Posts Tagged ‘Theology’

Great idea! But there seems to be some disagreement about how...

Great idea! But there seems to be some disagreement about how to…

In Christian mission, you have three choices: you’re primarily a goer, you’re primarily a sender, or you’re primarily disobedient.

A few days ago, me old mate Eddie Arthur discussed the missionary saying which appears above in bold. Like many other “popular” missionary sayings, says Eddie:

…this is pithy, memorable and has a grain of truth in it. However, as with all of the others, I’m not entirely convinced that it is helpful.  [my italics]

He has a couple of comments to make:

Firstly, I’m not entirely convinced that guilt is a great motivation to anything in the Christian life. Saying that if you don’t do X you are being disobedient may well be true and it is certainly a classic strategy of many evangelical teachers. However, in my experience, saying this sort of thing just makes people feel bad and doesn’t do much to change behaviour. It is far better to demonstrate the joy, and privilege of being involved in mission work than it is to make them feel guilty for not being involved.

Next he takes a look at arguably one of the most abused verses in the Bible:

Secondly, the saying is all about going – something that isn’t actually central to the New Testament teaching on mission. I know that many people will want to point me to Matthew 28:19, where the text says “Go and make disciples” or something like that, depending on what translation you use.  The problem is, that in the original Greek, there is only one command in this verse and it isn’t “GO!” A better, but not very idiomatic translation would be “going, make disciples…” Essentially, the command is to make disciples wherever you are. Some people go to the far corners of the earth, others go to the office; but we are all called to make disciples.

And adds:

If you don’t believe me, read this.

I just did – and it’s a very clear discussion of why thundering the imperative “GO!” from the pulpit is not really what Jesus actually said to his disciples.

The rest of the post (and it’s well worth reading it all) discusses what Eddie thinks it really means to be a disciple of Jesus discipling others – and suggests a re-writing of the misleading bold statement above

“Serving Jesus by making disciples wherever you are is the greatest privilege you can have; you’d be daft not to do it.”

I like it!

If you are interested in helping every language group in the world get an accurate translation of Matthew 28:19 – and the rest of the Bible – check out Wycliffe Bible Translators UK & Ireland or search for the Wycliffe office where you live.


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At look!2012, the Wycliffe Global Gathering last May, Christopher Wright gave three talks. (See here.) Today I was listening to one of them entitled Holistic Mission.

Whatever we might think of the term mission; however we may define the term – it is God’s mission, not ours. It’s not about Christians in need of a mission looking to develop our own strategies and ministries. Chris argues, as he does throughout his book The Mission of God, that from Genesis to Revelation, we are learning about God’s mission and that God is calling his people to be involved in his mission to his created people in his created world.

Yet so many of us continue to argue for and against our own definitions. We debate the relative merits and priorities of evangelism versus social action.

Many may think that Bible translation is firmly in the evangelism sector, but nothing could be further from the truth.  Currently I’m preparing for a seminar on 13 October at Emmanuel Church in Lurgan, entitled What’s the point of translating the Bible for hungry people?

Friend and colleague, Dave Pearson, doesn’t do Bible translation, but he is a key member of our organisation. Dave is one example that I could use in Lurgan. This is what he posted on Facebook on Friday 28 September.

Five Marks of Mission

This week I spent three days in Machakos, Kenya leading an Advocacy Workshop. 24 participants from 12 NGOs applied the principles I taught to four issues: access to education for pastoral people groups, empowering parents to advocate for quality basic education, quality vocational training and cultural practices that damage sexual and reproductive health (such as female genital mutilation and widow inheritance). It was hard work but a lot of fun. I learned a lot too.

So in which of the Five Marks of Mission is Dave’s work as a member of Wycliffe Bible Translators?

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John Stott
John Stott in 2006. He has been described as ‘a renaissance man with a reformation theology’. Photograph: Kieran Dodds

Though the name of the Rev John Stott, who has died at the age of 90, rarely appeared in the UK national press, in April 2005 Time Magazine placed him among the world’s top 100 major influencers. A comment piece in the New York Times six months earlier had expressed surprise that he was ignored by the press, since he was a more authentic advocate for evangelical Christianity than more colourful figures such as Jerry Falwell.

Stott, radical in his conservatism, could not be pigeonholed. He was deeply committed to the need for social, economic and political justice and passionately concerned about climate change and ecological ethics. He regarded the Bible as his supreme authority and related its teaching to all areas of knowledge and experience. He insisted that Christians should engage in “double listening” – to the word of God, and to the world around them – and apply their biblical faith to all the pressing issues of contemporary culture. He himself researched, preached and wrote on a wide range of matters – from global debt to global warming, from the duties of the state to medical ethics and euthanasia. This was the kind of evangelicalism he embodied.

