October 28, 2010
Ambition can drive us to service to God and others, or it can be a veneer that hides far less noble motivations.
When I entered seminary 12 years ago, I was humbled by many of my classmates. While we all suffered through "suicide Greek" (an intense six-week summer course that only a gifted linguist with a penchant for self-flagellation would enjoy), I learned that some students sacrificed far more than others to follow God's call into pastoral ministry.
Scott left his position as a Navy pilot, with a stable salary and excellent benefits. David left his management job with a Big Three automaker and relocated his family. He attended classes all day and studied while working as a night security guard. I have no idea when he slept.
Gregory, an engineer from China, brought his wife and two young girls from Hong Kong to Chicago—he'd never seen snow before, let alone 12 inches of it covering his car. In six months Gregory taught himself enough English to successfully translate the New Testament from Greek into English, and then into Cantonese for his congregation in Chinatown.
These pastors represent the power of godly ambition. God's call upon their lives, and their desire to serve his people, was the engine that drove them to make enormous changes and sacrifices.
But seminary revealed the dark side of ambition as well.
Continue reading The Ambition Engine...
October 26, 2010
The Cape Town congress reveals the blessings, and burdens, of the global body of Christ.
Over the course of the last week, I’ve joined more than 4200 representatives from 198 nations to listen to dozens upon dozens upon many more dozens of speakers address many of the most challenging issues of our age. Here are a few lessons I learned along the way.
The Third Lausanne Congress on Global Evangelism should have been called The Lausanne Global Gathering. Many delegates were led to believe that we would have the opportunity to speak into the issues the church is facing. Using the word “delegate” to describe our involvement as well as the word “congress” suggested each of us would be given an opportunity to address issues as diverse as Scripture, poverty, AIDS, human trafficking, the shift of power taking place around the globe, and many more.
But the statements and papers issued at the Congress were written beforehand by a group of academics from around the world (many of whom I respect and appreciate very much!). For the first few days, I kept wondering, “When do we get to watch and participate in the exchange of ideas in a meaningful way outside of our assigned table groups?” Then I finally figured out the only outlets were the multiplex afternoon workshops where some of the academics would sit in and listen to the presenters and the very limited question and answer time with participants.
Continue reading Lessons from the Lausanne Gathering...
October 22, 2010
Gabe Lyons' new book explains why the end of Christian America is good news.
If you have not yet encountered Gabe Lyons, let me encourage you to do so because he is a person worth your time. As co-founder of Catalyst, founder of Q (a learning community dedicated to mobilizing Christians for the common good), co-author of the tart and challenging book UnChristian, a dedicated husband and father of three young children and only thirty-five, Lyons has already packed some significant achievements into his young life. Now comes his latest work, The Next Christians, an engaging and exceptionally well-written look at how the newest generation of Christians is making its mark for Christ.
Lyons’ builds his thesis on two foundational concepts. The first is that American society has fundamentally moved away from its theological and moral roots. Historically, our culture was dominated by a Judeo-Christian worldview and ethic but now it’s pluralistic, postmodern and post-christian. Over the last few decades the church has been displaced from a position of cultural prominence and pushed to the periphery. Thus, a new narrative, in many ways antithetical to traditional faith, is shaping significant elements of our society.
Continue reading Book Review: The Next Christians...
October 21, 2010
Cape Town demonstrates that Christians are not immune to conflict, but neither are they strangers to reconciliation.
In the January 2011 issue of Leadership, we will be featuring an interview with Ken Sande, head of Peacemaker Ministries, which helps Christians and their churches respond to conflict biblically, and assists with reconciliation. This week, Ken Sande is in Cape Town, South Africa, for the gathering of 4,000 ministry leaders from around the globe. Ken's report (distributed through the Peacemaker.net email newsletter) for yesterday was so fascinating that we thought you'd appreciate it.
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As I entered the Cape Town Conference Center this morning, I encountered two young people who were struggling with serious conflict. So instead of joining the worship service, I spent an hour helping them apply the transforming promises of the gospel to some difficult issues in their relationship. It was time well spent, and at the end of our conversation they both expressed a renewed hope to continue serving Christ together.
