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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 ministry (19)

Saturday
Aug042012

A growing experience of living (and working) in God's grace

Over the last few weeks I have had a growing experience of living and working in God's grace. It is a very powerful and comforting realization. Particularly so as I face the immense tasks that make up my daily life at the present moment. The Global Campaign that I have the privilege to serve is such a great task. Far greater than I am capable of on my own.

I am a minister. Regardless of what tasks I perform (whether I am teaching in an academic institution, whether I am working in the corporate environment, whether I am with my family at home, or whether I am serving in a Church). I am a minister.

However, in spite of this primary orientation, which is a response to God's call upon my life, I have frequently found myself in a position of 'striving'. I strive to do things that are good, things that are important, things that are significant. Yet, often what I strive for is connected to my own desire and will rather than a response to God's loving and sovereign will.

Here is what is certain - God is at work in the world. God is constantly busy with the work of love. God is lovingly working for justice. God is lovingly working for peace. God is lovingly creating. God is lovingly recreating. God is constantly busy with the work of love.

Over the past few weeks I have had such a strong experience of being invited into God's work of love in the world. It is such a wonderful experience to know that when God invites you to be part of His work you don't need to strive. The only measure of your worth is what God sees in you. You cannot be judged by the inadequate and imperfect standards of the world around you. Only God's standard counts. I believe that God places more importance on the person than on the 'office' that we hold. This does not mean that the office does not matter - in fact quite the opposite. If God calls one into an office, one must perform the tasks with great courage, discipline and creativity (as is fitting for all forms of ministry).

That being said, I have heard some wonderful testimonies over the last few weeks of people who have responded to God's call, an invitation to participate with God in God's work in the world. Some have succeeded by human standards, others have not. A common theme, however, is that each of these persons who has responded to God's loving invitation has had the privilege and joy of doing something that is truly worthwhile, lasting and significant.

The following quote, which is the last of many experiences, readings, realizations, and awakenings, over the last few weeks has been a great encouragement.

Christian ministry is more than doing good. Ministry is an act of service performed either consciously or unconsciously in the name of Christ. Ministry is Jesus Christ expressing his life through us. It is born, therefore, not in activity, but in solitude, where through the spirit we experience the power of life from within. No one becomes a "minister." Rather in trust we so open ourselves to the Spirit that Jesus Christ can express his ministry through us. Prayer and ministry, therefore, are indissoluble. In the stillness of meditative prayer we are confronted by God's loving claim upon us - the most intense intimacy a human being can experience. To know this intimacy we have only to let go. Instead of relying on our own initiative, where we are in control, we discover that we are participating in what God has already initiated within us.
- From Ministry and Solitude by James C. Fenhagen.
Wednesday
Jun062012

Dr Frank Chikane speaking at the Ekklesia Stellenbosch University Winter school - a reminder to live justly

Today Dr Frank Chikane spoke at the Stellenbosch University winter school today - it was inspiring, challenging and a wonderful reminder of the task of the Christian leader in the world. Dr Chikane is a former cadre who fought for justice and faced great personal threat in undoing the evil of apartheid in South Africa through his ministry and life. He was frequently detained by the security police, jailed, banned, threatened, and even poisoned (almost dying as a result). He was expelled from his denomination, yet he remained a faithful Christ follower seeking justice for all because of his faith. He was not a politician, rather he entered the political arena for the sake of seeing the will and ways of Jesus established in society. The will of God superseded all else in his life, his politics, his church, and his own safety and comfort. Today as Dr Bruce Theron introduced him he reminded us that while Dr Chikane was in solitary confinement, and was frequently jailed over more than a decade, he read the Bible more than 900 times and always remained prayerful to know what God wanted him to do with his energy, influence, relationships and ability in the world. It was discernment and deep faith that informed his courageous Christian witness and action. I was deeply encouraged and moved by his story.
Friday
Mar302012

Uganda - from the pavement to the palace

It is just after 6 am in Uganda. Graham Power and I have just returned from speaking on Power FM, the radio station of Watoto Church.

This truly is a Church that is being salt AND light! By this I mean that they have a consistent Christian witness, giving expression to God's love in ways that are traditionally associated with being 'the Church' i.e., preaching the good news of God's love for people and the world, gathering for worship, discipling their members etc. However, they are also being salt (in the sense that this phrase 'salt and light' was used in the New Testament). Salt was used to prevent the decay of food stuffs in the days before we had refrigerators. Watoto Church is a Church that is actively 'salty'. They serve the poor, they care for the orphans and the vulnerable. It is truly a remarkable thing to see how they give expression to the Good News - they not only preach what the 'gospel sounds likes', they also 'show what the Gospel looks like'.

In a few hours Graham and I will be speaking at the Makerere University on Unashamedly Ethical and EXPOSED. We end our time in Uganda by speaking at a Watoto Church to a group of about 1000 business people tonight. From there we fly to Rwanda for some more speaking engagements and the grand finale of the East African reality TV series - Inspire Africa (a show that is quite similar to Donald Trump series 'The Apprentice').

What prompted this post, however, was a series of experiences I had yesterday.

After arriving in Kampala just after midnight I slept for a short while before going to a business breakfast at the Africana Hotel. A couple hundred entrepreneurs had gathered to hear Graham Power and Mrs Janet Museveni - the First Lady of Uganda. It was a wonderful time. It is always deeply inspiring to hear Graham's testimony, and it was wonderful to see so many passionate and talented business people with an interest in Ethics and business. It is a great honor to share some encouragement and challenge with them. Mrs Museveni is an inspiring woman of faith - her love for God and her people is deeply moving.

Later in the morning I needed to walk into Kampala to buy some supplies. My friend Graham Vermooten and I were walked through the busy streets, dodging the boda boda motorcycles and taxis! Kampala is a bustling city with a great deal of emerging wealth and a seemingly growing economy. The familiar sights of South African retail and commerce are evident here - MTN, Standard Bank, Nando's, Mr Price etc.

However, as we rounded the corner I saw a little girl, no more than two and a half years old sitting all alone in the middle of the pavement begging for food or money. I was arrested in my steps. I felt such a sense of pain and shame rise up within me. How sad it is that a child of that age should be begging for enough food just to survive! Poverty is frequently associated with laziness and poor choices in adults. However, a young child, in fact a baby, is a victim of poverty. There is no other way to put it.

