  As a Fellow of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton College, I am also a member of the Lausanne Movement (an evangelical movement to connect influencers with ideas for global mission, founded by Billy Graham). As such, we study practice and theology.  Sometimes students inquire about a prosperity theology and to help gain a theologically nuanced understanding I recommend Julia Cameron’s new book: Prosperity Theology and the Gospel (Hendrickson Publishers / The Lausanne Library. ISBN 978 1 68307 049 8).

Here is an excerpt by Ms. Cameron explaining the purpose of the book:


“New Book: Prosperity Theology and the Gospel” by Julia Cameron, Lausanne Movement, 12/7/17.

We … a group made up largely of theologians and missiologists, gathered from all continents, shared a sense of purpose. Our hope was to engage deeply with the ‘different gospel’ that has undermined the true gospel in many churches. One fruit of our gathering would be a book. Its publication took time, but now we offer to the church what I believe may be the most thorough book on this subject to date.

What, then, is this ‘different gospel’? It is widely-known as ‘prosperity theology’. Its teaching has parodied biblical teaching on the character of God, and created a new brand of ‘discipleship’, not known in Scripture. Its influence—promising so much—has caused untold harm. Leading up to the Third Lausanne Congress, I was working with Christianity Today on a series of articles and videos addressing critical issues in the church. The article on prosperity theology was one of the most-read…

It is important to note that there can be no condemning of prosperity itself. The group in Atibaia recognized a clear ‘theology of prosperity’ running through Scripture. Think, for example, of Abraham, David, and Solomon, men blessed with much material wealth, as of course Job had been. Indeed, the creation of wealth should be regarded as a Christian mandate, for the good of society. This, however, was not the brief for our work in Atibaia.

I am now able to commend to you Prosperity Theology and the Gospel: Good News or Bad News for the Poor?—a thorough, lucid, accessible, and, we trust, seminal book. Let’s be good stewards of what it offers.

As with all Lausanne books, we include study questions at the end of chapters. This could easily be used in church groups or workplace fellowship groups. The Atibaia Statement draws the threads of the book together. In its Conclusion, Femi Adeleye and Valdir Steuernagel take the four ‘calls’ of the statement and offer pointers for the church—the local church. Yours or mine.


Read more at …https://www.lausanne.org/about/blog/new-book-prosperity-theology-gospel?utm_source=Lausanne+Movement+List&utm_campaign=46cec14512-RSS_Best_of&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_602c1cb67d-46cec14512-91675265

Here is a video introduction to the Lausanne Movement:

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STUDENT SUCCESS & Info on Makeup Work for Those Who Miss an Onsite Class

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 11/16/17.

(Note: If you are in an online course, please see the attendance parameters here: https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/2015/08/27/student-success-my-expectations-for-late-postings-in-my-courses/)

Makeup Work for Excused Absences in Onsite Courses

Emergencies always occur and sooner or later they will interfere with a student’s attendance in an onsite class.  For instance, recently on the same classroom night a baby was born (congrats Thomas), a car transmission broke down (prayed for Lee) and another student was teaching at a nearby mega-congregation.

When events happen that prevent attendance at a live, onsite classroom session, here are the parameters I utilize in my courses for fairness and to continue learning:

  1. Request makeup work by contacting me.
    • Do so before the class if possible.
      • My mobile phone number is in the syllabus.
      • If you cannot phone, ask a classmate to let me know.
    • If you cannot let me know until afterward the class, do so at the earliest convenience.
  2. If there discussion points for the week (and most weeks there are) then with my approval your makeup work is the following :
    • In 400-600 words create a “plan” to implement something you learned from the required reading and outside sources you read for the missed week.
    • This plan should be actionable, meaning you describe a “detailed plan” about how you will employ it in your ministry setting.
    • Thus, it should include time-lines, due dates and delegation responsibilities.
    • You plan should include an evaluation element to show how you will know when you have met your goals of implementation.
    • As always,  use APA style including  a cover page, an abstract and (if needed) appendixes.
  3. Submit the plan within three weeks after the missed classroom period (or ask me for an additional extension if the emergency is ongoing).

Remember, attendance is different.

If you have any questions about the Wesley Seminary attendance policy, you can find it at the link below.  Just be aware that while I can give you makeup work, I ethically can’t mark you absent if you didn’t meet the official attendance requirements in the latest catalogue (available here: http://indwes.smartcatalogiq.com/en/2017-2018/Catalog_

Online has different parameters.

Class participation is different for an online course (which occurs over a 7-day week) and an onsite class (which occurs on just 1-2 days).  Hence, for an onsite class (with its limited discussion time) the parameters must be more lenient.

As stated above, if you are in an online course, please see the attendance and posting parameters here: https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/2015/08/27/student-success-my-expectations-for-late-postings-in-my-courses/

STUDENT SUCCESS & Bloom’s Taxonomy Explained … What It Means for Student Learning

by Bob Whitesel Ph.D., 10/23/17.

Untitled copyWhen a student is in graduate school, they are expected to “think at a higher level” than they would while pursuing an undergraduate degree.

But how do you define this higher level of thinking?

Thankfully, an educator named Benjamin S. Bloom and his colleagues devised a hierarchal way of looking at learning. They gave the “higher levels of thinking, higher numbers” in a chart called “Bloom’s Taxonomy”  It can be found in the book: Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: The Classification of Educational Goals (1969).

Here is what I said in an article I wrote for adjunct instructors about this: “Graduate education differs to a degree with undergraduate education in that graduate education tries to foster thinking and application that is “higher” on Bloom’s taxonomy of learning domains.”

So, we as professors are trying to encourage students to think at higher levels as charted on Bloom’s chart of learning.

To see the difference, look at the words associated with the higher domains, such as “analyzing (level 4), evaluating (level 5) and creating (level 6).”  I think you can see that you can’t be analyzing without comparing 2+ views on the topic. And you certainly can’t be evaluating or creating without looking at 2+ views on each topic.

Therefore as a professor, I give my students a rule-of-thumb in my syllabi that “analyzing, evaluating and creating” in my courses requires a rule-of-thumb use of 1-2 textbooks and 2-3 outside sources for average, i.e. “B-level” work. Therefore a student who scores better than a B would be expected to use 3+ textbooks and 4+ outside sources. Students had told me this rule of thumb greatly helps.

So dig into other views on each topic you’re studying by skimming articles, books and videos on each topic.

To help you do this, I created ChurchHealth.wiki as a great place to find those articles. You can just “search” for a topic and you will find hand-picked articles I have curated for you because they are relevant to the topics I teach.

