A New Article on Social, Spiritual, and Holistic Ministry in Missions

Originally I had a chapter on this topic in a book I was working on. Then I realized that it is not really appropriate for the book. So I turned it into an article. Consider this to be a DRAFT version of the article. Hopefully, it will be cleaned up eventually.


It is available on Academia.edu by CLICKING HERE.

Flavors of Localized Theology. Part 5

Flavor #5.  Theological Development of Cultural Artifacts

Ideally, a robust local theology draws from worldview, beliefs, and values. But not all theology is at such a high level. Theology can also be said to address the small and the mundane. For example, a worship service is a gathering where men, women and children mingle together, or are kept separate is based most likely on how culture is expressed in other settings. The same can be said of whether the congregation sits in rows facing one direction, in rows facing each other, or in a circle; or if pews, chairs, rugs, or soil are used for sitting. One may not see this as theological, but as merely a matter of convention. However, whenever one chooses to take a cultural convention or artifact (using the term very loosely to include any sort of cultural characteristic one can readily ‘see’) or rejects it for church or ministry one is taking a theological stance. For example, suppose a culture group normally has meetings where men gather loosely sitting on the ground, with women with their children also sitting on the periphery. Now suppose a pioneering church is established where gatherings are done with rows of chairs set on concrete with men and women sitting together all facing the same direction while their children are taken to a different place for activities. What led to doing things so different from the cultural norm? As soon as one is saying that one OUGHT to function as a corporate body of believers one way versus another, one is being guided theologically. The decision may be intentionally or unintentionally theological, but it will be theological.

Redemptive analogies and other types of metaphors and illustrations can be thought of as small activities of theological localization. Generally, one is attempting to show God’s work of salvation in a way that makes sense in a different culture. St. Patrick’s use of a shamrock to explain the Trinity may be seen as simply an illustration, but as it is an attempt to connect God’s self-revelation to Man’s cultural setting, it is in some way an act of theologizing.

In Cordilleras of Northern Philippines, some churches integrate the use of gongs and local dances into the worship services. Other churches reject these as being ‘pagan,’ using electric guitars and drums, while other churches reject both styles, seeing both as being devilish. Ultimately, it is the local church that should determine what is correct in their context. It is not necessarily wrong for missionaries to have an input (church is both local and universal and as such should be open to critique from both near and far), but the ultimate decision should be the local congregation, not outsiders.

Another example of an activity in the Cordilleras that might hold promise for theological reflection and practical ministry is the “watwat.” This is a community meal where a great deal of food is cooked and served to every member of that community. It actually sounds very much like the Love Feast described by St. Paul, and described in greater detail by Tertullian.  <<Provide footnote for Tertullian… and perhaps Paul>> The watwat also then draws us into ethics as well. Paul and Tertullian note that the love feast must model the principle in the church that there is no respecter of person. Each member, rich or poor, free or slave, is to receive equal shares. The watwat also has this same principle. According to Lawrence Kwarteng, the ethical system of the Cordillerans, “Lawa at Inayan” expresses ethical principles through stories. One of those stories, for example, explains why it is necessary that each member of the community should receive shares equally regardless of his or her position within the community. In many churches around the world, “potluck dinners” are held where the church members share and eat together equally. Despite its roots in the Christian rites of Love Feast and Eucharist, these potlucks often as a bit of a humorous part of church culture rather than a sacred and theologically rich activity.

Some may see bringing the watwat into the church as problematic— a mixing of profane with the sacred. This is doubly true when it comes to the ethical system (lawa at inayan) where the underlying idea is that one should do what is ethical to meet the expectation of one’s ancestors, and avoid bringing a curse upon oneself. However, one can look at it more positively. Not only is the watwat, shared community meal, not inherently profane, but it points to something that is good in the church but has sometimes been forgotten. Shared meals are not only a historical part of the church, but has had a message of equality and a  sacredness that those outside of the Cordilleras can gain from. And while the ethical system of the Cordilleras may draw its basis from a less than ideal source (ancestral patterns and fear of curse), the use of story is a far more powerful than propositional ethics that is often expressed in the church today. As such, a localization of the Christian faith can benefit not only the local people, but the universal church as well. <<An unpublished, in-process, dissertation provides considerable insight in this topic. Lawrence Kwarteng, Inculturation of the Gospel in Light of ‘Inayan and Lawa’ for the Evangelization of Kankana-eys, Benguet, Philippines. South Africa Theological Seminary.  First Draft, 2017.>>

These “flavors” will ultimately form a chapter in my book on Theology of Missions. Hopefully, some of the rough edges will be cleaned up by then.

Flavors of Localized Theology. Part 4

Flavor #3.  Theologies of Cultural Patterns

It has been common to think of the Philippines as an Honor/Shame culture, particularly in contrast to Guilt/Innocence cultures. However, tests from Honorshame.com for the Philippines bring doubt to this assessment. As noted before, the Philippines is rather globalized, and this helps give results that are a more mixed. (Missionaries become less extreme in their cultural patterns than either people from their homeland or their mission field the longer they stay in the cross-cultural ministry.) Additionally, much of the Philippines has been strongly influenced by Roman Catholicism, which puts a strong emphasis on guilt. Despite this, hiya (shame) is a strong social motivator, and to be described as “walang hiya” (shameless) is a serious accusation. Still, perhaps the central pattern may not be Honor/Shame, Justice/Guilt, or Power/Fear. Robert Strauss speaks of four major patterns. Two of them line up with Honor/Shame and Justice/Guilt. The other two are Harmony and Reciprocity.

Several cultural values certainly fit with Harmony. One is “pakikisma.’ In its most positive form, it involves adjusting oneself to reduce conflict for the good of the group. Of course, it can also describe caving in to others, violating one’s moral principles. “Bahala na” is looked at often as fatalism. It doesn’t really translate well, but essentially means “Things happen— one can’t do anything about it.” However, on a practical level, such a perspective tends to reduce conflicts. <<Evelyn Miranda-Feliciano, Filipino Values and Our Christian Faith.>>

On the other hand, perhaps a better pattern to focus on is Reciprocity. A very important part of Philippine culture is described with the term “Utang ng loob.” This term, literally meaning ‘inside debt,’ translates better into ‘implied obligation’ or ‘debt of gratitude.’ It is important to find ways to pay off what one has been gifted— whether in kind, in cash, or some other way. Related to this is patronage. In this system, the ‘haves’ (Much in line with Confucian values) are to act benevolently for the ‘have nots’ and the ‘have nots’ respond through loyalty and service to the ‘haves.’ Perhaps Reciprocity and Harmony share as leading patterns in the Philippines.

