Friday 31 January 2014

Business as Mission and Church Planting

Here are the opening paragraphs of the Executive Summary:

‘Many within the business as mission (BAM) movement, especially those from church planting mission agencies, are hopeful that the BAM concept can become a key strategy in starting new churches and transforming communities. This report will confirm that indeed the potential exists for these goals to be attained. However, while there is a good rationale for integrating business and church planting, to date there has been a relative lack of working examples and resources on best practices.

‘The objective of the Business as Mission and Church Planting Issue Group has been to research current practices and trends in the BAM movement and to identify fruitful practices that lead to the formation of new churches. We conducted interviews with BAM practitioners to identify foundational principles, key challenges and fruitful practices for BAM and church planting. Real examples from BAM companies are shared to illustrate some of the lessons learned by current practitioners.’

The full report is available as a pdf here.

Other reports are available from here.

Wednesday 29 January 2014

Credo Magazine 4, 1 (January 2014)

The current issue of Credo is out, this one devoted to ‘Justification’.

According to the editorial blurb:

With over 2,000 years of church history in our rear view mirror, it appears that sola fide is a doctrine that comes under discussion in every generation. Our generation is no exception. Much dialogue continues over the New Perspective on Paul, Protestant and Catholic statements of agreement, and the relationship between justification and the Christian life.’

Among other items, the issue contains a long piece by Thomas Schreiner on N.T. Wright on justification now that the latter’s two-volume set on Paul has been published.

The magazine is available to read here, from where also a 37 MB pdf of the whole issue can be downloaded.

Lausanne Global Analysis 3, 1 (January 2014)

The latest issue of Lausanne Global Analysis, from The Lausanne Movement, is now available online, containing short essays on a variety of topics.

In the issue overview, editor David Taylor says:

‘In this issue we address the scourge of human trafficking, a critical issue of our times, and analyse how the church can play its part in confronting this form of slavery and helping its victims. We also assess the importance for Christian ministries in engaging more intentionally with the media and for leaders in integrating media into their mission strategies. Finally we tackle the linked themes of ministry to unreached indigenous people groups and of ‘ethnodoxology’ – a theological and anthropological framework guiding all cultures to worship God using their unique artistic expressions.’

The executive summary is available here, and the full issue is available here.

Saturday 25 January 2014


Patheos recently started a Mission:Work channel ‘to create a space where all kinds of conversations about work and faith can come together’. Many of the items are curated from elsewhere, but it’s handy to have them together in one place.

Recent posts include:

Didache: Faithful Teaching 13:2 (January 2014)

The January 2014 edition of Didache: Faithful Teaching is serving as the volume for an upcoming (March 2014) Global Theology Conference for the Church of the Nazarene on the theme of ‘Critical Issues in Ecclesiology’.

Numerous papers (though, alas, not all) are available in different subject areas – Context, History, Bible, and Theology – and in several languages too.

Friday 24 January 2014

Great Power

I contributed this week’s ‘Connecting with Culture’, a weekly email service provided by the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity.

‘With great power comes great responsibility.’ So says uncle Ben to his nephew, Peter Parker, at least as the line appears in the 2002 movie version of the Spider-Man story. That’s good advice for superheroes, perhaps, who might be especially tempted to use their powers for personal gain, fulfilling Lord Acton’s famous dictum that ‘power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely’.

We don’t have to look too far to see the corrupting tendency of power. In Merchant, Soldier, Sage: A New History of Power (Penguin, 2013), David Priestland offers an intriguing account of history as a competition for power between the three major groups of his title. These ‘castes’ (as he terms them) – symbolic of capitalists, militarists, and the intelligentsia – are locked in a struggle for power which triggers a crisis (war, revolution, or economic collapse) when any one of them gains prominence. Hence, according to this account, the West is now paying the price for succumbing to the values of the ‘merchants’ with their belief in the market and their pursuit of profit.

