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Archive for the ‘cross-cultural’ Category

Church is no longer an “everyday word.”

Posted by functionalchurch on 2012/12/04

The Greeks used an everyday word to describe when they gathered together as Christians. We use a religious word to describe the same thing. And that fact has a tremendous impact upon how each of us understands the concept.

The funny thing is is that it is the same word: “Church.”

I spend a lot of my time trying to define this word for leaders in the Christian movement. We look at how it is used in the Bible; we look at what it meant in the original Greek; we study how it has been used through the ages since the 1st century; and so on and so forth. And when we come to a conclusion we proclaim it from the hilltops: I know what “church” means! (Of course, there is the corollary that if I know what it means then you probably don’t. So you need me to tell you. Good on me!)

But what if we couldn’t use that word? What if it was not available in my heart language? What if my culture had no concept of that word? What would I do then? How could I describe the body of Christ without the word “church”?

Is it possible?

Want to take a shot?

How would you describe the concept of church without using the word “church”?

Would you be willing to give up the word in favour of your new one?

Posted in church, cross-cultural, ecclesiology | Leave a Comment »

I Claim this place in the name of …

Posted by functionalchurch on 2012/11/29

New Chinese passport map of disputed area.

New Chinese passport. The dotted line in the lower right corner shows the disputed area that China is claiming.

Have you ever thought about the idea of laying claim. I remember as a child looking at pictures of early European explorers visiting “new” lands and, after planting a cross or a flag, claiming that place in the name of the king (or queen or whoever). Now before you get offended remember that I share both European and First Nations blood 🙂

Recently you may have read one of the following articles regarding China’s new passports. Apparently the show a map that includes disputed portions of the “South China Sea” as being a part of China. As you can guess, various countries, including Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, and the USA have made their opinions known. That’s because they also have claims in the area. It is a problem that has been brewing over many years but has recently come to a head. Time will tell how this will be resolved.

I began to think about the church and about missions. Do we lay claim to things that don’t belong to us? I wonder what people in the 10/40 Window think about all the maps of their countries that have been distributed over the years? I wonder what “Manila Ben” or whoever Saddleback named their target audience thinks when s/he sees the various effigies of who they are and how to “reach” them?

The concept of “claiming” implies concepts like good and bad, right and wrong, good and evil. Those doing the claiming always come out on the good side, while those who are claimed are always on the wrong side. But is this really the way missions works? Can any of us claim to be perfectly and totally connected to God? Aren’t we all on a journey?

Are we making unfair claims upon the people of the world? Do we have any other choice? Do those people then have the right to make a similar claim upon us?

What do you think?

Posted in church impact, cross-cultural, discipleship, ethics, good news, kingdom of god, missional, missions, philippines, transformation, truth-telling | Leave a Comment »

Cultural Dependency & Systematic Theology: At Odds in the Search for Emancipation?

Posted by functionalchurch on 2010/11/14

A lot of my work involves finding solutions for economic problems. Quite often I am that solution (at least on a short-term basis). But we haven’t found a long-term solution yet. We do teach on Capacity Building at SEATS but some things I have been reading lately have made me wonder if we are on the wrong track. Recently I have been thinking about the following questions and ideas:

If cultural & economic dependency are linked (as per Ali Mazrui), what does that say for teaching systematic theology cross-culturally? Since theology defines church culture, must it then be developed by those within the culture so as to not contribute to cultural dependency? Is it just adding to the problem? Is developing Asian Theology then the key to eliminating economic dependency in Asian churches?

These questions came as a result of reading my Dad’s Master of Education thesis from 1990. Kind of makes me wish I had read it earlier. Referencing Mazrui, Dad makes the statement “that cultural autonomy can be achieved through a strategy of domestication, diversification, and counter-penetration.”

Examples of this strategy (with comments) as applied to my cultural setting might include:

1. Use local language. SEATS training is conducted in a blending of English and Tagalog so perhaps we are going in the right direction here.

2. Connect to other Asian churches/cultures. SEATS itself is cross0-cultural but we haven’t been able to really link up Filipinos with other Asian church groups at this level. This will allow Asians to have more voices in the conversation than simply westerners.

3. Diffuse Filipino values into the mission. This, as pointed out in the thesis, is already on the way to being accomplished since there are a large number of Filipinos in Canada and Filipino churches working with the BGC Canada. Early in our career we even had a Filipino director of Global Ministries. His influence was definitely felt in our movement, even though he later moved on to other things. SEATS itself has a completely Filipino board. One idea would be to allow other Asian board members to help fill out the conversation and bring balance.

In your opinion, what is the best answer to this problem?

Posted in capacity building, christian life, cross-cultural, leadership training, missional, missions, pastoral training, philippines, theology, transformation | Leave a Comment »

Building the Kingdom: Essentials vs Non-Essentials (Part 2)

Posted by functionalchurch on 2010/07/24

A few months ago I wrote about the concept of Essentials vs Non-Essentials. At the end I expressed frustration about not having enough time in class for closure on the issues raised. Yesterday we had that closure in class.

