Thursday, March 25, 2010

Characteristics of a Missional Church: Tim Keller

Massacre in Nigeria

Open Doors representatives in Nigeria say the atmosphere in Dogo Nahawa south of Jos remains tense after the slaughter of as many as 500 mostly Christian villagers. Staff members testify that the macabre scene of mutilated bodies, many women and children, is hard to take in as they go around comforting the bereaved and encouraging the wounded.
Security forces that have been deployed in the area stood watching as mass burials started. Many locals are accusing the government of not reacting to rumors about the impending violence in the early hours of the attack.
We had a special interview with Open Doors’ Africa Director. He helps put the attack in perspective:
Q: Did the Christians of Dogo Nahawa suffer the attack because of what Jos Christians did to Muslims in January?

A: We understand that what is happening in Nigeria is first and foremost a spiritual battle between darkness and light. The battle has many disguises and faces.
Some are saying the attack was revenge for the January fighting. Others say it was the result of fighting over farmland. There are also those who say it is a fight for the control of the city of Jos as capital of Plateau State. All of these may very well be part of the general motive, but it would be oversimplified to say that any one of these is the sole reason for the most recent attack.
The villagers of Dogo Nahawa had nothing to do with the January violence. Additionally a great percentage of those killed were women and children. Our coordinator explained, “One group of 65 bodies we saw included only nine men. The rest were all women and children.”
Q: How do we help Christians in the West understand this and the other attacks in the past?
A: I think it is very important that we as Open Doors remind people that this is a spiritual battle. And in the realities of this battle, some Christians react to the honor of God and others don’t.
I think it is also important to understand that the Nigerian Christians are not super human beings. We need to understand that those Christians in northern Nigeria face discrimination, humiliation and attacks on almost a daily basis. They have built and rebuilt homes and churches so many times. They have gone to morgues to look for the bodies of their loved ones so often.
Is it realistic to expect them not to snap at a certain point in time? The question is: “would I, in a similar situation, defend my family and community?”

Our coordinator testifies that the youth of Dogo Nahawa are livid over this attack. When a pastor encouraged them to forgive, they were extremely offended. This is not to be commended, but it has to be understood.
Q: What is Open Doors doing to help the victims of the attack?

A: Our team is on the ground, visiting the bereaved and also those that have been injured and are now in the hospital. A high priority for us is to respond to the immediate need for food and water.

Open Doors has been pursuing every avenue available to us to help the church equip their members to always be able to give an answer to the hope they have, to reach out to Muslims in love and to react to their adversaries in a way that is pleasing to God. We also help ostracized Christians find others ways to earn an income.

[All names changed for security reasons.]

**This article was originally posted at Open Doors**

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Missiologist Ed Stetzer on Anglican Missional (Ad)Ventures

I'm listening to Ed Stetzer's Anglican 1000 talk 'If I Were an Anglican' and I'm loving it! I'm hearing things that I've been thinking for a number of years now but have not really heard a large portion of the Church - Anglican or otherwise - endorse to my great frustration. I really hope the Church (big 'C'!), especially Ed's immediate audience, take this to heart and act on what the Spirit says to them. I for one would love to embed or root a ministry I've begun to creatives in the historical/inherited church - if the partnership were a symbiotic one!

Enjoy (but you'll need to take the time to watch/listen - or download to your mp3 device)!

Golfers' Faith Hits a Hole-in-One with FCA

I'll be the first to confess that while I like some sports (especially full contact for the unrestrained force they entail!), golf has always been at the bottom of my list of sports which I would actually *qualify* as a sport. In fact, it may be just above other activities such as ping pong (table tennis), shuffle board (or whatever that strange Olympic rocks-scooting-across-ice thing is called), wife-carrying and bog snorkeling. I must admit though that I did, at one time, caddy at a golf course near my home in Westerville, Ohio, USA while in high school. It was a painful waiting game just getting work, showing up at 6:30am to try to be the first caddy there to get out on the course. I remember one day waiting from 6:30am until 2:30pm just to get out! Then you have the regrettable situation of wealthy golfers not tipping or not tipping well. Ugghh . . it probably tainted my experience of the game of golf from early on.

