Wednesday, November 3, 2010

reminder

If you are using a reader and have not received an update lately, then you should point your reader to the new feed.  Thanks

http://feeds.feedburner.com/rastis

Thursday, October 14, 2010

new blog

Friends, readers, followers, I am moving to a new blog.  Most of the reason is due to the mouthful of a name that my current blog is.  People don't know if it is "not all who wander are lost" or "offtheshire."  I am not even sure if I know myself at this point...  It was a good metaphor on a number of levels, it is just to much to say to someone in passing.  The new blog is called changefish.  There is a good metaphor behind this one as well but it is much easier to enunciate.

What does this mean for you?
If you are following me in a feed reader: nothing.  The feed stays the same.  If you click back to the blog, however, you will notice it looks different.  It is still me.  In fact, I have exported my posts from this blog and imported them there.

If you go to the link or are linked to me: you will need to change the address.  The new address is www.changefish.blogspot.com

I appreciate your readership and followship.

Monday, October 11, 2010

things we say wrong

Call me a geek, but I love linguistic based jokes.







Saturday, October 9, 2010

globalization

This girl has a rather interesting talent-She plays an ipod.  She does not pronounce English all that well when talking, but just listen to her sing.  There are only a couple of places in the song that you would think she was not a native speaker.  It is amazing how fast we export stuff...

Saturday, September 11, 2010

platforms

Most countries in the world today no longer (if they ever had) have a missionary visa.  The few countries that have such a visa do not fully understand the role and function of a missionary.  Visa issues aside, many people at the street level do not understand the missionary category either.  When I was preparing to go, many people would ask me what I was going to do.  When I used the M word, they either had no clue what I was talking about or they would give me one of those "why don't you just leave those poor people alone and not try to change their culture" looks.  I started using the word sociologist.  When I would say that, people would look at me with a look of understanding and recognition.  They would ask me "what people are you studying?" "where will you be living?" "What language will you learn?"  This was a category they understood.  Bypassing the social misunderstanding is simply a matter of linguistics.  Bypassing foreign governments is another issue.  To do the latter many people have used "creative access platforms."  This allows them to use a category that the government understands and accepts.  Many come in as teachers, business people, students, agricultural experts and a host of other real jobs.

Here are some of the issues that are important to understand regarding platforms.
1. Will it get me into the country?
This is the primary question most people ask.  Many people stop and don't ask any further questions.  With most countries it is relatively easy to gain access.  If all else fails, teach English.  You can get a visa into the toughest countries in the world if you have credentials to teach English and have a job at a language institute or university.  While access to the country is important, it is not the only consideration.  Many people who have not fully developed a platform or who have a poorly conceived platform will be faced with the next question:

2. Will it connect me to people?
If you take a job working in the oilfield where you will be either on a platform or in a compound, then you have successfully made it into the country but you are still not going to connect with many people outside of the company.  Conversely, the right platform can be a huge benefit in building connections.  I have a friend here who came in working for a company.  I had been here three months and he and been here one week.  Because he had worked at the company for a long time from the states, he knew many of the people over here.  In fact, in his short time, he knew more people than I did and in deeper ways.  Granted, he knew them before he came whereas I am starting cold.  However, he gained access to a large network on day one.

3. How will it connect me to people?
This is where my personal platform gets me into trouble.  I work as a photographer; I have the equipment to prove it--i'm legit.  The problem is that there are many tourist locations in my country.  Walking around with a big camera makes you look like an easy mark.  It isn't a real problem, but obviously the sight of a camera does change things so I have to be selective and careful.  Definitely consider not just that your platform will put you into contact with people, but how it will put you in contact with people.


Theological Credentials vs. Practical Credentials.
Having spent many years in preparation prior to leaving I followed the path that appeared the most obvious and followed at the time: seminary.  In fact, I not only went to seminary, but I started in Bible College.  In hindsight I would have changed one of my degrees to be in something rather than theology, something of tangible good to a lost world.  There are many easy ways of diversifying degrees.  Pick a business, agg, medical, etc, undergrad and do the seminary work you agency requires.  The other option is to do a theological undergrad (if you must...) and diversify with your masters.  A Masters of TESOL will let you teach at an actual university in stead of a day-institute teaching children.  An MBA will get you a job helping local businesses.  

If you are currently looking at your options before going my advice is to forgo formal theological training (key word: formal) unless you specifically need it.  It may have been an asset in the days of colonialism but today, in most places, it is a liability rather than an asset.  Get an undergrad with a double major--business and anthropology--and then go and get a MA TESOL (a 14 hr degree many places.).


Defective Platforms
Not doing what you claim you are doing.  Many people object to platforms on the basis that they are dishonest.  They are only dishonest if you do not do what you claim to be doing.  Do what you say you are there to do.

Using your platform as a bait-and-switch.  If you want to bait-and-switch, go work for Amway.  I recently heard about a group working with a minority indigenous ethnic group in a large city.  One of their team members found a location where their people grouped up and hung out.  This worker recommended that they host a free esl class.  Their supervisor decided that they should go down there and teach Bible stories in English as the class--If they didn't like it, then "too bad, cause its free."  While this statement is wrong on so many levels, this is such a lost opportunity.  Teach a real class, make it better than anything in the city, and make it free!  This is the popularity of the internet.  You want to start a movement, make it interesting and make it free.

