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  • What are we thinking? Reflections on Church and Society from Southern African Methodists.
    What are we thinking? Reflections on Church and Society from Southern African Methodists.
    by Dion A Forster, Wessel Bentley
  • Methodism in Southern Africa: A celebration of Wesleyan Mission
    Methodism in Southern Africa: A celebration of Wesleyan Mission
    by Dion A Forster, Wessel Bentley
  • Christ at the centre - Discovering the Cosmic Christ in the spirituality of Bede Griffiths
    Christ at the centre - Discovering the Cosmic Christ in the spirituality of Bede Griffiths
    by Dion A Forster
  • An uncommon spiritual path - the quest to find Jesus beyond conventional Christianity
    An uncommon spiritual path - the quest to find Jesus beyond conventional Christianity
    by Dion A Forster
Transform your work life: Turn your ordinary day into an extraordinary calling. by Dion Forster and Graham Power.
Download a few chapters of the book here.
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Entries in 5 paradigms (12)

Saturday
Jun282014

Pastoral care to Christians in the World of Work

This week I had the joy of speaking at a number of sessions at the Alpha Workplace Conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - as always it was wonderful to be with my friends here and such a great blessing to see how the Church sensitively operates in this context.

At today's session I was asked to post the slides from my talk to the internet.  So, please find a copy of the slides (which are an 'un-formatted' copy, i.e., they do not have the Alpha branding and style sheet applied).

Then, for a description of the content here is part of a post from 2008 when I first developed this theology.  You can also download a 30 minute Audio recording for Radio Pulpit that discusses these ideas here: '5 paradigms that could change your work into worship' here (6MB MP3).  If you are interested here is a short preview of the book in which I wrote about the 5 paradigms - 'Transform your work life: Turn your ordinary day into an extraordinary calling' (1MB PDF).  If you are interested in buying a copy of the book you can get it on Amazon here.  Finally, I have just recently been notified that an academic article that I wrote on research done among Christians in South Africa the world of work and Christian needs, is being published in the Journal 'Koers: Bulletin for Christian Scholarship' - if you are interested to read that article please drop me an email and I'll let you know when it is published.

Here is the little video clip that I used (which was recorded a few years ago with Graham Power).

My ministry changed radically about 9 years ago when a wealthy business person came to faith in Christ. He is a gifted and capable person who had made an incredible success of his companies. My first inclination, when he asked how he could serve the Lord, was to suggest that he get involved in the leadership of our Church, or perhaps run our Church's finance commission (clearly he was a gifted leader and a person who knew how to work with money). If I had suggested that to him the result may have been two things.

1) I may have helped one Methodist Church in a single city of South Africa to develop.
2) I'm fairly certain that in the process this new Christian would have become bored and frustrated with the task I had assigned him to and he would have moved on.

Thankfully I was dumb enough NOT to get him into that position - rather I invited him to join a small group that I was running specifically for business people. Here I knew his peers could start to disciple him on things like Christian worship, loving service, stewardship and the use of his influence and resources for Christ's Kingdom... The long and short of it is that the person I am talking about is Graham Power, who went on to start the Global Day of Prayer(which this year had between 300 and 400 million persons participating).

Graham has become a significant figure in world Christianity. God has used him to bring new excitement, passion, and drive to many Churches and denominations worldwide. Equally significant has been his influence among his peers (all leaders in their own right, either in business or politics) who have made some significant choices that have bettered the lives of many millions of persons in countries such as Ghana, Argentina, Kenya, the USA and a host of other nations.

I have come to consider this one fact: Graham was created by God to do business... It's what he does well, and he God blesses his efforts.

So, when Graham works to God's glory and towards the aims of achieving God's will for his companies, the industry in which he works, and the nation that he influences, then his work becomes worship!

So, here's a little audio recording that I did for my 'radio pulpit' show (The Ministry and Me), it was broadcast in the week of the 20th of August 2008, and you can order an audio copy of the CD from Radio Pulpit if you wish.

Download the '5 paradigms that could change your work into worship' here (6MB in MP3 format).

The show was broadcast in the week of the 6th of August and I have had many emails and calls about it. 

Let me know what you think!

 

Sunday
Nov072010

What do breath mints, kisses and Church decline have in common? The Dutch Reformed Church looses 21 congregations last year!

So, what do breath mints, good kisses, and Church decline have in common with one another?

Well, I'd like to encourage you to come along to the Coronation Ave Methodist Church in Somerset West this evening, 7 November 2010 (if you're in Cape Town!) to find out.  Here's the map - the service takes place at 18.30.


View Larger Map

Well, this quote, from Ed Silvoso, gives a framing clue to what I'll be talking about:

Preaching the truth without love is like giving someone a good kiss when you have bad breath. No matter how good your kiss is, all they will remember is your bad breath!

I have given a great deal of thought to, and spent some time researching, the decline in Church membership and Church attendance.

This story in today's Rapport Newspaper bears out my feeling that South African Churches (and Churches in other regions in the world) are emptying at a rather rapid rate! Across the world Churches are facing two factors:

 

  • Fewer people are joining Churches.
  • The average age of members in existing Churches is increasing. 

 

Simply stated this is not good news for the Church.  Unless the Church can truly touch more people with Christ's love it will continue to decline (either as members leave, like this Rapport Article on the Dutch Reformed Church points out.  Or the average age of congregations will get older and older and eventually the members will die out - this has been the case in large parts of Europe.  England is a good example where congregations are generally quite small and relatively elderly.  One friend suggests that the majority of Methodist Churches in England have only one generation of 'membership' left.  Coffey and Gibss in the their book 'Church next' suggested that 60% of American Churches will die out by 2050).

