Archives for category: evangelism

third-way-thinking-groove-banner-21I didn’t initially plan on making this into a series, but I just came across a great passage on third way thinking as I’ve been reading through Finding the Groove: Composing a Jazz-Shaped Faith, by Robert Gelinas.

Robert’s jazz-shaped faith is composed of three foundations, or keynotes:

  • Syncopation
  • Improvisation
  • Call and response

These keynotes have implications both for “our walk with God (spirituality) and our joining in to help others walk with God (evangelism).”

One of my favorite explorations of these keynotes comes in chapter four, “Creative Tension.”  Robert points out that in our desire to resolve conflict, tension and perceived contradictions in the Bible and in our faith, perhaps we have lost touch with the very thing that can lead to creativity and life.

Jesus knows what to do with tension…

These two opposing truths provided a whole new option for those present that day — a third way (in Latin, tertium quid), a new, creative way.  This happens when we move beyod either/or to both/and. This is the gateway to improvisation.  Jazz is the willingness to live between freedom and unfreedom and see where it leads.

I love how Robert challenges us even to rethink, or reframe, our understanding of what it means to be in a rut.  So much of life is lived somewhere in-between, in the ordinary and everyday.  And yet, as we embrace this third way thinking:

When we are in a rut with God, we can stop and realize that a rut only exists becaus there are two opposing, competing, and equally strong forces that create sides.  Those sides create a groove.  Creative tension helps us find that groove.

May the paradox of loving and following Jesus lead us into the endless groove of wonder, possibility and love!

Last Friday, after one one of our community‘s weekday gatherings, we watched Religulous by Bill Maher.

Some friends from our community wanted to see if he brought up any legitimate concerns about Christian faith, and to see if these were the same kinds of questions their friends might have.  The short answer: no, he didn’t really bring up anything new and no, it’s hard to imagine friends being as hostile and derisive as he was throughout the film.

Without trying to pop-analyze Bill Maher, it did seem that much of his distaste for organized religion — the Catholocism of his youth, in particular — came from a place of personal hurt.  I think many of us, unfortuantely, can relate to the hurt, frustration and anger of wrongs done in the name of Jesus or His people.

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The Big Story

This morning, after dropping off our daughter at school, I rushed to get into James Choung‘s seminar at the National Pastors Convention, The Big Story: Sharing the Gospel in an Increasingly Unchurched Culture.  It was a full house and I’m glad, because this is a message churches need to hear.

James details challenged us to think of the Gospel as more than a “get out of hell free” card which, in the vivid words of Dallas Willard, results in “vampire Christians” who only want Jesus for His blood (drew quite a response from those in attendance). Instead, James encouraged us to think of the Gospel Jesus embodied and proclaimed — namely, the Kingdom of God.  To quote James:

The Kingdom of God: Where what God wants to happen actually happens

James describes three significant movements we need to make in our understanding of the Gospel and how we share it with others:

  • Individual > > Communal
  • Decision > > Transformation
  • After-life > > Mission-life

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While I wish I could have heard the messages from David Gibbons, Peter Cha and Ken Fong from this past weekend’s San Diego Asian American Leadership Conference (by all accounts, they delivered fantastic messages), my responsibilities there precluded my ability to sit in on the main sessions there. While I didn’t have an official title, I think Childcare Second Assistant Volunteer would pretty much summarize my role.

Much love to James, Dora and Steve for putting in so much hard work & prayerful effort into this amazing conference. When my wife and I came on board to help out in whatever ways we could, we realized that one of the most important things we could offer would be childcare — thus freeing the post-college family set to attend. It was really great to hear during a dinner chat with Joon Han that, for some people there, SDAALC was the first conference they had attended in years — specifically because childcare was available. My wife did a wonderful job preparing a great kids’ program with limited resources, and we had some really wonderful volunteers help out. I was there to provide box-moving and audio/visual tech support (and to hold multiple crying infants simultaneously).

I recorded my seminar, Asian American Identity + Postmodern Culture, on my little MP3 player. If I figure out how to upload it (and if it seems worthwhile), then maybe I will get around to posting it here. I was humbled that anyone showed up at all, and I sincerely hope that it was beneficial in some way for those who were there.