Picking the wrong platform is not the end of the world, but picking the right one can certainly be productive.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

ice cream evgangelism

You might remember water-baloon evangelism from these guys:


Now there is ice cream evangelism.  Sadly this one is for real.  That comes from a site called stuff fundies like.    With my background, I am really enjoying that site.  Not only is ice cream evangelism everything that is wrong with bait-and-switch tactics, it is just a little bit creepy

Saturday, September 4, 2010

crazy love, crazy pastor

Francis Chan recently announced that he is leaving his pastorate, moving to an impoverished, and then starting over.  If you don't already know of him, you might remember him from this video which floated around the web a while back:


Mark Driscoll and Josh Harris recently interviewed him.  They had several good questions for him, and he had many good responses.  One of the better questions had to be the question about reverse prosperity-prosperity gospel.  Where the prosperity gospel is that God blesses and sanctifies through riches, the reverse version, often motivated out of guilt, is where God blesses the Ascetic.  You will have to read his response.  We are often all too quick in dismissing the part about selling all we have.  And while that might not be for everyone, if just churches with gazillions in the bank would be willing to let it go, then we could single handedly end a lot of problems--as far as money is concerned.  Chan describes his personal wealth and admits that he could write a check to start a hospital.  I don't believe that he is guilty of poverty-theology.  It must be nice to be in a position to be able to be generous and impact a hurting world.  It is good to see people who are willing walk the walk.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

kevin ezell for president

Florida Baptist Press announced that NAMB's search committee has unanimously agreed on Kevin Ezell as their choice for president.  You can read the article to see all of his qualifications and who he is--I had never heard of him before now, but I am in the dark on a lot of things.  I hate to nay nay something before it has even started but....   Ezell seems like a safe pick.  There is no argument that he has indeed been successful as a pastor and quite faithful as a Southern Baptist most notably in the 1.2 million that the church gives to missions.  My question is not about him as an individual, a pastor, or a leader.  He just seems like a safe pick.  Certainly his success as a pastor will help him to connect with other pastors and, hopefully, generate the much needed buy-in from churches that NAMB has lacked.  Part of the problem with NAMB and the state of stateside evangelistic work is that we are continuing to do what we have always done.  Digging one hole twice as deep is not the same as digging two holes.  NAMB needs a radical paradigm shift in how they operate and whoever is confirmed as president will probably make or break the institution.  I can't get the thought out of the back of my head that denominational loyalty paves the way to institutional advancement.  Granted, we don't want to be guilty of shooting our own side, it just seems that the SBC as a convention views traditional loyalty as a splitting issue.  It does give me some hope that Akin and other GCR members have supported his nomination, this probably means that they know something I do not.  We will just have to wait and see what happens.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

ramadan kareem

I am now back from my transitional hiatus.  For those who may not know, we have moved our family around to the other side of the world.  We are now living in the middle-east.  I am still contributing at sbcimpact.net, so if you have been missing me you can catch a few back episodes there.  I will spend the next few days and weeks to go back starting from the beginning of our trip here and pull out some of the cultural highlights.  For now let us look at the immediate: Ramadan.

This is a video about two guys who are traveling to 30 mosques--I believe in 30 days--and they are blogging at 30mosques.com.

The next video demonstrates the feelings and values which Ramadan represents for Muslims.






I found that via circumpolar


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

have i-phone, will travel

I will now be back to posting more regularly.  We have set up internet and have made most of the administrative adjustments.  For those who don't know, I have recently crossed the ocean and am now living in the Middle-East.  Right before I left, I purchased an ipod touch.  I had previously stayed away from the touch and gone with the classic because the storage on the touch was limited.  Now that they have more storage, and since I had to give up my smart phone when I quit my job and moved, I took the plunge.  I am neither a die hard apple user nor a hater.  For those reading this blog, the travel benefits with the ipod touch/iphone are the point of interest.  Allow me to elaborate on some of my favorite travel apps:


  • All Subway  Maps of every subway system in the world.  There are many apps with specific lines for specific cities which also provide street maps and points of interest. 
  • World Fact Book  This is the app version of the website CIA fact-book.  Lots of country related information.
  • World Cultures and Culture Map  both provide quick country overviews of customs, taboos, laws, etc.  You should already know this stuff, but sometimes your flight gets diverted and you end up somewhere else momentarily.
  • British Airways This is the one I used since I flew with them, but most airlines are creating these apps.  They will let you check in, check flight schedules, baggage claim etc. 
  • Heathrow Airport Again, I used this one because it is where I had a layover.  Most of the larger airports are adding their apps to the lists.  They let you check flight schedules, see terminal maps, store listings, baggage claim, etc.  This is useful if you have a lot of bags or kids or both.  You don't have to just wanted through the airport looking for the bathroom or a restaurant.  Let your fingers do the walking.
  • Convert Bot   There are several variants of this app.  Some just handle currency exchange rates.  This one handles currency and all metric conversions.  This way you know whether to bring a coat or shorts when you hear the weather will be 40.
  • Lonely Planet Guide books and language books  These are a little pricer as far as apps go but can be very helpful.  There are also many dual language dictionaries for most languages.   
  • Priority Club  Track your hotel points, adjust reservations, find hotels.  Hard to beat. 
  • Angry Birds   Kill flight time and layovers with Angry birds.  Just don't blame me once you get hooked!  Also try Flight Controller  
For the uninitiated, there are some differences between the ipod touch and the iphone.  The iphone does everything the ipod touch does + it is a phone and can receive connectivity for the programs anywhere it has a signal.  The downside is that there are issues finding service and there are conflicting and complicated explanations about taking an iphone overseas and making it work.  I opted for the ipod touch which operates via wi-fi.  The upside is that there is no contract or connectivity issues regarding networks, roaming, etc.  The downside is that you have to be in range of a wi-fi network {and have the key}.  There is no perfect solution.  The biggest issue with the touch is that it is lacking a camera.  Apple knew better, they just know that they can cheat the public into buying multiple renditions of their toys.

