Wednesday, December 31, 2003

"Cross-cultural ministry is not an invention of modem missionary movements. It is how God often works and uses His people."

God uses people cross-culturally

One of the great truths that shapes our lives as Christians is that God uses people cross culturally. Our God is a missionary God who continues to spread God's blessings of salvation across barriers and borders of culture and tradition.

The December Newsletter of International Neighbors, a ministry of Seattle Presbytery, walks through this great truth with eloquence in an article by Jonathan Kobayashi, and I gladly share it with you. Kobayashi is associate pastor of Seattle's Japanese Presbyterian Church and member of International Neighbors' board of directors.

God uses people cross-culturally. Of course, you know this. You [supporters of International Neighbors] are reading this newsletter because you love and enjoy international students. You want to share the love and grace of God in Jesus Christ. You have decided to allow God to use you to make an eternal difference. You understand that people you are ministering to today have the potential and capacity to touch the lives of many in their communities and to influence their society for good tomorrow.

A Presbyterian pastor, Rev. George Hanabusa of Japanese Church of Christ in Salt Lake City, UT, points out that Moses and Paul, two of the greatest figures in the Bible, were both cross-cultural ministers.

Moses was raised as an Egyptian in the main culture and customs of Egypt. Later he spent 40 years in exile in the foreign land of Midian. Only then God called him to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt. Yes, Moses was a Jew ethnically, but practically he had to minister to his own people cross-culturally.

Paul grew up in the Jewish traditions and culture even though he was a Roman citizen. He was a Hebrew of Hebrews. Within the Hellenistic culture, Paul was a devout Jew both religiously and culturally, probably speaking Hebrew as his first language. Then God called him to be an apostle to the Gentiles.

Thus, cross-cultural ministry is not an invention of modem missionary movements. It is how God often works and uses His people. It is as old as Exodus and Acts. It is integral to God's plan as Scripture shows it in the deliverance of the Israelites out of Egypt and the spread of the Gospel in the first-century Roman Empire. It is not optional for the church but is inseparable with its redemptive purpose. The church always has a cross-cultural component to its ministry, for we are called to make disciples of all nations. In Acts 1.8, Jesus makes it clear that we are His witnesses both in our own culture (Jerusalem and in all Judea) and in the cultures of others (Samaria, and to the end of the earth).

The frontier mission task of the church - reaching out cross-culturally to those cultures and peoples for whom the gospel is new - is a vital aspect of the "inseparable" and "integral" plan of God's redemptive purpose.

In this new year 2004, may your church and mine make a greater commitment to love the world as God does: Cross-culturally.

-- Dave Hackett

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Merry Christmas!

"The Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14)

The light of Christ shines for the whole world, today, just as it has since the earliest days of the Church. David Aikman's remarkable book, "Jesus in Beijing: How Christianity Is Transforming China and Changing the Global Balance of Power" illustrates just how early the gospel shot out from the Holy Land to the ends of the earth.

The famous Nestorian stele [click to view], was accidently discovered in 1623 AD, buried eight centuries, having been carved in 781 AD to commemorate some grand event, perhaps the opening of a monastery. It describes the coming of the Christian faith to China in 635 AD.

Hear the Christmas story as inscribed on the Nestorian stele:

"My Lord Ye Su [Jesus], the one emanating in three subtle bodies, became human, and came on behalf of the Lord of Heaven to preach the good teachings. A virgin gave birth to the Sacred in a dwelling in the Da Qin [the West] Empire."

The extensive record of China's first evangelists on the stele is on a tablet topped by a cross and bears the inscription, "The Record of the Transmission of the Religion of Light of the West in China."

And so we continue to spread the light far and near. Today billions of Christians in the Church Universal will celebrate that "a virgin gave birth to the Sacred" - along with billions of non-Christians swept up in the gift-giving euphoria of the spirit of the season.

Joy to the world, the Lord has come!

-- Dave Hackett

Monday, December 22, 2003

"I Am Glad This Church Needs Money!"

Every now and then I come across an item from a PFF-supporting church's newsletter that is exceptionally worth passing along. The Fair Oaks Presbyterian Church's PresScripts offers us this anonymous piece reprinted below. I like its counter-cultural view: Of course our church is deserving of financial support, because through it a host of ministries are done.

