• 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 evangelism (14)


Evangelism and Public Theology

Last week I was asked to write an article for the Lausanne Global Pulse on Evangelism and the Christian response to Global (and local) Corruption and its relationship to poverty. I shall add a link to it here when it is published.

In my reading I came across this wonderful quote by the eccumenical theologian Lesslie Newbigin. It was quite challenging and profound:

It is not so often acknowledged that evangelism means calling people to believe something which is radically different from what is normally accepted as public truth, and that calls for a conversion not only of the heart and will but of the mind. A serious commitment to evangelism, to the telling of the story which the Church is sent to tell, means a radical questioning of the reigning assumptions of public life. It is to affirm the gospel not only as an invitation to a private and personal decision but as public truth which ought to be acknowledged as true for the whole of the life of society.

Lesslie Newbigin Truth to Tell (p.2).

I was left with the question, can the Christian's response to issues of justice be considered as the work of evangelism?

I think it can, particularly if one understands 'evangelism' as facilitating the reality of God's good news (and 'goodness') for the world (rather than just preaching the content of the good news, or Gospel). I am convinced that our proposition of what the Gospel is, finds fullness of meaning when persons (and creation) begin to experience something of what God's goodness is.

Some years ago I wrote an academic article entitled "Prophetic witness and social action as holiness in the Methodist Church of Southern Africa's mission" which locates this argument within a historical and missional context. You can download the article here and follow my line of reasoning. I also attempt to argue for the location of mission and evangelism as activities of Christians and the Church within the public sphere (to use Martin Marty's terminology). In this sense evangelism as social action (or even social action as evangelism) is a form of Public Theology.


If we were true Christians...

What a beautiful quote:

There would be no need for sermons, if our lives were shining; there would be no need for words, if we bore witness with our deeds. There would be no pagans, if we were true Christians.

St. John Chrysostom (via rudysnotes)

(via kenosis-theosis)

Some real wisdom from one of the Eastern Fathers. It has challenged me deeply.


Evangelism, discipleship and the Kingdom of God

What good is 'good news' that never comes to pass? I have heard many wonderful sermons about God's Kingdom. Sadly I have encountered far fewer 'good news' communities and Churches - groups of disciples who seek to be agents of God's good news. I am convinced that our mission is to do what Jesus himself came to do. Christians are called to establish God's Kingdom of loving and transforming grace in tangible and practical ways.

The following quote (via @invisibleforeigner) resonates strongly with me:

“If the Good News is the presence of the kingdom of God, then ‘evangelism’ is much more than ‘saving souls.’ Evangelism means sharing and showing to the world how to realistically, faithfully, and creatively respond to the real needs of the world laboring under ongoing rebellion. Evangelism means living according to the ways of the kingdom of God and inviting others to join us on the way. Evangelism is not selling Jesus, but showing Jesus; evangelism is not mere telling about Christ, but about being Christ.”

— Lee Camp, Mere Discipleship

Of course there are many wonderful Christian communities and groups that are visible expressions of God's 'good news'. I want to be part of such a community!


First official video from the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization in Cape Town goes live

The first official highlights videos from the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization in Cape Town are going live on Vimeo, YouTube and Facebook - simply follow this link for more. But, the official videos will be posted at as soon as we get the front page of the conversation up.

Here is one of the first videos to be realeased -a brief 1 minute highlight of the opening celebration.  What a wonderful event!

Check the link above for more videos from the Congress - soon we'll have the sessions, speakers presentations and other videos up for review. 

So, just a reminder, all of the videos can be directly linked form the Global Conversation site at - please share this link widely!!!


The Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization starts in Cape Town

I have just taken up my seat in the main hall of the Cape Town International Convention Centre - what a glorious moment! There are more than 5700 persons at this Congress, 4500 of them are participants from over 200 cow tries. The remainder are volunteers and there is a small contingent of staff. The major of the participants are from the majority world!

It is going to be an awesome time together! Please follow the congress on our Twitter feed at

I'll also be posting updates here as often as I can find the time!

Please also interact with other persons from across the world at

We are called to share the Gospel with all!


Expectations for the Third Lausanne Congress in Cape Town 2010

Well, today the registrations started picking up a great deal as friends from all over the world joined us in Cape Town.  The Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization has drawn together a wide range of cultures, ages and theological perspectives.  Here are a few short videos from new friends, and some I have known for a while.

