Monday, November 26, 2007

A View of the Emerging Church - From USA Today, November 12, 2007

This post should not be viewed as an endorsement of the Emerging Church (EC) or of what is said in the article. It is my sincere desire to help all of us better understand this conversation. - Kurt Miller

A force for good

For a growing movement of believers, an activist faith means more than proselytizing about Jesus and stoking the fires of our culture wars. Welcome to the new (and yes, liberal) world of evangelical Christianity.

By Tom Krattenmaker

A passerby might not have known: Was this going to be a church service or a concert by an alternative rock band? The set-up on the stage suggested the latter — a drum kit, guitars on stands, several microphones, and large screens flashing iconic Portland scenes — and so did the look of the young, urban-hip crowd filling up the auditorium.

Then the band hit the stage with a loud, infectious groove, the front man singing passionately about God, and it was clear that the Sunday gathering of Portland's Imago Dei Community was both alt-rock concert and church service, or neither, exactly. So it goes in the new world of alternative evangelical Christianity, better known as the emerging church.

(Illustration by Sam Ward, USA TODAY)

There's a growing buzz about the emerging movement, and depending on your point of view, its robust growth and rising influence are worthy of applause, scorn, or perhaps just puzzlement. Fitting for a movement that eschews hierarchy and dogma, emergents defy simple definition. Perhaps the best one can say is that they're new-style Christians for the postmodern age, the evangelicals of whom the late Rev. Jerry Falwell disapproved.

Postmodernity is nothing new. Philosophers will tell you we've been living in the postmodern age for decades. But its expression in the context of fervent Christianity, in the form of the emerging church, is a fairly recent phenomenon, only about a decade old.

Like the postmodern philosophy it embraces, the emerging church values complexity, ambiguity and decentralized authority. Emergents are quite certain about some things, nevertheless, especially Jesus and his clear instruction about the way Christians are to live out their faith — not primarily as respectable, middle-class pillars of status quo society, but as servants to the poor and to people in the margins. In the words of Gideon Tsang, a 33-year-old Texas emergent who moved himself and his family to a smaller home in a poorer part of town, "The path of Christ is not in upward mobility; it's in downward."

Nothing to resent

To the many Americans cynical about religion, news of the emerging church might come as a stereotype-busting surprise. Christians fired up not about wedge-driving culture-war issues, but about spreading non-judgmental love and compassion? What's to resent about this public face of religion?

According to best estimates, several hundred emerging church congregations, or "communities," have sprung up around the country. Although some are quite large, with memberships well into the thousands, emergents are still bit players on the national religious stage. But the emerging church is making its presence felt, with new groups forming rapidly and major secular and religious media outlets chronicling its influence and potential to dramatically change religion in this country.

Rick McKinley is a goateed thirty-something who leads Imago Dei (which means "image of God" in Latin). McKinley is not your mother's minister. He threads his sermons and two books with youthful slang, as in being "stoked" about things that excite him and acknowledging that "it can really suck" to live with sin.

Ask McKinley whether he and his community are evangelical Christians, and he'll tell you yes — and no. "We'd say 'yes' in terms of what we think about the authority of Scripture and those things," says McKinley, who is finishing his theology doctorate this year. "What you have is evangelicalism defined doctrinally, which we'd agree with, and defined culturally, where we would disagree. Culturally, it has been hijacked by a right-wing political movement.

"Like mainstream evangelicals, emergents believe in spreading the Gospel and in the necessity of believers having a personal relationship with Jesus. The difference lies in how faith is applied — the way it's acted out "in the culture," as emergents typically put it. In the eyes of the emerging church, Christianity lived out in the respectable confines of megachurches and suburbia is fading into irrelevance as a new generation comes of age with a passion for healing society and a reluctance to shout moralistic dogma. "If the church doesn't love its neighbors," McKinley says, "I don't understand how it can say anything that's going to have meaning in the culture."

Emergents tend to be more tolerant than establishment evangelicals on issues such as abortion and homosexuality. Do emergents believe in heaven and hell? Yes, McKinley explains, but according to emergent theology, the point of being Christian is not solely to achieve heaven in the next life, but to bring some heaven to this life by doing the work of Jesus.

That conviction recently translated into "Love Portland," a Saturday of service around the city. Groups from Imago Dei fanned out to perform service projects — beautifying a school in a poor neighborhood, refurbishing a rundown community theater, and the like — and then gathered to celebrate at their Sunday service the next day with music, video clips and stories from those who partook of the service work. Of course, most evangelical churches perform community service. What makes groups such as Imago Dei different is "sustainability," McKinley says — a commitment to serving the community day after day, week after week — and a soft-sell approach to evangelizing to those on the receiving end of their good works.

Serve the community

The "downward mobility" cited by the Texas emergent applies as well to the church-growth strategy, or lack thereof, of emerging communities. Unlike the megachurches of mainstream evangelicalism, emerging groups do not emphasize attracting new members (although it seems to happen anyway) or constructing church buildings. Some emerging groups meet in rented auditoriums, some in people's homes, some in pubs. There is less emphasis, too, on programming for members. In their view, the church exists not primarily to serve members but to serve the community.

Typical of the movement's critics, Falwell accused the emerging church of trying to "modernize and recreate the church so as not to offend sinners." That's probably code for "liberal," a shoe that would certainly fit.

Writer Scot McKnight, a supporter of the movement, says emergents are seen as "a latte-drinking, backpack-lugging, Birkenstock-wearing group of 21st-century, left-wing, hippie wannabes. Put directly, they are Democrats."

As is so often the case with religious movements in this country, the emerging church is both old and new: Old, in that Christianity in America has seemingly always been in a state of re-invention in response to the ever-changing culture; and new, in that we see in the emerging church a group of Jesus followers who reject the social conservatism modeled by Falwell and many other leading evangelicals this past quarter-century.

Is the emerging church compromising biblical truth for the sake of being hip? That debate won't be resolved here. Whatever the case, there is something hopeful about the appearance of a youthful, idealistic form of faith focused more on healing broken neighborhoods than accumulating members and political power.

For those hoping religion can more consistently serve as a force for kindness, unity and society's renewal — and not so much as an argument-starter — the verdict seems simple: Let the emerging church, and its larger ideals, continue to emerge.


Tom Krattenmaker, who lives in Portland, Ore., specializes in religion in public life and is a member of USA TODAY's board of contributors. He is working on a book about Christianity in professional sports.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The 200th Anniversary of Protestantism in China

Mark This Day and Marvel at the Work of God

I do not doubt that what happened on September 7, two hundred years
ago, will be celebrated in heaven for its epochal significance in world
history. The first Protestant missionary set foot on Chinese soil on
September 7, 1807. His name was Robert Morrison. He was a Scottish
Presbyterian, and except for one furlough, he spent the next 27 years in

Persevering against the hostility of official opposition and the resistance of
foreign merchants, Morrison baptized the first Chinese Protestant
Christian, Cai Gao, on July 16, 1814. After the baptism of Cai Gao,
Morrison wrote prophetically in his journal, “May he be the first-fruits of a
great harvest, one of millions who shall come and be saved on the day of
wrath to come."

Last month The National Catholic Reporter carried an article by John Allen
documenting the fulfillment of Morrison’s prayer. Here is what he wrote: "At the time of the Communist takeover in 1949, there were roughly 900,000 Protestants. Today, the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, which puts out the much-consultedWorld Christian Database, says there are 111 million Christians in China, roughly 90 percent Protestant and mostly Pentecostal. That would make China the third-largest Christian country on earth, following only the United States and Brazil. The Center projects that by 2050, there will be 218 million Christians in China, 16 percent of the population, enough to make China the world's second-largest Christian nation. According to the Center, there are 10,000 conversions in China every day.

Click here for the full story

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: Email: Toll Free: 1.888.346.4700.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

The Centrality of the Gospel

The gospel is:

  • you are more flawed and lost than you ever dared believe, yet
  • you can be more accepted and loved than you ever dared hope at the same time, because Jesus Christ lived and died in your place.