Inevitably, whether and how far Priestland has overplayed his hand is up for grabs. As it happens, however, there is a yet bigger story against which we might understand power. According to Andy Crouch, in Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power (IVP, 2013), Christians often see power as a danger to be avoided rather than a gift to be stewarded. We best understand power, Crouch says, as we see ourselves made in the image of God, called to cultivate creation, to ‘make something of the world’ – building houses, designing clothes, writing poetry, baking cakes, teaching children, managing people. In this way, all of us – not just those thought to be ‘powerful’ – have real power and are responsible for using it well.

To be sure, in a damaged and distorted world, power has the potential to be misused and misdirected, abused and abusive, leading to idolatry and injustice. But true power is exercised on behalf of others, and is concerned with cultivating the best environment for someone or something to thrive – in line with God’s original design for his world.

Here as elsewhere, Christians take their cue from Christ himself, in whose image we are being recreated. In this way, we exercise the gift of power every day, often in mundane ways, but infused with love and seasoned with confidence in God’s plan to restore all things.

9Marks Journal 11, 1 (January-February 2014) on the Prosperity Gospel

The latest issue of the 9Marks Journal, available here as a pdf, is devoted to the prosperity gospel.

In the Editorial, Jonathan Leeman writes:

‘Here’s a prediction: as Western culture increasingly turns against Christianity, the prosperity gospel will keep growing, at least for a time...

‘The goal of this Journal is to increase awareness and educate evangelicals concerning the prosperity gospel for the sake of diagnosis and prevention. As a couple of the articles will suggest, this globally-popular American export exists on a spectrum between soft and hard, more evangelical and less. Indeed, you and I can probably find some of it in our own hearts, as one piece observes. This issue concludes with a meditation on biblical theology, because it’s in the storyline of Scripture that we find the real antidote to all proof-texting reductionist gospels. The Bible is all about the glory of God in the face of Christ. Beholding him is the pathway to the truly blessed life.’

Thursday 16 January 2014

Mission Frontiers 36, 1 (January-February 2014)

The January-February 2014 issue of Mission Frontiers, published by the U.S. Center for World Mission, contains a number of articles under the heading ‘Breaking the Silence’, looking at how God is ‘reaching a different kind of ethnolinguistic people group with his Word: the deaf’.

‘There are between 120-400 sign languages in the world and none of them has the complete Bible in its language. In addition to having the Bible there is a need for outreach focused on the deaf and who better to do so than those who are deaf themselves. As a bonus in this issue, most of the featured articles have a ASL video translation.’

Individual articles can be accessed from here, and the whole issue (7 MB) can be downloaded as a pdf here.

Friday 10 January 2014

Barna Frames

This new venture looks like it could be significant – Frames, from the Barna Group – ‘short yet meaningful reads on the top issues facing us in today’s complex culture’.

Personally speaking, I shudder at the tag-line – ‘Read Less. Know More.’ – but that hasn’t stopped me ordering ‘Season One’ (I don’t like that, either) of this proposed annual series, which includes short books on select topics as below:

David Kinnaman and Jun Yong
The Hyperlinked Life: A Theology of Information in the Screen Age

Kate Harris
Wonder Women: The Challenges of Being a Woman Today

David H. Kim
20 and Something: The New Shape of Young Adulthood

Carol Howard Merritt and Tyler Wigg-Stevenson
Fighting for Peace: Christians in a Culture of Violence

Bob Goff
Multi-Careering: Finding Work That Matters

Claire Diaz-Ortiz
Greater Expectations: Stewardship of Life in the Digital Age

Jedd Medefind
Becoming Home: Adoption, Foster Care, and Mentoring

Nicole Baker Fulgham
Schools in Crisis: Helping Children Thrive in Public Schools

Jon Tyson
Sacred Roots: Why Church Still Matters

More information, including short video introductions to each title, is available here.

Thursday 9 January 2014

John Piper on Salvation and Election

This short book – freely made available here by Desiring God – is a revised and expanded version of material previously published elsewhere on the relationship between salvation and election, seeking to argue that ‘God’s unconditional election unto salvation is compatible with God’s genuine desire and offer for all to be saved’.

