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  • Restorative Readings: The Old Testament, Ethics, and Human Dignity
    Restorative Readings: The Old Testament, Ethics, and Human Dignity
    Pickwick Publications

    Foreword by Walter Brueggemann, my chapter is entitled 'In conversation: The Old Testament, Ethics and Human Dignity'. A superb resource edited by Julie Claassens and Bruce Birch

  • 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 Asia 2010 (7)

Wednesday
Mar312010

Work as worship - confronting the powerful, caring for the poor

A regular commentor on my blog (thanks Thomas!) left a comment on my post from yesterday.  Here's Thomas' comment:

Hello Dion, On the one hand, I like the holism of your theology. On the other hand, I feel that it does not do justice to the oppressed, from an existential point of view. It offers hope for the future. Yet (to advance just one aspect of this) statistically, hope across the globe fades in so many ways. That is one of the major stumbling-blocks for me. You ain't where the oppressed is, in this moment. Perhaps you could address this in a post sometime.

If I have understood Thomas' concern it is that an approach to 'work as worship' such as the one I espoused in my previous post tends towards addressing the powerful and rich at the expsense of caring for the poor.  If that was the case I would share Thomas' concern!

However, I contend that my theology does not advocate that at all.  Here are a few thoughts that underly my understanding of using our work life as worship in relation to the wealthy, powerful, and the poor.

1.  I agree wholeheartedly that ministry cannot be responsible unless it addresses the plight of the poor.  However, it is a mistake to think that such an orientation, i.e., and orientation towards the poor, must be at the exclusion of addressing the causes of poverty (most often greed among the powerful and rich).

2.  I would say that it is not realistic that every person should be expected to do ministry in all spheres of society all the time.  Thomas, what you may not know is that I served as a minister in South Africa's townships at various stages of my ministry as a Methodist minister (some of these periods were before 1994).  Moreover, I still continue to seek to address and overcome systemic poverty in the role that I currently hold.  I administer two large charitable trusts that do work, and fund work, in economic empowerment, food security, caring for HIV infected persons, caring for AIDS orphans etc.  This probably takes up about a third of my ministry time each week.

3.  If you agree with point 2 above, i.e., that we can't all be expected to minister in all places with equal intention and intensity; or at all levels of society at all times, then the following point needs to be accepted - namely, those who have significant access to the poor (and the systems that abuse and enslave the poor) must effectively and responsibly operate in that area.  But, that would also assume that those who have access to persons in power and access to systems that are powerful in society must engage those systems powerfully and effectively to work for the establishment of Christ's gracious Kingdom of Justice and love from that perspective.

So, if my daily work puts me in place with the poor directly it is likely that my primary ministry activity will be in that space.  However, if my daily work puts me in touch with society and power at another level then I must engage creatively and intentionally for Christ at that level (of course not exclusively!  We must all seek to address various levels of society at various times and in various ways).

I currently have that privilege (and responsibility) because of the ministry position I hold and possibly because of previous publications, research etc.  So, I think that it would irresponsible for me NOT to address the powerful, and systems of power, when I have a chance to do so!

I address this and a few other issues related to wealth, poverty, and ministry through work (and at work) in my new book 'Transform your work life:  Turn your ordinary day into an extraordinary calling'.

That being said, I hear that persons such as myself must always remember why we engage powerful persons and systems - it is for the sake of establishing God's Kingdom that includes all persons.

I have found the following quote from Henri Nouwen quite encouraging (please see the bit in bold if you don't feel like reading the whole quote):

 

Honest direct confrontation is a true expressionof compassion.  As Christians, we are in the world without being of it.  It is precisely this position that renders confrontation possible and necessary.  The illusion of power must be unmasked, idolatry must be undone, oppression and exploitation must be fought, and all who participate in these evils must be confronted.  This is compassion.  

We cannot suffer with the poor when we are unwilling to confront those persons and systems that cause poverty.  We cannot set the captives free when we do not want to confront those who carry the keys.  We cannot profess our solidarity with those who are opressed when we are unwilling to confront the opressor. Compassion without confrontation fades quickly into fruitless sentimental commiseration.

