Friday, January 30, 2009

Two takes on a 'new' religion

[The Market] promises nothing less than the blossoming of a new civilization that will eventually bring an end to international conflict, resolve hitherto intractable problems like poverty and environmental degradation, and produce increased prosperity for all--even though all the current evidence seems to contradict these promises! We are dealing with something here that is bigger than free trade, the lifting of tariffs, money speculation and exploitation. We are facing the most powerful, fastest-growing and most successful religion in the history of the world. And what is fantastic about this religion is that it actually doesn't require any volitional choice of its converts

Brian Walsh and Sylvia Keesmaat
Colossians Remixed

[We need] to embrace a "new bottom line" in which corporations, social practices, government policies and individual behaviors are judged rational, efficient or productive not only if they maximize money or power, but also to the extent that they maximize love and caring, kindness and generosity, ethical and ecological sensitivity, enhance our capacity to treat others as embodiments of the sacred and to respond with awe, wonder, and radical amazement at the grandeur of the universe.

- Rabbi Michael Lerner

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Spiritual business

In a kind of going-against-the-flow post, Seth Godin notes:

Spiritual business is an interesting concept. Is what you do all day at work part of who you are? Is it possible to be a deceitful crook all week but a good person on the weekend?

Can you succeed financially by acting in an ethical way?

He goes on to explain that though there are even more unethical business people out there than ever, they don't necessarily succeed - people with ethics will progress.

In a competitive world, then, one with increasing light, the way to win is not to shave more corners or hide more behavior, because you're going against the grain, fighting the tide of increasing light. In fact, the opposite is true. Individuals and organizations that can compete on generosity and fairness repeatedly defeat those that only do it grudgingly.

I like the idea of increasing light - wonder where he got that from?

I'm still officially on holiday - back next week - but this particular post caught my eye.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Tony Morgan and Seth Godin

I'm on holiday at present, and will be until the end of January. So things on this blog will be a little slower than normal in terms of new input. However, as I come across things, I'll try and add them.

Just read the latest post on Tony Morgan's blog. He says, I just reread All Marketers Are Liars by Seth Godin. We discussed it together with the dudes in my coaching network on Friday. Here are some highlights that jumped out to me this time around [with my thoughts in brackets].

I'm not going to reproduce the post (it's fairly short) here. It's worth checking out, not only for Godin's usual sharp-minded points, but for Morgan's brief notes about they apply to the church. And they do.

As always, the comments are worth reading too.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Why not women?

When we think of megachurches, very often we imagine large congregations, numbering in the thousands - and we always think of them as being located in the United States.

In fact. five of the 10 largest megachurches in the world are located in South Korea. According to last year’s research by the Economist, the Yoido Full Gospel Church claims 830,000 members, (yes, no extraneous 0s in there!) and grows by 3,000 members each month.

According to the book, Why Not Women, Dr. Yonggi Cho (the founder of the Yoido Full Gospel Church) was initially unsure whether gifted women teachers should have access to the pulpit because of cultural, rather than biblical, concerns. Yet, under the encouragement of Loren Cunningham - cofounder of Youth With a Mission - Dr. Cho began to open ministry opportunities for women, including positions as ministers and cell group leaders.

Several years later, Cho visited another country and was shocked at the small size of their churches. What was his recommendation? Dr. Cho said:

I told them to release their women, but they insist that’s not the problem. They ask me “What’s the key to your church?” I tell them again, “release your women…” (Why Not Women, p. 69

This is a slightly modified version of a post that appeared in the Sojourners website, under the title, Release Your Women, by Mimi Haddad.

