Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Perspective Cards - Website Now Live

A week ago or so, our Perspective Cards website went live. There are still items to be added, included the training videos. But this at least begins the support of the Perspective Cards. Last I checked, there were more Perspective Cards sold than Soularium for the fall. And I am hearing stories of staff and students on campuses across the U.S. who love using these for spiritual conversations. Check them out!

If you have used them, share a story in the comments of what you think.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Divisions of People

Divisions of People is a thought provoking video from our friends at InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, shown at Urbana '09. Enjoy...

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Every Life Has a Story-If You Care to Read it

One of the principles driving effective exploring in the CoJourner Explorer role is the recognition that "everyone has a story and every story is worth discovering." Seems that Chick-fil-a agrees. Enjoy...

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Introducing "The Art of the Four Holy Gospels"

My last post touched the mixture of business and church--pretty much "left-side of the brain" stuff, don't you think. Well, traversing to the "right-side", what about Art & the Bible? Check this out:

Makoto Fujimura is a writer, speaker, and, of course, world-class artist whose influence (including through the IAM Movement) is significant. I am so thankful for gifted individuals like him who are leading the way in wedding arts and faith!

Our experience increasingly demonstrates the powerful connections between the visual and the spiritual among the emerging generation. Perhaps The Art of the Four Gospels will be another profound display. Wish I could be there to see it!

Fast Company, Willow Creek & the Business World

The December/January print edition of Fast Company will include a fascinating article, available to you now on-line, entitled, "How Willow Creek is Leading Evangelicals by Learning From the Business World". It is a longer article but worth the read, especially if you want a case study in mixing practical (in this case, business) wisdom with ministry philosophy.

While most of the article features Willow's Leadership Summits, I am intrigued by:
  1. The insights into Bill Hybels as a man and a leader. For instance, "I've been put in a position of influence, and reading is one of the most economical ways to get better at it."
  2. The tensions over Willow's intentional embrace of "secular" wisdom. How would you respond to David Wells critical comment? "Willow Creek has confused what leadership is in a company and what it must be in a church. We're in a very different orbit from the corporate world. Our objective is night-and-day different."
  3. Common quote attributed to Calvin, "all truth is God's truth." Actual quote from his Institutes, "If we believe the Spirit of God is the only fountain of truth, we shall neither reject nor despise the truth itself where it shall appear, unless we wish to insult the Spirit of God." That, of course, frames the discussion around "truth". But is it better framed around "wisdom", and, if so, what difference does that make?
  4. Willow's amazing international influence--"some 53% of the Willow Creek Association's nearly 9,000 congregations are now overseas"-- yet recognizing that the model hasn't worked everywhere, "Two years ago, the association quit India; the cost of putting on an event there...was prohibitive." Intriguing, in part, due to the reality that India is both an emerging global influence (especially in business) and home to a significant portion of the remaining "unreached" peoples for the gospel. That is one location I would expect to be a very high priority.
Of course, it is important to bear in mind, as with any article, you are getting the "author's perspective", and not all can possibly reflect the reality or views of Willow. But it is still a helpful (10-15 minute) read.

Thanks, Willow, and thanks, Fast Company.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Next Christian - Lyons Interview

If you haven't seen it yet, you might want to invest the 5 minutes and 36 seconds to watch the ABC News spot: Focus On Faith, entitled, "What's Wrong with Today's Christians?", an interview with Gabe Lyons.

Begins with a recounting of the rise of the Religious Right, including Lyon's "embarrassment" from peoples' perceptions of Christians (think, UnChristian). He also shares his perspective on the "attractional church".

But the greatest value (at least in light of my interests) is his brief insights into the emerging generation of believers as those "restorers". This begins BTW at 3:50 min into the interview.

We have continued to watch (with interest) this growing value among students over the last decade. The tsunami (Dec. '04) began to give initial motion within our movements, accelerating with the response to Katrina and now spilling into more and more campus movements, summer projects, partnerships and collaborative efforts.

Part of "The Changing Landscape of Campus Ministry".

Monday, November 22, 2010

Lausanne: A History Lesson in Missions

With the conclusion of the Capetown 2010 meetings, and various reports now filtering out through the blogosphere, etc., it seemed appropriate to draw attention of my fellow CoJourner blog-ites to the Lausanne Movement History Video. Its three minutes is a refreshing step into the last century to consider how God has worked.

My favorite quote:

We must have the compassion to answer the honest questions, which men and women have, and this answering the honest questions is also a part of evangelism. (Francis Schaeffer)

True in 1974. Still true today!

This is why the third CoJourner role is "The Builder" - constructing bridges over and beyond the obstacles in the spiritual journeys of others, whether intellectual, emotional or matters of the will, helping them move toward Christ.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A God-Sized Vision: Revival Stories that Stretch and Stir

Nanci and I are enjoying the reading the early chapters of Hansen & Woodbridge's, A God-Sized Vision: Revival Stories that Stretch and Stir.

What difference can it make? Here is a glimpse...

Chapter 8 "First Comes War, Then Comes Revival: Evangelical Boom, 19402 to 1950s, North America" includes a section on the birth of Campus Crusade for Christ.

Thanks, John, for sending me a copy!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Overflow Show: Going video

I have drawn attention in the past to the great resources and work of "The Overflow Show". But I hadn't mentioned that the show has moved from audio podcasts to video. Nice.

Here is the latest - a three-minute interview with Greg Koukl, author of Tactics. This deals with religious pluralism. Haven't gotten his book yet, but it is on my list for later.