Anyway, last summer my curiosity for the game was renewed when my father-in-law and two of my brother-in-laws asked me to play a round with them and other family and friends. I admit, I really went just for the relational investment and not golf itself. After the first 9 I managed to surprise everyone (including myself) by going head-to-head with my youngest brother-in-law Chad who was M-A-D I played as well as him . . and I never play the game! I was more pleased about that than my game itself. ;-)

I bring all of this up because next Monday I'll be meeting with a friend of a friend who will be here in Ireland coaching a team of Irish youth on their golf game and spiritual journey. His name is Ben Bost and he works for the FCA coordinating TourLife, a ministry to golfers, both amateur and pro. I'm really looking forward to hearing more of his story, the work he does and dreaming with him how we might collaborate on some future work supporting athletes AND artists in their life's journey. Some of you may know I recently launched a ministry to support 'creatives' (artists/musicians/actors/writers, etc.) called Soul Friend. More on that soon.

Here is a video of Ben working with golfers on tour, encouraging them in their journey with Jesus Christ. Please leave some comments and questions if you'd like me to ask him any on Monday.

Friday, March 12, 2010

My dreams are bursting at the seams: Fireflies by Owl City

I've only heard this song once (thank you Stella!), but it immediately spoke to me on a number of levels. Firstly, the music is very intricate and interesting. It doesn't come across as being built for radio play on rotation, but it definitely could be by it's own merit. I was intrigued and deeply satisfied with the musical aesthetic Owl City created with 'Fireflies'. Secondly, the music video was superb. I can assume that it means something more for people my age (mid 30's) and older from the Americas due to the hundreds of toys and gadgets animated in the video from the 1950's through the early 1990's. The visual aspects played into the song lyrics wonderfully and help to create a world within a world (bedroom) which is what the song itself is meaning to convey.

Finally, the themes the song itself carried are close to my heart . . . wonder, mystery and dreaming. I sense God is behind all of these elusive realities. They are like a breadcrumb trail leading to a hidden feast in the forest. Our God is a God of wonder, mystery and dreams. There is so much in Scripture that illustrates this well and so much in creation that affirms this truth. It seems my own vocation / calling in life is one of entering into inspired dreams and helping others enter into theirs as the Spirit of God leads. My greatest hope is that my wife and especially my children, will know this wonder-full, generous and good Father of all who invites us on the adventure of a lifetime with Him.

Journey on friends . . the best is yet to come!

"I'd like to make myself believe, that planet Earth turns slowly. It's hard to say I'd rather stay awake when I'm asleep . . cause everything is never as it seems . . because my dreams are bursting at the seams."

Friday, March 05, 2010

Twilight’s Subtle Soliloquy . . All That Glitters Is Not Gold

A number of months ago I wrote on my experience of watching the two Twilight films which have become monetary cinematic ‘successes’. I watched them in reverse order due to my strong desire to briefly escape a conference I had been attending when the ‘New Moon’ installment was released. New Moon left a bad taste in my mouth, but having some form of artistic integrity, I decided I must give the first film a chance to redeem the franchise. Twilight’s debut film release was, in my humble opinion, better than it’s newer relative. After being equally nauseated (New Moon) and convinced (original Twilight) by the two films within their accompanying social media tempest, I began reflecting on some more abstruse meaning presented within these films.

While there are elements to celebrate within the Twilight series, such as the cinematography of the Pacific Northwest, the intriguing screenwriting and the intricacies of connections between characters, there are of course more subtle messages that hold sway as well. My main concern in highlighting a few of these potentially more disastrous aspects is for younger, or less critical souls that could be trounced upon by Twilight’s resonance with their everyday experience and fanatic fantasies. If left unexamined in the midst of all the beauty and wonder the films traffic, these sentiments augmented by the film’s popular appeal may be assimilated unknowingly.

Reminiscent of the age old story of Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare, Twilight has an underlying tragic element which in many respects offers suicide and self harm as possible resolutions to teenage relational / emotional turmoil. This is nothing short of cataclysmic for malleable and somewhat unanchored lives, tossed around in the sea-change known as adolescence. I have no qualms with real life relational sophistication in all it’s variance as portrayed within the films, but I do not believe it beneficial for those aforementioned souls to see deadly means employed to deal with temporary situations. Bella seems perpetually encased in state of depression and exhibits accompanying behavior such as self-imposed social exclusion, potentially destructive behaviors and suicidal tendencies.