Another SDAALC note: it was great to see that True Story: A Christianity Worth Believing In, by James Choung, was not only available but was sold out by the end of the conference. Check out The Big Story and The Big Story, Part 2 videos James made based on ideas from this book — they are great resources for postmoderns who struggle with sharing their faith in Jesus in a concise, compelling way with others. These short clips (each one is only about three minutes) are also powerful for those of us who were raised in the church believing in the Western, individualistic, consumer-mindset, fire-insurance Jesus who died just for me (and that’s about it) instead of the Christ whose life, death and resurrection make the story of redemption, restoration, healing and rescue possible — in our individual lives, our relationships, families, communities and for the nations and the world.

Although I know it has been a major buzzword (with all of the misuse and/or overuse that entails) in some circles, I have come to believe more & more in the missional church. To be missional, in my understanding, is more than simply “doing” mission work in faraway places as a program or department of a church; rather, it is the priesthood of all believers living and embodying the message of Christ anywhere and everywhere we go, participating in the missio dei with our whole lives. For some great insight into the missional discussion, check out Friend of Missional.

It saddens me when our pastor greets me with a big smile and a handful of glossy brochures of mega-church x’s summer mission program and urges me to set up our own ten day summer “mission” trips so that we can strengthen the faith of our young people and, of course, make our own glossy brochures. I’m not knocking these quick mission adventure trips. They really can be life-changing; but, in my experience, there is a strange paradox of people receiving the most when they go with the intention of giving the most.  So, to make the primary objective of these mission trips the personal enrichment of those who participate is to miss the point. I even enjoy designing brochures, but I remain unconvinced that we should do it simply because the big guys do it. With so much working against short-term mission trips, and even perhaps the very concept of missionaries (the tragedy of the Korean missionaries in Afghanistan this past summer highlighted this tension), it is tempting to dismiss completely the traditional paradigm of church and mission.

nepal1.jpg

However, there is definitely something to be said about the people who go to the hard places in order to share the love of God and the message of Christ. I was reminded of that today, as our family drove up to Los Angeles to see my mother-in-law. She has been on furlough from her mission work in Nepal for about a month, and is going back next week. She is over sixty years old and spends most of the year in one of the most remote places on earth, teaching orphans and bringing the kingdom. She gave me the bracelet above, which reminds me to pray for her, after returning from Nepal the first time a couple of years ago.

Certainly, missional living and traditional mission work are not mutually exclusive. In fact, I would imagine that missional people would want to live out and share the love of God in both their local community and around the world. And, by the same token, it makes no sense whatsoever for someone to go on a “mission trip” if they have no greater sense of the mission dei, that God is the one sending them.

May we become and build communities completely captured and sent by the love of God in Christ, everywhere.

The final seven South Korean hostages in Afghanistan have been freed and are on their way back home!

May we continue to pray for these followers of Christ, their families, their church and for those who perpetrated these evil acts. In particular, pray for their church which, although this should be a time of great joy, has been issuing apologies and has been unfairly criticized by many inside and outside of South Korea.

Much respect to Eugene Cho for cutting through the media silence and becoming a voice and advocate for these followers of Christ, for his wise insights, and for calling the Church to sincere prayer throughout the last six weeks.

Lord, have mercy; Christ, have mercy.

Finally, finally, there is some good news coming from Afghanistan regarding the South Korean hostages who have been held captive for six weeks. According to Yonhap News, twelve of the remaining nineteen hostages have been freed by the Taliban. The remaining seven are scheduled to be released soon. Let’s hope and pray that the rest of the group makes it home safely as well. Eugene Cho has been faithfully keeping many of us up to date on this situation; DJ Chuang and Laurence Tom have also been updating.

What a terrible ordeal these people have endured at the hands of terrorists. And, as if they have not suffered enough already, it appears that they might face criticism and controversy when they return home.

Details of the deal struck between the Taliban and the South Korean government are being disclosed. From the Yonhap News article:

Seoul, instead, has promised to pull its troops out of the war-torn country before the end of the year, as well as prohibit any South Korean Christian missionaries from entering the country, Cheon Ho-seon, a spokesman for the presidential office, said in a press briefing late Tuesday.

Many could speak with more passion and insight regarding the political reasons and ramifications of South Korea’s military withdrawal, but my concern today is the prohibition of missionaries. Understandably, because of the intensely tragic events that took place in Afghanistan, the South Korean government would want to do whatever they could to ensure the future safety of its citizens. However, I can’t help but wonder about the consequences of such a decision. I’ll save my thoughts about mission work (and my disappointment with the Western media) for another time.

For now, it is enough to celebrate the good news at hand. Today, perhaps, the released hostages and their families can begin to live and breathe once again. We can stand together in joy and relief with them. At the same time, this is also a time to persevere in prayer for those who are still being held captive.