Much of Western Theology has focused on Justice/Guilt. The focus has been so intense that some seem to believe that this is “the Biblical” perspective. However, it is quite clear that other patterns are common in the Bible as well. In fact, Honor/Shame is at least as common in the Bible providing great potential for theology. Power/Fear has been taken up to some extent by Pentecostals and Charismatics for theology as well. However, I believe there is much potential in terms of both Harmony and Reciprocity. In some ways, I think Harmony is easier. The Bible starts with God, Man, and Creation in perfect harmony. Genesis 3 finds God, Man, and Creation in conflict— without harmony. Christ comes to restore  harmony, the Church is meant to model harmony, and the end of the Bible finds perfect harmony fully restored. Reciprocity may be a bit more challenging (I could be wrong), but certainly attempts to look at our relationship with God in terms of covenants point toward a certain understanding of reciprocity.

Reciprocity may even help us understand aspects of our relationship with God that many of us have struggled with. We learn from Paul that salvation is a gift that is given to us by God, and not earned or purchased by us, made effective through our faith. At the same time, we are clearly supposed to follow Christ, and declare Him as Lord. Even though we are saved by faith not works, our faith is evidenced by works, and faith that does not demonstrate itself in terms of works is suspect. One way to address this is in terms of Reciprocity. We are saved by God as a covenantal gift. However, with God as our patron, such benevolence demands (culturally in the Kingdom of God, not legally) loyalty and service. We serve as a gift of gratitude. While this contextual view does not address every problem of “What If,” it certainly places salvation in a context that makes more sense. Salvation is not transactional, but relational.

Flavor #4.  Theologies of Cultural Values

Instead of focusing on major cultural patterns, one can simply focus on one or more cultural values. “Bayanihan,” or the cultural ideal of Filipinos coming together for the common good, certainly can be explored theologically. In fact, many cultural values that have been determined over the decades to be associated with Filipino culture have potential for positive theological reflection.

Jose de Mesa has put a strong emphasis on “loob” as a term that can and should have great significance theologically in the Filipino culture. The term also helps demonstrate why theology should be done by locals, not outsiders. The term, loob, is a Tagalog word whose first meaning is “inside.” As an outsider, this is the meaning that I immediately connect ‘loob’ to. However, the term is used broadly to include virtue and virtuous behavior, and, most notably for theological purposes, one’s ‘authentic self.’  Francis Samdao has noted importance of the concept of ‘Kapwa’ as well in localized theological formulation. Again, the top translation for this term is “other,” but it is in its broader understanding where its value is found. It has a strong relational value. In contrast, the English term “other” commonly implies that someone or something is alien, different, or some other way is disconnected from another. In Tagalog, kapwa suggests connectivity or mutuality. In its strongest sense, it suggests seeing one’s authentic self in the other.  <<Add footnotes from Francis>>

The use of cultural values can be fruitful, but there are certainly risks. Historically, so-called cultural values were often assigned or at least popularized by colonizers (or employers in the case of OFWs). Terms such as “crab mentality,” “Juan Tamad,” and more identified perceived qualities and then were used to label/judge the culture. For other terms like “bahala na” or “pakikisama,” outsiders may take the negative implications of these rather than seeing the possible positive implications of each.

At the other extreme, Philippine Psychology has at times seemed to have reacted to the one-sided negative perspective by idealizing Filipino cultural traits. Gerald Melodi has noted a risk of doing this. If Filipino cultural traits are seen only as good, then the line between culture and morality becomes blurred. <<Gerald M. Melodi, “Virgilio Enriquez and Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Dialogue:  Discerning a Theology of Solidarity in Philippine Kapwa-Culture:  Evangelical Review of Theology 45:3, 2021, 268-278.>>If one is to be morally good, one must be authentically Filipino. From this comes obvious questions. Does an Arab, or a German, or an American become morally good as he or she becomes more culturally Filipino? Or is morality only to be judged in terms of living according to one’s own ideal cultural norms? Perhaps the Spaniards who invaded the Philippines centuries ago were morally right to do so since they were living out their own cultural trait of conquest.

Since cultural values are prone to abuse, are they beneficial in developing theology? I believe they can be, but suggest that they are best understood as opening doors to stories. After all, it is difficult to understand concepts such as courage, honor, compassion, and such via definitions. They are understood best through stories. I also believe that it is in terms of stories where we can see the healthy and unhealthy use of cultural values in localized theology. A more nuanced, hopeful but cautious, approach to cultural traits seems wise.

Figure 20 has “The Story Wheel,” loosely based on the work of Sacks and Crossan. <<<Theo-Storying.>>>  For a story to be theological and localized, it must take some sort of stance in terms of culture. As such, Action Stories are likely to have little import for this. From there, going counter-clockwise one moves towards greater affirmation of local culture, and going clockwise one moves towards greater challenge of local culture. The extremes of cultural traits led to extremes of story-making. Using cultural traits as weapons to belittle a culture could be called “Anti-mythmaking.” In this, one is seeking to supplant a culture deemed inferior with another culture deemed superior. The other extreme, where one idealizes the local culture could be called “Mythmaking.” In this, stories show how great the local culture is and that one “should not change a thing.”

Figure 20.  The Story Wheel

If theological stories for localized theology should address culture in some sort of critical way, then the ideal stories should be Apologues and Parables. Apologues (or fables) embrace the best of the culture and teaches members of that culture to live up to that best. There is no assumption that the local culture is perfect. On the other side, Parables challenge aspects of the culture. However, parables are not anti-cultural. Rather, they are counter-cultural— embedded in the culture to challenge certain aspects within that culture.

Many stories may in fact have both apologue and parable elements. This just makes sense since culture always has aspects that are both ideal and non-ideal. The story of the Prodigal Son is one such story. In some ways it very much supports cultural values during the time of Christ. Themes such as “Foolishness is in the heart of a child” and “Father knows best” certainly are in no way challenged in the story, and appear to be affirmed. On the other hand, the extravagance of the mercy of the father to both of his rather foolish sons challenges cultural values quite stunningly. Taking this story as pointing out our relationship to God, we find that aspects of our cultural values help us understand God and our relationship with Him, but there are aspects that clearly point us in the wrong direction. God is wise compared to our foolishness, and we are at our best when we are living under His reign. Some of our understanding of father and child support this. However, some of our understanding needs to change. God’s love and mercy is extravagant. God may be just, but He is more merciful than He is just.

I believe that if one recognizes God as the ideal, one can use cultural traits (1) positively through apologues, (2) negatively through parables, and (3) ethically to point us how to live incarnationally in one’s culture but under God’s reign.