There are two liabilities to carrying an i-device.  The first is that most places have pickpockets and i-stuff is highly valued since it is easy to turn over.  Perhaps try caution and some travelers insurance.  Half of my friends who have i-stuff have had them stolen, broken, or lost them.  The other liability is that if you do work on the street, having expensive gadgets can form a barrier for a number of reasons.  First, it can make you look rich and you then become a perceived outlet for financial gain.  Second, it makes you look like you don't belong in the poor part of town.  Kinda hard to work at the soup kitchen wearing a rolex.

All in all, it has been a great buy and a great tool.   

Sunday, May 30, 2010

i'm not dead

...just in transition.  Having massive computer issues.  I will update just as soon as I finish a writing project and fix my computer.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

satire is good for the soul

I could write some witty critique in support of the point of the video, but it would be redundant and not as interesting--most importantly, I am super busy these days as we prepare to leave the country on Saturday!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

disaffected with missiology

I have been doing a lot of reading trying to finish classes lately. I am somewhat jaded by the examples and test cases used in most missions books. Over 90% of the examples have come from tribal settings at least 20 years ago. Why are so few writing about contemporary cultures? Why are so few writing about urban centers. When we thing of the urban world, we always think of the technologically advanced western cultures. When you see a top 100 list, the majority of the top 100 cities are in "3rd world" countries. We seriously need some thought and reflection there as the world is racing into global urbanism.

Friday, April 16, 2010

if I have all metaphors for love, but don't eat worms...

I came across an interesting story about William Reyburn in an unlikely demonstration of love:
When asked to eat singed caterpillars, Reyburn rose to the challenge and ate.  When he did, the people said, "White man Kaka is eating caterpillars.  He really has a black heart."  The pans were emptied.  Each one took a mouthful of water, rinsed his mouth and spat the water to one side, belched loudly, said "thank you, Ndjambie (God)", arose and departed.  My notes on that night contain this one line: "an emptied pan of caterpillars is more convincing than all the empty metaphors of love which missionaries are prone to expend on the heathen." (William Reyburn, Meaning Across Cultures, 1981, pg 473.)
I am constantly shocked by pastors and missionaries who essentially reject--if not hate--their host culture, be it their home culture or their target culture.  These people have a martyr complex for "suffering for Jesus."  That complex taints their ministry and effectiveness.  There are certainly things in all cultures which would irritate the daylights out of any sane person.  However, what if loving these "irritants" and "undesirables" is the key to communicating the love of God and the truth of the gospel in a true and compelling way?  Are we willing to be like Jesus and be fully incarnational?  Our cultures did more than vex him!

Worms anyone?

Monday, April 12, 2010

innovation and wonder

As the innovation of the past has become standardized, we have all but lost our sense of wonder. As the church has become standard, have we lost our sense of mission?

Innovation and Wonder from Rastis on Vimeo.

Friday, April 9, 2010

no wonder other countries hate us









Who knew that she was right; perhaps she should send Rep Johnson a map...


Friday, April 2, 2010

strategery

Here is a video I made of a popular post from a while back.  Enjoy.

Strategery from Rastis on Vimeo.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

colbert and the 10 commandments

Watch the video.  I am personally not a big fan of putting the 10 Commandments all over public buildings [I wouldn't be in favor of taking it off of historic buildings (eg, the Supreme Court), but I don't know if it is a tradition we need to continue].  I don't think they are really offensive to most religious people since almost every religion has some derivation of the 10 Commandments.  What I am really against is politicized religion of any sect.  The problem with many churches is that they would probably support the decisions of Lynn Westmoreland.  Everyone wants to vote the 10 Commandments in, but no one knows what they are or practices them.  ...that is the problem.  Watch till Colbert asks him to repeat the 10 Commandments.  We need an approach with transcends the ballot box.  If you truly believe that democrats or republicans are capable of fixing anything, then you are simply being naive.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Better Know a District - Lynn Westmoreland Update
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorHealth Care Reform

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

esl and terrorists

I have been a little busy lately.  I have just finished an esl certificate and am trying to wrap up my final classes on top of my "typical" writing projects and trying to move to another country.  I hope to have a "real" post up soon, but this will have to do for now.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

language

I heard a guy from Sudan say this today:
English was born in England,
Got sick in America,
Died in India,
And is buried in Africa

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

priorities

I have written much in criticism of big church spending.  Jerry Rankin has an awesome post on his blog.  Here is a quote:

What our convoluted priorities are practically saying is, “It is better to let the lost multitudes never hear the gospel and go to hell, than change the way our denomination functions.” It is too bad that we have a system in which only two percent of our resources are given to reach a lost world that Jesus died to save. It is unfortunate our denomination can channel only 17 percent of Cooperative Program allocations to international missions because we have to sustain everything else we are doing. We can’t expect to cease a valid ministry, compromise programs that serve ourselves and our own churches in order to provide resources to get the gospel to those who have never heard! That, in essence, is what is being communicated.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

the great debate

We are having a really great discussion over at sbcvoices about Lot.  Dave Miller has offered the counter view.  Enjoy.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

christian mugging (aka bait-and-switch: the struggle for relevance {aka the dangers of an evangelism program at your church})


Many people feel {or come across to others} just like the person in the video whenever they invite someone to church--not to mention share their faith.  The focus of this post is on the evangelism side of the issue.  Perhaps at a later point I will do something on extracted Christian living, if there is such a thing.