This thought of the impact of the church working together recalls Ephesians 3:10: "Through Christians like yourselves gathered [and giving, I might add!] in churches, this extraordinary plan of God is becoming known and talked about even among the angels!" (The Message)

Here's the article, entitled, "I Am Glad This Church Needs Money!"

  • I am glad this church needs money! If it did not, it would mean it was not supporting missionaries and preaching the gospel in other places. No MISSIONARY ZEAL.

  • l am glad this church needs money! If it did not, it would mean it was not doing anything to support the homeless, helpless and needy. No COMPASSION.

  • I am glad this church needs money! If it did not, it would mean it had "topped out" and was not interested in expanding into other areas of needed service. No VISI0N.

  • I am glad this church needs money! If it did not, it would mean it was not interested in providing wholesome activities. No CONCERN.

  • I am glad this church needs money! If it did not, it would mean it was not expanding its outreach. No EVANGELISM.

  • I am glad this church needs money! If it did not, it would mean it was not interested in teaching children in the impressionable, formative years. No FUTURE.

  • Yes, sir, I am glad this church needs money! It means it has not forfeited its zeal, compassion, vision, concern, evangelism, or future. This church needs my gifts and I am glad of it. I would not want to be a member of any other kind.
    -- Anonymous


-- Dave Hackett

Sunday, December 21, 2003

GAC to discuss mission funding in February

The February 2004 General Assembly Council meeting in Louisville has built into this gathering's schedule an optional "Leadership Development" section on the mission funding system for its elected members, according to a GAC memo received this past weekend by GAC elected members, GAC staff and other meeting participants.

On the evening of February 12th the GAC members may choose between two optional leadership development programs. One is billed as an introduction to project management, "which is at the core of our efforts to improve our sevice to the church." The other is a "discussion on the structure and trends in the current Mission Funding System."

This GAC meeting is to put back on the table a controversial action proposed by GAC's Mission Support Services committee (MSS) at its September 2003 meeting to tack a 5% "administrative costs fee" on all restricted funds in the budget. Some 70% of all funds received by the PCUSA at its national level are given with restrictions. Restricted funds include programs such as hunger, disaster, extra commitment opportunities, health, the Theological Education Fund, and the Mission Initiative-Joining Hearts and Hands campaign.

Strong concerns about the proposal were presented to MSS at that September meeting by Dr Louis Weeks, speaking for the Theological Education Fund and PCUSA seminary presidents, and by this writer, speaking for the Presbyterian Frontier Fellowship board and its constituents. Dan Force of the Medical Benevolence Foundation also expressed deep concerns. Following the comments of these leaders, GAC Executive Director John Detterick urged MSS to postpone action to give his office further time to explore alternatives and hold more discussions. Looming before MSS are projected multi-million dollar shortfalls in income for the 2005 budget; one argument in favor of adding a fee is that it would cover a substantial portion of the shortfall, allowing other GAC-desired ministries and programs to continue.

A GAC discussion on the structure and trends in the current Mission Funding System is long past due for discussion. Giving this vital topic an evening's optional program may well be too little too late.

Many observers both in and outside of GAC have called the current system "broken" - some use worse terms than that. All this in spite of the fact that mission funding is no peripheral topic. The PCUSA - in its work above the congregational level - simply cannot do mission and ministry without funding provided by a mission funding system. A broken mission funding system jeopardizes ministry throughout our Presbyterian Church and beyond it in our international mission work. With no major overhaul made to this funding system in decades, the system is now so inadequate and failing as to necessitate a large-scale "tectonic plate" adjustment just to adapt to current contribution trends and regain trust of contributors.

The 1998 GA-level Comprehensive Mission Funding Strategy Task Force urged the GAC to make decisive changes to the mission funding system. Few if any of that task force's recommendations were implemented, and the time is even less opportune now, five years later into the mission funding crisis.

Now is the time for the GAC to take its leadership role seriously by studying mission funding in detail, more time than fits in an optional evening's discussion. It would be wise to consider that “taxing” a broken funding system is not going to help. It may provide temporary relief, but in a voluntary organization coercive measures in the long run are counter productive. And in the short run there may not even be temporary relief, as many well-connected Presbyterians throughout our church may simply find creative ways to get their dollars to their intended recipients, dismissing the GAC as an ally and conduit in missional stewardship. That would be a sad outcome indeed, but an understandable one if the GAC persists in sticking its head in the sand regarding how Presbyterians want to give their funds beyond the local church these days.

