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Category: Personal Reflection

The World Christian Podcast

The World Christian Podcast

World Christian Podcast logo
News and info from the front lines of the global Christian movement.

From 2005 to 2008 I put out twenty episodes of the World Christian Podcast. There were news items, short facts about the global Christian movement and interviews of people doing ministry around the world. Some of the interviews were conducted via Skype, giving the podcast an eyewitness feeling.

Life happens and I was doing a PhD. I gave up the podcast in light of other involvements. In the last few months I have a set of rather strange encounters with former listeners. A number of them said, “Ted, do more of them!”

 

So, starting in a few weeks, you will once again be able to download new episodes of the World Christian Podcast. Watch here and on twitter/Facebook for an announcement.

I have a special couple to interview for this re-launch and I think you will enjoy it!

The Four Guns Every Man Should Own

The Four Guns Every Man Should Own

Well… so this is a little off topic from what I usually write about. I am home sick today and have a little time to think about my arsenal and what I need for it. So, here is a list of the four guns that should be in every man’s gun safe. I plan on ending up with these four guns within the year.

Last fall I went hunting in my homeland of Minnesota and had a blast. I forgot how much I enjoyed just sitting in woods, walking the corn fields and seeing the sunrise from a deer stand. When I was kid I hunted more than I have for the past two decades. In my 20s I shot clays and birds. I miss it and intend to shoot more in the future.

So, without any further ado, here is my list of the four guns every man should own.

1. A Small Handgun

In this day and age I think every man worth his salt should be able to pack. That’s right: there is no reason not to if you live in a state which allows it. I don’t actually very often but when I know I am going to be in a place where crime might be happening you can rest assured that I do.

There are lots of options here. In my case, I have something really small. It’s a Smith & Wesson Bodyguard 380. The reason I like this weapon is that it’s SMALL. It’s no good to have a weapon that sits at home because it’s too big to carry around. If I lived up north and wore a jacket all the time I might have gone with something that had a bit more stopping power, like an M&P (380 ammunition isn’t cheap or easy to come by, though, so stock up when you see the price dip). If you are going to use a small handgun, get familiar with it and remember to let the target get in close. You won’t be accurate at any distance past about 8-10 feet unless you’re a trained professional (I am an untrained amateur so consider yourself warned).

2. A 22 Caliber Rifle

It’s a basic gun with lots of promise for practice, varmits and teaching boys how to shoot. They are cheap and so is the ammo. It really doesn’t matter which one you buy but I would get a scope of some sort. These guns are awesome little weapons for just messing around on a weekend camping trip or plinking cans.

My 22 was a gift from my grandpa to my dad when he was 12 years old. I have had trouble with it since I got only to learn that it only shoots “22 longs.” This is relatively rare but check out the weapon before you buy it.

3.  A Shotgun

Shotguns are the best overall home defender. If you point a shotgun at somebody that’s in your house chances are pretty good that you will come out the winner. They are also very versatile hunting guns. Many states restrict some or all of their hunting zones to shotguns – no rifles. One can use a special barrel and shotgun shell to improve the accuracy of shotguns. For this reason, you may consider buying a gun which has two barrels: one better for shooting slugs at deer and one that is better for birding.

I used one of my dad’s guns last  for deer hunting and whiffed on an easy shot. I didn’t know the gun well enough (hadn’t shot it for about 15 years – which was not very smart on my part) and it wasn’t setup with a rifled barrel and appropriate ammo. This year I will be purchasing a new shotgun. At the top of my list is the Mossberg 500 with two barrels. The Remington 870 is another good option. Both of these are reasonably priced. I will mount a “red dot” scope on this weapon and use it in the north woods next year.

4. A Rifle

A true rifle shoots a projectile longer and further than any other weapon listed here. If the conspiracy theorists turn out to be right and we have to fend off hearth and home from bad guys, the rifle will be your weapon of choice. In some states, like the one I live in, Florida, a rifle is best for deer hunting. I haven’t done any deer hunting in Florida but plan on changing that next year. Can anybody hook me up on some land to hunt?

