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Dr. William Larkin and I co-taught the course Understanding Cultures and Worldviews at CIU for many years. As his partner in the class, I was often deeply moved by redemptive concepts and ideas which he drew from Scripture to illustrate God’s working in and through culture to bring people to faith in Christ. One of those concepts he expressed was “capturing the significance” of Scripture for the culture. This idea involves applying scripture in redemptive ways to points of need in a culture. The concept proposes that Scriptural ideas, beliefs, and values may capture the reality of good news by introducing a concept lacking in the culture and showing the fulfillment of that need in the Gospel message.
As a biblical example of this consider the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15). Jewish families were extremely close knit in the time of Jesus. There was much positive about the discipling potential and warmth of the Jewish family. Jesus uses this pattern of life in two ways. First, he walks his audience through a story of family life with a father who demonstrates love for both of his sons. This certainly appeals to a deep Jewish value. He applies this concept of a loving father to the nature of God’s love for humankind, again, bringing something from Scripture that Jewish culture understood. But he also captures the significance of a Scriptural viewpoint of God’s love for the sinner in a way that significantly corrects Jewish culture and provides good news to the prodigal. He shows the nature of God’s redemptive love in forgiving and restoring the prodigal and showing the joy of heaven in the repentance of the prodigal. This would not go over well in the Jewish culture. The cultural element of Jewish family loyalty would lead his hearers to side with the elder brother and be offended by Jesus’ story. Yet, in the light of Scripture the prodigal is all of us, elder and younger brother included. The significance of this redeeming love is captured for the redemptive message in a way that embodies good news to the prodigal and corrective to the culture.
I saw this illustrated in Bangladesh this past month. Good Bengali families are extremely loving and affectionate with their children. In some village situations, children will sleep in the same bed with their parents until they marry. But this level of deep love and affection does not extend to the orphan. In Islamic law, an orphan has no right of adoption. This is because of Muhammad’s relationship to his adopted son’s wife Zaynab which was considered incest in pre-Islamic Arabia. When Allah gave permission to the Prophet to marry his son’s wife, he also removed the concept of adoption from Islam. This is one of the reasons why the orphan’s circumstance is so precarious across the Muslim world. It is as if the orphan is cursed of God.
I had the opportunity to visit a women’s ministry where street girls had been rescued from a life of prostitution and others forms of abuse. The leader was a woman from Muslim background who had become a follower of Christ and established this remarkable ministry. As I interviewed this woman, something much more than this ministry impressed me. A child (whose mother had abandoned her or died) had been brought into the ministry. This woman adopted the little girl. That was radical action on her part. But what impressed me even more was the evident level of affection and warmth between the two. The little girl, now a young teenager, literally clung to the woman from time to time, hugging her, touching her, and holding her hand. All this took place while I was interviewing the woman. A western parent would push such a pesky child away because they were “busy” but this woman did not. She not only allowed the touching but responded gently from time to time with a hug as well. Anyone who knows orphans and adoption knows that orphans are hungry for love and test their adoptive parents because they have already been rejected. This girl was getting the love that she needed in a way that will help to protect her from vulnerability to unscrupulous men in the future. I doubt anyone could see a difference between how this woman treated the adopted child and how she treated her own children. It struck me that the woman had captured the significance of the Scriptural message of adoption into the family of God (Romans 8:15) and applied it in a way that clearly expressed good news to the orphan. In Bangladesh culture, orphans are to be used and abused but never loved but Scripture teaches a redemptive pattern. This woman captured the significance of that Scripture by applying it to the culture in redemptive ways. Like the prodigal, every human being is lost and outside the family of God. Giving familial level warmth and affection to an orphan powerfully captures the significance of that Scriptural principle of the Gospel message, God’s love and adoption of us into his Kingdom through Jesus Christ.
Plenary speakers and topics include:
Terry Casino (Professor of Missiology, Gardner-Webb University regional chair, Lausanne Movement), “What is Diaspora Missiology?”
Leiton Chinn (International Student Ministry Mobilizer, Lausanne Movement), “Reaching the International Student Diaspora in North America.”
