Five Keys to Ministry in the Deep South

I’m always up for a good discussion on cross-cultural living, rarely does it hit as close to home as this article. Obbie Todd’s five points…

  1. Know their geography
  2. Know their loves
  3. Know their names
  4. Know their culture
  5. Know them

…are relevant in any culture – US, Middle East, East Asia. But having grown up in the South, Todd’s acceptance of LSU football was quite the challenge! If God had led me to Louisiana instead of East Asia, would I need to abandon my allegiance to my SEC alma mater?

In order to become “all things to all people,” almost certainly.

Read the entire article on the Southern Blog.

Violence Causing Shifts in Iran

via Joel C. Rosenburg’s Blog

AN ANALYSIS OF TREND-LINES IN THE MUSLIM WORLD, by Dr. Hormoz Shariat.

1. A growing number of Muslims are coming to faith in Jesus Christ because of the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) and ISIS.

  • The extreme actions and rhetoric of Iran’s government and the ISIS leaders have caused many Muslims in the Middle East to start thinking, asking questions, wondering if Islam could really be true.
  • This is a major spiritual breakthrough. For a person raised in the West where approaching any issue logically and objectively is the norm, this fact may not be appreciated. “Question Everything” is a cultural virtue in the West. But Muslims living in the Islamic world are not allowed to question their faith at all. Those who do are considered weak in their faith, and sometimes are punished by lashes.
  • Muslims are oppressed by a spirit of fear. They are afraid to read the Qur’an objectively, or even ask sincere questions about it. Islam is based on total obedience to Allah, without asking any questions.
  • I have had fascinating conversations over the years with Muslim scientists with PhD’s. We have discussed everything objectively and logically until the subject turned to Islam. I could see a spirit of confusion and fear would overtake them. They could no longer discuss things based on reason. They had stopped thinking.
  • What has caused Muslims to start questioning their faith? For Shiites, it has been the action of the IRI. For Sunnis, it is what ISIS is doing. I see similarities between the spiritual journey of Iranians for the last 35 years (leaving under the fear and oppression of Khomeini and Khamenei regimes) and a growing number of Sunnis in the last two years, since ISIS became powerful.

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Religious Growth Projections – Islam

The Pew Research Center recently released projections on population growth from 2010-2015.

While the world’s population is projected to grow 35% in the coming decades, the number of Muslims is expected to increase by 73% – from 1.6 billion in 2010 to 2.8 billion in 2050. In 2010, Muslims made up 23.2% of the global population. Four decades later, they are expected to make up about three-in-ten of the world’s people (29.7%).

By 2050, Muslims will be nearly as numerous as Christians, who are projected to remain the world’s largest religious group at 31.4% of the global population.

This growth comes from several factors:

  1. Fertility – Muslim peoples typically have more children than any other religious group and being born into Islam make
    s one a Muslim.
  2. Large Youth Demographic – Muslims currently have the youngest median age of any religious group. As these young people start having children the growth rate accelerates.
  3. Location – Most Muslim groups are located in Africa and the Middle East. These areas are projected to have the largest growth in the coming years.

These growth factors are also highlighted by many religious groups, particularly Christians, losing numbers due to religious switching, a problem that is not so relevant to Islam.

Applying the Data

What does this mean for individual believers and churches in the 21st century?

  1. Get to know your neighbors. If you do not have Muslim neighbors or an Islamic center in your area, do not be surprised when you do. Reach out to your neighbors in kindess and gain some understanding. Be hospitable towards your neighbors. If you open up your life and home to them, then they will open up to you.
  2. Educate yourself and others. Try to understand Islamic culture and avoid conversations that are ignorant of truth. Understand the culture that Muslims come from so that you can speak truth into regular conversations. Better yet, learn from your Islamic neighbors about what they believe nd how it shapes their culture. Educate yourself on what is taboo to them, so that you can be respectful towards them. This may mean making sure you don’t serve them anything with pork or dressing more modestly than you normally would.
  3. Create bridges for the gospel. As you understand the Muslim worldview and the Muslim people around you, find ways to speak the gospel into their lives. Churches, realize who is in your local demographic and find ways welcome them.
  4. Be relational. Most Muslims come from a very welcoming and relational culture. You will need to make yourself available if they want to come over for an unannounced visit, or they expect you to stay at their house long after a meal is finished.

While the face of the world continues to change, the message of the gospel, and the commands of Jesus do not. Embrace all those aorund you with sacrificial love.


View the full report here.

Detailed observations on the growth of Islam can be found at pewresearch.org.

 

5 Facts About America’s Refugee Policies

via the Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission

Recently a number of religious groups—including some connected to the World Council of Churches and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops—have urged the U.S. government to resettle 100,000 Syrian refugees this coming fiscal year, in addition to increasing the total U.S. resettlement commitment to 100,000 refugees from other parts of the world.

Although President Obama has not agreed to increase the amount nearly that much, last week he ordered his administration to increase the number of Syrian refugees admitted to the United States in the coming year, directing his team to prepare for at least 10,000 in the next fiscal year.