I was recently reminded just how hard/scary evangelism can be.  I was at a large mall in the D.C. area to do some intentional evangelism.  I was not the team leader; but was bringing a group with me to work with a group that regularly evangelized at this mall [they used EE].  Although I have taken many seminary classes in evangelism and missions, gone on numerous mission trips, shared the gospel with many many people from all walks of life and religions, and have even done those "crazy" and "radical" things like open air street preaching, the hardest part for me is walking up to a complete stranger and starting a conversation [particularly one wherein I will either be asking them about heaven and hell within 30 seconds, or announcing some completely ridiculous reason as a pretext for our "random" conversation].  Once I am in the conversation and we are deep in discussion, I am high as a kite.  But after all these years and all these hours of training and experience that initial fear remains.  Fortunately, I was working with a partner who was at ease overcoming the awkward [albeit through the interjection of his own special awkwardness-more about this in another post] introductory moment.  So I piggy backed with him and had a great time.  I was able to talk with several postmodern Muslims from Pakistan and Somalia and a postmodern Catholic from Bolivia.  We made some good progress in their understanding of the gospel, so the night was a success in those terms.

I recently had the pleasure of meeting a stellar missional, cultural thinker, Derek Webster{he is linked in my blog list-go check it out}.  I listened to him for a day, picked his brain on a number of occasions, and have thought about it all ever since.  He discussed the postmodern culture of Europe.  One problem he notes in evangelism, a problem to which the postmodern mind reacts and rejects, is the bait-and-switch.  This tactic exhibits itself in people who build relationship which are artificial in their nature and are instantly turned for proselytizing.  The moment someone doesn't convert, then the relationship is over.  I remember going out with the seminary evangelism team to the hood.  My partner went up to a group of thugs and started with some kind of "you have a Jesus shaped hole in your heart."  As part of his pitch, he promised them that he wasn't like other Christians who were there just to win people and then would leave.  The sad truth is it was his first and last trip to any hood, much less that one.  He ran it, shot off, and ran out.  He fulfilled his duty; he has a war story; he is finished.  Those people are no closer to the gospel as a result of his drive by shooting.  I am sure that there are many stories like this where people go back to their home church and talk about how resistant folks are to the gospel, when in reality they just don't like suburban Christians who are too clean to actually live in this world. The other kind of bait-and-switch is the cheesy segue and shameless analogy.  Are you really doing surveys as you knock on doors?  Is the blood of Jesus really like paint?  I think you get the point....  Someone who is dead in sin and hardened philosophically to the gospel is not going to be won by some quick shot across the bow.  The key to them understanding the gospel is not to be found in some pathetic analogy wherein you take whatever {and I do mean WHATEVER} they just said and bending it back around to whatever it was your were going to say anyway.

After chewing on Websters insights for a few days, I jotted down the following statement {probably during one of the boring sessions}
Evangelism exists because missional living does not.  That is to say, Evangelism--as a system or pitch--exists because missional living--living the daily life of a follower of Jesus--does not exist.  Since missional living does not exist, we live with the reality of vast lostness living in close proximity to the church.  The result is that there is now a need for those who are on a church campus to go off campus to proclaim what they believe.  They must proclaim since they are not living it out visibly before the world.  There is a disconnect between their life and their message.  This makes the message appear as a shameless ploy to try to fix the shortcoming of not living out the faith in and before the world. 
To put all this another way, it is necessary for us to evangelize because we are not truly living in the world in a way in which we can, from the ethos of our lives, genuinely tell them the gospel with any real conviction.  It is easier to "mug" them, and then blame them for the hardness of their hearts.  Perhaps some introspection would do us some good here?  God did not divorce his message from his messenger.  He put the gospel, and divinity itself, into terms that we could understand: the person of Jesus.  Jesus lived among us and put the gospel into a context.  To be honest, the people who address their distance with the world through active evangelism are the minority.  The majority try to close this gap through the voting box!

