“Missions in Samaria” Book

One positive side of enhanced quarantine is the opportunity to make progress on something that one had definitely had on the ‘back burner.’ I decided to try to finish my book “Missions in Samaria” a few months early. When I say it is done, I mean that the first draft is done. It is only about 70 pages, but I am happy where it is— at least for now. My next book will be a collaboration with my wife on a pastoral counseling case workbook. It should be valuable, especially in the Asian context.

If you want to read the first draft of my book, “Missions in Samaria,” click on the link below.

Missions in Samaria rev 0

Of course, if you are bored, you can also look at other books that I wrote or my wife and I wrote, they are listed in:   My Books

3 H’s of Persuasion

I have been going over different Asian religions in my Dialogue in Asian Religions course. I started with Judaism in Western Asia and worked my way across to Shinto in the East. Now I am looking at Atheism. Atheism has deep roots in Asia. Some forms of Buddhism and Hinduism could be described as Atheistic, as can some modern political movements in Asia such as Bolshevism and Maoism. Of course, Atheism is so diverse that it is hard to find commonalities between many atheistic perspectives. That, however, is the point. One doesn’t truly know what another person believes simply by knowing the label they use to self-describe. One must talk with them.

Image result for captain disillusion

I decided to use some comments from my favorite “skeptic” online. His name is Alan Melikdjanian. He is more commonly known as “Captain Disillusion” on Youtube. He is a debunker— particularly of videos that seem to show the impossible. He shows how many of these are made through special video “tricks.” Very interesting. However, I am bringing him up for a talk he gave at Skepticon Australia (2018 I think). The title of his talk to a group of skeptics was “The Unbearable Loneliness of Being Right on the Internet.” While he doesn’t say it directly, the talk is essentially a critique of the “New Atheism” movement that developed in the early 2000s. I really don’t think the movement truly exists. Rather, it was a term coined by a journalist around 2003 (I forgot the journalist’s name) to refer to a rather aggressive evangelistic form of atheism that often shows itself in seeing belief in God or in a religious belief system as a sign of mental deficiency or delusion.

Melikdjanian does not seem to have problems with the evangelistic fervor of these people, but rather that their method often has the opposite effect of what they are seeking. The aggressive negative stance of the “new atheists” tended to lead to pushback seeing these skeptics as jerks (or as Melikdjanian said, falling into the “black hole of assholery”).

He suggested three H’s to describe how skeptics (a term that itself is generally understood as rather negative) can be more persuasive.

H is for Humor. Melikdjanian commonly uses humor to entertain and to educate. Good humor builds bridges between people. Bad humor such as sarcasm (“cutting of the flesh”) drives a wedge. Humor also makes one’s message more interesting, grabbing the attention and sympathy of the respondent. Such humor must be humor that resonates with people outside of the echo chamber of the skeptic community. When humor is used in a self-deprecating fashion (pointing out one’s own weaknesses or mistakes), it can lead into the second H.

H is for Humility. In theory a skeptic is a doubter (even though it has often been used to describe those who are rather uncritical of a naturalist worldview). As a doubter, one should be ready to admit one’s mistakes, and express uncertainty and a willingness to learn. Skeptics too often have been known for embracing a certain “know-it-all” attitude with an associated condescension of other’s views. This seeming lack of humility is not a popular attitude, and even less so in a time being dominated by post-modern thought.

H is for Hope. Melikdjanian notes this is very important. Many people hold to faith beliefs that are out of line with the beliefs of skeptics. Many such believers do so, in part, because it provides a source of hope for them. For a skeptic to encourage a person of faith to leave that faith, the hope lost must be replaced with a new hope. The goal should never be to replace hope with hopelessness.

I think there is a lot of wisdom here, and I believe it applies as much to Christians as anyone else. Christians need to be able to express their faith in a manner that is humorous… entertaining, and enlivening the interest of those who are not Christians. Far too much Christian media is designed to be consumed only by Christians or those who are fully immersed in a Christian worldview. Much of it is boring or nonsensical to those outside of the subculture. It is maddening at times the Christian productions out there. Much of it is low quality. That is worthy of complaint. Worse, however, is that it is often marketed as Evangelistic, and yet uses language and cultural references that are only meaningful to insiders. To insiders, it may be seen as simplistic and boring… but to outsiders, the reaction can be far worse. The Gospel poorly presented CAN be do worse than the Gospel not (yet) presented.