The gist of the article is that the NG Kerk (Dutch Reformed Church) has lost 10588 members in the last year.  By their calculations this means that the Nederduits Gereformeerde Kerk has lost the equivalent of 21 congregations of 500 members in one year!  The situation is even more dire when one looks at a longer view - since 1986 the denomination has lost 23.8% of its members.

You can read some of my other posts on Church decline, and some of my research here:

 

If you don't feel like reading can I please encourage you to watch this short little video? It is a superb reminder about what we should be doing as Christians and the Church.

If you can't read Afrikaans please use google translate - simply copy and paste the text below into http://www.google.com/translate and translate it from Afrikaans to your language of choice.

Die NG Kerk het verlede jaar genoeg lidmate verloor om 21 gemeentes van 500 lidmate elk vol te maak.

Teen Februarie vanjaar was daar in dié kerkverband 10 588 lidmate minder as ’n jaar vantevore.

Dit blyk uit die jongste syfers wat deur die NG Kerk se algemene sinode se taakspan oor geldsake inge samel is.

Dié syfers is bereken op grond van ’n opname wat in die tien sinodale gebiede gemaak is en waarin gemeentes gevra is om die aantal belydende en dooplidmate in hul onderskeie kuddes te vermeld. Gemeentes het die syfer onder meer bereken na aanleiding van hoeveel mense nog aktief eredienste bywoon.

Ds. Clem Marais, lid van die taakspan, het gesê hy is nie seker dat die syfer 100% akkuraat is nie (dit is nie geoudit nie), maar dat dit wel die tendens van dalende lidmaatgetalle bevestig.

Die NG Kerk se gebruiklike Kerkspieël-proses, waartydens ’n meer wetenskaplike opname van lidmaat-tendense gemaak word, is tans aan die gang. Wanneer dit na verwagting teen volgende jaar bekend gemaak word, sal daar meer betroubare syfers oor die NG Kerk se lidmaattendense beskikbaar wees.

Marais meen een van die vernaamste redes vir die afname in lidmaatgetalle is emigrasie onder dié kerkverband se tradisionele lidmate, hoewel die verskynsel van mense wat na ander kerkverbande oorloop, ook daartoe kon bygedra het.

In ’n artikel wat in die jongste Kerkbode verskyn, wys die ekonome drr. Fanie Joubert en Jannie Rossouw, asook die predikant ds. Fanie Joubert daarop dat die NG Kerk se algehele lidmaattal tussen 1986 en 2010 met 23,8% afgeneem het (van meer as 1 400 000 tot minder as 1 100 000).

Ook in dié artikel word emigrasie as een van die vernaamste bydraende faktore genoem. Die skrywers meen ’n gepaste reaksie op dié verskynsel is vir die NG Kerk om al hoe meer in die geestelike behoeftes van Afrikaanssprekendes in die buiteland te voorsien.

In ’n nuusbrief wat Marais, ook skriba van die NG sinode Namibië, die afgelope week aan gemeentes in dié streek gestuur het, noem hy voorts dat die taakspan oor geld sake se jongste syfers oor gemeentes se finansiële welstand kommerwekkend is.

“Ook wat gemeentes se geldsake betref, begin die bytmerke van die onlangse resessie wys.”

Die totale lopende inkomste van die NG Kerk se 1 133 gemeentes het in die vorige boekjaar met net 2,3% gestyg, vier uit elke tien gemeentes het die jaar met ’n tekort op hul boeke afgesluit en al hoe meer gemeentes raak afhanklik van basaarinkomste soos wat ander bronne van inkomste opdroog.

“Moet jy moedeloos word weens die oorwegend negatiewe tendense?” skryf Marais.

“In die gees van die Luisterseisoen dink ek almal moet dit hoor as ‘stemme’ wat ‘van buite’ na ons kom. En in hierdie ‘stemme’ moet ons probeer om ook Die Stem van die Here God te onderskei … Die Here is immers met ons op pad. Deur ’n proses van geloofsonderskeiding moet ons by Hom hoor hoe ons geloofsrespons moet lyk op hierdie droewige prentjie,” skryf Marais.

Tonight I will be making the case that as Christians we need to find a way to give the world a good kiss!  In other words we need to expose the world to what the Good News feels like before we preach about it.  We must engage the world in love before we expect them to make a decision about God's love.

I have previously spoke about the Luke 10 Model of sharing God's love here.  You can also read about it in chapter 8 of my book 'Transform your work life'. Download a few chapters of the book here.

Thursday
Jul222010

Between the pew and the pavement - Praising with the people of Paarl

I am always honoured, and humbled, to be invited to address Churches or groups.  Tonight I had the privelage of sharing with a group of men at the Protea AFM Church in Main road Paarl thanks to my friend Nic Slabber who invited me.  I first met Nic at the Global Day of Prayer conference in May.  

At that conference I did my talk on social media (twitter, facebook, blogs etc.) and how these technologies are changing the global landscape.  The premise is simple - Christianity has shifted its location throughout history.  It started in the Middle East, moved to Europe, form there is went to North America, and then on to the developing world.  Next, however, Christianity is moving on to the internet!  I used Philip Yancey's great quote to illustrate this shift:

As I travel, I have observed a pattern, a strange historical phenomenon of God “moving” geographically from the Middle East, to Europe to North America to the developing world.  My theory is this: God goes where he’s wanted.

