Mission Marks

I was looking at the Five Marks of Mission (of the Anglican Communion) as well as Five Purposes of Church, as described by Rick Warren in Purpose-Driven Church.

The Five Marks of Mission are:

  • To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
  • To teach, baptize and nurture new believers
  • To respond to human need by loving service
  • To transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and pursue peace and reconciliation
  • To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth

(Bonds of Affection-1984 ACC-6 p49, Mission in a Broken World-1990 ACC-8 p101)

To come up with summarizing terms for each of these is fairly easy:

  • Evangelization (although proclamation to include all of the other marks as well)
  • Discipleship
  • Social Ministry
  • Social Justice
  • Creation Stewardship

These all seem well-grounded Biblically. This is not to say that all our evenly weighted.

Now looking at the 5 purposes of the church, as described by Rick Warren in PDC (Purpose-Driven Church).

  1. Churches grow warmer through fellowship.
  2. Churches grow deeper through discipleship.
  3. Churches grow stronger through worship.
  4. Churches grow broader through ministry.
  5. Churches grow larger through evangelism.

There are two immediate and obvious differences. Warren’s list includes Fellowship and Worship. Of course the failure of the Five Marks to include them is that the Five Marks are associated with the Missio Ecclesiae– the Mission of the Church. Fellowship is inward directed, while Worship is “upward” directed. Missions is outward directed from God and by God.

So if one removed those two, Warren’s list (PDC) becomes Evangelism, Discipleship, and Ministry. These line up well with the Five Marks, especially when we note that “Ministry” is a broad term. We get.

Both PDC and the 5 Marks agree on EVANGELISM

Both PDC and the 5 Marks agree on DISCIPLESHIP

Both PDC and the 5 Marks agree on MINISTRY but the 5 Marks breaks them down into:

                                   -Social Ministry

                                    -Social Justice

                                   -Creation Stewardship

Choosing Fast or Slow

drive-slow

I was a part of a conference (actually, one of the hosts of the event). It was on pastoral diagnosis and pastoral care. One person asked an interesting question for the main speaker to answer. The specific malady was depression, but it could have been a whole host of different concerns. The questioner asked which is better: to receive fast healing from a called, anointed man or woman of God, or slow treatment as is usually prescribed by pastoral care (or psychotherapy).

The wording of the question made me think that the questioner placed a high value on a more miraculous or instant healing rather than a slower process. Frankly, however, the question is not really that simple. Having gone through a period of considerable distress/depression in my younger years, the context of the specific question is pretty relevant to me. But if the problem was something else– addiction for example– the same thought process would apply.

Choice?

  1.  Fast. When I was in the middle of my depressive state (I was never formally diagnosed with clinical depression), there is no doubt what my choice would be… I want to get better FAST. The sooner the better. And in most undesirable circumstances the same answer would be given… from obesity, the panic attacks, to cancer. We want a quick fix.
  2. Slow. However, when I am out of the crisis, upon reflection, I want a slow fix. Quick fixes tend to create relapse. Poverty that is cured by a lottery win tends to return to poverty because the winner did not learn the skills of handling money that comes with a slow acquisition of sound financial habits. Rapid weight loss tends not to last, because there was no associated discipline and change of lifestyle. The mental discipline of “riding out the depressive storm” has helped me never go as deep as I did back then. In many many situations slow healing is better.

But what does God prefer… FAST or SLOW? Again this is not an easy answer.

  1.  Fast. Sometimes God seems to want to act fast. Jesus was compelled by compassion to provide miraculous healing at times. The term compassion does here seem to be key. Compassion suggests feeling the same pain as the helpseeker. Feeling the pain the helpseeker has would certain motivate the caregiver to want to help in a fast way, if he or she has that ability. Additionally, sometimes God works in a fast way as a sign, pointing to some truth the helpseeker, or the community in which the helpseeker resides, needs to learn.
  2. Slow. It seems, however, that a great majority of times God prefers the slow route. Education appears to be a slow process. The Shema points to a regular slow process for training up children. Spiritual growth, even for adults appears to be a slow process. The metaphor of Psalm 1 of a mature believer as a tree is related to a slow process of obedience and meditation on God’s Word. The illustrations of soldier, athlete, and farmer in II Timothy 2 point towards hard work and endurance as a Christian living out their salvation. Even though Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would tell His disciples what to say when needed, this came only after three years of formal and informal instruction/mentoring. God prefers the slow process for wisdom it seems. Even though Solomon was theoretically granted instantaneous wisdom… the lack of discipline still appeared to create chaos in some of his later decisions. Generally, God seems to prefer slow… usually.