What are you expecting from this congress?  Make your voice heard on the many topics under consideration!  Simply sign up at

Here's Jason Mandryk from Canada (Jason is the author of the great Operation World book - a wonderful mission resource).

Next we have Daryl from the Philippines.

I just love this 'energetic' video from Anja (pronounced Ansa) from Madagascar / France.

Here's an encouraging video from Mike from the USA.


Welcoming address to the Lausanne Congress Leadership 11 October 2010

Yesterday morning (11 October 2010) the Churches of Cape Town welcomed the leadership of the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization to the City.

The Rev Peter Langerman, who is the chairmain of the Consultation of Christian Churches in Cape Town - an eccumenical body of Christian Churches for the City - welcomed Doug Birdsall, Blair Carlson, and Jomo Mchunu at the gaterhing which was held in Brackenfell, Cape Town.

Rev Langerman's superb welcoming address (see below) set the scene for the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization that is set to start on Sunday the 17th of October 2010 at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.  Rev Doug Birdsall responded to the welcome by sharing his excitement for the Congress and telling the story of how the Third Lausanne Congress came to be held in Cape Town.

At this particular gathering I was one of the representative leaders of the Churches of Cape Town.  Although I serve on the volunteer staff of the Lausanne Movement and will also be one of the 50 South African participants at next week's Congress.  It is set to be an incredible time of interaction, strategy, theological discourse and most importantly worship and prayer as just over 5000 persons from more than 200 countries across the globe gather in Cape Town.

If you would like to follow the events of the Congress we shall have a team of 'social networking' volunteers who will post updates on the @CapeTown2010 twitter feed and the Lausanne Momement Facebook page.  I would encourage you to join the Global Conversation to make your voice heard!  You don't need to be in attendance at the congress to have an input into the discussions!  This photograph shows some of my social networking team (Stephen Murray in green and Aaron Marshall with the white T-Shirt... If you look REALY carefully you'll see me behind the camera ;-), meeting with the head of Digital Communications (Naomi Frizzel) and her team (Andrew Brumme and Casey Newmeyer).

Here is Peter's wonderful address - it scetches a wonderful picture of the relationship between South Africa (Africa), the City of Cape Town and the misisons movement.

Lausanne Church Leaders' Lunch - Monday 11th October 2010

Doug, Blair, Jomo, Cape Town Church Leaders, Friends

On the 14th February 2007, the Consultation of Christian Churches, on behalf of the broader Christian community in Cape Town, extended a formal invitation to Blair and the International Lausanne Committee for the 3rd Lausanne Congress to be hosted in Cape Town. This 3rd Congress follows the 1st held in Lausanne in 1974 and the 2nd held in Manila in 1989. Fortunately, history records that the invitation was accepted and now we stand just days away from the official opening of that Congress.

By hosting the Congress in South Africa in 2010, we will be righting wrongs, correcting errors, and redressing injustices that occurred 100 years ago.

In 1910, there was a very famous and significant mission's conference in Edinburgh, Scotland. The organisers of that conference understood the need to hear other voices and they understood that the locus of Christian activity was not confined to the Continental USA or Europe. Consequently, the organisers invited participants from other parts of the world, significantly, Asia and South America to take part. But, they didn't invite a single African. This is the first injustice that shall be addressed as in 2010 Africa will welcome the world.

The year 1910 was also a significant year in that the four semi-autonomous South African republics formed the Union of South Africa, a further step in the disenfranchisement and subjugation of people of colour in South Africa. This was yet another step towards the marginalisation of the majority of South Africa's people which culminated in the scourge of Apartheid and the suffering of millions of people. This is the second injustice that shall be addressed by our hosting of the Congress in the Western Cape in 2010 on behalf of all the peoples of South Africa.

The formation of the Union of South Africa entrenched the seclusion of South Africa from the rest of the African continent that lead to a sense of arrogance and superiority that marked our relationship with our brothers and sisters from other African nations. This is the third injustice that shall be addressed by hosting the Conference in South Africa in 2010 as we will have an opportunity to serve our sisters and brothers from Africa.