Flavors of Localized Theology. Part 3

Continuing this Thread.

Flavor #2.    Localized Theology of Cultural Aspirations

Every culture has its own history. That history has not only molded the culture, but also what that culture has as its shared dreams or aspirations. While these aspirations might be judged by others as good or as bad, they are never irrelevant. Many of the popular localized theologies are forms based on cultural aspirations. For example, Minjung and Dalit Theology can be seen as theologies of liberation— one based on concerns for the masses due to political injustice in Korea, while the other based on the injustices based on the Indian caste system. There is a sense of being trapped, and the aspiration is of being rescued, or liberated, particularly in terms of group and in terms of the present.

Theologies tied to aspirations choose certain themes or stories in the Bible as key. Prosperity theologies may choose Deuteronomy or Proverbs over Job or the Gospels. Frankly, we all do it. Most of us identify with the Israelites charging into the defenseless Jericho, rather than those inside staring in shocked horror as their world comes to an end. Liberation Theologies commonly center on the Exodus, relating themselves to the Israelites, and their oppressors relating to the Pharaoh and his people. They may also draw from the Biblical theme of God’s siding with the impoverished and the enslaved.

In the Philippines, certainly theologies of liberation are apt. The Philippines is a nation formed out of invasion and colonization. Three and a half century of control by Spain, United States, and Japan, has put its stamp on the nation. The Marcos dictatorship led to additional theological reflection, especially among Catholic theologians. This sort of theological work links the past with the present, and seeks to point a way toward a preferable future. It is out of the fears and hopes of a people that theology forms.

Most commonly, a contextual theology does not address an entire society but certain elements in that society. Consider the case of Overseas Foreign Workers (OFWs) in the Filipino context. The high number of OFWs comes, in part, from a common aspiration of Filipino families. For many, the goal is to raise a child who is able to leave the country and work abroad. Then that child can either sponsor over other family members, or at least send home remittances to help those who remain. With close to 10% of Filipinos working in other countries, OFWs have had a great impact on the broader Filipino society. One of the presidential administrations liked to refer to these overseas workers as “bagong bayani” (literally meaning ‘new heroes’).  Daniel Russell has described the Philippines as perhaps the first “globalized culture.” For myself, I find it amazing at how familiar Filipinos are as a group with culture, business, and politics around the world, especially in contrast to my own home nation. This familiarity is not only because of the large number of individuals and family members working overseas, but also the large number that remain in the Philippines but deal with foreigners regularly while working at call centers.

There are positive aspects of the OFW phenomenon. It has certainly reduced some of the problems related to lack of job opportunities in the country. There are genuine success stories of those who have been able to gain tangible success abroad. On the other hand there are negative aspects as well. First, the moving of excess workers out of the country to work and send money home is a cheap and easy way for the government to avoid addressing systemic problems. Second, it places a huge strain on marriages, families, and communities. Some rural villages have been depopulated of young people who have gone either overseas or to major cities for employment. Third, in some places, like Hong Kong, or the Middle East (and yes, ‘first world’ nations as well), Filipinos have taken menial work for employment despite often having advanced education. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this, the human tendency to judge servants as beneath the ones they serve has led to negative and judgmental stereotypes that can be quite hurtful. Fourth, there has been the belief of many in the Philippines that this leads to a “brain drain,” where talent and training is exported to the detriment of the nation. While this may not be entirely true, placing too much hope on being elsewhere can create an unhealthy dependence on outsiders (even when the outsiders are relatives).  Fifth, this desire to work overseas has developed a parallel phenomenon known as “TNT.” This stands for “Tago ng Tago,” referring to those Filipinos who are “in hiding” or living and working illegally in other countries.

What sort of Theology would take the OFW (and/or TNT) situation into account? Drawing major stories from the Bible such as the Exodus, Exile, or Post-Exile do not quite hit the mark— although perhaps this may be too quick of a judgment. The best equivalence may be the situation of the Jewish Diaspora in the New Testament (and the latter part of the Old Testament). These are Jews who have voluntarily settled in other parts of Near and Middle East. These people lived both counter-culturally and bi-culturally.. Christians in the early Church also lived in a similar manner. The Epistle to Mathetes from Diognetus has an interesting section <<Chapter 5>> that shows this dual identity of Christians living in some ways as if they are indistinguishable within the culture, while in key ways living very much separate from that same culture.  The fact that many of the places where Filipino Christians work are openly hostile to Christians, and in some there is a strong pressure to leave one’s faith and/or moral integrity at home, brings a strong light to the challenges of the New Testament church as found in the Epistles, especially Hebrews, as well as Revelation. Adding to this the moral ambiguity of those who work illegally in foreign countries, there seems like there is great potential for valuable theological work.

Another way of reflecting theologically on the Overseas Foreign Worker situation may be similar to the Latin American view known as Mestizo Theology. This view looks at Jesus as one who bridges the gap, in like manner to the way the Mestizo (half Spaniard, half Indigenous) bridges the gap between the people in charge and the people oppressed. Some focus on Jesus not only as the bridge between God and Man, but add the additional bridge of being a Galilean Jew. As such, He is an outsider… disenfranchised on some level even where He should be accepted as local. Jesus would always, like the Mestizo in colonial times, have some doors opened to Him denied to others, and yet would still be denied for access because of who He was. One can see how this might resonate with many Latin Americans today, and even in the Philippines whose history in this particular area is similar. OFWs particularly can find themselves as having feet in very different worlds. In addition, Filipinos sometimes find themselves struggling in terms of identity. In the United States, for example, they have often been an ignored ethnic group, with family names that sound like many of those of the larger Hispanic community, despite being Asian. Other Americans would confuse them with other Asian groups— particularly Chinese.

However, this status has the possibility of a silver lining. In the early church, Hellenized Jews of the Diaspora did not always fit in with the Hebraic Jews (we get a small taste of this in Acts 6), much as the Gentile “God-fearers” did not necessarily fit in with neither the broader pagan Gentile population, nor the local Jewish sub-culture. Yet it was these two groups that served as a cultural bridge that led to much of the early growth of the church. In cultural anthropology there are different strategies of acculturation where people of culture A live with people of a larger local culture B, notably separation, integration, assimilation, and marginalization. Generally, these strategies are viewed in terms of benefits and losses to the people of minority culture A. However, it can also be looked at theologically in terms of the people of culture A serving as a blessing to those in culture B.

This brings us to Abraham, a man called by God to live as a “stranger in a strange land,” <<Hebrews 11:8-13>> and to be a key part of God’s effort to bless all people. Abraham’s faithfulness to God despite not experiencing many of the promises in his lifetime far from his homeland, seems to be a worthy model. However, there are other possibilities as well.

