By Shane Bennett
Driving of the Merchants from the Temple, by Ippolito Scarsella.
If God’s job is to make his sheep fat and happy, he’s not too good at it. I think about believers in the Caribbean and the US suffering the effects of Harvey and Irma today, Mexicans dead in a massive earthquake, and Christians persecuted in the Middle East. Not to mention potential believers like the Rohingya of Burma who are fleeing for their lives in the hundreds of thousands.
If his job is to radically remake everything, I wonder why he’s so slow about it. Realizing, however, that the fundamental unit of the “everything” getting remade is the human heart, mine and yours, I sadly acknowledge I’m part of the slowness.
Alongside the long list of things I don’t understand and the timing issues I don’t get, one thing seems pretty clear in the Gospels: Jesus inaugurated and relentlessly lived into a vision of a certain and vast kingdom of God—a new reality in which outsiders become insiders, evil is pushed back, justice becomes the norm, and as N.T. Wright brilliantly summarizes, God “puts all things to rights.”
God’s job, then, is to bring about that kingdom. Jesus, by the way he lived, the things he said, and the places he hung out gives us both a framework for what the kingdom looks like and a model for participation in it.
I’m particularly encouraged and re-centered by some of the key biblical ideas highlighted in the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement course regarding this:1. Jesus called himself the “Son of Man.”
While this carried messianic allusions for his Jewish listeners, perhaps it also provided accessibility to non-Jews. At least it lowered some of the walls of exclusivity raised by Jewish-specific titles like Son of David and Rabbi.2. Jesus hung out with outsiders.
Matthew tells us Jesus went and lived in Capernaum, fulfilling scripture (Matthew 4:12-25; Isaiah 9:1-2):
Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,
the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles—
the people living in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.
This also put Jesus nearer to the nations. While messiah-seeking Jews could come up from Jerusalem to encounter Jesus (as Matthew says they did), Gentiles found him teaching, healing, and driving out demons right in their own back yard! The presence of the kingdom of God had come even to them (Matthew 4:24-25).3. Jesus gave Gentiles access.
When Jesus cleansed the Temple, or as I like to say, “wreaked havoc on the holy hangout,” he was not teaching us that Girl Scouts can’t sell cookies in the foyer and realtors should leave their business cards at home on Sunday morning. Instead he was rolling back a situation that prevented access to God by Gentiles. He re-opened a path for the glory God deserved and wanted from the nations (Matthew 21:12-17; Isaiah 56:7-8). Can’t you just hear him shout it?
“For my house will be called
a house of prayer for all nations.”
The Sovereign Lord declares—
he who gathers the exiles of Israel:
“I will gather still others to them
besides those already gathered.”
We see him in action healing a Roman soldier’s slave (Luke 7:1-10) and driving out demons from the daughter of a foreigner (Matthew 15:21-28). We hear his words of scathing rebuke (Luke 4:24-26). Were there not widows in Israel? Were there not lepers in Israel? Yet God had sent the prophet to foreigners!5. He worked long and hard to build global, kingdom understanding in his disciples.
I particularly love how Jesus agrees to spend two days in a Samaritan village (John 4:39-41). Poor disciples! Jesus was leading them into the very places they promised their moms they’d never go! This is such a cool model for us to both go and take others into important situations that are beyond our realm of comfort.Our Response
What can we do to grow in alignment with Jesus on this? How can we see and live out the kingdom he envisioned? The answer could be as big and diverse as the cosmos, but here’s one thing that hurts and one thing that should be fun:
First, realize that we may have more in common with the religious leaders Jesus was smacking around than the outsiders to whom he showed such lavish kindness.
It’s possible this is just me and not you, but give it a little thought. If you’re reading Missions Catalyst, odds are you’re an insider to the things of God and to the current Christian culture. Our enemy would love to build a mindset in us in which we thank God for our special status and cluck our tongues at those gays, Muslims, liberals, etc. who are outside looking in.
Second, give up on this generation and focus on the next!
I’m kidding. Let’s not give up quite yet. But I want to invite you to build kingdom-minded kids by sending your youth group with me next year to connect with refugees. It would be a little bit like when Jesus took his guys to hang out with the Samaritan woman and her village. Let’s spend a week in a US city, learning about the refugee situation, connecting with a local church, working hard, and authentically serving an unreached refugee community.
Sound like a step in the right kingdom direction? Let’s talk.