Here is a short list of the dangers of evangelism {evangelism that is divorced from contextual involvement in the world}:
  • we start checking boxes {if we are even willing to check that box}
Evangelism becomes something of legalism.  It is merely an action which we perform.  It becomes a passionless sales pitch.  It doesn't matter if it is coherent or relevant to our hearer so long as we get through the pitch.
  • we adopt a one size fits all mentality
Similar to the last one.  If we just HAVE to get through our acronym or survey or whatever, then there is never any need to think creatively about people as unique groups or as unique individuals.  Remember, the last thing in the world a Buddhist wants is eternal life....  Hindus and cultural Catholics are happy to "receive Jesus" though that means different things to both of those groups and it doesn't mean to either of them what we intended to say.  The gospel presentation of Peter in Acts 2 and Stephen is much different from Paul at the Areopagus.  Luke's presentation of the life of Jesus is vastly different from John's portrayal. 
  • The gospel looses relevance {and we never blame ourselves}
Since the gospel is a placard and not a way of life {in this system} it comes off as headhunting.  Since the gospel is not given a face {ours} it will not be understood as it originally was {when it was Jesus' "face" on it} and the gospel will be viewed through the skewed lenses of postmodernism, Republican vs. Democrat, North vs south, black vs white, rich vs poor kind of dichotomies.   Do we really want to accept our portrayal by the media of who and what we are?  If you don't, then you better be willing to put a face and a life on the gospel {but count the cost, for you might loose your life!}  We present the gospel in such a trite scratch-and-sniff way, with no demonstration, that people are predisposed not to believe.  They appear to be "hardened."  {I am not trying to rub you reformed guys the wrong way, but I would rather work positively with God than for him to work in spite of me}  It is easier to pray for hardened peoples than to get involved in the messy, not to mention dangerous, business of living the gospel.
  • we live extracted lives
More on this in a later post.
  • the gospel has no natural context in our lives
The gospel turns into something that is merely believed and taught rather than something to believed and followed as well.  Thinking back to that guy in the hood {or any other lost person for that matter}, he had no means of connection with what my partner was saying.  My partner was only making a blitz through a part of town he knew nothing about.  The reason his presentation appeared to be artificial and empty is because it was.  There was no natural flow or context whatsoever.
  • either we are in "evangelism mode" or "personal time mode"
There is a secularization of even our Christian life.  Either we are focused on presenting the gospel {by that I mean the acronym which we like best of have memorized} that we cannot really talk and listen to people, or we are in our normal mode where we walk about with an independent, segregated life with no real connection to people. 
  • we develop relationships and conversations which are merely "bait-and-switch"
We only make friends to share the gospel.  When they don't appear to accept our trite representation of the truth, we leave them behind.  This has all the romantic appeal of someone who is looking for love only to be continually wooed by a series of one night stands.  When we bait-and-switch we are not really listening to the other person.  Typically I am with someone else when I share the gospel.  I am amazed and shocked by some of the things my partners will say.  It has no real relevance, correspondence, or or even contradiction to what the witnessee just said.  It is simply point 2.a.II of whatever method they are using.  They don't care if the other person is really saying or hearing and thus no real communication takes place.  The witnessee will raise a valid concern or question, and the person will say "well this is why..." and they will start right back wherever they were before they were interrupted.  Recently at the mall, my partner had cornered a man from Pakistan, Salmon.  When I arrived, Salmon was firmly and verbally resisting everything my partner was saying.  Finally Salmon tried to use an analogy to help my partner understand how obnoxious he was being.  He said "I like Lost.  And if I go around and only talk about Lost then everyone will be annoyed with me and won't want to hear anything about it."  To this my friend replied, "Well, lost has a lot of Christian ideas, just like C.S. Lewis' books..."  My friend was throwing out ideas and labels as thought Salmon would mystically be brought closer to cross by only hearing the word "Christian" adjective, verb, and noun forms enough times.  Needless to say, no real communication was taking place, and my friend was only putting a cheap face on the gospel.  {I will tell you how we resolved this situation in another post}

Before anyone gets up in arms and thinks I am saying that there should not be proclamation, you are wrong.  I am not saying this at all.  But there must at least be equal parts of proclamation and demonstration.  If we aren't living in the world, we have no right to speak to the world.  After all, Jesus was the one who set the model of living in the world and proclaiming the kingdom.  I am not recommending the removal of evangelism as a plan, per se, only the addition of living with intentionality in the world and loving its people the way God does.  We do need to face the facts.  Few people actually evangelize even with a method.  The problem is that they are scared and it feels weird to go talk to someone they don't know {perhaps the first step is to become involved in people's lives}.  And for the few who do evangelize, very few people listen with any real interest.  Part of this is that they are dead in sin.  But a large part of it is because in their mind there is no reason we should be talking to them.  We are complete strangers and we just walked over and are getting all in their business.  Even believers react to this methodology.  When I go out, I think it is very odd when someone just walks up to me.  I am more at ease when they are obviously there to tell me/sell me something because that always answers my first question: why?  But when someone walks across the mall straight to me and starts making small talk and asking me questions, my street smarts kick in and I am automatically suspicious, defensive, on guard.  As a result, I am not really listening as I am trying to discern their real motives.  Usually, I get to the "I need to go" long before they have time to get it all out.  Sound familiar?  If it doesn't maybe you have never been "befriended" by someone who, to your joy, invites you over for dinner only to find out that it is an Amway party...  Get the picture?

I am not advocating less proclamation, only more honest incarnation.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

FBC Facebook vs. FBC Google wave

Comparing church models and operations to businesses and platforms appears to be in vogue these days.  I have been no exception; I have talked about the implications of Starbucks, Twitter, and Facebook.  If you are not interested in such comparisons, you should probably stop here.

The following comparison might not be worth making as Google wave is relatively new.  I go through phases of purging people on Facebook.  To be honest, many people are stalkers of Facebook.  Ok, so I went to camp with you once ten years ago.  But we didn't talk then, and we don't talk now.  You friended me on Facebook and I added you cause I am a chump.  We still don't talk on Facebook, so why are we Facebook friends?  This is kind of like a mega church where I see a lot of people with whom I have some kind of loose connect but don't really know more than a dozen or so beyond a superficial level.  So basically, on Facebook, people have e-shrines unto themselves, which their friends could check if they actually cared.  Oh, and there are all those meaningless causes we can sign up for which make us look like we actually know and care about the world but won't get our hands too dirty.  The problem with Facebook, as it relates to church, is that it is simply a big gathering of friends but lacks any direction and mobility in the real world.  Sounds like many churches I know.