Salvation is of the Lord (Jonah 2:9)

The irreligious don't repent at all. The religious only repent of sins. But Christians also repent of their righteousness. Moral and religious people are sorry for their sins, but they see sins as simply the failure to live up to standards by which they are saving themselves. They may go to Jesus for forgiveness-but only as a way to "cover over the gaps" in their project of self-salvation. But a Christian is someone who has adopted a whole new system of approach to God. They realize their entire reason for either irreligion or religion has been essentially the same and essentially wrong! Christians realize that both their sins and their best deeds have all really been ways of avoiding Jesus as savior.

... the way to avoid Jesus was to avoid sin... -Flannery O'Connor

A Christian says: "though I have often failed to obey the law, the deeper problem is why I was ever trying to obey it! Even my effort to obey it is just a way of seeking to be my own savior. In that mindset, even if I obey or ask for forgiveness, I am really resisting the gospel and setting myself up as Savior." To "get the gospel" is to turn from self-justification and rely on Jesus' record for a relationship with God. "Lay your deadly doing down, down at Jesus' feet. Stand in Him, in Him alone-gloriously complete.

"The Two "Thieves" of the Gospel - Legalism and Liberalism

Tertullian said, "Just as Christ was crucified between two thieves, so this doctrine of justification is ever crucified between two opposite errors." These errors continue to "steal" the gospel from us. They are "legalism" and "liberalism". On the one hand, "legalists" have a truth without grace, for they say or imply that we must obey the truth in order to be saved. On the other hand, "liberals" have a grace without truth, for they say or imply that we are all accepted by God regardless of what we decide is true for us. But those with truth without grace do not really have the truth, and those with grace without truth, do not really have grace. In Jesus we behold the glory of the one "full of grace and truth". De-emphasize or lose one or the other of these truths, you fall somewhat into legalism or somewhat into license and you eliminate the joy and the "release" of the gospel. Without knowledge of our extreme sin, the payment of the gospel seems trivial and does not electrify or transform. But without knowledge of Christ's completely satisfying life and death, the knowledge of sin would crush us or move us to deny and repress it. Take away either the knowledge of sin or the knowledge of grace and people's lives are not changed. They will be crushed by the moral law or run from it screaming and angry.

As Luther put it, the Christian is simul justus et peccator (simultaneously accepted, yet a sinner). We are more sinful than we ever dared believe, but through Christ we are more accepted than we ever dared hope. The gospel becomes a transforming power when it dawns on the soul (Romans 1:17). Instead of seeing the law of God as an abstract moral code, Christians see it as a way to know, serve, and resemble their Master. Instead of obeying to make God indebted to them, they obey because they are indebted to him. Instead of being driven by an anxious sense of being unacceptable, they are empowered by grateful joy. The difference between these two ways of morality could not be greater. Their spirits, goals, motivations, and results are entirely different.

The Impact of the Gospel

A basic theological premise is that the gospel can change any one, any place. Part of the driving force of the Church is the conviction that most people have not heard the gospel clearly, whether they have been raised in liberal churches or conservative churches. Many people are on "trajectories" of reaction to either their conservative or their liberal backgrounds or experiences. But the gospel is off the continuum altogether. When people actually hear the gospel, they are surprised and brought up short. There can be neither personal transformation nor social transformation without a grasp of it. The gospel transforms our hearts, thinking and approaches to everything. As you read the following, consider ways that the gospel might transform your way of thinking through theses areas. Some examples:

1. Approach to multi-culturalism:

  • The liberal approach is to relativize all cultures.
  • The conservative approach is to idolize some cultures.
  • The gospel of grace leads us to be: somewhat critical of all cultures, morally superior to no individual, hopeful about any individual, and respectful and courteous to each individual.

2. Approach to the poor:

  • The liberal elites tend to scorn the religion of the poor and see them as helpless victims needing their expertise.
  • The conservative elites tend to scorn the poor as failures and weaklings.
  • The gospel of grace leads us to be: humble, without moral superiority knowing we were saved by grace, gracious, remembering our former deserved spiritual poverty, and respectful of believing poor Christians as brothers and sisters from whom to learn. The gospel alone can bring "knowledge workers" into a sense of humble respect for and solidarity with the poor.

3. Approach to difficult emotions:

  • The moralizing say, "you are breaking the rules-repent."
  • The psychologizing say, "you just need to love and accept yourself."
  • The gospel leads us to say: "something in my life has become more important than God, a pseudo-savior, a form of works-righteousness". The gospel leads us to repentance, but not to merely setting our will against superficialities.

4. Approach to the physical world:

  • The moralist is afraid of or indifferent to physical pleasure and wholeness, while the hedonist makes it an idol.
  • The gospel leads us to see that God has invented both body and soul and so will redeem both body and soul. Thus the gospel leads us to enjoy the physical and fight against sickness and poverty. This is applied also to sex as well.

5. Approach to love and relationships:

  • Liberalism reduces love to a negotiated partnership for mutual benefit.
  • Moralism makes relationships into a blame-game and a never ending need to earn our love; often creates "co-dependency", a form of self-salvation through neediness.
  • The gospel leads us to sacrifice and commitment, but not out of a need to convince ourselves we are acceptable. So we can love the person enough to confront, yet stay with the person when it does not benefit us.

6. Approach to suffering:

  • Liberalism lays the fault at God's doorstep, claiming him to be either unjust or impotent.
  • Moralism takes the approach of Job's friends, laying guilt on you. "I must be bad to be suffering."
  • The gospel shows us that God redeemed us through suffering. That he suffered not that we might not suffer, but that in our suffering we could become like him.

7. Approach to self-control:

  • Liberalism tells us to express ourselves and find out what is right for us. This is an emotion-based approach.
  • Moralism tells us to control our passions out of fear of punishment. This is a volition-based approach.
  • The gospel tells us the free grace of God, which we cannot lose, "teaches" us to "say no" to our passions (Titus 2:13) if we listen to it. This is a whole-person based approach, starting with the truth descending into the heart.

8. Approach to ministry in the world:

  • Liberalism tends to emphasize only amelioration of social conditions and minimize the need for repentance and conversion.
  • On the other hand moralism will tend to place all the emphasis on the individual human soul. Moralistic religion will insist on converting others to their faith and church, but will ignore social needs of the broader community.
  • The gospel leads to love which in turn moves us to give our neighbor whatever is needed-conversion or a cup of cold water, evangelism and social concern.

9. Approach to worship:

  • Liberalism leads to a shallow understanding of "acceptance" without a sense of God's holiness and can lead to frothy or casual worship (a sense of neither God's love nor his holiness leads to a worship service that feels like a committee meeting.)
  • Moralism leads to a dour and somber worship which may be long on dignity but short on joy.
  • But the gospel leads us to see that God is both transcendent yet immanent. His immanence makes his transcendence comforting, while his transcendence makes his immanence amazing. The gospel leads to both awe and intimacy in worship, for the Holy One is now our Father.


All problems, personal or social come from a failure to use the gospel in a radical way. All pathologies in the church and all its ineffectiveness come from a failure to use the gospel in a radical way. We believe that if the gospel is expounded and applied in its fullness in any church, that church will look very unique. People will find moral conviction yet compassion and flexibility. For example, homosexuals are used to being "bashed" and hated or completely accepted. They never see anything else. The cultural elites of either liberal or conservative sides are alike in their unwillingness to befriend or live with or respect or worship with the poor. They are alike in separating themselves increasingly from the rest of society. Avoiding the excesses of the dispensationalist, charismatic, or mainline liberal churches (who all lose the balance of the gospel truth in different ways), a gospel-centered church will break stereotypes and shine brightly in the world.

Friday, August 24, 2007

God's Glory - Our Joy

Do people go to the Grand Canyon to increase their self-esteem? Probably not. This is, at least, a hint that the deepest joys in life come not from savoring the self, but from seeing splendor. And in the end even the Grand Canyon will not do. We were made to enjoy God.

We are all bent to believe that we are central in the universe. How shall we be cured of this joy-destroying disease? Perhaps by hearing afresh how radically God-centered reality is according to the Bible.

Both the Old and New Testament tell us that God's loving us is a means to our glorifying him. "Christ became a servant ... in order that the nations might glorify God for his mercy" (Romans 15:8-9). God has been merciful to us so that we would magnify him. We see it again in the words, "In love [God] destined us to adoption ... to the praise of the glory of His grace" (Ephesians 1:4-6). In other words, the goal of God's loving us is that we might praise him. One more illustration from Psalm 86:12-13: "I will glorify your name forever. For your lovingkindness toward me is great." God's love is the ground. His glory is the goal.

