Friday, December 31, 2010
Dr. Lowell Bakke, a Professor at Bakke Graduate University, once told me the godlessness of the world system thrives because Christians are not “engaging ethically, morally and courageously in their spheres of influence.”
The flip-side is also true. When followers of Christ do engage ethically, morally and courageously in their spheres of influence, the godlessness of the world system does not thrive.
Consider Geneva of the 1500's.
Thomas Bloomer wrote an insightful piece about the spiritual, economic and social history of that city in Calvin and Geneva: Nation-Building Missions. It appears in the excellent book, His Kingdom Come: An Integrated Approach to Discipling the Nations and Fulfilling the Great Commission, published by YWAM Publishing.
Bloomer relates that in the early 1500's, Geneva was called the smelliest city of Europe. The walls of the city had fallen into disrepair, the people were poor, and families were falling apart.
The condition of the church was also in great disrepair. Priests operated houses of prostitution, and they were immoral themselves. The voice of the church had lost its authority. The people ran the bishop of Geneva out of town in 1530, and most of the city's nobles left with him.
Geneva was in spiritual, economic and social crisis.
William Farel, a fiery French evangelist, came to Geneva in 1531. While preaching in the marketplace from atop one of the market tables, he cried out, "We must reform the church in order to reform the nation!" Bloomer writes: "That offended the authorities so much they arrested him and then kicked him out of town."
But around that time, something significant took place in Geneva: "Businessmen [emphasis mine] whose salvation was rooted in the Reformation had migrated to the city; they began small groups to meet for study and prayer."
The city leadership was taken up by new leaders who subscribed to "the simplicity and disciplined lifestyles of the Protestant reformers," as Bloomer puts it.
On the 26th of August, 1535, the electors of the city voted unanimously, and courageously, to proclaim Geneva a Reformed Protestant city. Courageously, because in 1535, as Bloomer notes, "they were risking excommunication and eternal damnation."
The ramifications of this decision were enormous.
To be continued...
Friday, December 24, 2010
One of my favorite carols is Joy To The World. The words are by Issac Watts, based on Psalm 98:
Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth; make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise. Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills be joyful together before the Lord; for He cometh to judge the earth, with righteousness shall he judge the world, and the people with equity.
Some people say Joy To The World is not about the birth of Christ in Bethlehem. They say it is about His second coming, not His first. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joy_to_the_World.)
The joy that is sung about, then, is a future joy that will occur when Christ returns, to “make the nations prove the glories of His righteousness,” in that full expression of His Kingdom-yet-to-come.
But for me, the song makes sense as a celebration of the first coming of Christ in Bethlehem.
While I’m looking forward to that full and perfect expression of Christ’s Kingdom-yet-to-come, I’m also celebrating the Kingdom-already-here! Jesus is Lord of all. Today! Not just in the future, but in this present moment (Acts 2:36; 10:36).
No, the Kingdom of God isn't fully recognized yet, or perfectly functional right now. This will happen when Christ comes the second time. But the domain over which Christ is King (that is, His King-domain) presently includes both Heaven and Earth!
This is the greatest Christmas gift: Christ the King has come “to make His blessings flow, far as the curse is found, far as the curse is found.” Right now.
Our Savior came to make His blessings to flow through carpenters, cops and CEOs who are reconciled to God, and reconciling all things to Him, including their work things!
That's the idea behind Christ's coming in the first place. See II Cor. 5:17-20 http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=II%20Cor.%205:17-20&version=NIV and Col. 1:17-20 http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Col.%201:17-20&version=NIV.
So, no more let thorns infest the ground. By God's amazing grace, put your work gloves on, go to your workplace after the Christmas holiday and start pulling up bramble bushes--and planting redwood trees.
Joy to the Earth! the Savior reigns; Let men their songs employ; While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains, Repeat the sounding joy, Repeat the sounding joy, Repeat, repeat the sounding joy!
Friday, December 17, 2010
Let me pose the question differently: If civil and business leaders of a particular city or nation were to see Christianity as a personal, private affair, concerned primarily with the salvation of souls and the after-life, would this increase the probability that Christianity would not be taken seriously by those leaders?
I think so. On both counts.
I've been asking why Christianity has a positive effect on the development of some places and little effect on others. As one put it, "Why are some cities that have been Christianized and churched, like Lagos, Nigeria, still full of poverty and corruption?"
Part of the answer lies in how the terms "Christianized" and "churched" are defined.
In some places, "Christianization" has produced a withdrawal of Christians from this present world. The "Gospel" (so-called) has produced Christians with no real interest in the way business is done, or how civil affairs are managed.
Dr. Darrell Furgason observed: “In places like Africa...Western missionaries generally brought the Gospel in the way they learned it, as a purely soul-saving faith, with no real bearing on anything else—religion was a mostly personal matter, nothing to do with things like politics, science, law, economics….African people were given the Gospel, but not how to build a righteous nation, how to apply Christianity to everything."
As I heard one African educator say: "Africans have understood the Gospel of Salvation, but not the Gospel of the Kingdom."
The Gospel of Salvation points people to becoming born-again believers through faith in Christ's shed blood. Through this amazing door we enter into a personal relationship with Jesus, and this is the beginning.
But the Gospel of the Kingdom helps people understand what salvation is for. We are not just saved from something, but for something!
The Gospel of Salvation is part of the Gospel of the Kingdom, not the whole. The Kingdom is much larger than the soul.
One of the best descriptions I've heard on this topic is by Paul Stevens, author of The Other Six Days. Please watch this 2 minute, 53 second segment of an interview I did with him a few years back: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VitIItMXKc0
Friday, December 10, 2010
Only God knows the full answer, but I'll venture a few possibilities.
My first thought is this: Christianity seems to have a greater effect on some individuals than on others. Doesn't it?
Why is this the case?
I suspect it might have something to do with the willingness of a particular person to undergo changes initiated by the Holy Spirit, the pull of past experiences, Christian teachings that are embraced, relationships with others, and the way a person is "wired" from the womb.
In a similar way, I suspect that the culture, character and history of a particular city or country where Christianity is "planted" affects the way it expresses itself.
In Korea, for example, Christianity was "planted" in a culture with a long history of Confucian influence. Some aspects of Confucianism were abandoned by Korean Christians (such as ancestor veneration), but I have spoken with Christians in Korea who tell me certain continuing influences of Confucianism on Christianity are negative. Yet, according to Dr. Kirsteen Kim whose research I highlighted a couple of weeks ago, other aspects of Confucianism complement Christianity, and were "revitalized" by early Korean Christians.
Confucianism, for example, has a high regard for education and scholarship. This may help explain the rise of Christian schools in Korea. "Within 25 years of their inception [in 1885]," writes Dr. Joseph Kim, a leader in today's Korean Christian school movement, "the Christian schools became the engine of social change and transformation. It is interesting to note that the Christian schools in Korea were flourishing nearly 50 years before such a movement even began in the United States." By 1910, there were 800 Christian schools serving 41,000 Korean students!
"In an environment antagonistic to Christianity [in the nineteenth century]," writes Joseph Kim, "it was the Christian schools that took the gospel to scores of young people and trained them with a biblical worldview. These schools provided the Korean church and the nation with well-trained Christian leaders." [Read Dr. Kim's full article at http://acsi.org/Resources/PublicationsNewsletters/ChristianSchoolEducation/tabid/681/itemId/3221/Default.aspx]
Another factor behind Christianity's influence on Korean modernization is that early Korean Christians saw Christianity as a message for the here-and-now, not just for the life-thereafter.
