First World Problems

February 6, 2013 in Mark, Justice, Mission

The following video, made by Everyone Matters, is entitled “First World Problems read by Third World People”. Personally I don’t like the terms First and Third World, but I think the video does a good job of juxtaposing the very different realities of day to day life in different parts of our world. Read the rest of this entry →

Who are the poor in spirit?

September 6, 2012 in Mark, Bible, Front, Mission, Theology

Poverty is a tricky subject to talk about, and yet it is one that as Christians we must always be conscious of, if only because it is a major theme throughout the Bible. There are many different types of poverty in the world, ranging from material poverty (often the most obvious) to educational poverty, poverty of health facilities, and poverty of human rights. As Christians we sometimes talk about spiritual poverty too, which can go alongside and even underlie many other forms of poverty.

But I have to say I start to feel a little uncomfortable when we talk about spiritual poverty, particularly when the conversation turns (as it inevitably does) to how we can address the spiritual poverty that we see around us. When we talk of fighting spiritual poverty, the unspoken assumption is that we are spiritually rich, and that we need to use our wealth in order to help those who are spiritually poor. Read the rest of this entry →

Modernism, Mission Planning and Western Syncretism

August 2, 2012 in Mark, Africa, Mission, Theology

Eddie Arthur recently highlighted a couple of posts from Mark Meynell entitled “The dehumanising metrics of modernist ministry: The Present and The Future“, where Mark looks at how a modernist worldview can affect the work of the church and at times lead away from the very values of the gospel that the church is called to live out. Mark looks at several trends in modern ministries, including our obsession with speed, novelty and uniformity.

But the sections that really stood out to me were his observations concerning “The economics of effectiveness” and “The hubris of strategy”.

But I fear a sinister trend has crept in. For if we’re not careful, we can seek an effectiveness shaped more by Wall St than the via Dolorosa. Big business constantly seeks a combination of efficiency and growth in order to thrive… which is fair enough. Maximum profit for minimum effort. But this is effectiveness measured by the Damoclean sword of the bottom line. Read the rest of this entry →

Giving Up Everything?

May 23, 2012 in Mark, Africa, Front, Mission, Theology

When a cross-cultural worker moves to a different country and a very different culture, as well as experiencing many benefits, they will also inevitably give up a great deal to do so. The things that they have to give up may be financial (a well-paying job), relational (family and friends) or just simply the comfort of knowing what to expect when living in one’s own culture and speaking one’s own language.

When moving overseas it can be easy to focus on the things one has given up, feeling like we are suffering a great deal for God and his work. “We had to give up so much in order to move to this country”, or “my life is difficult but God needs me here” can be common sentiments among cross-cultural mission workers. In this situation I can also deceive myself that I am vitally important to God’s work, and that I deserve to be in charge and making the strategic decisions since I have invested “so much”. Read the rest of this entry →

Reading the Bible with the Tanzanian Church: Grace and Works

May 3, 2012 in Mark, Africa, Bible, Church, Front, Mission, Tanzania, Theology

I had a fascinating conversation with a Tanzanian friend the other day about God’s grace (giving us good things that are not earned by our good deeds), and our working hard to follow him and live a good life. The conversation started as we discussed a western missionary who believes that many Tanzanians have not understood the fullness and extent of God’s grace, and so who preaches about God’s completely unearned gift of salvation at every opportunity.

While my friend believes that God’s grace is completely free and unearned, he was concerned that the missionary has not completely grasped the cultural paradigm in which he is working. Many uneducated people go to church in order to hear the pastor tell them exactly what they must do to please God. Emphasising too strongly that God’s grace is not linked to our good deeds will result in people feeling they can do whatever they like, ultimately going against the major thrust of Scripture which is to live good lives that honour and obey God. Read the rest of this entry →