If facebook were a country, it would be the third most populace country on earth (third only to China and India).  At the time of writing this post facebook had more than 500 million registered users - that means that 1 in every 14 living persons is on facebook!

The question is - where is the Church?

What struck me this evening was the simple truth:  If the Church's primary means of evangelism is its Sunday service, then the Christian faith is in for some serious challenges!  

There are two basic problems with Sunday services.  First, a Sunday service does not serve the real needs of a community in a tangible and practical way!  It doesn't feed people, it doesn't help people to face hardship, conflict or some of the most basic needs in life (this may be a general statement.  I'll concede that there are some Churches that do these things in addition to the regular 'Sunday service' activities. But, on the whole most Churches do not).  I'm not saying that a Sunday service is not valuable or necessary - it is!  It is an act of worship! But, I AM saying that it is a VERY innefective tool for evangelism.  

The second reason why it is not effective as a tool for evangelism (in the sense of bringing the Good news to bear upon the world) is because it is framed around propositional evangelism i.e., the preacher will make claims and statements about God and the Christian faith that his or her congregation will have to make a decision about.  Most of the claims (e.g., God loves you, Jesus died to set you free form Sin, God wants to meet your physical, emotional and spiritual needs etc.) cannot be substantiated by an experience or encounter in the service.  So, if we say that God loves us, how will we facilitate an authentic encounter with that love in a synthetic environment?  The problem of propositions is compounded in a world of competing truths!  The Church will have to move beyond the Sunday service if it wants to move from the pew onto the pavement with the Gospel!  

The act of worship should be the catalyst for evangelism and mission!  If you want to see how Monday can become an extension of Sunday then please see the incredible work of my friend John van de Laar at www.sacredise.com.  John is doing some amazing things to extend worship into the world of work (and general life), and bring the world of work (and general life) meaningfully into worship!  Please keep an eye on John's site for his new book which is sure to give some fantastic practical insights into this topic.

So, my presentation suggests 5 mind shifts, paradigm shifts if you will, that we shall need to go through if we wish to live for legacy, impact our community for the Gospel and not just out Church.  In other words, these are things that we shall need to do in order to shorten the distance between the pew and the pavement!

Thank you to the men for their hearty engagement, the great coffee, and most of all to Nick for the exceptional worship!  Nic is truly a gifted worship leader!

So, here are my slides:

 

 

Please feel free to use them!  The video that I used, called 'Shift happens' is one of the most asked for clips when I speak publicly.  Here's a copy of the video:

Lastly, if you would like a more detailed discussion of the 5 paradigms please see these tags - There is even an audio recording from a Radio Pulpit show on the 5 paradigms after the jump. And I wrote a chapter about this in my new book 'Transform your work life' (Chapter 3 entitled 'Big plans, big purpose). It has both the content and some useful references and illustrations to help one practically consider the implications of such mind shifts.

How many Churches do you think have understood the relationship between the pew and the pavement?  Can you give any creative examples of how the Church can shorten the distance between the pew and the pavement?  I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday
Apr152010

Maximizing your work life - blessing in the 9 - 5 window.

I’m sure that you may have heard about the ‘least reached’ portion of the world called the 10/40 window?  This is a geographical region where there are no Christians, or very few Christians.  For many years churches and Christian ministries have focussed their energy and attention on getting missionaries into those areas to spread the Gospel of Christ.
 
You may be surprised to discover that there is a region much closer to where you are every day that is also classified as an ‘unreached’ group for the Gospel!  I call it the 9 to 5 window!  Of course I am referring to the place where you work each day – the reality is that the work place is one of the least reached and transformed regions of the world.
 
Of course there are many reasons for this.  Some people have come to believe that Christianity is something that belongs to a particular building (your church) or a particular time (Sunday morning).  However, what do you think Jesus meant when he prayed ‘…let your Kingdom come, let your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven’ (Matthew 6:10)?  Of course Jesus wasn’t just praying that God’s Kingdom would be established in a particular place, or at particular times!  Jesus longs to be Lord of both the Church and the Marketplace!
 
So, the question is, who takes responsibility for the establishment of God’s Kingdom where you spend most of your day?  Who is God calling to transform your work place to reflect the values of His Kingdom?
 
Part of the answer can be found in the following verse: ‘go and make disciples of all nations…’ (Matthew 28:20).  Being a disciple of Jesus means that one is disciplined in the ways of Jesus.  Believing in Jesus as saviour is only the beginning (sure it is the most important start that any person could ever make, however it is just the beginning of what God longs for!)  You know I read this verse for many years and never realised that Jesus commands his disciples, and also commands you and me, to go and make disciples of all nations.
 
I was a Pastor of various Churches for almost 17 years.  As I think back on the teaching, preaching, and courses that I ran in those churches I came to realise that we spent quite a lot of time trying to help people to become disciples of Jesus.  However, we spent very little time trying to disciple those elements that make up a nation!
 
Have you ever considered that God may be calling you to be a minister in the marketplace?  It may just be that God has placed you in the office where you work, among the people that you encounter (co-workers, clients etc.) in order to disciple them, and the systems within which you work, in order to establish His Kingdom on that little bit of earth!
 
If you were to think about the people and things that you face regularly during your work week, what would God want to change?  Perhaps there is a particular policy in your company that is unethical.  Maybe there is some relationship between your boss and another co-worker that does not reflect Christ’s love.  Maybe there are some decisions that are being made that are unlawful, or hurtful, to your community.  I think God may be calling you to take responsibility for establishing His Kingdom in that place!
 