Jesus grew slowly. Luke 2:52 states,

And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

The term “grew” is not a bad term, but the Greek “proekopten” suggests moving forward or advancing. I might like the term “journeyed.” Jesus grew or advanced:

  • Psychoemotionally… in discernment… in judgment
  • Physically… in size… in relation to the world around Him
  • Spiritually… in disciplined relationship to the Father
  • Socially… in relationship to His family, community, and other people.

The period covers by this verse covers Jesus entire growing process, and is the only verse that covers the period from age 12 to 30. That is fairly slow.

In Jesus’ case, there are moments when FAST happens— the resurrection occurred in a 3-day period. But His incarnation and preparation to be the Suffering Servant, was SLOW.

For me, when in moments of turmoil, I certainly may be prone to seek to be healed, fixed, or changed FAST. But at other times, I must remind myself that God’s best usually comes SLOW.

Inter-testamental Reflections on Prophecy and Canon

Recently, I had the chance to teach Old Testament (Biblical) Theology  at a local Bible College here in the Philippines. I usually teach Missions, and Pastoral Care on occasion, so it was rather exciting.septuagint

As I was preparing, and as I was teaching, several interesting things struck me. I won’t go into everything here, but I was struck by some aspects of the Bible as the Inter-testamental period was approaching. They are rather related, and tied to issues of Prophecy and Canon.

  1.  The Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) does have a feel of ending a plot line as we reach the post-exile. If one looks at Hosea (a book NOT from this period), Hosea’s rocky marriage feels like the history of God with Israel– as it was meant to. But in the exile, one feels like one has hit the resolution of the crisis, in a narrative plot— followed by the gradual restoration. With Nehemiah, one reaches the denoument. In the Abrahamic Covenant, God promised Abram a vast people and a land. This was fulfilled and restored. With the Mosaic Covenant, the people are, finally, throwing away their idols and seeking God (Yahweh), trying to abide by the Law (terms of the treaty with God). The promised dwelling of God with Israel, evidenced in the tabernacle and the first temple– and lost with the exile– is seen as restored with the second temple.
  2. There is a transition from the oral prophetic word to the written canon. This can be seen, for example, in II Baruch 85:3, “But now, the righteous have been assembled, and the prophets are sleeping. Also we have left our land, and Zion has been taken away from us, and we have nothing now apart from YAHWEH the Mighty One and HIS Torah” Additionally, Babylonian Talmud Sotah 48b, states that when Malachi died, “the Holy Spirit departed from Israel”…. meaning, I suppose, that there was no more prophetic witness. Tied to that was the role of Ezra, as well as new institutions to support the written word, including the Sanhedrin, synagogues, and rabbinical schools. People like to argue when the OT books were written… but the Torah appears as if it must predate considerably the exile (and I, personally, have no problem with it being penned primarily by Moses). The Deuteronomistic history is completed during the Exile, and the history of the Chronicler appears, based on the geneologies, to have been completed around 400BC. This transitio relates to the change of attitude of the people. In Ezra-Nehemiah, the people seem to be generally surprised and saddened at their faithlessness when read the Book of Deuteronomy. Knowing the unreliability of prophets (perhaps, especially, court prophets), the written word, canon, provided a stabler ground for their beliefs and ethics.
  3. There is a strong case for “Unfinished Business.” The Abrahamic Covenant wasn’t fully met. It would be difficult to say that through Abraham’s seed, all of the nations of the world were blessed by the time the Hebrew Bible was completed. The Davidic Covenant did not appear to have been fully met, with an unending dynasty. The New Covenant of Jeremiah (and related ideas in Ezekiel) did not appear to be fully established either. Finally, the lack of prophecy at this time was directly stated to be a temporary thing as both Joel and Malachi look forward to the restoration of visions and prophecy.
  4. The Septuagint established the precedent for the translatability of God’s Word. This is no minor thing. Even though the Jews did back away from it 300 years later, the pattern had been set. And Christians, despite some embracing “sacred languages” or “inspired translations” over time, generally recognized that God’s revelation is still God’s revelation even in translation. This is HUGE. In general, Islam never really made that leap. Truthfully, they really should have. There are no true “heart language” readers of 4th century BC Hebrew, 1st Century Koine Greek, or 7th century Arabic… so readers of Holy texts in the original must always translate to some extent. So the question is not whether translation is good or bad. Rather, the question is “Who should do the translation– unskilled readers, or skilled translators?”

So why does this all matter? Maybe it doesn’t, but it does for me.