I'll pick up from here next week.
Friday, December 3, 2010
He went on to quote a Jamaican Christian leader we both know and respect who made the following observation: “What do Kingston (Jamaica), Manila (Philippines) and Lagos (Nigeria) all have in common? They are the three most Christianized and churched cities in their parts of the world and are also the three most corrupt, crime ridden cultures in their parts of the world. I am not sure we can blame corruption on those outside the faith or those with no faith at all, as much as we can blame it on 'Godless' living out of truth and morality by those who call Christ Lord.”
My friend then added this sobering remark: "A couple of years ago, three of the seven or nine finance ministers in Nigeria were brought up on corruption charges and lost their government positions. All three were evangelical pastors."
It is easy to look at the broken-down economy of Eastern Europe and connect it with several generations of Godless ideology. It is easy to look at the poverty of India and connect it with the effects of Hinduism, or to connect the robust development of South Korea with the growth of Christianity there. But why do some places that have been "Christianized and churched" remain corrupt?
I have only been to Kenya twice, and I'm in no position to criticize that country. What I found interesting, is that Christian music is played over the public address system inside the Nairobi International Airport, and churches are ubiquitous. A friend of mine who works in Kenya tells me the government council meetings in his area open with prayer. Yet, corruption in government and business is commonplace, and poverty abounds.
Why is it that in some places that have been "Christianized and churched," we do not see the kind of effects of Christianity that occurred in India following the Wesleyan revival, or in Wenzhou, China, today?
A penny for your thoughts!
Friday, November 26, 2010
Immediately following the Korean War, North and South Korea shared one thing in common: they were among the poorest countries in the world.
56 years later, the International Monetary Fund listed South Korea as having the 12th largest Gross Domestic Product in the world. South Korea, a small country, came out ahead of Canada, ahead of Australia, ahead of Saudi Arabia and ahead of 165 other countries.
In 1910, only about 1% of the Korean population was Christian. By 2005 (95 years later), the number of Christians had risen to 29.2%, and Christianity replaced Buddhism as the most prominent faith among all citizens.
Korea is second only to the United States in the number of missionaries it sends overseas.
Many people have wondered if there is a relationship between the growth of Christianity and the impressive growth of the Korean economy since 1970, when the bulk of economic growth occurred. During this time, the population of Korean Christians rose from about 6% to nearly 30%.
Dr. Kirsteen Kim, former resident of Korea now teaching at Leeds Trinity University College in England, maintains that the connection between Korean development and Christianity goes back to well over a century of Christian influence in politics, education, human rights and service to the suffering in Korea.
Three of today's top five universities in Korea were founded by Korean Christians, and many hospitals were established by Korean believers. With respect to politics, Kim notes that Koreans in the nineteenth century acted on the belief that "Christianity would help revitalize the nation."
"The main contribution of Christianity," she asserts, "was to stimulate new visions and inject a new energy that enabled Koreans to transform their existing situation and revitalise--or redeem--their society."
Historically, early Korean Christians operated on the premise that Christianity is not a private affair, concerned only with the salvation of individual souls. They saw it is a message of transformation that applied corporately as well as individually. This belief, put into action, invigorated early Korean development.
In her paper, "Christianity and modernization in twentieth-century Korea: perspectives on new religious movements and the revitalization of society," Kim sites examples of Korean Christianity as "a revitalizing force that inspired Korean activity toward development."
Kim's research paper is at http://www.bezinningscentrum.nl/Religion_Development/kirsteen.pdf.
Friday, November 19, 2010
My instruction will focus on: 1) the creation of lesson plans that connect academic subject matter with the bigger picture of a biblical worldview, and 2) making connections between the biblical worldview and everyday work.
I hope to persuade Christian educators in Asia that "theology of work" should be part of every Christian school, no matter in what culture that school finds itself.
One might think that theology of work (or, "integration of faith and work") would already be a part of every Christian school curriculum in the world. But, amazingly, it is not.
I know from personal experience that theology of work is absent from American Christian schools because I was the principal of a Christian school for fourteen years. It never occurred to me to offer such instruction, and none of my fellow principals offered it either.
This is not surprising, however, since theology of work has fallen off the radar screen of most churches, too. This is regrettable, since it was once very much on the radar in this country. (See "The Missing Curriculum" at http://www.biblicalworldview.com/The%20Missing%20Curriculum%20Article.pdf.)
I am aware that the "Sunday-Monday Gap" exists in Korea, too. Yet, I have wondered if there is a relationship between the economic development of South Korea and the rise of Christianity in Korea.
As mentioned last week, some Chinese scholars have concluded that the moral foundation of Christianity is what made possible "the emergence of capitalism and the successful transition to democratic politics" in the West.
But what do scholars have to say about South Korea in this regard? Is there any connection between Christianity and the fact that this small country had the 12th largest GDP in the world in 2009?
One scholar who has researched the effects of Christianity on Korea thinks so. Her name is Dr. Kirsteen Kim, a member of the Lausanne Theology Working Group who teaches at Leeds Trinity University College in the UK.
I'll share some of her findings next week.
Friday, November 12, 2010
While you might be thinking of Christ-honoring companies in your own state, or business owners in your own city who are successfully integrating Christian faith with their work, there is a distant part of the world that most of us don't usually associate with the integration of Christan faith and business: China.
In the September 23, 2010, issue of BreakPoint, Chuck Colson highlights an article from the BBC by Christopher Landau.
Colson reports: "The Chinese government is studying the impact of Christian entrepreneurs and Christian-run businesses. A professor at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences told Landau that it's clear to him that the growth of Christianity and economic prosperity are taking place simultaneously in Wenzhou--a city deeply influenced by Christian missionaries in the past."
Landau's article includes an interview with Weng-Jen Wau, owner of an industrial valve company in Wenzhou who is an openly committed Christian. Colson relates: "The factory owner is also quite open about another fact: When it comes to hiring, he would choose Christians over non-Christians every time--because he thinks they make better workers." (Regrettably, this is not always said about American Christian workers. But that is a topic for later.)
Colson goes on to reference Rodney Stark, in The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success. Colson writes: "Amazingly enough, at the end of his book, Stark quotes a published statement by Chinese scholars, who said they had no doubt that Christianity is the source of Western prosperity!"
Here is the amazing conclusion of Chinese scholars: "The Christian moral foundation of social and cultural life was what made possible the emergence of capitalism and the successful transition to democratic politics."
Colson concludes: "The simultaneous rise of Christian faith and economic success in China is just one piece of evidence that worldview matters. And that the Christian worldview, above all others, allows us to thrive in--and make sense of--the world we live in."
Please view a 2.5 minute video that Colson did for Worldview Matters in which he explains the critical link between the biblical worldview and work:
To subscribe to Colson's BreakPoint, go to: http://www.breakpoint.org/resources/subscribe-to-bp
Friday, November 5, 2010
Mangalwadi understands the significance of "uninstallation." His country, India, experienced the benefits of the anti-virus program for about 150 years. But when the anti-virus program was removed, negative consequences were far-reaching.
British rule in Bengal began in 1757. The British East India Company came to India to make money. British governmental leaders took bribes, and corruption was rampant.
"British corruption," Mangalwadi writes, "destroyed Bengal's economy and became a factor in the death of several million people in the famine of 1769-70."
But then something remarkable happened.
The Wesleyan revival, birthed through John Wesley (1703-1791), produced British leaders like William Wilberforce, who saw the gospel as something more than a private, personal religion. They saw it as having enormous ramifications for whole societies.
