Charlottesville

I recently self-diagnosed myself with “caring fatigue.” It started in July of last year with two names: Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Even living in China at the time, I wasn’t far enough away from the videos of these men being shot and killed. Their deaths and the conversations surrounding their deaths caught my attention.

So I started to look for context outside of my white/evangelical/Southern Baptist box. I listened carefully to Christian brothers and sisters of color. Their stories of hurt and racism made the years of silence from my churches deafening.

Why had my Christian leaders pointed me to people all over the world who were hurting and needed the gospel but neglected to point me to the pain within my own country. And I’m not just talking about people of color, but also the many disaffected groups within American society. Opium epidemics, meth addictions, broken families, human trafficking, urban poverty, rural poverty, neglected children, mass incarceration, abortion rates, corrosive politics…the well-practiced church productions that I attended on Sundays did not reflect the messy, broken world everyone lived in the rest of the week.

Feeling the need to fix all these problems led to my “caring fatigue” diagnosis. But I know that I cannot fix these problems. There is only one savior of the world, and it isn’t me. But I can listen, learn, and live like I really care about people around me.

I can stand up and call evil by name. The actions of ethnic nationalists and racial supremacists this last week is evil. Brother pastors you must call it by name from the pulpit. Brother and sister Christians, you must genuinely care about everyone around you. Get involved in one another’s messed up lives. Build up one another in the church and get outside the church walls with your knowledge of God and the Bible.

Many of these men hold to the ideology of “blood and soil,” emphasizing a persons heritage and land. There is only one person’s blood that matters to me. The blood that Jesus shed in his death for all people (Romans 5:9; Ephesians 1:7; Revelation 1:5). The blood that brings me back into a face to face relationship with God (Revelation 22:4). The only soil that matters is not the soil of this world – broken and cursed by the sins of humanity (Gensesis 3:17-19). I long for the soil of the new earth, remade by God (Revelation 21:1-5). That’s where my citizenship is (Philippians 3:20; Hebrews 11:13-16).

Here are resources and people to listen to if you want to learn more…

Faithfully Magazine – http://faithfullymagazine.com

Be the Bridge – https://beabridgebuilder.com

Ekemini Uwan – http://www.sistamatictheology.com

Kyle James Howard – https://kylejhoward.com

Christena Cleveland – http://www.christenacleveland.com

Truth’s Table (podcast) – https://goo.gl/UtS7tC

Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission – http://erlc.com

Hillbilly Elegy – JD Vance

 

 

 

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Perseverance in Community

Via Christianity Today

As the religious landscape in America continues to change and orthodox Christian beliefs are being met with greater disproval, believers may soon be living with another orthodox Christian reality – isolation. While difficulties may abound, this should lead to an increase in genuine Christian community which has always been an avenue for the gospel. In a recent Christianity Today article, K.A. Ellis shows how this is true in other countries…

They answer to this hostility with what I describe as “productive perseverance working through community.” They are filled with a deep hope in Christ that drives out fear of man, and their lives are often marked by radical personal transformation and a communal discipleship that it is so attractive, others risk stigmatization to know it.

In most societies, religion and community are inseparable. Since the Enlightenment, we in West have emphasized individual belief more and more. Religion has become an intellectual and personal choice that we choose to assign to ourselves. But throughout the rest of the world, religion is part of your social identity. We see our religion as only defining our relationship with God not the community around us. But as non-Christian society puts more and more pressure on the church’s faith and practices the bonds of love between believers will be forced to strengthen. As this happens, Christians in America will rediscover the beauty of Christian community for the glory of God.

In ministry, we will always struggle with extracting new believers from their community and trying to transplant them into something new that’s defined by our background. Of course, some will bravely believe on their own, but true shifts in cultural belief will be marked by community transformation. It’s no wonder that the examples of true transformation around the world mirror the examples found in the New Testament of whole families and crowds being saved together. This is why individual discipleship and leadership training is so important, because true change is only going to happen through the example of a few brave individuals or by everyone discovering an even better community all at once.

We must not neglect the gift that we have in Christian community. It’s a fragile freedom that is under attack in many countries. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, at the cusp of WWII, wanted to remind believers of this when he wrote…

Let those who until now have had the privilege of living a Christian life together with other Christians praise God’s grace from the bottom of their hearts. Let them thank God on their knees and realize: it is grace, nothing but grace, that we are still permitted to live in the community of Christians today.

My challenge then is twofold: 1) pray for the continuing endurance of these brothers and sisters who must persevere under intense societal pressures, and 2) fully embrace and love your Christian community for the gift that it is.


Bonhoeffer, Dietrich, Daniel W Bloesch, Geffrey B Kelly, and Victoria Barnett. Life Together. Fortress Press, 2015.

Tibetan Endorsements for 2016

The best political conversation that I have had this year did not come from an American. It came from a Tibetan. He raised some interesting points that confirmed something that many people forget these days – the world watches America.

My friend, Dorje*, grew up in northwestern China with his nomadic family. They travelled with their herds of yak and sheep from summer grasslands to winter grasslands. Now, Dorje runs his own trekking company, taking Chinese and foreign travelers on trips around the Tibetan Plateau.

Dorje and other Tibetans have been following this election very closely for several reasons. First, many more Tibetans have access to the internet on their mobile phones than ever before. There are also more and more news articles being translated into Tibetan. Second, like many people, the Tibetans are concerned about the growing Islamic State and their expansion into other areas. Dorje said that he fears the Islamic State will continue to grow even into Tibet unless someone stops them.

This last point is why most of the Tibetans are supportive of Donald Trump. They have seen that Obama has not shown military strength during his presidency, and they are afraid that if Hillary Clinton is elected there will be more of the same. Donald Trump speaks with strength and purpose, especially in regard to defeating the Islamic State, and the Tibetans appreciate this. These Tibetans are only a few generations removed from clans led by pillaging warlords, so it’s understandable that strength in leadership is attractive to them.

We discussed some of the other issues in this election, mostly along the conservative/liberal divide. These talking points didn’t interest him that much, but the hearings and investigations into Secretary Clinton’s private emails did. Dorje commented that it was amazing to him and his friends that someone as high as the US Secretary of State could be put under investigation and possibly face charges under the law. This along with Donald Trump’s inability to “buy” the presidency with all his money showed the Tibetans what American democracy was truly about. In China, they see a government that has to have anti-corruption programs, and if you have money, any position or opportunity is available to you. So while most Americans lament the politics of 2016, the Tibetans see democracy at work.

As I said, this was the best conversation that I have had about the 2016 elections. And it reminded me that the world is watching America. This convinced me even more of the need for character in leadership. It also made me think about what a strong influence the American church can have if believers would unite under the things which matter most to God.

Defending the unborn.

Welcoming refugees.

Combating racial hostilities.

If the church shows genuine strength and a clear message in these matters, will other nations see an example to follow? If Tibetan nomads care about how America presents itself, shouldn’t we?


*name has been changed

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.

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.

 

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 »

Openness and Acceptance

Post 1 of 5 on Principles of Cross-Cultural Servanthood

Those involved in cross-cultural ministry are accustomed to thinking long-term. Everything takes a little longer, moves a little slower. If your desire is to serve others in a cross-cultural setting, you cannot just dive in without understanding the people. But understanding the people that you are ministering to is a life-long process, so where does someone begin? The next three articles outline the six principles that need to be practiced when entering into a new culture.Read More »