  • Joseph. Forced to leave his people, he was compelled to work for strangers. But God ultimately remembered him, blessed him and gave him the opportunity to be a blessing to his family.
  • Moses. He also was forced to leave his people and live in the desert for many years. Yet because of His decision to follow God wherever He led, Moses was ultimately successful in freeing his family and people from slavery.
  • Exodus. The people of Israel sought the promised land, yet were forced to struggle in the wilderness, living by faith and hope for the next generation.
  • Babylonian captivity. Judah singing songs by the rivers of Babylon, praying to once again see Zion.
  • Jesus. Jesus, citizen of heaven, lived in obscurity in a hostile land. Sought by the government, He had to hide in Egypt and was later rejected in Nazareth. He had to spend much of His ministry in Galilee, because of trouble with political and religious leaders in Jerusalem. Not understood and not appreciated– ultimately, He was captured by the government and killed as a seditionist.

It seems to me that seeing Christ as one who left behind all to do what He needed to do in an unforgiving foreign land (for His family) relates well with the OFW (and TNT) experience. The Filipino experience in this setting is one of suffering, alienation, and marginalization— and hope. So little of the imported theology connects with that situation here.

  <From “Tago ng Tago Theology” “>https://munsonmissions.org/2011/10/09/tago-na-tago-theology/>

Flavors of Localized Theology. Part 2

Instead of repeating myself, please read PART ONE. Now, let’s move to the first flavor.

Flavor #1. Localized Theology in Terms of Region

Using the example of the Philippines, a localized theology for this country might be thought of as Asian, or sharing features of theologies of other parts of Asia. Emerito P. Nacpil claims that there are “at least seven features that are characteristic of the region” (of Asia) that are useful for developing Asian theology. These are:

  • -Plurality/diversity
  • -Nations in transition (nation-building and modernization)
  • -People seeking authentic self-identity
  • -Colonial Experience
  • -Christianity as a minority religion
  • -Contains some of the largest living religions
  • -Peoples seeking new social orders

<Emerito P. Nacpil, “The Critical Asian Principle,” in Asian Christian Theology: Emerging Trends, D.J. Elwood, ed. (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1980), 56-57.>

When I first saw this list, I felt that the list does not lead to common experience. After all, the first and the sixth items on this list (plurality, and home of the largest living religions) seem to say that the commonality is due to a lack of commonality. That being said, it may be true that there is a commonality of experience that would tend to drive Asian theologies toward a range of characteristics that could be grouped together, in a similar way as “Western theologies” get lumped together. The Western commonality of strong link between civil power and religious (Christian) power, the focus on the courtroom metaphor for salvation, economic power, centuries of hegemony over many other parts of the world, and the aftermath of the Enlightenment all give Western theologies a rather similar “flavor,” despite what at first appears to be great diversity. For example, much of Western theologies struggle with the issue of whether God decides who to save and who not to, or whether individuals make that decision. The result is a spectrum of views. At first this suggests great diversity. However, most all questions regarding salvation in Western Theology relates to the individual in the hereafter. There is little attempt to take seriously salvation in terms of community as well as the “here” (meaning present).

Looking at the figure below, one might say that Western theologies are focused, in terms of salvation, on the individual and the hereafter. There are aspects that extend to the community and the here/present, but not much. One might also say that various Liberation theologies tend to focus salvation predominantly on community (commonly in terms of class, caste, ethnic, or gender group) and on the present. Much ink has been spilled in one side arguing against the other side. However, rather than doing this, it is worth suggesting that both are in some ways “sub-Biblical” by themselves. By emphasizing one aspect of salvation over others, an image of salvation is given that is lop-sided— less than God’s full revelation. As such, rather than fighting, a more constructive answer would be dialogue between so-called Western and Liberation theologies. <Stanley Grenz, 20th Century Theologies>

Theologies of Salvation

There is, however, another way of looking at it as well. Rather than saying that Western and Liberations theologies are sub-Biblical in terms of salvation (an admittedly harsh assessment), one could say that each is a contextualization of God’s revelation. It only becomes sub-Biblical when one proclaims one’s theological construct as addressing God’s full revelation on the matter. In this case, the contextualization can be good as long as it answers (with divine truth) the concerns of those it is developed for.

This is not to say that all contextualized theologies are true, or that they are always necessary. It seems doubtful that there is a need for “Left-handed Theology” to counter the “Right-handed” bias of Western (or Eastern for that matter) Theology. My son is left-handed, and my father was left-handed until the school system forced him to right-handedness. That being said, their view on this could be different than mine. Ultimately, it depends on the people of a culture to develop a theology, and these same people to decide whether it is needed and beneficial.

Saphir P. Athyal states “A Western systematization of theology may not fit in the Asian scene. Asian theology should take a systematization which is dictated by the emphasis of the culture and leading thoughts of Asia.” <Sapphire P. Athyal, ”Toward an Asian Christian Theology” in Asian Christian Theology: Emerging Themes, D. J. Elwood ed., 71> Although this seems reasonable, should Asian theologies be systematized at all, or is that desire for structure a Western characteristic? Perhaps a narrative form is more relevant— or perhaps visual. As always, I don’t feel competent to say.

In one very crucial way, the Philippine context does not fit the broader Asian context. The Philippines is predominantly Christian. Over 90% of Filipinos would describe themselves as Christian. Christianity has a position of power in many aspects of life in most of the Philippines. This makes things very different than much of the rest of Asia. In fact, it is common for Filipinos to say that they are the “only Christian nation in Asia.” Ignoring the question of the validity of the term ‘Christian nation,’ this is not actually true. Timor-Leste, Armenia, and Cyprus are definitely Christian majority nations, while South Korea, although not having a Christian majority, still finds Christianity having a strong role in the broader society. However, the Philippines is the largest country in Asia to be predominantly Christian. This has led to calls for the Philippines to be a key nation for reaching Asia for Christ, and in recent years the Philippines has joined the list of what is referred to as “New Sending Countries,” as it pertains to exporting missionaries to the world.

Another difference is that the Philippines has strong ties to the West. These ties go beyond being a former colony. Huntington in his “Clash of Civilizations” sees the Philippines as part of the Western Sphere. <Samuel P. Huntington The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order> One does not have to accept Huntington’s overall thesis to recognize that the Philippines has a rather unique relationship with The West. This is partly due to the American colonization of the Philippines (Note: Americans balk at the use of the term colonization.) This influence is sustained by the use of English as the main language of business and governance, and the high number of overseas foreign workers and immigrants to Western countries.