Yet, not only will we be privileged to serve our African family. We are conscious that for many years Africa was the recipient of missionaries from many different countries and we can testify that the gospel has borne fruit in this continent. African Christianity is vibrant and strong today partly because of the obedience and sacrifice of missionaries over many years from many different nations. Africa is now in the process of becoming a missionary-sending continent, eager for the opportunity to minister to the nations of the world. This Congress, and the partnerships that will flow from it, are our opportunity to respond by taking the good news of the gospel to many nations, including the nations who served us in the past by bringing the gospel to our shores.

The introduction to the Lausanne Covenant says, "We ... praise God for his great salvation and rejoice in the fellowship he has given us with himself and with each other. We are deeply stirred by what God is doing in our day, moved to penitence by our failures and challenged by the unfinished task of evangelization. We believe the Gospel is God's good news for the whole world, and we are determined by his grace to obey Christ's commission to proclaim it to all mankind and to make disciples of every nation." 

The same document, talking about the role of the church says, "... World evangelization requires the whole Church to take the whole gospel to the whole world. The Church is at the very centre of God's cosmic purpose and is his appointed means of spreading the gospel. ... [The church] becomes a stumbling block to evangelism when it betrays the gospel or lacks a living faith in God, a genuine love for people, or scrupulous honesty in all things ..."

As representatives of the church in Cape Town we must confess that these words continue to challenge us. We are deeply stirred by God's work in these days as we see living evidence of God's kingdom extended to the ends of the earth in the Lausanne Congress participants who will arrive in a few short days in or city from every nation on the earth. We are moved to confess our sins in the light of our failures and inaction, especially in our inward-looking, maintenance-driven focus that characterises much of modern church life. We are challenged by the task that lies ahead for us, even in our own country where there are many thousands who have yet to hear the good news of the gospel. We want to be part of the whole church taking the whole gospel to the whole earth. Hosting the Congress is a reminder and a challenge to us. A reminder of the part we are called to play in Godís cosmic purpose and a challenge to our structures and that sometimes become stumbling blocks to evangelism. We trust that we will not forget our responsibility, that we will rise to the challenge. History will judge whether we have been successful or not.

As a token of our appreciation, we would like to present you, Doug, with a small gift and a letter signed by all those who have shared in this event today. This Congress marks another step in a process that began on a mountaintop in Galilee when the resurrected Christ gave his disciples a commission and will be completed when the glorified and ascended Christ returns to stand on the Mount of Olives. This Congress will hopefully stand out as a landmark between those two epochal moments.

Rev Peter Langerman (Chairman of the CCC).

There is great excitement in the air!


What does the Gospel 'feel' like?

In our little book 'Transform your work life' (written by Graham Power and myself) I wrote:

God longs for Christians to get practical and creative about making the ‘good news’ real for the people... We should not be asking ‘what does the good news sound like?’, rather we should ask ‘what does the good news feel like, and what does good news look like?’

What does the Gospel feel like!?  That is quite a challenging question!  It has lingered in my mind for some years now as I have tried to bring an experience of the 'good news' of God's Kingdom to the people that I live with, work with and encounter in my life's journey.

Worship on Sunday is critical - as John van de Laar rightly points out it is the orientation that should shape the rest of our week.  The exact quote from his great new book 'The Hour that changes Everything' is this: "How you worship defines how you live"

The question for this post is, however, what kind of worship does God require for the other 166 hours of the week?

Here's an excerpt from chapter 3 of 'Transform your work life' -

Did you know that Jesus had a ‘mission statement’ for his ministry on earth? You can read it in Luke 4:16–21. It is interesting to see that all the things that Jesus came to do were practical, tangible expressions of God’s love for the world. I have heard so many sermons on this passage that I sometimes forget just how practical Jesus intended his ministry to be. When Jesus said He had come to bring ‘good news to the poor’ (Luke 4:18) what do you think He meant? Let us approach it from a slightly different perspective: what is good news for a poor person? I have been in need a few times in my life, and I can tell you when you are poor good news is not a sermon! It is good news when you have food and money to pay your bills, it is great news when you get a job that pays you a salary with which you can support your family and yourself.

One of the big failings of the contemporary church, and that means you and me, is that we do not always bless the people around us in tangible and visible ways. When someone is ill we say things like, ‘I’ll pray for you’ – while this is an expression of care, I can assure you that the person would feel so special and loved if you took them a meal! I know that God longs for Christians to get practical and creative about making the ‘good news’ real for the people around them. We should not be asking ‘what does the good news sound like?’ Rather, we should ask ‘what does the good news feel like, and what does good news look like?’ This is Jesus’ way!