  • The Hebrew Bible does really seem to set the stage for a New Covenant (as Jeremiah describes it). It seems like the end of a story arc, but much like the seasonal finale in a TV series, establishes hints as to what the new season will reveal and develop.
  • There is something healthy about the transition from oral prophecy to written canon. The focus on written canon appeared to be good for the Jewish people, providing a better standard for conduct. This is hardly surprising. Prophets were often unreliable in the Old Testament because of the temptation to say what what is not true. Some were false prophets because they were spokesmen for a false god, while others were false prophets in that they claimed to speak for God (Yahweh) but said what the people wanted to hear rather than what God needed them to hear.
  • The replacement of prophets with canon repeated itself in the New Testament time,  with claims of false prophets and false Christs. The Didache warned of prophets and apostles who were false due to improper motivations. Into the 2nd and 3rd centuries, prophets and apostles faded away, as the canon of NT Scripture, and the leadership structure of churches began to take away much of the need for these other offices. Some of the problems may be control issues between churchplantes/apostles and local churches (sodality versus modality structures), and a similar thing could be of prophets and local churches. The growth of cultic schisms in the second century led to a focus on determining a written canon. It also led to the idea of “apostolic succession”– establishing a ecclesio-geneological canon of sorts.
  • The growth today of the tendency of some denominations to embrace prophets and prophecy again– particularly among “Restorationist” groups, can be a bit troubling as the problems of the past have roots that can still resurface in the present. A fascination with prophecy (whether foretelling or forthtelling) still tempts people to fake it, saying what people want to hear. American “prophets” love to come to the Philippines to tell local Christians what they want to hear. The fascination with the contemporaneity and novelty of “new revelations” (and “secret knowledge”) can dull people to the reliable (but old) canon of the written word. I recall an acquaintance of mine who was attending a “prophecy” conference in the US. A self-styled prophet gave my friend a whole bunch of “prophecies” regarding the Philippines to take back here and publish. I just haven’t seen a good track record with these things, and considering the number of Christians living in the Philippines, if for some reason God decided that his written revelation and Spirit-illumination were inadequate, it seems pretty likely he would find a messenger who was local. But I could be wrong. (There is also a movement to create “Apostles” again as an office… but since the role has essentially nothing to do with the original NT role/office, it hardly deserves comment.)
  • The Septuagint, as well as the Jerusalem Council makes it clear that written canon does not mean ossified written relics. Canon is both translatable and contextualizable. As such, it has the qualities of both permanency and dynamism. The permanancy provides a better foundation to base one’s faith and action on, while the dynamism provides unique applicability to unique cultural circumstances.

I guess, in the end, I would say that a transition from oral prophecy to written canon is a good thing, and seeking to reverse it is going backwards, in more than one way.


 

How Do We Learn?

Yeah… How DO we learn. There are all sorts of talks about Learning Styles and Modes of Learning. But in the end, some sort of “philosophy” or training should be better for nurturing change in a trainee. Our Counseling Center provides Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) and that has gotten me reflecting on how we learn, how we grow, and how we change. Sadly, I have never taken a course in Education Psychology. But I have had enough training, experience, reflection, and eduction (Yes… “Eduction,” NOT “Education”) to have a few thoughts.

Learning Diamond

Think of this Diamond Diagram above as the interaction of two cycles.

Cycle 1 is the Action-Reflection Cycle. It is also the Praxis Model of Theological Contextualization or Development. It is further the process of Pastoral Theology. rutted-road

We like to say that experience is the best teacher. That may be true, but we are not always the best learners. Often, we act without reflection, falling into the same decisions and actions like a vehicle may get stuck in the deep ruts of an old dirt road. With and after action should be thoughtful reflection. This should be done personally, meditatively, and intentionally. However, it is also aided by being doing with peers and mentor. However, this reflective activity should then guide action. The process is cyclic or, better, helical, as one learns and changes over time.

Cycle 2 is the Didactic-Eductive Cycle. The term “Didactic” has many meanings and eod0hnuances. However, it generally involves teaching via imparting knowledge to the trainee from the instructor. The term Eductive, or Eduction is a term promoted by Seward Hiltner. In my Navy days we used eductor pumps to get water out of flooded areas of the ship. The eductor pump has no moving parts and utilizes no electricity, flame, or fuel (at least directly). Water is sent through a firehose at high speed and through the “pump” that is settled in the flooded area. The low pressure, utilizing Bernoulli’s Principle and proper nozzle design, causes water to be sucked into that stream and out of the space.  Eduction then is to draw out. We already know a great deal of things… but that knowledge must be drawn out of us. Eductive learning is common in Rogerian, “client-centered,” counseling, as well as Pastoral counseling. At the same time, one cannot draw out what isn’t there in the first place. Therefore, some input, didactic training is needed as well. However, people commonly don’t change by simply given outside information. Truth needs to also come from inside to be valued and utilized. Ideally, a cycle of input and drawing out can lead to growth and change.