This is shocking. The love of God is not God's making much of us, but God's saving us from self-centeredness so that we can enjoy making much of him forever. And our love to others is not our making much of them, but helping them to find satisfaction in making much of God. True love aims at satisfying people in the glory of God. Any love that terminates on man is eventually destructive. It does not lead people to the only lasting joy, namely, God. Love must be God-centered, or it is not true love; it leaves people without their final hope of joy.

Take the cross of Christ, for example. The death of Jesus Christ is the ultimate expression of divine love: "God demonstrates his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). Yet the Bible also says that the aim of the death of Christ was "to demonstrate [God's] righteousness, because in the forbearance of God he passed over the sins previously committed" (Romans 3:25). Passing over sins creates a huge problem for the righteousness of God. It makes him look like a judge who lets criminals go free without punishment. In other words, the mercy of God puts the justice of God in jeopardy.

So to vindicate his justice he does the unthinkable – he puts his Son to death as the substitute penalty for our sins. The cross makes it plain to everyone that God does not sweep evil under the rug of the universe. He punishes it in Jesus for those who believe.

But notice that this ultimately loving act has at the center of it the vindication of the righteousness of God. Good Friday love is God-glorifying love. God exalts God at the cross. If he didn't, he could not be just and rescue us from sin. But it is a mistake to say, "Well, if the aim was to rescue us, then we were the ultimate goal of the cross." No, we were rescued from sin in order that we might see and savor the glory of God. This is the ultimately loving aim of Christ's death. He did not die to make much of us, but to free us to enjoy making much of God forever.
It is profoundly wrong to turn the cross into a proof that self-esteem is the root of mental health. If I stand before the love of God and do not feel a healthy, satisfying, freeing joy unless I turn that love into an echo of my self-esteem, then I am like a man who stands before the Grand Canyon and feels no satisfying wonder until he translates the canyon into a case for his own significance. That is not the presence of mental health, but bondage to self.

The cure for this bondage is to see that God is the one being in the universe for whom self-exaltation is the most loving act. In exalting himself – Grand Canyon-like – he gets the glory and we get the joy. The greatest news in all the world is that there is no final conflict between my passion for joy and God's passion for his glory. The knot that ties these together is the truth that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. Jesus Christ died and rose again to forgive the treason of our souls, which have turned from savoring God to savoring self. In the cross of Christ, God rescues us from the house of mirrors and leads us out to the mountains and canyons of his majesty. Nothing satisfies us – or magnifies him – more.

A message by John Piper

Thursday, July 26, 2007

What's happening to missions mobilization?

World mission mobilizers are confronted by a bewildering array of opinions, facts, and new realities. Among them: The MARC Mission Handbook reports a leveling off in long-term missionaries. Patrick Johnstone of Operation World reports that 10,000 of the world's 12,000 ethnolinguistic people groups have church-planting teams.

Field missionaries describe extra work generated by short-term teams and fear the consequences of some inappropriate conduct by "prayer walk" teams.

The AD2000 and Beyond Movement reports progress toward church-planting movements among the unreached, while missiologists track increasing resistance among Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims.

Such trends, among others, point to a significant division among mission mobilizers and strategists, perhaps one of the most important shifts since the end of World War II. The increased emphasis on the challenge of unreached peoples has highlighted two major streams of action.

(More here)

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Berber, Drawa of Morocco

Please pray for the ...

Population: 442,000
Language: Tachelhit
Religion: Islam
Evangelical: 0.00%

The Drawa Berbers inhabit the Dra River valley region of southern Morocco. They can be divided into three main categories: the farmers who live in the northeast (the Dades); those living along the northwestern tributaries (the Mesgita, Seddrat, and Zeri tribes); and those who live at altitudes of more than 6,500 feet. The Drawas live in a very complex social system. Their villages are usually overseen by the most powerful family in the village. This family lives in a community fortified, threshing-floor dwelling. The rest of the community lives in terraced houses crowded closely together. The nearby oases are usually dominated by their semi-nomadic Berber neighbors. The Berber languages have five main groupings and several different dialects. Except for numerous short inscriptions in ancient Libyan and a few modern religious texts, these languages have practically no written literature.

What Are Their Lives Like?

The Drawas are mostly farmers. The mountain slopes in the vicinity are divided for pastures and gardens. The staple crop grown is dates, followed by barley. Date palm trees are very valuable and are considered as property. Various other crops are grown including wheat, corn, and beans. Some animals (cattle, goats, sheep, horses and camels) are kept as well. There is little industry among the Drawas; however, fishing in the Dra River and trading with nearby communities provide other sources of income. Many Drawas have been forced to leave their mountain homes to find work in the cities. Some have been employed in the phosphate mines, while others live in the slums of Casablanca. Although most do some type of manual labor, a few have become shopkeepers. Drawa villages still live according to a code of customary law known as kanun, which deals with questions concerning property and people. Inheritance is patrilineal, meaning that all rights and properties are passed down through the fathers. Over the years, many dynasties have tried to conquer the Drawas because of their importance in the trans-Saharan caravan trade.

What are their beliefs?

Prior to the seventh century, the Berbers had successfully resisted foreign invasions of Islam. However, with the Arab conquests of the seventh century, the Berbers were shattered. Some fled or were driven into the desert, while others submitted, becoming arabized in language and, to some extent, racially mixed. All embraced Islam, the majority becoming Sunni Muslims. Although the Drawas follow the Islamic fundamentals, there is still much intermingling with existing pagan beliefs. Consequently, Islam in North Africa is somewhat different from Islam in the Middle East. For example, orthodox Sunnis do not celebrate some of the main Muslim festivals. Also, the concept of baraka, or holiness, is highly developed in North Africa. The Drawas believe that many people are endowed with baraka, of which the holiest are the shurifa, or the direct descendants of Mohammed. Another class of holy people is known as the marabouts. Among some of the Berbers, the marabouts are considered to be different from ordinary men. They are believed to possess the powers of protection and healing, even after death.

What are their needs?

The Drawas, as other Muslim peoples, have never been successfully penetrated with the Gospel. At the present time, it is illegal for a Moroccan to become a Christian or to evangelize others. For this reason, there are no churches among the Drawa Berbers. In spite of this, there are a small number of known believers. While Morocco is closed to traditional styles of missions work, there are creative ways in which to enter the country as tentmakers. The illiteracy rate among Moroccans is less than 20%. Perhaps Christian teachers would have an open door into Moroccan schools.

Prayer Points:

  • Ask the Lord to call people who are willing to go to Morocco and share Christ with the Drawas.
  • Pray that the Lord will raise up missionaries who are sensitive to the Muslim culture and can effectively disciple new converts.
  • Ask God to encourage and protect the small number of known Drawa believers.
  • Pray that God will raise up linguists to complete translation of the Bible into Tachelhit.
  • Ask the Lord to send Christian teachers to work among the Drawas.
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the Berbers towards Christians.
  • Pray that laws restricting the preaching of the Gospel in Morocco will change.
  • Ask the Lord to raise up a strong local church among the Drawa Berbers.

Text source: Bethany World Prayer Center © 1999.Used with permission from Adopt-A-People Clearinghouse
View Berber, Drawa in all countries.

Taking the Church Where It's Needed Most

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Lessons Can be Learned from Successful Cities

In the May 3, 2007 issue of "Economist" magazine there was an article entitled, "The Reinvention Test." The article was about durable cities and pointed the reader to the idea that successful cities must expect to go through several rebirths over time. Enjoy a portion of the article and then respond to my musing at the end.

"CITIES are durable. Most last longer than the countries that surround them, or indeed any other human institutions. But some thrive, whereas others merely mark time (Cleveland, Minsk, Pyongyang), go into apparently long-term decline (Detroit, New Orleans, Venice) or disappear (Tenochtitlán, Tikal, Troy). What are the characteristics of a successful city? The short answer is good government and a flourishing economy. But such attributes may come and go in the life of a metropolis. In order to be continuously successful, a city has to be able to reinvent itself, perhaps several times."