-- Dave Hackett

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

"The mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations but has now been revealed." (Col. 1:26)

Running with the Wrights: In praise of mission tinkering

On this 100th anniversary of flight, let us praise these famous Wrights who, incidentally and unintentionally, model some outstanding missional thinking. We have more to learn from them than flight. A Knight Ridder article on the Wright brothers positively sparkles with mission-relevant thinking, creativity and ingenuity.

For instance: "While some would-be aviators had lifelong obsessions with flight, the Wright brothers were mainly intrigued by the technical problems of flight that had baffled others...They weren't in love with the idea of flying. They were in love with the idea of solving the engineering problem. It's what they lived for."

God did the preposterous: sending his son Jesus on a single-focused mission into a shockingly different culture than that found at the right hand of God in heaven. It just hadn't been done before, and it was what Christ lived for. Being faithful to our missionary God means that we, too, are called to think preposterously out-of-the-box to address problems in our world that have baffled others. We're called to fix our minds on mission tinkering, whether it's on problems on our block or around the world.

Some of our best missional strategists will be tinker-thinkers who don't approach the problem in the "usual" way. They may be those not so much in love with the idea of mission per se, but rather in love with the idea of overcoming particularly challenging social ills such as garbage-dump ghettos and outcaste groups. They may be in love with the idea of how to make the gospel relevant across huge barriers of resistant religions and cultures. They may be in love with the idea of tackling immense presuppositions about the way things are supposed to be that would keep people away from Christ.

By their unorthodox thinking about the orthodox faith, these mission tinkerers will succeed at freeing entire cultures into new, stunning eras of spiritual and community "flight.' It's an awe-inspiring thing to witness an indigenous church being born in an unreached culture - kind of like seeing that first flight at Kitty Hawk, I imagine. Churches involved with the PCUSA Frontier Mission Program and Presbyterian Frontier Fellowship get to be in on that kind of joyful discovery. It's unlike any other.

The Knight Ridder article notes that in June 1903, Orville wrote to a friend: "Isn't it astonishing that all these secrets have been preserved for so many years just so we could discover them!"

Like that, amazing contributions for the global church can be unlocked from tribes and cultures and people as they are given the good news of Jesus Christ and salvation in him and then develop their own vital understandings and applications of faith. What a privilege it is to be able to be an agent of God's discovery team - helping new human communities "take flight" after receiving the good news of the gospel, "the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations but has now been revealed." (Col. 1:26)

After unlocking the secrets of flight, the Wright brothers created the first airplane factory, the first airport and first flight school. Think of all the successive inventions that followed their breakthrough - instrumentation, beacons, enclosed cockpits, jet engines, Boeing 747s, even flight to the moon!

Missional followers of Christ today are on that same flight path. There are first partnerships for unreached people groups to be formed, first missionary initiatives, first believers to be won to faith, first congregations to be formed. And on and on: first indigenous pastor training opportunities, first ordinations, first missionaries sent out from a newly formed church... We need congregations captivated with the Wright brothers' audacity.

On this 100th anniversary of flight, let us praise tinkering mission-thinkers who will give flight to tomorrow's mission breakthroughs.

-- Dave Hackett

Monday, December 15, 2003

"The congregation thought this was a great idea" (Acts 6:5) --

A biblical imperative for specialized ministries

Specialized ministries, it seems, get a bum rap from the church. The Bible has a different view. It's high time we embrace passionate mission-task workgroups that work alongside but not under the umbrella of the church - even if their focus challenges us a lot. Our witness to the world depends on them.

Specialized ministries deserve a mention today given the attention on how the church should regard The Presbyterian Layman and the validation of the ministries of its Presbyterian officers. But the scope is far larger than The Presbyterian Layman. Every presbytery and church is familiar with these essential specialized ministries. Seattle Presbytery, for instance, has partnerships with (and validates the ministries of its clergy to serve in) Christian organizations focused on the physically disabled, homeless women, international students, refugees, street youth, chaplaincy opportunities, and more. It's the richer for it.