These differences should certainly make Philippine theology quite different from other Asian theologies. However, the relative youth of the Philippines as an independent nation, its connection with other Asian regions over millennia, and its colonial history will likely make the ‘flavor’ of an authentic localized theology distinctly Asian.

Flavors of Localized Theology. Part 1

The following is s from a chapter I am writing on Localizing Theology. I decided to talk about “Flavors” of Localized Theology versus “Theories” or “Models” of Localized Theology (I will use “LW” forward). The reason is that if one speaks of Models of something, there is the temptation of people to assume that one Model is correct and the others are wrong. This is actually a bit silly. A model, pretty much by definition IS NOT REALITY. Models attempt to provide insight about reality, but will clearly fail on some level.

We see this, for example, with Atonement Theory. There are several theories of the Atonement of Christ. If one studies this, almost invariably, a student (or instructor) will address “Which one is Biblical?” Generally speaking, most, if not all, are Biblical. They generally have a sound theological basis. And ALL OF THEM fail to be complete explanations. The same could be said of Models of Theological Contextualization. Some like to ask which is the “most Biblical” or which one is Evangelical. However, all 6 of (Bevan’s) models can be found to be useful tools for an Evangelical theologian, pastor, or missionary. And probably none of them should be given over to completely..

Flavor suggests that it is part of an overall recipe. Consider Filipino cuisine. It seems to me that there are 6 major flavors. Five of them are the flavors associated with taste, and one is the flavor associated with smell. Filipino cuisine leans in hard on SALTY and UMAMI (salty and savory). However, one could argue that SOUR, SWEET, and BITTER are just as important. I suggest that there is one other flavor that is critical to Filipino cuisine, and that is FISHY. Filipino cuisine is not big on herbs and spices… although SPICY is appreciated by some— and PUNGENT and FRUITY have their moments as well. All of these come together blending flavors to make a dish good.

In like manner, there are many different flavors that come together for Localized Theology. It is not about which is correct, They all are important and should be present in one way or another in contextualization/localization of theology.

In the next few posts, I will talk about a few of these. I will focus on the Filipino context generally.

#1. Flavor of Region. Filipino culture is in many ways unique from the rest of Asia, in many ways it should have the flavor of the surrounding Asian theologies.

#2. Flavor of Cultural Aspirations. What are the cultural hopes (and conversely, cultural fears).

#3. Flavor of Cultural Patterns. How does cultural patterns (honor, justice, power, reciprocity, harmony) provide a potential framework for theology?

#4. Flavor of Cultural Values. Each culture idealizes or mythologizes certain qualities. How does the theology support or combat these?

#5. Flavor of Cultural Artifacts. What surface level cultural behaviors or materials can be utilizes to make theology more local (either making it more relevant or more resonant)?

More to come in follow-on posts.

Multi-Dimensional Evangelism

I received an email asking if I had developed any more my idea of the Evangelism Cube— a fairly simple idea I had written up back in 2010. My answer was essentially, “NO.” However, I had actually written a bit more about this topic in my book, “Ministry in Diversity,” which I put together for my Cultural Anthropology students. However, since I no longer have it available for purchase on the Internet (I feel I have to fix too many things in it), it is not all that available right now.

Because of that, I am cutting and pasting the section of the book on the topic of the Evangelism Cube here.

Multi-Dimensional Evangelism

Zero-Dimensional Evangelism

The term “evangelism” (“euangelizo”) has gone through many stages in understanding its meaning. The Greek root of this term seems to limits it to “proclamation” or the sharing of good news. Within the Christian context, it would cover sharing the good news of Christ to people. We could call this “zero-dimensional evangelism” since it is simply a point in time and space. It is simply a call to allegiance to Christ, which is then either accepted or rejected. Many limit their use of the term “evangelism” to this sense.

One-Dimensional Evangelism

In its usage in the Bible and in the early church, the term is applied more broadly, and commonly includes discipleship, not limiting itself to the conversion experience in the hearer.7 Evangelism has been extended from a point (zero-dimension) back to a line (one-dimension) by James Engel who created what is now known as the Engel’s Scale.8 (See Figure 28.) Evangelism is cognitive work that moves the listener from a state of rejection towards belief and discipleship. Therefore, helping someone go from complete ignorance of God to understanding who God is in relationship to herself is part of evangelism. Anything that cognitively assists the hearer to move up the scale then can be identified as evangelism.

Figure 28. Engel’s Scale

Figure 29. Gray’s Matrix

Two-Dimensional Evangelism

Two-Dimensional Evangelism is found in the Gray Matrix (See Figure 29) developed by Frank Gray. He noted that evangelism should not be thought of as simply a cognitive process. There is also an affective (emotions/values) component. This means that helping someone move from being hostile to God and the gospel to having a favorable opinion is also part of evangelism. Moving anyone from the lower left towards the upper right in the 2-D matrix is evangelism.9

Three-Dimensional Evangelism

But this begs the question of a third dimension. In education, one can speak of training students cognitively (knowledge and understanding), affectively (feelings, values, and identity), and behaviorally (skills, competencies, and habits). Engel’s Scale is cognitive (1-dimensional). Gray’s Matrix is cognitive and affective (2-dimensional). But could evangelism be thought of as 3-Dimensional… or an Evangelism Cube? Could one add a behavioral component. One could argue that salvation does not have a behavioral component since salvation is a matter of faith not works. Yet the same argument might be made regarding the other two dimensions. If it is about faith, it is not about correct thinking or correct feelings. But since part of our role as Christians is to be conformed behaviorally to Christ and to guide others in the same direction, then behavior certainly is a component in effective evangelism.

Why does this matter… or does it matter? How we picture things guides how we do things. Some see evangelism as a dot. Get people to say the sinner’s prayer and that is good enough. I have seen all sorts of methods used to try to get a person to say (or parrot) the sinner’s prayer. Some are little more than trickery, or simply stating what they have long had in faith, but expressed in a slightly different way. When the person has done this, the “witness” feels that he has done the work of an evangelist. But has he? Consider the experience of a missionary friend of mine. Back before he had yet gained competency in Arabic, some Muslim neighbors tried to trick him into saying the Shahada (Islamic statement of faith) three times. Why? Because they believed that the act of saying it three times would make him a Muslim. (This is not an orthodox Islamic belief.) While we may find that humorous, as these Muslim neighbors did, those who believe that saying the sinner’s prayer makes one a Christian (regardless of intent, heart, or faith) are guilty of the same confusion. Clearly, Evangelism has greater depth than getting people to say words. There is an associated change of heart, mind, and behavior as well.