For a quick overview see this chart: http://www.educatorstechnology.com/2012/07/a-quick-guide-to-21st-century-critical.html

Also, skim over this comparative diagram developed by Andrew Churches (GlobalDigitalCitizen.org) which depicts and compares the varying levels of Bloom’s taxonomy: FIGURE Blooms Taxonomy poster GlobalDigitalCitizenFIGURE Blooms Taxonomy poster GlobalDigitalCitizen

And, here are more ideas that I have posted elsewhere (for students applying for “independent studies”) about how to create research at the higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy:

(The following is by Bob Whitesel D.Min. Ph.D., 9/5/17 and is from STUDENT SUCCESS & How to create and receive approval for an independent study at Wesley Seminary. See #3 under the first set of bulleted points.)

Students often request the “independent study”  or IP option as a replacement for a course that isn’t offered within a reasonable timeframe.

However the title “independent study” can be misleading if it gives the impression that the student is going to just independently write up the assignments required in the course.

Rather the term “independent” connotes that a student will “independently” take an existing course syllabus and add to it learning activities that would equal and compensate for a 4-8 hours of classroom interaction each week.

Wesley Seminary provides students a form to fill out for an independent study that includes these stipulations. In the middle of the form are four boxes to be checked regarding additional material that must be attached to the application.

The four checked boxes and attachments indicate what additional learning activities the student has added to the syllabus to make this an “independent” study.

Remember, an independent study does not only mean that it’s done independently. But it also means that the student has “independently” created a course based on the provided syllabus which adds roughly 4-8 hours a week of student work that would have been part of the online or onsite discussion/interaction.

It isn’t hard to do, but an “independent study” does require the same amount of work as a course that has interaction with other students and with a professor. Thus, the student independently creates assignments and learning activities that compensate and equal the amount of time the student would have spent conversing with other students and faculty in a course that was taught live.

Here are ideas a student can use to create the 4-8 hours a week of work that would have been part of the online or onsite discussion/interaction in a live course.

First, remember that during a live course the interaction with students and professor would result in the following benefits:

  1. The student would be learning from other students about different contexts.
  2. From the professor they would be learning about the latest books and articles on the topic.
  3. This student would be operating in the higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. These levels would include:

To compensate in an IP, a student might undertake the following ideas based upon the numbered bulleted points above:

  1. The student might interview people from various contexts (this is called primary research, where students go themselves to learn about something first-hand).
  2. The student would independently find and skim tools from the latest articles and books (that otherwise a professor might bring into class discussion).
  3. The student would demonstrate each week that they are evaluating, comparing creating and synthesizing ideas into a new, original plan that is indigenous to the student’s context. Be sure to read more about these higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy.

You can also download a helpful explanation of Bloom’s Taxonomy from BloomsTaxonomy.org here: http://www.bloomstaxonomy.org/Blooms%20Taxonomy%20questions.pdf

PRIVILEGE & Exercises to Understand Privilege (Privilege Walk)

by Barbara Lesch McCaffry, American Multi-Cultural Studies, Hutchins School of Liberal Studies, and Women’s and Gender Studies, Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park, California. Retrieved from http://userpages.umbc.edu/~korenman/wmst/privilege1.html

Unity and Privilege Exercise

Have students stand in a straight line (quite close together).

  • Request they hold hands with the person on either side of them for as long as possible and refrain from speaking during the exercise.
  • Or they can stand in a circle without holding hands.

·      Put a chair at some distance in front of the line or in the center of the circle (not as effective). At the end of the questions the facilitator announces that the winner is the first one to sit on the chair.·      Tell participants in advance that is any question makes them feel uncomfortable they should just ignore the question, moving neither forward nor backward.·      An optional exercise is to ask the participants to add their own questions after all the questions have been asked. One research said, “I recall one instance in which some of the immigrant students had questions that US born participants did not / could not anticipate…etc.”

—-

 

If your ancestors were forced to come to the USA, not by choice, take one step back.

 

If your primary ethnic identity is American, take one step forward.

 

If you were ever called names because of your race, class, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation, take one step back.

 

If there were people of color who worked in your household as servants, gardeners, etc., take one step forward.

 

If your parents were professional, doctors, lawyers, etc., take one step forward.

 

If you were raised in an area where there was prostitution, drug activity, etc. take one step back.

 

If you ever tried to change you appearance, mannerisms, or behavior to avoid being judged or ridiculed, take one step back.

 

If you studied the culture of your ancestors in elementary school, take one step forward.

 

If you went to a school speaking a language other than English, take one step back.

 

If there were more than 50 books in your house when you grew up, take one step forward.

 

If you ever had to skip a meal or were hungry because there was not enough money to buy food when you were growing up, take one step back.

 

If you were brought to art galleries or plays by your parents, take one step forward.

 

If one of your parents were unemployed or laid off, not by choice, take one step back.

 

If you attended a private school or summer camp, take one step forward.

 

If your family ever had to move because they could not afford the rent, take one step back.

 

If you were told that you were beautiful, smart, and capable by your parents, take one step forward.

 

If you were ever discouraged from academic or jobs because of race, class, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation, take one step back.

 

If you were ever encouraged to attend a college by your parents, take one step forward.

 

If prior to age 18, you took a vacation out of the country, take one step forward.

 

If one of your parents did not complete high school, take one step back.

 

If your family owned your own house, take one step forward.

 

If you saw members of your race, ethnic group, gender, or sexual orientation were portrayed on television in degrading roles, take one step back.

 

If you were ever offered a good job because of your association with a friend or family member, take one step forward.

 

If you were ever denied employment because of your race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation, take one step back.

 

If you were ever paid less, treated less fairly because of your race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation, take one step back.

 

If you were ever accused of cheating or lying because of your race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation, take one step back.

 

If you ever inherited money or property, take a step forward.

 

If you had to rely primarily on public transportation, take one step back.

 

If you were ever stopped or questioned by the police because of your race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation, take one step back.

 

If you were ever afraid of violence because of your race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation, take one step back.

 

If you were generally able to avoid places that were dangerous, take one step forward.

 

If you ever felt uncomfortable about a joke related to your race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation, take one step back.

 

If you were ever a victim of violence related to your race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation, take one step back.

 

If your parents did not grow up in the United States, take one step back.

 

If your parents told you that you could be anything you wanted to be, take one step forward.

 

Debrief: Ask participants to remain where they are to look at their position in the room or space in relation to the positions of the other participants. Ask participants to pick someone from an opposite position with which to process the exercise. If a circle was used in lieu of a line, the privileged with be in the middle and the “others” will be on the outside. White males (almost always near the front) will find it very easy to sit on the chair at the end. One researcher noted, “for the Black males who are almost always way at the back–this is impossible–although I once had a Black male who really put on some speed to try and get there. It is an excellent reminder of the effect of unearned privilege.”

Questions: What are your thoughts and feelings about this exercise? Were you surprised? Why? If time permits or if relevant: Would your placement have been different if the exercise included questions about disability or religion? How could affirmative action impact these issues? Take about 10 minutes for the pairs to process and then have them report back to the group as a whole.

 

EVANGELISM & Quotes on Its Importance and Holistic Nature

Compiled by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 10/22/13.