The issues related to Essentials and Non-Essentials are quite often fought out in the issues on the periphery of our belief. That is, the battles waged in this area in our churches are primarily fought over non-essential practices as opposed to essential beliefs. The class did  an assignment  that called on them to list their core beliefs as disciples of Christ — that is the things that are absolutely essential to their life as Christians, the kinds of things that if they were not there would cause them to walk away from the group. I was mildly amused to see that the issues they considered to be core were almost exclusively theological in nature: Who is Jesus? What is the Church? Ordinances. etc. There was very little practice listed.

Which led us to the discussion of core beliefs and core practices. Of course, we all need to have core beliefs. But I just can’t survive on core beliefs. At some point those core beliefs need to come out — I need to show them in my actions.

For example, I remember watching a show called Venture on Canadian TV about 20 years ago. One episode hightlighted a new company that had developed a machine for turning garbage into potable water. The scene has stuck in my mind forever of the inventor of the machine holding a glass of water that had come from his machine. He proudly declared the water to be safe to drink. However, when asked by those present to prove his beliefs with action — in other words to drink the water — he refused saying, “I prefer wine.” Guess what? I have never heard of that machine again. Why? Because even though the inventor’s core belief was that the water was pure, his core practices did not include actually drinking the water himself!

Of course, I am not saying that everybody’s practices needs to be the same but that we find unity in the beliefs we share together. One issue that has come up in our faith community lately is how the practices that older Christians have relate to the practices that young Christians have. If we focus on the practices themselves, we will be divided. But if we focus on the core beliefs we can be unified and support a variety of legitimate core practices.

As a Theology teacher this truth strikes home for me. I must reexamine not my beliefs, but my practices so that my beliefs will be proved true in the things that I do.

How about you? Do your practices align with your beliefs?

Posted in christian life, christianity, church, church impact, conflict resolution, cross-cultural, ecclesiology, leadership, leadership training, transformation | Leave a Comment »

SEATS School of Ministry starts in a few

Posted by functionalchurch on 2010/07/11

SEATS School of Ministry starts in a few hours: We’ll be finishing up Essentials vs Non-Essentials http://ow.ly/29JAp

Posted in church impact, cross-cultural, ecclesiology, kingdom of god, leadership, leadership training, pastoral training | Leave a Comment »

Postmodernism, Premodernism, Cross-cultural-ism, & Denominationalism

Posted by functionalchurch on 2008/05/26

I came to a realisation the other day – I am post-modern. I know that may come as a shock to some of you (particularly if you are over 46, a pastor, or former classmate). You see, for the past how many years I have been hearing about how Postmodernism is bad. It will be the end of the church, the end of evangelism, the end of those who love the truth because (it is said) postmodernism is anti-truth/is a choose-your-own-truth system/is fuzzy in the truth area. Of course it’s not true. Postmodernists value truth just as much as the next guy – its getting to the truth that is a different process. Moderns say, “Tell me that something is the truth and I will believe it” while Postmoderns say, “Show me that something is true and I will believe it.” Not really much difference when you get right down to it. In terms of testimonies, Moderns spend more time telling what Scripture showed them about themselves, while Postmoderns spend more time telling how the truths of Scripture were proven in their experience.

Fine, so now I have fessed up to being postmodern. I have another problem. I don’t live in the culture within which I was born. To help you understand, imagine being a person whose facial expression show anger more frequently than joy living in a place where a look on your face can destroy a friendship (or at least make things difficult for a while). Or perhaps a person whose voice is not always calm and from time to time (or is it all the time?) gets louder and more forceful in his vocal expression, living in a place where a raised voice can also destroy a friendship.

So now I am a constantly-angry guy with fuzzy-truth issues. Wait, it gets better!

I live in a world that in it’s religious thought is pre-modern but its popular thought is post-modern. Did you notice that the word Modern didn’t appear anywhere in that list? Yes, it truly does seem that while I grew up in that bastion of modernity (see my comments on being post-modern above), I now live in a place that is missing that whole school of thought and jumping ahead to something better and brighter. So much for my life and all my training and etc. etc. etc. …

So what ties it all together? How can I survive this hodge-podge life that I have been given? How can I effectively minister in this world? It all comes down to a simple message that people across all of these cultural, intellectual, and social strata share; namely that of the Good News of Jesus Christ.

In perhaps one of the greatest misunderstandings of the modern Christian age, denominationalism has been seen as one of the greatest dividing forces in the church. There is a tremendous perception of a lack of Christian unity because of the abundance of Christian denominations. While there may be some truth to that (some churches split over the dumbest reasons) in fact quite the opposite is true. When you look at the vast array of denominations that are available to the average consumer, you will notice that each group represents a certain specific school of thought. Each group is also absolutely dedicated to the Jesus Christ to whom the Good News refers. In fact, denominations could be described as a creative way of contextualising God’s message for the whole world. Or perhaps this both-and approach to denominationalism is just my postmoderism expressing itself.

Mike Fast welcomes feedback on any of the articles he writes. Please leave your comments below.

Posted in church, cross-cultural, denominationalism, ecclesiology, postmodernism, Premodernism | Leave a Comment »