For further questions, contact Ed Smither (email@example.com).
Other confirmed presentations include:
“Missions in Our Backyard: Evangelism Among Newly Arrived Hispanics to the United States,” Dr. Carlos Martin, Southern Adventist University
“Demonstrating the Uniqueness of Jesus Christ in Globalized Contexts,” Dr. Howard Owens, Tennessee Temple University
“Ethiopian Immigrants as Cross-Cultural Missionaries: Activating the Diaspora for Great Commission Impact,” Jessie Udall, Columbia International University
“Christians at the Crossroads: The Challenge of the Apocalypse to Believers in Asia Minor in John’s Revelation,” Dr. Mike Naylor, Columbia International University
“Reflections on Ministry to the Diaspora in Japan and Sweden,” Dr. David Cashin, Columbia International University
“Understanding the Challenges of Diaspora Missions in North America,” Trent DeLoach, Boyce College
“Organizing to Reach the Diaspora: A Case Study of the International Mission Board, SBC Changing Its Overseas Structure from Geographic Components to Global Affinity Groups” Dr. Jerry Rankin, President Emeritus IMB and Zwemer Center for Muslim Studies
“Homeland Connections: A Survey of a Diaspora Mission to the Kurds in Canada,” Michelle Raven (Christar)
“Mid-Term (1-3 year) Missionaries Reaching Diaspora Peoples in North America,” Don Johnson, SEND International
“Bridging the Knowledge-Action Gap: Proposals for Learner Transformation and Implications for Mentoring and Discipling Diaspora Peoples,” Dr. Jon Penland, Toccoa Falls College
“Reaching Iraqi Muslim Refugees in Milwaukee,” Ken Katayama, Crossover Communications International
“More than Strangers Next Door. . . Our Neighbors: The PeopleGroups.info Initiative to Research the Nations within the United States,” J.D. Payne, Church at Brookhills and Bryan Galloway, International Mission Board
“Connecting with Diaspora Peoples through Facebook,” Trevor Castor, Columbia International University
“A Celtic Approach to Reaching Oral Learners: A Survey of the Oral and Visual Strategies used by the Iona Community ca. 600-800,” Dr. Ed Smither, Columbia International University
“‘Honorification’: A Contextualized Missiology for Honor and Shame Cultures,” Jason Borges
Heads up on new books by CIU alum Andreas Kostenberger. What does this have to do with the mission of God? Everything. The core teachings and life modeling of Jesus are at the center of the mission of God. He IS the light to the Gentiles (Isa 49:6). He is the blessing for all peoples (Gen 12:2-3). He equipped his followers for the MoG (Matt 28:18-20). He is the “mission of God accomplished,” the Lamb of God, worshipped by all tribes (Rev 7:9). Looking forward to reading what Dr. Kostenberger has for us!
Here is what Kostenberger posted on his blog today:
With the forthcoming publication of Bart Ehrman’s book How Jesus Became God and the response How God Became Jesus by a team of scholars, Jesus will be in the news again. That’s a very good thing. It’s also terrific that scholars are rising to the challenge of responding to the skeptical questions raised by the likes of Ehrman.
But at a deeper level, what is needed is to equip high school students and young college students, as well as their parents and youth leaders, to know what the issues are and to respond intelligently and biblically to questions such as, Why does God allow human suffering? Is the Bible full of contradictions? Can we trust our Bibles? And, yes, Was Jesus God?
For this reason, Darrell Bock, Josh Chatraw, and I have written two books that address these kinds of issues at a popular as well as academic level, Truth Matters (Amazon), to be released in early March, and Truth in a Culture of Doubt, to be released in early September.
Not only do these books feature comprehensive responses to the kinds of issues Ehrman – and many other critical college religion professors – are raising, they are written for the young people who are the next generation to carry on the faith, as well as for youth pastors, parents, and other key influencers. Darrell, Josh, and I will be participating in a Symposium on Truth Matters at Liberty University on March 3, 2014, 7–9 p.m., at Liberty University, where we will discuss our new book and take questions from the audience. A PDF sample of Truth Matters will be loaded at B&H website soon.