Some people will spend a ton on a rifle but I don’t think I will. I have learned that you can purchase old Russian rifles that are extremely accurate for less than $300. Since I don’t see using this weapon so much I don’t want to invest a lot in it. I will probably pay more for the scope on this one than on the shotgun since it’s purpose is for hitting targets at long range.

But Ted… what about an AR-15?

A number of my friends are buying AR-15s, the famed (but ambiguously labeled) “assault rifle” that has been much in the news these past few years. In a communist takeover they are the dream gun: versatile, accurate and extremely deadly. They are fine weapons and highly customizable.

They are also limited use guns. About the only place I see them is on the shooting range and the very occasional hunter. A lot of people that own ARs don’t hunt with them – they cradle them like small children and are afraid of wear and tear on the weapon. They also start at about $800 (usually much more) and the price goes way up from there.  I think it’s possible to purchase all four of the guns noted above for $1,200. In my humble opinion, the AR isn’t a good value for the casual shooter. The people I know that have them spend more time buying and selling components, upgrading, downgrading and just messing with them than they do shooting them. Since I already have gonads I don’t need an AR-15 to buttress my manhood.

From my perspective, they are the best gun for the gun enthusiast. That’s not really me, nor do I think it’s most men. If you want one, they fit the bill for the rifle requirement noted above.

So, every man should have a handgun, a 22, a shotgun and a rifle. With those four weapons in your gun safe you are assured of being ready for most situations.

iReligion

iReligion

There is an interesting article over at CNN on the spirituality of Steve Jobs.

It basically outlines the spiritual journey he was on and then draws comparisons to the implications of the technology he created. I love Jobs’ devices (although I did switch to Android earlier this year). The computers are amazing and the cultural transformation in which he played a huge part is unquestionable. I am not sure Apple will continue to dominate without him.

What the article does is draw a line between Jobs’ do-it-yourself religious worldview and the values of the company he created. The apple with a bite out of, for example, is a reference to fall of man. The rainbow? Well, go figure. After reading the text I browsed some comments and its clear that this identification of technopaganism ruffles the feathers of the true believers (I have written about technopaganism in popular culture and in the pursuit of alien lifeforms before).

Or perhaps I should say unbelievers. Most of the angst is directed at the fact that somebody, somewhere, considers these technopagans to be religious.

Yes, indeed, you gotta serve somebody.

That’s quite a story…

That’s quite a story…

[Note: My wife and I had a great opportunity to vacation in Hawaii this past month. During that time we were able to visit the Pearl Harbor war memorial sites. It was incredible to see it first hand. The following account is something I learned about as I read up on Pearl Harbor following our visit.]

He knew, from the moment the first bomb fell on Pearl Harbor, that his life would never be the same. The attack that took place on December 7th, 1941, would forever etch in his mind the horrors of war. It was the first time he had seen the destruction wrought by air power.

On that fateful day, the surprise attack started at 7:48 a.m. Hawaiian Time. 353 Japanese fighters, bombers, and torpedo planes came in 2 successive waves launched from 6 aircraft carriers.

He wasn’t actually in the harbor that day but was a few miles away, safe from danger, but very much aware of the carnage that was going on. It was, no doubt, hard to miss the significance of what that day meant to the world and his country.

8 US Navy battleships were damaged and half of them sank. The Japanese force also sunk or damaged 3 cruisers, 3 destroyers, an anti-aircraft training ship and a minelayer. 188 US aircraft were destroyed. Worse than all of the lost military hardware were the lives: 2,402 Americans were killed that day along with 1,282 wounded.

The US forces had responded feebly. They were only able to down 29 aircraft. The Japanese lost 5 small submarines and 65 soldiers. There was a single Japanese sailor taken prisoner.