Bringing these two cycles together is especially valuable, and both can lead to consider change and growth. CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) seeks to bring these two cycles together. Good mentoring should as well. The LePSAS method of training (Utilized by Community Health Evangelism/Education (CHE)) also seeks to bring the two cycles together.

In ministry and missions, we seek growth and positive change… so bringing these two cycles together should be valuable to all of us. That means:

  • Trainees (disciples) should be involved in ministry/activities. Don’t fall into the trap of “train them now to minister later.” Training is best done in concert with action.
  • Trainees should not just be doers. The action needs time for reflection, incorporation, and change. Of course to do this means to allow the trainees to diverge from established activity patterns. Reflection that cannot be acted upon is demotivating.
  • Trainees need to be taught. “Throw the child in the water to see if he will sink or swim” may work for some. I have heard on the Internet how an eagle will push its young out of the nest when it is time for it to fly. But that story is false– and appears to express more about the instructor than about what works. Most people need some guidance… some instruction.
  • Trainees need to be helped to learn what they already know. Education should not be paternalistic— assuming that the trainer has all knowledge, and the trainee has only ignorance and misinformation. The trainees are full of valuable trainings, experiences, and reflections that are not synthesized/integrated. In some cases they are nearly forgotten. The trainer can help them draw these out and get them integrated with action, reflection, and new learning.

 

Enculturation of Faith

Ecological model

The power of culture is the power of habit. How does this develop? Parents and other members of a community influence the next generation. One version of Bronfenbrenner’s
Human Ecological Model is shown above. The innermost circle is a child. The outermost circle can be thought of as the overall societal structure, institutions and culture the child
resides in. The greatest influences, however, are those associated with the  circle (microsystem) closest to the child.

Enculturation is the “natural” taking on of a first culture by children. Acculturation is the mostly intentional taking on of a new culture by (especially) adults. As you might guess, enculturation is easier. Enculturation of faith, likewise, is easier than acculturation of faith

A child is influenced and educated to conform to established norms within the culture through:
• Active teaching
• Modeling (passive teaching)
• Rewarding and punishing

Modeling is probably the most effective, especially by those in the circles closes to the child. I don’t suppose this should shock anyone. But it certain points out the problem of simply “letting the church teach our children about God.”

But if one looks at the diagram above, another point becomes obvious– it is the family, primarily, that acts as the transmitter, and filter, of the broader culture. As such, the family has great power in ensuring that the child effectively acclimates to the surrounding culture, while still ensuring that the worst aspects of the culture are not enculturated.

Christian Parents may seek to be Separatists or Isolationists, ensuring that the child is raised in a “godly” way, in a sheltered enclave in opposition to surrounding culture. The problem here is that God works through culture, and has always done so. Developing a child that cannot effectively function in the culture is harmful to the child and harmful in his or her calling to be salt and light in the world.

Christian Parents may, on the other hand, ignore there role of filtering culture. The parents are negligent, or simply transmit the surrounding culture to the child without godly guidance. That is to renounce their role as Christian parents.

The goal is for Christian Parents to Integrate local culture with Christian faith and teachings.

Children will see it, hear it, and absorb it– that is, if they truly see it and hear it, and experience it in the family.

 

 

 

 

Metaphors for Missions

I finished teaching an 8-week course in Theology of Missions at Philippine Baptist Theological Seminary. I wasn’t sure how best to do this, since this is the first time I have taught the course, and it is the first time it has been taught at our school.

So I decided to hit as much as I could in areas relating to Missions Theology that is not necessarily dealt with much elsewhere.  So I broke it up into three major topics, and several minor topics.

Section 1.  Missions Theology as Systematic Theology

  • Missio Dei
  • Missio Ecclesiae
  • Missions in terms of Eschatological History
  • Analysis of the Great Commission(s), Great Commandment, and Abrahamic Covenant
  • “Spiritual” versus Social versus Holistic ministry
  • Interfaith Dialogue and dealing with other faiths
  • Views on who is saved

Section 2.  Missions Theology as Contextual Theology

  • What is Contextualization and Contextual Theology
  • What are the models of contextualization of theology
  • What benchmarks are there for orthodoxy of contextual theologies
  • Roles of narrative and metaphors in contextual theology

