What has caught your attention in the last few months? Is it the pandemic—deciding if you should visit with friends, go to church, or even to the market? Is it your finances? Perhaps your income is jeopardized, and you’re worried about paying your bills. Is it politics? With the election drawing closer, everyone has an opinion, especially the news media. Or maybe you’re focused on the violence taking over our cities, the claims of white privilege and racism, and the threat of social assassination.
I admit spending an inordinate amount of time pondering all these issues. Too much time. If I’ve spent any time at all focused on God, it’s been on a personal level—introspection, prayers for health and safety for me and my friends and family, thanking God that I don’t need to worry because He is still in charge.
When I look at what’s happening across the country, I see a common theme that for the most part has remained unnamed. The current news reports—of demonstrations, restrictions on free speech, increasing numbers of murders and other crimes, hate-filled rhetoric, accusations and “cancellations”—highlight symptoms of a far larger issue. Ultimately, it’s not about politics, or the environment, or even morality and social justice. The root of it all is spiritual.
It was “Mission Sunday” at our church. Our pastor preached on Jonah’s call to Nineveh, and linked that story to Jesus’ last words, when He commanded us to go to the nations:
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 18:18-20)
He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. (Mark 16:15-16)
Last week was our church’s annual SERVE Gala. The staff went all out to let our church volunteers know they’re loved and appreciated, and each of our church’s five campuses singled out a Volunteer of the Year. It was fun, heartfelt, an excellent way to say thank you for all the time and effort members of our congregations invest in our church.
Pete and I were there because we, too, are church volunteers, helping out in a variety of ways. I believe that every churchgoer should serve their church body, according to their gifts and abilities. (Check out Ephesians 4 and 1 Corinthians 12.)
But there was something missing, something I rarely see mentioned when it comes time to talk about serving: while helping out at church is important, not all serving should happen in the church.
You have likely heard of Unreached People Groups (UPGs)—ethnic groups of peoples where the number of self-professing Christians is under 5% of the population.
Unengaged UPGs (UUPGs) are those groups the church has not yet attempted to reach. They still lack any kind of witness among them, and there is not even a plan to create one. There is no way they could hear about Jesus unless someone crosses a cultural barrier to bring them the good news.
Now there’s a new term circulating among missiologists: Frontier People Groups (FPGs). While the definition is still in flux, the label was added to make a distinction between UPGs where God has begun a work, and those groups yet to experience their first church.
Great adventures make great stories, the kind we love to hear about. There’s the suspense—will the hero live to overcome evil? There’s the thrill of God’s light and love overcoming darkness. We all love a good page-turner.
In this case, the circumstances are real and the story is true.
Disclaimer: I have not read this book—yet. However, the author, Dan Baumann, recently came and talked to our missions-oriented Sunday school class. If his book is half as good as his talk, you have to read it! I certainly plan to.
Do you want to rent an apartment? Buy an airline ticket? Get a date? If you do—and you’re a citizen of China—you’d better have a good social credit score.
Four years ago, the Chinese government announced a new system with the goal of “raising the awareness for integrities and the level of credibility within society.” In other words, the government wants more control of the economy and the population. What a surprise.
Ever since John recorded his apocalyptic vision as the book of Revelation, people have been trying to figure it out. We’ve got “pre-trib,” “mid-trib,” and “post-trib” views. Some scholars believe that most of the prophesies described have already happened. Some are expecting the rapture; others expect the church to remain on earth until Jesus comes.
It seems as if every generation has its favorite interpretation. When I was in high school, Hal Lindsey was drawing parallels with current events in his book The Late, Great Planet Earth. More recently, we read the Left Behind series, by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins.
On December 5, 2012, American medical doctor Dilip Joseph and two colleagues are driving back to Kabul, Afghanistan, after serving villagers that morning at a rural clinic. Suddenly a man waving an AK-47 blocks their path. More armed men jump out of hiding. For Dilip, it is the beginning of a nightmare—he’s being kidnapped by the Taliban.
So begins the description on the back of a very exciting book—a true story describing the events that forever changed the lives of Dr. Joseph and his companions.
Recently, a friend of mine expressed his frustration about all the problems in the world, and his inability to really solve any of them. I felt his pain. We live in the “outrage” decade. Just read the comments after pretty much any news story, and you’ll see what I mean. Everyone is offended about everything. In many instances, that outrage is warranted; the world is full of injustice. This is nothing new.
Perhaps we’re more aware of it all in an age of instant communication, but people have always been mean and selfish, violent and greedy. Thankfully, most of us manage to live as civilized adults—but there are plenty of exceptions. Nature tosses in her share as well, with hurricanes, earthquakes, and other natural disasters. And then there’s politics. Right.