Evangelism relates to people’s eternal destiny, and in bringing them Good News of salvation, Christians are doing what nobody else can do.  Seldom if ever should we have to choose between satisfying physical huger and spiritual hunger, or between healing bodies and saving souls, since an authentic love for our neighbor will lead us to serve him or her as a whole person. Nevertheless, if we must choose, then we have to say that the supreme and ultimate need of humankind is the saving grace of Jesus Christ, and that therefore a person’s eternal, spiritual salvation is of greater importance than his or her temporal and material well being.

  • John Stott, Evangelism and Social Responsibility: An Evangelical Commitment (Lausanne Committee for Evangelism and the World Evangelical Fellowship, 1982), 25.

Evangelism is the first priority of the Church’s ministry in the world (italics Snyder).  This is true for several reason: the clear biblical mandate for evangelism; the centrality and necessity of personal conversion in God’s plan; the reality of judgment; the fact that changed persons are necessary to change society; the fact that the Christian community exists and expands only as evangelism is carried out.  The Church that fails to evangelize is both biblically unfaithful and strategically shortsighted.”

  • Howard A. Snyder, The Community of the King (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press), 101.

When a person dies without hearing that ‘God so loved the words that he sent his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes on him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16, RSV), it is too late. The best thing that could possibly happen to that person has been denied.”

  • C. Peter Wagner, Church Growth and the Whole Gospel (San Francisco, CA: Harper and Row, 1981).

“By leaving the ghetto behind, the church has implied that its mission is meaningless to the poor, the hopeless and the wretched – except when an ocean separates the church from the ghetto.”

  • David L. McKenna, ed., The Urban Crisis (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1969) 138.

Howard Snyder reminds us that, “an evangelism that focuses exclusively on souls or on an otherworldly transaction which makes no real difference here and how is unfaithful to the gospel.

  • The Community of the King (Inter-Varsity) 102.

“Today the sinfulness of the social order offends thoughtful Christians everywhere…. The great inequalities of wealth and poverty among the haves and have-nots, and the revolting treatment meted out to oppressed minorities, are clearly contrary to the will of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

  • Donald A. McGavran, Understanding Church Growth (Eerdmans, 1970), 25.

“In postmodern terms, we might say that Jesus came to bring equal access and opportunity to those in substandard living conditions, to give voice and identity to those other than the dominant social elite, and to alleviate the ravages of capitalistic imperialism and colonialist economic aggression.”

  • Lewis A. Drummond, Reaching Generation Next: Effective Evangelism in Today’s Culture (Baker Books, 2002), 179.

Of the current authors you are reading …

  • Were more go focused?
  • Were more come focused?
  • Were balanced?
  • What must you do to prevent imbalance?
  • What is missing between “going” & “coming.”
  • Why is the “missional middle” missing?
  • What must you do to prevent the missing middle?

 

CONVERSION & How and When Does Conversion Occur?

by Bob Whitesel D.Min, Ph.D., excerpted from Spiritual Waypoints: Helping Others Navigate the Journey (2010), pp. 138-139.

Does conversion occur in a flash, with miraculous transformations and heavenly encounters? Does conversion take place over time? Or perhaps conversion is a stumbling process, where the conversionary experience takes place in what Richard Peace calls “fits and starts.”[i] Richard Peace, Scot McKnight and others have looked at the New Testament record and conclude that the answer is “all of the above.”[ii] Let us look at three basic categories.

Sudden Conversion. Sometimes conversion takes place “in a flash … a sudden point-in-time transformation based on an encounter with Jesus.”[iii] This is the experience of Saul/Paul in Acts 9, and has became the standard way the evangelical church looks at conversion.[iv] At the altar sudden and dramatic responses are often expected, door-to-door visits lead to a “prayer of commitment,” and mass rallies end with an appeal to come forward for conversion.[v] While this may be required to facilitate a person on the verge of a sudden conversionary experience, not all conversions happen in this manner. Psychologist Lewis Rambo, in an exhaustive look at religious conversion, concludes that “for the most part it (religious conversion) takes place over a period of time.”[vi] Thus, the evangelical church may be limiting the number of wayfarers she can help by focusing too exclusively on sudden conversion.

Progressive Conversion.[vii] A closer look at the Gospel of Mark reveals that Mark was describing a different, more gradual paradigm of conversion. As Peace notes:

“What Mark sought to communicate in his Gospel was the process by which these twelve men gradually turned, over time, from their culturally derived understanding of Jesus as a great teacher to the amazing discovery that he was actually the Messiah who was the Son of God. In showing how the Twelve turned to Jesus, step-by-step, Mark was inviting his readers to undergo the same journey of conversion.”[viii]

Peace concludes that “what happened to Paul, and what happened to the Twelve was identical in terms of theological understanding, though quite different experientially.”[ix]

Scot McKnight describes how progressive conversion can take place in churches that practice infant baptism. McKnight states, “for many Christians conversion is a process of socialization,”[x] meaning that nurture is confirmed later by personal affirmation. For example, an infant baptism or an infant dedication can be seen as a public affirmation that the church community and parents will nurture that child (i.e. via spiritual socialization). After growing up in this environment of spiritual socialization and religious community, the grown child will be expected to ratify this effort via further instruction (i.e. catechism) and confirmation.

Liturgical Acts and Conversion. McKnight also notes that in some liturgical traditions, such as the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, while conversion is experienced, the sacraments are more involved. Thus, baptism, the Eucharist and “official rites of passage” are where conversionary experiences often take place for “liturgical converts.”[xi] There is nothing to preclude that God can use such spiritual rites as touchstone experiences where metanoia (repentance) is combined with pistis (faith) in order to bring about epistophe (conversion).

[i] Charles Kraft, Christian Conversion As A Dynamic Process,” International Christian Broadcasters Bulletin, [Colorado Springs, Colo.: International Christian Broadcasters, 1974], Second Quarter; Scot McKnight, Turning to Jesus: The Sociology of Conversion in the Gospels; Richard Peace, Conversion in the New Testament: Paul and the Twelve, 6; Peace, “Conflicting Understandings of Christian Conversion;” Lewis R. Rambo, Understanding Religious Conversion (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1993).

[ii] Scot McKnight, Turning to Jesus: The Sociology of Conversion in the Gospels.

[iii] Richard Peace, Conversion in the New Testament: Paul and the Twelve, 6.

[iv] Peace, “Conflicting Understandings of Christian Conversion,” 8-9.

[v] Donald Miller’s analysis of the results of crusade evangelism in the Harvest Crusades with evangelist Greg Laurie discovered that only about 10 percent of the decisions for Christ resulted in long-term changes in personal behavior (Reinventing American Protestantism: Christianity in the new Millennium, Berkley: University of Calif. Press, 1997), 171-172. However, Sterling Huston’s earlier research on the Billy Graham Crusades suggested the results were six times this (Sterling W. Huston, Crusade Evangelism and the Local Church [Minneapolis, Minn.: World Wide Publishing, 1984]). Whether these discrepancies were the result of tactics, cultures, samples or eras remains to be researched. The answer may lie somewhere in between. The ambiguity of these results begs further analysis by researchers.