I first became convinced that Truth Matters was needed when attending a debate between Bart Ehrman and Dan Wallace on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus where Ehrman teaches. To see the debate wrap-up, click here. I’m grateful to Darrell Bock, professor at Dallas Seminary and bestselling author of Breaking the Da Vinci Code and other volumes, and to Josh Chatraw, a former student of mine who is currently pastoring in Georgia, for teaming up with me to write these books.
In this fifth book in the History of Evangelicalism series from Intervarsity Press, Brian Stanley aims to narrate the global expansion of evangelicalism within the English-speaking world since 1945. Stanley, who directs the Centre for the Study of World Christianity at the University of Edinburgh, is already known for his works The World Missionary Conference: Edinburgh 1910 and volume 8 of the Cambridge History of Christianity, World Christianities, c. 1815-1914.
This is an excellent, well-researched, highly readable volume from a global expert in the field and I appreciated having a number of gaps filled in in my understanding of twentieth-century global Christianity. While the reader can peruse the nine chapters which frame the book, I particularly appreciated:
· Chapter 2 where the historic milestones between fundamentalism and evangelicalism are clarified.
· Chapter 4 where the contribution of evangelical scholars—particularly those who teach in British universities—are noted.
· Chapter 5 in which key defenders of evangelical theology, including Carl F.H. Henry and Francis Schaeffer, are discussed. Stanley ends the chapter by discussing the influence of C.S. Lewis, who greatly shaped twentieth-century evangelical imagination though Lewis himself would not have self-identified as an evangelical and certainly did not hold to the infallibility of Scripture.
· Chapter 6 where the watershed Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization (1974) is carefully narrated. The reader will appreciate the initiative of Billy Graham, the majority world theological voices of Samuel Escobar, Renee Padilla and others, and the diplomacy and humility of John Stott who facilitated partnership between non-western and western church leaders.
· Chapter 7 in which global charismatic and Pentecostal Christianity are described. Stanley remarks that the vitality of this movement has probably come as much through its renewed worship life and practices than through tongues, healing, and miracles.
In addition to these broad themes, my favorite parts of the book include:
· The testimony of Martin Lloyd-Jones (pp. 49-52), the Welsh physician turned pastor who was a Reformed Methodist committed to biblical exposition and who helped to nurture London Bible College. It seems that he could be all of these things because of having been touched by the Welsh revivals of 1904-1905. This characteristic of twentieth century evangelicalism—revivals and subsequent evangelism—seemed to unite many diverse evangelicals.
· The story of the famous hymn, “How Great Thou Art,” which was heard by J. Edwin Orr at a conference in India in 1954 when sung by the Naga Baptist choir. Stanley writes (p. 81) that the song was “originally a Swedish hymn that had been translated, first into Russian, and from that into English by Stuart Hine in 1927. The hymn, introduced to India in about 1952, so impressed J. Edward Orr that he popularized it among the Christian public on his return to the United States . . . With the aid of George Beverly Shea’s solos, it soon became a favorite at the Billy Graham crusades and one of the most widely sung hymns in evangelical churches on both sides of the Atlantic.” It is not surprising that this song, which characterized twentieth-century evangelicalism, migrated from Sweden to India, via Russia, to the United States to be sung in evangelistic crusades around the world.
My only critique of this work—rather related to the last point about “How Great Thou Art”—has to do with the scope of the work. I found it somewhat frustrating just to think about global English-speaking evangelicalism. As I read through the book, I thought that many of the points could have been even more deeply illustrated if Chinese-, Portuguese-, and Spanish-speaking Christians could have been represented. While I know an author and series editor must make some difficult choices about the scope of a work, I still must register this one complaint. That said, Stanley’s latest work is one of the best things I’ve read in 2013.
Ed Smither is professor of intercultural studies at CIU.