The abolishment of slavery was not the only outcome. "Following the Wesleyan revival in England," writes Mangalwadi, "the British evangelicals transformed their government in India."
Mangalwadi credits Charles Grant, who, in the 1770s and early 80s, campaigned to give India "a philosophical basis for moral absolutes....via evangelization."
The effect of Grant's campaign was a significant transformation of Indian government and business. So much so, writes Mangalwadi, that "in 1947, independent India and Pakistan received clean, although not perfect, administrations."
"During the nineteenth century," he writes, "British evangelicals succeeded in transforming England and their government in India because they believed in a different God. Their God used his power not to oppress and extort, but to serve..."
Mangalwadi also credits Charles Trevelyan, who risked his life to expose corruption in business and public life in India.
But after Independence in 1947, Mangalwadi laments, "we have not seen secular or Hindu civil servants take heroic personal risks to fight corruption."
Because the worldview that inspired Trevelyan and Grant has been "uninstalled."
The anti-virus program has been uninstalled in England, too, and is currently being uninstalled in America.
Proverbs 14:34 says, "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people."
Mangalwadi asserts, "What the gospel did for England and India once, it can do again."
For America, too.
But will we let it?
Friday, October 29, 2010
Vishal Mangalwadi, an Indian follower of Christ, says, "Yes."
In his book, Truth and Transformation, he explains that moral relativism leading to corruption and poverty is the product of both Hinduism and Secularism.
Because both worldviews reject the idea of a rational, transcendent God who has said, "You shall not steal," or, "You shall not covet," and to whom all people in every walk of life are equally accountable.
In Hinduism, there is no "Higher Law" that applies equally to all people, because there is no Higher Lawgiver. Hinduism teaches that we are all gods. Therefore, there can be no source of morality other than that which various groups create for themselves. This can only lead to different moral standards for different people.
The so-called "upper casts" in India, Mangalwadi explains, have practiced moral relativism for years. The result is rampant corruption, with upper casts stealing from lower casts with no consequence or shame. Because of this corruption, poverty abounds in India.
"Growing mangoes or guavas alone," writes Mangalwadi, "could lift whole families out of poverty [in India]. But if hardworking peasants grew good mangoes and guavas, the higher castes would come and take them..."
"Why?" asks Mangalwadi. "Because there is no God who has said, 'You shall not covet your neighbor's [mangoes]'..."
The net effect of Secularism [there is no God] and Hinduism [everything is "God"] is the same, because morality in both Hinduism and Secularism can be nothing more than mere human convention. "Morality" depends on who makes the rules and has power to implement them.
In Secularism, it can boil down to a 51% vote [the tyranny of the majority], or to a Wall Street investment firm making its own rules, bent on profit at any cost.
Magalwadi states: "Postmodern relativism, like my traditional culture says, 'Yes, it is wrong for you to do so, but it is not wrong for us, because we make the rules and have the power to enforce them."
"The West," writes Mangalwadi, "is becoming corrupt like us because it is developing a 'new spirituality' without [authentic] morality. This new spirituality is no different than our old spirituality."
To learn more, read Truth and Transformation.
You may order it at http://www.biblicalworldview.com/bookstore.html.
Friday, October 22, 2010
Mangalwadi contends that the "secret" of the West's success is morality that allows people to trust one another with the kind of trust essential to business and industry.
He says this kind of trust-producing morality is unique to societies having a Christian belief in a rational, personal God who has spoken to humanity through the Bible, clarifying right and wrong, and to whom everyone is equally accountable for their actions.
Mangalwadi believes acceptance of this Truth, and its subsequent application to business and industry, was fundamental to the success of Western economy.
But Mangalwadi's next question is important: "If moral integrity is foundational to prosperity, why don't secular experts talk about it [today]?"
His answer is straightforward: "Economists have lost the secret of the West's success because philosophers have lost the very idea of truth."
"The truth was lost," he says, "because of an intellectual arrogance that rejected divine revelation and tried to discover truth with the human mind alone."
Mangalwadi does a masterful job in Truth and Transformation tracing the connection between failing economies and faulty worldviews.
Mangalwadi's work is particularly relevant to the economic meltdown of 2008, and to real hope for long-term recovery. Simply put, the world experienced a financial meltdown because the West has exchanged the worldview of the Bible for a different worldview. A worldview that is as harmful to the economy in America as Hinduism is to the economy in India: the worldview of Secularism.
Through the philosophy of Western atheists such as David Hume (1711-1776), Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) and Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), the West gradually came to believe that either the God of the Bible does not exist--or is irrelevant (just as debilitating).
Whether God is absent or irrelevant, the effects of Secularism on business and industry are titanic.
Furthermore, Mangalwadi contents, Secularism is leading America down the same road to poverty that Hinduism led India.
Same road as Hinduism?!?
Friday, October 15, 2010
He wanted to buy a bus day-pass from a machine. But the instructions on the machine were in Dutch. Two young women visiting from America were standing nearby, and Dr. Mangalwadi asked how to get tickets from the machine.
The women said they had been riding around Amsterdam for a week, and no one checked for tickets. "Why do you want to get tickets?" they asked.
Mangalwadi writes: "Their shamelessness shocked me more than their immorality. They represented the new generation, liberated from 'arbitrary' and 'oppressive' religious ideas of right and wrong. University education had freed them from commandments such as 'You shall not steal.'
'It is wonderful,' I said to them, 'that there are enough commuters who pay so that the system can carry some who don't. Once your schools succeed in producing enough clever commuters, your country will catch up with mine [India]. You will have to have ticket inspectors on every bus and have super-inspectors to spy on the inspectors. Everyone will then have to pay more. But corruption won't remain confined to the consumers; it is a cancer that will infect politicians, bureaucrats, managers, operators, and the maintenance staff. They will take kickbacks, commissions, and bribes to use substandard parts and service. Soon your public transport will resemble ours: frequent breakdowns will slow down not only the transport system but also your roads, efficiency and economy.'"
Mangalwadi says morality is the "floundering secret" of the West's success.
Our economic system rests upon trust. Trust that people at the other end of a business deal will be honest, will pay, or deliver quality goods, and will not misappropriate funds, bribe or extort.
"Where did this morality come from?" asks Mangalwadi. "Why isn't my society [in India] equally trustworthy?"
Mangalwadi maintains that the kind of trust which made the West successful was possible only because a preponderance of people accepted the Judeo-Christian belief that there is a rational, personal God above us all, who sees all, and has clarified moral standards applying equally to everyone (such as "You shall not steal"). Living in accordance with His standards is "right," and acting against them is "wrong."
It isn't rocket science.
But today's economic pundits and political experts no longer talk about this "secret."
To be continued.
Friday, October 8, 2010
But I'm more disturbed about the cause of the breakdowns than the breakdowns themselves. The breakdowns could turn out to be a blessing, if they are instrumental in waking us up to the cause.
Such an awakening would be miraculous, and this is the way it must be. For the kind of awakening we need can only happen through a move of God.
Vishal Mangalwadi, in his remarkable book, Truth and Transformation, writes: "Roots of corruption go deeper than individual leaders and regimes. Dethroning leaders or smashing 'the system' rarely does lasting good...Ultimately it is our inner life--our assumptions, values, worldview, desires, emotion, and attitudes--as well as our relationships, that need to be transformed."
Such inner transformation, Mangalwadi contends, only happens when people embrace the Truth revealed in a Book the West no longer takes seriously: the Bible.