My own ministry with Presbyterian Frontier Fellowship is a specialized ministry call. While we are a PC(USA) Validated Mission Support Group in a covenantal relationship with General Assembly Council, we are nonetheless an independent renewal group advocating and facilitating denominational mission among unreached people groups around the world.

My comments are from the missiological side. The local church has often recognized that it can't do certain types of ministry very well - or as well as - second-commitment-level individuals and teams can do them. That's an easy lesson to be drawn from Acts 6, where some underlying racial tensions and social ministries in the early church were causing undue stress. Urban mission specialist Ray Bakke, speaking at a recent meeting of the Association of Presbyterian Mission Pastors (APMP), said that "Acts 6 describes the first hunger program. The first church fight, incidentally, was not over doctrine, but racism. Luke says it changed its constitution and created a whole new structure and leadership – with all Greek names – to provide for serving women!" The result: "The congregation thought this was a great idea." (Acts 6:5, The Message) And it was!

The problem is that the "institutional" church has never felt very comfortable with these free-ranging specialized ministries. Vision- and passion-led, these groups doggedly pursue their focus, driven by their commitment and spiritual call with little heed to catering to the cradle-to-grave comprehensivity of the institutional church. I suspect this tension is well at hand in the actions being directed toward Parker Williamson and The Lay Committee.

The seminal teaching on the interrelationship between these second-level commitment groups and the institutional church was formulated by one of our own, Presbyterian missiologist Ralph Winter. His 1973 landmark address on this topic to the All-Asia Missions Consultation in Seoul, Korea is available online as "The Two Structures of God's Redemptive Mission."

Winter argues that God's redemptive purposes have been carried out through not one but two primary structures: modalities (the local church), and sodalities (mobile, task-oriented missionary enterprises). Both structures are ordained by God, he says, and both are necessary to manifest the gospel to the world.

One commentator gives a helpful summary of the differences between a modality and a sodality. See if you begin to recognize ministries you know (and even admire) as fitting into that sodality category.


(local churches)


(task-oriented enterprises)

Congregational structures Mission structures
People oriented Task oriented
Government by consensus Government by vision
Basic level commitment (Arises from the depth of your love for God) Second level commitment (Arises from the depth of your obedience to God)

"God seemingly blesses the creation of task-oriented mission structures because sodalities have: 1) vision and a narrow, task-oriented focus; 2) personnel with career commitments who are more than volunteers; 3) selectivity with personnel; 4) quick decision making and the ability to respond rapidly to opportunities; and 5) expertise and professionalism in accomplishing tasks and achieving goals," adds the commentator.

These specialized ministries cover the entire field of human needs: international students, the homeless, governmental leaders, youth, children, even (yes) journalism. I have helped two very talented individuals become ordained as clergy to journalistic specialized calls. These are extremely valuable aspects of the body of Christ at work and can be appropriate validated calls to gifted Presbyterian clergy. There is a lot of latitude here, of course. Some journalists don't view their calls as an ordained ministry while others do. Prolific church journalist Marj Carpenter has intentionally refused ordination as a clergyperson. But veteran newsman Rev. Jerry Van Marter personifies the journalistic reverend.

Modalities (the institutional church) and sodalities (specialized ministry organizations) not only need to exist and recognize each other as legitimate, but also to work together harmoniously for the fulfillment of all that God desires for our time.

-- Dave Hackett

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Terrorism prompting faster shifts to indigenous leaders

With increased terrorist threats globally, Mission Network News reports, Christians and mission agencies are rethinking their strategies in the face of continued persecution of Christians.

Equipping indigenous national pastors and church leaders is more attractive in an environment where foreign mission personnel may be targetted for attack.

A faster shift to indigenous leaders is not bad news, says David Shibley, the leader of Global Advance. He says "National pastors and church leaders...[are] perhaps the most pivotal of all groups for the fulfilling of the Great Commission."

The Frontier Mission Program of the PCUSA relies heavily on quickly developing indigenous Christian leaders in frontier projects among unreached people groups around the globe. (See an alphabetical list by country of all the PCUSA's frontier mission projects.) Very few of our Presbyterian frontier projects have Western personnel on site; most are led by indigenous or other bi-cultural leaders.