As Christians, we recognize that God knows all things, and that we are not God. As such, we have every reason to be humble and joyously embrace our own ignorance. This should not mean that we revel in ignorance (it is good to study and try to understand), but we should not assume that we know it all and that we are always right about everything. Christians are supposed to be humble, so why not embrace that role? We also should avoid espousing the lie (or at least mistaken belief) that doubt is the opposite of, or contradiction of, faith.

As Christians, we need to help others know that we offer a message of hope. Often we do the opposite, spending more time on judgment than on hope. Why? I think there is still a part of us that think that the Medieval practice of the Morality Play (scaring people into formal adherence) is still a good method today. I am not sure it ever was. We must realize that the Gospel message is an offense to some and foolishness to others. It also undermines much of what others base their lives on. Therefore, when we express the Gospel message, the focus should be more on hope.

 

 

Is Dialogue Contradictory to Evangelism?

Dialogue is in contradiction to Evangelism. Or is it?  Dialogue is generally thought of as conversation between two equals (certainly equals in terms of roles in conversation) so as to achieve mutual understanding. As such it is not driven by a desire to coerce another, or change another’s mind. From this standpoint, it is certainly understandable if Dialogue is seen as contradictory to Evangelism. Some even explicitly (or at least implicitly) say this:

Leonard Swidler:    The primary purpose of dialogue is to learn; that is, to change and grow in the perception and understanding of reality, and then to act accordingly.

Peter Feldmeier:   Be without covert or ulterior motives.  Do not secretly be trying to convert them or prove yourself superior.

Frankly, I agree with them. Dialogue is not to be manipulative. It should be built on mutual respect and openness to learn.

So does that put it at odds with proselytizing? Does it work against evangelism?

No, I don’t think so:

Dialogue IS NOT Evangelism… but it IS Foundational to Evangelism

Dialogue helps one…

  • Understand each other  (head level)
  • Have greater insight with each other (heart level)
  • Reduce social distance (relational level)

So consider three forms of evangelism

#1.  Testifying. Sharing one’s own experience (serving as a witness of what God has done in one’s life).

#2.  Proclaiming. Sharing the gospel message and Christian dogma.

#3.  Arguing.  Seeking to demonstrate the superiority of the Christian faith over the faith of the other (two-way conversation where each is seeking to change the mind of the other).

Now consider these.  Testifying is a more personal form of evangelism and that certainly is helped by a reduced social distance. It would also be aided by an understanding of the thoughts, beliefs, and values of the other so that the testimony can be presented in a way that would be understood well by the other and be relevant to the other.  The same could be said in terms of proclamation and even argument.

So, dialogue  is not evangelism. the process and goals are different. However, healthy dialogue helps to bring connection between the two and better understanding of each other which is pretty necessary to effectively evangelize.

Let’s be honest here. Most of the evangelisitic methods that have been created are based on the presumption that the other person is already (essentially) Christian. For example, the Romans Road presumes that the respondent accepts the authority of the Holy Bible, and essentially has a Biblical understanding of who God is, who Jesus is, and what sin is. The respondent may or may not be “born again” (having allegiance to Christ) already, but probably already is already at least nominally or culturally Christian. Hardly surprising that such methods don’t work well with those of distinctly non-Christian religions or cultures.

If you are interested in knowing more about Interreligious (or Interfaith) Dialogue, consider clicking on the menu above for “My Books” and look at the book “Dialogue in Diversity.” It can be clicked on to purchase, or simply to preview some of it.

Cover front

 

Reflective Book Review: “Principles of Leading Muslims to Christ”

I don’t do book reviews very often. Frankly, I usually read through or skim through books rather than deeply read a book. And I even more rarely read a book in the manner appropriate for critique.  However, the author of “Principles of Leading Muslims to Christ” was one of my students, and I did work through the book cleaning up some aspects. Anyway, here is my rather lengthy review.