Recently, I completed reading the book The Way of the Master by Ray Comfort. This book’s thesis can be summarized in a single sentence: The law of God must be preached in order for true conviction to take place and a genuine conversion to occur. Comfort is reacting against the many methods of evangelism that he feels short-change the issue of conviction of sin. I agree with some of Comfort’s points but I think he has overreacted and presented a fairly enthocentric reading of the Bible that neglects other paradigms of conversion.
As I read the scriptures I find at least eight different paradigms of conversion and I don’t believe my list is exhaustive. Let me express them briefly with a biblical citation to illustrate:
- Guilt of sin to forgiveness (Acts 2:36). This paradigm most clearly follows Comfort’s viewpoint. In the high point of his preaching Peter says, “This Jesus whom you crucified”. He accuses his hearers of being complicit in the murder of a completely innocent man who is actually their long awaited Messiah. I do find it interesting that this is not really preaching God’s law but pointing out an immediate sin that everyone in the room understood implicitly. They were “cut to the quick” and turned to the Lord.
- Shame to honor (Ephesians 5:11-12). Paul calls the believers to expose the shameful deeds of darkness. This may be connected to the burning of occult scriptures that occurred at Ephesus (Acts 19:19). The paradigm of conversion is exposing and destroying shameful things.
- Filthiness cleansed (1 Cor. 6:11). In describing their conversion Paul says “But you were washed, you were cleansed”. The imagery of cleansing from moral/ritual/physical filthiness is a key component in biblical conviction which has become almost absent in the western Church. I have seen it critical in the conversion of many Muslims.
- Bondage to deliverance (Luke 13:16). Jesus, after delivering a woman from a demon on the Sabbath, says “whom Satan has kept bound for 18 years”. There is no mention of the law in her conversion, only a paradigm of bondage to deliverance.
- Fear to confidence (Acts 16:30). The Philippian jailer is terrified, first by the collapse of his prison in an earthquake and then by the potential escape of his prisoners. It seems that the primary motivating factor in his plea “what must I do to be saved” is fear for his life.
- Weakness to true power (Acts 8:13). The conversion and baptism of Simon seems to be as a result of his being “astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw”.
- Unaware to aware (Acts 18:26). Apollos’ conversion is the result of Priscilla and Aquilla explaining “the way of God to him more accurately”.
- Irrelevant to authoritative. I don’t have a scripture for this but have met African’s whose conversion to the faith took place when they read the genealogies of the OT and became convinced of the authoritative character of the scriptures.
I leave it open at this point for the comments and critique of others.
Some CIU faculty, staff, and students weighed in with their thoughts on learning another language. What about you? Have you learned another language? What have you learned about God, culture, and yourself through language learning?
At CIU we educate students to become ministering professionals (and professional ministers) to impact the world with the message of Jesus. As a professor, one of the greatest challenges is to plant a vision for how that intentional witness or discipling or church planting really works when you are a professional minister.
Most students come to us with a traditional, church-grown understanding that the “real” minsters are the ones we pay. Our challenge is to make sure they understand the biblical pattern for how God uses church to accomplish his mission. I often point out that biblically and historically God uses soldiers and merchants to introduce his good news to all peoples. Missionaries follow the soldiers and merchants. If you don’t believe me, sign up for one of our history of mission courses at CIU! We need both professional ministers and ministering professionals.
So, how does that work in a world that has professionalized ministry? Check out the video above. These three ministering professionals are glorifying God in the midst of their professions. In their case, that means in the middle of a potential Super Bowl season for the Kansas City Chiefs. Thomas Gafford is a son-in-law of close friends of ours. Based on my observation, these guys are about much more than a dance in the end zone. Indeed, their witness will shine long after the lights of the NFL dim for them. Gamecock fans will recognize a familiar face—one of the best kickers in the business today. Enjoy and comment on how we glorify God through our marketplaces.
One of the most effective relief and development organizations in the world today is BGR (Baptist Global Response). Though this organization is relatively new (6 years old), its legacy includes 160 years of assisting peoples in need for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Yes, it is a Southern Baptist organization but it partners across the board with other evangelical churches and agencies.
