Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The insider movement and Islamic ministry

There is a great deal of conversation in mission circles around the insider movement when doing evangelism with Muslims. The insider movement is not simply a phenomenon in ministry to Muslims but to Hindu's as well and is often defined by a scale of C1 to C6 depending on how "insider" it is. These practices have become divisive in the missions community as well as with churches who support those who are proponents of the practice.

ReachGlobal is not part of that movement and we don't even use the term. Rather we have a biblical and practical framework from which we approach ministry to Muslims (and and the principles would apply in ministry to Hindus and others. 

Biblical Framework
  • You only come to God through Jesus.
  • The Bible is the final and complete revelation.
  • Jesus was both human and divine.
  • The Godhead is of a Triune nature, Father, Son and Holy Spirit
  • A Kingdom Community (church) is a fellowship of believers in Jesus Christ committed to gathering regularly for biblical purposes under a recognized spiritual leadership.
  • Mohammed is not God's prophet and the Koran is not God's Scripture.

Practical Convictions
  • Muslim ministry demands a flexibility to allow individuals to move toward Christ and followership.
  • We need to trust the Holy Spirit in the process of helping new believers make decisions about how they respond to Islamic culture and religious practice.
  • Our primary identity is that we are followers of Jesus.
  • We encourage approaching people from their own context and framework of thinking to initiate conversation about the Gospel.
  • Baptism will come about as a natural part of spiritual growth and followership of Christ.
  • While we seek to approach people from their context, we never hide our followership of Christ or full commitment to the Gospel.
  • We consider it inappropriate to pretend that we are something we are not, ie. followers of Islam, in order to share the Gospel.
  • We encourage the use of Biblical translations that accurately reflect the intent of the original text.
  • Our focus in on the centrality of the Gospel.

I realize that some who read this blog have differing convictions but we believe that the above reflects a Biblical framework for doing evangelism with Muslims.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Graciousness is a mark of a good leader

Many leaders run so hard and are so consumed by success that they run over people in the process. After all, it is results that matter! Not so. It is people that matter first, starting with those who serve as our staff and colleagues. If we disempower our staff and treat them poorly we have failed as healthy leaders. 

Leaders can mistreat staff in many ways: curt words, not having time to listen, lack of empathy, giving ultimatums, threats, intimidation, course language, dismissal of other viewpoints, demeaning language, marginalization, and I could go on. I have seen all of this and more in Christian organizations. I was once in a reconciliation meeting between a leader and one of their staff members who had been subject to much of the above. When I told the leader that this kind of behavior would not be acceptable in the organization I led, he said, "Well I didn't do anything to him that he didn't do to me." So much for leadership.

Good leaders are gracious. They treat people well and care about them. They truly see people as their most important asset. They are kind, gentle, caring and empathetic even as they provide clarity and leadership. They are not pushovers but nor do they practice pushing over. 

I am often surprised when organizations put up with leadership behavior that is substandard because the leader "delivers." In other words, they give the leader a "pass" on behaviors that are truly not acceptable because they deliver results. No leader is exempt from treating those around them well. Results as the expense of people are not acceptable results - in my view. And they don't reflect the character of Jesus. Graciousness is a mark of a good leader. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Foolishness and wisdom

The book of Proverbs has much to say about the foolish and the wise, as do the other books of Wisdom. I define wisdom in this manner: 

Wisdom is the ability to look at life situations and relationships from God's viewpoint and to respond in prudent ways that are consistent with His character. Wisdom takes into account potential solutions and unintended consequences, often by thinking gray. It then charts a course of action that is most likely to be productive and to minimize unintended consequences.

By definition, foolishness is the flip side of wisdom so we are foolish when we don't act wisely. And there is indeed a great deal of foolishness even among God's people and yes among leaders. Much conflict in local churches, for instance, is the result of foolish behavior that does not reflect God's viewpoint, character or prudent words or actions.

Responding to life situations in wisdom often requires time, prayer, thought and counsel. The foolish respond quickly and usually without the above. The wise individual restrains his emotions, anger and words in a tough situation while the fool does not. The wise take advice from those who will be honest while the foolish listen to those who will tell them what they want to hear. The results for both are predictable. Foolishness can be incredibly destructive.

All of us have joined the ranks of the foolish from time to time. None of us wants to live there. As you walk through your day today, think wisdom.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Five presuppositions that help us deal with disillusionment with God

We may not admit the truth even to ourselves, but disillusionment
with God is not uncommon among ministry leaders. And when it comes, it is often accompanied by an underlying anger that spills over in unexpected ways, onto unsuspecting people. Our personal issues with God become toxic as we struggle with the disconnect between our theology and painful personal experience. From this dissonance flows a poisonous mix of anger and bitterness. After all, there is no anger more personal than anger at God—anger that He allows or even causes circumstances that we believe He should not.