If you only read one book this year besides the Bible, let it be Truth and Transformation. Some books are worth reading multiple times, and this is one of them. I have read it twice, so far. Chuck Colson calls Truth and Transformation a tour de force, and he doesn't use that description flippantly.What makes Mangalwadi's work especially powerful is that it was written by a man born and raised in India. As a result, he sees more clearly than Westerners that we are throwing away the very foundation of our health and wellness--economic and otherwise.
In essence, Mangalwadi is saying to the West: Have you lost your mind? What are you doing?! Don't you realize what authentic Christianity has done for you and your society?
His writing is a plea from one who knows from personal experience in India what can happen when a society rejects Truth. His life was threatened (more than once), he was put in jail, and his parents were beaten because of decisions they made to live according to Truth.
I want to spend a few weeks on Mangalwadi's work because it has enormous implications for our economy, and for a return to meaning and purpose among followers of Christ in the workplace.
Friday, October 1, 2010
Legislators cannot produce the kind of deep-seated shift that is necessary to put our economic house in order. We cannot fix the fundamental problem by passing laws. Laws don't change hearts.
This does not mean we should not enact good laws. We must. But something much deeper must also take place.
The desire to embrace God's ways in the marketplace does not come naturally to the human heart. It comes from a supernatural work of God's grace.
This work of God's grace produces a compelling love for the One who made us. Without this love, obeying the Lord can easily turn into dead religion, with a burdensome list of rules to keep.
This was a pitfall the ancient Hebrews fell into. But the gift Jesus gave us for keeping this from happening lies in sharing the life of the Holy Spirit, like a vine and branch sharing the same sap.
As a result, we love the Person, not just the Book.
It isn't just about "doing the right thing." It's about loving the right Person.
When we love the right Person, we'll do the right thing. It's the horse that pulls the cart.
Jesus said, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind...and you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the prophets."
If we truly love the Lord, we will love the things He loves. If we love Christ, we will keep His commandments because we want to. If we truly love people, we will gladly behave rightly toward them.
Where does this "want to" come from? It comes from God Himself! We can't crank it up by our own will power.
It is God who gives us the will and the desire to do His good pleasure. See http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Philippians%202:13&version=NKJV (Philippians 2:13).
This unmerited grace generates the kind of workplace behavior that is "right"--in a naturally supernatural way.
This is what the saving life of Christ is about, and this is what America isn't getting.
In the long run, it is the only hope for our economy--and everything else.
Friday, September 24, 2010
Chuck Colson and Nancy Pearcey wrote those words in How Now Shall We Live.
Robert Winthrop (1852) put it this way: "Men, in a word, must necessarily be controlled either by a power within them, or by a power without them; either by the Word of God, or by the strong arm of man, either by the Bible, or by the bayonet."
In early America, the idea of “self-government under God” summarized the very meaning of liberty.
But today, the American concept of liberty boasts “self-government" while the "under God” part is gone.
As we move increasingly away from recognition of Higher Law, and away from the idea of accountability to a Higher Judge, the less real liberty we have.
Applying this to our economy, the more people participating in our economic system who lack internal control under God, the more need we have for external control under man. Thus the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010.
But what will steer the law-givers? What Higher Law will guide their minds and hands? [This is the bigger mess we're now in, and a topic for another day.]
While more external controls are necessary, no amount of legislation can solve the root problem of our economy. That's because the root problem of our economy is not economic. It's spiritual.
To bring ethical behavior into the marketplace, it must be carried into it by individuals who are "controlled by a power within.” Flatly put: we need bankers, lawyers, investment managers and loan officers who bring their love for Christ and voluntary submission to His Word to work with them every day.
This cannot be legislated.
Ken Eldred sums it up in his excellent book, God Is At Work:
“Transformation of culture really starts with the individual…Cultural change is not something that can be imposed at the macro level from the top...Person by person, hearts and minds must be transformed...In short, it is the Holy Spirit working a cultural transformation from the pattern of this world to the pattern of God. The process starts with...a personal relationship with God.”
Friday, September 17, 2010
This legislation calls for the establishment of a new federal agency: the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The Seattle Times wrote: "This new agency is intended to protect the interests of the average Joe. Housed in the Federal Reserve, it is designed to protect consumers from predatory lending, hidden credit-card fees and the like."
The Dodd-Frank Act has been called, "the most sweeping financial reform since the Great Depression." It not only addresses the $615 trillion-dollar over-the-counter "dark market" of derivatives, but other financial concerns, such as mortgage practices, credit-card fees and car loans. For a brief summary of the law's main points, see http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/promises/promise/422/create-new-financial-regulations/.
Some people feel the new law does not go far enough, while others feel it goes too far. That's what debate is all about.
In principle, I am not opposed to government oversight in areas that affect the health and well-being of the general public. As mentioned last week, one of God's purposes for civil government, according to Romans 13, is to reward those who do good and punish those who do evil. This is necessary in a fallen world.
But will the 2010 financial reform act keep us from experiencing future meltdowns?
Senator Christopher Dodd, co-sponsor of the bill, proclaimed: "I regret I can't give you your job back, restore that foreclosed home, put retirement monies back in your account. What I can do is to see to it that we never, ever again go through what this nation has been through."
Never, ever again? No doubt the shapers of post-Depression financial reform had similar thoughts.
Yes, I think the new laws may help solve some problems. They may cause others. But there are things laws cannot fix.
Not even God's laws can change the human heart.
To be continued...
Friday, September 10, 2010
Sometimes the State oversteps its bounds. And when it does, things get ugly. But the Bible makes it clear that civil government is appointed by God for a purpose. According to Romans 13, the purpose of civil government is to reward those who do good and to punish those who do evil. Paul tells us civil servants are "God's ministers."
When Alan Greenspan testified before Congress in October of 2008, just after the economic meltdown, he said he "found a flaw" in the way he had previously thought the economic world worked.
In his testimony, Greenspan did not elaborate on the "flaw." But I would like to do so.
The fatal flaw can be boiled down to one word: sin.
A big problem with derivatives is that few people understand how they work. Some derivatives are so complex that the financial institutions using them don't even understand how they work.
When something is that complex, and those who create the instruments don't want to "show their math," you have a disaster in the making.
One reason Brooksley Born smelled a rat is because she was a specialist in derivatives law. She had practiced in that field for 20 years before her clash with Greenspan. She knew what humans are capable of, when given a long enough leash. Worse yet, when there is no leash at all.
When a business that affects the hard-earned dollars of millions of trusting Americans operates in secret, with no accountability whatsoever, it is just too easy for sin to have its sway. The love of money is too powerful for many to resist.
This flaw is greatly magnified in a society that seeks to exclude God from the workplace, limiting Him to private, personal affairs, or to an hour of "spirituality" on Sunday morning.
When people lack the kind of internal control that restrains them from caving in to the love of money, there is a greater need for external control. That's the way life in a fallen world works.
But will external accountability fix the fatal flaw?
More to come...
Friday, September 3, 2010
I look forward to herding the cattle of ideas with you once more! Thanks for riding along side.
Let's start with Brooksley Born's controversial idea that when it comes to large financial institutions handling billions of dollars belonging to millions of trusting, hard-working Americans, doing so with open books and accountability to a governmental agency is a necessity.
Brooksley Born was the Chair of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission from 1996-99. At that time, a decade before the economic meltdown of 2008, Born testified before Congress four times, warning of the dangers of allowing complex financial instruments known as "derivatives" to be bought and sold with absolutely no accountability. It was a multi-trillion dollar "dark market." Very few people even understood how derivatives worked.