Read more in this detailed obituary from The Guardian

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I heard this morning that John Stott died yesterday. A few minutes ago I found his memorial website which is a great source of information about John Stott’s life and details of upcoming memorial services.

John Stott’s successor as International Director of Langham Partnership International, Chris Wright, has written the following message on the website.

Message from Chris Wright

It will not be possible to write the history of the church in the 20th century without reference to John Stott. His remarkable ministry spanned the whole of the second half of the century and even in his eighties he was making an impact on the 21st.

His leadership of the evangelical movement, both in the Anglican Communion and in wider inter-denominational settings, was a major factor in moving it from rather narrow-minded fundamentalism after the Second World War, to the fastest growing part of world Christianity that it is today. The list of movements and institutions he founded, fostered and strengthened can be read in the biographical pages of this website. His books have challenged and nourished millions of Christians into a balanced and thinking biblical faith.His legacy through the global impact of the Langham Partnership International and the London Institute of Contemporary Christianity is incalculable. Chris Wright

For the vast majority of people whose lives he influenced profoundly, however, he was simply ‘Uncle John’ – a much loved friend, correspondent, and brother, to whose prayers we will never know how much we owe. Like Moses, he was one of the greatest leaders God has given to his people, and yet at the same time, one of the humblest men on the face of the earth. He was, for all of us who knew him, a walking embodiment of the simple beauty of Jesus, whom he loved above all else.


I remember being at a conference of UCCF Associates Ireland many years ago south of Dublin and during a break, chatting to John about birdwatching. Much more recently while a guest in Belfast  of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, John was taken on a birdwatching trip by two friends of mine John Piper and David Clarke. David now owns an autographed copy of one of John Stott’s perhaps less known books Birds Our Teachers: Biblical Lessons for a LifeLong Bird-Watcher

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Last week from 17-23 July, I was at New Horizon.

Evening celebration with Ben Kwashi

New Horizon has been going at Coleraine University since summer 1989 – the year we left N. Ireland to teach at Vavoua International School in Ivory Coast as members of Wycliffe Bible Translators. In recent years Hope Street (the mission zone at New Horizon) has been operated as a multi-mission effort under the auspices of MAP [Mission Agencies Partnership] – and this year I was there to do my shifts in Hope Street, but also because I particularly wanted to hear two of the main stage speakers – Chris Wright and Archbishop Ben Kwashi.

Chris Wright, author of "The Mission of God"

As you can see below, Chris comes from Belfast and is the younger brother of a long term friend who lives close to us in Belfast. I have learned a lot from listening to Chris on downloads and reading his books, so was very keen to attend his series of morning Bible Readings throughout the week. I was not disappointed!

Chris Wright was born and grew up in Belfast but over the years has spent more of his life in India and England. In September 2001 Chris was appointed to his present role as the International Director of the Langham Partnership International. Chris and his wife, Liz, belong to All Souls Church, Langham Place where Chris enjoys preaching from time to time as a member of the ministry team. He enjoys running, birding and watching rugby and has a passion to bring to life the relevance of the Old Testament to Christian mission and ethics. Chris loves preaching and teaching the Bible, which he does now mostly through the Langham Preaching seminars in different parts of the world. When not travelling for this ministry he gives about 3 months of each year to his continuing writing projects. Chris and Liz live in London and have 4 adult children and 2 grandchildren.

Ben Kwashi, Archbishop of Jos, Nigeria

I was equally keen to hear Bishop Ben (as he became affectionately known throughout the week) since Wycliffe UK has strong links with Bible translation in Nigeria and Ben was once featured in a Wycliffe video stating: “Bible translation is evangelism!”

Ben Kwashi was born into a church-going family and went through normal primary education attending the Nigerian Military School. Although he had been preparing for a military career he received a clear call to go into the church’s ministry in 1976. He served in the Church for some two years before being sent for training to the Theological College of Northern Nigeria at Bukuru, Jos. He was ordained in 1982 and in January 2008 he was presented as the Archbishop of Jos Province, Nigeria. His pastoral experience is wide and varied as he has worked in rural and urban churches. In 1987 his church and vicarage were totally burned down in Christian-Muslim riots. He is currently the International Chairman of SOMA (Sharing of Ministries Abroad) and is well known as a preacher and evangelist throughout Nigeria and also in other African countries, England and America. He is married to Gloria and they have 6 children.