Friday, November 12, 2010

International Students: Demographics

According to the Institute of International Education (as quoted in the Colleges of 2010 report, Institute of Higher Education), the 2007-08 Top Places of Origin for International Students in the U.S. are:

1. India - 94,563

2. China - 81,127

3. South Korea - 69,124

4. Japan - 33,974

5. Canada - 29,051

6. Taiwan - 29,001

7. Mexico - 14,837

8. Turkey - 12,030

9. Saudi Arabia - 9,873

10. Thailand - 9,004

Interesting to reflect on these from a missiological point of view. Makes one thankful for the work of Bridges, International and International Students, Inc.

India and China have far more graduate students than undergraduates, Korea and Japan more undergraduates than graduates.

BTW - in 2007-08, there were 623,805 International Students in US, amounting to 3.5% of our total 17,958,000 students (according to the National Center for Education Statistics).

Having been to India this fall and contemplating this emerging global power, it is fascinating to consider that we live at a time and in a place where 94,000 of their brightest and best are present in our country, being shaped through our education for positions of influence. Hmm. Imagine if...

Interesting indeed.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Social Media Revolution

In the genre of the Did You Know videos, here is The Social Media Revolution:

Had you seen this one already? What did you think?

What are the implications for outreach and evangelism?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Chilean Miner T-Shirts

You may have noticed on the news coverage of the trapped miners that many emerged wearing a tan t-shirt over their coveralls. If you didn’t notice, then at least CNN did. Here is an “investigative” article about it:

The Story Behind the Chilean Miners' Jesus T-Shirts

But we already knew the backstory, because the shirts were part of a gift from CCC in Chile. Here is a fuller picture of how it happened:

Chile Ministry Helps Trapped Miners

Isn’t it amazing how God works?

Wouldn't you love to hear even more of the stories of how God worked in individual lives in the mine and beyond?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Facebook's Backstory

Having just posted GenY's usage of Facebook, it may be of interest to consider a bit of the backstory of Facebook -- Hollywood style along with social commentary. Here to do that, is Chuck Colson, in his Breakpoint for the day, "The Social Network: A Crisis of Ethics in America".

GenY: Social Networking

GenY, that is those born between 1982-2004, are "the first generation in human history to, as children, be more technologically advanced than their parents." So writes Dan Coates, President of Ypulse, in his Engage GenY posting, entitled "Social Network Disconnect". He provides a good summary of GenY social networking preferences, including:
  • 94% of GenY is on Facebook spending 11.4 hours/week there
  • 78% prefer connecting to their preferred social network by mobile phone
  • 55% prefer texting as their primary means of connecting with friends; Facebook (in second place for primary connecting) comes in at 24%
While there may be nothing surprising, it always good to have some of the latest research facts and figures at hand.

Thanks, Dan.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I Once Was Lost

I was recently loaned Don Everts and Doug Schaupp's book, I Once Was Lost: What Postmodern Skeptics Taught Us About Their Path to Jesus, (IVP, 2008).

Though I am just in the process of becoming familiar with the book, I like what I see already. First, it starts with the audience. Perfect for the CoJourner paradigm (think, Explorer) and much preferable for our audience, as well!

Second, they emphasis the "path" to faith. How much more CoJourner-esque can you get. "Everyone is on a spiritual journey".

But the really valuable contribution is "the five thresholds" that mark similar "seasons of growth" or stages on the path to Jesus. Here is the essence:
  1. The move from distrust to trust.
  2. The move from complacent to curious.
  3. The move from being closed to change to being open to change.
  4. The move from meandering to seeking.
  5. The move across the threshold of the kingdom itself.
Note the progression. Understanding the path helps create true empathy and understanding.

Can you see your own path to Christ through these "thresholds"?

I identify with 2-5.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Explorer's Invitation

If you are familiar with the CoJourner paradigm, you know the first role in conversational witness is that of the Explorer. Your ability to help someone progress in their spiritual journey will be tied to your understanding of who they are, where they are and what they have experienced.

So what's the key to effective exploring? Asking questions and listening.

The primary questions (phrased in different ways in different settings) are really variations of a simple invitation, "Tell me about yourself."
  • Did you have any church or religious background growing up? How was that for you?
  • What have you tried in your spiritual life or journey?
  • Where are you at now spiritually?
  • What do you wish were true for you spiritually?
  • Etc.
The key is empathy - listening to genuinely understand. Exploring is taking a genuine interest in the other person and their spiritual experience. Its not just finding a transition to a different subject. You will discover that good exploring will open the door to a deeper relationship and often lead to a conversation about your story and the gospel.

Keep sharpening your skills as a CoJourner with others in spiritual journey.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Radical: Whose Reading it?

Just posted a blog ("Radical: Whose Reading It?") on the newly deployed CruPress Green. I would copy and paste it here, but hey, its just a click away. Plus, you will get to explore all the goodies at CruPress Green, at which new goodies are being added each week.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Characteristics of a Movement - Tim Keller

Interesting and short piece by Tim Keller on Four Characteristics of a Movement Vs an Institution over at Catalystspace.

While the body of the article is solid, but not particularly surprising, the conclusion is what caused me to pause and reflect:
...part of what makes a movement dynamic is a unified vision, and that always requires some codification and control. As time goes on, to maintain the main engine of movement-dynamics - a unified vision - a ministry must adopt some of the aspects of institutions. A strong movement, then, occupies the difficult space between being a free-wheeling organism and a disciplined organization. A movement that refuses to take on some organizational characteristics - authority, tradition, unity of belief, and quality control - will fragment and dissipate. A movement that does not also resist the inevitable tendency toward complete institutionalization will lose its vitality and effectiveness as well. The job of the movement leader is to steer the ship safely between these two opposite perils (emphasis mine).
I have felt that tension many times!