As we walked a little further there was a group of four or so women and girls - clearly street people - sleeping in the grass on the pavement. I wondered if the baby belonged to one of them? Regardless, I was so moved by what I had seen I could not get it out of my mind. Rounding the corner there once again signs of emerging wealth, an upmarket shopping mall with a parking lot filled with luxury 4x4 vehicles, busy shoppers, stores filled with food, clothing and all sorts of unnecessary distractions. The contrast is just so stark!

What shall we do with the poor? I choose that phrase deliberately 'with the poor'. I am certain that the solution to poverty is not to keep a person enslaved and dependent on others. That thought had crossed my mind - the little girl, if she survived into her teens, would most likely become enslaved in sex work, or at best dependent upon the alms of others. It is highly unlikely that she would end up differently from the four women fast asleep on the grass.

Indeed, what shall we do with the poor? How shall we work alongside them, with them, to engender a change of heart and mind that will break the cycle of poverty?

This post is entitled From the pavement to the palace because the day ended on the opposite extreme - our team was invited to dinner at the Presidential residence in Kampala. A beautiful compound with lush gardens. Not extravagant by any means (I have certainly seen more ostentatious homes in Bryanston, and Somerset West where I live). The President and First Lady live in a beautiful but modest home. Of course security was extremely tight and no cell phones or cameras were allowed. However, we did take our camera crew (with permission) to film Mrs Museveni for the Unashamedly Ethical and EXPOSED campaigns.

It was Mrs Museveni who stated so clearly that poverty is frequently entrenched in the mindsets of individuals and upheld through structures in society. Injustice and corruption are frequently the primary cause, and the ongoing catalyst, of poverty. However, a solution to poverty is not only to be found in handouts and charitable work. She eloquently stated that the solution is to be found in restoring human dignity and worth, in helping persons to see and discover their human potential. In releasing untapped ability, creativity and opportunity in both individuals and communities. Enterprise development, education, and spiritual and moral formation are all necessary elements in working alongside the poor for transformation and renewal.

I am still haunted by the sight of that little girl.

However, I am encouraged and thankful that God is placing persons throughout the various strata of society to partner with Him in bringing renewal, healing and transformation in the world. From the ordinary person like me, to the first lady of a nation, God has planted within us the capacity for care. The ability to make difficult and sacrificial choices about our time, our money, our space, and our energy. The Watoto Church is a testimony to that! These are not wealthy people, but the wealth of their love is extravagant for the poor!

Please can I ask you to pray with me for those who awoke today hungry? Please will you pray for that little girl? Graham and I fed her something as we walked back to our lodgings. It was something small, another little bit of sustenance that would take her a step further in her life. Please pray that she would not only have food today, but be nourished in her body, mind and spirit so that she may grow to become just like the first lady of her nation. God's desire is that we should all become fully human. We can be a part of that wonderful work!

Please join us in shining a light on poverty - a positive light of care! Please join the EXPOSED campaign and start planning what you will do during EXPOSED week 14-20 October in 2013. Share your story on our Facebook page and encourage others to join you in God's work of renewing the earth and its people.

Friday
Mar302012

Uganda - from the pavement to the palace

It is just after 6 am in Uganda. Graham Power and I have just returned from speaking on Power FM, the radio station of Watoto Church.

This truly is a Church that is being salt AND light! By this I mean that they have a consistent Christian witness, giving expression to God's love in ways that are traditionally associated with being 'the Church' i.e., preaching the good news of God's love for people and the world, gathering for worship, discipling their members etc. However, they are also being salt (in the sense that this phrase 'salt and light' was used in the New Testament). Salt was used to prevent the decay of food stuffs in the days before we had refrigerators. Watoto Church is a Church that is actively 'salty'. They serve the poor, they care for the orphans and the vulnerable. It is truly a remarkable thing to see how they give expression to the Good News - they not only preach what the 'gospel sounds likes', they also 'show what the Gospel looks like'.

In a few hours Graham and I will be speaking at the Makerere University on Unashamedly Ethical and EXPOSED. We end our time in Uganda by speaking at a Watoto Church to a group of about 1000 business people tonight. From there we fly to Rwanda for some more speaking engagements and the grand finale of the East African reality TV series - Inspire Africa (a show that is quite similar to Donald Trump series 'The Apprentice').

What prompted this post, however, was a series of experiences I had yesterday.

After arriving in Kampala just after midnight I slept for a short while before going to a business breakfast at the Africana Hotel. A couple hundred entrepreneurs had gathered to hear Graham Power and Mrs Janet Museveni - the First Lady of Uganda. It was a wonderful time. It is always deeply inspiring to hear Graham's testimony, and it was wonderful to see so many passionate and talented business people with an interest in Ethics and business. It is a great honor to share some encouragement and challenge with them. Mrs Museveni is an inspiring woman of faith - her love for God and her people is deeply moving.

Later in the morning I needed to walk into Kampala to buy some supplies. My friend Graham Vermooten and I were walked through the busy streets, dodging the boda boda motorcycles and taxis! Kampala is a bustling city with a great deal of emerging wealth and a seemingly growing economy. The familiar sights of South African retail and commerce are evident here - MTN, Standard Bank, Nando's, Mr Price etc.

However, as we rounded the corner I saw a little girl, no more than two and a half years old sitting all alone in the middle of the pavement begging for food or money. I was arrested in my steps. I felt such a sense of pain and shame rise up within me. How sad it is that a child of that age should be begging for enough food just to survive! Poverty is frequently associated with laziness and poor choices in adults. However, a young child, in fact a baby, is a victim of poverty. There is no other way to put it.

As we walked a little further there was a group of four or so women and girls - clearly street people - sleeping in the grass on the pavement. I wondered if the baby belonged to one of them? Regardless, I was so moved by what I had seen I could not get it out of my mind. Rounding the corner there once again signs of emerging wealth, an upmarket shopping mall with a parking lot filled with luxury 4x4 vehicles, busy shoppers, stores filled with food, clothing and all sorts of unnecessary distractions. The contrast is just so stark!