[vi] Rambo, Understanding Religious Conversion, 165.

[vii] Charles Kraft introduced terminology to distinguish the different types of people that experience sudden conversion or progressive conversion. On the on hand, Kraft saw people who undergo radical and sudden conversion as usually “first generation Christians” who previously had only been moderately influenced by Christian principles. On the other hand, Kraft saw “second-generation Christians” as those who were raised in Christian homes and in which “there may be little or no behavioral change evident as a result of the conscious decision to personally affirm one’s commitment to the Christian community in which one has been practicing since birth” (Charles Kraft, Christian Conversion As A Dynamic Process,” International Christian Broadcasters Bulletin, 8.) While the terms “first” and “second generation Christians” have been widely used, these terms cause some problems. First, Paul’s conversion was certainly radical and sudden (Acts 9), yet he had been practicing a devout lifestyle (Acts 23:6), so in Kraft’s paradigm he should have had a more progressive experience. In addition, McKnight’s story does not fit with Kraft’s paradigm, for in the interview that concludes this chapter McKnight states that he underwent a radical behavioral change in a progressive sequence. Thus, the value of Kraft’s insights may be that there are numerous ways that conversion is encountered and that whether a person is a first- or second-generation Christian has some, though limited, affect. Instead, the emphasis should be upon the fluid role of the Holy Spirit in individualizing conversion to each traveler, for as John 3:7 states, “So don’t be so surprised when I tell you that you have to be ‘born from above’—out of this world, so to speak. You know well enough how the wind blows this way and that. You hear it rustling through the trees, but you have no idea where it comes from or where it’s headed next. That’s the way it is with everyone ‘born from above’ by the wind of God, the Spirit of God” (The Message).

[viii] Richard Peace, Conversion in the New Testament: Paul and the Twelve, 4.

[ix] Ibid., 10. Some may argue that progressive conversion as described in Mark was necessitated because the Holy spirit had not yet been given at the Day of Pentecost. While this is a valid critique, Lewis Rambo’s research suggesting that most conversion is progressive (Rambo, Understanding Religious Conversion, 165) may indicate that both examples are valid.

[x] Scot McKnight, Turning to Jesus: The Sociology of Conversion in the Gospels, 5.

[xi] Ibid., 7.

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THE GREAT COMMISSION & North American Christianity: Making Sense of the Big Picture

by Norman G. Wilson, Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University, 10/26/11.

Countless global challenges face North American Christians and churches today as we endeavor to obey our Lord’s command to “go to the ends of the earth.” Long lists of issues are often cited, including but not limited to the following (Guthrie 2000; Pocock et al. 2005):

  • Supporting national workers
  • Finances and patron-client relations
  • Missionary care and attrition
  • Contextualization
  • Short-term missions
  • Women in missions
  • Globalization
  • Partnerships
  • Technology
  • Terrorism

Frequently one may wonder if there is any way to make sense of the big picture and how these issues are interrelated. For these reasons, identifying and analyzing several overarching realities of North American Christianity that interface with a number of the most prominent issues could be very helpful for believers and churches. In this way, vital topics for discussion can be identified and addressed, hopefully leading to more comprehensive and faithful approaches to addressing the current challenges before us.

A Mile Wide and an Inch Deep Abroad?

On one hand, from various perspectives Christianity in North America is prospering.   Protestantism, revivalism, the rise of evangelicalism, volunteering, and the modern missionary movement of the past century sensitized and mobilized the laity during the twentieth century to serve as missionaries in unprecedented numbers around the world.

The financial resources available to North American Christians are at record levels. Furthermore, multiple mission organizations now provide administrative infrastructures for a broad spectrum of ministries and represent over a century of institutional memories and wisdom regarding effective management of missionary endeavors. These developments have contributed significantly to the huge global impact of the modern missionary movement during the past century and helped to establish Christianity in many countries around the world.

Even then, at times and in many places around the world, rather shallow expressions of the Christian faith and doctrine were syncretized with local tribal customs, thus failing to penetrate deeply into the host cultures and thoroughly transform the people and their ways of life (cf. Cope 2001; Miller 2001; Sider 1999; Sider, Olson, and Unruh 2002; Stone 2004 and 2007).

Meanwhile Something’s Amiss Back Home

Meanwhile back home in North America, a number of debilitating weaknesses have emerged and are hindering North American Christians from fulfilling our Lord’s command. Worldliness is growing among many who call themselves Christians of the majority culture. Redemption and lift has created a Christian culture that is increasingly wealthy, materialistic, hedonistic, self-absorbed, parochial, and self-serving (Sider 2005).

Furthermore, many who consider themselves Christians allow their perspectives and passions to be formed more by the influences of this world than by a personal relationship with Christ and immersion in the Scriptures. This growing tendency of North American Christians to identify more with the world and its values than with those of our Lord’s kingdom is weakening their ability to be effective witnesses of the Good News at home and abroad.

North Americans, Bellicosity and Fanaticism

Being an American and a missionary can have both positive and negative consequences. Americans around the world are both loved and hated, often for understandable and at times for puzzling reasons. The role of The United States as a world leader often represents a hindrance for Christian missionaries serving abroad. For this reason, discretion is urged regarding discussions about political matters. Otherwise, one’s motives and loyalties can be questioned, even when speaking from commendable perspectives. As a result, in many places one can never know for sure how those of our host countries are thinking and feeling about our presence and ministries.

Due to the rise of fanaticism by those of Muslim backgrounds and otherwise, and also to North American nationalistic fervor and bellicosity, North American missionaries that live abroad are increasingly at risk. While being a Christian has always meant dying to self and living for Christ, the stakes for North American missionaries in many countries have never been higher. Obeying our Lord’s call frequently means considerable risks to a missionary’s personal safety and that of one’s family.   Meanwhile, North American Christians back home need to remember that first and foremost we are citizens of our Lord’s kingdom and only pilgrims in our earthly country.

Missional Churches at Home and Abroad

The call in North America for local churches to be Missional, on one hand, could represent the possibility of a renewal of passion and interest and a welcomed shift of emphasis (Guder 1998; Rusaw and Swanson 2004; Stetzer and Putman 2006; Van Engen 1991). This new focus could motivate and enable local churches to reach outward and engage in transformational ministries in their communities, across the continent, and around the world. The call for local churches to become Missional could prompt one to hope for the coming of an exciting new missionary movement, bringing a breath of fresh air to North American missions, both domestically and globally.

On the other hand, the proposal by some to “subsume missions in mission” (McClaren 2006, 138 ff.) could result in a reductionist approach to the Great Commission. One would hope that North American Christians could become effective as cross-cultural witnesses by first reaching the world that has come to our doorsteps in recent decades and then going around the world. But effective cross-cultural ministries typically do not happen automatically. Today more than ever, specialized training is needed to enhance our endeavors, often including years of missiological training and language learning (Medearis 2008, Pillai 2003).