Focal Point

I think I've come across the FOCal website some time ago, but hadn't given it much further attention. Anyway, by serendipity I came across it today again, and thought I'd let others know about it.
FOCal's equivalent of a mission statement is:
FOCaL is set up to give a forum for those who hold to a
progressive Christian faith and 'left of centre' political convictions. While not wishing to deny conservative Christians or conservative politicians their right to express their point of view, we feel that our society and the church needs to hear the voices of the Christian left.
FOCal leans towards the liberal point of view, but seems more inclusive - if that's not a contradiction in terms (!)
Anyway, the page I first alighted on was the Links page. This is worth checking out, even if you don't otherwise give the site much time - mainly because this links page will keep you busy for some time as it is!
The links are listed under various headings:
There's a great mix of stuff here - enough to keep anyone occupied through their holidays....

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Will Britain become Muslim?

On the 26th of December, an article appeared in the English Daily Telegraph, entitled, Indulgence of Islam is harming society. It was written by Damian Thompson.

It begins:
Islam is the fastest-growing religion in Britain: the number of Muslims has grown from 1.6 million to two million since 2000. Moreover, every major public institution has changed its policies to accommodate the demands of Islamic "community leaders". The Government, the Opposition, the police, schools, the Church of England, the BBC and now Channel 4 are all helping Muslims construct a parallel Islamic state.

The article is fair in its approach, but focuses on a number of issues that are causing a major divide within the British community: bookshops attacked for selling books on the child bride of
Mohammed, Muslim girls kept from reaching their full educational potential, the 'Sharia law' being introduced into the British legal system, a National Association of Muslim Police which is consulted by the British police force, and most recently, the decision by Channel 4 to let President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad deliver an alternative 'Christmas' message.

Perhaps it's too late for Britain to turn things around. On the other hand, can it sustain a Christian heritage alongside an active and dogmatic Muslim one?

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Leadership by Abraham Lincoln

Doris Kearns Goodwin wrote a book in 2005 called Team of Rivals: the political genius of Abraham Lincoln, which was about the leadership lessons to be learned from Lincoln’s administration. One of the intriguing things Lincoln showed was his willingness to embrace the concept of a leadership team composed of men who were not only diverse in their views, but were his personal rivals as well. (In the last episodes of the last season of The West Wing, we see the incoming President doing the same sort of thing, particularly in relation to asking his Republican opponent to take on the role of Secretary of State.)
Jeff Knowles writes in Leadership online: Goodwin's thesis that great leadership neither punishes nor ignores ideological foes, but rather embraces them, has important implications for our increasingly large and complex church governmental structures. The danger of group-think is ever present in congregations where dissent is seen only as a problem. Church leaders often extol the virtues of 90 percent congregational confirmation votes for the new building program or the new minister, or the elders' "unanimous agreement" that the church needs to take a certain action. But we forget that many of God's commands in Scripture required leaders to go against the tides of popular opinion. If Abraham Lincoln could use the power of diverse opinions and contrary egos to save the nation, then we ought to look more closely at the benefits of dissenting opinions in our churches as well.


How lonely are you? How lonely are the people in the congregations you work with?
You can check out your own state of loneliness by looking at the UCLA Loneliness Scale - it'll only take a couple of minutes.

Chronic loneliness is as unhealthy as never exercising, not looking after your heart or your blood pressure. Increasingly medical people are realising that loneliness may be a major factor in people dying younger than expected. published an article by Katharine Mieszkowski a few days ago on the subject. Even though it doesn't mention the spiritual side of life to any extent, it looks closely at the problems of loneliness and their physical effects.

How can congregations minister to the lonely? Can they be helped at all?

Pubs as Church?

Back in July, Todd Rhoades set off a great debate on his Monday Morning Insight page, when he wrote a British Christian couple who've not only taken over a pub, but have confronted their customers about swearing, but have banned gambling on horses, and removed the dart-board. On top of this they walk around with a Bible in their hands.
Rhoades himself doesn't comment on this innovative way of doing church (!) but the people who read his page certainly do. It sets off a great argument about the rights and wrongs of the way the couple are going about 'being Christians' in this setting.
Well worth reading the comments as a way of thinking about the debate regarding Christians in the 'world'.