What shall we do with the poor? I choose that phrase deliberately 'with the poor'. I am certain that the solution to poverty is not to keep a person enslaved and dependent on others. That thought had crossed my mind - the little girl, if she survived into her teens, would most likely become enslaved in sex work, or at best dependent upon the alms of others. It is highly unlikely that she would end up differently from the four women fast asleep on the grass.

Indeed, what shall we do with the poor? How shall we work alongside them, with them, to engender a change of heart and mind that will break the cycle of poverty?

This post is entitled From the pavement to the palace because the day ended on the opposite extreme - our team was invited to dinner at the Presidential residence in Kampala. A beautiful compound with lush gardens. Not extravagant by any means (I have certainly seen more ostentatious homes in Bryanston, and Somerset West where I live). The President and First Lady live in a beautiful but modest home. Of course security was extremely tight and no cell phones or cameras were allowed. However, we did take our camera crew (with permission) to film Mrs Museveni for the Unashamedly Ethical and EXPOSED campaigns.

It was Mrs Museveni who stated so clearly that poverty is frequently entrenched in the mindsets of individuals and upheld through structures in society. Injustice and corruption are frequently the primary cause, and the ongoing catalyst, of poverty. However, a solution to poverty is not only to be found in handouts and charitable work. She eloquently stated that the solution is to be found in restoring human dignity and worth, in helping persons to see and discover their human potential. In releasing untapped ability, creativity and opportunity in both individuals and communities. Enterprise development, education, and spiritual and moral formation are all necessary elements in working alongside the poor for transformation and renewal.

I am still haunted by the sight of that little girl.

However, I am encouraged and thankful that God is placing persons throughout the various strata of society to partner with Him in bringing renewal, healing and transformation in the world. From the ordinary person like me, to the first lady of a nation, God has planted within us the capacity for care. The ability to make difficult and sacrificial choices about our time, our money, our space, and our energy. The Watoto Church is a testimony to that! These are not wealthy people, but the wealth of their love is extravagant for the poor!

Please can I ask you to pray with me for those who awoke today hungry? Please will you pray for that little girl? Graham and I fed her something as we walked back to our lodgings. It was something small, another little bit of sustenance that would take her a step further in her life. Please pray that she would not only have food today, but be nourished in her body, mind and spirit so that she may grow to become just like the first lady of her nation. God's desire is that we should all become fully human. We can be a part of that wonderful work!

Please join us in shining a light on poverty - a positive light of care! Please join the EXPOSED campaign and start planning what you will do during EXPOSED week 14-20 October in 2013. Share your story on our Facebook page and encourage others to join you in God's work of renewing the earth and its people.

Wednesday
Dec012010

World AIDS day - I am positive

Please take a few minutes to watch this wonderful TED video featuring Mitchel Besser, a doctor who is doing extraordinary work in supporting some of the most vulnerable people, who undergo immense suffering, with a very simple and effective Mother2Mother HIV AIDS support system.

The title of this post may be shocking - indeed, I it is intended to be so!  I believe that if one person suffers we all suffer.  So, to understand my statement 'I am positive' please read these posts.

 

 

Today is World AIDS day. Today we remember that the Church has AIDS. We do not minister to people who are HIV positive, as if they were people outside of the body of Christ. Rather, we ask God to heal us, for all of us suffer from this disease.

 

Whether you are HIV+ or not, this disease reminds us that we shall all face death. It reminds us that we shall all be ill at some stage. It reminds us that we need one another to be strengthened and encouraged to face the reality of struggle. It reminds us that society can be cruel and that people can be judged for something that afflicts them. Most of all, this disease reminds us that we have a God who cares and longs to bring us healing and hope.

Prayer of invocation:

Loving God, you are our parent. You look upon us with mercy and compassion. You understand our weakness. Our suffering breaks your heart. Look upon us with love, grace, and compassion today. Father, you know the pain of losing your only son to death. Jesus, you know the pain of dying and leaving those whom you love behind. Spirit you are the giver and sustainer of life. With confidence we approach your throne of grace that there we may receive mercy.

Renew our spirits and draw our hearts, bodies, and minds close to yours. All of us are subject to the frailties of life. Strengthen us in our weakness, bring us wholeness in spite of disease. For those who live under the impending threat of death, offer them comfort and strength in the knowledge that death does not have the final victory and that in you there is true, eternal, and blissful life that lasts for eternity. For those who feel the pain of seeing a loved one die, fill them with courage through the power of your Spirit of life. Surround them with caring and loving people who will show to them the love that you want to give them in their time of need.

Help each of us to strengthen our resolve to obedience and service. Give us courage so that we would not shy away from facing our own frailty and pain. Move us to go to the places of death, like your beloved disciple John went to your cross, so that we may offer love and healing to those whom you love.

Let us delight in doing those acts of mercy that will bring healing and honour Your name.

Today we declare the faith that neither height, nor depth, neither life, nor death, neither angel, nor demon, nor anything in all creation can separate us from Your love. You are the creator God. You make a way where it seems none can be found, your bring forth living waters in the wilderness. We place our trust in You, through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN

 

A meditation to guide your prayers and actions today


Nosipho's story - no greater gift.

 

Nosipho is just thirteen years old - tonight she is lying awake next to her 8 year old brother and her 5 year old sister. Her father named her Nosipho when she was born. She remembers that tonight. Her name has a very special meaning. Nosipho was born to her proud parents, Mxolisi and Vuyisile, in a remote part of South Africa called northern Kwazulu Natal. There was no work there for Mxolisi so he went to the city to find work as a labourer working on the roads. Mxolisi wanted to live a good life and take care of his family as best as he could. So, he faithfully brought money back to his Vuyisile and Nosipho at every opportunity. He and Vuyisile were blessed with a son who they named Andile (meaning 'the family is growing'). They loved their children very much and had great dreams for their future.

However, with each year that passed it became more difficult for Mxolisi to be alone in the city. The months that Mxolisi and Vuyisile spent living apart took a toll upon their marriage and they would often disagree and argue. Once, when they argued, he told her that 'he had needs', 'like all men do'. And so, he decided to take a 'city wife', as many of his friends had done. Sadly, his city wife was HIV+, and so when Mxolisi returned home one December, himself HIV+ by this time, he gave Vuyisile another child, Thandi (which means 'nurturing love'), but, he also gave her the killer virus that would take both their lives.