I’m usually cautious about promoting my denomination because I teach at CIU—a multi-and non-denominational university. But I must brag a bit on BGR. These men and women are the best in the business of disaster relief and community development around the world.
Most importantly, they understand the dangers of creating dependencies on outside resources and they connect the dots between ministry and missions. So, check out this video for a brief report on BGR’s professional and biblical response to the needs of Filipinos today in the wake of typhoon Haiyan. We all need to pray that God will be glorified in the wake of this disaster.
Thank you BGR!
Have you ever had someone tell you what God’s will is for your life? Like, “it’s God’s will for you to marry that girl [or guy]”; or “it’s God’s will for you to give me all the money in your pockets”; or “it’s God’s will for you to stay up all night and pray with me.” I have had sincere people say all these things to me. And funny, the girl that person told me to marry is not the woman I am married to now.
The point being is not that Christians are inherently dangerous people (although admittedly some are), but rather that discerning the will of God for our lives is not as easy as sometimes we make on. And being a student at CIU, a place which has a long, distinguished history of preparing harvesters for the harvest field, necessarily carries with it the ever present reality that you, yes YOU, will be confronted with and have to struggle over the question, “has God called me to be a missionary?”
I like to tell people that our questions reveal more about our theology than any of our answers due to the presuppositions that give rise to the questions we ask. This is also the case when it comes to the idea of missions, missionaries, and missiology.
Missiology, now there’s a strange word. What does that mean? The study of “Mss.”, the “missing”, the Messiah, or what? Well actually, one of the tasks of missiology is to clarify what the mission of the church is as revealed in the Holy Book. And this is not a simple task since we have all been influenced by powerful religious forces out of our control.
Let me tell you what I am trying to say. People have contradicting ideas about where mission takes place. Some argue that mission only occurs after one has crossed vast geographical regions, like from the Western world to the non-Western world. This notion dates to the time of Christendom where it was assumed that everyone within the borders of Europe were Christians by virtue of being baptized into the state church. Therefore, by default everyone outside of this region was assumed to be non-Christian. In such a context, mission was understood as something that was done outside of the borders of Christendom in the rest of the world.
Others have made the case that mission transpires when a person serves cross-culturally, for example, when an American goes to Bhutan or when an American reaches out in word and deed to an unbelieving Bhutanese community in the States. In biblical categories, one thinks of Joseph in Egypt, Jonah in Nineveh, or Jesus among Gentiles. This perspective is an improvement upon the previous one but is not without problems because people can work cross-culturally but still be ministering among Christians.
After decades of debate by those peculiar people known as missiologists, the consensus is that if mission is to come to fruition it must be on the boundary of belief. As such, whenever and wherever one crosses the boundary from church to non-church, faith to non-faith, belief to non-belief, then this is mission (evangelism being distinguished from mission as it only involves proclamation).
Are you still with me? Note this means that crossing the belief boundary may include geographic and cultural elements, but if the barrier or divide having to do with faith is not crossed, than wherever you are, either overseas geographically or in a cross-cultural setting, mission has not transpired.
All this indicates that mission actually can occur in one’s own mono-cultural backyard. Matthew’s inclusive phrase “all nations” (Mt. 28:19), Luke’s record of Christ’s call to proclaim His name “beginning from Jerusalem” (24:47), and His command to “be My witnesses both in Jerusalem . . . and even to the remotest part of the earth” (At. 1:8), verify this view. However, allow me to quickly add that even though there is a biblical basis for mono-cultural mission, the emphasis in mission should always be placed on those with the least access to the gospel which presently entail over 6000 unreached people groups amounting to over one-third of the world’s population.
So has God called you to be a missionary? Bad question, because it assumes that the Great Commission doesn’t apply to all believers. The truth is God calls all His children to a missional mindset and lifestyle (cf. Matt. 5:16; Phil 2:16; 1 Pt. 3:15–16), the only remaining issue being simply where. Accordingly, a non-missional Christian is actually an oxymoron; it is simply a betrayal of the intrinsic nature of each disciple of Jesus Christ.