Harvard's Edward Glaeser describes how Boston has done this three times—“in the early 19th century as the provider of seafaring human capital for a far-flung maritime trading and fishing empire, in the late 19th century as a factory town built on immigrant labour and Brahmin capital, and finally in the 20th century as a centre of the information economy.” On each occasion, human capital provided the secret to Boston's rebirth. A strong base of skilled workers, writes Mr Glaeser, has been a source of long-run urban health.

Education was important from the first in Boston. But Mr Glaeser draws attention to other characteristics of the city that were present even in colonial times. It had a strong set of community organisations, because of its church structure, and something like the rule of law. It also had a tradition of “democratic egalitarianism”.

Law has been essential for urban life since Babylonian times, both because cities have usually been centres of commerce, and trade needs regulation, and because cities tend to draw different kinds of people, whose success in living together depends on common rules of behaviour. Democracy, too, has served cities well, providing a shock-absorber for changing economic times and a mechanism whereby immigrants can join the mainstream.

Immigration, or at least an ethnic and religious mix, has also been closely associated with urban success. As Joel Kotkin points out in “The City”, Chinese towns at the end of the first millennium AD showed the same cosmopolitan mixture as did Alexandria, Cairo, Antioch and Venice. Pre-1492 Seville, 16th-century London and 19th-century Bombay (now Mumbai) all contained a variety of different peoples, whether Muslims, Jews, Parsis or others.

Throughout history, cities open to the world have benefited both from an exchange of goods and from a trade in ideas from abroad. Japan, by closing its doors to foreigners, condemned its cities to slow marination in their own culture until the country's opening up after 1853. Today the burgeoning cities with the best chance of overcoming their difficulties are those in Asia and Latin America that can gain from globalisation. Africa's cities, largely excluded from this phenomenon, are winning relatively little investment, trade or entrepreneurial fizz from foreigners.

Some cities in the rich world, too, have been much more successful than others at exploiting globalisation. The ones that have done best are those that have plugged into global industries and been able to capture the headquarters or lesser corporate centres of globalised companies, especially banks and other financial firms, argues Saskia Sassen, of the University of Chicago. London, New York and Tokyo are pre-eminent in this, but some other cities—Paris, Frankfurt, Zurich, Amsterdam, Chicago, Los Angeles, Sydney, Hong Kong, São Paulo, Mexico City—are not far behind.

Not every city can “go global” or will even want to. There are other types of raison d'être. One is simply to be a pleasant place to live and work, pleasant meaning different things to different people, of course. In the developing world most people would be delighted to live in a city that was prosperous and well governed, if that meant jobs were available, officials were honest, the streets were safe, housing was affordable and transport, sanitation and basic utilities operated to minimum standards. Even in rich countries not all these things can be taken for granted.

Mercer, a consulting firm, publishes a ranking of big cities each year based on an assessment of about 40 factors falling into ten categories (political, economic, cultural, medical, educational, public-service, recreational, consumer-goods, housing and environmental). Last year the top ten cities were Zurich, Geneva, Vancouver, Vienna, Auckland, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Munich, Bern and Sydney.

The Economist Intelligence Unit, a sister organisation to The Economist, carries out a similar exercise (see table). Five of its top ten cities for 2005 were also in Mercer's top ten. All ten in each list, with the exception of Sydney and Calgary, might be considered rather homely, even dull. The cities that have done most to excite attention the world over—New York, Chicago and Los Angeles—are also-rans. Smallish countries mostly do well, and Australia, the most urbanised country of all, ranks notably highly, at least in the EIU list.

No list includes the ability to reinvent itself among the desirable qualities of a city. That may, however, be increasingly put to the test, for some people believe that cities have had their day."

Could the Church learn lessons from the histories of cities? If so, what might they be?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Pray for Kazakhstan

Please pray for the ...
Kazakh of Kazakhstan
Population: 7,801,000
Language: Kazakh
Religion: Islam
Evangelical: 0.36%

The Kazakh, a Turkic people, are the second largest Muslim people group of Central Asia. In times past, they may have been the most influential of the various Central Asian ethnic groups. While most of the Kazakh now live in Kazakhstan, they make up only about 40% of the country's population. Large communities can also be found in Mongolia, Ukraine, and Russia.

The Kazakh developed a distinct ethnic identity in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. Several of their clans formed a federation that would provide mutual protection. As other clans joined the federation, its political influence began to take on an ethnic character. During the nineteenth century, the Russians acquired Central Asia through a steady process of annexation. They eventually claimed the entire territory of Kazakhstan. Tragically, about half of the Kazakh population was killed during the Russian Civil War of the 1920's and 1930's. During this time, many fled to China and Mongolia.

What Are Their Lives Like?
Since the collapse of Soviet Communism, the Kazakh have been searching for their identity. Traditionally, they were nomadic shepherds; however, under Soviet rule, much of their land was seized and used for collective farming. As industry developed, their economy and culture became dependent entirely on the Russians. Today, however, there is a widespread movement to redevelop their own cultural identity.

As nomadic shepherds, the Kazakh lived in dome shaped felt tents called yurts. These portable dwellings could be taken down and moved from area to area as the shepherd found good land for his flocks. Under Russian rule, many other Kazakhs were forced to move to the cities and live in houses or small apartments. Most of these two or three room apartments have running water, though in some rural areas there is no hot water. The water is clean, but not safe to drink. The process of purifying the water can be very tedious.

The Kazakh eat a variety of meat and dairy products. A popular Kazakh food is besbarmak, which is eaten with your hands. It is made of noodles, potatoes, onions, and mutton. Rice and bread are common staples. In the southern regions of Kazakhstan, fruit and vegetables grow in abundance. There the people enjoy eating grapes, melons, and tomatoes. Kazakh apples are also famous throughout Central Asia.

The foundation of the Kazakh culture is hospitality, which always starts with a cup of tea. The host offers tea to any person who comes to his house. Guests must accept the kindness, or the host will be offended.

A favorite sport is kokpar which means "fighting for a goat's carcass." Up to 1000 horseman will participate in this sport.

What Are Their Beliefs?
The Kazakhs embraced Islam during the sixteenth century and still consider themselves Muslim today. Changes in Kazakh society (mainly from a nomadic to a settled lifestyle) and an attempt by the Soviets to suppress religious freedoms have led the people to adopt Islam more closely. However, their Islamic practices have been combined with traditional folk religions.

Traditional Kazakh folk religion includes beliefs in spirits. They practice animism and ancestor worship. Animism is the belief that non-human objects have spirits. Ancestor worship involves praying and offering sacrifices to deceased ancestors. Today, the Kazakh continue to consult shamans (priests who cure the sick by magic, communicate with the spirits, and control events). They also practice various traditional rituals before and after marriage, at birth, and at death.

What Are Their Needs?
The Kazakh are facing ecological catastrophe due to the mismanagement of natural resources. This has caused the near desolation of the Aral Sea and contamination of much of their drinking water. As a result, the infant mortality rate is very high. There is also a high rate of stillbirths and birth defects. Abortion is their main method of birth control. Most women have five or six abortions. Because Kazakhs value children, this creates a serious emotional battle for Kazakh parents.

The Kazakh church is young, but the church is growing. Young people are especially excited about hearing the Good News of the Gospel. Over 40 Kazakh speaking churches exist, but in a people group of over eight million, that is a small number. Many churches are located in the major cities like Almaty, but Christian workers are also needed in the rural areas.

Prayer Points
  • Praise God for the growing number of Kazakh Christians.
  • Pray that they would learn the Word of God quickly.
  • Pray that there would be fresh leadership training materials prepared in the Kazakh language for pastors.
  • Pray for salvation for heads of families as the Gospel is clearly presented to them.
  • Ask the Lord to send long term laborers to live among the Kazak and share the love of Christ with them.
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to open the hearts of the Kazak towards Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
  • Pray that God will raise up prayer teams to go and break up the soil through worship and intercession.
  • Ask God to encourage and protect the small number of Muslim Kazak who have converted to Christianity.
  • Pray that these converts will begin to boldly share the Gospel with their own people.
  • Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Kazak.
Text source: Copyright © GAAPNet: Updated original Bethany people profile. Used with permission.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Great Challenges of the City

"An honest evaluation of church history should serve to remind Christians that there has often been some hesitation to embrace the city. After all, when in the Book of Genesis Lot chose the cities of the plain for his habitation, it led to disaster. With the exception of Jerusalem, most cities referenced in the Bible are mentioned with considerable concern, if not outright judgment. Think of Nineveh, Babylon, Tyre, Sidon, Sodom, Gomorrah, Corinth, and Rome."