(Thanks to co-worker, co-leader, Holly, for bringing this article to our attention!)

Sage Advice on Using Research

I like research, especially when it done by someone else. This is not because I am lazy (though that could be discussed among friends.) It is because I know my strengths—my training, experience and expertise—and high-level statistical social research isn't included. Let’s say I have a BA in Speech Communication and a Masters in Divinity. ‘Nuff said.

I also like all I’ve read by Christian Smith. He is what I am not (a sociologist) and does what I don’t (high-level statistical studies on our audience, particularly youth and emerging adults.) But today I am reflecting, not on his research, per se, but on his sage advice to us who rely on other’s people’s research and ideas. These excerpts are taken from a lecture he gave at Princeton in 2005, following the publication of Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers. Ponder these excerpts:
To begin, we suggest that faith communities would do well to stop accepting and promulgating what may be simplistic generalizations about American youth that originated from various popular book authors, substandard research studies, journalistic coverage of youth, common stereotypes about teens, and so on.
Note the key phrase: "simplistic generalizations"!
We have observed a noticeable tendency when it comes to youth—including among youth ministry workers—to overgeneralize, overstate issues, frame situations in alarmist or fear-based terms, and latch onto simplistic answers to alleged problems. But the fact is that the lives, including the religious lives, of American youth are diverse and complicated.
Four sins (Am I guilty?) or tendencies:
  • To overgeneralize
  • To overstate issues
  • To frame situations in alarmist or fear-based terms
  • To latch onto simplistic answers to alleged problems
Why these are wrong? Because “the lives, including the religious lives, of American youth are diverse and complicated.” (You can say that again. Oh, I think I just did.)
Thus, religious communities may do well to learn to be more discerning, more skeptical of alarmist claims, less captivated by trendy popular books, and more perceptive about the diversity and complexity of the experience and situation of U.S. teenagers. We suspect that they would likely then be more effective in planning programs, prioritizing initiatives, and working with teens in ways more true to their own traditions and identities and more effective over the long run.
So what we need to be is...
  • More discerning
  • More skeptical of alarmist claims
  • Less captivated by trendy popual books
  • More perceptive about the diversity and complexity of the experience and situation
What outcome should we expect? We would no doubt be “more effective in planning…, prioritizing…, and working…more true… and effective over the long run.”

Nice lecture from the esteemed professor of Sociology. Wonder if we have to know this for the final?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Resources Galore @ CrupressGreen

Here is an announcement from our friends at CruPress Green (that is, Rick & Neil). has launched, offering nearly every chapter of every CruPress resource for free to download. You can instantly download materials like Cru.Comm, The Compass, publicity posters, teaching and training videos, classic Campus Crusade talks, and so much more. It’s easy to use, pretty to look at and just what you need to accelerate Movements Everywhere. Visit and start downloading resources for your ministry.

If you are doing campus ministry, you might find the poster section particularly helpful at this time of year.

A Chartreuse Generation & the Make-up of a Future One

As I am pouring through my backed up e-mails from the week, two items arrested my attention.

First, the color of this generation. Let's go with chartreuse, not a deep green. This thought was stimulated by MediaPost's, "Chartreuse is the Real Color of GenY". The bottom-line -- much greener in values than in action (at least when it comes to consumption.) Or should we say "hard-core light green"? (Nice epithet, in a positive sense of that word.)

Second, what will be the composition of a future generation of college students? Here from USA Today is a glimpse at the class of 2024: "Kindergartens See More Hispanic, Asian Students". Not surprising. But interesting, none the less. We have fourteen years to get ready for them. Is that in your long-term strategic planning? Does your current plans reflect these changing realities? If not, check out Destino and the Epic Movement.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Ex-Christian II

Earlier today, I posted on the Barna research with an intro regarding Anne Rice's departure from Catholicism ("Ex-Christians"). Later this afternoon, I received the Christianity Today eNewletter that featured, "Q&A: Anne Rice on Following Christ without Christianity". Since I mentioned the wikipedia quotes, it seems more responsible to include this interview to capture a fuller sense of Ms. Rice's journey.


Barna Research has recently released (Aug 16, 2010) new finding entitled, "Do Americans Change Faiths?"

The report begins with a very brief reference to writer's Anne Rice's public departure from organized or institutional Christianity (i.e. in this case, Roman Catholicism). It is worth reading a bit more about her thoughts and experience, which can be easily done at the Wikipedia article about her. Her departure stems from her experience of "Christians", not of Christ, in whom she continues to confess faith. She writes:
It’s simply impossible for me to “belong” to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider.
How many new believers experience similar? It underscores the need for a community of grace and truth in Christ-centered community.

But within the Barna study itself is this: While one if four adults indicated they had changed from their childhood religion, 12% had left Christian (in some form) for no religion or another religion, while only 3% of the adults left no religion or some other religion for Christianity. Should this alarm us? Remember that 78% of Americans identify themselves as Christians, according to the U.S. Religious Landscape survey (Pew). So the departure numbers are quite consistent with the percentages of "Christians" to non.

Its worth noting that 75% of those in our culture will not deviate from the faith of their childhood. As Kinnaman concludes,
"...the study underscores that the spiritual allegiances of childhood are remarkably sustainable in our society."