The book, “Principles of Leading Muslims to Christ: Effective Contextualization and Dialogue for Transformation and Discipleship,” was written by Adesegun Hammed Olayisola. He is a Nigerian who was raised as a Muslim and trained as a Muslim, before coming to be a follower of Jesus when he was college age.

I find the book has several strengths, one weakness, and one or two things that fit in a gray zone between these points.  I will start with strengths:

1.  It is written from a position of sympathy and love for Muslims. Much Christian writing regarding Muslims tends to embrace negative stereotypes. I once decided to electronically cut ties with a pastor friend who essentially used his FB account to promulgate every hateful click-baity story put out there that degrades Islam or its adherents. The author finds much that is commendable in Islam and its adherents, and chooses not to pander to his primarily Christian audience.

2.  He takes up more space bringing awareness of Islamic teachings over Christian responses to those teachings. Some of this is because of the next point. However, in addition he notes that Christians often have a stunning ignorance of Islamic beliefs (and I would add beliefs of almost all other religions). Effective interaction with Muslims begins from a foundation of understanding, rather than ignorance.

3.  Olayiwola recommends dialogue built off of a foundation of mutual understanding over the utilization of argument,  or special plan or technique. Argument generally drives people further apart and special techniques or procedures often are ineffective because they completely fail to take into account the individuality of belief, personality, values, and situation of the person one is talking to. He recommends using a clarification form of dialogue (as opposed to argumentative or relativizing dialogue), and finds value in the 7 principles of Max Warren for interreligious dialogue.

4.  He emphasizes what needs to be done with those Muslims who decide to follow Christ. He speaks particularly of those Muslims who, like himself, find themselves ostracized by family and community (and for some by nation) because of this change of faith. He gives a lot of good advice as to how to bring them into the community of faith. He does not recommend C5 or C6 groups, but does see the need for churches who are MBB (Muslim Background Believer)-friendly. Ideally, it is pastored by an MBB. He speaks of some of the difficulty and rejection he had with Christians and Christian groups for some trivial things such as his name (an “Islamic” name) and whether being a Christian requires a Muslim to start eating pork, or reject part of his (polygamous) family.

The major negative aspect of the book is that it is roughly edited. I have to bring this back on me. I helped with the editing, but Olayiwola lacks to resources for professional editing. It does show, but I don’t believe that it undermines the book, but readers should be aware of this. <As a person who cannot afford professional editing, and as one who likes to put out books first, and fix some problems in later revisions, I am quite sympathetic of this.>

There are some other things that I consider neither negative or positive, but are worth noting.

  1.  The book arguably is not clearly written to any specific target demographic. The early part of the book spends considerable time talking about the story of Sarah and Hagar. This is shared because it is an important issue for many Muslims. However, for most Christians, Hagar and Sarah of Old Testament characters, and a rather obscure New Testament metaphor for salvation. For many Muslims, the story is much more. The author spent considerable time on this because it is important to Muslims and an important separation point for Muslims and Christians. The likely readers, Christians, should embrace this focus rather than seeking to undermine this focus. (I remember when the author presented this topic in one of my classes, and students began to try to argue with him. It was as if they forgot that the presenter is a Christian who is trying to present Islam from an insiders perspective for the benefit of the class.)  Additionally, context of Islam and Christianity is heavily skewed towards Nigeria. As such he focuses on concerns such as “white weddings,” polygamy, prosperity churches, and shariah. While many readers wouldn’t connect with some of these issues, it is unlikely to be beneficial to speak of Islam and Christianity only from a supracultural, decontextualized, setting.
  2. His principles of leading Muslims to Christ point to the idea that there is no set method. The title of the book should hint at this, but Christians are so used to focusing on methods, that they often struggle with focusing on principles or on process. However, once one embraces a method, one often disregards relationship. Additionally, whatever method works in one context is likely to be unhelpful in many (most… nearly all) other contexts.

I do think this book is valuable to Christians who love their Muslim neighbors. But expect to be challenged.

Olayiwola’s book is available at this time in online sources such as Amazon.com.