To read the entire article please go to Albert Mohler's blog

Khmer of Cambodia

Pray for the Khmer of Central Cambodia

Population: 12,475,000

Language: Khmer

Religion: Buddhism

The Central Khmer inhabit the western and central portions of Cambodia, and make up 90% of the country's total population. The Central Khmer speak an Eastern Mon-Khmer language called Khmer, or Cambodian. It is the national language of Cambodia. The Khmer Empire, which flourished between the ninth and thirteenth centuries, encompassed present-day Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and southern Vietnam. Its power declined after being conquered by the Thai and the Vietnamese. In 1969, Cambodia suffered bombings by the U.S. and invasions by the Vietnamese; events that threw the country into turmoil. In addition, a civil war broke out between the Cambodian government and Communist rebels known as the Khmer Rouge. Possibly three million Central Khmer died between 1975 and 1979, while the Khmer Rouge ruled. Since then, peace talks with the Khmer Rouge have failed, coups continue, and the Central Khmer still live in fear.

What Are Their Lives Like?

In 1975, the Khmer Rouge regime nearly destroyed Cambodia. In order to depopulate cities, three million people were forced into the countryside as slave labor. Starvation led to the deaths of over one million people. Currency was abolished; religion was eradicated; education was suspended; medicine was forbidden; and people who could read were often massacred all in the name of the ideal of rural social reform. Many people fled north to Thailand; others took the trail of tears into Communist Laos. Unfortunately, there they struggled to find clothing, shelter, medical care, and food. Some Khmer found permanent homes; others found shelter in crowded refugee camps. Before the war, 90% of Cambodia's inhabitants lived in one-third of the country, along the two main waterways and their tributaries. Although the soil there is not fertile, the plains flood every rainy season. The overflow brings an abundance of fish; and when it recedes, leaves rich deposits. Sadly, bombing, civil war, and war with the Vietnamese decimated a once thriving agricultural economy. Today, most of the Khmer still live in small villages and grow rice in irrigated paddies. Rubber is also important to their economy. Unfortunately, it has been dangerous for the farmers to work the fields since the 1970's (due to land mines). The mines have caused more wounds to the Central Khmer than any other weapon. In 1994, the United States provided military aid to help locate the mines and build new roads. While the Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia, more men died than women, creating a skewed sex ratio. Today, women are required to perform duties that were once done by men. They dress in colorful skirts, adding life to their unhappy environment. Red and white checkered cloth is used to make everything from headdresses to pouches for carrying babies. In the villages, Buddhist rules of conduct maintain social control. These rules forbid lying, stealing, drinking alcoholic, committing adultery, and killing living creatures. Some remnants of traditional culture can be seen in the villages: folk dance, the classical royal ballet, and traditional Khmer music.

What are their beliefs?

The former Khmer Empire was influenced by India, from which it adopted Hinduism and Buddhism. Today, 94% of the Central Khmer are Buddhist, although relics of ethnic religions such as ancestor worship (praying to deceased ancestors) and spirit worship are very important to them. The Buddhist Khmer also seek the middle path to nirvana, or ultimate peace through gaining merit in this life. Merit may be gained through supporting the construction of Buddhist temples, giving food to monks, and studying in the monastery.

What are their needs?

Although the Bible and other Christian resources are available to the Central Khmer, less than 1% of their population has turned to Christ. They remain a war-torn people in need of true, inner peace. Prayer is the key to reaching them with the Gospel.

Prayer Points:

  • Ask the Lord to call people who are willing to go to Cambodia and share Christ with the Central Khmer.

  • Pray that God will grant wisdom and favor to any missions agencies that are currently working among the Central Khmer.

  • Ask the Lord to begin revealing Himself to these precious people through dreams and visions.

  • Pray that God will encourage and protect the Central Khmer who have accepted Jesus.

  • Ask God to use these new converts to reach out and share the love of Christ with their own people.

  • Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that are keeping the Khmer bound.

  • Ask God to call forth prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through intercession.

  • Pray that strong local churches will be planted among the Central Khmer.

Text source: Bethany World Prayer Center © 1999.Used with permission from Adopt-A-People Clearinghouse

Monday, May 28, 2007

Pray for the Tatar, Crimean of Turkey

Tatar, Crimean of Turkey

Population: 143,000
Language: Crimean Turkish
Religion: Islam
Evangelical: 0.00%

What are their beliefs? The Tatars are Sunni Muslims who belong to the Hanafite branch. However, they have no version of the Qu'ran in their language. The Muslim faith includes observing Ramadan, a month of ritual fasting. During Ramadan, they are praying for Islam to fill the earth.

What are their needs? Some evidence suggests that the Crimean Tatars have a thirst for the Word of God. Getting a translation of the Bible in their language is the most urgent need since only portions are available at this time. There is also a great need for laborers to work among the Tatars. Tentmakers with skills in agriculture and construction are needed, in addition to those who can evangelize and do church planting. Tatars also need job training and help in establishing small businesses. English language studies may be needed as well. Of the 143,000 Crimean Tatars living in Turkey, only a few have found abundant life in Jesus Christ. It is God's will for these precious people to come to know Him, for He " not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9)

Prayer Points:

  • Ask the Lord to call full-time Christian workers who are willing to go to Turkey and share Christ with the Tatars.
  • Pray for those who are leaving comforts behind and risking their lives to return to their homeland.
  • Ask God to strengthen, encourage, and protect the small number of Crimean Tatar Christians.
  • Pray that God will raise up qualified linguists to translate the entire Word of God into the Crimean Tatar language.
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to soften their hearts towards Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
  • Pray that God will open the hearts of Turkish governmental leaders to the Gospel. Ask the Lord to raise up a strong local church among the Crimean Tatars.

Taking the Church Where It's Needed Most

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The African Planter

What must we learn, and unlearn, to be agents of God's mission in the world?

In the 1950s, while Kenya was still a British colony, a group of white expatriates started a church. Since they were from free church backgrounds, largely Plymouth Brethren, they called it Nairobi Undenominational Chapel. The church was located near the Governor's house, within a secured area where Africans were not allowed. So the church had no African members.

After the Mau-Mau Rebellion, as whites left Kenya for Rhodesia and South Africa and other places still under British rule, the church dwindled. In the meantime, the University of Nairobi, in the center of the city, began growing and occupying the land around the Chapel. But until 1989, the church had no university students, and only one African family among the remaining 20 members in the congregation.

That's when the congregation approached an indigenous African church to take over. And a young graduate student named Oscar Muriu became the pastor of Nairobi Chapel. Today the church has planted 25 congregations in Nairobi, with thousands of members, and is planning to plant churches in Asia, America, and Europe. Read more...

Thursday, May 10, 2007


I've been thinking about a Midwestern spring phenomenon...


"We have all seen the simplest of weeds, the venerable dandelion, masquerading as a flower in the fullness of its yellow bloom, and then quickly fading to gray... Who knows how it came to this little garden, drifting in on the wind, no doubt, and settling unseen into the fertile soil to germinate. Soon it sprouts tiny green leaflets that grow and extend themselves upward... Who would want to pluck such a brightly colored thing from the ground?
In its full flush it seems to exude the energy of spring and summer, tempting the pollinating bees as ably as any rose I have ever seen. Its slender stalks, so frail and milky when snapped away by the casual gardener, are in fact designed to give way easily, so as to leave the vital root of the plant intact. And its hour and day in the sun is fleeting and brief, a mere wink and a nod before the plant gets about its real business-the making of more dandelions.

In a matter of days the golden crown can wither and whiten to an afro of puffy white and gray seedlings. If your hand was in the slightest stayed, and you have not troweled up the deepest tendrils of its roots by then, you have lost your battle with this hardy weed. Try to pluck it away when it has gone to gray, and you ensure the next generation will colonize your world. The slightest touch sets the feather light seedlings to flight, and they drift and scatter on the barest whisper of a breeze. One dandelion can become a hundred in the space of a few short weeks, and any gardener arriving too late on the scene will have a great challenge before him. Just when you think you have plucked out the last of the feisty little demons, you find ten more have rooted somewhere else." *

This week during the INSTITUTE we were spending the hour in Solitude, during that time I started thinking about the seed metaphors that Jesus talked about. My mind ran onto dandelions. In the middle of my of those delicate dandelion seeds came floating right at me. It missed me yet landed right on the picnic table in front of me. (That cinched that I would be writing about it in this article! )

The seed didn't find suitable soil there on the picnic table, but a gentle breeze whisked it away more than 20 yards in the air before I couldn't track it. In that little seed lies resident the whole potential to germinate, to grow, to produce a flower, then to produce seeds that starts the cycle all over again. Amazing.