Doing this may not be as difficult as you imagine.  In the company where I serve, the Power Group of Companies, transformation began when one employee (a lady named Eleanor) decided to start praying for her bosses and her co-workers.  That was all she did!  Then eventually she got some others to join her in prayer, and from there some key influences and decision makers started changing small little things in the company during meetings and gatherings.  They prayed that God would bless and use their company to transform the industry and reach the nation.  This simple act, by a secretary, eventually led to the conversion of the CEO, Graham Power, who went on the start the largest prayer movement in all recorded history – the Global Day of Prayer.
 
Eleanor took responsibility for her work life and her work place, and through her God was able to reach into and transform one of the least reached places on earth, the 9 to 5 window!  Where is God calling you to take responsibility?

 

Please see my new book 'Transform your work life:  Turn your ordinary day into an extraordinary calling' for more information, practical ideas, and inspiring stories, of how people have found blessing - and become a greater blessing, during their work life.

Please join the facebook page for 'Transform your work life' here to interact with other Christians in the workplace and keep up to date with news about the book.

Tuesday
Mar162010

Transform your work life

Yesterday I sat in another meeting where a prominent business person asked 'how can I transform my worklife into something more than just a job?' It is a common question!  Some people ask this question because their job is not satisfying, others ask it because they know that life is about more than just waking up, working, going to bed, and starting all over again!

Gretchen Rubin's quote continues to live in my mind:

While the days are long, the years are short! (Gretchen Rubin)

So true!  There must be more to life than just working for a salary (as important as that is).  Most of us grow up longing to do something significant, something that brings great joy, blessing and fulfillment.

This friend shared his frustration about his local church with me - he is a top business analyst with years of training, a wealth of experience, and the kind of skill that most businesses would pay thousands to have access to!

When he asked his pastor to help him to find some ministry through which he could express his love for Christ, and also use his gifts, he was encouraged to join the men's group that does 'parking duty' on a Sunday morning before and after the services. Sure, he may find some companionship and friendship there, but he would not find expression for his gifts and abilities in that setting.  When Graham Power, one of the more prominent business persons in South Africa, came to Christ and was a member of my congregation I was faced with a similar dilemma!  What do you do with someone like this?  My temptation was to get Graham to join my leaders meeting - however, I know now that he may have joined out of a desire to honour Christ.  But, the challenge of helping to run a suburban Church would never have been enough for him!  The small mindedness of members, the unrealistic budgets, and the limited staff would soon have left him frustrated.  Thankfully Graham discovered that his ministry was in his work place; his work life was the time that God wanted to use to transform his business, tranform his industry, touch the nation and eventually the world.

It was clear that my friend's church didn't think that he could have a ministry on Monday!  His pastor suffered from the same problem I had - my members should use their gifts within the ministry of our Church!  If only his minister could realise that he is already gifted, has a network of relationships, significant influence, and great passion and commitment to Christ.  All that he needs is some encouragement, a few good ideas, a few basic tools, and he could impact hundreds, even thousands of people through his work life!

He could certainly help ministries to understand how to manage their finances, or perhaps where they could invest some of their income to generate additional funds to grow their work. He certainly has a keen understanding of economics, policy and working with teams in complex situations.  Moreover, he could be taught to pray, share the Gospel of Christ, understand the basic principles of justice, economics and the values of God's Kingdom.  Through these basic things he could influence choices, help to transform systems and see that God's will is done IN the Church AND in the broader community!  Everybody wins!

How I wished that our new book, 'Transform your work life: Turn your ordinary day into an extraordinary calling' was already in print!

I would gladly have given him two copies - one for his pastor to read to get some understanding of the theology of ministry in the marketplace, and a few ideas for helping his business people to discover and work towards their calling. He could also have read some stories of other business people who have undertaken the journey of seeking to serve Jesus every day of the week, not only on a Sunday!  In doing so they have found joy, blessing and peace through serving Christ where they are every day - in their work place.

I'd love to hear some of what you do as a minister in your work life or your work place. How do you find ways to establish God's Kingdom, to express His love, and to work for healing and transformation from Monday to Saturday? I'd also like to hear from some pastors and ministers who are doing creative things in their Churches that help business people to find and live out their calling.

So here's what I'd like to ask you:

  • What do you think God's plan is for yourworking life?
  • What do you think God would want a working Christian to do (other than do their job well!) in the hours that they're are work?
  • Pastors, have you got any insights on a 'theology of work' that you would be willing to share?

I am often in situations where I get asked to help business people to integrate their faith life and work life - I am fortunate to be part of a Church that takes this form of ministry serioulsy. But, I'd love to get some creative ideas, theological insights, and practical advice to share. So please add a comment below! I'd love to hear from you!!!

Lastly, please keep an eye open for our book (I have included a copy of the cover image below). It will be in stores on the 10th of May 2010.  I met with the marketting team from Struik Christian Media today - they have some incredible stuff planned for the book!  Radio, Video, and Print interviews and marketting.  A great launch (I'll let you know about that - drop me a line if you'd like to be invited.  It will be in May in Cape Town).  If you'd like to pre-order a copy please drop me a line and I'll make sure that we get a copy to you as soon as they are in the stores.