While freedom of expression is an important aspect of life, doesn’t ‘love’ motivate us to work for the good of others and not their harm? Casting our adult minds back to but a fraction of our own experience as teens - and possibly that of others we knew - should empower us to be better equipped in supporting these emerging adults in their wonderful, weird and yes, wacky, developmental journey. There is so much that is thrown up in the air within those formative years of human existence in regards to identity, relational circles and cycles, education, purpose, and emotional maturity that it seems cruel to offer anything less than edifying, constructive support for these adults under construction.

The pure platform that all forms of mass media inhabit augment the supra-reality each medium offers its consumer. By the very fact that something or someone is afforded a stage - ‘a moment in the spotlight’ - they have been given more credibility than possibly their character or message innately possess. This inordinate amount of influence requires an inordinate level of responsibility. This truth is corroborated in the Scriptures when it states, “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” (James 3:1, N.I.V.). The same truth was popularized in the Spiderman franchise films when Pete Parker’s uncle Ben tells him early into his web-slinging career that “. . with great power comes great responsibility.” Satire ensued.

Along with Bella’s tendency toward the downward spiral of self-obsessed destructive behaviors in the wake of her broken relationship with Edward, the films exuded a sense that token sexual encounters, while not intercourse, are ‘safe’ for those engaged in them. Setting the varied opinions about sexual intercourse prior to being in a lifelong, committed relationship aside, there are practical concerns with any popularization of dating habits that statistically end in more sexually transmitted disease / infections, unnecessary emotional pain and, of course, unwanted pregnancies. I know you may be thinking, “C’mon, it’s only a film!” and at times I would be saying the same thing. But, in this instance, because of the unique maturation phase of the Twilight films’ targeted audience and the ubiquitous, powerful influence of media in personal formation, I stand in opposition to messages communicated through these avenues and in this manner for the sake of the Young.

Edward’s seemingly benign encounters of gazing upon Bella in her underwear while in bed do nothing to help young people (let alone adults!) develop clear understanding and personal discipline in making choices which help them navigate the course of relational integrity throughout life. It’s reminiscent of the old adage that playing with fire usually ends in someone getting burned. This is not a fear based or fear motivated tactic, but pure and simple wisdom. It’s more than unfortunate that much of the Western world demonstrates that personal ‘freedom’ mandates the pursuit of the gratification of our every desire for our pleasure. There is a direct correlation between the choices we make and the consequences we experience - good or bad - in life. Anyone who admonishes or touts the innocence of such behavior only heaps fuel on the ‘fire’ and turns a blind eye to the incontestable evidence of how we humans are ‘wired up’ when it comes to - in the case above - sexual activity. The next logical step in a bedroom situation as displayed in ‘New Moon’ is obvious to all, it’s meant to work that way and frankly, that’s why it does - but it doesn’t usually end well.

After ranting to some degree about the potentially destructive messages inherent in such hugely popular films such as the Twilight franchise, and the intrinsic power suffused within mass media, I can understand why one might think me a prude. The inverse is actually true. From where I stand, gifts such as sex are designed to be more fully enjoy within the boundaries of healthy, lifelong monogamous relationships where, in ideal circumstances, both partners are perpetually seeking to do good to one another. Likewise, while some may herald this as an assault on personal freedoms, I see no qualitative benefit to exposing young people to lifestyle choices such as the ones exhibited by Bella (in the medium they were presented) without opportunities to discuss the various outcomes from those choices in the context of caring relationships. To do so otherwise is potentially destructive - especially for young lives in transition.

I’m all for art - I love it as a means of expression and a mirror to see ourselves within. I support the role art fulfills in revealing the spectrum of human experience through a variety of mediums, but I believe it should be done in a measured, sensitive approach which seeks to work for the good of the lives of those who engage with it.


**This was originally posted on Risen Magazine in the Blog section**

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

The Future of Social Media

I LOVE this stuff, it's so fascinating, inspiring and challenging. A wonderful & wired future is ahead that may make us wistful for some of what we lost if we're not intentionally preserving what holds significance for meaning-making in life.

PICNIC '09: The Future of Social Media with Gerd Leonhard from PICNIC Festival on Vimeo.