Social Gospel

Any gospel which is not social is not gospel. God so loved the world that.... He didn't just sit in His great theological rocking chair stroking his white beard and glory in His love for the world. He did something about it. He became social in the form of His Son. He lived, interacted, and behaved in a real social environment, disclosing God's social way. In the incarnation the spiritual "word" became a social "event." To say it another way, the social event was itself a word which communicated to men. Word and deed are inseparably cemented into one in the incarnation.

Donald Kraybill
The Upside-down Kingdom

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Daniel Oudshoorn on mission in the here and now

Just came across a very good essay that first appeared in the New Zealand magazine, Stimulus, back in February 2006. It's entitled: Speaking Christianly as a missional activity in the midst of Babel. (It has a subtitle: Christian living as the exegesis of the Gospel proclamation after the end of history.)

The piece is by Daniel Oudshoorn, about whom I can't find a lot, except that he's been a student at Regent in Vancouver.

The essay is full of great quotes, but I'll stick to just one: Western Church talk about mission is often dominated by strategising. The church, driven by a pragmatism that is itself definitive of western culture, searches for
the strategy that will cause mass conversion.

You can read the complete essay here.
Stimulus doesn't have all its material online; only a selection. However, many of their printed back editions are still available.

Jim Wallis on young evangelicals

"Young evangelicals really think that Jesus probably would care more about the 30,000 children who died today because of poverty and disease than he would have about gay marriage amendments in Ohio. This is a new generation of abolitionists, you might say. And they are applying their faith, using their faith, addressing their faith to the challenges we face: the moral scandal of poverty; the degradation of the environment, which they call 'God's creation'; the threat of climate change; human rights; Darfur; pandemic diseases like HIV/AIDS; war and peace issues - the exclusive use of war to fight evil and the foreign policy disasters that has led us to. Their agenda is much wider and deeper."

--Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners and author of The Great Awakening: Reviving Faith and Politics in a Post-Religious Right America

Integral Mission

René Padilla writes on the Integral Mission blog and asks What is Integral Mission Anyway?
He begins by saying:
Although it has recently become fashionable to use the term integral mission, the approach to mission that it expresses is not new. The practice of integral mission goes back to Jesus himself and to the first century Christian church. Furthermore, a growing number of churches are putting this style of mission into practice without necessarily using this expression to refer to what they are doing: integral mission is not part of their vocabulary. It is clear that the practice of integral mission is much more important than the use of this new expression to refer to it.
He goes on to compare the traditional view of mission, with its four dichotomies, and then discusses integral mission:
When the church is committed to integral mission and to communicating the gospel through everything it is, does, and says, it understands that its goal is not to become large numerically, nor to be rich materially, nor powerful politically. Its purpose is to incarnate the values of the Kingdom of God and to witness to the love and the justice revealed in Jesus Christ, by the power of the Spirit, for the transformation of human life in all its dimensions, both on the individual level and on the community level.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

An atheist looks at Africa

Here's an interesting title for an article:
As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God. The subheading is:
Missionaries, not aid money, are the solution to Africa's biggest problem - the crushing passivity of the people's mindset.
This intriguing article comes from Matthew Pariss, someone who knows Africa well, and who has had a longstanding relationship with it. His article, which appeared in The Times Online on the 27th December, begins:

Before Christmas I returned, after 45 years, to the country that as a boy I knew as Nyasaland. Today it's Malawi, and The Times Christmas Appeal includes a small British charity working there. Pump Aid helps rural communities to install a simple pump, letting people keep their village wells sealed and clean. I went to see this work.

It inspired me, renewing my flagging faith in development charities. But travelling in Malawi refreshed another belief, too: one I've been trying to banish all my life, but an observation I've been unable to avoid since my African childhood. It confounds my ideological beliefs, stubbornly refuses to fit my world view, and has embarrassed my growing belief that there is no God.

Read the rest of the article here.