The attack shocked America into action and for the next few years he fought and fought bravely. He was already a leader of men when the action started and his role in the war only intensified.  Over the course of the next few years, the bloody battle increased his hatred for the enemy. He served across the entire Pacific theatre, seeing action in Australia, Ceylon, and the Battle of Midway in which he was wounded.

He became a staff officer after recuperating from his wounds. When the peace treaty was signed on the decks of the USS Missouri on September 2nd, 1945, he was essentially a broken man. He was emotionally spent. He was filled with bitterness for the adversary that had taken so much from him personally and from his nation. This overwhelming sense of hatred made it difficult for him as he testified at the trial of Japanese war criminals. He asked himself, “How could people be so cruel and do such horrific things?” His faith in humanity was gone. He was shattered.

So how did this man come to stand on the stage with the greatest revival preacher of all time, Billy Graham, just a few years later?

To answer this we must go back in time to soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Americans needed to show the Japanese that they would take the fight to them. On April 18th, 1942, Jacob DeShazar was among the men that took off from the decks of the USS Hornet to deliver this message in the infamous Doolittle Raid. Most of the raiders survived, but 3 lost their lives and 8 were captured, including DeShazar. The Japanese held him captive for over three years. Most of this time was spent in solitary confinement in very difficult circumstances.  After the war ended DeShazar felt that God was leading him to be a missionary to, of all places, Japan.

The subject of our story received a tract written by DeShazar entitled I was a Prisoner of Japan. It spoke of forgiveness and God’s power to overcome the vilest sin in one’s heart. God touched him through this tract and he became a follower of Christ. In 1950, he met DeShazar and they went on to preach and teach together to the Japanese. DeShazar ultimately was given the Presidential Medal of Honor and the Congressional Gold Medal for both his part in the Doolittle Raid as well as bringing reconciliation between the Japanese and US.

That’s how, in 1952, Mitsuo Fuchida, the leader of the Japanese force that attacked Pearl Harbor, came to stand on the stage with Billy Graham and tell thousands about Christ’s redemptive power.

That’s quite a story!

Book Review: Reimagining Church

Book Review: Reimagining Church

Reimagining Church: Pursuing the Dream of Organic ChristianityReimagining Church: Pursuing the Dream of Organic Christianity by Frank Viola

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed the book. It’s well written and uses some powerful metaphors and images in describing the church. The style is natural and the organization is logical.

Many people know Frank Viola from numerous house church books (if you don’t like the phrase “house church” you can substitute your favorite moniker; Viola likes the word “organic”). From my perspective, this book is locked into the debate for house church rather than a debate about church. If you are looking for reasons to consider an alternate model to the North American traditional evangelical church Viola addresses the major issues you might be considering. If, on the other hand, you are looking to this book to increase your understanding of ecclesiology you will need to keep looking.

This book has a twofold argument: 1) the church as we know it today falls short of delivering on what God intended and 2) more organic expressions of church are the solution to the problem. Because I have a strong propensity to fully agree with both #1 and #2, I am probably not the best critic.

Viola’s views regarding the role of relationship and leadership in church are powerfully argued. I have read some detailed reviews online about this book and they often get stuck on Viola’s view of structure and authority. In this regard Reimagining Church carries the day. Viola does a masterful job of deconstructing the current church paradigm as he describes body life in the organic church. The book, however, is not meant to be a deconstruction and this is its weakness: Viola’s reimagined substitute for contemporary church models is limited to house church issues set in modern day America.

Missing is any deep dialogue about the nature of God’s relationship with mankind (including the Abraham covenant, Israel and only then the church), the Kingdom of God, the expansion of that Kingdom across the pante te ethne or a robust theology of church through history. This might be too big bite for a book of this scope (see Walls, Malphurs, Bosch, Newbigen, Barth, and others for examples). My fear is that readers who love organic church models will think that this is a definitive ecclesiology and it is not.