God’s Church advances in Bangladesh, Niger, China, and beyond. Image: Global Partners. See related story below.
Missions Catalyst News Briefs 09.06.17
- BANGLADESH: The Thriving Wesleyan Church
- NIGER: Evangelicals Planting Churches
- ARAB WORLD: Launch of Educational Channel for Refugees
- CHINA: Movement Envisions Sending Thousands
- WORLD: The Month in Review
… And find more stories in our social media streams.
Do you know Graham Kendrick’s 1987 praise song Shine, Jesus, Shine? With all of the stories of flooding in the news this past week, not only Texas but also in South Asia and Africa, I keep thinking of these lyrics:
“Shine, Jesus, shine! Flood the nations with grace and mercy. Send forth your Word, Lord, and let there be light.”
Even as nations like Bangladesh and Niger are experiencing flooding, they are sending out workers to flood the nations with grace and mercy! See stories below.
Shine, Jesus, shine.
Source: Global Partners, June 29, 2017
The fourth annual district conference of The Wesleyan Church of Bangladesh was held in May 2017. Seventy-one delegates were in attendance. More than 100 people gathered for the occasion. Four years ago, this partnership started with 14 churches and 700 members. Today, there are 46 vibrant Wesleyan churches and 2,160 members! Bangladesh is an Islamic nation, but many people are open to the good news of Jesus Christ.
[Over the last] four years, the Bangladesh church [has been] equipping leaders. There are now three ordained ministers and nine licensed pastors serving the church. Thirty young leaders are engaged in Ministry Training Institute (MTI). MTI is a week of intensive sessions and classes held twice a year for leaders who are seriously pursuing ordination.
Pray that The Wesleyan Church of Bangladesh would continue to flourish. Pray that the leaders and the members would remain faithful to the Lord, especially when faced with the many challenges of proclaiming truth and following Jesus.
» Being Christian in South Asia can be dangerous. In a story from nearby Pakistan, we read that on his fourth day at a new school, a Christian teen was brutally attacked and killed in the classroom by Muslim students as the teacher looked the other way (God Reports). Looks like 2017 has been a difficult year for Christians in India as well (World Watch Monitor).
Source: Words of Hope, August 22, 2017
The Evangelical Church of Niger (EERN) has a goal to plant 52 new churches inside the country. In a place like Niger where the population is 97% Muslim and less than 1% Christian, this is no small feat, and Words of Hope is coming alongside the EERN to assist them in their efforts. Before a church is planted in a certain region, radio broadcasts are begun in the heart language of the local people in order to introduce the gospel message in a non-threatening manner.
One of the newly planted churches recently had the joy of celebrating nine new baptisms. Formerly Muslim soldiers who have now converted to Christianity volunteered to guard the pastor on his way to the church to perform the baptisms. The soldiers celebrated at the church upon the pastor’s arrival and carried him into the building, where they had prepared a big ceremony.
Thank you for remembering our brothers and sisters in Niger. Please pray with us that every person in Niger gets the opportunity to hear the good news about Jesus in their heart language.
» Readers interested in Africa might also appreciate a recent opinion piece from Nicholas Kristoff titled Good News, Despite What You’ve Heard. He reports on great gains in the battle against extreme poverty, illiteracy, and disease (New York Times).
Source: SAT-7, August 17, 2017
A new satellite television channel, SAT-7 ACADEMY, [launched] on September 1, 2017. Broadcasting round-the-clock in Arabic, the channel will offer millions of displaced or refugee children complementary learning opportunities through a variety of television programs.
War has forced 13 million children out of school across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Schools that have not been destroyed are overcrowded, and the fear of violence has caused parents to keep their children at home and teachers to abandon their posts. Families flee conflict to save their lives, leaving behind their homes and jobs as well as putting their children’s futures at risk. These children are in danger of becoming a “lost” generation.
By launching SAT-7 ACADEMY, SAT-7 is striving to help bridge the gap in education, equipping children, parents, and teachers across the region.
“Through this new channel and the different online platforms bearing our already trusted name, we will provide essential educational services to thousands of families who are in circumstances of considerable hardship. They will be able to access our learning content from any place, at any moment and, soon, through any device,” explains SAT-7 Founder and CEO, Dr. Terence Ascott.
» Read more.
» Note: A study of Middle Eastern children’s mental health, the largest study done so far, reveals scars left by extreme violence they have suffered (The Independent).