Here are a few endorsements for the book from some friends:

 

Graham Power and Dion Forster have finally brought the role of the marketplace into the prominence it deserves! When you read the Bible, it soon becomes obvious that the focus of the ministry and outreach of Christ was nearly exclusively on the marketplace. If you are looking for the secrets of how to succeed with your faith in your workplace, then ‘Transform your Work Life’ is for you.
– Dr Bruce Wilkinson, author of The Prayer of Jabez
We can never pay enough pastors and missionaries to evangelise the world! It will happen when the rest of us realise the church is not a building to go to, but a vast multitude of people called and commis- sioned by God to take the good news where we ‘spend most of our time and energy’. This book will turn your world upside down and inspire you to believe God for church to happen where you are! You are about to go on a great adventure!
– Floyd McClung, All Nations (Cape Town)
At long last we have a book that affirms our daily workplace as a primary place for us to live out our faith. Few people are better placed and more equipped to show us the way than Dion Forster and Graham Power. I pray that this book will enable many individuals the world over to see their work as a means of dignity, love and provision, both for themselves and their neighbour.
– Rev Trevor Hudson, South African Pastor and Author.
People often ask, “What is my calling?”. The answer is partly simple: the majority of us are called to the marketplace. The interwoven stories of Graham and Dion will encourage you to make your occupation your vocation, your job a ‘beroep’, in the true sense of the word. I highly commend these good friends to you; read their story so that your heart will be en- couraged, your mind renewed, and your spirit emboldened. God, being a lawyer, understands legal precedent, so what he has done for them he can do for you and me if we walk in similar obedience. Make their story a springboard for your story. ‘But, he is successful and if I had his money I could also serve God,’ you may say. Don’t ask for money like Graham – ask for humility like Graham. Don’t ask for a ministry like Dion’s, but minister with all that you have, right where you are. Don’t wait for one great thing to do, but take the next step of obedience. I am delighted that Graham and Dion are challenging us to integrate our work and faith so that we can be a part of the extraordinary company of ordinary marketplace people who are extending the kingdom through daily business.
– Brett Johnson – President, The Institute for Innovation, Integration & Impact, Saratoga, California

 Please join the facebook page for 'Transform your work life' here to interact with other Christians in the workplace and keep up to date with news about the book. 

Wednesday
Feb242010

Transform your work life! The new book is almost ready for print!

Last night Struik Christian Media sent me the 'galleys' (PDF proofs) for the new book that Graham Power and I have written called 'Transform your worklife:  Turn your ordinary day into an extraordinary calling'

I am so pleased with the work that they have done in the layout!  I can reveal to much about the book yet, but all that I can say is that it tells some wonderful stories, and shares some great resources and insights, to help Christians to transform their work life and work place into an opportunity for honouring God, blessing others, and finding great peace, blessing and fulfillment!

The book is a mixture of narrative (stories and testimonies of various people who have done remarkable things for God and those around them during their work day).  It also has some sound theology, a few suggestions and practical points, as well as some questions for group study.  Graham and I sat down and worked through the concept of each chapter, and with the help of people like Ed Silvoso, Brett Johnsonn, Trevor Hudson and some other great friends I wrote up each chapter.

The book is due to be launched in May at the Global Day of Prayer conference!  So, it will either be on the 20th or 21st of May.  Please do keep an eye on this site for more updates.

Can I also ask that you keep this project in your prayers.  As my friend Gareth Killeen said last night:

As you point out in this book, work is such a huge part of people’s lives, but such a small part of the church’s focus, and we should really look to redress that whatever way we could.

I can't share the cover art or any of the contents with you at this stage - all that I can say is that it is exciting!  I'm working through the 'galleys' now and they'll go off to print on the 4th of March to be printed and shipped back to South Africa in time for the launch.  

Thanks for sharing in my excitement!

Sunday
May172009

Exposing people to the transforming love of Jesus WITHOUT the evangelical stereotypes!

I love Jesus! I love the ways of Jesus! I have experienced the transforming and liberating power of the person and way of Christ in my own life and I have seen how it transforms persons and communities.

The Jesus I know is loving, just, inclusive, caring, affirming, understanding, compassionate and life giving! I long for more people (and systems) to be transformed by the truth and power of Christ!

Sadly, however, Christians have not done too well when it comes to exposing people to the love of Christ. We have tended to be overbearing, judgemental, 'holier than thou' and sometimes just plane weird about our faith!

One of the other HUGE problems with traditional evangelism is that it tends to be more interested in 'souls' than it in people - pretty much like the high school boy who makes notches on his bedpost for all the girls he's kissed. Jesus is not that way. Jesus longs to engage whole persons, and to find ways of transforming all of who they are. Jesus brings life, life that heals bodies, creates justice and establishes news ways of living with others.

A further problem with conventional evangelism is that it operates on the principles of propositional truths - in other words, it says things ABOUT the person, nature and character of Christ and then challenges people to make a decision to accept or reject these truths without having experienced them. The postmodern mindset does not deal all that well with 'absolute' truths that have not been experienced. There are simply too many things, people and powers that try to convince us of their competing truths.

Ed Silvoso once summed up these two notions in this way:

Preaching the truth without love is like giving someone a good kiss when you have bad breath. No matter how good your kiss is, all they will remember is your bad breath!

I think that statement is quite true for many attempts at evangelism I have heard about - we expect people to that Jesus is love, when they do not experience that love, or even see it in the Church. We tell people that Christ is merciful and just, and sadly they are exposed to judgmental and unjust Christian communities... The list could go on and on.

 

Well, I have recently come across a model of facilitating an encounter with the person and nature of Christ that is transforming my ministry! This is a method that does not require an extensive knowledge of the Bible. Neither does it manipulate people or simply try to reach their 'souls' - rather it seriously attempts to encounter them with the love and grace of Christ!