Section 3.  Missions Theology as Reflective (“Pastoral”) Theology

  • Action/Reflection in developing personal missions theology
  • Case Studies and peer review
  • Personal metaphor for missions

We had an interesting term. With 10 in my class, we had a lot of good conversations. We had 10 metaphors given for missions. Some seemed a little strange at first, but made a lot of sense when explained. A couple of them may not meet the strict definition of metaphor… but I am not that strict. If it is useful, it works.  The ten metaphors were:

  1. Anchor
  2. Builder
  3. Water
  4. Walking by the Spirt
  5. Gathering Toys
  6. Mountain climbing
  7. Liberation
  8. Mountain biking
  9. Playing Chess
  10. Gardening

BDSC05324

 

Clickbait Christianity

Many of you know the term “Clickbait” (aka “click bait” or “click-bait”). But for those that don’t, clickbait are web articles that are created to entice “clicking” on them. Typically, the stories are misleading, biased, low-quality or completely bogus. The purpose of these articles is not to inform… at least not to inform with the truth. Rather, they are to pull people in to generate advertising dollars. Websites need thousands of clicks a month to attract advertisers. One time I wrote an article challenging a false prophecy from a traveling speaker visiting the Philippines that a flesh-eating bacteria plague would start in Pangasinan and then grow into a worldwide epidemic. A few weeks later a local news network put on a (later found false) report that supported the prophecy. Within 4 hours of that report, I had over 3,000 hits on my website. Normally, it takes me close to 4 months to get that many hits. Stories, even when false, that draw on the fears of Christians can generate an awful lot of “clicks” on the web. I am glad, however, that my article challenged the story, and ultimately appears to have been correct.

One finds a lot of clickbait on Facebook. At lot of my friends share this stuff. Now, in some cases, it is not their fault. Some clickbait is set up so that when one tries to close the article by clicking on the “X” it is actually interpreting the action as a permission to share on your FB page. That being said, so many intentionally put completely bogus stories on FB. Why do that do it? I am not sure, but here are some thoughts related to this issue at least.

  • Far too many Christians don’t want to take the time to do real research. If there is a report that a crater has formed in a part of the world as a part of divine judgment, it may be difficult to prove it was divine judgment, but it is pretty easy to research whether such a crater actually exists. But far too many don’t take the time.
  • There is still a tendency to take pictures as truth, and written stories on the Web as non-fiction. We live in an age where we should always doubt image evidence. We should also question context. Further, saying that one “read it on the Internet” is like saying one “heard it on the telephone.” The Internet is no more likely to be correct than any other communication device.
  • Many Christians (like most people really) like to shelter themselves with people they agree with and stories that support their beliefs. Some love to repeat any story that shows some religious, or racial, or national or social group in a bad light, regardless of the truthfulness, or even plausibility of the story. Others seem to have a fascination of divine judgment or guessing the end of the world, and repeat related stories with little to no thought to source, reliability, or logic (or repercussions to one’s witness when proven false).
  • Many fall into the situation of the bored cat that was killed by his own curiosity. Stories often titillate, or start with “I was shocked when I discovered…” to say nothing of articles that essentially say that you must read it, or must share it, if you love Jesus or care about others. Of course, in many cases the real reason you must read or share it is to help the site owner’s hit count for revenue purposes.

But is this all harmless? I don’t think so.

  • Some people believe these stories. Many of the stories draw on the baser instincts of Christians… trying to fire up their anger or moral outrage– perpetuate and expand an “US” versus “THEM” attitude. This is hardly a beneficial thing for Christians or the church.
  • I think it perpetuates a felt belief among many secularists that “Christians are so stupid that they will believe most anything.” Admittedly, secularists can be pretty gullible as well, but that hardly negates the bad reputation that it generates. I remember a friend of mine putting a non-sense article on his social media page where he added the comment… “This may not be true… but it should be warning to us.” If it claims to be true, verify it. If it proves untrue, don’t share it.
  • Helping false reports “go viral” supports a cynical industry that should be opposed (at least with disinterest) rather than sponsored.
  • In some cases, of course, this clickbait got dumped on people’s FB page without them knowing. But one really needs to know what is on one’s page. One’s reputation, one’s persona is revealed in what one puts on one’s FB, one’s Twitter, one’s Linkedin and more, People make judgments about others in what they have on their page.

I have to admit that I am cautious about working with people who are not cautious, or are excessively gullible, in what they have on their social media pages. I am sure others judge me in what I put on as well.

Titus 2:10 suggests that we are to adorn the gospel with our words and actions. I Peter 3:15 says that we are to share what believe and hope in, with gentleness and respect. Spreading obvious foolishness certainly does not do this.