Born went up against Alan Greenspan, Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, and other powerful voices in Washington who were vehemently opposed to her call for open books. She got pounded.
A decade later, the derivatives that Born and Greenspan were arguing about formed a lion’s share of toxic assets that poisoned our economy, brought us to the brink of financial ruin, and produced the greatest recession since the Great Depression, which may get far worse before it gets better.
Brooksley Born’s story is chronicled in Frontline’s 2009 production, The Warning. It is must viewing. I have posted the trailer as the video of the month (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ACkiKVtF3nU). I urge you to view the full story at http://video.pbs.org/video/1302794657/.
I do not believe Greenspan had fraudulent motives. He was opposed to the regulation of financial markets on ideological grounds. He sincerely believed markets totally regulate themselves. That is, those who do well prosper, and those who do poorly fail. The market itself would “clear the transactions.”
After eighteen years leading the Federal Reserve, Greenspan retired in 2006. (Amazing timing.) But he appeared once again before Congress in October of 2008, after the house of cards came tumbling down on all of our heads. At the hearing, the world was stunned to hear Greenspan say he “found a flaw.”
“…I was shocked,” Greenspan said, “because I’ve been going for 40 years or more with very considerable evidence that it was working exceptionally well.”
What was the "flaw," and why did "it" stop working exceptionally well?
Saturday, July 17, 2010
But before I sign off, let me share a few more practical thoughts for pastors.
I'm not big on calender-driven sermons (except at Christmas and Easter), but Labor Day weekend is a good time to focus on work. For the past few years, the church Kathy and I attend (Westminster Chapel, Bellevue, WA) has made the Labor Day service a time to focus on the biblical view of work.
Our Labor Day services have not only contained sermons on work, but also special music, congregational singing, and sharing of congregants' experiences in the integration of faith and work.
Music about the work of human hands is not easy to find. One of the most fascinating pieces of music ever to grace one of our Labor Day services is called, God of Concrete, God of Steel. The title itself tells you this is no ordinary song!
It starts out like this:
God of concrete, God of steel,
God of piston and of wheel,
God of pylon, God of steam,
God of girder and of beam,
God of atom, God of mine:
all the world of power is thine.
Lord of cable, Lord of rail,
Lord of freeway and of mail,
Lord of rocket and of flight,
Lord of soaring satellite,
Lord of lightning's flashing line:
all the world of speed is thine.
1. Eight sermons by Haddon Robinson, appropriate for a series or as independent messages: http://www.preachingtodaysermons.com/rohabyswofyo.html
2. Larry Peabody's sermon series on Daniel, coinciding with his new book, Job-Shadowing Daniel: Walking the Talk At Work. For more about Larry's book, see http://www.calledintowork.com/resources/. Send Larry a request for information about his "Daniel sermon series" at http://www.calledintowork.com/contact/.
3. More Than A Paycheck, a collection of 24 messages on theology of work, with practical illustrations of faith at work. Includes 50 video clips, 650 PowerPoint slides and the complete speaking notes that I have used when presenting this material myself. Go to http://www.biblicalworldview.com/teach_m_y.html.
See you in September--on Labor Day Weekend!
Friday, July 9, 2010
Doug Sherman, co-author of Your Work Matters To God, has said, "Our surveys reveal that 90 to 97 percent of Christians have never heard a sermon relating biblical principles to their work life."
I wonder if there might be a connection between those two findings?
One of the problems is that few seminaries offer training courses for pastors in theology of work. While there are some efforts currently underway to change this, the subject of theology of work is on few radar screens in today's seminaries.
So where can pastors go for guidance in this area? One excellent resource is the Theology of Work Project.
Officially formed in 2007 under the leadership of Dr. Haddon Robinson, the mission of the Theology of Work Project is "to bring together scholars and practitioners in a coalition aimed at building consensus around fundamental truths contained in a Theology of Work.”
Working with biblical scholars, theologians, ethicists, economists, workplace practitioners, and workplace ministers, The TOW Project is currently writing papers on what the Bible itself has to say about fundamental principles related to work.
So far, they have completed studies on Revelation, Colossians and Philemon. Their goal is to produce such studies for every book of the Bible.
The ultimate aim of The TOW Project is "to produce a Theology of Work that is as broadly acceptable as possible, being relevant for every kind of workplace around the world, and meeting the approval of the full spectrum of traditions within the orthodox/historical Christian faith."
The great things is, the writings of The TOW Project are in plain English, so they are understandable not only to theologians, but busy practitioners in the workplace as well.
Check out their study of Colossians/Philemon at http://files.inspyred.com/webfiles/74116/ColossiansPhilemonandWorkLeadArticleapproved2010-01-11.pdf
To learn more about The TOW Project, visit http://www.theologyofwork.org/
Friday, July 2, 2010
While it is true that church leaders don't have as much influence in today's culture as they used to, when it comes to influencing the culture within a local church, nobody carries as much influence as the senior pastor. No hour of the week carries as much weight as the large group meeting of the gathered church. Usually this takes place on Sunday morning, where bulletins are given out, ushers seat people, sermons are preached, and offering plates are passed.
What the senior pastor says and does during the large weekly gathering shapes the culture of the local church like no other voice. That's why I'm convinced senior pastors hold the keys to effective worklife discipleship in the life of any local church.
Last week I mentioned a survey I did of 20 senior pastors in the Seattle area whereby I discovered many pastors are not satisfied with their effectiveness in equipping congregants to influence in the Monday-through-Friday workplace. Many of them want to do a better job in this area.
While I didn't expect to find it, I think I found a clue as to why there is such a gap between the pastor's desire to do see more results in the area of workplace discipleship, and the degree of dissatisfaction many of them feel about how effective they are in this particular arena.
The clue is this: When I asked the pastors how often they gave a Sunday morning message that "dealt primarily with the specific topic of work or work-related issues," I often heard responses like, "every Sunday."
Nearly one-third of the pastors I interviewed told me their sermons applied to "all of life," and therefore they were addressing worklife discipleship in virtually every message.
I couldn't bring myself to pop their bubbles. After all, the purpose of my interviewing was not to comment about their answers. My purpose was to hear what they were thinking.
However, since the desire of most pastors is to be more effective, I do have some thoughts to share along these lines.
To be continued.
Friday, June 25, 2010
I discovered that most pastors don't view themselves, or their churches, as being very effective in this particular area.
On a scale of 1-10, I asked each pastor what their level of satisfaction was in how well their churches were doing in equipping congregants to have an influence in the workplace. The average response was 4.58 (10 being the highest). Twelve pastors (60%) gave themselves a 5 or lower. 80% of the responses were 6 or lower.
I was impressed by the humility of those pastors. Many were not pleased with the reality of their particular situations, and it was evident that many wanted things to be better with respect to "worklife discipleship."
If a pastor were to ask me how to improve things in this particular area, I would probably say something like the following (and this may explain why pastors don't ask me this question!):
"Focus more on how you can help your congregants fulfill their roles as participants in the workplace than on what your congregants can do to help you fulfill your role as pastor in the church."
Several years ago, I had a conversation with a school superintendent who told me his pastor encouraged him to see his work in education as a priority over what was going on within the four walls of his church.
I remember thinking how unusual this was! In my entire life, I had never heard anyone say such a thing about his or her pastor.
Now, please don't read what I'm about to say as a slam on pastors. They need the support of their congregants as much as their congregants need the support of the pastor. But I think most pastors have their eyes fixed more on the church gathered in the building, than on the church scattered in the workplace.