It is called 'L10T' (Luke 10 Transformation). Here's a great video that explains this approach to 'evangelism'. I have been involved in developing the model and the videos for it. There is a great DVD series that one can do with one's Church, cell groups, or even just watch by yourself. (The quality is not great - I tried to keep the video file size to 6 MB, so please do contact me if you require a higher quality version).

 

Here's a summary of the model.

Here’s a link to download the powerpoint slides that have the headings, scripture verses, and they also have sections on the ‘Luke 10’ transformation principles.

Briefly stated, the Luke 10 paradigm shift is significant. One of the mistakes that we make in the contemporary Church is that we tend to approach persons in the following manner:

 

  • Preach to them, if they respond,
  • Minister to them, then once they respond to our ministry,
  • we become their friends (i.e., fellowship with them, get them into 'small groups'), and finally,
  • if they respond appropriately to all of the above we then we ‘bless’ them (e.g., make them members of our Church, baptise them or their Children, do their marriage ceremony, offer them financial support, allow them to hold ministry positions in the Church etc.).


The reality is though, that in our contemporary post-modern culture, very few people respond to being 'preached at'. Amazingly, when you read Luke 10 (where Jesus sent out the 72 disciples to do ministry he took exactly the opposite strategy)...

 

Jesus said when you enter into a city, find a person of peace and bless him - so blessing comes first.... If we can find tangible and real ways to share God's love and blessing with people by addressing their felt needs, this is a much more effective witness than 'preaching'. So, for example, in South Africa we feed people (without preaching), we simply feed them because God would not want them to be hungry, and they feel 'blessed' when people feed them.

Then Jesus said when you've blessed the person of peace, stay in his house and eat with him - that’s fellowship. We need to find ways to engage with people on their level and in their primary location (e.g., instead of trying to first bring people into Churches, lets get to know them and love them where they are. Whether that be in a school, or an office building or their home). Relationships are key to facilitating faith, after all, what God gives us in Christ is not 'doctrine', but the truth of transforming love in the Person of Jesus Christ.

Then having fellowshipped with persons we minister to them, this is where we pray for persons to be healed, for them to find wholeness, for the marriages and children to be whole etc. Ministry flows out of a relationship of trust (point 2 above) and an experience of God’s blessing (point 1 above). People are open to being ministered to, and to receiving God's grace, when they trust us, and they have already experienced God’s blessing.

Finally, as a last step one will ‘preach’ - this is the discipleship phase, not the evangelism phase. I have experienced that this is much more in keeping with 1 Peter 3:15 (give an account of the hope that lives within you...) than it is 'preaching'. In Luke 10 Jesus instructed the disciples to share the truth only once people had been blessed, included into a community, and experienced God’s healing, love, and provision.

Anyway, this is the methodology of ministry that I apply in my ministry. So, I operate according to 5 ‘new’ paradigms of being Church and being a Christian, but my functional methodology is the Luke 10 methodology (Bless, fellowship, minister, then preach)... This has been quite a change for me since as a Pastor I was accustomed to always preaching first. However, I have come to recognise that the ‘old Church’ methodology is no longer as effective in the post-modern context.

If you would like to read more about the theology and biblical perspective that shapes this form of ministry you can see the following link that I wrote on my blog about a year ago...

I would encourage you to watch the video above, download it (you can use 'kissyoutube') and share it! If you're interested in getting the DVD material to run it with your group, or in your Church then please email me. I'll gladly put you in touch with the folks who are distributing it.

So, what do you think? Is this a tool that could be useful in your setting? Can you spot any problems we may not be aware of? Any advice or help you could offer would be very much appreciated!

Monday
Nov172008

Reflection on work and worship. Qik Video.

This is a first attempt at posting a short daily (or not so daily, as the case may be!) reflection on my blog. I find that my days get so busy that the only time (and place) where I can record a short reflection is whilst I am driving between meetings! So, take a look at the scenery as I drive!

The scripture that is mentioned here is Col 3:23-24. This is one of the paradigms for National Transformation - you can make your work worship! And in doing your work for the Lord you can reclaim your sphere of influence for the Kingdom of Christ, which is a Kingdom of justice, mercy, and grace! If we truly believe that Christ wants to save all of creation, then we need to live and work to see people, systems and place brought into loving submission to the will of Christ.

I would love to hear your feedback!

Friday
Nov142008

God is not great: How religion poisons everything. AND kissing with bad breath...

I have reading a fascinating book over the last few weeks.  It is entitled "God is not great:  How religion poisons everything" by Christopher Hitchens.  I started reading it out of curiosity and have enjoyed reading it a great deal.  In short, I do NOT share the author's view!  Hitchens describes himself as an anti-theist, rather than an atheist.  Richard Dawkins could be considered an atheist in the popular usage of the term (i.e., he does not believe that God exists).  Hitchens however takes this a step further, not only does he not believe that God exists, but he believes that the belief in God is bad for society and individuals (hence the sub-title of his book 'How religion poisons everything').

