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

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

  • What are we thinking? Reflections on Church and Society from Southern African Methodists.
    What are we thinking? Reflections on Church and Society from Southern African Methodists.
    by Dion A Forster, Wessel Bentley
  • Methodism in Southern Africa: A celebration of Wesleyan Mission
    Methodism in Southern Africa: A celebration of Wesleyan Mission
    by Dion A Forster, Wessel Bentley
  • Christ at the centre - Discovering the Cosmic Christ in the spirituality of Bede Griffiths
    Christ at the centre - Discovering the Cosmic Christ in the spirituality of Bede Griffiths
    by Dion A Forster
  • An uncommon spiritual path - the quest to find Jesus beyond conventional Christianity
    An uncommon spiritual path - the quest to find Jesus beyond conventional Christianity
    by Dion A Forster
Transform your work life: Turn your ordinary day into an extraordinary calling. by Dion Forster and Graham Power.
Download a few chapters of the book here.
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Entries in Mission (9)

Thursday
May052016

Is there something we can do? The church and social change (in South Africa)

Human rights might just begin to become a reality with 'right humanity'! Today I interview Dr Braam Hanekom the Director of the Centre for Public Witness of the Dutch Reformed Church. We talk about what can be done by privileged Churches to help make South Africa a more just society for all our citizens. You also get to see some beautiful scenery between Stellenbosch and Franschhoek in the Western Cape as I drive my trusty old BMW F650 GS.
What do you think? Can you make some more suggestions?
We mention the following books:
Church in hard places http://amzn.to/1q2ifFR
Oneself as another http://amzn.to/1T3MWbg
Road to daybreak http://amzn.to/1rwQiaw
I'd love to hear your ideas, feedback and comments!
Remember, this is not a lecture... just a thought!
Please subscribe and like the video! 
Thursday
Apr232015

Community and Xenophobia

The savagery of the last few weeks of xenophobic attacks across the country have reminded me of some the darkest and most painful parts of our national history. I thought back to the violence of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s when IFP and ANC supporters butchered one another in KZN and Gauteng. Indeed, these are shameful parts of our national history.

Surely, the events of these past weeks will also be remembered with shame. The attacks on foreign nationals, the withdrawal of hospitality and the destruction of property has shown that South Africa still has some dark and destructive tendencies that need to be engaged and transformed.

In his Business Day Column for today (22 April 2015), Professor Steven Friedman reminded us painfully that in large measure our own response to xenophobia has been the same as those who attack foreigners – we have shifted the blame. We blame others for our falings and in so doing we distance ourselves, we objectify them and exonerate ourselves from any culpability and blame.

Let’s face the truth – we are not good neighbours. I am not talking about ‘them’, I am talking about ‘us’. We have not been welcoming to the strangers in our midst. We have not protected our guests who have sought political or economic refuge within our borders. Sadly, we have to confess that we are not a ‘just’ nation – in face we allow justice to be twisted and manipulated in our presence, and we don’t act. We are a nation that abuses the weak and the powerless. We are that nation. Let’s face it.

I came across this powerful quote from John Howard Yoder that challenges me deeply on this issue:

The political novelty that God brings into the world is a community of those who serve instead of ruling, who suffer instead of inflicting suffering, whose fellowship crosses social lines instead of reinforcing them. The new Christian community in which the walls are broken down not by human idealism or democratic legalism but by the work of Christ is not only a vehicle of the gospel or only a fruit of the gospel; it is the good news. It is not merely the agent of mission or the constituency of a mission agency. This is mission.

- John Howard Yoder, Royal Priesthood, p.91

So I am challenged to repent. This is my nation, both the stranger and the citizen. I am part of this brutal people, and I want it to be different. I want South Africa to be a place of welcome and safety. I want people to feel 'good news' here. And so I say, "not in my name".

I would like to invite you to participate in a conversation on xenophobia in South Africa to be hosted at the Faculty of Theology, Stellenbosch University. Friday 8 May 12.30-14.00.

Thursday
Jan052012

Very interesting summary of research and statistics on Christianity in the world

My friend, the missiologist, Steve Hayes posted some interesting commentary on the research of the Pew forum on Christianity across the globe.  This makes for some fascinating reading - in short Christianity is the world's largest faith group, most Christians come from 10 countries across the world, Catholic and Orthodox Christians make up about 2/3 of all Christians (Protestants and Independents make up about 37%).