I'm not suggesting it's an "either-or" proposition. I think it's "both-and." But how common is it for a pastor or a church to have a reputation for equipping believers for successful life in the workplace, in the truest sense of the word "success"?
My friend's pastor was Lowell Bakke. Please take 2.5 minutes to hear Lowell share his views on the role of pastors in the church: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jk8Vw-c1Bzc&feature=player_embedded
Friday, June 18, 2010
Before I answer my own question, let me distinguish between the church gathered and the church scattered.
When I ask, "How can a church help congregants to cultivate a God-centered approach to work," I'm first thinking about how the church gathered might do this.
I'm coming at this question with the fundamental understanding that the purpose of the church gathered on Sunday is to prepare, equip and encourage the body of Christ to be effective as the church scattered throughout the city on Monday through Saturday.
Whether or not this is what every pastor sees as the purpose of the church is another question. Perhaps you've heard the statement, "The most important thing happening this week in our city is what's happening right now, here in this sanctuary!"
Dr. Vic Pentz, Senior Pastor of Peachtree Presbyterian, in Atlanta, used to see it that way. But no longer. In fact, he says he doesn't even believe it any more.
Does this sound like he has lost his mind? Take 1 minute and 16 seconds to hear Pastor Pentz explain himself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YboJIUVm8Cc
Can the gathering of a church with its pastor on Sunday be likened to the players of a football team gathering at half-time in the locker room with the coach before returning to the playing field again?
While the analogy isn't perfect (there's more to the church gathered than the pastor's message), I think Pastor Pentz is on to something significant.
Of course the 'playing field' is more than a person's workplace. But since work occupies about 1/2 of a working person's waking hours, it's a pretty important chunk of life.
So what could happen on Sunday that might prepare congregants for engaging in their daily work on Monday as a "sacred task," whether swinging a hammer, driving a truck, running a business, or being a homemaker?
Next week we'll start exploring some specific ways in which a local church can cultivate a God-centered approach to life in the workplace, "out on the playing field."
Friday, June 11, 2010
Do you think the lost art of "God-centered work" can be restored?
If so, how?
Since no one responded, I'm left to answer my own questions! So, here goes...
When I'm involved in a project that requires skills I have never used before, or I'm trying to solve a problem I don't know how to fix, I look for "how to" information.
I appreciate the "_______ for Dummies" books, because they don't assume I know anything. They start from "A" and go to "Z," in an orderly, step-by-step fashion. That's what I like.
I can also Google, "How do I ________" and get a concise answer to just about anything in a nano-second!
But some challenges defy step-by-step solutions, and have no quick fixes. They are too big. Too complex. Like: restoring the lost art of God-centered work in a culture that has excluded Him from public places and relegated Him to "church" (which would have been unthinkable in Jonathan Edwards' day). Fixing such a problem is fully and completely beyond us. And this is a good thing!
Can the lost art of God-centered work be restored? The short answer is, "Yes."
Why do I believe this? Because "with God all things are possible" [Mark 10:27].
But those two little words, "with God," are critically important.
Psalm 127:1 comes to my mind: "Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it."
When it comes to restoring the lost art of God-centered work in a post-Christian society, it can only happen if it's a "Holy Spirit thing."
Our role in the process is to come along side what the Lord is doing today in this regard.
So how is it possible to "come along side" with respect to restoring a God-centered approach to work in the 21st Century?
In the next few posts, we'll explore some ways we can cooperate with the Holy Spirit to revive a robust "theology of work" in today's culture. Specifically, I'll be looking at ways in which churches, homes, schools and companies can "come along side" in this move of God.
Did I say, "move of God?"
If it isn't, let's pack up and call it a day.
First stop: the church.
Friday, June 4, 2010
Christ instructs His followers to “occupy” planet Earth until He comes again. This act of occupation takes place in every legitimate field of human endeavor.
It takes place as followers of Christ observe all that He commanded within the realms of business, government, the arts, media, education, and every sphere of legitimate work on this planet.
The degree of corruption we sometimes find in these “earth-tending” spheres may be because Christ-followers have either opted out of them, or we have never realized that we are supposed to observe all that Christ commanded within the context of those kinds of jobs in the first place.
Jonathan Edwards and fellow graduates from Yale, in 1721, would have understood that it is in the workplaces of the world where we have a prime opportunity to “observe all that Christ commanded,” which is the thrust of the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20.
It was the so-called “Protestant Work Ethic” that fashioned America into the land of opportunity it quickly became. Yet, today’s “sacred-secular split” has led many Christians to leave their Christianity outside the workplace door on Monday morning.
As a consequence, workplace participants cannot always distinguish Christians from non-Christians in the work-world, and our economy has suffered greatly.
I want to encourage the next generation to play a role in changing this. Will you join me?
The commitment to intentionally and systematically train young people in the “art of God-centered work” has largely disappeared from our churches, schools and homes. The custom of teaching students how to make connections between the biblical worldview and all forms of legitimate labor is no longer customary. It has gone the way of men's powdered wigs.
But it can be restored. I believe we can once again train our young people to see “their shop as well as their chapel as holy ground.”
The white powdered wigs can go. But to equip our sons and daughters with the ability to engage in their everyday work “as the work of God,” is long overdue for a comeback.
For a .pdf copy of the full article from the May-June issue of Home School Enrichment magazine, click this link:
Do you think the lost art of "God-centered work" be restored?
If so, how?
Friday, May 28, 2010
If we embrace the notion that our original job description (The First Commission of Genesis 1:26-28) was rescinded at the Fall, then we will have a very difficult time seeing how one’s shop as well as one’s chapel can be "holy ground."
But what the Puritans seemed to understand so well, is that because “the earth is the Lord’s and all it contains, the world and those who dwell therein” (Ps. 24:1), God is still the owner of every pair of shoes in every shoe store in the world, and He claims rights to every customer who walks through the front door.
Because they saw Jesus as “Lord of all” (including all shoes and the selling thereof), they did not divide the world into “sacred” and “secular” compartments. They did not see some work as “secular,” and other work as “sacred.” For them, there was no “secular” world.
No, in Jonathan Edwards day, the merchant was doing “the Lord’s work” as much as the pastor.
If I could be a school principal over again, I would have my students complete a course on “the art and science of God-centered shoe-selling.” I would call it, “More Than A Paycheck.” As a matter of fact, I recently wrote such a curriculum, and I have called it just that!
I’d like the next generation to know that no matter which career paths they might take, whether it be in business, the arts, or homemaking, they will always be working in the Lord’s turf. This is because there is no other place to work! It is all His! He is “head over all” (I Chronicles 29:11).
Further, I’d impress upon them that no matter where we work, our ultimate authority is Christ. We might work in places that ignore the Lordship of Christ, and in some places that deny it, but we will never work in any place that is exempt from it.
Is there any place that lies outside the realm of God’s affairs? Is there any sphere of life’s activity that exists independently of God, on its own, in a vacuum, somehow separated from His ownership, interest and involvement?
I would teach my students that they will never have a “secular” job, because there truly is no “secular” world!
Next week: the conclusion to The Missing Curriculum.
Friday, May 21, 2010
Work, at its core, is an act of governance. Governance over wood, metal, cows, cotton and carrots. Governance over electrical currents and wind. Governance over fiber optics and digital images. Governance over people. Governance over things. Governance over ideas.
