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Reflections and resources for lifelong learning for missionaries

missions in midst of crisis
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Book Review: Practicing Hope: Missions and Global Crises

Every year the Evangelical Missiological Society publishes a monograph containing papers from the previous year’s annual meeting. This year’s title is Practicing Hope: Missions and Global Crises, edited by Jerry Ireland and Michelle Raven. Yet before we assume the book is talking about COVID-19, we need to remember that when these papers were presented, no one knew a pandemic was coming. Jerry Ireland notes:

Practicing Hope

In September 2019 almost 300 missionaries, missiologists, sociologists, theologians, anthropologists, and students gathered near Dallas for the annual meeting of the Evangelical Missiological Society. The theme was “Missions Amid Global Crises.” I do not think that any of us would have dreamed that eight months later the world would be engulfed in a global pandemic because of the Coronavirus (COVID-19).1Jerry Ireland and Michelle Raven, eds. Practicing Hope: Missions and Global Crises. Evangelical Missiological Society, 2020, xiii.

Overview of book

Though none of the twelve chapters address the current pandemic crisis, these papers give us much to learn and apply. The chapter titles are:

like your teacher
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What limits our disciple’s progress?

Over the years, I have recognized that many of those I have taught, coached or mentored have become better communicators and more effective leaders than me. I may have been their teacher, but their gifting and competency have surpassed my own. This has been a cause for celebration. I have even seen it as an indication of God’s blessing on my life.

Upon first reading, Jesus’ words in John 14:12 might seem to suggest that he had the same sentiments.

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. – John 14:12

However, I think D. A. Carson is right in saying that Jesus is talking about the greater impact the disciples will have once the resurrection has made it clear who Jesus is. The works of the disciples are greater than those that Jesus did, because in the light of his death and resurrection, these works will more clearly glorify him for who he really is.1D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, p. 496.

Like your teacher

In Luke 6, Jesus gives a more realistic evaluation of the potential of his disciples. But it is still a pretty lofty perspective!

The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher. – Luke 6:40

Syncretism
Picture by Greg Willis - originally posted to Flickr as Voodoo Altar, CC BY-SA 2.0

Follow-up: Colossians – Avoid Syncretism

In this series on follow-up, we have been looking at how missionaries can continue to help churches they have planted after they no longer are resident where those churches are located. The letter to the Colossians was not written to a church that Paul planted like other letters we have looked at in this series. Rather, Epaphras, not Paul, planted the church in Colossae. This probably happened during Paul’s extended ministry at Ephesus (Acts 19). Paul describes Epaphras as “our beloved fellow servant” and “a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf” (Col. 1:7). Epaphras faithfully preached the Gospel in Colossae. But the new church struggled with staying true to the Gospel they heard from their missionary. Apparently, Epaphras had met Paul in Rome (Col. 4:12) and informed Paul of the false teaching threatening the church.

As with most false teaching, this false teaching appears to be a form of syncretism. Syncretism is a blending of teachings that significantly alters the original message. We find that it is a constant danger in proclaiming the Gospel. So, it is important that we learn Paul’s strategy for avoiding syncretism from his letter to the Colossians.

The Colossian Syncretism

Borrowing from other religions

Clinton E. Arnold provides a convincing case that the Colossian “philosophy” found its roots in the folk religions of the area. In his conclusion he points out:

Exploring Spiritual Formation: Grief – Part 2

This is the second of two posts that explore the subject of grief in the life of a believer. Part 1 presented the hallmarks and pitfalls of grief, along with a biblical perspective of grief. This month, in Part 2, the post will present ways we can prepare ourselves for, and respond to, grief. 

Pandemic Grief

I am an introvert. Actually, I’m a flaming introvert. Which means that, though I love people and find them interesting, I really, really, like to be alone. Fortunately, I married an introvert. And though we love being together, we’re also adept at making space for one another. Thus, you can imagine my surprise when I noticed myself suffering from loneliness during the COVID-19 lockdown and subsequent work-from-home state of affairs—a situation I thought was made for introverts.

After some introspection, I realized I was missing my co-workers. Though we’ve seen each other over the Internet, I miss being with them, in person. I miss our impromptu prayer sessions. I also miss having lunch together. And I miss regularly sharing chocolate, coffee, spontaneous conversations, and laughter with them.

Union with Christ
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Follow-up: Union with Christ

The book of Ephesians is different than the other letters we have looked at in this series on Paul’s follow-up with the churches he planted. For instance, there are no problems that he is trying to correct nor questions that he is answering. Also, it is less personal than his other letters.

Ephesians: A Summary of the Gospel

F.F. Bruce writes:

It [Ephesians] sums up in large measure the leading themes of the Pauline writings, together with the central motif of Paul’s ministry as apostle to the Gentiles. But it does more than that: it carries the thought of earlier letters to a new stage.1F.F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, NICNT, Eerdmans, 1984, 229.

Clinton E. Arnold offers a statement of purpose for the letter:

Paul wrote this letter to a large network of local churches in Ephesus and the surrounding cities to affirm them in their new identity in Christ as a means of strengthening them in their ongoing struggle with the powers of darkness, to promote greater unity between Jews and Gentiles within and among the churches of the area, and to stimulate an ever-increasing transformation of their lifestyles into greater conformity to the purity and holiness that God has called them to display.2Clinton E. Arnold, Ephesians, Zondervan, 2010, 45.italics original

Wellness after 40
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A book about planning to live well after 40

Wellness for the Glory of God: Living Well after 40 with Joy and Contentment in All of Life by [MD Dunlop, John]

What does wellness look like after 40? Why should we care? We find helpful and practical answers in Wellness for the Glory of God: Living Well After 40 with Joy and Contentment in All of Life by John Dunlop, MD. The author focuses on wellness in the second half of life.

In the introduction, he explains what the book is about:

What strategies can we who are getting older adopt that will maximize our chances to endure the challenges of our later days and continue to be well? The essence of this book is expressed in the title. Wellness depends on living with a purpose that goes beyond the here and now. Over and over I have seen that one way in which Christians can stay well in their twilight years is to keep their focus on God, his greatness, and his glory.1John Dunlop, Wellness for the Glory of God, Crossway, 2014, p 12.

The suggested strategies call for changes that can make a difference as we age. Consequently, starting at age 40 is not too early.

Defining Wellness

Dr. Dunlop takes a wholistic approach to wellness. He writes:

. . . wellness is much more than physical health and freedom from distressing symptoms. Wellness involves the whole of our being, which includes six distinct areas: physical, mental, social, financial, spiritual, and emotional. These areas of wellness are not independent but are all interrelated. Each area contributes to the wellbeing of each of the others. At the same time, struggles in one area may distract from wellness in each of the others.2Dunlop, p 21.

understanding grief

Exploring Spiritual Formation: Grief – Part 1

This is the first of two posts that explore the subject of grief in the life of a believer. Part 1 presents the hallmarks and pitfalls of grief, along with a biblical perspective of grief. Next month, in Part 2, the post will present ways we can prepare ourselves for, and respond to, grief.

Loss and Grief

It’s a stunning number: over one million deaths worldwide due to COVID-19 in 2020—with untold millions grieving the unexpected loss of a loved one.

Though loss of life is surely one of the most severe causes of grief, COVID-19 has fostered other losses, such as the loss of jobs, travel, meetings, conferences, businesses, relationships, human connections, gatherings of all kinds, ministry opportunities, and milestone celebrations. Add to this the loss of normalcy, sense of general well-being, and rampant uncertainly about the future, and we have the makings of a pandemic of grief.

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