It's amazing that the Good News Seed has resident in it the potential to germinate people into followers of Jesus, to grow, to produce fruit and seeds to start the cycle all over again. It's simple, light, and UNSTOPPABLE! Just like dandelions in the Midwest in springtime...

Press On,
Mike Jentes

*the dandelion article above was excerpted from an online article by John Schettler in his article found here
posted originally in thequest email UPdate from May 25, 2005

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Tibetan, Shanyan of China

Please pray for the ...

Tibetan, Shanyan of China
Population: 23,000
Language: Language Unknown
Religion: Buddhism
Evangelical: 0.00%

Let the nations be glad and sing for joy; For You will judge the peoples with uprightness and guide the nations on the earth."
Psalm 67:4

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Progress of Christianity by People Group

Pray for the Uyghur of China

Please pray for.....

Uyghur of China
Population: 10,584,000
Language: Uyghur
Religion: Islam
Evangelical: 0.00%

Islam has been the dominant religion of the Uighurs since the 10th century. In the past, they were Muslim in name only; however, there is some renewal that is currently taking place among them. One hundred percent of the Uighurs now claim to be Hanafite Muslims. Mosques in the capital city, Urumqi, are overflowing with followers. On the pavement surrounding the mosques, worshippers kneel on their prayer mats and offer prayers faithfully. Islamic literature is freely bought and sold, and the graves of Muslim saints are highly venerated.

There are no known converts. As Muslims, they are taught that Christians are their enemies. Even school children are indoctrinated with atheism. It is reported that Christians in this area of China are persecuted. The Bible has already been translated into the Uighur language; Christian broadcasts and the Jesus film are available. In spite of these facts, they remain untouched with the Gospel. There are no Uighur churches established, and the Uighur have never heard that salvation comes through Jesus Christ. They desperately need to know the Truth of the Gospel.

Taking the Church Where it's Needed Most

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Orality and a Changing Culture

The landscape of learning, understanding and beliefs is changing in North America at a surprising rate. The Church is struggling to find ways to better communicate the Gospel in meaningful and life-changing ways. Many of the problems can be corrected by a better understanding of the literacy issues facing us coupled with increased skills in effective oral communication. If the church needs an example, she needs only to turn to Jesus who lived in a 95% illiterate, or functionally illiterate society. Jesus was the master oral communicator!

Orality refers to the style of communication between individuals and generations that functions without the use of a writing system. However, it is a deeper concept than the mere absence of writing. It produces its own thought forms and processes that constitute ways of learning, conceptualizing, and communicating that are quite distinct from those of literate thinkers and communicators. Oral thought processes are less linear, and logic is associative rather than deductive and sequential. Orality also affects worldview, particularly in the area of truth perception. For literates “truth is seen as consisting in facts – specific descriptive statements about an objective, perceivable reality. Knowledge is the accumulation of facts. The oral culture, on the other hand, places priority on relationships, which produces a concept of dynamic truth. This focuses on relational skills, and truth is seen in terms of personal integrity and fulfilment of relational and family obligations” (Orville Boyd Jenkins,“Orality and the Post-literate West”). An oral culture is characterized by relational, face-to-face communication using stories, proverbs, drama, songs, chants, poetry and others forms of participative, communal and interactive events.

One has only to have a cursory understanding of post-modernity to see the parallel implications of orality in contemporary North American culture. Let he who has ears to hear....

Orality and the Communication of the Gospel

Around two-thirds of the world’s population, either by necessity or choice, are oral communicators, and they are found in every cultural group in the world. Among unreached people groups – those not highly penetrated by the gospel – or language groups without the Scriptures, the figure is significantly higher. One people group that interestingly and perhaps unexpectedly often displays many of the traits that scholars associate with the term orality (although it cannot properly be called “oral”) is deaf people.

Apart from those who have known only oral communication all their lives (“primary orality”), an increasing number of previously literate communicators, influenced by the audio-visual impact of mass media (TV, radio, telephones, interactive computer software, movies, music, etc), are adopting orality as their preferred communication style (“secondary orality”). This is often referred to as “post-literacy”. It should also be noted that many members of so-called literate societies are in fact only semi-literate at best, and are more comfortable with oral communication (in the USA for example up to 50% of the population have poor literacy skills).

On the spectrum of learning styles from primary oral learners to highly literate learners, there are generally recognized to be five broad categories: 1) primary illiterates; 2) functional illiterates; 3) semi-literates; 4) functional literates; 5) highly literate. (The categorization is that of James B Slack, reproduced in "Making Disciples of Oral Learners, Lausanne Committee for World Evangelisation and International Orality Network"). Only the “highly literate” primarily use a literate communication style, while even “functional literates” learn and communicate a significant amount in oral ways. While there are many people who use only oral communication styles, there is not really anyone who exclusively uses literate means of learning and communicating. This does not diminish the value of literate learning, but rather brings the value of oral learning into perspective. Needless to say, these categories bear no necessary relation to intelligence. Many primary illiterates, for example, have memorization skills that are superior to many highly literate learners.

The Church must learn better oral communication skills if she is to continue to effectively communicate the Gospel of Jesus Christ to an increasingly oral learning society.

Friday, April 20, 2007

What is Racism? Who is a Racist?

Definition: The American Heritage Dictionary lists two definitions of the word "racism":

1. The belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to

2. Discrimination or prejudice based on race.

There is great confusion and argument over the terms "racism" and "racist" - some groups are classified as "racist" while others are considered "incapable of racism due to power difference."
The first definition can be evidenced when we consider the views of White Supremacists and Jim Crow Laws (which legislate the belief that Whites were entitled to more civil rights than others). The underlying assumption is that one race - the white race - is superior to all others. Laws based on this belief (e.g. Apartheid in South Africa) reflect racism. People who ascribe to
this belief are then, racist.

The second definition leaves greater room for discussion and debate. This broader definition tells us that "discrimination" (treatment or consideration based on class or category rather than individual merit) or "prejudice" (a preconceived preference or idea) allows that people of any race can be labeled as racist and any biased (def: an unfair act or policy stemming from prejudice) acts to be categorized as racism.

Also Known As: racialism, racial discrimination

Examples: The teen who verbally or physically attacks another simply because he is of a different race can be considered to be engaging in a racist act, whether he is White or Black, Asian or Latin. Beliefs that all people of another race (be they White, Black, Latin, Asian, etc.) are bad, evil, less than, reflect racism. Of key importance is the idea that racism and racist
behavior is not owned by any one group.

From Susan Pizarro-Eckert, "Your Guide to Race Relations."

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Pray for the 79 People Groups Living in Germany

Total Population: 82,716,000

Total population of German people: 56,900,000

Total population of Non-German people: 25,816,000

Total People Groups: 79

Total Least-Reached People Groups: 17


Protestant 34%, Roman Catholic 34%, Muslim 3.7%, Orthodox 2%, unaffiliated or other 26.3%


German is Germany's only official and most-widely spoken language. Standard German is understood throughout the country, while dialects — some quite distinct from the standard language — are used in everyday speech, especially in rural regions. Speakers with regional dialects and accents are not frowned on or interpreted as uneducated. On the contrary, dialects are seen as symbols of regional identity and spoken throughout all social classes.

English is the most common foreign language and almost universally taught by the secondary level. Other languages taught are French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and Russian. Dutch is taught in counties bordering the Netherlands. Latin and Greek are part of the classical education syllabus offered by some secondary schools.