How does the federal government decide how many refugees to let into the U.S. and from which countries? Here is the answer to those questions and other facts you should know about refugees and resettlement policy in America:

1. The first refugee legislation in the United Stateswas the Displaced Persons Act of 1948, which brought 400,000 Eastern Europeans to the U.S. Other refugee-related legislation included the Refugee Relief Act of 1953 (which brought in 214,000 refugees fleeing communism) and the Fair Share Refugee Act of 1960 (which mostly brought those still living in displaced persons camps after World War II). The U.S. government also used the Attorney General’s humanitarian parole authority to bring refugees into the country, beginning in 1956 with Hungarian nationals and ending with hundreds of thousands of Indochinese refugees in the 1970s.

2. The number of refugees admitted into the U.S. each year is decided by the President. Before the beginning of each fiscal year, the President, in consultation with Congress, establishes an overall refugee admissions ceilingas well as regional allocations. The total number of refugees authorized for admission in 2013 was 70,000. The largest regional allocation was to the Near East/South Asia region, which accounted for 46 percent of the authorized admissions number to continue accommodating refugee arrivals from Iraq, Iran, and Bhutan.

3. Since 1975, the U.S. has resettled more than3 million refugees, with nearly 77 percent being either Indochinese or citizens of the former Soviet Union. Since the enactment of the Refugee Act of 1980, annual admissions figures have ranged from a high of 207,116 in 1980, to a low of 27,100 in 2002. In 2013, theleading countries of nationality for refugee admissions were Iraq (28 percent), Burma (23 percent), Bhutan (13 percent), and Somalia (11 percent). Seventy-five percent of refugee admissions in 2013 were from these four countries. Other leading countries included Cuba (6.0 percent), Iran (3.7 percent), Democratic Republic of Congo (3.7 percent), and Sudan (3.1 percent).

4. In 2013, the leading countries of nationalityfor refugee admissions were Iraq (28 percent), Burma (23 percent), Bhutan (13 percent), and Somalia (11 percent). Seventy-five percent of refugee admissions in 2013 were from these four countries. Other leading countries included Cuba (6.0 percent), Iran (3.7 percent), Democratic Republic of Congo (3.7 percent), and Sudan (3.1 percent).

5. The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) is the federal government agency charged with providing benefits and services to assist the resettlement and local integration of refugee populations. Some of the ORR programs include Refugee Cash Assistance and Refugee Medical Assistance (for up to 8 months); Refugee Social Services, such as job and language training (for up to 5 years); and temporary custody and care to unaccompanied refugee children.

 

The Preacher and His Books

Engaging culture requires a lot of work on our part. We are bombarded by beliefs and private worldviews that are hard to address in our postmodern setting. An understanding of what is true and right must be relentlessly pursued in order to be effective in our culture. Everyone then should to a certain degree pursue scholarship. This doesn’t mean collecting degrees and having an answer to every question. But, as a Christian, you should be able to engage in topical conversations with dignity and honesty. This model should be taken from Jesus and the Apostles who did not shy from reasoning with people in order to explain the gospel which they boldly preached. Discussing current events should provide a bridge for the gospel, but in order to bring something to the conversation, you must have a clearly formed opinion shaped by scripture and scholarship.

Paul provides the an example of this need in his letter to Timothy when he asks for his cloak and books to be brought to him…

“He is inspired, and yet he wants books! He has seen the Lord, and yet he wants books! He has had wider experience than most men, and yet he wants books! He had been caught up in the third heaven, and had heard things unlawful for a man to utter, yet he wants books! He has written a major part of the New Testament, and yet he wants books! The apostle says to Timothy and so he says to every Christian, “Give thyself to reading.” The man who never reads will never be read; he who never quotes will never be quoted. He who will not use the thoughts of other men’s brains proves he has no brains of his own.” Charles Spurgeon, “Paul — His Cloak and His Books”

Scholarship is not to be feared. It should be pursued diligently. By filling our minds with truths gleaned from scholars past, we are able to weather the storms of today’s world.

“A man who has lived in many places is not likely to be deceived by the local errors of his native village: The scholar has lived in many times and is therefore in some degree immune from the great cataract of nonsense that pours from the press and the microphone of his own age.” – CS Lewis, The Weight of Glory


From Steve Weaver’s post on the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Blog

Serving

Post 5 of 5 on Principles of Cross-Cultural Servanthood

Serving is the ability to relate to people in such a way that their dignity as human beings is affirmed and they are more empowered to live God-glorifying lives.   Servanthood takes different forms, depending on the situation. That is why it can’t be legislated, formulated or scripted in any detail. It is, after all, an attitude that, when embedded within us, finds an appropriate way to express itself in every situation. Read More »

Understanding

Post 4 of 5 on Principles of Cross-Cultural Servanthood

Working in a cross-cultural setting comes with so many challenges.  Even simple things like shopping, cooking, and running errands become exhaustingly complicated chores. In your home country, these things can almost be accomplished on “autopilot,” but in your new country, you are mentally invested in every outing, conversation, and monetary transaction. Along with mental fatigue, you have to endure a culture that in many ways is very abrasive to your own cultural background. Many days our natural fight or flight mechanisms want to kick in. But getting angry or running away Read More »

Trust

Post 2 of 5 on Principles of Cross-Cultural Servanthood

Trust is the ability to build confidence in a relationship so that both parties believe the other will not intentionally hurt them but will act in their best interest. First off, trust takes time. Trust requires emotional risk. Opening up to someone else is done with the hope that they will still be accepting of you while keeping personal matters secret. You can never make someone trust you, because trust must be built from the other person’s perspective. Trust must be continually and carefully nurtured.Read More »