As you think about the people among whom you work, what would be truly good news for them? Is there a single mother who is battling to make ends meet? Perhaps you have a co-worker who is struggling to cope with his workload, or maybe someone whose child is ill – what could you do to make the ‘good news’ visible and tangible for these people?

Sometimes it is the simplest things, like a phone call, or a visit, that make people feel loved and cared for. At other times you will need to be a little more creative and sacrificial in what you do.

So, here's my question - what does the Gospel 'feel like' in your context?  What can you do to help the people you love and meet experience the Gospel before you speak to them about it?


How technology is changing, or should change, the way the Gospel is shared

The June / July edition of the Lausanne World Pulse was released today.  I am so blessed that an article that I wrote has been published in this edition.

In the introduction to this edition of the Lausanne World Pulse Doug Birdsall writes of the fact that the unchanging message of the person and ministry of Jesus must be presented in new and effective ways to encounter the evolving expectations and experiences of people across the world.  He notes that technology, and particularly communication technologies, are having a radical effect on the globe, and so too on the way in which we can engage the people of the world with the Gospel of Christ.  Of course communication technology is but one small part of the changing landscape of the world - advances in science, medicine, economics and even warfare all have to be taken into account if one is to bring the Gospel of Christ to bear on the world in order to work for Christ driven healing and transformation.  

There are some wonderful scholarly and popular articles to get one thinking and praying along those lines.

My article is entitled 'How technology is changing, or should change, the way the Gospel is shared'.  Here is an excerpt from the introduction to the article:

The German theologian Helmut Thielicke once commented, “The Gospel must be constantly forwarded to a new address because its recipient is repeatedly changing his place of residence.” This is a very challenging yet true observation about the nature of mission and evangelism.

One of the most significant Christian books of our era is Philip Jenkins’ The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity. Jenkins quotes Philip Yancey, who notes that:

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.

There is no doubt that the geographical movement of Christianity throughout history has radically changed the manner in which the gospel is shared—from its birth in Israel among disenfranchised Jewish peasants; to a state-sanctioned religion under the emperor Constantine; through Europe and the Reformation; taking a detour via the dominance of media and mega-church-driven North American Christianity of our recent history; to where Christianity seems to be finding its place among African, Asian, and South American believers. Each new context presents challenges and opportunities for the gospel and the faith.

The Next Shift in Global Christianity 
But what if the next shift in Christendom is not merely a geographical shift, but in fact a shift into cyberspace—a movement of a completely different kind?

Have you given much thought to the way in which the 'next shift' in global culture is reshaping the way in which to Gospel should be shared? I would like to encourage you to read this month's articles on the impact of technology on Christianity and the world.

If you have some ideas, or maybe some examples or more compelling statistics to share, please drop a line in the comments below.



The mission shaped Church and the Alpha course.

Over the last two days I had the joy of attending the Alpha South Africa seminar at Camps Bay United Church

Today I spoke on the topic 'Forming a Mission shaped Church' at the conference.  A number of the people asked me for the powerpoint slides and the video that I used.

The basic line or reasoning that I took was the following.

1.  Christianity is shifting from traditional Western Churches (and even in some senses from traditional Western theology) to the South and the East.

2. This shift is both geographical (because of population growth and basic needs such as poverty, health, justice and need), and also theological (from propositions of faith to experiences of faith).  Please see the maps and reasoning in my slides.  For an explanation of this shift, some projections going forward, and some reasons for this shift, please read Philip Jenkins' great book 'The next Christendom' (you'll see an image of the cover in my slides).

3.  The Alpha course is quite well suited to changes in engaging persons with the message of the Gospel since it allows for interaction around the truths (as people engage with the topics, without having to be confronted constantly by 'clear and closed' truths).  It also facilitates community and relationships.  It is a truly wonderful instrument for the Gospel and the Kingdom of God.  I explain how the Church can become more 'missional' by referring to 5 mindset and worldview changes that we shall need to go through in order to engage the world where it is, rather than inviting the world to come to where the Church is.