Sources: Joshua Project, Wikipedia

Taking the church where it's needed most.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Pray for the Least-Reached in France

Total Population in France: 60,723,000

Total population of "French" people: 34,450,000

Total population of "Non-French" people: 26,273,000

Least-Reached People Groups: 34

Population of Least-Reached People: 4,677,000


Roman Catholic 83%-88%, Protestant 2%, Jewish 1%, Muslim 5%-10%, unaffiliated 4%


French 100%, rapidly declining regional dialects and languages (Provencal, Breton, Alsatian, Corsican, Catalan, Basque, Flemish)

Taking the church where it's needed most.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Aoka of China

Please pray for the ...

Aoka of China
Population: 295,000
Language: Chinese, Xiang
Religion: Ethnic Religions
Evangelical: 0.70%

Taking the Church Where it's Needed Most

Although they are officially part of the Miao nationality, the Aoka speak a unique Chinese language - a fact they apparently refuse to accept. When linguists visited them and told them that they spoke a form of Chinese, "they claimed that they spoke Miao, because their speech was very different from that of the surrounding Chinese population, and because they wore Miao clothes instead of Chinese clothes."

In the aftermath of Chinese wars against them, the ancestors of the Aoka were launched into an era of migration. Tired of being harassed, they fled across mountain ranges in hope of finding an isolated place where they could be left alone to live their lives. Many of the ethnic groups now known as the Hmu also traveled into Hunan and Guangxi. They may be the ancestors of the Aoka. After centuries of living beside the all-powerful Han Chinese, the Aoka have lost their language and are being speedily assimilated to the Han Chinese language and culture.

Aoka communities work together as one to design and build homes for each other. During a crisis, all the people come together to find a solution. In many villages, the Aoka believe the stove is the center of their home and they are afraid to offend the "spirit of the stove". They are forbidden to place their feet or shoes on the stove, and at night they must remove all pots and pans from it: not to do so is believed to bring a curse to the family.

Some Aoka believe there was once a ladder connecting heaven to the earth. A long time ago the ladder was broken and no people have been able to visit heaven since. Today the majority of Aoka are animists, living under the influence of demons and evil spirits. Many have also adopted the ancestor worship belief systems of their Han Chinese neighbors.

More than three-quarters of Aoka people have yet to hear the gospel for the first time. No widespread mission effort was undertaken in their area before missionaries were expelled from China in the early 1950s. There are few Miao or Han Chinese Christian communities in that part of China today. Hunan remains one of the most unreached provinces in China. Although they have their own spoken language, the Aoka use the Chinese script for writing. Few Aoka, however, are literate enough to read the Chinese Bible or other evangelistic literature.

Text source: Copyright © Operation China, Paul Hattaway. Used with permission.

Taking the church where it's needed most.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Cross-cultural Church Planting Starts Where the Scripture Starts

Cross-cultural church planting has it's foundation in the very beginning of the Word of God. It starts where the Scriptures start. God has displayed His creativity not only in the creation of the heavens and the earth, but in ethnic diversity, in redeeming the world, and in building His church. In a fast-forward way, we can see God’s plan through other key biblical passages. “The Lord had said to Abram,‘Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation...I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing...and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you’ ” (Gen. 12:1-3).

To this man of faith who would go on a great pilgrimage, God unveiled a plan to reach the world. Through this one man who left his people, all peoples on earth will be blessed. “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age’” (Matt. 28: 18-20).

Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth. Jesus commanded His followers “to make discip les of all nations.” This key command echoes in different ways throughout the New Testament (Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-49; John 20:21-22; Acts 1:8).

In "Let The Nations Be Glad!: The Supremacy of God in Misions," John Piper declares,“God’s great goal in all history is to uphold and display the glory of His name for the enjoyment of His people from all the nations.” In step with“God’s great goal” described by Piper, the Lord has allowed world migration today to bring many different peoples to the major cities. In the major metropolitan areas around the globe,multicultural churches are microcosms that simultaneously reflect a fulfillment of the Great Commission (see Matt. 28:18-20) and foreshadow the reality of heaven (see Rev. 5:9-10; 7:9-10; 14:6-7; 15:4; 21:3).

Arab, Shuwa of Western and Central Africa

Please pray for the:
Arab, Shuwa of Western and Central Africa
Population: 1,891,000
Language: Arabic, Chadean, Sudanese
Religion: Islam
Evangelical: 0.03%

Taking the Church Where it's Needed Most

Who are they?
The Shuwa Arabs are commonly referred to as the "Baggara." This name is derived from the Arabic word bagar, meaning "cow," and refers to the Arab tribes in West Africa who are cattle herders. They are spread from the Lake Chad region eastward to the Nile River in the countries of Sudan, Niger, Chad, Cameroon, Nigeria, and the Central African Republic. They live in a hot, semi-arid climate with zones ranging from sparse shrub lands to wooded grasslands. The Baggara tribes are of Arab descent and mainly speak the Shuwa dialect of the Arabic language. They entered western Sudan between the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and have gradually moved east and west from there. By the eighteenth century, they were concentrated primarily to the north and east of Lake Chad. Their tribes continued moving eastward until they became widely scattered across the horizontal plains of West Africa. They have intermarried with the Negroid tribes who lived close to them. This mixture of blood has given the Baggara darker skin and thicker lips than other Arabs.

What are their beliefs?

The Baggara have been Muslims since the thirteenth century. They wear the clothes prescribed by the Muslim religion, and bury their dead facing Mecca, the "holy city" of Islam. The Baggara are a very superstitious people who believe strongly in evil spirits. Each morning a man sneezes in order to rid his nostrils of the evil spirit who slept there the night before. The Baggara also believe that men and women can be changed into animals such as were-crocodiles and were-hyenas.

What are their needs?

Some of the Baggara tribes have been targeted by missions agencies. Portions of the Bible have been translated into their language and some Christian broadcasts are also available to them. However, because the people are so devoted to the Islamic faith, very few of them have converted to Christianity. Also, the nomadic lifestyle of the Baggara makes it very difficult for missionaries to reach them. Concentrated prayer and evangelism efforts are necessary in order to penetrate the hearts of the Baggara with the Gospel.

Prayer Points:
  • Pray against the spirit of Islam that has kept the Baggara bound for many generations.
  • Pray that God will raise up long term workers to join those who have already responded.
  • Ask God to encourage and protect the small number of Muslims who have become Christians.
  • Pray that the Holy Spirit will complete the work begun in their hearts through adequate discipleship.
  • Ask the Lord to call out prayer teams to go and break up the soil through worship and intercession.
  • Pray that Christians living in West Africa will be stirred with vision for outreach and a genuine burden to reach out to the Baggara tribes.
  • Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Baggara.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Immigrants Fueling Growth of U.S. Cities

According to a recent CBS News report, "Immi-grants are filling the void as domestic migrants are seeking opportunities in other places," said Mark Mather, a demographer at the Population Reference Bureau, a private research organization.

Immigrants long have flocked to major metropolitan areas and helped them grow. But increasingly, native-born Americans are moving from those areas and leaving immigrants to provide the only source of growth.

The New York metro area, which includes the suburbs, added 1 million immigrants from 2000 to 2006. Without those immigrants, the region would have lost nearly 600,000 people.

Without immigration, the Los Angeles metro area would have lost more than 200,000, the San Francisco area would have lost 188,000 and the Boston area would have lost 101,000.

The Census Bureau estimates annual population totals as of July 1, using local records of births and deaths, Internal Revenue Service records of people moving within the United States and census statistics on immigrants. The estimates released Thursday were for metropolitan areas, which generally include cities and their surrounding suburbs.

Among the findings:

Atlanta added more people than any other metro area from 2000 to 2006. The Atlanta area, which includes Sandy Springs and Marietta, Ga., added 890,000 people, putting its population at about 5.1 million. And for Atlanta, that means big problems. The city is struggling to keep up with demand for more roads and waterways, CBS News' Pete Combs reports. Gaining the most after Atlanta were Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Phoenix and Riverside, Calif.

On a percentage basis, St. George in southwest Utah was the fastest-growing metro area from 2000 to 2006. St. George's population jumped by 40 percent, to 126,000. The next highest percentage increases were in Greeley, Colo., Cape Coral, Fla., Bend, Ore., and Las Vegas.

The New Orleans area, still recovering from Hurricane Katrina, lost nearly 290,000 people from 2005 to 2006, reducing its population to just over 1 million. The Gulfport-Biloxi area in Mississippi, also hit hard by Katrina, lost nearly 27,000 people, dropping its population to 227,900.