Google wave, on the other hand, is a whole different animal.  Organic, collaborative, and participative are three words I would use to describe it.  If you don't have anything to do in the real world, wave is boring.  Try the mega church of FBC Facebook if you just want to lurk.  However, if you have friends, with whom you actually have real connections and need a place to plan and collaborate about how to operate in the real world, then FBC Google wave might be what you are looking for.  You can add people to conversations and edit, text, message, chat, etc in real time!  It is completely free flowing.  There is no one there to control {dominate} the flow of information and communication.  It is open source so that people may freely modify interaction.  It is as if Facebook is suffering from the curse of the sound system.

The main difference between Facebook and Google Wave have to with mission.  One is simply a happy fellowship.  The other only works if it is used by people who are going somewhere.  I tend to get bored fast at the "country club" churches.  There is nothing to do.  If I simply needed something to fill my time every week, I could find a more entertaining group with whom to associate.  I am interested in churches and groups who are "on the go" because we share something in common: the body of Christ is bigger than the individual.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

kingdom building

Check out these two photo series by Travis Schaeffer. I don't know what he is trying to accomplish. The first link is a series of 11 Mega Churches and the second is 41 Wal-Marts. I love the quote he has on the first one: "
The result is a wash: rather than making America more Christian, the mega churches have simply succeeded in making Christianity more American"


When you look at the photos from the air there are many similarities. The differences, so far as I can tell, are as follows:


1. Wal-Mart is a business.


2. The churches appear to try to do something with symmetry and shape. Wal-Marts are square and the churches deviated more.


3. Churches also have larger parking lots.
4. Then again, the churches have to put all their "customers" in there on one day in a few hours. Wal-Mart has people there every day of the week.

From the pictures it appears that church facilities are a lot of wasted space in the city in that they cover huge tracts of land and are only used a few times a week by a special set of people. Why do we always build our own things and start our own programs? We would be better served--not to mention that we would better serve the community--if we simply used what space was available and used existing programs. Imagine the impact that thousands of dedicated Christians could make if they started invading YMCAs, inner city community centers, and soup kitchens rather than expecting people to come to a facility out in the suburbs one or two days a week to have their needs met. How many of the parents who actually need a parenting class come to the church for it? We would reach more by infiltrating existing structures which are neutral in their orientation.

Our gross appropriation of land use is necessitated by our addiction to cars. My town would be well served to have a metro. We spend gazillions a year trying to build roads fast enough (and they don't build roads fast enough!) and expanding the footprint of the city, thus making driving more and more a necessity, and it seems that the job is never finished. My town typically makes it to the top few spots every year on being the most expensive town in which to operate a vehicle. The problem is that we have a massive, predominately poor, immigrant community which cannot afford vehicle ownership. This means that they all settle in the densely packed low rent district. This has a domino effect on schools, crime, and other public services. There are over 300 languages spoken in my town. When all of those people clump up together they no longer try to integrate and adopt the host language and culture. This is a problem which will soon spin out of control and have far reaching, devastating, effects. One answer is better transportation infrastructure. But that is just crazy talk....

While we are on the topic of mega churches, here are a couple of videos about some stuff going on in the DFW metroplex. This is a news story about Ed Young Jr. They are going after him hard.




Here is his response. IMO, his response is worse than the allegations.... He says he didn’t see the news piece, but he is commenting on everything in it. Does he have political advisors?

-they don’t own a plane, they lease it [@5:00 min]

-And his house isn’t 10,000 sqft it is only 7820sqft [@7:00 min]
That is so much better than before…




What Dallas needs is more mega churches..... (/sarcasm). The money that falls through the cracks at his church and FBC Dallas would be enough to support a small country.

And I am gonna quit before I get nasty.

Here are some posts on similar topics:

eccleastical greed: a lack of ethos in urban space

Priorities

Athens, Jerusalem, Wall Street and the Church

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

the tractor

A friend sent me this video.  There is a lot to unpack there, but explaining a parable kinda misses the point.  Enjoy.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Sunday, February 7, 2010

reminder: feed change

Just a reminder that the feed url is now
http://feeds.feedburner.com/rastis

missional living vs. evangelism

I have yanked these videos from various missional blogs.  Most of my evangelism experience to date has been with atheists, post-moderns, agnostics, "cultists," neo-pagans, and adherents of far eastern religions.  For some time now I have been studying evangelism as it relates to the Arab Muslim worldview.  I am amazed how many parallels there are between how one should reach a postmodern and how one should reach a Muslim.  One of the biggest keys has to do with building genuine relationships and not just "mugging" them.  Here is a collection of videos relating to the topic.  Some are from other voices on how to do evangelism.  Some are videos from our own side which poke fun at how we do things.  Enjoy!

The post modern perspective:

Christians Trying to Convert Non-Christians from Rethink Mission on Vimeo.