Mxolisi and Vuyisile discovered that they were HIV+ in the year that Nosipho turned 8 years old. Andile was 5, and little Thandi was just 2. Thandi had already been infected with the virus her mother was carrying through the milk she drank from her mother?s breast. Sadly, both Mxolisi and Vuyisile died of AIDS within 3 years of discovering their status, Thandi, however, is still alive and now a little girl of 5.

Nosipho is a clever little girl. However, she hasn't been to school since her father died when she was 11 years old. By that stage her mother was already very ill and confined to bed, but at least then Andile and Thandi could stay with their mother while Nosipho begged for food and money at a traffic intersection on the edge of the township. She watched the other children going to school dressed in their smart school uniforms, with book bags that had pencils, paper, and no doubt some lunch to eat. She wished that she could be like them, but that would not happen - her mother eventually died as well.

Tonight as she lay in bed she was no longer a child, but a parent, overnight she had become a 13 year old head of a household of three. She knew that she had a much greater responsibility than other 13 year old children. Each day she has to get enough money from the cars and commuters that come whizzing by to feed her two siblings and herself. She has a small cardboard sign on which she has written in a child's handwriting 'No parents, no food, no work, 3 people to feed. Please help. God bless you'. She also needs to get a few rand extra every month to help pay for Andile's school fees. She wants him to stay in school and learn so that he doesn't have to suffer like his father did. She doesn't want him to suffer like she is suffering now. Whatever money she has left after she has paid his fees, when there is any, is given to the 'aunty' who looks after her sick sister, Thandi, while Andile is at school and she is begging at the traffic lights. She doesn't trust the aunty, she drinks, and she's sure that she hits Thandi. But, she has no option. It is too dangerous for Thandi to be with her at a busy traffic intersection.

There are other girls like Nosipho. In fact most of the child headed households in South Africa are headed by girls under the age of 15. Nosipho knows this because she meets some of them every Sunday at a little group for children like her that is held in the tin church near her shack. They sing songs, some kind ladies read stories to them from the Bible, and then they say prayers and get some food to eat. The church has also given her clothes and shoes for her and for her brother and sister. There is a lady from the government clinic who comes to visit their group once a month. She always asks Nosipho if she is safe, and asks if she and her brother and sister are getting enough to eat. You see, Thandi needs special medicine to keep her healthy, but she can only take her medicine if she eats properly, or else the medicine will make her sick instead of healthy. So on days when Nosipho does not get enough money, or food, to feed all three of them she lets Thandi eat first, so that she can take her medicine. Andile eats next, because he can't learn when his stomach is empty. Nosipho often lies awake at night hungry, but she knows that she is a 'gift' from her parents to Andile and Thandi ? that?s what her name means. Nosipho means 'a gift'. It?s the name her father gave her. She doesn't play anymore, she simply lives to be a gift to her brother and sister. Tonight she prayed to ask God to help her because a man has said he will give her R20 if she takes her clothes off and sleeps with him. She's praying because she is afraid. She has been told at church, and she has seen the posters, and heard the stories - Nosipho knows that's how little girls get sick and die ? but she needs the money. She wants to be a gift. She doesn't know what to do. Maybe God will do something to help her tomorrow? It is Sunday, she will ask one of the ladies to help her.

Reflection: Stories such as this are common in South Africa. In KwaZulu Natal the death rate is higher than the birth rate because of AIDS. Recent statistics from UNICEF have suggested that up to 50% of children are HIV+ and an increasing number of children are growing up without their parents. Children like Nosipho face a stark and dreary existence. They are robbed of their childhood and dignity in a quest to survive. Very often their only support comes from community organisations such as churches and civic groups. For most children the lack of access to food, or poor nutrition and feeding practises, coupled with infection, leads to their untimely death. Children who are born in rural areas who do not have 'bar-coded' South African Identity documents do not qualify for medical care, schooling, or any form of government grant. Sometimes the most basic of help, like helping children register for an ID Book, or offering children a daily meal, and seeing that they take their medication can mean the difference between life and death. Methodist Churches in Southern Africa train all of their ministers to offer support and care to persons who are infected and affected by HIV. It is a central part of their training for ministry. In the region of the world that has the highest rate of HIV infection it cannot be any different. The Gospel demands that we bring healing and transformation. Perhaps the work of the Church near Nosipho could keep her from turning to prostitution at the age of 13? All that is needed is a courageous group of caring people who will see her plight, understand what she needs, and help her to find it - food, shelter, and loving adult support. This is what Jesus would do.


[I wrote this story as a case study for a book that is in publication in the Cambridge Theological federation, UK. Please do not copy it without contacting me. I shall put you in touch with the publishers to get permission. Thank you.]

Silent reflection and prayer.

 

 

  • What do you feel? What do these feelings tell you about yourself?
  • What does this story tell you about the world, and others in the world?
  • What do you think God feels? What would God want you, or your Church, to do?
  • Knowing this, what do you need to pray to have the courage to do?
  • What will you do today? What will you plan to do tomorrow? What will you want to achieve by next year this time?

A benediction for today

 

Almighty God, by the power of your Holy Spirit open my eyes to see the world as You see it, my ears to hear the cries that You hear, my heart to have the courage to feel what You feel, and my life to be present to You and all those whom You love this day. Give me the courage to worship and serve you in faithfulness, to be a blessed and healing reminder of Your love to all whose lives I will touch. I offer this prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, to the glory of God the Father, and in the power of the Holy Spirit. AMEN.


If you're looking for some facts on HIV / AIDS here are a few that may be of interest:

 

Have you ever taken time to consider the relationship between faith, economics, globalization and the suffering of people

?

 

Well, recently I did a post about the neurological causes of greed, and how these can be managed as a 'value transaction' in order to address some of the economic inequalities that we face across the world.

Let me show you a few basic analogous maps of the world to illustrate the economic inequalities that exist in the world.

First, here is a basic map of the world based on geographical land mass (i.e., this is the traditional manner in which maps are drawn - the area of each land mass is a represented equivalent of the actual land mass drawn to scale).