This is a dangerous moment for leaders because the relentless undercurrent of anger hurts those we lead, and our followers end up walking on eggshells around us. Where can we go for restoration in those situations? We go back to five basic truths and principles that must drive our spiritual leadership and must be the presuppositions from which we think, live, and minister. These core truths are what help us move toward God rather than away from Him when suffering comes our way.

One: God is good all the time, even though we live in a fallen world. We can always count on His goodness; we must trust in it, for if God is not good, nothing proclaimed in Scripture about Him can be trusted (see Romans 8:28-39; Psalm 23).

Two: God’s goodness does not preclude us from suffering. Indeed, we share in the fellowship of His sufferings (see Philippians 3:10), and our scars become trophies if we trust Him in the midst of our pain. 

Three: God’s ways are indeed inscrutable to human eyes—majestic,
eternal, sovereign, and divinely good in ways that we cannot understand this side of eternity (see Romans 9; Job 38-42).

Four: God has an eternal purpose in all things that transcends our limited understanding. That purpose is good and will be fulfilled as the glory of God becomes known across our globe. Often failure and pain are the antecedents to amazing glory and eternal success (see Isaiah 40).

Five: We play a humble part in God’s eternal purposes and cannot take personal responsibility for the completion of His plan. When we carry a burden of responsibility that He was meant to carry, we become weary, disillusioned, and often angry. We must leave His purposes and His burdens in His hands and watch Him unfold His inscrutable plan through us (see Ephesians 2:10).

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Why mission agencies do not pay ransom for staff who are kidnapped

The news that ISIS had demanded ransom for James Foley has raised the issue in the media about whether such payments should be made. Many countries quietly do just that. It is also an issue in the mission community since many staff work in places that put them at risk for kidnapping for ransom.

Most mission agencies at least in the United States have a policy that they will not pay ransom for kidnapped staff. It is based on the premise that however we handle the situation, we cannot put other missionaries at risk by our actions. Paying ransom simply encourages terrorist groups to repeat their actions since it pays off. This is why Somalia terrorists keep hijacking ships in the Indian Ocean. They have learned from experience that the companies will settle and it becomes a money making enterprise.

Mission agencies do have resources at their disposal for the negotiation or rescue of kidnapped staff. These are highly trained professionals who come out of the security world. If handled well, there is a very high probability of a positive outcome for kidnapped staff. Of course, groups like ISIS may change that equation as their ruthlessness is second to none. Good agencies have well thought out plans for crisis situations and update those plans regularly as threats emerge.

In today's world it is critical that we pray for the safety of our missionaries and national partners. It is an increasingly unsafe world where the tentacles of evil can reach almost anywhere. That is not to say we should live in fear but it is to say that we should pray for God's protection. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

If womens voices were heard in the church, it would be far healthier

Most churches have all male leadership - which I understand as most (but not all) evangelicals in the US are of the complimentarian rather than the egalitarian perspective. I do not intend to enter that debate here but to suggest that it often leaves out a significant voice in the average congregation. Men and women often process situations and issues differently. Thus, when the voice of women (50+ percent of a local church's constituency) is not heard, there is often a serious deficit in wisdom, decision making and perspective.

Not long ago I consulted with a congregation that had experienced major problems. In interviewing many people I found that the women in ministry positions (paid and volunteer) had a far better grasp of the issues in the church than the elders did. Yet they had never been asked for their perspective or wisdom. Ironically, there was more hands on ministry taking place among the women than the men, yet there voice was not valued or heard by the majority of the male leadership. 

Thankfully, that has changed and there is now a leadership community that includes both men and women - even though the church is complimentarian in its theology. They have found a forum to include both the voices of men and women without violating their theology. It indicates wisdom because no church will be healthy without the voice of both men and women being heard in appropriate settings.

It saddens me when women are marginalized in the church. In most churches they are the group that prays the most, serves the most and in many ways cares the most. Yet their voice is often not heard. Wisdom would be to ask the women ministry leaders in every congregation if they feel heard, valued and included. And, to ask them what issues they see that should be heard and considered by the leadership. You might be surprised by the wisdom you hear!

I suspect that Jesus listened far more carefully to the women who followed him and gave them far more respect than many male church leaders do. It gives one pause.