I spotted one error in the article - in the section where it talks about the location of Christians in Africa it mistakenly says that all of these countries are in Sub-Saharan Africa, which they are not.

This research (as with all research) is a 'lag indicator' as we learnt at business school - in other words, it is a report that sheds light on the state of Christianity at some point in the past.  However, I did didn't see any comment on the fastest growing regions in the world.  From the research that I have read in 'The Next Christendom - The comong of Global Christianity' (2011, Philip Jenkins) it would seem that the Christian faith is growing fastest in the two thirds world.  Particularly in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Still, these are some very interesting statistics on the state of Global Christianity. You find the source article here.

These are some of the key findings of a new report released by the Pew Research Center, called Global Christianity: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World's Christian Population, which provides data on the world's Christian population by region, country and tradition.

• Almost half (48 percent) of all Christians live in the 10 countries with the largest number of Christians. Three of the top 10 are in the Americas (the United States, Brazil and Mexico). Two are in Europe (Russia and Germany); two are in the Asia-Pacific region (the Philippines and China); and three are in sub-Saharan Africa (Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ethiopia), reflecting Christianity's global reach.

• Christians are diverse theologically as well as geographically. About half are Catholic. Protestants, broadly defined, make up 37 percent. Orthodox Christians comprise 12 percent of Christians worldwide. Other Christians, such as Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses, make up the remaining 1 percent of the global Christian population.

• Taken as a whole, Christians are by far the world's largest religious group. Muslims, the second-largest group, make up a little less than a quarter of the world's population, according to previous studies by the Pew Forum.

• Although Christianity began in the Middle East-North Africa, that region today has both the lowest concentration of Christians (about 4 percent) and the smallest number of Christians (about 13 million) of any major geographic region.

• Although Christians comprise just under a third of the world's people, they form a majority of the population in 158 countries and territories, about two-thirds of all the countries and territories in the world.

• Nigeria now has more than twice as many Protestants (broadly defined to include Anglicans and independent churches) as Germany, the birthplace of the Protestant Reformation.

• About 90 percent of Christians live in countries where Christians are in the majority; only about 10 percent of Christians worldwide live as minorities.

Read more: http://www.tauntongazette.com/archive/x352572619/Religion-News-10-countries-with-the-largest-number-of-Christians#ixzz1iboncDLJ

Saturday
Oct152011

Monday morning atheist?

I am sitting at the departure gate to Johannesburg - tonight I fly from Cape Town in order to speak at the Edenvale Baptist Church's two services tomorrow morning and spend some time with their leaders reflecting on what it means to be faithful to God's mission for them in the world.

As always I am excited and blessed by this opportunity!

I have chosen the question 'Monday morning atheist?' as my theme. My friend Doug Spada wrote a great book with that title (you can fin out more about him and the book at http://www.worklife.org - Doug is an amazing guy, and his book is one of the best I have read on being a Christian in the world of work).

Simply stated, I have come to realize that many Christians may behave like disciples of Jesus on Sunday, but many others act like atheists on Monday. We worship in Church on Sunday, but on Monday we act as if we have no faith! This is so sad since the world of work is one of the greatest opportunities for us to live out our faith in Jesus and work to establish his transforming and healing Kingdom in business, education, the arts, politics, the family and a host of other critical aspects of our lives!

Much of what I'll be talking about comes from my book 'Transform your work life: Turn your ordinary day into an extraordinary calling!'. You can order copies of the book (or download a few free chapters) from the links on the left hand side of this blog.

Of you're interested in inviting me to come and share some of what the Lord has been doing among us in the world of work, please drop me a line. I'd be honored to come and spend some time with you or your group!

Please pray for us as we gather tomorrow! God bless,

Dion

Sunday
Sep042011

All Christians are missionaries

I like this!

Christians are missionaries by necessity because all that we are and do only makes sense if what we are and do is done in the name of Jesus.

Stanley Hauerwas, Working With Words (via invisibleforeigner)

Monday
Jul112011

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!