But if confrontation is to be an expression of patient action, it must be humble. Our constant temptation is to fall into self-righteous revenge or self-serving condemnation.  The danger hers is that our own witness can blind us.  When confrontation is tainted by desire for attention, need for revenge, or greed for power, it can easily become self-serving and cease to be compassionate.  - From Compassion: A reflection on the Christian life by Donald McNeill, Douglas Morrison and Henri Nouwen.

I'd love to hear any feedback, and always appreciate constructive input, words of caution and insights that can help to see the Kingdom of Jesus established at every level of society!

Well, to change tack, I am back in South Africa.  We landed this morning after a great flight from Hong Kong.  I am waiting to board my connecting flight to Cape Town.  I have to do a little work this afternoon, but I'm on leave for the following 5 days with my wonderful family!!  Praise be to God!

Tuesday
Mar302010

Using your worklife for God's purposes

I have only a few hours left in Hong Kong. Had an incredible meeting about energy technologies to help to heal the earth at Hong Kong City University!

Christians have a responsibility to use their gifts, talents and ability to see that God's will for the earth is done! The Professor of Electrical Engineering we met today is such a great example of someone who takes Col 3.23 seriously! He uses his position and talents to 'redeem' the earth, making life better for people and stewarding the resources of the earth more carefully.

This is the kind of person that I meet from time to time who truly inspires me. He is so creative about using what he is already doing in order to honour God! I think too many of us are waiting for a different place or time, or environment to serve God. Perhaps we miss many opportunities when we stop asking God to show us what we can do to encounter both people and structures with God's transforming love during our working hours.

Friday
Mar262010

Some more photographs of Cape Town for Jesus! Incredible!

A friend of Graham (Power), Leon Pheiffer, took some incredible photographs of the Cape Town for Jesus event on Monday!  It was such an amazing event.  take a look at these incredible pictures.

A picture of the the stadium at the foot of table mountain.

 

Each time that I see this photo I am amazed at how full the stadium was!  Because I was in charge of getting the speakers and participants from the VIP suite on the 4th floor down onto the stage on the sub basement I didn't get to see too much for the programme or people, these pictures give some idea of how many people attended Cape Town for Jesus on 22 March 2010! Incredible.

Thanks for the photos Leon!

Well, it is 2.30AM in South Africa, 8.30AM in Malaysia.  I had a great night's sleep.  Yesterday was a full day of meetings and speaking engagements.  I am always amazed at how excited people are to hear Graham and I tell the story of the birth of the Global Day of Prayer and what God is doing through our simple ministry in the marketplace.  Among those we met was Larry Lee - Larry thanks for your friendship!  I look forward to staying connected in the months to come!  In this photo Larry is 4th from the left (next to Pastor Andy who is wearing the purple shirt and Prof Tan in the blue shirt).

Graham's book - Not by Might, nor by Power (the story of the Global Day of Prayer) is a wonderful chronicle of how this prayer movement spread from the first stadium event at Newlands Rugby stadium (Cape Town) in 2001 to ever country across the world (all 220 countries), with more than 350 million participants, in 2009!  We met with the Global Day of Prayer in Malaysia central committee, then spoke at a Full Gospel Business Fellowship dinner in the evening.  At 11pm we came back to the Hotel and met Pastor Daniel Ho, the minister of Damansara Utama Methodist Church a Methodist 'mega-Church' in Malaysia.  He was such an encouragement.  A humble man with such a strong commitment to engaging all levels of society to see tangible transformation for the sake of justice, ethics, and the establishment of Christ's Kingdom.

Today we have a meeting with the National Evangelical Christian Fellowship central committee (NECF), then I will be meeting my friend Sivin Kit - the minister of Bangsar Lutheran Church.  I am so looking forward to that!  Then in the evening we shall be speaking to about 600 people at one of the large local Churches which Professor Malcom Tan (who I first met here in Malaysia in 2007) is an elder in.

I would appreciate your prayers for our visit here!  We still have two days before heading to Singapore and then Hong Kong.

Thursday
Mar252010

A quick video greeting from Malaysia

I have two great benefits on this trip:

1.  I have free wifi access in the hotel!

2.  I am struggling to sleep!

So, I went to the gym early this morning and then recorded this little greeting when I returned.