Along with Presbyterian Frontier Fellowship, the PCUSA Worldwide Ministries Division recognizes the wisdom of having indigenous churches come into being led as early as possible by national Christians. We think this is the best way for the powerful and life- and community-transforming way of Jesus Christ to impact another culture and take root within it, not as an import, but as the gospel directly for them with only one mediator, Jesus Christ.

-- Dave Hackett

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

The gift we don't know we have: Relationships

In this Christmas season, when we shop for gifts to give those we love, it's worth considering again what gifts we can give to God.

You know the old adage, "Time, Talent, Treasure," as in what we have to give to God? My friend Rev. James B Notkin adds a fourth item to that trio. He calls Christians to give to God's service our "time, skills, resources, and relationships."

It's that fourth one, relationships, that may be the gift we don't know we have.

Who we know, who's in our sphere of influence, what networks we're a part of -- those are relationship connections we can offer to Christ for his use. We're all connected to other people, and each of our relational webs is a resource we can draw on for mission and ministry.

I've heard it said that in the past, the highest "titled" people were considered the most valuable: Chiefs, presidents, CEOs, bosses... But times have changed. In today's world, the most networked people are the more valuable people to an organization. Those can be surprising people - good talkers, secretaries, insurance agents, as well as networkers and mission mobilizers like Presbyterian Frontier Fellowship's staff, who connect with scores of churches and organizations all across the country.

Networked people connect needs with resources, seekers with answerers, innovators with implementers, team-seekers with teams, passion-holders with passionate organizations.

If we want to grow our influence as Christians in mission, we'll want to run our networks.

Be all you can be for Christ. Spend your time, use your skills, deploy your resources, and run your relationships - to the glory of God.

-- Dave Hackett

Monday, December 01, 2003

Excelling in a generous undertaking

"We want you to know, brothers and sisters, about the grace of God that has been granted to the churches of Macedonia..." (2 Cor 8)

The times were tight in Biblical Macedonia. The three newly formed Christian communities in Philippi, Thessalonica and Beroea were struggling to stay on top of their own small church needs even as they were surrounded by an increasingly hostile culture. But word came to them that the persecuted church in Jerusalem was at the end of its rope, and needed help. Fast.

So they organized.

Acting in concert, they formed a common cause - advocating to meet the particular needs of another Christian initiative far away from their homeland.

They banded together to raise funds from their own strapped reserves, giving "voluntarily according to their means and even beyond their means," says 2 Corinthians Chapter 8.

And then they thought to themselves, Who else can we bring into this effort? They talked to their friend Paul, the roving Apostle, and asked him to help find other churches who would join them in this united effort. And so Paul writes the Church in Corinth, telling them of the Macedonian network, and urges them "to excel also in this generous undertaking" and join with the network as a way of proving the genuineness of their love.

Fast forward to today.

Most of our churches support individual missionaries or send money as individual churches to organizations, mostly unaware of who else also shares "in those generous undertakings." When our churches do so, we act out of concert, out of common cause.

But what of that brilliant lessons offered us from those wee kirks in Macedonia? There's power in Christian unity and common focus! Energies are unleashed when churches come together in a shared mission vision.

Presbyterian Frontier Fellowship challenges, mobilizes and empowers Presbyterian congregations into global partnerships that establish indigenous churches among unreached people groups. We're following on the early example of those Macedonian churches to link Christians together across church lines, state lines, even national lines in advocacy groups for the particular needs of planting a church where there is no church among unreached people groups. PFF works with Presbyterians reaching into over 200 unreached cultures this year, helping them discover new Christian partners with whom to work, churches in whom God is also stirring an eagerness to excel in some generous undertaking.

Where are these unreached cultures? They're in Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, and in Central Asia's many republics. They're in Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Burma. They're in the downtowns of London, Berlin, and Istanbul. They're in the downtowns of Chicago, Seattle, and Minneapolis.

Even back in its earliest life, the Macedonian Church realized that it's not just giving, but mobilizing, that advances the Kingdom. It's not just raising funds, but raising alliances, that gets the mission done.

So this is what the Christian Church, when it's faithful, does: It discerns those causes that the Lord calls it to pursue, and then it raises up a multi-lateral, interchurch response force, a mission network, and together as a force for God they contribute with all the energy they can muster. Doing so proves the genuineness of their love to a watching, evaluating world. And to God, the best audience.

What is your church doing to excell in a generous undertaking?

-- Dave Hackett