To be fair, Viola does not subtitle the book, “A Definitive Theology of Church.” Yet I cannot understand how one writes a book about church reimagined without at least pausing to consider the greater ecclesiological issues at hand. Without it one ends up with a temporal and monocultural view of church. I would suggest that the lack of a broader ecclesiological framework in contemporary evangelicalism is central to why the church has lost its organic nature.

So, I recommend this book as an analysis more of “why should we do house church in contemporary North American society” rather than as a treatise on what church could be if it were truly reimagined.

View all my reviews

I Live in the Suburbs

I Live in the Suburbs

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I live in the suburbs.

It’s a pretty good place to live. I am two miles from the office. I have  house and a yard. I mow the grass on Saturdays (actually, my kid usually mows it) and I water it on Wednesdays and Sundays. The mail is delivered right to the little box at the end of my driveway, by the sidewalk. I haven’t been downtown in over a month and I don’t miss it.

The suburbs get a bad rap. Some say they are “sprawling” and need to be contained. Others say they are too private, narcissistic and consumer driven. Maybe that is all true.

It doesn’t matter. We had better figure out to do ministry in the suburbs: half of all Americans live in them.

World magazine’s Anthony Bradley calls Platt, Piper, and Chan to task for championing a more “missional” way of life. Why? They are supposedly the anti-suburbanites (I am not sure I agree with Bradley’s take, but it reveals some of the ideas behind suburban slander). Eric Erickson (who I really appreciate as an outspoken evangelical) wrote about suburban angst over at Red State.  Stanley Kurtz has written extensively about the Obama administration’s war on the suburbs. Why all this suburban hate? Where is the suburban love?

Certainly, megachurches have done well in the suburbs. One of my hopes is that our little house church network will begin to crack the hard shell of the suburbanite. In the fall, our network will be hosting a one day event focused on suburban outreach. It should be good!

Me? I enjoy living in the suburbs. I can’t be all wrong on this: so do most Americans. The suburbs are the current front runner in the “best places to live – vote with your feet” competition. And we need to figure out how to minister effectively to people who live in suburbs. I find it rather amusing that almost all seminaries have an “urban ministry” track but I have never heard of one offering a “suburban ministry” track. I guess it’s not sexy enough.

But the suburbs are where the people live. And where people live is where mission lives.

More Blah on Western Missionary Roles

More Blah on Western Missionary Roles

There was some excellent feedback on my post regarding the role of Western mission agencies – thanks for commenting.

As I have been thinking about the way my organization is training and prepping people right now I have had a nagging thought about the need to readjust. How we talk about the role of the cross-cultural gringo needs to shift. We need to emphasize more than we ever have preparation for partnership with indigenous or culturally-near partners.

I see the growing need to prep people in the following areas (in no particular order):

  1. Changing role of the outsider and insider
  2. Identifying affinity groups and strategizing with affinity group leaders
  3. Evaluating culturally-near neighbors for possible partnership
  4. The role of research in UPG ministry
  5. Training and coaching as a primary contribution of outsiders
  6. Indigenously derived access methods – how to encourage them while keeping them from overtaking the work
  7. Keeping out of the driver’s seat
  8. Did I already note, “Keeping out of the driver’s seat?”
  9. Structures that inhibit growth and structures that encourage it
  10. Funding, money, and the role of the outsider: not a didactic “this is how to handle money” but a “these are issues to think about” approach
  11. Assessment of orality within the UPG and developing an appropriate response
  12. Ideas for working with the traditional church within a UPG
  13. Coaching – what is it and how is it done, how it differs from training and teaching

Folks with some tools in these areas will be better equipped to equip.

Feel free to add your topics…

Update on Gary

Update on Gary

It’s taken me a few days to wrap my head (and heart) around this post, but I know that some of you have asked about Gary Levi so here is an update.