Monday, August 16, 2010

CurPress Green Goes Live

I return to my blog after a month of travels--half for ministry purposes, half for vacation. In my absence, one of the most exciting developments has been the launch of CruPress Green.

CruPress is the formal publishing arm of the U. S. Campus Ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ. Over the last six or seven years it has developed and distributed (in my biased opinion) an excellent set of tools and resources for campus ministry (and beyond.)

What publisher, Rick James, and editor, Neil Downey, have down with CruPress Green is to take the majority of that "intellectual property", along with extra "goodies", digitize it and provide it free of charge for those doing campus ministry (and beyond). WOW! Great work guys!

Here are some of the highlights:

Resources are generally organized under six categories: Growing Movements, Evangelism, Personal Discipleship, Small Groups, Body Life, and Sending. Each category is packed with articles and resources for download. For example, Evangelism has (currently) 66 downloads available. Small Groups includes thirty three. But even more, all the three years of Bible Study curriculum of Cru.Comm is available under another tab, as is the proven discipleship materials of the Compass.

You need follow-up material? Download the zip file of the Life Concepts for five basic follow-up appointments for free. Of course, the formally published (and thus, much nicer) materials are still available through CruPress. But now you have options.

Also at CruPress Green featured talks given to CCC audiences (conferences, etc.), a blog that is intended to tap into the writing of various USCM leaders, and the newly developed C456:Taking Conversations to a New Level videos.

This is not just a tool box. It is a treasure chest of resources for campus ministry!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Diminishing Teen Witness - Barna Study

Interesting new Barna study on "How Teenagers Faith Practices are Changing". The study suggests a significant decline in believing teens attempts to witness.

Believing teenagers were asked if they had attempted to explain their religious beliefs to someone else with different religious beliefs with a hope that they might receive Jesus Christ as Savior. In 1997, 63% of "born-again" youth answered affirmatively. In December 2009, that number had dropped to 45%.

What does this suggest to those involved in campus ministry? Is the culture's aversion to dialogue about matters of faith taking its toll on youth witness?

My experience suggests that Christian students still desire to witness, but not necessarily in the "forms" that have been handed down from previous generations. This was a large part of the motivation behind the development of CoJourners.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Cru Video from Texas Tech

Wonder what campus ministry looks like in the 21st Century? Here is a great video glimpse of the Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ) Ministry at Texas Tech.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Supreme Court Ruling: IVCF President Responds

Different ministries (including ours) are in the process of assessing the potential impact of the Supreme Courts ruling in the June 28th "Christian Legal Society vs. Martinez" (Hastings Law School) decision and charting a path forward.

I had provided an earlier link to one legal experts opinion.

Here is a response from Alec Hill, President of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship: "Is the Christian Legal Society's Loss a Loss for Everyone?"

Friday, July 2, 2010

Mission Shift: From Good News to Good Deeds

Wall Street Journal published a fascinating article by Brad Greenberg on the shift in missions from "preaching the gospel" to "serving the needy". It is entitled, "How Missionaries Lost their Chariots of Fire" and is worth the 3-4 minutes to read.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Supreme Court Ruling

There has been a fair amount of conversational stir created by the recent Supreme Court ruling, CLS vs Martinez. Since I am not a lawyer, I will refrain from adding my ignorance to the discussion. However, since others (like me) would like some perspective, I offer this link from Jesus Creed:

Monday, June 21, 2010

Q Conference

ABC News did an interesting interview at the Q Conference on the "End of Christianity", as embraced by, well, Christians.


Thursday, June 3, 2010

Random Evangelism? Stop it!

"Random Evangelism" is a phrase I have heard often in my 30 plus years of ministry. I have heard it again a couple of times lately. But I wish it would go away. Why? Because there is no such thing of "random evangelism", at least for a Christ-centered, Spirit-filled witness.

The phrase "random evangelism" is used to describe the process of approaching strangers for the purpose of witness. But the word "random" means "lacking any definite plan or order or purpose; governed by or depending on chance".

Since "evangelism is first and foremost a work of God" (a phrase I commonly use when teaching our Evangelism Model), it cannot be random unless God is not in it. The phrase "random evangelism" is a very man-centric view of evangelism and leaves one with an entirely wrong impression (or worse, the wrong mindset.)

I doubt this phrase is used broadly in Christian circles. But there is a certain ministry, of whom I am very fond, who has this ingrained in their language. My counsel is, (to quote Bob Newhart) "Stop it!"

I don't mean stop the practice of engaging strangers for the purpose of witness. The Sovereign God, Lord of the Harvest, still delights to work through such conversations when they are guided by his Spirit, motivated by love and practiced with genuine sensitivity and situational appropriateness. My counsel is to stop calling this "random".

Monday, May 17, 2010

Law & Gospel

Run, run, and work, the law commands, But gives me neither feet nor hands; But sweeter sounds the gospel brings, It bids me fly, and gives me wings. (Spurgeon)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Illuminated Atheist

I have a casual interest in reading the writings and considering the thinking of atheists. I am generally intrigued by their logic, fascinated by their experience and concerned for their well-being. I don't have the time (or probably more honestly, the desire) to be an avid reader of their writings or engage deeply in on-going dialogue, but my interest is genuine.

So I take note of things like Fast Company's article: "Atheism Gets a Much Needed Rebranding". The intriguing quote is,
"Atheism is quite often mistakenly seen as a cold and distant world, rather than the beautiful, important, and engaging philosophy that it is," says Matt Luckhurst, a student in the School of Visual Arts Designer as Author MFA program.
It intrigues me to consider in what sense does an atheist see their philosophy of "beautiful"? "Important" and "engaging" are easier to understand. But the beauty of atheism? Intriguing.