Source: SEND International, August 15, 2017
Thousands of Chinese youth [gathered last month] as the Chinese church works steadily toward an ambitious goal: to send 20,000 missionaries by the year 2030.
J.E., SEND’s regional director in Asia, serves as one of the consultants from various organizations who are coming alongside mission-minded Chinese believers.
“It has been amazing to watch the mainland Chinese church develop this growing heart and passion to reach out,” he said. “It’s very much an indigenous movement, but when we are asked we can share insights from our own history and experiences.”
“They’re drawn to the Middle East, to Muslim countries, even to the unreached within China’s borders,” J.E. explained. “China is home to more than 400 unreached people groups—second only to India.”
The goal of 20,000 wasn’t arbitrarily chosen. Chinese leaders estimate that about 20,000 missionaries have served in China in the past 200 years, and they want to repay this “gospel debt.”
Previous Chinese-led missions movements have started out with great enthusiasm, but various factors, including lack of support from churches back home, led to missionaries often returning after just a few years. The Mission China 2030 movement aims to change that.
» See also a story about Russian missionaries venturing into some of the least-reached parts of Mongolia (Christian Broadcasting Network).
Source: INcontext Ministries August 2017
Since June, INcontext Ministries has been doing Facebook Live events to encourage Christians to have a kingdom perspective on the news of the previous month. If you are a Christian on Facebook, please consider sharing this great resource to your “news junkie” friends.
Typically the speaker presents the stories through media clips, then proposes the questions that the world would ask, and finally suggests what kingdom questions we can ask ourselves and the church. Good stuff.
» Watch the August video and check out their archive of Facebook videos. Each spends about 25 minutes covering five news stories.
» Also read a recent article on what they call the “age of cynicism,” explaining how false news navigates naivety. Excellent. Be sure to read to the end.
- VIDEO: What Happens on Hajj?
- VIDEO SERIES: Missions Mobilization Best Practices
- ARTICLES: Support Raising Resources
- ARTICLE: Using Proverbs in Ministry
- EVENTS: Upcoming Conferences, Courses, and More
Source: Praying through the Arabian Peninsula
This year’s Hajj pilgrimage takes place August 30 to September 1. PTAP is calling for Christians to join in three days of strategic prayer for Muslims and the Muslim world during this time. Could you share this video with others?
At the end of the week Muslims around the world will observe Eid-al-Adha, the feast commemorating Abraham’s sacrifice. Ask the Lord to give many Christians opportunities to sensitively tell their Muslim friends and neighbors about Jesus, the Lamb of God.
» Learn more or download a four-page prayer guide. The PTAP website also includes many other resources you may be able to use.
See yourself as a missions mobilizer or aspire to be one? Learn the foundational principles or sharpen the tools in your toolbox through a new video series from GlobalCAST Resources.
GlobalCAST Resources is a missions mobilization ministry focused on connecting, resourcing, and mentoring missions advocates and leaders. This year they began producing a series of video sound bites that highlight missions mobilization principles and best practices. Topics include:
- Asking Questions Rather Than Giving Advice as a Missions Mobilizer
- Missions Mobilization Starts with Me
- Community Development Principles & Missions Mobilization
- Missions Mobilization as Worldview Shift
- Learner, Servant, Storyteller Postures in Missions Mobilization
Source: Shepherd’s Staff Mission Facilitators
Raising support or cheering on others who do? Shepherds Staff is a ministry that facilitates the work of the local church in sending out its own missionaries. They have assembled a thoughtful collection of resources to help you think through many elements of raising support. You might find some tips or perspectives you haven’t heard before.
Source: International Mission Board
As you interact with people from other cultures, consider how you may be able to use [statements of local] wisdom as a bridge to gospel conversation. Keep these questions in mind:
- What proverbs do you hear them using?
- What do these statements reveal about what is valuable and meaningful to them?
- Are there distinct similarities or differences between their worldview and yours as a follower of Christ?
- Are there parallels in Scripture to the truths expressed in their proverbs? Or are there statements in Scripture that offer a counterpoint or complement to traditional wisdom?
» Read the rest of the article, 9 Fascinating Proverbs to Help You Understand an African Worldview. Notice the good job the author and publisher did pairing pithy proverbs and short explanations with compelling photos to bring the content to life. Could you use a similar approach in a newsletter or presentation?