Wednesday
May252011

Short term mission trips. Are they worth The investment?m

Steve Hayes sent out the wonderful article below on our missiology list. I have participated in, and even organized, short term mission trips with my congregation. They are costly, yet the effect that they have had on the participants directly, and on our whole congregation upon the return of the missioners has been so fruitful. Indeed, each time we have had such a trip our Church has become more involved and invested in local and foreign concerns, sending funding, resources and people to address practical needs in our local community and other places where we have established relationships. I'd love to hear your thoughts. Here is the link from which this study comes at Baylor University.
If Jesus’ Great Commission to “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations” were viewed as a business, it would be booming — at least in terms of short-term mission trips. The number of United States Christians taking part in trips lasting a year or less has grown from 540 in 1965 to an estimated more than 1.5 million annually, with an estimated $2 billion per year spent on the effort, according to Missiology journal. But is the spiritual profit worth the investment? Researcher Dr. Dennis Horton — an associate professor of religion at Baylor University and principal investigator of a study on the effects that short- term mission trips have on mission team members — gives a qualified “Yes.” Some have suggested the money might be better spent giving directly to a country’s Christian partners for spreading the gospel and offering medical aid, construction assistance or other help. Some long-term missionaries even have complained that culturally insensitive short-term mission participants do more harm than good by damaging relationships that had taken years to build. But the study showed that students who participate in short-term mission trips tend to have lower levels of materialism, greater appreciation for other cultures and a better understanding of missions as a lifestyle. Two-thirds of short-term trips last two weeks or less, with a host of purposes ranging from evangelism to digging wells or teaching English as a second language. The trips would seem to benefit sending agencies, the teams and the host countries. “But I think a lot of churches and groups need more follow-up to help mission team members incorporate what they’ve learned on their trips into their daily lives,” Horton said. “Long-term involvement is where you see transformation taking place.” About 600 students, most from Texas universities, and 48 short-term mission trip leaders participated in the study conducted by Horton, former pastor of a church in Hong Kong, and four Baylor University undergraduate research assistants. For long-term effects on those who go on short-term mission trips, some studies show little difference between those who have participated short-term trips and Christians who have not when it comes to giving, materialism and believing one’s culture is superior to others. What makes a difference is pre- trip training, on-site mentoring and follow-up after the trip, Horton said. “We appreciate the zeal (of students),” he said. “They say, ‘We need to get out there and share the gospel!’ But missionaries are saying ‘Wait a minute.’ In many countries, the best way to reach others is through friendships over time, not quick presentations of the gospel that can endanger long-term missionaries and local Christians.” Short-term mission trips should be “more than spiritual tourism in which participants travel to an exotic place, take a myriad of photos and return to their relatively isolated home environments and pre-trip behavior.” Churches, campus ministries and Christian colleges can play a huge follow-up role. Many people commit at Christian youth camps to become missionaries, Horton said, but “some find out a little bit more and say, ‘Oh, that isn’t for me. I can do this for a few weeks, but I like my technology, my comforts.’ It wasn’t that they didn’t still have an interest or wanted to work with local missions.” In some countries, there are immediate responses, with hundreds of converts, Horton said. In others, “you could work for years and have only one or two converts. Students hoping to see instant results on a two-week trip may become discouraged." Dr. Rosalie Beck, an associate professor of religion at Baylor, served in Vietnam in the 1970s, providing support services to missionaries. “Even if the missionaries love having the short-term team members there, it can be disruptive as far as time and on finances that already may be troubled," she said. But short-term mission team members “will encounter the world in a way they never have before and may never again. It will deepen their commitment in the faith and open their eyes to the reality of life elsewhere in the world.” Matt Lewis, a Baylor sophomore communications major from Jacksonville, Texas, worked with youth on volunteer mission trips to the Czech Republic in 2007 and 2008. Between trips, he said, “I spent a lot of time in prayer and tried to meditate and listen to what God was saying to me. I got to reconnect with some youth there from the previous summer. It was great to see that the decisions they made were still apparent in their lives. Seeing this reinforces my belief that God is calling me into the ministry.” Of the 32 students interviewed after their trips, 29 said the trips had changed the way they see other cultures, with 17 mentioning increased respect and concern. Most said they had greater appreciation for what they have — or even disgust for American greed — but only a few mentioned concrete steps they had taken to lessen their materialism. Horton plans a future study on the effect short-term mission trips have on churches and agencies who sponsor them.
I'd love to hear your thoughts and insights.
Monday
Oct252010

The task is not complete - beyond the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization in Cape Town

Jon Hirst, who runs the Lausanne Blogger Network, asked me to write a reflection on the closing ceremony of the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization.  As soon as he posts it on the Lausanne blog I will put the URL in here.