Fortunately, Matt has provided a glimpse into reality as he perceives it with his website The Illuminated Atheist. It's mission is thus:
Illuminated Atheist is a website dedicated to making stories and writings of non-theism by illuminating them with exceptional artwork, design and photograpchy: subverting the concept of illuminated manuscripts the church once used to socialize its ideas. For those void of religion and full of belief.
"Void of religion and full of belief". A very winsome description of atheism. I'm looking forward to perusing this site more.

Return to Blogging

Been awhile since I have actively blogged. What does that suggest about the last two months? Yep, it is true. I have had my margin sucked up and energies focused on the ministry at hand. That is actually a good thing -- it means that I have been privileged to see God at work in many ways over the last two months.

Now that the summer slow-down is beginning (hopefully this is true and not just blind optimism), I intend to return to the things that I have learned, seen and experienced through the spring. I trust that this will have value to those of you who return to this blog.

Thanks for your engagement with me!

As Paul wrote & NIV translated...
" win as many as all possible means..." (1 Cor. 9:19, 22)

Monday, April 5, 2010

Design Thinking

Beginning to examine Design Thinking and its implications for innovation in ministry. I asked one of my brothers who works as a consultant of Architecture and Engineer executives to recommend a couple of books on the subject for me. His three recommendations are:
I had a chance to read the intro to Martin's book. Compared mentally the innovation and design of what we now know as McDonalds (restaurants) and Campus Crusade for Christ. Fascinating! The mystery (of reality), leading to a "heuristic" (insight), that was reproduced over and over again by some "algorithm". If that doesn't make sense, well, you will have to read the beginning of The Design of Business. And when you do, the lights will turn on! They did for me.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Prayer and Faith

"When faith ceases to pray, it ceases to live." (E.M. Bounds, The Necessity of Prayer)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Three Kinds of People

There are three kinds of people:
  1. Those who pursue wrong things
  2. Those who pursue the right thing, but in a wrong way
  3. Those who pursue the right thing, in the right way
Though the first two look very different, both paths are disastrous. A skilled CoJourner must distinguish between the two and helping BUILD appropriate bridges for each.

It is these realities that Paul applies in Romans 9:30-10:13.
  • Group 1: The Gentiles did not pursue righteousness (9:30; compare Rom 1:18-32; 3:10-18).
  • Group 2: The Jews pursued righteousness as if it were based on works, seeking to establish their own righteousness (9:31-10:3; compare 2:1-3:20).
  • Group 3: But righteousness (the right thing) is from God by faith through Christ (9:30, 32-33; 10:3, 4; compare 3:21ff).
[21st Century moralism is a weak sister to 1st Century legalism. But both seek what is right in the wrong way. 21st Century amoralism appears just as strong a sibling as 1st Century immorality.]

How skilled are we at diagnosing a person's condition? At helping them understand their issue? At GUIDING them to faith in Christ?

"How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!" (Romans 10:15).

Monday, March 8, 2010

Old Testament Gospel

Over the last 18 months, I have been studying (meditating upon; praying over; etc.) the book of Romans. (I have made it into chapter 10 now.) It has been a delightful exploration of the riches of the gospel. It has not changed my views of the gospel, though it has significantly deepened my understanding of it. Even more important it has changed me, as I have dug deeper and deeper into the profound truths encapsulated in this marvelous letter of the Apostle Paul.

Over the last few days, I have discovered another (previously un-mined by me) aspect of Paul’s writing—his use of the Old Testament. One can’t help but noting how often he quotes OT writers throughout the book. But I hadn’t stopped and focused on this aspect until now.

What have I discovered? Depending on how you count verses and occurrences, the OT is clearing quoted or referenced about 87 times in the letter. Given that there are 433 verses in Romans, that means 20% is OT. Think about it—Paul’s most complete articulation of gospel theology is one-fifth Old Testament.

Imagine sitting down for hours with someone explaining Jesus Christ as Lord, what he has done for us in salvation and why, and one fifth of all you say is drawn from the OT. What a profound understanding of the Law, prophets and Psalms that would require.

A couple of other observations to note: Twenty-four quotations are from Isaiah (the most of any OT book). That is a quarter of all Paul’s numerous references. More than half of those (15) are found in Romans 9-11 where Paul unpacks the implications of God’s sovereign grace and plan for the people of Israel and the Gentile nations. Implication: If you want to understand Romans (and the gospel) more fully, you must understand Isaiah more completely.

The second most quoted book is the Psalms. I count 19 quotations from the Psalms. While I have now examined each of the Isaiah quotes in context, I have yet to do the same for the Psalms. That is next (I assume.) Genesis and Deuteronomy are the next most frequent with (about) nine each.

Given Genesis, Deuteronomy, Psalms and Isaiah, how well (i.e. how complete and clearly) could you communicate the gospel?

Challenging thoughts. Rich reflections. Hope it spurs your thinking, as well.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Our Semi-Literate Society

Stephen Perk announced the cessation of the regular publishing schedule of Christianity & Society, the bi-annual journal of the Kuyper Foundation. I am struck by the reasons given—reasons which highlight the change in society and the communication of information, and more importantly ideas.