NOTE:  Olayiwola used some of what I had written on Interreligious Dialogue. If you want to read up more on this topic, consider my book:

Dialogue in Diversity

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Chick Tracts” and Fan Service

This is a long post so here is the short version. It is my contention that Chick Tracts (for those familiar with them) are not actually evangelistic tracts. Rather they are fan service created for consumption of and support by their real target– Conservative Evangelical Christians.

One channel I like to watch on the Web is “Comic Tropes.” I used to collect comic books. Even though I stopped years ago, I have fond memories of my collecting and reading days, and film studios turning comic books into motion pictures has kept a lot of those fond memories current.

A Comic Tropes broadcast I recently watched was on “Chick Tracts.”  For those who don’t know, Jack Chick (1924-2016) founded a tract publishing house that still produces mini black and white comic books as evangelistic tracts. The work is very revivalistic and fundamentalist in tone. I was raised in a church that would describe itself as Fundamentalist and Separatist. Chick Tracts were not used in that church, however. But when I went to Cedarville College (now Cedarville University) I attended a church that had a large display of Chick Tracts that one could pick up and share with friends (or enemies I suppose).

At the time I found them interesting, at least as a concept. They were essentially little morality plays in comic form– a bit like the radio plays, “Unshackled.” Unlike “Unshackled,” that tended to be grounded in real stories of people at the Pacific Garden Mission, the Chick Tracts tended to be rather “over-the-top” with stories that were often over-simplified, over-dramatized and unrealistic. However, as one who collected comics, I was well-aware that unrealistic over-dramatization is a pretty common feature in this form of media, and so I did not really let that bother me. I would put a few of them, with some other tracts, in my Bible when I would go over to Ohio Veterans Children’s Home. The kids would rummage through my stuff to read or collect… and some would take the Chick Tracts. Fine.

But I was having some problems with these tracts. One of the ones I had trouble with was the one on Evolution. Reading it, I realized that the primary message to those who believe in Evolution is— insult. <Evolutionists are insane or stupid. You should stop being an insane or stupid evolutionist.> I could not see how the message could possibly be effective to anyone. While I am solidly in the “Design Theory” side of the Cosmogeny spectrum, I could not see any transformative value to insulting people of a different view. I did not see how anyone could possibly read that tract and say, “Wow. I never knew that my beliefs were so messed up. I need to follow God, and stop thinking that my ancestors were monkeys!”  If anything, I suspected that people who were evolutionists would be thoroughly turned off not only by the lack of good argument to change beliefs, but also be turned off by the tone of the comics.

Another one that I had trouble with was one on Catholicism. The tract was essentially the comic adaptation of the teachings of Alberto Rivera (1935-1997). These teachings were quite controversial and polemic in nature. Essentially, according to the tract, pretty much all of evils of the 20th century were directly the result of the intentional machinations of the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church (with an added little sideslap at the Orthodox faiths as well). Back then, my experience with Catholicism was pretty limited. Presently living in a country that is over 80% Catholic has increased my education immensely. But as I was reading the tract I quickly noted a trend. The tract would make a lot of outlandish claims that I had not heard before, and then would add a more mundane fact that I knew was actually true. When I started checking the footnotes on the tract— what do you think I found? I suspect you guessed it— the fairly mundane and ambivalent facts were properly footnoted to show veracity to the claims while NO footnotes were given to the more outrageous (and “damning”) claims. Again, I could hardly see who would be swayed by such a comic. I just can’t imagine any thoughtful Catholic thinking, “Oh wow! I have been part of the Whore of Babylon! I must leave it and start attending the church of the fine people who are printing these tracts.” In fact, it had a bit of an opposite effect on me. The poor documentation and deceptive footnoting made me wonder if the Catholic Church might not be so bad of a group after all. In this sense, it is kind of the same as my reaction to the anti-Masonic literature of the 19th century, and the Illuminati conspiracy-mongers of the 20th century. In effect, if a person screams loudly about evil “over there” without justifying the claims, one must wonder if the evil is in the one screaming.