During the past century, missions organizations provided specialized resources, training, and infrastructures for cross-cultural ministries. Now with the emergence of the Missional church movement, some may imagine that local churches can fulfill the Great Commission both at home and abroad through their own initiatives and endeavors with little or no outside input or collaboration.

Unfortunately, at times local churches end up focusing primarily on their own sub-cultures while minimalizing their cross-cultural Missional outreach efforts across town and around the world. Given that a significant number of evangelical churches today are located in rural, small town and middle and upper class suburban areas, many Christians of the majority culture rarely interact significantly with the diversity of cultures that are found in large urban areas. North American majority culture Christians typically have been slow to identify with strangers, the marginalized, visitors, and immigrants (Carroll 2008; Soerens and Hwang 2009; Wilson 2006 and 2009).

For these reasons, local Missional churches need to supplement their endeavors through partnerships with broader ecclesiastical structures, mission organizations, churches in communities of diverse cultures, and other intermediary organizations for resourcing, training, and networking.

The Global South and International Partnerships

New developments abroad represent emerging opportunities for North American Christians in Great Commission ministries. In recent decades the number of believers has multiplied in the Global south, providing a groundswell of coworkers in the harvest fields from Central and South America, Africa, and Asia, along with others from Europe, the Middle East, and the Pacific regions (Jenkins 2002, 2006, and 2007; Johnstone and Mandryk 2001; Mandryk 2009; Miller and Yamamori 2007; Noll 2009). These represent multiple opportunities to work together for greater Missional effectiveness. In response, North American believers must shift from their controlling paradigms of the past century, learn to work in multi-national teams, and enter into mutually submissive partnership relationships.

A willingness to develop partnerships with non-North American workers is crucial in order to respond to the newly opened doors for ministry in previously closed countries and among peoples that increasingly are open to spiritual matters. Even where oppressive political regimes prohibit or severely restrict Christian witnessing, missionaries from other countries continue to go and faithfully serve the Lord. Our partnership with them can make a huge difference in their lives and ministries.

Conclusion

God has blessed North American Christians with a wealth of resources, experiences, organizational structures, and insights, and we are called to give much in return for Christ and His Kingdom. Our greatest internal hindrances to Missional faithfulness are due to our own worldliness, materialism, hedonism, parochialism, and self-centeredness.

Meanwhile opportunities to collaborate with Global Christians are greater than ever before in human history, representing huge opportunities for transformational ministries through cross-cultural partnerships and teamwork. Our effectiveness in these ministries depends in large part on our willingness and ability to cooperate as mutual partners. While the threats in many places also are greater than ever before, God has promised never to leave us nor forsake us. Furthermore, He commands us to go forth in courageous obedience to His call, confident in the knowledge that in Him we are more than victorious.

Works Cited and Selected Resources

Carroll R., M. Daniel. 2008. Christians at the border: Immigration, the Church, and the Bible. Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group.

Clegg, Tom, and Warren Bird. 2001. Lost in America: How You and Your Church Can Impact the World Next Door. Loveland, Colorado.

Cope, Landa L. 2001. “Biblical Reflections: The Old Testament (Part I) and The New Testament (Part II).” Messages presented at Godmission.community, Orlando.

Engel, James F. 1996. Clouded Future: Advancing North American World Missions. Milwaukee: Christian Stewardship Association.

Engel, James, and William Dyrness. 2000. Changing the mind of missions: Where have we gone wrong? Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press.

Guder, Darrell L., Ed. 1998. Missional church: A vision for the sending of the church in North America. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company.

Guthrie, Stan. 2000. Missions in the third millennium: 21 key trends for the 21st century. Waynesboro, Georgia: Paternoster Press.

Jenkins, Philip. 2002. The next Christendom: The coming of global Christianity. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

________. 2006. The new faces of Christianity: Believing the Bible in the global south. New York: Oxford University Press.

________. 2007. God’s Continent: Christianity, Islam, and Europe’s Religious Crisis. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Johnstone, Patrick, and Jason Mandryk. 2001. Operation world: 21st century edition. Waynesboro, Georgia: Paternoster Lifestyle.

Mandryk, Jason. 2009. “The state of the Gospel.” (Video and PowerPoint Presentations) Operation World. http://harvestmediaministry.com/State_Gospel_Full.htm; http://www.joshuaproject.net/great-commission-powerpoints.php

McLaren, Brian D. 2006. The church on the other side: Exploring the radical future of the local congregation. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Marty, Martin. 2007. The Christian world: A global history. New York: The Modern Library.

Medearis, Carl. 2008. Muslims, Christians, and Jesus: Gaining understanding and building relationships. Minneapolis: Bethany House.

Miller, Darrow L. 2001. Discipling nations: The power of truth to transform cultures (2nd Ed.). Seattle: YWAM Publishing.

Miller, Donald E., and Tetsunao Yamamori. 2007. Global Pentecostalism: The new face of Christian social engagement. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Noll, Mark A. 2009. The new shape of world Christianity: How American experience reflects global faith. Downers Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press.

Pillai, Rajendra. 2003. Reaching the world in our own backyard: A guide to building relationships with people of other faiths and cultures. Colorado Springs: WaterBrook Press.

Pocock et al. 2005. The changing face of world missions: Engaging contemporary issues and trends. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic.

Rusaw, Rick, and Eric Swanson. 2004. The externally focused church. Loveland, Colorado: Group Publishing.

Sider, Ronald J. 1999. Good news and good works: A theology for the whole Gospel. Grand Rapids: Baker Books.

________. 2005. The scandal of the evangelical conscience: Why are Christians living just like the rest of the world? Grand Rapids: Baker Books.

Sider, Ronald J., Olson, Philip N., and Unruh, Heidi Rolland. 2002. Churches that make a difference: Reaching your community with good news and good works. Grand Rapids: Baker Books.

Soerens, Matthew, and Jenny Hwang. 2009. Welcoming the stranger: Justice, compassion and truth in the immigration debate. Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press.

Stetzer, Ed, and David Putman. 2006. Breaking the Missional code: Your church can become a missionary in your community. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman and Holman Publishers.

Stone, Bryan P. 2004. Compassionate ministry: Theological foundations. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books.

________. 2007. Evangelism after Christendom: The theology and practice of Christian witness. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press.