This past Friday, Annette and I spent time yesterday with one of the Lord’s saints in Columbus, GA. Gary has a fast growing brain tumor and (like the rest of us) his days before he goes to be with the Lord are numbered. His lifelong partner, friend, and brother, Allen, has put all on hold to make these last days for Gary comfortable and loving. I hope we have an Allen in our lives!

Gary’s memory is quickly fading. At times you see the spark of remembrance in his eye and he makes that mischievous little grin as he nods acknowledgement. At other times he shakes his head gently and you know that he can’t quite remember what you are talking about. Regardless, he still has his good humor, gentle nature and he smiles, choosing to be joy-filled despite the cancer.

I remember first talking to Gary Levi in 1996 while our family was temporarily in the US, about to move from Croatia into Sarajevo, Bosnia. Gary was interested in joining our team for a time to help out. His thick, southern accent made it almost impossible for me to understand what he was saying, and when I repeatedly asked him. “What was that?” he began to chuckle and said, “let me try saying that in Yankee.”

He lived with our family for a number of months, both before the move and just after we relocated. My kids, and our team, fell in love with his kind and gentle jokes, smiles, and encouraging words. Gary has an incredible way of communicating love just by being with him.

I remember a Bosnian man named Vancho, who spoke no English. Gary spoke a handful of Bosnian words but they were so affected by his southern drawl that Vancho couldn’t really understand even these.  One day we traveled together and the two of them had about an hour-long conversation in the car while I bounced around in the backseat over war damaged roads. They were each talking about different topics (I understood both of them, because I speak both languages). I couldn’t help but laugh as the sometimes connected and other times were wildly off the mark. At the end of this time, Vancho told me how much he liked talking with Levi, because, “He listens and really cares.” The pretty much sums up Gary’s approach to relationships.

Gary served all over the world from difficult war zones, to the sophisticated cultures of Western Europe, to remote tribes living in remote jungles. Everywhere he went he was a blessing and encouragement to all. When Jesus’ encountered Nathaniel, he described him as a man with “no guile.” The NIV translates it as a man “in whom there is no deceit.” That’s Gary.

So, with tears in our eyes Annette and I left the Levi family’s homestead bound for our busy household and schedules.  It’s so good to know that whatever happens in the weeks to come, Gary has Allen and his parents at his side. As we prayed together just before we left, Gary affirmed his eagerness to pass into a life much better than this one.

The way Gary lived this one I can only imagine what is to come.

Why I am NOT a libertarian

Why I am NOT a libertarian

Libertarianism has always been attractive to me. The idea that we just let people decide what to do on their own without government intrusion sounds great. Dictionary.com defines a libertarian as “a person who advocates liberty, especially with regard to thought or conduct.” That sounds wonderful!

As a political philosophy, however, it falls flat.

The problem with libertarianism is that at some point there is always a value judgment to be made about whose liberty. At what point does my exercise of liberty became a problem for you?

Take pot, for example. The argument is that it’s non-addictive, safer than alcohol, and relatively harmless to the smoker. Well, perhaps that’s all true (although I don’t really agree with any of those three points). The bottom line is that I don’t want my kids to grow up in a society that offers easy access to pot. I want it to be hard to get. If, in the name of liberty, it’s legalized than I am no longer free to live in a (more) pot-free culture.

Abortion is particularly thorny for libertarians. Ron Paul’s recent machinations on the topic are an example of why libertarianism cannot be fairly applied. He signed a right-to-life pledge on the basis that he scientifically believes that a fetus is a person, thus, it qualifies for human rights. At the same time, he added an addendum declaring that states should be able to pass their own laws regarding abortion. Of course, if he really believes that a fetus is a person than he evidently values choice over life. It’s inconsistent.

So whose rights are more important in this case: the rights of the unborn child or the right of the state to have its own laws? It seems pretty evident that a moral decision is being made by Paul and that his moral decision is then impacting others. These decisions cannot be limited to ones’ self. They have ramifications for others.

So, while I tend toward libertarianism, I can’t go “all in.” at some point, the issue of whose rights make it an impossible philosophy.