On Comics Tropes, a Chick Tract was presented that I don’t recall reading. Apparently, it is one of only a few that they no longer publish. I can understand why they stopped publishing it. While it was again the typical over-the-top morality play, the underlying plot was absolutely horrible on pretty much every level. The title of the tract is “Lisa.” Lisa is actual the daughter of a man who sexually molests her. Somehow, the secret of this man’s behavior becomes known to people in the neighborhood. A neighbor (a medical doctor I think) says to the man that he knows what the man is doing to his daughter. The doctor goes on to give words of wisdom. The man should seek forgiveness from God and stop behaving this way. The man prays to God and asks forgiveness, and goes home to happily tell his wife and his daughter that he will never be a pedophilic, incestuous rapist ever again.

I hope I don’t need to tell you what is wrong with this story. It is actually what has been wrong with, oh so many, churches in the 20th century. Someone does something horrible in church (or out of church and then comes into the church with a story of God’s forgiveness). The church then asks the person to confess, ask forgiveness from God, and then covers things up. In this tract, the doctor:

  • Did not call the police
  • Did not help the man get counseling or even group support (or even get accountability structures in place).
  • Did not ensure that the daughter is protected from the man’s relapse
  • Did not (as far as the story shows at least) indicate that there was any follow-up and ensuring of honest remorse and determination to change.

Maybe 50 years ago someone could read that tract and see a positive message. Maybe. but I know that I saw problems with a number of the Chick Tracts 35 years ago, and I was an insider (semi-Fundamentalist Evangelical Christian). Today, I am not sure that anyone could read “Lisa” without picking up the message of the church as a place to cover-up evil under the cloud of false repentance and remorse. When I think of this story, I am reminded of so many preachers, priests, and missionaries, who knew how to play the game so as to continue doing evil away from police scrutiny. I am reminded of a few years back when Pat Robertson was trying to build support to get a woman on deathrow for murder to have her sentence commuted because she had prayed to receive Christ (as if, again, seeking forgiveness from God should remove one from punishment from civil authorities). Sheer madness.

Anyway, maybe you can see the video from Comic Tropes.

The host describes himself as a person who is “basically good” without being religious. Before one starts quoting Romans 3, note that he is not saying that he is sinless. He is just saying that he has many qualities that religious and secular ethicists would describe as commendable. I don’t have any reason to dispute this claim. As such, he would appear to be exactly the type of person that the tract “Lisa” was written for. That is because the tract doesn’t actually focus on the pedophilia, the incest, and the rape. The doctor makes it clear that the type of sin is not the key, but just that each person has some sort of sin. And the man in the tract emphasizes that he has been “basically a good person” at least until stressors in his life led to him falling to temptation in one specific area. So the host on this Youtube Channel is a great person to test the tract out… to see if the message resonates with a “basically good but imperfect” person.

The reaction was pretty much the opposite of what the tracts purport to seek— repentance and revival. But I think that this is not really the purpose of the tract. I think it is fan service:

“Fan service, fanservice, or service cut is material in a work of fiction or in a fictional series which is intentionally added to please the audience.”

Think about it for a moment. The audience are conservative Protestant Christians. They are the ones that actually gets the tracts from the publisher and the ones that actually provide funding to keep the presses rolling.

  • Insulting Evolutionists would normally do little to change the mind of evolutionists, but it provides a certain comfort to Creationist Christians who have felt marginalized in schools and academia.
  • Throwing around poorly justified accusations at Catholics is unlikely to be very persuasive to Catholics, but helps non-Catholic Christians fell good that their denominations broke away from one of the major ancient branches of Christianity.

Getting back to the tract “Lisa,” this seems to me to be very much about fan service. After all, the pedophilia and such was pretty tangential to the story. The man’s doctor friend could have said, “I am aware that you misrepresent your income in your federal tax report” or “I see that you fail to keep your lawn trimmed according to local zoning laws.” But by having a non-Christian who rapes his own daughter allows the primary audience (Conservative Evangelical Protestants) to say, “Well it is so good that we are Christians unlike those perverts— those non-Christian incestuous pedophiles.” Unfortunately however, since the writer did not take into account that the seriousness of the sin necessitates a change to the overall plot (it can no longer simply be a simplified story of conversion), the message becomes extremely confused.