While we talked, John Piper was teaching on Ephesians 3. Later a friend gave me the essence of his talk. John had challenged our group to remember that as important as it is to exert ourselves to obey Jesus’ command to relieve suffering in this world, we must give equal effort to the prayerful, diligent proclamation of the gospel, which is the key to preventing human suffering for eternity. It is so difficult to give proper attention to both of these messages. Churches that are strong in evangelism are often weak in engaging the culture, and vice versa. May God give us grace to preach and live out the gospel in all of its saving and transforming power.
After John Piper’s talk, we heard a gripping testimony by Libby Little, wife of Tom Little, who was killed along with seven other aid workers in Afghanistan a couple of months ago. Their sacrifice was a powerful example of another statement John Piper made: “The gospel isn’t going to spread without suffering and without prayer, because the places that remain to be reached are largely places that don’t welcome Christians.”
Two speakers from Nigeria and the United Kingdom challenged us further regarding our responsibility to take the gospel to people of other faiths. As one of them said:
Continue reading Lausanne Congress Day 4: Conflict and Reconciliation...
October 19, 2010
Cape Town delegates hear amazing stories of God's work around the world.
In the last two days of the Lausanne Congress in Cape Town, we have heard the stories and seen irrefutable evidence of God's presence in the world. On Monday night we heard from an 18-year-old woman who fled North Korea with her family. She came to China where her father found Jesus Christ. She told about the hardships of being discovered and her parents' deportation back to North Korea. Her mother died, and her father was imprisoned.
After escaping a second time to China, her father decided to return to North Korea to take the gospel to his suffering countrymen. He was never heard from again. The young woman was adopted by a Chinese pastor's family, but she still had not come to believe in Christ herself. Understandably, as a teenager she was filled with grief and anger. But in a dream Christ came to her, made his love for her unambiguous, and promised to be her father. With tears she shared her determination to serve Christ for the rest of her life and, like her father, see Good News brought to North Korea.
The 5,000 delegates here in Cape Town cried with her. It was powerful and beautiful. One friend said the Congress could have ended at that moment and would have all been worth it.
On Tuesday the Congress focused on the issue of reconciliation and the movement of the gospel in the Middle East. In more than one session, we saw what many in our world believe is impossible--Palestinians and Israelis embracing, blessing, and calling one another "brother" or "sister."
Continue reading Lausanne Congress Days 2-3: Gospel on the Move...
October 18, 2010
The opening of Cape Town 2010 looks back at history and forward to heaven.
The Third Lausanne Congress was officially opened on Sunday night in Cape Town, South Africa. The evening was dominated by history and context. Letters were read from Billy Graham and John Stott, the two leaders most responsible for the first congress in Lausanne, Switzerland, in 1974. And a brief history of the Lausanne Movement was shared.
A beautiful video was shown tracing church and mission history from Pentecost through the 1910 missions conference in Edinburgh. Much was made of the Edinburgh conference. Many view that gathering 100 years ago in Scotland as the beginning of the modern missionary movement. Of course Edinburgh was dominated by European and North American church leaders with only a tiny number from other parts of the world.
A lot has changed.
After the video all 5,000 delegates stood to sing "Crown Him with Many Crowns"--the same hymn that opened the Edinburgh conference a century ago. And the amazing diversity at Cape Town 2010 was a moving testimony to how effective the 20th century missions movement was. Standing beside me was an African woman, an Australian man, an Asian couple, and a student from Latin America. I have never been in a more international gathering in my life. As I scanned the room I didn't see groups of white, black, or brown. The room was integrated, for lack of a better term--God's people from around the globe worshipping together. It was incredibly moving.
Continue reading Lausanne Congress Day 1: History &Humility...
October 13, 2010
Turns out that atheists have fundamentalists and liberals too.
Fans of the Beatles celebrated John Lennon’s 70th birthday this week. Lennon was killed by a gunman in 1980 in New York City, and his violent death is often contrasted with the utopian dream Lennon composed in his song Imagine. The song is a favorite among secular humanists (a.k.a. atheists) because it dismisses the existence of heaven and hell, and portrays religion as a source of endless conflict and disunity. Without religion, Lennon wrote, we can “imagine all the people living life in peace.”