Hitchens' book is filled with whit, it is well researched and the argument is largely sound (I would not say that it is valid, but simply that it is sound i.e., it is in keeping with his prejudice and within that context it is carefully pieced together to make his point).  Hitchens sites a number of examples of how religious belief harms freedom of choice and enslaves people to abusive systems of authority and power (whether it be a form of religious belief in a transcendent deity, such as that in Christianity, Islam or Judaism; or some form of 'emperor' worship, such as that in North Korea).  This, in my opinion, is one of the greatest weaknesses of the book - it is devoid of all wonder, mystery and grace.  It assumes that the human intellect is the most noble of all realities, and that everything else in society can somehow be quantified, explained, and reasoned out of the realm of the mysterious.
What makes the book so enjoyable is that Hitchens has put together an admirable collection of injustices on which we would both agree!  I frequently nodded my head, smirked, and thought 'how true' when I read of his accurate and articulate deconstruction of abusive religious practices and inconsistencies between faith and reason.  Hitches is correct, in this point at least, there are so many elements of our human nature that destroy, debase, and denigrate the majesty, beauty and wonder of creation!  In this sense I would carefully venture that I would hope that such a destructive God is indeed dead!
However, I would venture that these are not elements of true faith, rather these are perversions of true faith.  Neither is the god about whom he writes, the true God.  The loving God I have come to know in Christ, the One that I have experienced through the grace of other persons, whom I have marveled over in nature, is not the God of Hitchens' book.  Christ would probably also agree with much of the underlying concern that Hitchens expresses about abusive and destructive religious practices he lists.  I'm sure that God's heart is broken daily by the abuses that we perpetrate in God's loving name!
So, I enjoyed what I have read of the book so far, because it confirmed for me that my experience of the loving God, that experience that is most real in the loving community of the Church, is not the god about whom Hitchens writes.  I hope this doesn't sound smug...  But, the God who lovingly grasped me is NOT dead!  That God is lovingly alive in Jesus Christ.
Should you read this book? Sure!  Why not?  But, don't get caught in the hype - it is entertaining, but that's about all.   If you do read it, do not read it as a dialogue, or to try and disprove Hitchens' argument, since I would venture that his argument is not about true religion, rather it is about the worst of human nature, our capacity to take the most beautiful, life giving, and gracious of all realities and abuse it to divide, discourage, enslave, and destroy.  In conclusion this has been an interesting book that has made me appreciate the glorious love and grace of Christ, and the wonder of his love, even more.  It has also challenged me to think much more carefully about Christian community, what we get right, and the many things that we get wrong.
I long for a Church that attracts people!  A Church that lives the reality of Christ's love!
Ed Silvoso commented in his book 'Transformation' - Preaching the good news without tangible acts of love is like giving someone a kiss when you have bad breath.  No matter how good the kiss is, all the person will remember is that you had bad breath!
Perhaps my faith, and our Church, needs a loving breath mint?

 

Monday
Oct132008

A jet-lagged reflection on our Latin American trip... A simple strategy for national transformation.

We arrived back in Cape Town about three hours ago. I've unpacked my bags, got the first load of washing in the machine, Megie is back to work and I'm taking an hour or so to catch my breath and fetch Courtney from school. I'll go into the office later this afternoon.

If you look back over my blog you'll see that I have been out of South Africa for almost a month in total (starting with a trip to London for the Global Prayer Leaders' Network and Unashamedly Ethical meetings). It has been a busy time - yet it has been extremely rewarding and worthwhile. In these weeks I have been encouraged and blessed by the many wonderfully faithful and diverse expressions of courageous, Christ-centered, obedience I have experienced.

The last two weeks have been a time of challenge and growth. Ed Silvoso's perspective on the role of one's everyday 'working life' in relation to God's purposes for transformation and healing of the world have made a significant impact upon me. I guess that in some ways he has a unique foundation in that he comes from South America (Argentina) and so understands issues of poverty, struggle, and of course the ideals and principles that inform and drive theologies of liberation (i.e., God's love and option for the poor, the evil of greed and wealth, the suffering and abuse that stems from oppressive economic and political systems etc.). Yet, he has also spent a great deal of his life living in America and working among evangelical Christians (his brother in law is Lius Palloa the 'Billy Graham' of Latin America). So, he understands the energy and passion that comes from the evangelical perspective on the faith. I found his emphasis on God's sovereign power to work with and in the world to be a healthy and refreshing addition to the frequently dry, secular hummanist, purely social Gospel teaching (which is so frequently my point of departure). In him I found a healthy balance between God's power and capacity to bring about healing and change, and the human person's responsibility to seek God's guidance, will, power, and grace to be a partner in bringing about transformation.

I have written about Ed Silvoso's 5 paradigms before (you can listen to a broadcast I prepared for Radio Pulpit on this subject on this link '5 paradigms that can change your work into worship' (6MB, MP3). He seems to be able to keep the balance between reliance upon God and individual and corporate responsibility for national (and even global) transformation.

This week we had many opportunities to share our vision for eradicating systemic poverty by addressing systemic corruption. This is not only a matter of moral choice and complaince with the laws and systems of a particular nation state, rather it is about deal with the corrupted human soul, finding freedom and sufficiency in Christ and operating from that base of Christ-centered renewal and healing to discover person transformation and renewal, to work towards the renewal and transformation of one's family, one's social group, one's workplace, one's neighbourhood, one's children's schools, the local economy, and even broader afield to transform that laws and values of one's nation, continent, and the world.

William Wilberforce, Charles Wesley, Ghandi, Nelson Mandela - these are all examples of people who allowed their faith to impact more than just their personal lives! Rather, they sought to discover what was right for them and all other persons, and even the rest of creation, and work towards making that a reality.

Our time in Montevideo, Uruguay, was truly encouraging. On the Friday evening we had about 250 business leaders, politicians, and pastors together. On the Saturday we held a workshop for about 400 persons including pastors, business leaders and politicians. We shared something of Christ's dream for our world, and of course their city and nation, and then offered some tools, insights, and encouragement that could help them further along that road.

Our task is quite simple, we share a vission of what the world could be like, we activate the imagination, do our best to inspire hope, give a few glimpses of possible strategies (mostly gleaned from research about the particular area and context, coupled with success stories and prototypes from other similar contexts in the world), and then do some basic teaching, create a network of locally driven, locally 'owned' relationships, and then follow up from time to time to see how we can bless and support that work.