Denis Alexander on Genes, Determinism and God

The latest Cambridge Paper from the Jubilee Centre is available online, this one by Denis Alexander:

Here is the summary:

‘This paper has three main aims. The first is to provide biological information to help with interpretation of the latest genetic discoveries. The second is to argue that there is nothing in contemporary behavioural genetics that subverts the profoundly human experience of acting freely. The third is to show that the Judaeo-Christian conviction that humankind is made in God’s image provides a firm basis for human freedom and for the absolute value of each human individual irrespective of their genetic status.’

Wednesday 8 January 2014

Eddie Adams on the Meeting Places of Early Christians

Larry Hurtado has posted a helpful summary of what looks like an important book from Eddie Adams – The Earliest Christian Meeting Places: Almost Exclusively Houses? (London: Bloomsbury, 2013).

‘For some time now, the general view has been that earliest Christians met (e.g., for group worship) in houses, at least mainly. In a newly-published study, Dr. Edward Adams (Kings College London) queries this, contending that the evidence for this view isn’t as solid and consistent as commonly thought, and that the extant evidence suggests instead a variety of settings.’

Saturday 4 January 2014

International Bulletin of Missionary Research 38:1 (January 2014)

The latest issue of International Bulletin of Missionary Research carries the interesting-looking feature articles noted below under the broad theme of ‘Studying Mission’.

J. Nelson Jennings
Studying Mission

Dana L. Robert
Forty Years of North American Missiology: A Brief Review

Craig Van Gelder
The Future of the Discipline of Missiology: A Brief Overview of Current Realities and Future Possibilities

Dwight P. Baker
Missiology as an Interested Discipline – and Where Is It Happening?

Steven L. Rundle
Does Donor Support Help or Hinder Business as Mission Practitioners? An Empirical Assessment

Todd M. Johnson and Peter F. Crossing
Christianity 2014: Independent Christianity and Slum Dwellers

Janet C. Carroll
My Pilgrimage in Mission

Yousaf Sadiq
A Precious Gift: The Punjabi Psalms and the Legacy of Imam-ud-Din Shahbaz

Arun W. Jones
The Oxford Encyclopaedia of South Asian Christianity: A Review Essay

Friday 3 January 2014

No News Like Good News

I contributed this week’s ‘Connecting with Culture’, a weekly email service provided by the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity.

News aficionados have been looking back at what made the headlines in 2013, from the sublime to the ridiculous and everything in between: Barack Obama inaugurated for a second term, the remains of Richard III discovered under a Leicester car park, the House of Commons vote on same-sex marriage, Andy Murray’s win at Wimbledon, the birth of a royal baby, a new Pope, a new Archbishop of Canterbury, a new manager for Manchester United, ongoing civil conflict in Egypt and Syria, Typhoon Haiyan, the passing of Margaret Thatcher and Nelson Mandela, twerking, selfies.

All this raises the question as to what 2014 might hold, aside from what we can already anticipate: the centenary of the start of the First World War; the referendum on Scottish independence; the FIFA World Cup; the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan; the second cinematic installment of The Amazing Spider-Man and the third of The Hobbit; new non-fiction and fiction from Germaine Greer, Hanif Kureishi, Alain de Botton, Stephen King, Naomi Klein, and Martin Amis. 2014, like 2013, will offer plenty of opportunities for Christians to ‘connect’ with culture.

As we do so, we can feel confident about bringing a Christian perspective into everyday conversations. To be sure, we’ll want to consume discerningly, critique carefully and contribute positively. But we can do so with complete trust in the God who has promised to bring all things under his gracious rule. So, we engage with culture with a conviction that comes from being people of the gospel – where the gospel is not a set of good instructions or a piece of good advice, but the good news of what God himself has done and will do for the world through the work of his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

A.N. Wilson arguably caught something of the spirit of that in a Christmas piece in The Telegraph, insisting that ‘the alleged fading of Christianity cannot rid it of its power to transform lives’. That the transforming work belongs ultimately to God doesn’t reduce us to a passive, beleaguered people. Instead, we are a sign and embodiment of God’s redemptive presence in the world, where the grassroots practices of church life and discipleship spill over into active citizenship and cultural engagement. Marked by the character of Christ, we seek to be people of good news as well as bearers of good news.