» See also Know Your Culture: 6 Keys to Cultural Exegesis (also from IMB).
Source: Missions Catalyst Events Calendar
September 3-15, Second Language Acquisition Course (Union Mills, NC, USA). Provided by the Center for Intercultural Training.
September 4-17, ORIENT (Joplin, MO, USA). Learn key skills for surviving and thriving cross-culturally. Provided by TRAIN International.
September 4 to December 3, Encountering the World of Islam (online). 12-week course on embracing Muslims with the love of Christ.
September 7, The Local Church—Mentoring Healthy Mission Candidates (online). Webinar from Mission Nexus.
September 11-12, Support Raising Bootcamp (Rogers, AR, USA). Provided by Support Raising Solutions.
September 14 to October 12, Foundations of Media Strategy (online). Mentored course on using social media for deeper conversations and disciple-making. Offered by Mission Media U.
September 15-17, Business as Mission Conference (Dallas, TX, USA). Provided by BAM Training.
September 15-17, Evangelical Missiological Society (Dallas, TX, USA). An annual gathering.
September 18 to October 14, COMPASS (Palmer Lake, CO, USA). Language and culture acquisition provided by Missionary Training International.
September 20-26, Traction (Interlaken, Switzerland). Six-day renewal event for men serving cross-culturally, provided by Catalyst International.
September 20 to October 18, Story in Ministry (online). Mentored course on applying elements of story to your outreach. Offered by Mission Media U.
September 20-21, Standards Introductory Workshop (Dallas, TX, USA). A pre-conference workshop at the Mission Leaders Conference presented by the Standards of Excellence in Short-term Mission.
September 21-23, Mission Leaders Conference (Dallas, TX, USA). Provided by Missio Nexus.
» View the complete calendar. Please let us know about mistakes or omissions. For more about a specific event, though, you should contact the event organizers.
- NORTH KOREA: Canadian Pastor Freed after More Than Two Years
- GUAM: Radio Broadcasting into North Korea
- NEPAL: Freedom of Religion Leads to Church Growth
- CHAD: “It’s Your Fault He Died!”
… And find more stories in our Twitter feed.
“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18
Christians may face the wrath of the community when they turn their backs on worship of ancestors and things like trees and mountains to serve the creator God. This was the case with Samuel from southern Chad. See story below (Open Doors).
In putting together the news briefs we try to sidestep both political news and editorials, yet intriguing stories of kingdom challenges and advance are sometimes found in the shadows of the day’s headlines. This edition includes several such stories.
You might also be interested in several articles about Syria, one describing the escape of seven Armenian Christians from ISIS-held Raqqa, another providing chilling details from the findings of a study of torture in ISIS prisons, and a third about how Christians are persevering in Aleppo.
For short, thoughtful, biblical insights on current events, consider subscribing to a monthly editorial from the director of INcontext. This month’s article is about our sometimes conflicting desires for certainty and understanding.
Source: INcontext, August 10, 2017
North Korea freed a Canadian pastor serving a life sentence on humanitarian grounds, the official KCNA news agency said on Wednesday, just hours after the United States warned it would counter any threat from the North with “fire and fury.”
There was no clear connection between the release of [62-year-old] Hyeon Soo Lim and the heightened rhetoric between Washington and Pyongyang.
Lim, who served in one of the largest churches in Canada, had been sentenced to hard labor for life in December 2015 after North Korea accused him of attempting to overthrow the regime.
Lim’s Toronto-area church has said he visited the North more than 100 times since 1997 and helped set up an orphanage and nursing home. Last year, Lim told CNN he spent eight hours a day digging holes at a labor camp where he had not seen any other prisoners.
Source: Mission Network News, August 15, 2017
Recently, North Korea threatened to launch missiles at the US territory of Guam. But even as North Korea postures with missile launch threats, Trans World Radio (TWR) in Guam has already been launching something else into North Korea… radio broadcasts of the gospel. In doing so, TWR is encouraging the remnant Church in North Korea. But the job is risky. North Korea is the number one persecutor of Christians, according to Open Doors’ World Watch List. And an outside radio is considered an illegal commodity in North Korea.
“The stories we’ve got is that people who have a radio keep it in a plastic bag and will bury it during the daytime and then dig it up at night and listen to the broadcast. A lot of times, people listen in very small groups in homes. We know that there are groups of believers in North Korea and we know that the church is alive and well and probably growing under persecution,” [says TWR’s Lauren Libby].