Randy Kilgore, a leader in the current “faith-at-work” movement, says: “God created a world that functions on order, and requires labor for its tending. He created you and me to be a part of that order, to do that labor. Even when our acts at work don’t seem to have eternal significance, their very rendering fulfills His original commission to humans to tend His creation.”
"Creation-tending" is a very big job! Ruling over all the earth entails a responsibility as broad as the world is wide, and requires many varied occupations, including carpentry, high-tech work and homemaking.
It involves physical work (as with Adam tending and keeping the Garden), and mental work (as with Adam naming the animals).
Both kinds of work occurred before the Fall. Work is not a curse! It was the ground that was cursed. Not the work.
It is our great and awesome responsibility as vice-regents over this remarkable planet to govern over God's creation. And we were made in the image of God so that we could carry out this function well. The curse just made this work more difficult.
If the Fall had not occurred, human beings would be involved in all sorts of legitimate businesses, similar to the kinds of businesses we see going on today—sans the sin.
Some people think that when Adam and Eve sinned, they forfeited their role as governors over Earth. Like ambassadors caught in an act of treason, Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden and removed from their positions as God’s vice-regents over all the Earth. In this scenario, “earth-tending” could no longer be the job description of human beings.
If this is the case, then we are prisoners on a cursed planet, sent out to wander, spending our days toiling for food. Our work, then, is no longer a way of fulfilling the role that God had in mind for us when He created Adam and Eve: “Let Us make man...and let them rule…over all the earth.”
Beyond providing for our subsistence, our work, then, could no longer have significant purpose.
Next week: Part 4
Friday, May 14, 2010
I was the principal of a Christian school for fourteen years. During those years, it never occurred to me that my school should provide specific instruction for students in the art of God-centered work. Frankly, I did not know there was such a thing as “theology of work,” or anything close to it, that would make up a full curriculum on the topic, as it did in the days of Jonathan Edwards.
For many years, I, like many others, thought only pastors and missionaries did “God-centered work.” I failed to make any connection between selling shoes (which I did part-time while a college student) and the Kingdom of God.
So what does selling shoes have to do with the Kingdom of God?
If we separate the two, we will never understand what the one has to do with the other.
But as the English Puritan Pastor George Swinnock put it, "The pious tradesman will know that his shop as well as his chapel is holy ground."
This is a teaching that we do not often hear today. When was the last time you heard a sermon along the lines that “your shop as well as your chapel is holy ground?”
But as we know from Genesis 1:26-28, God created humans in His likeness and image with one functional purpose in mind: to rule over the earth and all that it contains.
And this raison d’être necessitates all kinds of work! Furthermore, it makes all legitimate work on planet Earth a response to God Himself!
If this isn’t “holy ground,” I don’t know what is.
The Scripture referenced above, Genesis 1:26-28, says: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our likeness an image, and let them rule…over all the earth.’”
This profoundly important piece of information is often called, “The Cultural Mandate,” or, “The Dominion Mandate.” But I prefer to call it simply, The First Commission.
And what a commission it is! Here we have a commission to rule over the entire globe!
Chuck Colson summed it up this way: “On the sixth day, God created human beings—and ordered them to pick up where He left off!”
Next week: Part 3
Friday, May 7, 2010
The article is also relevant to last week’s comments about the Islamization of Indonesia and the inroads Islam is making in Africa today.
Many things have changed since 1721. Some things, like men’s white powdered wigs and women’s corsets, we can live without. But some things have gone out of fashion that we really need to recover.
1721 was the year Jonathan Edwards graduated from the Collegiate School at New Haven, known today as Yale University. But before Edwards and his classmates could exit Yale, whether to work as pastors or merchants, they were tested in a particular field of study that has since disappeared from virtually every school in America: the practical art of God-centered work.
The course of study that Edwards and his fellow Puritans completed had a name: technologia, a Latin term. It was a curriculum complete with textbooks.
Technologia was a holistic curriculum that helped people to approach work in the broader context of a Christian worldview.
It is the biblical worldview that gave work—all kinds of legitimate work—remarkable purpose and meaning for Jonathan Edwards and his peers, whether they were missionaries, bankers, cobblers or homemakers.
Dr. David Scott, professor of history at Southern Evangelical Seminary, discovered the technologia while doing eight years of Ph. D. research on Jonathan Edwards. “The Puritan curriculum of technologia,” writes Dr. Scott, “taught Edwards a God-centered view of all reality. He grew up in a church that believed it had an obligation to teach what it meant to live a God-filled life in everything we do. That is why the textbooks of technologia began with the being of God and traced His truth through creation all the way to how it is lived out as a farmer, shoemaker, or merchant.”
But today, there is little curricula available that integrates an understanding of biblical worldview with everyday work. This is what I call, “The Missing Curriculum.”
Have you ever taken a class that specifically focused on how to align biblical worldview premises with repairing automobiles, designing software or running a legitimate business?
Part 2 next week.
Friday, April 30, 2010
A few years ago, I had the privilege of studying the history and culture of Indonesia as part of my studies at Bakke Graduate University. I spent ten days in that country with Ray Bakke and about a dozen other graduate students. During our stay, Ray pointed out that Islam did not come to Indonesia through Muslim clerics. It came via business and trade.
Michael Baer, in Business As Mission, writes: “I once asked an Indonesian Christian why the country had become so predominantly Muslim…She said that when the Western Christians came...they built missionary compounds and missionary churches and expected the Indonesian people to come to them. The Muslims, on the other hand, came as traders, farmers, merchants, and businesspeople and simply lived among the natives.”
Dr. Darrell Furgason, an expert in Islamic studies, says: “In places like Africa and Indonesia, the church has been intellectually crippled, with one hand tied behind its back. Western missionaries generally brought the Gospel in the way they learned it, as a purely soul-saving faith, with no real bearing on anything else—religion was a mostly personal matter, nothing to do with things like politics, science, law, economics….African people were given the Gospel, but not how to build a righteous nation, how to apply Christianity to everything….Muslims see their faith as all-encompassing…”
This leads me to follow-up on last week's post about what I learned from African educators earlier this month.
You see, while I was in Indonesia, one of my fellow doctoral students was an African by the name of Aila Tasse. Aila told me of the spread of Islam in Africa via business. His comment to me was: "The Muslims are winning."
When I returned home from Indonesia, I called Aila by phone and asked permission to record his comments for the benefit of others who need to know what is going on.
While in Kenya just a few weeks ago, I played Aila's comments for African leaders from Uganda, Nigeria and Sudan, and I asked if they concurred with Aila's report. Without hesitation, they all replied: "Yes! Absolutely! He is 100% correct!"
I urge you to take 2 minutes and 49 seconds to listen to Aila for yourself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJppIj-Fnmc
Friday, April 23, 2010
We met at the International Christian Educators Conference organized by the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI), where I was invited to teach on the topic of biblical worldview integration.
One leader said that what he hears most from African Christian educators are: "What is a biblical worldview?" and "How do we teach Christianly?"
This same African leader said: "Africans have understood the Gospel of Salvation, but not the Gospel of the Kingdom."
Biblical worldview, the Gospel of the Kingdom, and "teaching Christianly" are closely linked. Why? Because an understanding of biblical worldview opens up an understanding of the Gospel of the Kingdom, which in turn motivates discerning educators to "teach Christianly."
What is the difference between the Gospel of Salvation and the Gospel of the Kingdom?
The Gospel of Salvation helps people understand how to become born-again believers through faith in Christ's sacrificial death on the cross. Through this door we enter into a personal relationship with Jesus, and we can know we will go to heaven when we die.