From the Navajo perspective:


How we come across part 1:


How we come across part 2:


How we come across part 3:


Just for free:

Friday, February 5, 2010

eavesdropping

I have been sitting on this video for some time now.  I have never figured out how to pull it into a missional discussion or a discussion about my personal life.  Never that is, until today.  I have contracted a stalker.  There is no need to be worried.  I am not in any danger as he is of the cowardly variety.  Nevertheless, here is my opportunity to share that video.  Enjoy:


Does he look a little like Ed Stetzer to you?  See, it is missional ;)

Psalm 38

19 But my foes are vigorous, they are mighty,
and many are those who hate me wrongfully.
20 Those who render me evil for good
accuse me because I follow after good.

Psalm 71
12 O God, be not far from me;
O my God, make haste to help me!
13 May my accusers be put to shame and consumed;
with scorn and disgrace may they be covered
who seek my hurt.
14 But I will hope continually
and will praise you yet more and more.
15 My mouth will tell of your righteous acts,
of your deeds of salvation all the day,
for their number is past my knowledge.
16 With the mighty deeds of the Lord God I will come;
I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

maintenance

Just wanted to let all of my readers who use a feed reader know that I will be changing the feed next Monday.

The old feed is http://feeds.feedburner.com/blogspot/rjfd


The new feed will be    http://feeds.feedburner.com/rastis


From what I can tell from feed burner this will require you to change the feed.


*fingers crossed*

Sunday, January 31, 2010

where does it itch?

I recently read an account concerning an anthropologist interviewing some tribal leaders concerning their feelings towards the local missionaries.  Although the tribe valued tolerance, understanding and patience, the anthropologist coaxed them into politely revealing a mild critique.  They said, "the missionaries scratch where we do not itch."

Reading that made me recoil as I remembered my first sermon.  I had finished my first year of Bible college and was all hopped up on Schaeffer and worldview stuff.  It was some kind of drivel about existentialism.  Not that it is not an important topic or that Schaeffer was not a brilliant philosopher-evangelist.  It was a great sermon for a crowd of philosophically washed up college students who were ready to sacrifice truth for experience.  The problem is that I preached that sermon about 100 miles from Mount Airy, better known as "Mayberry."

I am in good company concerning this mistake.  This was a lesson learned the hard way in the animistic world.  Missionaries were interested in answering the typical questions about "where do we go when we die?" when the people were concerned with the reaction the ancestors and spirits would have if they turned to Christ.  Eventually missionaries learned that they were asking different questions.  As they answered the questions at hand, they began to see people commit to their message.

A common mistake people make in interfaith evangelism is to read a classic description of a religion.  They take the high version of the religion, build an apologetic against that, and try it on some hapless victim.  The problem is that few, if any, people practice the textbook definition of their religion.  Part of the problem is that there is more than on "text book".  Would someone assuming traditional catholic doctrine be able to build an effective presentation to witness to you?  How many branches of Christianity are there?  Take just one of those branches and then look for an adherent who is a textbook adherent.  Good luck.  Most people practice popularized forms and folk forms of their respective religions.  We need to listen long enough to understand who we are talking to.

Scratching where people itch requires sacrificing our prepackaged theologies, strategies, and CPM plans, in order to listen and build relationships.  I am amazed how patient Jesus was when he took time to answer the interruption concerning an inheritance and two brothers {Luke 12}.  Not only did he listen, but he shifted his teaching for the day.  We could learn something here.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

ours is a God of strategy

Over the past year, I have come in contact with a lot of missionaries.  To my surprise, many missionaries I have met are offended by the idea of strategy.  They hear some strategy coordinator talk about how they are going to reach people and why they are going to go about it the way he proposes, and these missionaries balk at the idea that God uses strategy.  In fact, some of them view "human" strategy as an affront to God's sovereignty!  Don't misunderstand me.  I am not really saying anything bad about these missionaries.  They are very spiritual and because of that they have the idea [this was more true of the newbies I met] that they are on a journey together with God and he will lead them step by step through divine appointments to the right people who will start a movement as the pages of Acts unfold anew.  I do not disagree with their understanding; I only do what I do because I believe that God is already at work in the world.  If I didn't believe that, I probably wouldn't get out of bed in the morning.  The difference between us is how we describe God's working and leading.  They view it to be spiritually (somewhat mystically) and I view it to be spiritual and strategic.  


Here is an example from a different group of the same problem--a lack of defining how God works.  We were talking in Sunday School one morning about how we were going to reach our community with Gospel.  One lady suggested that we should pray.  We all agreed and talked about it some.  Everyone seemed to be fine with this solution, and the discussion distracted them from discussing it further.  I called everyone's attention back to the task by asking "then what?"  The room went silent.  There is a popular understanding that we will pray and God will do the work.  We should pray.  God will do the work.  But how will he do the work?  No one denies that it is God who saves.  But when the praying is done--or as it continues--God wants us to do the work of spreading the gospel.  It does not happen via magic or osmoses.  It happens through various forms of proclamation.  