There is a place for fan service I suppose. But Chick Tracts are promoted as evangelistic tools… and I have personally seen no evidence that they serve that purpose. I expect that there have been a few people who may have responded positively to their message, but I believe that many have also been turned off to that message. One can’t simply say, “Oh, we just give the message, it is the Holy Spirit who changes the heart.” While salvation is a work of God and not man, our role is not simply neutral, or neutral and positive. We can give the message of God in a way that makes Christianity seem odious to outsiders.

Fan service has its place, but not so much for evangelism to those who are not fans. So if you, as a Christian, want to see “God’s Not Dead,” based on a Christian urban legend I recall hearing back over 35 years ago, that is fine. But don’t bring any non-Christian who has taken an actual philosophy class and knows what philosophy professors really claim and not claim.

Three Dimensions of Despair

DESPAIR

I was reading a dissertation I happen to like (“Pastoral Variables In Psychotherapy:
Aa Instrument For Assessment” by David C. Stancil), I found some research he had done on the issue of despair and the related issue of hopelessness.  I want to hit on a few things from that work.

Stancil refers to Irving Yalom who describes how despair relates to three temporal dimensions (past, present, and future).

Despair affecting the Past:     Isolation

Despair affecting the Present:     Meaninglessness

Despair affecting the Future:      Death

Despair relates to the Past in terms of Isolation. The following is a quote from Stancil’s dissertation on Isolation:

Yalom suggested that, even from birth, “our existence begins with a solitary, lonely cry, anxiously awaiting a response,” a cry which is far deeper than that of a startle response or of hunger. This cry is one of isolation, which is met by what Yalom calls the silence of “cosmic indifference.” Human isolation, which begins at birth and remains a constant companion throughout life, has the three-fold qualities of being interpersonal (loneliness), intrapersonal (dissociation), and transpersonal (existential). This isolation is the same as that lamented by Sartre and Camus, and has the same result: meaninglessness.  <Dissertation. Chapter 3, page 12>

Despair relates to the Present in terms of Meaninglessness. We cannot survive without some form of meaning. It seems (quite literally perhaps) to be “part of our DNA.” We need purpose and meaning in our lives. We want to know “Why am I here?” The answer that “I am an accident that converts complex organic substances into other complex organic substances in a Universe headed inexhorably toward thermal death” is not very satisfying, to say the least. We thirst for something more.

Despair relates to the Future in terms of Death. Of course, death is our allotted future— every one of us. However, in a state of despair, death moves into the present and haunts and posons the mind. Death is the ultimate fear— non-existence? the void? the great unknown? Death levels the playing field bringing king and slave together… and making anything that we do potentially seem futile. It may be quite healthy to recognize our own mortality. But in despair, death compounds isolation and meaninglessness. Quoting Lily Tomlin, “We are all in this alone.” But death seems to bring us to that ultimate meaningless isolation from all that could bring purpose and connection.

Considering these aspects of Despair, in Christian ministry/missions we need to deal, at the very least, with all of these dimensions.

  1.  Death. In missions, this is the one that we deal with most directly.  Salvation is often presented (marketed?) in terms of freedom from death. It is a “get out of jail” free card from ultimate destruction. This is a very important aspect for addressing despair. But do Christians who have assurance of salvation still struggle with despair? Absolutely. So we need to consider the other two.
  2. Meaninglessness. Salvation must be more than simply a victory over death. It must also give meaning. It should do more than suggest that “we as Christians have a purpose.” It should go further to “I have a reason for which I have been created, and in fulfiling that reason, given by God, I have meaning.” If meaning is grounded in God, then part of purpose in ministry is to connect people to God in terms of this purpose and pilgrimmage.  But can Christians recognize victory over death, and have a sense of purpose, still feel despair? I believe so. There is one more dimension.
  3. Isolation. Salvation must always be tied to relationship. Part of that relationship is with God. We can now consider God as our (very good) Father, Christ as our loving shepherd, and the Spirit as our Comforter.  But God created us as a social species. We need human connections as well. The church is meant to be a family, augmenting the biological family. It is meant to create a community of faith that also has purpose as a group and as individual members within the group.

I would argue that any presentation of Christian salvation that focuses only on Death (or perhaps Death and Suffering) is woefully sub-Biblical.