This is critically important. But the Gospel of the Kingdom helps us to understand what the door of personal salvation leads to. We are not just saved from something, but saved for something!
Actually, the Gospel of Salvation is part of the Gospel of the Kingdom. There is only one Gospel. But personal salvation is not the whole picture. The Kingdom is much bigger.
The Gospel of the Kingdom is about the on-going life of Christ being lived out through the work-lives, civil-lives, and relational-lives of His redeemed people in the here-and-now, as well as in the then-and-forever.
This is what African educators are seeing. The African Christian school movement is burgeoning, not only in numbers, but in the vision of what distinctly Christian education can be.
Many African leaders see distinctly Christian education as a means of enabling the next generation to seamlessly integrate the all-encompassing biblical worldview into the totality of their social, economic, and civic lives.
This is the most hopeful thing I have seen in a long time.
Is this part of an African reformation? African Christian educators are smelling it. They want to carry the life-giving power of Christianity beyond the saving of souls to the transformation of nations.
Friday, April 16, 2010
Apart from the influence of Dr. Albert Greene on my life, it is safe to say I would not be doing what I am doing today, helping people to grasp the meaning and significance of a biblical worldview.
Apart from Dr. Greene, I doubt if I would have come to understand the breadth and depth of that treasure myself.
I first came to know this gentle giant of a man in 1959, as a 5th grade student at Bellevue Christian School, which Dr. Greene founded in 1950, and where he served as Principal and then Superintendent for many years.
In 1979, I took the role of Principal in a Christian school myself. To sharpen my understanding of what Christian education is supposed to be, I took graduate level courses in the philosophy of Christian education from Dr. Greene, who was then teaching part-time at Seattle Pacific University.
It was during this time that he asked me to stop calling him "Dr. Greene," and to just call him "Al." It was something I found extremely difficult, and never did feel comfortable doing.
It was through Al that the "worldview puzzle" fell together for me. I can tell you what room I was in on the day Al talked about the myth of the "secular world." I remember coming up to him after his talk, and sheepishly asking, "Are you saying the 'secular world' doesn't exist?"
I can still hear the inflection of his voice, as he simply stated, "It really doesn't." You could have knocked me over with a puff.
Al was one of the most intelligent men I have ever known. Yet, at the same time, he was one of the most humble men I have ever known. I was mentored as much by his kind spirit as by his brilliant mind.
The last visit my wife and I had with Al was a year and a half ago. His mind was sharp. As always, he suggested more books for me to read, as was captured in the photo that accompanies today's post below. Al's care-giver, Michelle Taylor, snapped this picture on that day.
Thank you, Dr. Greene, for mentoring me, and for your priceless encouragement and faithful support over these many years.
We'll talk again, my friend.
|My wife, Kathy, and I, with Al about a year before he passed through the veil.|
Friday, April 9, 2010
This is why worldview matters, and why I believe it is critically important to understand how our work can be aligned with a biblical worldview.
The process starts with an understanding of what a biblical worldview is. Therefore, any effort and time we spend bringing a biblical worldview into focus is time and effort well spent.
While it is never too late to learn, it makes sense to get some worldview training as a young person, before entering the workforce. The problem is, few schools offer courses in biblical worldview.
Self-study is one way to learn about biblical worldview, but most young people are not likely to do this until they develop an internal motivation along these lines. Gaining that initial motivation is the real challenge.
One way for a young person to gain such a motivation is to spend some time with a group of other young people who are focusing together on biblical worldview training--and enjoying it.
But where does this happen?
It happens every summer, during 2-week summer camps for students hosted by Summit Ministries.
I can vouch for this program because my wife and I spent two weeks at one of their student summer camps about ten years ago. We wanted to get an "inside picture" of what the Summit program is all about, so we asked if we could come as participants, even though we were long past the target age. We were kindly allowed to participate.
My friend, John Stonestreet, the Director of Summit Ministries, is one of the most able teachers of biblical worldview I know, and is particularly apt at connecting with young people. Many other nationally-recognized experts in biblical worldview come to the Summit summer camps as guest speakers.
While most readers of this blog are already through school, I suspect you know of students who would benefit greatly by a 2-week focus on biblical worldview. This summer, camps are being held in Colorado, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin.
Here is the link to the Student Summer Conferences: http://www.summit.org/conferences/student/
The application is downloaded from there.
I encourage you to pass this information on to students you know who are of high school or college age.
By the way, Summit also hosts worldview training conferences for adults. See http://www.summit.org/conferences/adult/
Friday, April 2, 2010
What makes a "good" job "good?"
Pay is not the most important factor for most people. Of course, having a job that doesn't pay enough for basic necessities is a problem. But pay alone does not determine whether a person feels the job he or she has is a "good" one.
Matching one's strengths and abilities with one's work is a factor. Booker T. Washington, who was George Washington Carver's boss at Tuskegee Institute, remarked that Carver was a poor administrator. It would have been a mistake for Booker T. Washington to have "promoted" Carver to an administrative role. His best fit was in the lab.
But is it possible for a person to have a job that matches one's strengths and yet still not feel he or she has a "good" job?" Yes. Other factors come into play.
One of the biggest factors is meaning. Working with no sense of meaning can be drudgery, even if the job fits one's strengths. Making progress at work (although this is a vital factor in job enthusiasm), may not be enough either. Making progress toward something that has meaning, however, is another kettle of fish.
The big question then becomes, "How can work have meaning?"
Bonnie Wurzbacher, former Vice-President of Global Accounts for The Coca-Cola Company, once told me, "we don't find meaning in our work, we bring meaning to our work." This is a profound truth. She went on to say, that until she understood
Carver's work had meaning because he brought meaning to it. He understood what the biblical worldview is about, and how his work fit into it.
The amazing thing is, a biblical worldview provides as much meaning for the work of retail clerks and taxi cab drivers as it does for chemists and college professors.
This is why worldview matters. Hear Bonnie's comments in the video below:
Friday, March 26, 2010
There is a lot of data out there that shows what men and women are doing around the world, but Gallup wanted to find out what men and women around the world are thinking. Gallup could not find such a poll, so they made one.
Gallup scientists created a questionnaire that was translated into dozens of languages, and they collected data from over 100 countries. The Gallup organization is committed to conducting this poll for 100 years.
After the first World Poll was completed in 2007, Jim Clifton, Chairman and CEO of Gallup, wrote of this project: "...we many have already found the single most searing, clarifying, helpful, world-altering fact." He went on to identify this fact as, "one of the single biggest discoveries Gallup has ever made."
What was Gallup's great discovery?
Clifton summarized it this way: "What the whole world wants is a good job."
Clifton wrote these words before we entered the world-wide recession we are now experiencing: "If you and I were walking down the street in Khartoum, Tehran, Berlin, Lima, Los Angeles, Baghdad, Kolkata, or Istanbul, we would discover that on most days, the single most dominant thought carried around in the heads of most people you and I see is 'I want a good job.'"
I found Clifton's report fascinating. It says something about people, in all parts of the globe, throughout all cultures. Muslims, Christians, atheists, Jews, black, white, communists and capitalists. It says something about how we are wired. We have a common felt need. That felt need is to be working, and to be working in a "good" job.
But what makes a particular job “good?” Is it the pay? The people we work with? The compatibility of our work with our particular gifts and talents, doing what we want to do? These are important factors, but it is possible to have excellent pay, great people to work with, a very fitting job compatibility, and yet still lack that "something" which makes a particular job a “good” one.
What is that "something?"
To answer this question, we'll turn once more to Dr. George Washington Carver. Next week.