Three reasons are given: First, the volume of essays submitted for publication has significantly declined. Why? “Essays get published immediately on the internet on websites and blogsites.” Second, they have other projects to pursue. But it is the third that I draw attention to here.
“…that British society (possibly even Western society generally) is becoming semi-literate. The number of people who can be reached by intelligent literature is declining drastically. …we no longer have: a literate society.”
Perk relates a couple of examples of this sad reality. One is as follows: “…when I recently tried to organise a non-fiction reading group, I was told by one person whom I approached as a possible member of the group: “I got through college without reading any books, why should I start now?”
As he draws his thoughts to a close, he makes this observation:
“If we do communicate the message of the gospel effectively to our society in a way that most people can understand, and the result is the re-Christianising of the nation, this will eventually produce a literate society, because wherever Christianity has gone this has been the result. Christianity is a religion of the book.”
Is he right? Christianity is certainly the religion of the Book. And it is certainly the case since the Reformation, fueled in part by the fruit of Gutenberg’s movable type, that literacy has been tied to Christian education and missions. It is evidenced in the Bible translation work of global missions.

But communication media have changed, and not for the first time. The oral society gave way to the literate. The literate society has given way to the broadcast society. And now the broadcast society is yielding to the rise of the digital. Rex Miller has explored these changes in The Millenial Matrix.

Where will this lead? How will it impact not only the spread of the gospel (in relation to the breadth of its reach) but the embrace of the gospel (the depth of its influence on lives and society)?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Spring Break, Big Break & Help for Haiti

This news item...

A wedding of Good News (the gospel) with Good Deeds (acts of compassion, meeting real need.)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Folly of Indifference: Making Sense of It All (2)

It makes a difference where you are. Really. That sounds simple enough, so simple that it hardly needs said. But given our tendency (as people busy with life) to avoid thinking about ultimate issues, it must be said. It makes a difference where you are.

I am spending a delightful five day visit with my daughter and her husband. I am a guest in their home and that makes a difference. Now my daughter loves me and is a most gracious host, looking after my needs and pleasures. But it makes a difference that I am here and not in my home. Despite her warm hospitality, making her home and possessions available to me, I observe that I restrict myself from making use of things as if I owned them. I am quite comfortable and happy, but I certainly limit my behavior in ways to be an appropriate guest. If I were in my home, I would exercise much greater freedom. In a context where I own it all, I can (and would) do what I want with whatever I want. You make think me foolish in what I do with my stuff, but you wouldn’t fault me for behaving differently in my home than while a guest at my daughter’s.

What does this have to do with ultimate matters, you ask? Everything, because it makes a difference where you are.

If we find ourselves in a universe that is merely physical, shaped only by forces of cause and effect, it will make a difference how we live. If this world happens to be a home that is deeply spiritually, but in an impersonal sort of way, governed by laws of karma (i.e., beware, its all coming back to you, at least eventually), well that too should make a difference on how you live. But if this cosmos is the possession and dwelling of a supreme being, who has not only created us but invited us to stay within this one’s abode, well, you better believe that would (or should) make a difference in how we live. Especially if this One cares deeply about how we treat other guests and make use of It’s generous provisions.

Context matters.

We live all of life adapting to our context. How I behave at the office is different than how I behave at home. How I behaved at school, is different than how I now behave at work. (Though my former teachers may have wished for a little better adaptation on my part.) It is only reasonable that we adapt. Likewise, it is only reasonable that we adapt life to the ultimate context we find ourselves within. And if we don’t know what context we are in, then it is only reasonable to seek to find out. We certainly wouldn’t want to be a slovenly guest, would we?

Indifference (on ultimate matters) is not only folly, it is highly inappropriate.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Making Sense of It All (1)

I just finished reading Thomas V. Morris’ Making Sense of It All. I read it on the recommendation of a friend, Dave. Now I must admit Dave made this recommendation fifteen years ago when we were spending a summer together doing ministry in Keszthely, Hungary. But I never forgot the recommendation and finally this winter, I bought and read the book. I’m glad I did.

First, I must say I became a bit intrigued by the life journey (or what I have been able to discern of it) of the author, Tom Morris: a philosopher, former Notre Dame professor (and apparently a very popular one at that), now a “public philosopher” (or at least he has his own institute) working with corporations. Hmm… curious, indeed. I think I would like to meet the man, if Providence should ever orchestrate it.

But I have also become more intrigued by Pascal and his insights into life, captured for posterity in the classic collection known as Pensées. My real introduction (at least the one that caught my attention) came from seminary professor and mentor, Dr. Robert Coleman. I now wonder how Dr. Coleman, a man whose life has been defined and shaped by his Lord’s Great Commission, became interested in Pascal. Maybe I shall ask next time I have an opportunity.

But the question, you make ask, is what does all this have with my life and thoughts as a CoJourner? Well, I am growing convinced that Pascal offers us insight for the 21st Century post-postmodern (or whatever it is you’d like to call our world of thought and culture today.) He is a Guide par excellence. So I intend (and you know what often happens with good intentions) to reread this book (something I very rarely do. In fact, truth be told, though I love books and “read” many, I find very few books valuable enough to me to complete the reading the first time. ) I want to “harvest” valuable insights from this work to see if it can help me (a common Guide, in the CoJourner sense) “make sense of it all” for others on the journey of life.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Backstory: This Is Why I Sat Here

I sat next to a 33-year-old, Chicago businessman on a flight Thursday. An alumnus of a school with a strong basketball program, he asked who I rooted for. Being an graduate of Nebraska, I said, “We don’t have much to root for in basketball. But football is another story.” I then raised the “spiritual flag” by mentioning that I was in Christian ministry and had led the ministry for 7 seasons with the NE Cornhuskers back in the late 80’s and early 90’s.