In the meantime here's what I wrote:

Missionaries from everywhere to everywhere: Reflecting on the closing of the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization

The atmosphere in the plenary hall of the Cape Town International Convention Centre was wonderful as the 4300 delegates from all over the world entered to close the congress in worship, prayer and Holy Communion.  After a busy week of sessions, dialogues and parallel meetings, this service of worship made for a fitting conclusion.  Dr Michael Cassidy, one of the South African hosts who was a delegate at the first Lausanne Congress in 1974 began by reminded the participants that they were called to be missionaries who have come "from everywhere being sent to everywhere".  it was a fitting reminder of that central tenet of the Lausanne Covenant to take the whole Gospel to the whole world through the whole Church.

Trevor Sampson, a resident of Cape Town, lead the congregation and a sizable choir through a version of the Kenyan liturgy for Holy Communion that had been scored to a mixed of traditional hymnody, contemporary worship and African rhythms.  The preacher for the evening, Lindsay Brown, had chosen Ex 12.1-3,6-1, 2 Cor 4.1-7, and Jn 1.29-34 as his texts.  Dr Brown's message took the form of a clear charge to the participants at this congress to take the Good News of Jesus Christ into all the world by all the varied means that are necessary for it to transform the lives of individuals and communities.  He emphasized that the message of God's saving love in Jesus Christ is the most important message in history - it is only in God's gracious love for the world that we shall find any true and lasting hope for humanity and the cosmos.  His theme was taken from the Epistle reading, 2 Cor 4.1-7, drawing a strong link between the proclamation of the truth of Christ, and living out the implications of that truth in tangible and practical ways.

One of the most challenging moments of his address was when he challenged the participants of the congress with a direct question: "What will the lasting legacy of the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization be?"  It was clear that the intention for bringing together theologians, pastors, missionaries, business people, young people, old people, people from almost every nation on earth was not for the purpose of having a congress, but rather to re-invigorate the Church for mission.  It is every delegate's responsibility to return to their town or city in order to bear witness to God's love in Christ in every sphere of life.

Brown's challenge to the participants was filled with honest encouragement;  the faithful and courageous acts of each person, no matter how insignificant they may seem, can have immeasurable results for God's Kingdom.  It is an unfortunate certainty that some of those in attendance at the congress would face persecution, and even death, for sake of Christ.  Others may labour faithfully at great personal cost for their whole lives and never see any tangible results.  However, what is certain is that obedience to God's call, matched by courage and creativity, can be used by God to transform individuals and whole communities with God's powerful love.  In concluding his address he quoted the worlds of John Wesley who said:

"Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can."

This message was an articulate and passionate call to action - the details of which are contained in 'The Cape Town Commitment - A declaration of belief and a call to action'.

The high point of the service was the celebration of Holy Communion - Archbishop Orombi presided over the table.  The symbolism of this sacramental act was truly powerful - participants from all over the globe united by the shed blood and broken body of Christ.  Each one being cleansed, strengthened and fed in order to go out into all the world as God's mission partners.

As I reflect on the Congress and its closing I am left with a sense of overwhelming gratitude for the many sacrifices that were made to bring together the body of Christ for this event.  At the same time I am mindful of the many sacrifices that will be required in order to take the whole Gospel to the whole world, through the whole Church.  What is certain is that God's Church has a renewed passion for mission - sending people from everywhere to everywhere!  The task is not complete, and so we must go from Cape Town into the world!

Whether you were a participant in Cape Town, or participated offsite, the work of the Lausanne Movement continues.  Your insights, gifts, and encouragement is necessary to continue to support the development of theology and strategy for mission and evangelism across the earth.  Please do join tens of thousands of Christians from all across the globe on the Lausanne Global Conversation site http://www.lausanne.org/conversation

I look forward to interacting with you there!

A partner in mission,

Dion Forster (Cape Town, 25 October 2010)

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!