Van Engen, Charles. 1991. God’s missionary people: Rethinking the purpose of the local church. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

Wilson, Norman G. 2005. “Compassionate ministry and evangelism: Their relationship and expression.” Wesleyan Church Web Site: Leadership Development Journey (July). http://globalambassadors.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2008-10-31T10%3A27%3A00-04%3A00&max-results=7

________. 2006. “Good news for the immigration problem.” Wesleyan Life: Winter. http://evangelicals-and-illegal-immigrants.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2008-09-24T10%3A13%3A00-04%3A00&max-results=7 (Posted Wednesday, March 19, 2008)

________. 2009. “Evangelism and social action—revisiting an old debate: Good News for immigrants and Evangelicals too.” Journal of The American Society for Church Growth: Volume 20, Winter, pages 69-83. http://globalambassadors.blogspot.com/2009/06/evangelism-and-social-actionrevisiting.html

STUDENT SUCCESS & Are You a Degree-seeking Student or a Knowledge-seeking One?

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 10/27/16.

Over the years I’ve noticed many students gravitating towards one of two academic cliques. Not all students will gravitate to one or the other, but many will. My observations have led me to believe connecting with one group in lieu of the other is more beneficial for long-term professional impact. I’m talking about the difference between those who seek a degree and those who seek knowledge. Let me explain a few differences.

The purpose for going to school:

The degree-seeking student is often encouraged to go to school because of a family or professional expectation. Their goal is to get the degree, which they hope will open professional doors. Often times those doors don’t open because, while they possess the degree, their knowledge is weakly formed.

Knowledge-seeking students usually go to school because they have a propensity towards being a creative learner. They want to learn new concepts and apply them in new ways. They are innovative and in brace past knowledge as a foundation upon which to build new insights. They believe they can change the way their profession behaves.

Hanging out:

The degree-seeking student usually hangs out with other similarly oriented students with conversations about the benefits or lack of benefits of the degree. Similarly, they tend to be more critical of the process, because they want to hurry through the academic journey to get the goal towards which they strive: the degree. It is not uncommon to hear them complaining about due dates, level of depth expected by the professor and all sorts of seemingly unfair academic expectations that slow them in their progress to a degree.

Knowledge-seeking students see academia as a challenge and understand that extra work can result in extra knowledge. They don’t add citations to assignments simply because they want to pad the assignment. Instead they absorb knowledge from from a broad reading base, upon which to craft new ways to think about their homework topics. They look forward to input from the professor and often engage in dialogue about the topic with their professor at off hours.

Unlike the degree-seeking student that may engage their professor with complaints about why the process is not easier or quicker: the knowledge-seeking student usually engages the professor with questions and ideas about how the topic can be investigated and applied better.

The lure of the cliques:

Similar to the Jets and the Sharks in West Side Story, there’s a tendency for the nonaffiliated students to be pulled into one of these groups. It is evident from what I have written here, that I believe one of these groups better serves the student and the Academy. But many students do not affiliate with either, preferring to just get through the program with a modicum of knowledge.

Yet, I believe today we need more students who are dedicated to investigating, synthesizing and forming new understandings about our world. Our great Creator has given us many mysteries and applications to solve. And I believe He has provided the relationship of the mentor and mentee as one way to discover it.

THEOLOGY & Most Americans Believe personal salvation takes work

by Bob Smietana, Facts and Trends, LifeWay, 9/28/16.

Findings of a new survey of American views on Christian theology from Nashville-based LifeWay Research (include) …

Personal salvation takes work.

Three-quarters of Americans (77 percent) say people must contribute their own effort for personal salvation. Half of Americans (52 percent) say good deeds help them earn a spot in heaven. Sixty percent agree that Jesus Christ’s death on the cross is the only sacrifice that could remove the penalty of their sin…

Read more at … http://factsandtrends.net/2016/09/27/what-do-americans-believe-about-god-new-study-explores-our-theology/

THEOLOGY & Americans disagree about sex, abortion, homosexuality, and gender. #LifeWay

by Bob Smietana, Facts and Trends, LifeWay, 9/28/16.

Findings of a new survey of American views on Christian theology from Nashville-based LifeWay Research (include) …

Americans disagree about sex, abortion, homosexuality, and gender.

About half of Americans (49 percent) say sex outside of traditional marriage is a sin. Forty-four percent say it’s not a sin. Seven percent are not sure.

Forty-nine percent say abortion is a sin. Forty percent say it is not. Eleven percent are not sure. Almost 4 in 10 (38 percent) say gender identity is a matter of choice. Half (51 percent) disagree. One in 10 (11 percent) is not sure.

Forty-two percent of Americans say the Bible’s condemnation of homosexual behavior doesn’t apply today. Forty-four percent disagree. Fourteen percent are not sure.

Women (53 percent) are more likely than men (45 percent) to say sex outside of marriage is a sin. Those who are high school grads or less (56 percent) are more likely to agree than those with bachelor’s degrees (44 percent) or graduate degrees (40 percent). Those with evangelical beliefs (91 percent) are more than twice as likely to agree as those who do not have evangelical beliefs (40 percent).

Americans with evangelical beliefs (87 percent) are more likely to say abortion is a sin than other Americans (41 percent). They are also less likely (32 percent) to say gender identity is a choice than other Americans (40 percent)…

Read more at … http://factsandtrends.net/2016/09/27/what-do-americans-believe-about-god-new-study-explores-our-theology/

THEOLOGY & Americans believe in the Trinity. But it’s complicated.

by Bob Smietana, Facts and Trends, LifeWay, 9/28/16.

Findings of a new survey of American views on Christian theology from Nashville-based LifeWay Research (include) … Americans believe in the Trinity. But it’s complicated.

2016-trinity

Seven out of 10 Americans (69 percent) agree there is one true God in three persons: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Six in 10 say Jesus is both divine and human (61 percent).

But they’re fuzzy on the details of the Trinity. More than half (52 percent) say Jesus is the first and greatest being created by God. And 56 percent say the Holy Spirit is a force rather than a person. The Holy Spirit seems to be particularly confusing: A quarter (28 percent) say the Spirit is a divine being but not equal to God the Father and Jesus. Half (51 percent) disagree. Twenty-one percent are not sure.

Read more at … http://factsandtrends.net/2016/09/27/what-do-americans-believe-about-god-new-study-explores-our-theology/

For a humorous view of the challenges in explaining the trinity, see this video clip from the Cohen brothers’ movie Hail Caesar!

THEOLOGY & Most Americans believe resurrection really happened. But not everything else in the Bible did.

by Bob Smietana, Facts and Trends, LifeWay, 9/28/16.

Findings of a new survey of American views on Christian theology from Nashville-based LifeWay Research (include) …

The resurrection really happened. But not everything else in the Bible did.

2016-bible-1More than half of Americans (58 percent) say God is the author of the Bible. About half say the Bible alone is the written Word of God (52 percent). Two-thirds of Americans (64 percent) say the biblical accounts of the physical (bodily) resurrection of Jesus are completely accurate. A quarter (23 percent) disagree. Thirteen percent are not sure. Almost all of those with evangelical beliefs (98 percent) agree, as do more than half of Americans who do not hold evangelical beliefs (56 percent).

Read more at … http://factsandtrends.net/2016/09/27/what-do-americans-believe-about-god-new-study-explores-our-theology/

THEOLOGY & American Views of the Afterlife & Sin

by Bob Smietana, Facts and Trends, LifeWay, 9/28/16.