“Are you a minister?” he asked. That started one of the most amazing spiritual conversations I have had in a while. I EXPLORED asking questions and listening: his church connections (limited, but he does like Willowcreek), answers to prayer that he and his mother have seen (amazing), his relationships (feels some guilt over them), his own spiritual journey. He said he didn’t understand Jesus, the Trinity, or why he had to die on the cross. He preferred to go “straight to the source” in prayer.

I asked if I could take a shot at explaining why Jesus had to die. “Sure,” he replied.

So I pulled out my Bible and napkin. I showed him Romans 6:23 and drew the “one-verse” diagram. We talked through it very slowly and clearly, making sure he understood each word and all three phrases. “Does this make sense?”

“Yes, but it brings up a hundred more questions,” he said. “Like what?” I asked.

That launched us into another hour of questions and answers: regarding eternal life and living life to the full in the present; re: self-centered marriages vs. Christ-centered marriage; regarding the sin of those who lived before Jesus died; regarding reading the Bible and the difference between the four gospels.

I gave him a copy of Backstory and explained the story behind it, walking him through the 7 themes. As I focused on the response pages, I asked, “Is this true?” “Wow, I don’t know. Maybe I am just afraid of commitment,” he answered.

As we were landing, I gave him my e-mail and said we would be praying for him. I asked if he did make the decision to trust Christ as his Savior and Lord, would he write me and let me know? “Oh, I am sure you will be hearing from me. You will be the second to know” (i.e. after his mother).

“I think this is why I chose to sit here,” he said as he was getting up. Indeed, I am sure it was!

Backstory: The Story that Makes Sense of Our Stories

Very excited to announce the publication (and availability) of Backstory! Even more excited about the very conversation I had in which I used Backstory, two days ago on a flight between Chicago and KC . Amazing! The story will have to wait until a future (next?) post. For now, let me introduce Backstory to you.

Ten years ago we made our first attempt at telling the storyline of the gospel (creation to return) using seven themes. It was published as Life@Large. (This is an early flash version of it. Click on the yellow arrows for navigation. Notice there is both a conversational view - upper - and storyline - lower). It was featured in a chapter I wrote entitled "The Gospel for a New Generation" in D.A. Carson's book, Telling the Truth: Evangelizing Postmoderns. It was fashioned using the best thinking we could assemble at the time, though much of that thinking was "theory", not "proven wisdom". Through the intervening decade, we saw it used in a variety of settings (including over a million copies distributed as part of the Fallen, Not Forgotten remembrance booklet in NYC following 9-11.) It was also translated in a handful of languages (including Italian) and used in a variety of global contexts.

But in the ten years since we have learned a lot about communicating the gospel storyline. Those lessons have helped shape Backstory. You can download a pdf to view it. But let me give you a quick idea of how to use it.

The backbone of the presentation is found the black, photo pages (left-side). These walk you through the seven themes, with brief explanation and a Bible verse.
  1. Intimacy (Creation)
  2. Betrayal (Fall)
  3. Anticipation (OT promise of a Savior)
  4. Pursuit (life of Christ)
  5. Sacrifice (death and resurrection)
  6. Invitation (the present age of salvation)
  7. Reunion (the age to come)
These are the pages you would normally use as the focus of a conversation.

The corresponding white pages (right side) provide conversational questions for exploring the thoughts and experience of each other, or questions to help bring greater understanding. There are also points explanation (such as, "Crosswords" based on Romans 3:23-25) and apologetic touch points (such as, prophecies of a Messiah in Micah 5:2 and Isaiah 7:14). You use these as needed or appropriate.

If you read aloud the intro, the black theme (photo) pages, "Your Thoughts" and "Turning Point" page, there is seven and a half minutes of content. By adding the questions and explanations on the white (additional info) pages, the conversation can become as long and deep as you both desire. (My amazing plane conversation with "J." was a couple of hours.)

Hope you enjoy exploring Backstory. Hope even more that you have the privilege of helping others discover the story that makes sense their stories.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Short Term Missions - Who Benefits Most?

I was reading an article by Paul Borthwick (among other pursuits, a missions prof at Gordon College) entitled, "In Defense of Short-Term Missions" at Paul shares a cautious defense of short-term missions. I was struck by the following observation:
When speaking to a group of short-term mission leaders about my concerns regarding the short-term mission trend, I commented that the short-term mission movement was “arguably the first time in Christian mission history where the mission is being is being done for the benefit of the missionary.”

After my observation, I re-read the encounter of Peter with Cornelius in Acts 10. For the first time I realized that my comment was wrong. Peter's “short-term mission” to Cornelius is arguably more life-changing for Peter than it was for Cornelius. (Will Willimon calls this Peter’s “second conversion.”)

I don't remember ever making the connection with Peter and Cornelius before. But it is worth pondering. Did you notice that statement "is arguably more life-changing for Peter"? Though I appreciate his insight and intent (and article in general), I wonder if Mr. Borthwick isn't wrong again in his conclusion at this point. It seemed profoundly life-changing for both -- Peter's world-view and ministry philosophy shattered; Cornelius's life (and household) transformed for now and eternity.

It reminds of my youngest son's experience on the Hungarian Speak Out '07 project. The experience was profound in his life--stepping out in faith and seeing God use him. And yet, by the grace of God, he was also used profoundly in the lives of some Hungarian youth--so much so that I heard unsolicited stories of his impact again last month.