We place a fairly strong emphasis on the fact that the strongest testimony that the Church can give concerning the love of Christ is not full services, but rather it relates to addressing the concrete and felt needs of a community (e.g., hospitals for the sick, jobs for the poor, social restoration for divided communities etc.) In order for this to take place there needs to be a strategic partnership and relationship between Pastors and Christians who are leaders in various spheres of society that we call 'the marketplace' (i.e., politicians and elected officials, educators, health workers, business people, youth and social workers etc.) Unity and strategic co-operation are the key to achieving maximum success in any community or area. As such we will often go into a city or region and set up meetings where we bring together top politicians, business leaders, the heads of denominations and Church organisations, and simply spend time helping them to get to know each other, find forgiveness and healing from past hurts and struggles, and dreaming of the way forward for their region.

Well, I'm back home and so excited to be with my family!!!! Thank you to everyone who has prayed for us.

Thursday
Oct092008

So here's what I'm thinking...

Life can be messy, and I'm glad that it is this way. The sorrow of one moment becomes the joy of the next. Being separated from a loved one for a short while creates an intensity of love and appreciation that breaks the regular ebb and flow of life that can so easily lead one into a position of taking your most precious relationships for granted.

This week has been a truly remarkable week of learning and growing for me. I am pleased that there is still so much to learn about life, loving God, and serving Christ. For some years I was treated as 'a font of knowledge' for others - I was approached for counsel, sought out to teach and preach, and asked to participate in various think tanks and meetings. These things flattered my ego, but they also covered a great truth - the truth is that I don't know very much! Titles can be deceptive, they tools of social engineering, employed to create a perception that may or may not be true (or is true in varying degrees). I have two titles, Reverend and Doctor. The one denotes an office within the Church, the other an achievement within the academic arena. For some time these titles were a cause of secret pride (and sometimes not so secret pride!) However, in recent months they have been the cause of great humility and struggle. You see, with a title comes an expectation - the title Reverend seems to carry the social and religious expectation of Godliness, maturity, wisdom, and care. I am not particularly good at any of these, although I do strive to do my best in each. The title Doctor carries with it the expectation of great learning, exceptional insights, and deep thought. Well, with the exception of a few very esoteric and rather eclectic subjects (neuroscience, applied mathematics, artificial intelligence, quantum physics, African philosophy and certain areas of Christian doctrine) I don't know much at all! Well, at least I don't know much about the things that truly count in life!
I am learning.
Before going further, I am aware that some would dispute that 'The Reverend' is in fact not a title, but rather a style of prefix used to address Christian clergy. The point is, I cannot live up to the social expectation of either of the titles that I have, just as little as I can truly be a perfect husband or father. I do my best, but there is tremendous room for growth.
Well, this week I sat in meetings, conference halls, Churches, offices, and around tables with people who were often much more interested in my titles than in my person. What I am learning is that I need to be as patient with them as I hope they are with me! You see, they too are subject to the pressures of socialization. So I guess I could state it more accurately by saying that this week I was learning to learn. I was having to think not only about what I was learning about people, but also about how I was learning what I was learning - for example when I met the head of the Ugandan Revenue service (she jokingly calls herself the 'Chief tax collector' of Uganda) I had to take time to separate the person from the title. The office that she holds is one of immense responsibility, power, and of course respect. But, when she spoke with me (a minister) she was looking for support, affirmation, encouragement, and prayer. I had to make the distinction between the person and the title and ask God to give me the grace to be sensitive to minister to her felt needs as she felt them, not as I perceived them. I am learning to learn!
Well, this was a good week!
I have learned a lot! I have learned a lot about myself, I have learned a lot about others, I have learned a lot about Argentina, and Uganda, and Japan, and Thailand, and Australia, and Iran, and Spain, and Denmark, and a host of other countries and regions...
The meetings were remarkable, my intellect was stimulated, my heart was touched, and my spirit was renewed.
Amazingly though, the highlight of this week came from a town called Paarl, thousands of Kilometers away. The highlight of this week for me was the gift of a child for my friends Angus and Heather, you can read about that gift here: http://gruntleblog.blogspot.com/2008/10/zachari.html
We continue to learn... That's what I'm thinking!

 

Tomorrow morning I shall be leaving Mar del Plata, driving to Buenos Aires and then catching a boat to Uruguay. There I shall have further opportunities to learn. I do feel that this 'season' of my life is a season of service. I am trying to learn how to serve those that I work with, and serve those that I encounter. It is not easy to serve when almost all of western culture tries to teach one to rule and direct. So, do say a prayer for me. I am learning.

 

Friday
Apr112008

International Transformation Network 

 

Today the International Transformation Network Conference started at the Lord Charles Hotel in Somerset West. The purpose of the conference is to help business leaders, politicians, and Church leaders to use their influence and passion to bring about God's Kingdom of healing, transformation and renewal on earth.

I think forget that there is an eschatological urgency and task for Christians in society - we are called to DO what we so often pray for i.e., to establish God's gracious Kingdom here on earth (a Kingdom in which people are reunited with God, at peace with God, with others, and with all of creation).

I am looking forward to learning fresh and creative ways to help the Church (in all its members, in local congregations, in schools, in offices, in homes, in cities) to bring God's healing and provision to all people (not just Christians)!

If you're looking for a very good book to read on these priciples please read Ed Silvoso's book 'Transformation' (2007) Regal Publishers.