Now, take a look at this next map - this map is analogous of the world's wealth. In other words, the more wealth a nation has the larger it will appear on the map. Look how large North America and Europe are in relation to the rest of the world - it is also worth noting how rich Japan is on this map. Clearly, the world's wealth is concentrated in the Northern Hemisphere, and it is largely concentrated in the West. I shall, however, say something about the shifts that are taking place in the world's economy at a later stage.

Next, take a look at this map which analogous of poverty across the world. It is almost an inverse representation of the wealth map above - this map shows nations that are poorer as larger masses on the map.

Now, take a look at this map which shows HIV / AIDS infection across the world - it is interesting to note that 68% of all HIV+ people live in Southern Africa (that is 22.8 million out of the 33 million persons who are HIV+). I have just written a study on this for a new book on a Christian response to HIV / AIDS - it is shocking to see the prevelance of AIDS deaths in Africa. But please do take a look at the last map in this series.

This last map gives an analogous representation of where the world's Christian population lives. Isn't it sad to see that Christians live in most of the places where wealth, poverty and HIV / AIDS are significant problems? Clearly we have a few things to learn about money, God's economy, health care, reproductive care, women's rights, and sex!

OK, now I made mention of the fact that the world's wealth is concentrated predominantly in the North and the West - this is changing! Within the next 10 years the economies of the USA (North America), and most of Europe will show negative growth in some instances, and decline in others. The economies that are on the rise are China, India and Brazil (Australia is also a Southern Hemisphere economy that is growing at a significant rate). In other words, by 2020 we will see a completely different picture in global economic power! My advice is that you send your kids for a 'gap year' in China! As for me, I'm starting to study Mandarin!

If you're interested in a more detailed discussion of these shifts you can read this paper that I wrote for the Stellenbosch University Business school in 2009.

Sadly, Africa's economy will only show marginal growth since it is crippled by the impact of AIDS, political instability, underdevelopment and international debt. However, if we play our cards carefully the continent could be the next economic powerhouse after China and India since we are one of the only continents on earth that still has natural resources!

So, here's the point - did you realise that if we spent just 10% (190bn US$) of the annual world budget for military expenditure (1235bn US$) we could BOTH restore the earth's natural resources (cleaning up our water, replanting trees, creating environmentally friendly and more sustainable energy source), AND meet the basic water, sanitation, education and health care needs of the whole world! Just 10%... You can read about that research from Brown 2008 (entitled Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to save civilization) here.

Christians make up more than 40% of the world's population - surely we could take up our responsibility to manage the 'household of God' (oikos nomos - economy) for the transformation of the world?

What do you think? How do we do it? What practical steps can you suggest to start making a difference within your sphere of influence... As I've been doing this research in recent weeks I've been praying one text consistently:

The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it. (Psalm 24.1 NIV)


If you're interested in an article / chapter that I have published on the subject of the environment and earthkeeping you can read  

 

 

  • More red than green ? a response to global warming and the environment from within the Methodist Church of Southern Africa. Forster, DA in The Epworth Review - the Journal of Methodist ecclesiology and mission Vol 35, No 2 (2008). This paper was also published in
  • Forster DA, 'More red than Green', in What are we thinking? Reflections on Church and Society from Southern African Methodists. Forster, DA and Bentley, W. 2008. Methodist Publishing House, Cape Town. ISBN: 978-91988352-6. (2008:117ff. Chapter 7)


(This is not my area of expertise by the way, I am far more interested in justice and economics, but there was not much being written on this topic from our perspective so I took it upon myself to do some research in the area).

 

If you're interested in reading a chapter that I wrote on the Christian's response to Greed and Economics please see:

 

  • Upon the Lord's sermon on the mount - discourse 8 (a contemporary exposition of John Wesley's sermon on stewardship and the use of money from an African Liberation Theology perspective) in Shier Jones, A and Reisman, KD 44 Sermons to serve the present age (2007), London: Methodist Publishing house. ISBN: 97807162063


Oh, and if you're looking for my 'other' post on maps of the world please go here. This is the MOST clicked linked on my blog - isn't that amazing!?

 

For more posts on HIV / AIDS please follow this link.

 

Sunday
Oct032010

Half a year with the Apple iPad in South Africa

I have had my Apple iPad 16 gig WiFi for almost 6 months now.  It has become an indispensable tool in my workflow and entertainment!

I thought I'd post a quick update on what I use it for (BTW, you can read my other iPad related posts, see some video of its use etc, here):

Most common daily uses:

Take a look at my iPad screen shot below to see my most used applications.

1.  Because of its size (small and thin) and battery life (at least 10 hours), I find that I hardly ever go anywhere without my iPad and my mifi portable 3G base station. I wish I had a 3G iPad (like some of my friends), but I'm pleased with what I have!

So, the iPad becomes my most used daily computer.  I use it for:

  • My Bible - I use Olivetree for the English (NRSV, NIV) and Greek Texts, and YouVersion (Bible HD) for 'The Message' and other modern language translations.
  • Reading and answering emails (even longer emails can be answered with ease).  I have 5 accounts and get about 200 mails a day.  So it is very handy to have this device to keep me on top of the most urgent mails.
  • My contacts and Calendar.  The Calendar application on the iPad is truly superb! It gives a great overview of the day, the week or the month.
  • The built in Notes application is indespensible!  I have hundreds of notes on the iPad - they are very ease to create, and can be synced or emailed to back them up.  Pressing the home button on the iPad allows you to search for keywords very easily.  So, I have a whole stack of information on hand at all times.
  • Dropbox - this is an incredible FREE solution that works with the iPad, iPhone, Android, and even Mac and Windows PC's!  It is like having a 'flash disc' with you everywhere.  You get 2 Gigs of free storage if you sign up (please use my referral link, I get an extra 250MB). Any file that you drop into your drop box on your computer automatically shows up on all other computers, iPhones, iPads that are linked to your account!  So, if my secretary wants me to have a document on my iPad, or I want a presentation, spreadsheet or document on both my iPad and my Macbook, I simply drop it into Dropbox!  If I work on the document it automatically syncs the most up to date version to all the devices!
  • Twitter and facebook (both personal and for the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization).  I use the free Twitter application for the various personal and Lausanne related feeds that I monitor and update. I use Friendly to stay up to date with my 1000 and some friends on facebook.
  • Office applications - I often need to work with spreadsheets and MS Word documents (and even powerpoints) as part of my work.  So, Pages, Numbers and Keynote are indespensible tools.
  • I do a great deal of public speaking, one of the three most valuable purchases for my iPad was the VGA dongle so that I can use it as a presentation device via a data projector.  I carry my most used Powerpoint presentations in Keynote, and the Videos that form part of those presentations.  It is SO handy to have this small, simple to use computer with a super long life battery on hand at all times!
  • Skype - There is not yet a skype version for the iPad, but the iPhone version works perfectly! I have even made Skype calls while driving (some days are busier than others, and since I am working across various timezones, US, Hong Kong etc., it is a fantastic help to have this little skype client to run... Obviously it is ONLY skype voice, no camera for video).
  • For fun, I do a lot of reading (most in the Kindle Application), while I prefer the layout and design of iBooks it is just easier to buy books on Kindle in South Africa, plus the Kindle App on my Macbook, iPhone and Blackberry are all always up to date with the location to which I have read in my various books.  
  • I also love using Flipboard to get a visual overview of my twitter, facebook and other RSS streams.
  • Lastly, I fairly frequently have to explain how certain functions of the brain work - the free application 3D Brain is a superb tool to navigate through the brain to help friends, family and students to get to grips with the workings of the old 'grey matter'.
  • My kids love playing Plants versus Zombies and Angry Birds. A little hint with both of these games... Buy the iPhone versions at a fraction of the price!  They look almost as good and work exactly the same.  Hours of fun while driving, or to keep the kids entertained while mom and dad are watching TV.

I often get asked if the iPad can replace my computer.  No, it cannot.  I have to use my Macbook for many tasks (in particular anything that requires any level of skill in creation (longer or more complex documents, presentations etc.) - but, I find that my laptop is used a lot more like a desktop.  I seldom carry it to meetings, and even if travel to Johannesburg for a day I would only take my iPad with me.

2.  The three best add ons for my iPad:

  • mifi 3G WiFi base station.  This keeps me connected to the internet!  Oh, how I wish I had a 3G iPad!
  • The Apple VGA dongle. In my line of work the iPad becomes so much more useful when it can be used to share presentations and videos.
  • The official Apple iPad case.  I know some don't like this cover, but it works so well for me.  It protects my iPad, it is small, thin, light and very versatile.  Plus, it makes the iPad look understated!  Very important for a minister!  I can carry the iPad into any meeting or gathering in this case and it looks just like a black cover notepad.

 I am so grateful for this great tool!  It makes my work and ministry so much easier.  Just this morning I used it when I spoke at the Camps Bay United Church - I had my powerpoint, Videos, sermon notes, and Bible all on one small, unobtrusive device.

 

Tuesday
Sep142010

Suffering and ministry - an interview with Ajith Fernando

Yesterday afternoon I had the privelage of participating in an interview with Ajith Fernando. The interview was arranged by Jon Hirst who heads up the Lausanne Blogger Network. Please also see this article by Jon Hirst on the Lausanne Blog (Barriers don't equal thwarted ministry).

Among the participants on the call were 'Tall Skinny Kiwi'. You can read Andrew's post here - thanks Andrew, it was good to hear your voice. AjithFernando.JPG

The interview with Ajith was structured around a pre-Congress paper that he has prepared for the upcoming Lausanne Congress in Cape Town.  You can read his article here:  “To Serve is to Suffer.”

Central to Ajith's discussion is that far too frequently Christian workers (ministers, missionaries etc.) see suffering and hardship as an indication that they are NOT within the will of God.

As a result there is a tendency to leave service in a particular region, or within a particular ministry area since suffering and hardship is seen as an indication that God is not blessing the work the person is involved in.

This line of thinking raised a number of critical points for consideration.

Subtle hedonism in contemporary Western ecclesiology - the allure of prosperity and success.

As I participated in the interview a thought emerged - perhaps the subtle influence of secular hedonism has found fertile ground in the Christian West, and even found theological substance through the triumphalism of the Christian Church in first world countries?

In a world where success is measured by the size of the Church building, the budget for media and outreach, where the most successful ministers represent CEO's more than servants, it is not surprising that we have 'bought' the notion that success can be directly equated with God's blessing.

I have heard colleagues speaking of a particular Church or Pastor being blessed because they have a large congregation, a healthy salary (or stipend) and perhaps drive a fancy car and live in a good neighborhood. This is certainly the image that is portrayed by popular Christian programming on most Christian television stations.

As a result some Christian ministers can easily come to believe that if they face hardship, struggle, or simply are not seeing massive numerical growth in their ministry, that they are not within God's divine will.

Somehow we have forgotten that God chose to establish His gracious reign not by power, but by grace, not from an earthly throne, but from the suffering of the cross of Christ. I would do well to be reminded that servanthood requires humility, and humility often involves humble circumstances and even suffering.

Pseudo martyrdom - the glorification of suffering and poverty.

Another interesting thought that emerged for me was the notion that in some contexts suffering and poverty are romanticized (e.g., missionaries who go from first world settings to serve in poorer settings. Or, in South Africa where we have urban ministers moving to impoverished rural areas). I have little doubt that so much good work gets done by persons who take such a sacrificial approach to ministry. However, I am always concerned for their wellbeing, and even more so for the wellbeing of their families in such circumstances.

In my opinion romanticizing suffering in ministry is as dangerous as chasing after success and comfort.  Whilst some are called to suffer for the faith I am always extremely cautious of those who 'seek out suffering' for the sake of their ministry.  In my own experience, and I share this with great authenticity and even embarrassment, I have sometimes suffered for the faith in order to make a point or to satisfy a need for attention for a cause, or worse even my ego.  It is even more frightening when one considers that in some instances innocent persons (the children of ministers) may be subjected to emotional, or even physical, harm because of choices that are made on their behalf.

I would encourage persons who intend to enter the mission field or ministry at great personal cost to do so under very careful advice and care of a group of persons.  Be sure to understand the implications of your choice, and as far as it is possible please set up structures of support for yourself and your family.