In the same way, God does lead us and guide a movement.  But God also uses methods and strategies to do so.  The person of peace is often misunderstood in mission circles.  These anti-strategy missionaries believe that this is a divine appointment and we can blunder about our day till we have a shazam moment when we find this person who is the magic key.  I am not against the concept of a person of peace.  If you are called to reach young urbanites in your city, however, would you try to find your person of peace by looking in a retirement community?  God is big enough to do anything, but that is like looking for water in the desert or jumping off a cliff in the belief that God is going to save you if it is not your time to go.  This is deterministic missiology.  In biblical terms this is called testing the lord your God.  As crazy as that scenario sounds I heard of a family who did just that.  They felt called to reach young families.  Served for several years with limited success.  After their first term they were discouraged and concluded that the people's hearts were just too hard.  Their problem was that their town was predominantly elderly.  It was a retirement town.  Had they gone to the local government office and looked at the demographics, they would have either moved in search of their people group, or changed who they wanted to reach.  While God can get blood from a turnip, He probably won't do it just to prove it to you, or just so you can prove it to your friend.  In order to show that Spirit-driven strategy is the friend and not the enemy, I want to take you on a brief foray into God's strategy.  


Life began in the fertile crescent.  This area is called the fertile crescent because it is the "land between the rivers" spoken of in Genesis which looks like a crescent; it is Eden.





It is also called this because it stands in contrast to the surrounding desert.  We rarely think of Israel as a land bridge since it is connected to land itself, but with the constraints of ancient travel and with Israel serving as the only watered piece of land connecting three continents, it was a land bridge in ancient times.  





If you are going to cross the land from one continent to another, you cannot cross the desert.  To get from Persia [Iran] to Egypt, you would have to follow the water up the Tigris and Euphrates rivers [Iraq] to Syria and then head south through Israel.  This was called the King's Highway.  So when God chose a people and gave them a land, he did not pick the house on the cul-de-sac in the quite neighborhood out in suburbia.  No, he gave them the only piece of arable land between the three continents of the known world.  Google maps of the Persian, Greek, Roman, and Ottoman empires.  Each of these empires occupied essentially the same piece of ground.  Do you think that this kind of thoroughfare is important in proclaiming the name of one true God?  Would you consider owning every port of entry into every country advantageous to the spread of the gospel?  Every airport, sea port and border crossing?  This is what they had in their time.  It was no coincidence that God gave his people the land of Canaan.  Below is a theological map of the ancient world.




This map is clearly not drawn to scale.  The arrangement of the continents reflects the ancient trinitarian symbol.  More importantly, however, is that Jerusalem is placed at the center of the world.  This map represents the common sentiment of that era.  Again, it is not an accident or a coincidence that God gave the land of Canaan to his people.  He placed them on the center stage.  He placed them there, that is, until he sent them into bondage.  Jeremiah 29: 4 says "Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent intoexile from Jerusalem to Babylon."  That's right, the dispersion of the Jews was not accidental.  One can obviously point to their sin and say that the purpose of the diaspora was punishment.  This is only partially true. I believe that the teleological [end purpose] explanation is missiological.  Little did the Jews know at the time, but their dispersion served to plant the gospel in the first century.  Look at Paul's strategy.  His first order of business when he reached any town was to go straight to the synagogue.  There is a smattering of verses throughout Acts [9:20, 13:5, 13:14, 14:1, 17:1, 17:10, 17:17, 18:4, 18:18, 18:19, 19:8 ]; synagogue ministry was central to Paul's strategy so much so that Acts 17:2 says that it was his custom to go to the synagogue.  This strategy hastened the growth of the early church.  This explains why, in Thessalonica, when he was kicked out three weeks later that there was an established church.


In addition to targeting synagogues, Paul's strategy was inherently urban. Paul made a 27 city tour over the course of his three journeys.  








Paul had a two-pronged strategy.  Prong 1: Go to a new city.  Prong 2: Go to the religious people.  There were two kinds of religious people he spoke to.  The first group was the synagogue.  He would stay there till he was kicked out.  Then he would go to the people who worshiped money and sex.  His message was different for the two groups.  For the first he would begin with "our father Abraham" and for the latter he would begin in culture.  His urban strategy should not be taken lightly.  He went to towns which were on major trade routs.  They were major ports, seats of government, and religious and cultural centers.  Just to emphasize this point, look at the map below.  Corinth was a key city in the Greek world.  It had a major sea port; and it was on a land bridge connecting two larger territories.  In addition to connecting these two territories, Corinth connected the Saronic Gulf and the Gulf of Corinth [3 and 4 on the map].  This is important because in that day most seafaring was done via heavy boats with small sails which required lots of paddling.  If a captain wished to bring goods from one side of Greece to the other he could cut of days of time by crossing the narrow land bridge in Corinth.  There were small tracks which would carry boats over the land.  Apparently the Corinthians were on to something because there is now a canal which serves the same purpose.


The advent of Jesus was not exempt from strategy.  Galatians 4:4 says that Christ was sent to earth in the "fullness of time."  Jesus did not randomly show up.  He came at a time when the world was united by the Romans.  They were builders.  The roads they built connected the empire.  The Romans also brought unprecedented peace, safety, and stability.  Travel was possible and relatively safe for the first time.  Hellenism bequeathed a common language on the world. Within Palestine there was growing discontent with the Roman empire and renewed messianic hope.  All of these factors [and many more] were providential in the advent of Christ and the spread of the early church.  


The time has come in global missions to think and act strategically.  Most of the missionaries I know [98%] come from small towns in the South.  This influences where they want to go when they go overseas.  It also influences where seminarians want to pastor.  We tend to focus on rural work or suburban work.  That is the case in my town stateside.  The majority of churches are middle class, suburban, and white.  My town is one of the most diverse in the world and it is a tragedy to see believers huddling up where it is safe and clean.  We need to have the mind of God.  And the mind of God is a mind of strategy with a deep and steadfast love for people.