Those that see evangelism as a line work with people through the cognitive challenges of faith and continue after a conversion experience towards becoming a faithful servant of God. Those that see evangelism as two-dimensional are concerned with values and emotions. They are concerned with “decorating the gospel” (Titus 2:10) to not only make it intellectually palatable but desirable to the heart. They share not only what is true, but do it in a way that is respectful and helpful (I Peter 3:15).

Three-dimensional evangelism is concerned not only with the cognitive side and the affective side, but the behavioral side as well— helping them conform themselves to Christ. Since many behaviors can be destructive and a hindrance, behavioral guidance may begin even before conversion and continue long past. See Figure 30.

Figure 30. The Evangelism Cube

In sharing the gospel in a different, and potentially hostile culture, it is likely that all three dimensions are needed. They need to encounter the truth of the Gospel (some might call this “truth encounter.”) They also need to see that the Gospel is a good or desirable thing. Commonly, but not strictly, this is demonstrated through “love encounter” — divine love demonstrated by the Christians in such a way that unbeliever’s gain a positive view of Christianity and the Christian message. A friend of mine was a Muslim man who lived in a predominantly Muslim country, but worked for a foreigner who was Christian. One day, his boss invited him to a Bible study. My friend gladly accepted, and later became a Christian. However, he told me that he did not join the Bible study because of any interest in Christianity or the Bible. He joined because he had greatly respected his boss, and so was quite open to whatever he valued.

In many (all?) cultures, people respond in faith only after experiencing faith in action. In many shame-based cultures, people become involved in a church, and participating in church life, long before they decide to become a Christian. It also seems to be true that all over the world, people are more prone to “try before you buy.” They want to see both the Christian life lived out in front of them, as well as participate in the Christian life before actually deciding to become a Christian. In such cases, the discipling cycle seems backwards— they participate in the church or study group, learn to obey Christ, and then accept Him and be baptized into the church body.

Care must be made to ensure that God’s Message is not undermined by the other dimensions. Actions speak louder than words, as the saying goes. All of this is not to say that God cannot work simply through sharing the gospel. Salvation is the work of the Holy Spirit. Rather, the point is that evangelism should be seen as having many dimensions…. it has a cognitive component, an affective component, and a behavioral component. When sharing the gospel in a different culture, extra care must be made to ensure that God’s Message is not undermined by the other dimension.


7David B. Barrett. Evangelism! A Historical Survey of the Concept (New Hope, 1987). This book goes into the Greek word where we get the English term Evangelize and shows that, while its etymology suggests a narrow range of meanings, it is quite broad in its usage. Evangelism may be required to include the proclamation of Christ’s good news, it can also include a lot more things as well.

8James F. Engel, Contemporary Christian Communications: Its Theory and Practice (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1979).

9For more information, go to http://www.thegraymatrix.org.

Missionary Quote from Ruth Tucker

Referring to the focus of studying missionaries in mission history–

An added bonus was the lively cast of characters. I have often wondered as I have studied missions history if there is any other field of endeavor that has been peopled by such a “crazy” lot. Many of them were, it seems to me, more eccentric and risky and individualistic and driven than other segments of the population. Often self-sacrificing to the extreme, many were also pedantic and critical and mean-spirited— unable to live in harmony with colleagues or with those to whom they sought to ministry.

–Ruth Tucker, FROM JERUSALEM TO IRIAN JAYA: A BIOGRAPHICAL HISTORY OF CHRISTIAN MISSIONS, 2nd edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004), pg 11 (Preface to the Second Edition).

This quote gives me both comfort and caution. The assessment of the quirckiness of missionaries is a bit of a comfort. The stereotype that missionaries go overseas because they ‘cannot hack it at home,’ is generally false, but does point to the fact that missionaries often are idiosyncratic and countercultural in their own homelands. As a missionary who is rather academic, introverted, and (yes) grumpy, it is comforting to know that I am part of a long tradition— a tradition that has successfully spread the gospel throughout the world. It is comforting since mission agencies today often look for extraverts who are more focused with obedient ‘doing.’ It is good in my mind that mission agencies are less focused on the rather dubious thing called the “missionary call.” That goodness may be offset by replacing that standard with personality testing. <Note: My wife and I have a counseling center, and we have done personality tests for missionaries. I have no problem with these testings, but I believe they are of more value for the candidate’s self-discovery, NOT for determining viability.>

As noted, however, there is caution. Missionaries have gone overseas and wreaked havoc. Sometimes in the mission team this is a problem because it reduces morale and increases attrition. Additionally, it can sabotage kingdom growth. There is a deeply flawed view that in ministry, “If even one person responds to the gospel, this makes it all worthwhile.” Ignoring opportunity losses, the fact is that an incompetent missionary or a divisive missionary, can undermine ministry… salting the mission field (a bad thing if you are not familiar with the expression) for years.

Missionaries are on odd bunch. That is a good thing… but they certainly need prayers to ensure that God can use that oddness effectively for His Kingdom.

Missionary Interview #2. Barry Phillips

This is my second interview— or more precisely, Q&A. This one is with Barry Phillips who has served in the Philippines for many years. The Phillips have been friends of ours for many years, so it is great to be able to do this Q&A.

Barry Phillips

Can you tell us about yourself and your family?  

Let me tell you about the new Barry Phillips; the old Barry is gone.  I surrendered my life to Christ while taking a sabbatical in the Philippines on June 29th, 2000.  And when I say surrendered, I mean it.  I gave Christ control over my profession, finances, possessions, friends, family, and time.  Rather than return to my lucrative IT job in Seattle, my wife and I opted to remain in a jungle region of the Philippines and make disciples.  We began by holding Bible studies with teenagers and quickly earned their confidence and respect.  Our weekly Bible studies quickly became four weekly Bible studies as siblings and parents joined in.  And in the spring of 2021 we planted a church in my neighborhood.  I agreed to pastor the church until we could find a suitable Filipino pastor.  I wasn’t qualified for the job for many reasons: I was still a new believer, I wasn’t theologically trained, I didn’t even speak the language.  But God blessed the ministry because we were obedient.  And he continues to bless it.  We’ve planted thirteen churches in the central Aurora Province, and God led us to open up a Bible school designed to train local leaders and prepare Filipinos to go as missionaries to other nations.  It’s all the Lord’s work, and I’m still in shock that he used me to be take part in it.