Greetings from Malaysia! from Dion Forster on Vimeo.

 

Have a truly blessed day! I would appreciate your prayers for myself and my family back home.

PS.  If you think that there is something wrong with YOUR video don't worry! For some reason when I encoded the video it has only captured every few frames (so the video doesn't quite line up with the audio... No matter, it's only a talking head!)

Thursday
Mar252010

Which way should I face when I pray?

Which way should I face when I pray?!

This is only the 2nd time in my life that I have stayed in a hotel which shows the direction to face when one praying. The last time was also in Malaysia.

So, the arrow on the roof points the direction Mecca - is that correct?

Tuesday
Mar232010

Cape Town for Jesus - what a wonderful day!

Yesterday was truly a special day at the Cape Town (Greenpoint) stadium.  I'm sure that the 22nd of March 2010 will be remembered by many of the 50 000 people who arrived for the special event.  The program went off very well with a great mix between praise and worship, prayer and some speakers.  I was particularly pleased to leaders and members of various Churches and ministries in the City of Cape Town from all sorts of denominations and groupings in attendance.  The Moderator of the Dutch Reformed and Presbyterian Churches were in attendance, as were many Methodist colleagues, senior leaders from the Anglican, Catholic and Baptist Churches, as well as many pastors from independent, charismatic and pentecostal Churches. The spread of ages among the participants and attendees was also a point of great joy.  There were so many young people participating in the program and in attendance at the event.  In fact 32 youth soccer teams came dressed in the national colours, with flags, for the nations that will be participating in the upcoming world cup soccer event.  Then, it was also so encouraging to see the political leaders of the nation and city arriving to be prayed for - it was particularly special since the leaders had a chance to stand on stage as children from the city prayed for them and their leadership and responsibilities in the nation.

Angus Buchan was the main speaker at the event - and he was well received!  The first part of his message encouraged South Africans to start taking responsibility for the nation, and to start making a really positive contribution towards transformation and renewal in society (which includes elements such as racial reconciliation, shifting the wealth of the nation, and of course also standing against crime and corruption).  The second part of his message encouraged men to live responsibility in their family lives and work lives.

Another notable element was the time spent focussing on the issue of human trafficking and child abuse.  The video clips that were shown, as well as Dr Ashely Cloete's input (from Child Welfare South Africa), was truly moving and inspired many to make a difference in this regard.

Graham Power and Steven Johnstone also gave a great challenge for the Unashamedly Ethical campaign for to which thousands of individuals committed to stand for values, ethics and clean living, as well as to establish communities for values and ethics.

I want to congratulate Etienne Piek and the Global Day of Prayer team for their exceptional arrangements in the stadium, and particularly to Etienne for his incredible work in putting together (and holding together) the diverse program on the day!  I played a small part in making sure that all of the members of the programme made it to the prayer room and on stage on time - it was a joy to run behind the scenes.  One of the persons that I had the privilege to meet is Hennie Smit (who is the actor that plays 'Bertie' in Egoli - what a nice guy!  He was so kind and patient with everyone, including myself).

So, all in all, this was an exceptional day on which the city came together to pray for Cape Town, to ask for God's blessing and protection during the world cup, and to chart the path ahead for a Christ renewed South Africa.

If you attended the event I'd love to hear your feedback!

I may be off the grid for a few days - I am on my way to Malaysia in an hour or so (via Hong Kong), and then to Singapore, and back to Hong Kong for a day's meetings before flying back to Cape Town just before Easter.  I hope to post a few photographs and reflections on the various meetings and speaking engagements we have over there (mostly they are around the Global Day of Prayer, Unashamedly Ethical, our new book 'Transform your work life', and Lausanne).

Tuesday
Mar232010

Off to Asia

Just a quick post - I'll do a decent post on yesterday's Cape Town for Jesus event later in in the day.

Right now I'm collecting my packed bags and heading to the airport. I fly to Asia today for a week in Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong for some Global Day of Prayer, Unashamedly Ethical and Lausanne business.

Watch this space and please keep Megie, Courts & Liam in your prayers.