I think it would be worthwhile to also list Pastoral Theologian Andrew Lester‟s Characteristics and Dynamics of Hope and Hopelessness. These provide another way to look at Despair (or hopelessness) and how the Christian message must address these different aspects. <One could also add Jones’ Theological Worlds as giving guidance on five dimensions that must be addressed, but I will not address this here.

HOPE                                        HOPELESSNESS
Future Oriented         Past Oriented or Present Bound
Realistic                                         Unrealistic
Possibilities                               Impossibilities
Communal/Relational        Isolationist/Separatist
Personal Power                 Helplessness/Powerlessness
Positive God-Images              Negative God Image

(Stancil’s Dissertation, Chapter 3, page 7.)

If you want to read this dissertation, it is available online.

http://www.dcstancil.com/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/Complete_Dissertation.139183700.pdf

The Fish Model of Project Design

The following was a diagram that I had in my book, CHRISTIAN MEDICAL MISSIONS: Principles and Practices in the Church’s Role for Effective Community Outreach in the Philippines and Beyond. However, it is quite useful in Project Design for ministry, with special focus on the transitioning from a short-term event or project to a long-term program or ministry. The diagram looks a bit like a fish. Starting at the left side, moving to the right is the passage of time. The gap between the lower and upper lines involves the number of people involved.

ichthus

Point A: Initiation:  The idea for an event or prject comes from one person or a small group, and there is the decision to attempt to move forward with the idea.  (Those involves:  Perhaps 1 or 2)

Point B: Team-building:   This is the team-building phase. Buy-in is developed within the community and with outside help. Partnerships are developed and plans are worked out.(Perhaps the team involves 20 or 30).

Point C:  Seed Sowing:   Participants, the target group, are invited to participate in the event or project.  (The number targeted may vary wildly depending on the project. For a hands-on training, maybe 50 would be invited. For a medical mission, maybe 1000. For a city-wide evangelistic event, maybe tens of thousands.)

Point D: Event.  This is where the project/event is implemented. Most likely less will show up than was invited. (Perhaps 40% of those invited actually participate). During the event, there is intentional activity done to gather names, contact information, and such for those desiring to participate in activities that involve more commitment.

Points E and F.Filtering.  These are attempts to filter the initial participants to identify those who desire to be involved in a long-term program. 

Example #1.  For an evangelistic rally, one may gather names of those who walked forward to give their lives to Christ, or to dedicate themselves to Christ. Additionally, these people may be asked if they wish to join a church family or a home Bible study. After the event, follow-up will begin. Focus will be on those who expressed the most commitment (being part of a home Bible study), with secondary focus on those who desire a church family, next to those who expressed a desire to follow Christ, and last to those who simply attended without an expression of any commitment.

Exmaple #2.  A Children’s one-time event may be held. At that event, parents and children can be invited to a weeklong “Vacation Bible School.” Those who join the VBS can be invited to join a afternoon Bible club, or a church Sunday School.

Point G. Commitment Point. After the filtering proces, one reaches a small group that is ready to be committed to a long-term program. That program could be home Bible studies, a church, a community development program, or others. Although small in number, these have found value in what is being done, and are committed to be part of it over time.

Point H. Expansion. This where the committed group reaches out to others and begins to grow. Much of the growth would probably come from those who had initially expressed a lesser amount of commitment before, but now want to join with greater commitment.

Key Points

1.  There needs to be intentionality from no later than the team-building stage to do the project in a manner that allows it to support a long-term program. If that is not done, what often is left is a positive event and a prayer that “something good will come of this.” Prayer is important but when the event is designed in a manner that works against the prayer— well, there is a problem isn’t there?

2.  There needs to be follow-on activities that people are actively invited to commit to. One should not just assume “Oh, they know what they should do.” They don’t know what they should do if they are not invited.

3.  The invitations should be for things that are longer-term and involving a greater amount of commitment than the initial event.

4.  Embrace the idea that some will be lost on the way. This doesn’t mean they will be lost forever. Not everyone is prepared to commit long-term. You want to first find those who will… and then gradually expand to others.