My wife, Lilia, and I have been married for forty years.  She’s a gem, and she’s relentless with the gospel.  We have two sons, Jesse, who is now 33 and Dylan, who is 28.  Jesse was ten, and Dylan was five when we moved to the Philippines.  I was privileged to be their home school teacher (grade 5-12 for Jesse and K-12 for Dylan.)  And, despite being ill-prepared as a teacher, both of the boys have now completed their master’s degrees: Jesse has an MBA from Liberty University and Dylan has his Master’s in Information Systems from the University of the Cordilleras in Baguio City Philippines.  My father feared that they were being deprived of a “proper” education while under my care, but both have done quite well.  Jesse is a music producer in Nashville, focused on worship music.  He’s so busy he has to turn down projects.  And Dylan, at age 28, is a mid-level software developer for a Nashville-based company that treats him like he’s a rock star.  Both of my sons are married, selecting fabulous women of faith, and Jesse’s wife, Kendall just gave birth to our first grandson, Judah Dean Phillips.

My mother passed away in March of 2020, just as COVID raised its ugly head.  We traveled from the Philippines to Georgia to attend her funeral and were unable to return to the Philippines for over 18 months due to COVID restrictions.  During that time, we bought a townhouse near our two sons in Spring Hill, Tennessee, and began serving within a local church here.  We are leading a team of missionaries to Aurora this summer, and are unsure whether we will be more effective at strengthening the Philippine ministry from here in Tennessee, or whether we will return full time to serve again in Aurora.  We will follow where the Lord leads.  

  • Please share with me how you became a convert to Christianity.  

My complete testimony was recorded and can be viewed at:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zIIPIboo3XI  I was an unlikely convert because of my advanced age and my hatred of the church.  Watch this short video and you’ll understand that God sometimes chooses the most unlikely people to do his work.

  • What is your present ministries and where you serve? 

I am currently the Director of Aurora College of Intercultural Studies, which is located in Maria Aurora, a town located in the Aurora Province of the Philippines NE of Manila. Our mission is to train Asians to reach Asia for Christ.  We offer one degree, which is a BA in Intercultural Studies. During COVID we were forced to shut down our on-campus training (which has now been resumed).  But the Lord did an amazing thing as we shifted our classes to an online format.  Filipinos from the Middle East began enrolling in our training.  A large congregation of Filipinos in Qatar joined us online.  Soon we had students from Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Riyadh, and even Muslim regions of the Philippines joining us online for training.  We have quadrupled the number of students during the COVID-19 pandemic.  We’ve become partners with Horizon Education Network in Grand Rapids, Michigan and we’re now developing fully interactive, asynchronous training courses (in English) to better serve our students.

  • What are some of the blessings and struggles associated with hosting Short-term mission teams from the United States?  

I wrote a book about short-term missions entitled, “I Planted the Seed, and Woody Squashed it.” The reason that I wrote the book was because I felt we can do a much better job of preparing those who travel on short-term mission trips.  Too often the only qualification is that they are able to raise money to come along.  That’s a poor selection criterion to determine who will represent the Lord of Lords in a region in need of Him.  Some teams have been amazing, and I couldn’t have been more pleased with their effort, teamwork, and the result of their effort.  And other teams caused damage.  Let me rephrase that, some individuals on other teams caused damage.  They argued with their team members, rebelled against their team leader, refused to participate at times, complained about the food, the heat, the accommodations, … I’ve created an online Moodle course based on my experience and on the book.  I’d like to invite you, free of charge, to take and critique the course for me.  Contact me at my e-mail address below and I’ll send you a link.  

  • Where is God leading you to in your work in the next few years?  

I’m unsure.  I thought that I’d be able to find work in the ministry in the Nashville area, but it appears that 66-year-old missionaries are not in high demand.  I’d like to resurrect a child sponsorship program we started years ago.  We were able to lift the burden of poverty from over a thousand families by supporting their kids in school.  We used this as a platform to make Christ known and it was a highly successful initiative.  But we were living in the Philippines at the time and could find nobody in the US willing to do the work at this end (depositing checks, sending thank you letters, filing annual renewal with government, filing our taxes, etc.)  So we had to give it up.  If this program were to be resurrected, we can run the effort from the states and visit the Philippines a couple times each year to train and encourage our workers there.  I would not rely on volunteers again – the workers would receive proper compensation.  I’ve learned that you can’t fire or even scold volunteers when they let you down; they are helping out of the goodness of their hearts and encouraging them may not be enough to retain them.  As the ministry grows and prospers, more volunteers are needed, not adding more responsibilities to those who are already serving.  

  • How do you balance your life as a husband and father with your ministry work?  

My wife is my ministry partner.  We serve together, discussing every aspect of what is happening, who we should be investing our time with, when certain activities and events should occur, where we will spend our time, and how we’ll approach things. Lilia is an evangelist and moves too fast for me to keep up with.  Our only conflict was when she wanted to take on more than I felt we could handle.  I spent every day with my sons in school, so I had plenty of time with them.  They might even say that it was too much time.  There has never been a problem balancing the work with family.  I was blessed to be a self-supporting missionary and I did not answer to others for my daily schedule.  I did not keep regular office hours, and my schedule was quite fluid.  

  • Do you believe that serving in the mission field was good for your children or bad? Why?  

It was neither good nor bad, just different. But if you ask either of my sons today about the experience they will tell you that they wouldn’t trade it for a “typical” upbringing.  They were forced to endure weeks without power after strong typhoons.  They did not have hot running water in the house, and got used to taking cold showers.  For four years we had to travel to Cabanatuan, about four hours away, just to use the internet.  They were oblivious to US pop culture. They didn’t spend much time with their American grandparents, aunts and uncles, or cousins.  And they were confined to a small community where they were forced to adopt a new language, new customs, and new friends.  Neither of my sons had trouble transitioning from the jungle back to the US.  Jesse was given a music scholarship at Liberty University (answered prayer) and they extended his scholarship for his master’s degree if he agreed to play bass on their Campus Band.  Dylan was able to find work within a couple of months of being back in the states due to his proficiency as a software developer.  His wife, Abby, joined him in the US after a couple of years (they met in college in the Philippines.)  My sons are clearly two-culture kids as their mother is Filipina.  They appreciate Filipino food, culture and they have family members in both countries.  Neither of them, however, is likely to take up residence again in the Philippines. Life in the US is more comfortable, safer, and offers them better opportunities to support their young families.  

  • What activities/hobbies help refresh you after the stresses of ministry?  

I make guitars and give them away.  Each instrument requires about 100 hours of effort, and I use the solitude during the process to pray for the intended recipient.  It’s creative work that allows my mind to wander and it refreshes my soul.  

  • Tell me about some of the books that you have written.  

Through the Lord’s leading, I’ve authored four books:
(a)  Accidental Missionary – (now out of print) It was a topical book of prayers with scriptural support for each of the topics.  I used it frequently for Bible studies.