Who benefits most in short-term missions? My genuine hope and prayer is that the answer is "both...and", not "either...or". That is the end we should seek.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Destino - Gaining Ground

One very encouraging front in campus ministry is seeing the establishment of Destino -- a national ministry to Hispanic students. This young ministry is making progress in reaching this significant and growing segment of the student population. I just read an update from Jim Sautner, the National Director. Here are a couple of highlights:
80 students showed up to (their winter conference); about 65 showed up last year.
Last year, we had 10 Destino staff. This year we have 21 Destino staff. And in the last 3 weeks, a couple from St. Louis committed to joining Destino staff, I’ve had conversations with 7 others who are seriously considering joining Destino staff full-time, and (another) just crossed-over from Field Strategies to Destino staff at Texas A&M!

Last year, we had 239 students involved in 21 Destino movements. This year, we have 415 students involved in 40 movements. Last year we had 1 Destino summer project and this year we have 3 Destino summer projects. There is movement in the Destino movement!
Very encouraging indeed!

Next Destino event: Destino Winter Conference - East Coast (another first!)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Student's Media Habits: E-mail Still Happens

A glimpse into research on Gen Y & media:

The Fluid Nature Of Gen Y's Media Habits

The two paragraph summary of college students' habits is clear and concise. But nothing too surprising. Just confirms what we already see.

Perhaps most helpful is the explanation of students' use of e-mail:
College students' email use also spikes during this time. This is driven by multiple life stage events ranging from the need to manage bank and credit card accounts, which deliver paperless statements via email, to interacting with professors and prospective employers, to getting coupons and offers (critical for survival on a limited budget). It is also driven by a recent surge in smartphone adoption among college students that correlates with increased email use.
Perhaps e-mail isn't as dead as some have suggested.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Evangelizing Protestants: Catholics Come Home

Those involved in witness in the US (and many global contexts) often encounter individuals of the Roman Catholic background--at times practicing, more often than not, not. In this context it is helpful to be aware of Roman Catholic efforts to call their lapsed (and other unchurched and underchurched individuals) home.

Chris Castaldo, Pastor of Outreach at College Church, Wheaton, has written a Speaking Out column for Christianity Today entitled, "Catholics Come Home?" If you are unfamiliar with these efforts, it may be a quick introduction for you.

Question God -- Keller's Site for Exploration

Was just introduced to Tim Keller's website, Question God. (Thanks, Ryan.)

Haven't had a chance to do more than glance over it. But it looks like a valuable repository of talks (and thus insights and wisdom) from a gifted communicator of the gospel.

Perhaps I'll post more later. But for now, what do you think?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Stats Abuse: An Evangelical Tendency

Fascinating article by Stetzer, President of Lifeway Research, entitled, "Curing Christians Stats Abuse." While it doesn't often a "cure", it does provide insight into the state of Evangelical Christianity in the U.S. Stetzer's conclusion:
"Reports of Christianity's demise in America have been greatly exaggerated."
The article begins debunking a couple of the popular abuses of statistics found among Evangelicals with a cause to promote. Is the abuse intentional or just misguided? I trust the later.

Two thirds of the way through the article, Stetzer has a section entitled (and summarizing) "What does the Good Research say?" It is worth taking a moment and skimming down there, even if you don't have time for the whole article.

The insights of the article are not only valuable in better understanding the use of stats, but this section on "Good Research" compiles
a helpful glimpse of the state of religion in our culture. Implications for evangelism?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Mystical America

Pew research report, "Many Americans Mix Multiple Faiths" (Dec 9, 2009)...
Nearly half of the public (49%) says they have had a religious or mystical experience, defined as a "moment of sudden religious insight or awakening." This is similar to a survey conducted in 2006 but much higher than in surveys conducted in 1976 and 1994 and more than twice as high as a 1962 Gallup survey (22%).
More evidence of the spiritual orientation of (post-)postmodern America.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Apostolic Church Planter -- Paul's Work

Interesting thought:
We are wise to observe that Paul planted approximately 13 churches in his lifetime. The apostle was far more concerned with building quality—"gold, silver, and precious stone"—than he was with amassing big numbers (see 1 Cor. 3).
Except from Why Organic Church Is Not Exactly a Movement

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Short Film - Emerging Strategy 2

As we help create safe relational contexts for significant spiritual conversations, one of emerging outreach resources is short film. A major catalyst in the genre of short film has been the Damah Film Festival.

Our efforts to tap into this growing genre of short film have coalesced with the Global Short Film Network. Over fifteen short films are available there for viewing and for download (for nominal fee) to use in conversational witness. I first blogged about this emerging strategy back in the summer of '08.

The growth and impact of these short film was recently displayed at Urbana '09. The California Chronicle has just published an article regarding this entitled, "Young Evangelicals Embrace Film as a New Missionary Tool". From the article:
...this was the first year that Urbana organizers decided to tap into the younger generation's interest in film in a big way.

"At Urbana '03, there wasn't a peep about film or filmmaking, and in '06 there were two discussions that brought in about 50 people," said Nathan Clarke, 34, a documentary filmmaker with Fourth Line Films who organized this year's Urbana Film Festival and Forum.

This year, organizers devoted three formal sessions to the subject, screening six films. The festival drew more than 1,000 students to the sessions, and also to smaller workshops, round tables, lectures and one-on-one meetings in which students could get critiques on their film pitches.
While requiring a bit of "art" (more than science) in using conversationally, it is encouraging to see believers increasingly engaged in this form of "art" and using it to engage the culture. Check out the training for using these conversationally at GSFN's site.