TWR currently hopes to increase their programming into North Korea by up to two hours so they can reach more people, whoever can listen, with the good news of Jesus Christ.
» Read full story or a related article on TWR’s website. You might also appreciate a short video with messages from Christian radio listeners in North Korea.
Source: Mission Network News, August 8, 2017
“Nepal has become the country where Christianity is growing at the fastest pace of any nation in the world,” says John Pudaite, President of Bibles For The World (BFTW). “The Body of Christ has been growing at almost ten percent per year, and we’re just blessed to be a part of what God is doing in Nepal.”
But why the sudden spiritual growth spurt? Pudaite says it comes from politics. “For centuries, Nepal was under a very restrictive monarchy and as the country opened up to democracy and developed its own constitution, all of a sudden people realized they did have a choice when it came to what they believed.” Christ’s message of mercy and truth is appealing to many, causing the Church to grow at an unprecedented rate.
Newfound freedom of religion also means newfound challenges, Pudaite says.
» For another glimpse of this country, see Nepali Hindus Celebrate Sacred Thread Festival (Huffington Post).
Source: Open Doors, August 3, 2017
Samuel entered the dark hut to see his cousin lying on a mat, drenched in sweat and curled up in excruciating pain. Occasionally Alphonse mustered what little strength was left in his body to lift himself onto one elbow and vomit into a bucket his children had placed next to him.
“You need to take your father to a hospital,” Samuel told Alphonse’s children. “This looks like appendicitis.”
The children refused. They were determined to stick to superstitious medicinal concoctions instead, afraid they might offend the spirits by seeking modern medical care. When there was no improvement a few days later they decided to take Alphonse to the hospital but it was too late. Alphonse died shortly after surgery.
A family member phoned from the hospital to tell Samuel the tragic news and then declared, “It is your fault he has died! You told us to take him to hospital, and that is where he died!”
Samuel knew the community would side with the family of Alphonse so he gathered all his family members and sought refuge at the home of the village head. While Samuel’s family was safe inside those walls, their property was sat unguarded. Alphonse’s children burned it all down.
“I lost everything,” Samuel remembers. “We had a barn full of food, farm produce, farm equipment, and other personal belongings. Everything was lost in the fire. All we had left were the clothes on our bodies. Initially, I filed a lawsuit against them. But then I had second thoughts. I concluded that it was not worth it. Even though I continue to receive threats from them, I have decided to forgive everything. I have forgiven them completely.”
When Open Doors heard about the incident, we visited Samuel and his family to encourage them and pray with them. We also helped them afford a temporary place to stay while they rebuilt their home. The project has since been completed and Samuel’s family have moved into their new home.
“I have hope because I know that nothing is impossible for God. Even if men forsake me, God will never forsake me,” Samuel said. “He will restore me unto his glory.”
» Read full story with prayer points.
» See also a story on the cost of conversion in a West African culture where peace is everything (Pioneers).
Good people pass from this life every day, most without the recognition they merit. May that not be the case for Bill Dickson, a long-time Global Mapping International staffer and member of the broader community of people working hard to complete the Great Commission.
Bill Dickson died in a car crash on August 2. He worked in the background of a growing movement, logging hours that were long, challenging, and largely unsung. LightSys, the organization with which Bill most recently worked, issued a press release about his life. Here’s an excerpt.
Bill is best known for his pioneering work using database technology, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and digital publishing for the cause of global mission. Bill was instrumental in supporting hundreds of organizations globally in their use of technology in the early days of the digital era. Some of those included the International Mission Board, World Vision, Lausanne, COMIBAM (the Latin American mission association), The CoMission (an effort to engage the former Soviet Union when the Berlin Wall fell), MANI (Movement for African National Initiatives), and many others. He also helped create the digital versions of products such as Operation World, Peoples of the Buddhist World, the North American Mission Handbook, Operation China, and The Future of the Global Church.
His passion for missions can best be summed up in his own words:
“I believe that we have an enemy who likes to muddle communication and confuse efforts to take news of the Kingdom to the ends of the earth. I believe that good research, done cooperatively, is like turning on the lights in a dark room, and that instead of stumbling over each other in the dark, Kingdom workers can develop trust and begin moving together with clarity and purpose.”
Thank you to people who financially and prayerful support people like Bill. Their work isn’t flashy, but strategic almost beyond measure.