(b) I Planted the Seed (and Woody Squashed it) – This was written to strengthen short-term mission efforts.  Here is the synopsis from Amazon.com:

I Planted the Seed (and Woody Squashed it) takes you on a brisk mountain bus ride into a Philippine jungle filled with dangerous reptiles, rabid dogs, drunks with machetes, armed insurgents, military checkpoints and people who are hungry to know Jesus. It includes accounts of missionaries who, while on mission, became involved in illicit romances, fell seriously ill, suffered from emotional meltdown, ran out of money, and who flagrantly violated their team covenant. I Planted the Seed (and Woody Squashed it) contains candid, essential advice for short-term missionaries. It illuminates rarely considered factors when planning a mission trip. And it challenges the notion that everyone who is able to raise enough money is suitable to participate in missions. It prepares you how to respond to beggars, angry drunks, or people infected with deadly, communicable diseases like tuberculosis or leprosy. Open this book and look at the table of contents and you’ll be hooked. With chapter titles like “Revolutionary Taxes” or “Am I Still Colored?” you know that this is no ordinary missionary training book! Short term missionaries have the potential to transform ministries around the world. Unfortunately, not all mission efforts are positive. I Planted the Seed (and Woody Squashed it) provides practical guidance to maximize effectiveness of short-term missionaries. It prescribes humility, cooperation, and alignment with host missionary efforts. It also includes a generous dose of common sense to prevent injury, sickness, robbery and a myriad of issues that affect international travelers.

(c) The 24h Province – The 24th Province is the only fictional book I’ve written.  It’s a redemption story, but filled with action and drama.  Here’s the Amazon synopsis:  

Medical missionaries hunker down in the path of Typhoon Kiko, the fiercest storm ever recorded. They fight for their lives as their shelter is ripped apart by howling winds. They struggle through darkness, rising flood waters and flying debris to their new haven. But just when they believe that they’ve found refuge and safety they discover that two members of their team are missing. Their horror is just beginning. The People’s Republic of China uses the chaos created by Typhoon Kiko to invade the Philippines. America weighs the cost of intervention and opts out of the fight, leaving the island nation without electricity, communications, allies or hope. The missionaries find themselves in the path of a brutal group of Chinese marines who are led by a heartless Captain. They attempt an escape but are captured and brutalized. But God shines through when the unforgivable is forgiven. The 24th Province is a tale of survival, treachery, brutality, miracles and forgiveness in the face of the unforgivable. Ultimately the 24th Province is a story of redemption. Would the United States go to war against the People’s Republic of China to defend the Philippines? Interesting issues are presented from both sides of this argument. The 24th Province provides illumination without judgment on the political issues. But what makes the 24th Province powerful is the response of the characters when they are tested beyond human limits.

(d) Church Doctor – Prescriptions for a Healthy Church. I love the church, and I’m troubled by its poor health.  This was written to suggest ways that we can strengthen our local fellowship.   Here’s the Amazon synopsis:  

Church Doctor (Prescriptions for a Healthy Church) provides frank advice to our ailing church. Be forewarned – Jesus is not returning to claim your congregation; He’s coming to gather the faithful. Not faithful attenders, but obedient followers. And, as a whole, the contemporary institutional church is utterly unprepared for His return. Our inward focus, lack of discipleship, and abysmally low expectations have created a church that is filled with spectators who practice dead faith. We’ve lost our love for the lost. And we’ve lost our identity. The world around us views us as hypocritical and judgmental, and sadly, they are not wrong. Church Doctor (Prescriptions for a Healthy Church) contains candid, essential advice to the church. The prescribed remedies for the church will challenge you, perhaps even painfully. Are you ready?

  • What would you do differently in your ministry if you had the opportunity to start over?  

With what I know now, there are two things I would do quite differently if we began the ministry today.  

Number One:  I would focus less on raising funds for church land, church buildings, church furnishings, and church equipment.  Our first church was planted on a couple of acres of land, and the building is impressive.  We added a fellowship hall and equipped the church with musical instruments, high quality microphones and a soundboard. And we fully supported a local pastor for almost nineteen years.  Such a church cannot easily replicate itself.  It’s not impossible, but highly unlikely in that region due to the amount of resources required.  If I could do it all over again, I’d plant many smaller, home-based, fellowships instead of larger churches.  I would use available funds to meet more physical needs (such as clothing, food, clean water, or schooling for the kids.)  We would demonstrate the love of Christ instead of talk about it.  The growth of the gospel was hindered as we waited for funds to buy land, build buildings, and support a trained pastor.  Training small group leaders would require more effort and oversight, but I believe that a discipleship-based growth strategy would have extended God’s Kingdom far beyond our thirteen churches over the past 21 years.

Number Two:  I would err more frequently on the side of grace.  I’ll give you one example.  Two of our missionary students, a male and a female, became entangled in a relationship that resulted in a single sexual encounter while they were on an extended summer internship in a remote province.  They were both tearfully repentant and confessed what had happened.  They asked for mercy, but none was shown.  The covenant they both signed to become students strictly forbade any sexual relationships, and they were both suspended indefinitely.  Now some, if not most of you, who read this would agree with the suspension or even expulsion.  How can we expect to train effective missionaries if they commit sin and break the rules?  That answer is now easy for me: by showing grace.  Too often we begin to think institutionally, following rules instead of extending grace, as Christ did.  As a Christian education institution, we announced to the world that grace doesn’t apply when you break our rules.  It was more than a school rule; they committed a repugnant sin in the eyes of God.  But both of my students confessed, were repentant, and begged for mercy that never came.  Instead, they were sent home to their families and home churches in shame. Is there any better place to teach grace than in a school designed to teach Christian leaders?  In the future, I will often err on the side of grace.  

  • How can people pray for you or support you?  

Please pray that the Lord will provide us with clear direction in the coming months.  Now that the Philippines has relaxed COVID requirements, we are able to return to our home in Aurora.  But we may be even more effective by remaining here in Tennessee to raise funds or organize mission trips to assist the ministry.  We’re unsure what step to take next.  

Regarding support: My wife and I do not require any personal support; I’m retired from the USAF and we can live on my retirement and social security incomes.  But if you are interested in helping out the ministry we can certainly use your help.  If you’d like to support a faculty member, a missionary student, or a Moodle developer, any amount at all would be a blessing.  You can learn more about Aurora College of Intercultural Studies at our website: https://www.auroracis.com/  The link to give is on the website.  

You can reach me at: globalwarmth@gmail.com – I’d love to hear from you.