Ironically, while Lennon’s fans gathered in Central Park to celebrate his legacy the largest atheist organization in the country gathered in Los Angeles for a conference marked by schism and disunity. The Council for Secular Humanism met to pour out contempt upon Christians, Jews, and Muslims. Religious faith was called “nonsense,” “superstition,” and adherents were described as “ignorant” and “stupid.”
But what got the Los Angeles Times’ attention was the conflict that erupted between two camps within the atheist movement. On one side were the “new atheists.” These folks might be called the fundamentalists (although I’m sure they would object to such religious language). The new atheists believe in open confrontation with religious believers. Rather than a “live and let live” approach, they believe religion must be called out for the sham that it is.
On the other side are the “accommodationists.” These more moderate (dare we say “liberal”) atheists don’t believe direct confrontation with the religious is warranted. They even advocate partnering with religious people to advance issues of mutual concern.
Continue reading Atheists Split at Annual Conference...
October 12, 2010
Next week is the largest, most diverse gathering of church leaders in history. And Ur will be there.
Last week Leadership's editor-in-chief, Marshall Shelley, brought you live posts from the Catalyst Conference in Atlanta--one of the most influential and popular ministry conferences for younger church leaders.
Next week senior editor Skye Jethani will be attending the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization in Cape Town, South Africa. With nearly 5,000 delegates representing over 200 countries, Cape Town 2010 will be the most diverse gathering of church leaders focused on mission in history.
For those unfamiliar with the Lausanne Movement, it was launched by Billy Graham and John Stott in the late 1960s. The first congress occurred in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1974. Time magazine called the meeting “a formidable forum, possibly the widest-ranging meeting of Christians ever held.” Out of that first congress came the Lausanne Covenant--a widely affirmed and celebrated document of Christian conviction and mission.
A second Lausanne congress was held in Manila in 1989. This gathering is where the "10/40 window" idea was widely introduced to the global church. It led many denominations and missions agencies to focus their efforts for the next two decades on the unreached nations in the Muslim world.
Continue reading Get Ready for Cape Town...
October 8, 2010
Reflections from Atlanta and Gabe Lyons.
Day Two of Catalyst began with the statement:
“It’s impossible to love people and avoid tension at the same time.”
Then, after an amazing spectacle, an audience participation exercise in percussion (think Blue Man Group with 13,000 people beating out the rhythms) and a spectacular demonstration of trampolinists reaching tremendous heights, twisting and flipping even while wearing skis and snowboards, and only after all that, did the speakers unpack the statement about tension.
The most noteworthy of them was Gabe Lyons, coauthor of unChristian and now his latest book, The Next Christians.
He explained that the next generation of Christians are engaging cultural tensions in a whole new way.
Continue reading Catalyst Day Two: Spectacle and Restoration...
October 7, 2010
Reflections from Daniel Pink.
Daniel Pink is the author of "Drive," a new book about motivation. He brought his core message to the Catalyst crowd.
Money is a motivator, he admits, but it is limited. (You can’t pay someone unfairly. But once you pay people enough, you don’t get additional satisfaction or motivation. The application: Pay them enough to take the issue of fairness off the table.) You need to provide three other motivations to bring out the best efforts in people.
1. Autonomy. “Management is a technology” (Gary Hamel) -- organizing for productivity. Managemeht leads to compliance. But we don’t want compliance anymore. We want ENGAGEMENT. And management doesn’t lead to what we want them to do.
People perform better when they know they have some freedom of their time, technique, team, and task.
2. Mastery. Desire to get better at stuff. An inherent desire. Single most motivating thing is “making progress.” The only way to measure that is feedback. How am I doing? That’s not neediness, that’s seeking immediate feedback. DIY feedback (do it yourself). Effective teams do this themselves. What’s going well; what’s not.
3. Purpose. Profit motive is insufficient. When profit motive is unhitched from purpose motive, bad things happen. Marry the two, good things happen.
Continue reading Catalyst Day One: Soul and Skills...
October 7, 2010
Reflections from Andy Stanley
“The tension is good.” That’s the theme of this year’s Catalyst Conference, and Andy Stanley’s opening session talk described the tensions caused by our appetites: “Food and sex, and food and sex, and the guys in the room are saying ‘I’m sure there’s more … oh, yeah, and sleep,’ ” deadpanned Andy, before pointing out that our appetites create an inner tension. They always want “more.”