Findings of a new survey of American views on Christian theology from Nashville-based LifeWay Research (include) …Evangelical believers say hell is for real. Other Americans aren’t so sure.

2016-heavenEighty-four percent of those who hold evangelical beliefs say hell is a place of eternal judgment, where God sends all people who do not personally trust in Jesus Christ. Only 30 percent of Americans who don’t have evangelical beliefs hold that view.

Overall, fewer than half (40 percent) of Americans say those who don’t believe in Jesus will go to hell.

Many evangelical believers say everybody goes to heaven. They also believe that only those who trust Jesus as their Savior are saved.

Two-thirds of those with evangelical beliefs (64 percent) say heaven is a place where all people will ultimately be reunited with their loved ones. That’s slightly higher than Americans in general (60 percent).

By definition, all those with evangelical beliefs affirm that only people who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God’s free gift of eternal salvation. Overall, about half of Americans (54 percent) say only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone receive eternal salvation.

Everybody sins but it’s no big deal.

2016-sinAmericans admit they aren’t perfect. But they give each other the benefit of the doubt. Two-thirds (65 percent) agree that everyone sins a little, but most people are good by nature. More than half (57 percent) say it would be fair for God to show His wrath against sin. But that wrath seems to be reserved only for the worst sinners.

Three-quarters (74 percent) of Americans disagree with the idea that even the smallest sin deserves eternal damnation. That includes almost two-thirds (62 percent) who strongly disagree…

Read more at … http://factsandtrends.net/2016/09/27/what-do-americans-believe-about-god-new-study-explores-our-theology/#.V-ulH_D3aaM

THEOLOGY & Two-thirds of Americans Think God Likes All Religions #Syncretism

by Bob Smietana, Facts and Trends, LifeWay, 9/28/16.

Findings of a new survey of American views on Christian theology from Nashville-based LifeWay Research (include) …

Americans think God likes all religions.

Two-thirds of Americans (64 percent) say God accepts the worship of all religions, including Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Twenty-four percent disagree. Twelve percent are not sure.

Americans of all ages hold this belief, from those 18 to 34 years old (62 percent) to those 50 and older (67 percent). More than half of African-Americans (69 percent), Hispanics (65 percent), whites (63 percent) and Asian-Americans (57 percent) agree.

The one holdout: Americans with evangelical beliefs (48 percent), who are less likely than Americans who don’t have evangelical beliefs (67 percent) to hold this view.

Read more at … http://factsandtrends.net/2016/09/27/what-do-americans-believe-about-god-new-study-explores-our-theology/#.V-ulH_D3aaM

CONVERSION & Sanctification is “the progressive, lifelong aspect of conversion” according to Willimon

wesley-willimon-quote-on-holistic-conversion-copy

William Willimon, Pastor: The theology and practice of ordained ministry (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2002, p. 363.

MISSIONAL & A Holistic Definition of Missio Dei According to Its Origin

“An Abbreviated Introduction to the Concept of Missio Dei” by Greg McKinzie, Missio Dei: A Journal of Missional Theology and Praxis, Aug. 2010, pp. 10-11.

“Mission is ultimately God’s affair.”3  The expression of this fact in terms of “missio Dei” seems especially shaped by the theology of Karl Barth, who first revived the trinitarian idea of missio in 1932.4 In addition, the preliminary report from the U.S. study group hinged upon the doctrine of the Trinity. Thus, the statement that ultimately distills the conference findings reads:

The missionary movement of which we are a part has its source in the Triune God Himself. Out of the depths of His love for us, the Father has sent forth His own beloved Son to reconcile all things to Himself. . . . On the foundation of this accomplished work God has sent forth His Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus. . . . We who have been chosen in Christ . . . are by these very facts committed to full participation in His redeeming mission to the world. There is no participation in Christ without participation in His mission to the world. That by which the Church receives its existence is that by which it is also given its world-mission. “As the Father hath sent Me, even so send I you.”5

It was another document, written by Karl Hartenstein after the conference, that utilized the Latin phrase missio Dei in order to summarize the fundamental idea conveyed by the conference findings:

Mission is not just the conversion of the individual, nor just obedience to the word of the Lord, nor just the obligation to gather the church. It is the taking part in the sending of the Son, the missio Dei, with the holistic aim of establishing Christ’s rule over all redeemed creation.6

Hartenstein clearly wrote from a traditionalist perspective, though his terminology would also be co-opted by the humanist camp in order to signify an idea of mission exclusive of the church’s “taking part” in God’s movement toward the world. Yet, we may note that the dispute was not simply between those who advocated a “social gospel” and those who did not. The “holistic” notion of a kingdom over “all redeemed creation” was integral to the traditionalist view, which made room also for individual conversion, obedience to the word, and the gathering of the church. The issue remained, implicitly at least, one of eschatology and its implications for the church’s instrumentality. That is to say, a critical dialog between eschatology and ecclesiology had begun.7

Footnotes:

3 Wolfgang Günther, “The History and Significance of the World Mission Conferences in the 20th Century,”
International Review of Mission 92, no. 367 (October 2003): 529.

4 Wilhelm Richebächer, “Missio Dei: The Basis of Mission Theology or a Wrong Path?” International Review of Mission 92, no. 367 (October 2003): 590.

5 Michael Kinnamon and Brian E. Cope, The Ecumenical Movement: An Anthology of Key Texts and Voices (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), 339-40.theol

6 Quoted in Tormod Engelsviken, “Missio Dei: The Understanding and Misunderstanding of a Theological Concept in European Churches and Missiology,” International Review of Mission 92, no. 367 (October 2003): 482.

7 Tiina Ahonen, “Antedating Missional Church: David Bosch’s Views on the Missionary Nature of the Church and on the Missionary Structure of the Congregation,” Swedish Missiological Themes 92, no. 4 (2004): 576-77.

The full article is available here: article-abbrv-intro-to-missio-dei.

Speaking hashtags: #Kingswood2018

NEED-MEETING & Willimon’s Advice on Needs vs. Desires

“…in this culture desire becomes elevated to the level of need…and because we tend to be a pit of bottomless desire, there is no end to our need.” Pastors are “expending their lives, running about in such busyness, attempting to service the needs of essentially selfish, self-centered consumers, without critique or limit of those needs.”

Willimon, W. H. (2002). Pastor: The theology and practice of ordained ministry. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, p. 95.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: How should we react?

And what should we do to instill in congregants a sensitivity to real human needs and not just desires?

I have suggested in my book “Cure for the Common Church” that the best strategy is to follow John Wesley and require that all members serve the needy on a regular basis, usually through their small group. Cure for the Common Church: God’s Plan to Restore Church Health (Wesleyan Publishing House, 2012), chapter 2, “CURE O: Grow O.U.T.”