Another link was between Ben and the Theological College of Northern Nigeria where Ben studied. We have Wycliffe UK members teaching at TCCN on the Bible Translation degree course for Nigerian Bible translators. One of the New Horizon mission projects for 2010 will support a Wycliffe UK project to part fund Nigerian Bible translation students at TCNN.

As the New Horizon website says:

This year at New Horizon we will be supporting the efforts of 3 Mission Projects. One of these is:

  • Wycliffe Bible Translators programme for the training of Nigerian Bible translators at the Training College of Northern Nigeria (TCNN). In a country with more than 300 language groups, this programme will help meet the urgent need for well-equipped Nigerian translators.
  • Actually Nigeria has over 500 listed languages! And many of these still need Bible translation… If the New Horizon income allows this project to be supported, 18 more Nigerian Bible translators will be trained to work on some of those languages.

    New Horizon has promised that we will soon be able to download the talks of all the main speakers from their website… I’m looking forward to that!

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    “Probably not!” says Don Miller fairly emphatically.

    Clear guidance!

    Did you have / are you having those debates (much loved of youth leaders in my younger days) talking about guidance and the trap of bad guidance talks when young people struggle to find “The One” who is God’s choice for their life partner?

    Often when I’m talking with people young and older as they explore their interest in joining Wycliffe Bible Translators, I sense that there are a number of options that God would be perfectly happy about!

    • Do their skills best suit Wycliffe Bible Translators or another agency? Well, probably both… and even some other agencies too!
    • Should they teach Wycliffe missionary kids overseas or stay in their school in N. Ireland? I guess God would be happy with either of those – it’s your choice.

    Does God have just one path for our lives?

    Can we make wrong choices and God gives up on us?

    Are there a number of choices we could make that God would be happy about?

    Back in 1989, Ruth and I could have gone to teach missionary children in Yaounde, Cameroon and we would have had input into the then unbuilt Rain Forest International School, which is still operating and about to move into new buildings this summer.

    The other option, which we chose, was to go to Vavoua International School in Ivory Coast which no longer exists partly as a result of the civil disturbances in the country. We taught some really wonderful young people  – some of whom might even comment on this blog!

    Had we chosen Cameroon, our lives would have been different – especially we would not have got to know the Kouya people and the Kouya translation project! But I don’t think God would have been unhappy with either choice.

    Don Miller says some more stuff…

    I want to write an essay saying the statistical chance of God having a specific plan for your life is roughly 1 in 227. I’d base that statistic on scripture, because scripturally, for every one person God had a specific plan for, there were 226 He did not. Joseph was in, Benjamin was out and so on.

    Okay, I haven’t actually done the math. It may be 1 in 250 or 1 in 95, but that is hardly the point. The point is we think God is going to tell us exactly what to do, but chances are, He isn’t. It’s just not a Biblical idea.

    God does have a general desire for everybody, for them to be reunited with the Trinity through Christ, and for them to have food and shelter and relationships, but I don’t believe God has mapped out a plan for your every day, or even for your every year.

    And again…

    But I could be wrong. Here’s how you know, based on scripture, whether God has a specific plan for your life:

    1. If you are a virgin and you get pregnant anyway.

    2. If your donkey talks to you.

    3. If an angel wants to wrestle.

    If any of this happens to you, God is definitely at work. He also wants you to see a counselor.

    And there are a few more. You get the point. If God has something specific for you, you’ll know, I promise.

    You can read the whole blog here:  Does God Have a Specific Plan for Your Life? Probably Not

    I am currently on the planning team for a high school / university student careers day in Belfast later this year: it’s called Right Move – Is There One? More later…

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    I hope you’ve noticed that the title of this blog is also what my blog site is called – John 20:21.

    So what did Jesus mean? I’m fairly sure that Jesus, God the Son,  came to be a human man in first century Palestine because  God the Father wanted to translate himself from divine into human so that humanity could better understand who God is. Jesus also said that if we want to know what God is like, we are to look at him, Jesus.

    So if God the Father sent God the Son to earth to reflect God to humanity… and if Jesus then said “As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you” – then one aspect of that must be that as Christians, as followers of Christ, we must live lives reflecting God to those with whom we come into contact.

    And that is a tough assignment – praise God that we also have God the Holy Spirit living within us to help us!