In leaders, appetites are heightened beyond normal person’s, especially appetites for progress, greater responsibility, the desire to be envied, the desire to be loved and admired. No matter what we accomplish, we still want more.
All of this is a reflection of the image of God.
1. God created them, sin distorted them.
2. Appetites are never fully and finally satisfied. Ever.
3. Appetites always whisper Now and never Later.
These will always create tensions, temptations. This is part of being human, but you can’t let appetites rule your life.
Continue reading Catalyst Day One: Soul and Skills...
October 6, 2010
Reflections from Atlanta and Pete Wilson.
Perhaps my favorite lab of the day was led by Pete Wilson, pastor of Cross Point Church in Nashville. He titled the session: “Temptations in the Dip,” and by that he means seasons of life when things aren’t going well.
He pointed out that ideas and images are the means Satan most often uses when he wants to tempt us. We are vulnerable to certain ideas when we’re in a ministry downturn. Here are some of the tempting ideas that Satan uses against leaders in such times.
Continue reading Catalyst: Temptations in the Dip...
October 6, 2010
Reflections from Atlanta and Gayle Haggard.
Tomorrow is the first day of Catalyst, and today Nate Johnson and I from Leadership went to Atlanta for the pre-day of “labs,” Catalyst’s term for their workshops. This year’s theme: “The Tension Is Good.”
Several of the labs I attended were thought provoking, including Gayle Haggard’s account of her own crisis when she learned of her husband, Ted Haggard’s, moral failure, which was widely publicized three years ago. Gayle described the anger and betrayal she felt when she learned the sordid details, but said she realized, “This is my moment to confess to the whole world what I really believe.” This was not a time to abandon her faith, so she asked, “What is Jesus telling me to do?” She said the only thing she saw from Jesus was love and forgiveness. “And I can’t just say it; I have to do it.” So she has stayed with and stood with her husband.
She lamented that the church is often a difficult place to admit the need for help, especially for its leaders. “The church should be a safe place to admit temptations, sins, and struggles, but in many cases it’s not,” she said. “And so until it is, it’s important for leaders to find someplace safe to confess these things and get help.”
Continue reading Catalyst: The Tension Is Good...
October 4, 2010
He talks about Rick Warren, his leave of absence, and his new book.
Our colleague over at Christianity Today, Sarah Pulliam Bailey, has snagged an interview with John Piper that Ur-banites will want to read. Piper has been on an 8-month leave from ministry to focus on "soul check, marriage and family check, and recalibration of life."
John Piper also discusses the controversy that erupted when he invited Rick Warren to speak at his Desiring God Conference. Piper admits that he's still not sure the invitation was the right thing to do, but he feels Warren has "been slandered." When asked if Rick Warren exemplifies "thinking" (the subject of Piper's new book), he responds:
No, I don't think he exactly exemplifies what I'm after. But he is biblical. He quoted 50 Scriptures from memory. Unbelievable, his mind is Vesuvius. So I asked him what impact reading Jonathan Edwards had on him. What these authors like Karl Barth and Edwards do for him is give him a surge of theological energy that then comes through his wiring. What I wanted to do with Rick is force him to talk about thinking so pragmatists out there can say, "A lot of thinking goes into what he does."
Be sure to read the entire interview on the Christianity Today website.
October 1, 2010
Does video preaching help or hinder church planting?
The Gospel Coalition has released this fascinating conversation with Mark Dever, Mark Driscoll, and James MacDonald regarding multi-site church. Both Driscoll and MacDonald are proponents of multi-site churches utilizing video preaching. Dever is not. He sees more value in raising up more preachers to lead autonomous churches rather than using video to increase one preacher's exposure. Driscoll and MacDonald disagree and make the case their they are raising up more preachers through their model.
Check out the video and share your thoughts. Does Dever have a point? Do Driscoll and MacDonald seem too defensive? Is there an angle on the subject they didn't cover but should have?
Multiple Sites: Yea or Nay? Dever, Driscoll, and MacDonald Vote from Ben Peays on Vimeo.