I personally believe that God cannot be honoured when families are destroyed through suffering in ministry.

Obedience versus balance

What stood out for me from Ajith's engagement with the bloggers was his strong emphasis upon radical obedience to Christ and Christ's call. The contemporary secular call is for a balanced life. What is most often implied in this is some form of balance between physical demands (the need for rest, a stable income, amiable working conditions etc.) and emotional wellbeing (stress management, good working relationships, support to deal with traumatic experiences etc.).

Indeed, balance is a very good start, but it is not enough in ministry! What is needed is obedience, and not the kind of obedience that leads to suffering, but the kind of obedience that leads one to live and act within the will of God. Surely this kind of obedience is contextual (being an obedient minister in Sri Lanka may be different from being an obedient minister in California).

Ajith was not naive about the hardships and struggles of ministry. In fact in answer to a question he suggested various means to support persons who face physical, emotional or spiritual hardship. Among other things he suggested the need for a strong and supportive community of care, accountability to wise and trusted persons on matters of scheduling, financial commitments etc. He also encouraged the creation of space for open dialogue, the sharing of frustration and disappointment as well as the opportunity to craft realistic expectations within a particular ministry context.

In short, I found his approach very pastoral and responsible. It balanced the reality that sometimes a call to ministry will involve struggle, and perhaps even suffering. It acknowledged that we have created a culture in which we try to avoid struggle at all costs (sometimes even 'spiritualising' necessary sacrifice by labeling it an indication of a lack of God's blessing). Yet, at the same time he encouraged the formation of structures to support ministers and their families in their servant role in community. Service is seldom easy, and the calling to service will require a great deal of spiritual, emotional and physical support.

Concluding questions.

I am still left with one question - in the tradition of spiritual discernment there may be some instances in which a lack of personal fulfilment, or the presence of some form of suffering (spiritual, physical or emotional) may be an indication that the person is in the wrong place or doing the wrong things. How can one tell the difference between true spiritual discernment and plain struggle?

You may have some answers or suggestions! I'd love to hear from you if you do.

Please let me also encourage you to join the Lausanne Global Conversation. It is a wonderful platform for engagement around a myriad of issues related to knowing Christ and making Him known throughout the world.

Thursday
Jun032010

To Hell with the Church!

"The target of the church should be the world and not the pew." – Ed Silvoso
Chapter 5 of 'Transform your work life', entitled 'To Hell with the Church' is causing a bit of a stir!  That's good news!  Here's an excerpt from that chapter:
Where is the best place to ‘shine your light’ and be ‘the salt of the earth’ (Matt 5:13–15)? You need to shine your light where it is dark of course! For many years I made the mistake of thinking that a church’s success is measured by its seating capacity (how many people are in worship on a Sunday). The truth is that a church’s salt, its real worth, is measured by its sending capacity. God does not care how big the ‘salt shaker’ is, rather what God is concerned about is how much salt is shaken from the salt shaker, and how much light the church shines in the darkest places of society.
Let me ask you another question, if your church were to close its doors this week, who would notice that you are not in ministry any longer? Of course the members who worship in your congregation would care, but would the homeless in your area notice? Would the hungry and the abused of your society realise that you are not operating anymore? Would your closure have an impact on the sick and the elderly people in your community? How about the schools and businesses in your community; would they notice that you are no longer ministering in the community?
When Jesus said that He would build his church and the gates of hell would not overpower it (Matt 16:18), there was a clear assumption that He builds his church at the gates of hell! One of the most loving things we can do with the church is to send it to hell. We need to find the places of suffering, brokenness and need, and be the church in those places so that Jesus can build his church there. In my experience those places are not very far from where you work!
What do you think?  Where should the Church's ministry be focussed? Either leave a comment below, or post a message on the discussion forum here.
I'd love to hear your feedback!
Wednesday
May262010

Shift happens - where is the Christian faith heading? A reflection on GDOP 2010

Last week was an incredible week of blessing, encouragement, discovery, friendship, and learning.  We had close to 1000 persons at the Cape Town International Convention centre for the Global Day of Prayer 10th Anniversary Celebration conference.  The Global Day of Prayer started at Newlands Rugby stadium in Cape Town in 2001 and this Sunday (23 May 2010) was the 10th anniversary of what God has done in and through the Global Day of Prayer.

As Graham Power, the initiator of the prayer movement, says - the Global Day of Prayer is truly a testimony to God's power and grace.  No person or committee or organization could ever have put together such a massive prayer movement.  In 2009 and again this year in 2010 every single country on earth registered their participation in the Global Day of Prayer on Pentecost Sunday.  From the rising of the Sun in Fiji until it set over the Hawaii Islands there were people in cities, towns, rural areas, schools, stadiums, Churches and homes praying together in repentance and prayer.  It truly is the largest recorded prayer gathering in history!  The conference was as great a blessing as the day of prayer.  Our team started working on putting together the venue, speakers and participant care well over a year ago. I was in charge of setting up the program (simply visit the GDOP 2010 website and click on the list of speakers in each of the 5 streams for details of the speakers in the Church, Transformation, Prayer, Missions and Youth streams).

What struck me most significantly was the fact that God is using 'new', 'fresh' and 'emerging' movements and groups to achieve great things across the earth.  The them of the conference was 'His Story, His Glory, His Call' and we emphasised that we wanted to hear from the global South and the emerging world.  This was indeed the case as speakers and groups from Asia, Latin America, and Africa shared incredible testimonies of what God is doing to redeem both people and places.  There were many stories of salvation coming to individuals and groups, as well as many stories of God's justice and mercy bringing healing and tangible transformation to political, social and economic systems throughout the world.  It was such an encouragement.

I spoke in three sessions (a plenary and two track sessions).  In the Youth / emerging generation plenary I used a quote from Philip Yancey (that comes from Philip Jenkins' great book The Next Christendom:  The coming of Global Christianity (Oxford University Press), 2002):

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

Now of course this observation is true (I add a few subtle steps).  Christianity began in Israel, then shifted to Asia (and North Africa), from Asia it moved to Europe under the rule of Constantine, then from Europe to England, from England to North America, and from North America the 'weight' of global Christianity has shifted to Africa, Asia and Latin America.