So, here are my slides (Powerpoint 7MB)

Here's the video that I used (it highlights how the world is changing, and how we need to find new means with which to communicate and create engagement around the message and person of the Gospel). If you're interested in previous posts that I've made on new media and ministry please see my post here, or please see this post and the video on new media here.

Finally, I would encourage you to consider this great promotional video for the Alpha course (done by Bear Grylls - the ultimate 'survival' expert!)

Have you ever run Alpha in your Church, business, or been part of Alpha in a prison setting? I'd love to hear your feedback!  Thanks to all those who prepared the Alpha Conference.  You can find out about the Alpha Course here.

And, you can find out about Alpha in South Africa here.


Connecting 'offline' people to 'online' conversations. Help needed!

One of the tasks that I help with in preparing for the next Lausanne Congress on world evangelization, that is taking place in Cape Town in October 2010, is the social media strategy.

I have a small team with which I work to try and connect people and issues - in particular I try to give a platform to people who are doing stuff, or developing theology, around the concerns of Lausanne.  I also try to make sure that some of the great content that is produced by top notch Christian leaders and theologians becomes accessible to as many people as possible.

In order to do this we make use of some of the traditional 'social media' tools.  Basically, there is only one tool - create relationships with people!  But we use a few platforms to do this.

We have a twitter feed, a facebook page, blogs (here and here), and a fantastic website.

This is all great, and we get quite a lot of interaction around the issues and the content.  At the end of the day I know that we would rather connect people with passion around the stuff they're already doing, than trying to create a passion for some of the stuff we want to do (that they're already doing in their own ministries).  Connection is key!

However, ministry and theology (particularly global ministry and global theology) requires a much more significant level of awareness and connection!  Some of the great mistakes of ministry organisations and theologians come from not understanding contexts other than their own.  In some contexts proclaiming truths about God's love may work, but in other contexts people will not accept such propositions of truth until they have an experience of love.  For example it is difficult to say that God is just when you encounter people who have only every experienced injustice - working for justice may be one of the most powerful 'sermons' you could preach without using a single word.

So, here's my problem, as with most of the theology and strategy in the global Church, those who have 'voices' and 'access' are heard most clearly and loudly.  How do we connect people from the offline world to people from the online world?

I have an idea that the pervasive nature of cell phones may be a key (see this post from Tony Whittaker, and see this great mobile website platform for ministry and evangelism from Crux). 

I know that email is more accessible in some parts of the world than internet access, so that may be another key (i.e., creating a to and fro engagement between the West and the South via email - when I was the Dean of John Wesley College in Pretoria we had quite a bit of success with this when we connected our students in South Africa with students at Duke Divinity school).

Then of course there is real world connection (sending visitors and receiving visitors from various parts of the world).  But, this is costly!

Have you got any ideas how one could connect people across the 'digital divide'?  It's for the sake of the whole Gospel to the whole World!

Please leave a comment or some insight below!



A brief history of the Lausanne movement.

This is a very special year to be in Cape Town!  Not only is South Africa hosting the Soccer World Cup, but we are also hosting the 3rd Lausanne Congress on World Evangeliziation.

If you've never heard of Lausanne, or only have a vague understanding of what Lausanne does then please watch the short history video below.  It is a remarkable movement with a great deal of practical and theological diversity, centered around one aim - to bring the whole Gospel to the whole world.

I have been so encouraged by the young, passionate, creative people that I have been engaging with around Lausanne.  Yesterday I had the joy of spending some time on a conference call with Charles Lee (see his website here), the founder of the ideacamp and ideation Conference- This guy is revolutionising TED style gatherings in the US, and he is giving some of his time and expertise to drive the social media strategy for Lausanne.

In in his 'personal' capacity he formed the 'Just One' campaign - which is a faith based social justice movement in the US.  There are so many like him who have understood the core of the Gospel, and they're engaging in making it real in creative and engaging ways!  I can't wait to have them all here in October this year!

You can participate in the Global Conversation!  Your voice and input counts and it will shape the strategy and the theology of the Lausanne movement going ahead. 



Steve, do you have any thoughts on Lausanne? Wes, what are your thoughts? You two are the most astute Missiologist I know (personally)!

If anyone has any ideas about Lausanne please leave a comment below!  Could I also please ask you to encourage your friends, family and Christian Networks to follow the twitter feed, facebook page and engage in the conversation?