A morning discussion with Prof Darrel Guder from Princeton. We are discussing the missional nature of the Church - what does it mean for Christians and the Church to participate in God's work (the missio Dei) of transforming, renewing and bringing healing the world?
Entries in missional (25)
Does the Church in South Africa adequately support members for their daily work life?
My most recently published research discusses this question and shares some statistical data gained from the broadest and most recent empirical research on faith and work in South Africa.
The article is entities 'Called to work: A descriptive analysis of Call42's research on faith and work in South Africa'. You can read, or download, a copy of the research article here: http://koersjournal.org.za/index.php/koers/article/view/2143
Here is the abstract for the article:
Very little empirical research has been conducted into faith and work, particularly as it relates to the experience and expectations of Christians in the world of work in South Africa. This article discusses the most recent research of this kind that was conducted by Call42. Call42 conducted an empirical research project on faith, calling, and the world of work between 2011 and 2012. The findings were released to the public after July 2012. Not only is this the most up to date data on this subject at present; the research findings and research process are also worthy of academic consideration. The Call42 research was initiated and commissioned by a group of young Christian professionals (mainly engineers) and as such it brings a perspective on faith and work from within the primary context of the world of work, rather than the theological academy or the church. The findings of the research have implications for the church and its officers (priests, pastors and leaders). It also arrives at some conclusions for Christians in the world of work, students who are contemplating a vocation or career path, and companies and organisations that have an explicit or implicit Christian orientation.
A good friend of mine, Fr Larry Kaufmann introduced me to Bishop David Russell in Grahamstown many years ago. I had the joy of visiting his residence, and praying in his chapel, in Grahamstown. It was at his home that I first saw the film Babette's feast - a profound moment that changed my understanding of hospitality, grace and the sacraments.
Bishop Russell was a great inspiration to many young clergy in South Africa, and across the world. He was deeply committed to the Gospel of Christ and God's Kingdom of justice, mercy, and grace. His life and ministry showed many of us what it meant to be welcoming, and to be welcomed, into loving fellowship with God in Christ and one another.
Bishop Russell passed away this week. I thank God for his life and ministry. He was a Public Theologian par excellance!
Here is a tribute to David Russell written by my friend Archbishop Thabo Makgoba:
"With David Russell's death, an era passes for the Church and its
prophetic and courageous ministry, especially to the poorest of the poor.
"From the earliest days of his ministry as a priest, he was radical in
his identification with the poor and oppressed. Steve Biko, with whom he
worked closely, called him 'a friend, an equal... a comrade.'
"In the Eastern Cape in the 1970s, he played an important role in drawing
attention to the plight of people who were forcibly removed from their
homes under apartheid and dumped to starve in areas, such as Dimbaza,
where they had no hope of making a living.
"Later, as a chaplain to migrant workers in Cape Town, he campaigned
against the cruel removals, in the middle of winter, of families who
defied the pass laws and came to Crossroads to live with their husbands
"When the apartheid government sent in bulldozers to destroy their
shacks, he was willing to put his life on the line - one admirer recalled
on Facebook this week: 'Will never forget the image of DR lying,
spreadeagled, in front of a bulldozer in Crossroads.'
"When the government imposed a banning order on him, he defied it,
breaking it in multiple ways to attend a meeting of the Church's
Provincial Synod and to motivate a resolution expressing the Church's
understanding of those who had resorted to armed struggle.
"After becoming Bishop of Grahamstown, he ordained the first woman priest
in Southern Africa and repeatedly challenged the Church on theological
grounds to reverse its opposition to blessing same-sex unions. He also
challenged the democratically-elected provincial government of the
Eastern Cape for its failures in areas such as health and education.
"As one who served as Bishop David's suffragan bishop in Grahamstown and
was mentored by him, I feel his loss keenly.
"Not only the Church but the nation - which honoured him for his service
with the Order of the Baobab in Silver - mourns this son of the soil.
"On behalf of my family, the Diocese of Cape Town, the Synod of Bishops
and the broader church, we send our condolences and prayers to his wife,
Dorothea and to his sons, Sipho and Thabo.
"May this pastor, prophet, theologian and fierce fighter against
injustice rest in peace until we meet again."
Today I have the wonderful joy of preaching at 3 services at the beautiful Mosaiek Church in Johannesburg. This is a truly remarkable contemplative, missional, community of Christ followers. I am so deeply blessed by their desire to fully integrate the contemplative lifestyle with a missional focus. Encounter God, encounter the world.
I'll be speaking about failure and regret today. It is not often that one can have an 'adult' talk with a Church. I say this because so many Churches expect the kind of input that I give to my six year old, motivational, simple and entertaining. This community, however, has moved largely beyond that point. I see in them a desire for authentic living which inevitably means that not everything in life will be successful, victorious or filled with acclaim. The reality is that much of our lives revolve around how we cope with the inevitability of failure and regret.
Two quotes have been living within me as I have prepared a few words to share with them:
O Lord, who else or what else can I desire but you? You are my Lord, Lord of my heart, mind, and soul. You know me through and through. In and through you everything that is finds its origin and goal. You embrace all that exists and care for it with divine love and compassion. Why then, do I keep expecting happiness and satisfaction outside of you? Why do I keep relating to you as one of my many relationships, instead of my only relationship, in which all other ones are grounded? Why do I keep looking for popularity, respect from others, success, acclaim, and sensual pleasures? Why, Lord, is it so hard for me to make you the only one? Why do I keep hesitating to surrender myself totally to you?