But, where is Christianity shifting to next?  I my presentation (entitled 'Shift Happens') I made the conjecture that Christianity's next global shift will not be a geographical shift, rather it will be a shift onto the internet.  If you were to take the registered users of facebook as a population group, facebook would be the 3rd largest country on earth (behind China and India).  It is a simple fact that most of the emerging generation do not posit their primary identity in their geographical or primary cultural context, rather their identity and sense of being is shaped by global interactions through the internet, television, movies and others forms of rich media!

The title of my presentation 'Shift happens' comes from the incredible video below:

The question is:  If this shift is so powerful why are there so few ministry groups and Christians doing strategic work on and through the internet?  Most of the Christian groups I know use this 'new media' in an 'old media' manner - i.e., as a broadcast mechanism (posting reports, putting up text that does not allow for interaction, using 'long form' posts (such as this one!) instead of the short form posts like twitter's 140 characters...)

I've made a short video reflection on my thoughts in this regard which you can watch below.

Reflection on GDOP 2010 new media and ministry from Dion Forster on Vimeo.

 

The two persons I mention in this video post are @jaesonma and @olgalvaro - check them out. Of course you can also connect with me on twitter @digitaldion.

Also, consider this.  Long after the next Lausanne congress has met, hundreds of thousands of people from all across the earth would have interacted around the issues of bringing the whole Gospel to the whole world.  And, after the participants in the third Lausanne Congress have left Cape Town, after the World Cup Soccer has come and gone, the conversation will continue!  Rather than a 'static' medium (such as a journal with conference papers) the collective wisdom, and immeasurable wealth of international connections and relationships will be the force that sustains and informs evangelism going forward!

Shift is happening - my prayer is that more Christians will get ahead of this shift.  This does not mean an abandonment of the 'established' ways of being faithful in worship, service and community.  But, we do need to engage people where they are moving to!

The theologian Helmut Thielicke summed it up best when he said:

The Gospel must be constantly forwarded to a new address since its recipient is constantly changing his place of residence.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this point!  Do you think I am missing something?  

By the way, I have a more critically researched article on this phenomenon being published in the Lausanne World Pulse in the next month or so.  I'll post a link here once it is published.  That has both statistical and empirical research as well as clear references.

Thursday
Apr292010

Using my Apple iPad for ministry in South Africa

In the short video in this post I show how I use my Apple iPad in my work and ministry.

I got a 16 Gig iPad courtesy of the University of JHB who paid me to examine some Masters and PhD scripts - hard work, but well worth the effort!

I ordered my iPad from Amazon.com (since it is not for sale in South Africa yet). It was a quick and painless affair. FedEx delivered it within a few days.

This is a great piece of hardware, I am particularly impressed with the 10-12 hour battery life with full wifi, screen brightness and sound etc. Moreover at a price of less than R4000 I can see many people using the iPad as a primary computing device.  R4000 is a lot of money!  But, if you're in the market for a new computer and have been saving (or have some benefactor, as I did) then it is money well spent for an ultraportable, ultra-useful computer.  The only problem I can foresee is printing... You will have to email your documents elsewhere to print them.  I have it on good authority that the camera dongle (which has a standard USB connector) will let you pull files from an ordinary USB thumb drive.

Don't hold your breath for the 3G version in South Africa. Knowing ICASA and the cellular carriers it will be many months, maybe even a year, before they can work out a deal to allow it into the country. Plus, I believe the 3G uses the new microsim card which has not been adopted by any cellular providers in SA. Rather go for a wifi version (which is cheaper and works in SA) with either a MiFi or joikuspot on a Nokia phone (as you'll see me using in this video).  With this solution I can use it in the car, anywhere in my office, in the airport... I'm not reliant on public or corporate wifi.

I use a number of applications specific to my work (Bibles in English and Greek, Keynote for Powerpoint presentations, Pages for Word docs and Numbers for spreadsheets). The device is small and light and works great with any bleutooth keyboard (I had an OLD foldable keyboard that I bought back in 2002 for a iPaq - amazingly it picks up the keyboard and works like a charm!)  I keep various talks, sermons, powerpoint presentations and videos on the device.  I also keep PDF copies of my books.  So if ever I get asked to speak at an event I always have something on hand.  The screen is the perfect size to replace paper, and the touch interface makes it a perfect device to read from and preach from.

As I mention above, I also use it for PDF's (I carry quite a few documents for various work and ministry related tasks.  Not the least of which are our current GDOP Conference program, speakers lists, budgets, etc.) and it does a great job with my calendar and contacts.

Of course the email client is also great! I have 4 of my accounts running on it throughout the day. I also run twitter and facebook on the device for the work I do for Lausanne's social media and social networking team.

In this video you'll also see how I connect it to the Internet via Vodacom 3G in South Africa.  Also, because the wifi in our office is locked down to run via a proxy server I set my iPad up to run via my Macbook as a base station with internet sharing (just as a hint, my friend Cois uses a PPoE connection at his office, which the iPad doesn't do via wifi. So, you can use the same internet sharing method to connect via PPoE.  If you're not sure how to do this drop me a line).

iPad for Ministry (in South Africa)! from Dion Forster on Vimeo.

See the video here: http://www.vimeo.com/11324210

By the way, this post was created using the squarespace application on the iPad.  There is no native squarespace app for the iPad, I am still using the iPhone application.  However, I do have the wordpress app for some of my 'other' blogs.  (all iPhone apps run on the iPad by the way).

How do you think you could use an iPad in your work or ministry?  Is there any use case where it could be a better tool than a laptop or desktop computer for you?

Tuesday
Apr272010

How to start a movement (for Christian ministry)

I have been a long time 'fan' of Seth Godin and so enjoyed his book 'Tribes' which discusses how to set up and lead a community of common interest (whether it be an idea, a ministry movement, or some kind of project).

A few days ago my friend Roger Scholtz posted the following video from the TED conference, 'How to start a movement'.

I think it is crucial that persons in ministry understand the importance of social dynamics and how to work within those (and in spite of them) to achieve the aims of Christ's Gospel and the establishment of His Kingdom of grace.

If you have the bandwidth and can watch this video I would love to hear your thoughts (on the video in general, the concepts discussed, and the relationship between this video and the Christian ministry).

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

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