Parts of the Rust Belt also had large declines. The Pittsburgh metro area led the way, losing 60,000 people from 2000 to 2006. Its population loss was followed by declines in Cleveland, Buffalo, N.Y., Youngstown, Ohio, and Scranton, Pa.

Houston edged past Miami to become the sixth-largest metro area, with about 5.5 million people. Miami slipped to seventh.

There are about 36 million immigrants in the U.S. About one-third are in the country illegally. The Census Bureau, however, does not distinguish between legal and illegal immigrants."

Hakka of China

Please pray for the ...

Hakka of China
Population: 32,694,000
Language: Chinese, Hakka
Religion: Buddhism and non-religious
Evangelical: 0.60%

Taking the Church Where it's Needed Most

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Koiri of India

Please pray for the ...
Koiri of India
Population: 6,885,000
Language: Bhojpuri
Religion: Hinduism
Evangelical: 0.00%

Taking the Church Where It's Needed Most

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Kunbi of India

Please pray for the ...
Kunbi of India
Population: 15,367,000
Language: Gujarati
Religion: Hinduism
Evangelical: 0.00%

The Lewa Kunbi people live in the Western Vidarbha region of Maharashtra. They have gotras such as Shendilya, Kashyap and Bharadwaj. They are known as Lewa Patil.

They speak the Marathi and Telegu languages and use the Devanagari script. A few of them also speak Hindi. The incidence of colour-blindness is reported in 5 percent of the Lewa Kunbi population.

The Lewa men are non-vegetarian but their women are vegetarian. Jowar is their staple cereal and they eat rice occasionally. The economy of the Lewa Kunbi is mainly based on agriculture. They either cultivate their own land or work for others on a share-cropping basis. They participate in the local weekly markets. The problem of alcoholism is prevalent among the men.

The Lewa Kunbis generally follow monogamy. The women contribute to the family economy as wage earners and take part in socio-religious activities. In a marriage a series of rituals are performed simultaneously at the bride and groom's residences. Marriage rituals include the thread wearing ceremony, the exchange of garlands and circumambulating the sacred fire seven times.

The Lewa Kunbi has an association, which looks after the socio-economic development of the community. They cremate the dead and observe death pollution for ten days.

The Lewa Kunbi worship both family and village deities. The Brahman officiates as a priest at their rituals. Their traditional customs prevent them from exchanging water and cooked food with certain communities, such as, the Bhangi, Chamar and Mahar. Ancestor worship is also prevalent among them. Diwali is the main festival celebrated by the Lewa Kunbi.

- For the salvation of the Lewa Kunbi people and that God may send several Christian workers to work among them and meet their spiritual and physical needs.
- That the Lewa Kunbi people may be freed from alcoholism, ancestors' worship, colour- blindness and be able to accept all the communities without caste prejudice.

Text source: Copyright © India Missions Association - Edited by Philipose Vaidyar. Used with permission.

Taking the Church Where It's Needed Most

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Taking the Church Where it's Needed Most

Please pray for the ...
Nai, Muslim of Bangladesh
Population: 1,109,000
Language: Bengali
Religion: Islam
Evangelical: 0.00%

Theology and Church Planting

Ed Stetzer, Dir. of Research for the NAMB, wrote an article on theology and missional church planting. This is an excerpt. Click on the link at the end of this excerpt for the full article.

How would we define church planting?

The best definition I know of which describes church planting is the word "missions." Church planters are missionaries. If church planting isn't about missions it's only about rearranging Christians. You can start a new church using attractive programs, dynamic worship, and fancy PowerPoint displays, but if all you're doing is drawing other Christians from other churches That's not missions. We call that "sheep-stealing," or "swapping chairs on the Titanic."

Church planting is about missions, reaching out to the unchurched.

The study of missions is called "missiology." Missiology includes the study of cultural and historical components, all of which we will study in this session. In order to understand church planting, there must be a theological base for our work. Otherwise, we simply end up establishing monuments to ourselves and our creativity. Calvin Guy wrote this:"We apply the pragmatic test to the work of the theologian. Does his theology motivate men to go into all the world and make disciples? Does it so undergird them that they, thus motivated, succeed in this primary purpose? Theology must stand the test of being known by its fruit."
Cal Guy is telling us that if our theology doesn't motivate us to reach the lost, then truth is aborted. We simply have a set of principles that we think about but fail to live out. Our theology has become something we muse over, but we're unwilling to lay down our lives for it.

Theology must be missionary theology because therein lies the heart of God. It has been said that missiology is the mother of theology because theology was developed in an emerging missionary situation. Churches were being planted and divine missionary principles were being brought to their attention through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to meet needs and answer the questions of the people.

Stuart Murray in Church Planting: Laying Foundations seeks to provide a theological framework for church planting (often missing in church planting literature). Murray's argument:

Why Theology?

If you hire a carpenter to build a house, one of the first things you have to decide is if you want your house to be built up off the ground on blocks or on a concrete slab. A house built on blocks is kind of an old-fashioned method of building, but many people still like it because of the accessibility of pipes that need repairing or air conditioning duct work. But the problem with a house on blocks is that over time, the ground settles and the structure of the house can shift. It's not unusual in an old house like this to find cracks in walls and problems with the floor. But if a house is built on a solid concrete slab, that's a foundation that does not change. Theology is like the concrete slab. God says, "I am the LORD, and I do not change." [Malachi 3:6 NIV]

God's ways, God's plans, God's purposes are the unchanging foundation upon which we build.

Therefore, Theology is critical because the foundation determines the building.

The church is the Bride of Christ; therefore, it must be pleasing to Him. So we must be careful that everything we do is pleasing to Him. "Cutting edge" keeps changing. There are new methods coming out everyday that seem promising to the church planter. And we have to be careful not to develop a critical spirit towards ideas that may seem strange to us. New ideas are important to explore to a certain degree. But if we look simply to new ideas rather than unchanging biblical theology, we find ourselves following fads rather than the Father because cutting edge changes. Remember 45s and 8 track tapes? We must avoid building our ministry on cutting edge and opting rather for a solid theological foundation.

Theology is critical because it determines strategies and techniques.

God has no obligation to the success of anything outside of His will. Man-made innovations mean nothing to God unless they are created in the center of His will.

Theology is critical because it brings us to the principle of Missio Dei.Missio Dei means the mission of God.

God is a God of action. The acts of God are occurring around us on a daily basis. He is constantly active and on mission to a lost world. Therefore as servants of the Lord, we carry out our mission in the world realizing our work is Theocentric not anthropocentric.
It is not based on us but upon God. John Piper wrote in his book Let the Nations Be Glad, "God has set in motion a missionary movement that will reach to all peoples of the earth on the analogy of the universal spread of God's glory," and "missions is for the glory of Christ. Its goal is to reestablish the supremacy of Christ among the peoples of the world. . . The goal of Christ's mission and ours is that God might be glorified by the nations as they experience His mercy."

The emphasis in the Missio Dei is seeing where God is already at work and that our involvement with Him is ultimately for His glory. So the church is not an end in itself. It is simply the means God uses to accomplish His work.

We must shift our emphasis from the life of the local church to the needs of the world because therein lies the heart of God. Our work recognizes the need for Divine empowerment because ultimately anything we do that is lasting must come from God. And His heart becomes our heart. His passions become our passions.

Church planting reveals God's heart for the lost.

Ephesians 3:10 says: "His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, and according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence" (Ephesians 3:10 NIV).

God's instrument through which He carries out His plans for the world is the church. The task of the church is to be His missionary to the world. So the church is not so much a mission-sending agency; the church is missionary at its basic core.

We use the term "the missional church." Simply put, the missionary endeavor draws the church to reach to its community, or "Jerusalem" as Jesus called it. Simultaneously, it will send out missionaries to "Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8 NIV).
So the work of the church as a whole is missionary. The task must not be relegated to a chosen few when in reality we are all called as missionaries. Paul wrote: "And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors" (2 Corinthians 5:18 NIV).

This is our participation in the Missio Dei... the mission of God. It is the eternal faith once delivered unto the saints, God at work in the world, touching hearts and lives, our participation with Him seeing men and women converted, their lives changed by the power of the Gospel, and establishing New Testament congregations.

© 2004 North American Mission Board

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