Help me, O Lord, to let my old self die, to let die the thousand big and small ways in which I am still building up my false self and trying to cling to my false desires. Let me be reborn in you and see through you the world in the right way, so that all my actions, words, and thoughts can become a hymn of praise to you.
I need your loving grace to travel on this hard road that leads to the death of my old self and to a new life in and for you. I know and trust that this is the road to freedom.
Lord, dispel my mistrust and help me become a trusting friend. Amen
- Henri Nouwen (A Cry for Mercy).
Then there is this remarkable insight from JK Rowling's commencement speech to the graduating class of Harvard University.
At her Harvard commencement speech, "Harry Potter" author JK Rowling offered some powerful, heartening advice to dreamers and overachievers, including one hard-won lesson that she deems "worth more than any qualification I ever earned." In her speech, which I would highly recommend you google and read, she tells of how she failed catastrophically in her life –
I had failed on an epic scale. An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless.
However, she went on to say that,
Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than I was and began diverting all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realized, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.
She had ‘fallen’ into her life’s purpose through an embarrassing, costly and heartbreaking failure.
Here are two further insights that have been a great help to me on this path - and believe me, I am something of an 'expert' at failure (and regret)!
The greatest and most important problems of life are fundamentally unsolvable. They can never be solved, but only outgrown.
- Carl Jung
First there is the fall, and then we recover from the fall. Both are the mercy of God!
- Lady Julian of Norwich
This is a beautiful video by The Work of the People - it asks a few critical theological and missional questions.
What did Jesus come to do? If we know what Jesus came to do, and we are called to be the 'body of Christ, then what is the work of the Church?
I'll be using this, and a few other videos, as part of my lectures to a group of Master of Theology students in Missional Leadership next week.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this video, and particularly what you think about the mission of the Church.
For the last few days I have been increasingly overwhelmed by a sense of sadness at the suffering of humanity. I have, at times in the past, despaired at how huge the task is of working for equality among persons. How it must grieve God's heart that some, like me, have too much while others do not have enough to survive. I cannot bear the thought that here in my own country half of the population live below the poverty line (US$2 per day if I am not mistaken).
I am currently a guest speaker at the Alberton Methodist Church (I preached at 3 services today and will do one more tomorrow evening at 7pm and another on Tuesday evening at 7pm). I have spoken a great deal about justice and mercy today. We, Christians - in fact all humans, must do what we can to work for justice and equity in the world. This is costly and difficult work. I believe that it will require personal sacrifice, great discipline, and above all else Godly love.
Our world will never know the depth of God’s passion for them until the church recovers the radical and comprehensive nature of righteousness. For the Bible knows no distinction between God’s holiness, justice and righteousness. The same righteousness which flows from the mercy seat in the tabernacle also justifies us by faith and overflows in good government which protects the poor. Justice is the river which flows from the heart of God responding to our sin and sinfulness in all its private and public manifestations. A theology which puts a wedge between personal holiness and prophetic advocacy uses the bible to build a dam in that river.
Please pray with me that we will find the wisdom, courage and love to live in a way honors God's loving desire for all persons in the world. Pray that we may live out the Gospel of God's loving justice in our daily lives!
I am yet to find a quote that more clearly expresses my understanding of one of the critical tasks of the Church than the quote below.
Our church has been fighting during these years only for its self-preservation, as if that were an end in itself. It has become incapable of bringing the word of reconciliation and redemption to humankind and to the world. So the words we used before must lose their power, be silenced, and we can be Christians today in only two ways, through prayer and in doing justice among human beings. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Of course the one element that I would have loved to see more clearly expressed in this quote is the act of worship. However, as I think about it, both prayer and acts of justice are expressions of God's worth. What do you think?
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,
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)
The ancient Catholic dictum extra ecclesiam, nulla salus (“outside the church there is not salvation”) contains a significant sociological truth. Certainly it is not impossible for individual Christians to maintain biblical beliefs even if a hostile majority disagrees. But if the church is to consist of communities of loving defiance in a sinful world, it must pay more attention to the quality of its fellowship and find new models of Christian community.
Ronald Sider, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger (via invisibleforeigner)
I'd love to hear your thoughts on the role of the Church in the transformation of society, and also how we could be 'better' at being what the Church is truly called to be.
Have you ever considered that the Church is called by God? I'm sure most of us would agree that our priest, pastor or minister is called to ministry. However, the same applies to the collective community of the Church - we are called.
I have encountered very few Churches that have taken this aspect of their identity seriously. The Church is called to ministry. It is a little like the priestly ministry of the scriptures. The priest is called to represent the people to God in worship and to represent God to the world in service.
Many of our Churches are simply 'Gospel clubs', places where people gather loosely for their own edification and upliftment. We treat Church as something that we 'do' rather than an identity that we are to 'become'. Perhaps it is for this reason that we hunger after experiences of worship that are more like a combination of a rock concert and a stand up comedy routine?
Please would you consider the following quote with me? Pray about the calling of the Church of which you are a part.
The work of God is the calling of a people, whether in the Old Covenant or the New. The church is then not simply the bearer of the message of reconciliation, in the way a newspaper or a telephone company can bear any message with which it is entrusted. Nor is the church simply the result of a message, as an alumni association is the product of a school or the crowds in a theater are the product of the reputation of the film. That men and women are called together to a new social wholeness is itself the work of God, which gives meaning to history.
- John Howard Yoder (via @fycr)