    I’ve been thinking a lot recently about 1 Corinthians 12 and the Body of Christ and it struck me that it’s no coincidence that in 1 Corinthians 13 Paul talks about love. Maybe I’ve been missing the obvious for years (no surprise to those who know me) but it struck me that the love talked about in ch13 is the essential oil or lubrication to enable the Body of Christ in ch 12 to function.

    My Coleraine mate in Cameroon, Clarke, has just posted a blog that thinks along some similar lines…

    For many people, is their opinion of Christ based on the ‘important’ Christian – the minister? Or, is it based on the rank-and-file Christians. I hope I’m creating a good impression – what about you?

    That’s his conclusion, but I suggest you read from the beginning to see how living in Cameroon is turning Clarke into something of a philosopher.

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    New Wycliffe UK website is live

    I spent most of last week at Kingdom Come, a conference for Irish church leaders north and south designed to Refresh, Restore, Revitalise. We were treated to a feast of challenge and encouragement from speakers Gordon MacDonald (keynote speaker) plus morning Bible readings from Church of Ireland Bishop Ken Clarke, Methodist minister and theological college lecturer Heather Morris and Presbyterian minister Trevor Morrow… plus a host of seminar speakers.

    I was there with colleagues Eddie Arthur and Stephanie Angus, not just to be refreshed, restored and revitalised, but also promoting Wycliffe UK’s new message that the Bible is the Story that everybody needs. We want to encourage everybody who has the Bible in their heart language to not only Live the Story, but also to be involved in helping Give the Story to over 300 million people speaking over 2,200 languages that don’t have the Bible.

    Kingdom was the first outing for our new Wycliffe UK stands and introductory leaflet – and the website went live just in time as well. I was delighted with the success of our Wycliffe UK marketing people in meeting the deadlines.

    New stands with new message

    Kingdom come was also the Irish launch of BibleFresh in a seminar led by Eddie Arthur and Krish Kandiah introducing the four strands of BibleFresh:  Bible Reading, Bible Training, Bible Translation and Bible Experience. I’ll blog again soon on the Bible Translation strand of BibleFresh, but I’ll leave you with Eddie and Krish in action…

    Eddie introducing Bible Translation strand of BibleFresh

    Krish introducing Bible Training strand

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    Intensive Care Week

    Philip Yancey wrote a few days ago in Christianity Today: he subtitled the piece…  Thoughts while sitting beside my brother as his brain and body failed

    My brother’s life did not end this summer, but in one terrifying week of progressive strokes, his brain shut down much of his body. On a Friday, he began experiencing vision problems. The following Monday, he drove himself to the doctor, who sent him in an ambulance to a local hospital. On Tuesday he spoke sometimes clearly and sometimes in gibberish. Wednesday he could walk but lost control over his right hand and arm. By Thursday he could not stand and failed to follow simple commands. An MRI showed significant brain damage.

    It somehow struck a chord with me. Since my four month sabbatical started at the end of October last year, three aunts have died, a spiritual “uncle” passed away and a number of friends have died either suddenly or in stressful circumstances.

    Read the rest of Philip Yancey’s post here.

    The Bible has words of hope and encouragement in such situations…

    And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have die so you will not grieve like people who have no hope.  For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died.  1 Thessalonians 4:13-14

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    I’m sure you’ve heard the story of how six blind men meet an elephant. I came across it again recently – here it is…

    Six blind men encounter an elephant – although how they knew that it was an elephant the story does not recount. The first touches its trunk and says that an elephant is like a palm tree, another touches its side and says that an elephant is like a rough wall. Another feels its tail and says that an elephant is like a piece of rope. Each comes into contact with a different part of the elephant[2] and is convinced that their own explanation is correct and that the others are wrong. None of them realises that they are all experiencing just one part of the same elephant and that none of their explanations are complete.

    The story is supposed to explain how different religions experience different parts of ‘God’ but none realise that they have just a part of the truth about ‘God’.

    As a Christian I don’t agree – for a start I don’t wish to put the God of the Universe  in inverted commas!

    Chris Knight at bethinking.org offers an updated version of the blind men and the elephant in the zoo which I am much happier with and think is worth a read

    The problem with this interpretation of the parable is best phrased as a question: How does the interpreter know that every religion is just a part of the overall conception of God? In order to know this, one would have to be able to see God in all his fullness and understand how each religion reflects just a part of that complete picture.

    The updated story of the blind men and the zoo

    Here is an alternative version of the story, which to me rings far more true about mankind’s search for God.


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