PASTORAL PRACTICE & A Summary of Willimon’s “Pastor: The Theology & Practice of Ordained Ministry”

by Carlus Gupton, LifeandLeadership.com, n.d.

If wide use is any indication, these are modern classics of pastoral theology. Pastor: The Theology and Practice is an attempt to draw from scripture and tradition to offer a coherent understanding of the core of pastoral identity and practice. Pastor: A Reader for Ordained Ministry is an anthology of substantive articles arranged in the same subject sequence as the other. It is designed as a supplement to the first.

In Pastor: The Theology, Willimon launches from four things that Richard Niebuhr says were characteristic of historical periods when the church had greater clarity about the pastoral role than they do today: “what its chief work was and what was the chief purpose of all of its functions; what constituted a call to the ministry; what was the source of the minister’s authority; and whom the minister served.” (12) Willimon seeks to answer each of these questions, but with an eye toward the current crisis in ministerial identity, and through the lens of the book of Acts, which he sees as “an early Christian narrative of the challenges of church leadership.” (12)

One of the reasons for Willimon’s popularity is that he answers Niebuhr’s questions above in light of the common tasks ministers engage. These include individual chapters on ordination, worship leadership, pastoral care, biblical interpretation, preaching, counseling, teaching, evangelizing, truth-telling, leadership, ethics, character, and disciplined endurance. Even when one may not agree with Willimon’s conclusions, there will always be reflective material in each chapter that grounds one’s practice more deeply in Scripture and enduring Christian tradition.

In one of the beginning chapters, Willimon looks at twenty-first century images of the pastor including media mogul, political negotiator, therapist, manager, resident activist, preacher, and servant. Some of these have more legitimacy than others, but he offers them as evidence that we are “groping for an appropriate metaphor for our work.” (70) He suggests that ministry is always countercultural to some extent, dwelling alongside the temptation to adopt styles of Christian leadership that are essentially accommodationist. This requires that we engage in continuing critical assessment by looking back to the classical tasks of Christian ministry: “to teach, to preach, and to evangelize through the ministries of Word, sacrament, and order.” (71) Willimon repeatedly turns to this emphasis throughout his book.

Read more at … http://www.lifeandleadership.com/book-summaries/willimon-pastor-theology-practice-of-ordained-ministry.html

SPIRITUAL WAYPOINT 6 & The Post-conversion Evaluation of Lecrae: What I Wish Christians Had Told Me

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: In my book Spiritual Waypoints: Helping Others Navigate the Journey (Wesleyan Publishing House) I describe “Waypoint 6” as the customary “post-conversion evaluation” that new Christians often undergo after accepting Christ.  Not recognizing this stage can lead mature Christians to ignore the spiritual questions and struggles of their younger counterparts . Here’s a good reminder from Lacrae’s new book.

by Lacrae, Facts and Trends, LifeWay, 5/3/16.

When I decided to follow Jesus one night at a Christian conference in Atlanta, I assumed becoming a Christian would make life easier. I thought the rest of my life would be smiling and smooth sailing.

I assumed I wouldn’t be tempted by women and partying and acceptance and all the things that I’d been a slave to for so many years. I thought I would walk around with a continual inner peace and serenity like Gandhi or something.

This turns out to be a lie that too many people believe. You’ll actually experience more temptation, not less, after you become a Christian. Following Jesus doesn’t mean you’ll start living perfectly overnight. It certainly doesn’t mean your problems will disappear.

Rather than ridding you of problems or temptations, following Jesus means you have a place—no, a person—to run to when they come. And the power to overcome them.

Unashamed LecraeI wish someone had told me this after that night in Atlanta. Because when I started stumbling and faltering after I became a Christian, I hid my struggles. Why? Because I didn’t think it was supposed to go down like that. And because too many Christians I know lived by the same lie and condemned, shamed, and rejected other Christians who messed up.

Since I thought I was supposed to be instantly sinless and my Christian friends did too, I lived a double life. I acted like a Christian around other Christians, but I let loose whenever I wasn’t.

I can’t tell you where we got the idea that following Jesus is some kind of quick fix for all of our struggles, but it wasn’t from the Bible. No, the Scripture is like one big, unbroken story about people who decided to follow God and ended up failing almost as much as they succeeded.

Excerpted from Unashamed. Used by permission of B&H PublishingRead more at … http://factsandtrends.net/2016/05/03/lecrae-what-i-wish-christians-had-told-me/#.V7QXgMT3aJI

GRIT & Angela Duckworth’s 5-elements of GRIT (& her seminal TED video)

by Eric Barker, Wired Magazine, 12 May 2016.

Ever feel like you just wanna give up on something? How can you develop the inner strength necessary to achieve your long term goals?

Turns out that grit — the perseverance that keeps us going — is a lot more important than you might think. In fact, it’s the best predictor of success among West Point cadets.

From Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us:

The best predictor of success, the researchers found, was the prospective cadets’ ratings on a noncognitive, nonphysical trait known as “grit”—defined as “perseverance and passion for long-term goals.”

Stanford researcher Catharine Cox studied 301 eminent historical figures. What conclusion did she come to?Persistence beats smarts.

From Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance:

“…high but not the highest intelligence, combined with the greatest degree of persistence, will achieve greater eminence than the highest degree of intelligence with somewhat less persistence.”

So we all need more grit. But how do we get there? I decided to call an expert…

In 2013 Angela Duckworth was awarded the MacArthur “Genius” Award for her work on grit.

She’s a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and author of the book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.

Here’s her TED talk:

…Here’s what Angela says will build that inner strength and make you gritty:

• Pursue what interests you: You’re not going to stick it out if you don’t care.
• Practice, practice, practice: It’s not just how you get to Carnegie Hall. We love doing things we’re good at.
• Find purpose: How does what you do help others? That’s what makes a job into a calling.
• Have hope: No “wishing on a star” here, pal. Have hope because you are going to make it happen.
• Join a gritty group: Mom was right; spend time with slackers and you’ll be a slacker.

So you do all of these things and become a Tyrannosaurus of grit. Awesome. Know what else you will be?

Happy.

Angela surveyed 2000 people and the results were clear: “I found that the grittier a person is, the more likely they’ll enjoy a healthy emotional life.”

And it’s not some lazy, starry-eyed contentment. Gritty people strive every day and enjoy new challenges. That’s the exciting kind of happiness. Here’s Angela:

I was talking to Brad Stevens who’s the coach of the Boston Celtics. He said, “I’ll never be the coach I want to be, but it sure is fun trying.” It’s not that gritty people are necessarily content in the comfortable sense, but they are content in the sense that they enjoy the pursuit of excellence and there’s nothing they’d rather do than keep trying to get better everyday.

Everyone today is concerned with work-life balance. It’s nice to know that the same quality that can make you a success in your career can help promote happiness at home.

You should never give up on being happy. Or better yet: never give up on yourself…

Read more at … https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/05/5-research-backed-steps-to-increase-your-perseverance/