All posts by Linda Martindale

About Linda Martindale

Linda is a writer based in Cape Town, South Africa - living, loving, learning every day, sharing a little on the way. Writing a few blogs, including: www.safehomebru.wordpress.com and www.reflectionsofaragamuffin.wordpress.com and www.anotherpoetincapetown.wordpress.com

Integral Mission and Resilience Part Two

David Boan

In this, the second of three articles on resilience, we ask if there is evidence for a connection between integral mission and resilience. As before, we focus on evidence from peer reviewed literature.

In the first post we asked “what is resilience?”. We presented research showing that the concept of resilience is growing beyond disaster and trauma research; that the concept is broadening and includes a variety of personal and community traits and resources, including faith. Given this evidence, does it follow that integral mission advances resilience? To answer this question, we will summarize the elements of integral mission. We then present a sample of research that suggests the elements of integral mission are also found in resilient communities.

What are the actions that are associated with Integral Mission? If we look to the Cape Town Commitment CTC) we will find the following (selected excerpts in italics):

We urge Church leaders and pastors to equip all believers with the courage and the tools to relate the truth with prophetic relevance to everyday public conversation, and so to engage every aspect of the culture we live in.

Believers are to be equipped to engage in society and culture, to be active participants in community life (public conversation) and engage the culture.

We encourage Christ-followers to be actively engaged in these spheres (government, business and academia), both in public service or private enterprise, in order to shape societal values and influence public debate.

Believers not only engage in discussion, they shape the public debate.

Corruption is condemned in the Bible. It undermines economic development, distorts fair decision-making and destroys social cohesion. No nation is free of corruption. We invite Christians in the workplace, especially young entrepreneurs, to think creatively about how they can best stand against this scourge.

This is a call for exercising prophetic voice. To speak prophetically is to speak out publicly on God’s behalf when the community, government or organisation is violating God’s plan. Here, it is specifically a call to confront corruption.

We urge church pastors and leaders to teach biblical truth on ethnic diversity. We must positively affirm the ethnic identity of all church members.

Here the Commitment calls for welcoming diversity and speaking out against racism and other forms of oppression and prejudice.

For the sake of the gospel, we lament, and call for repentance where Christians have participated in ethnic violence, injustice or oppression.

Continuing the theme of diversity, the CTC recognises Christians have also participated in racism and calls for repentance and correction.

Expose, resist, and take action against all abuse of children, including violence, exploitation, slavery, trafficking, prostitution, gender and ethnic discrimination, commercial targeting, and willful neglect.

Our final example is related to violence against children in all its forms. These are not the sum of the CTCs, but they are examples of specific actions that are part of Integral Mission, actions that include confronting violence, child abuse, and corruption, as well as valuing ethnic diversity and becoming active participation in the public sphere. We can now ask if there is evidence of a connection between these actions and resilience.

Starting with the example of engaging in the public sphere, we do not attempt to engage in the practical or philosophical questions of what the church should do, but only focus on the narrow question of effect. That is, what is the effect when a church engages in the community and is that effect consistent with the aims of integral mission.

Our first example comes from Pieterse who looked at ten church community projects in South Africa. Using in-depth interviews, he asked how these projects impacted the well being of the poor. He noted numerous benefits, from economic support to health to well-being, but central to them all was the sense among the recipients that these were provisions from God, which led to a sense of spiritual well-being. Pieterse summarises his findings from his interviews as:

The category of spiritual well-being of the poor now forms the central concept in this conceptual framework of the effects of congregational projects on the well-being of the poor. All the other categories [of church service] are related to this central concept … God’s love in action in the experience of well-being of the poor (emphasis added). (p.7)

Churches create social capital by bringing together people who share a common faith and values and building relationships among them. In the process, the people are informed about the content of their faith identity and how that identity relates to the larger world. This results in equipping people to become active in their communities and reach out beyond the walls of their church. Engaging with people across social boundaries and barriers is a key element of resilience.

There are studies looking at the impact of lowering boundaries between people, such as the integration of minorities and immigrants into society, and the resilience of the community. Lester and Ngyuen asked if US communities that assist immigrants to integrate across all sectors of the community (as opposed to relegating them to ethnic enclaves) fare better compared to those that do not. In this study, resilience was measured as changes in unemployment and income over a ten-year period that included the great recession. Employment diversity was used as a proxy for community support for immigrants and refugees. After studying twenty matched communities, they found evidence that communities that more broadly integrated immigrants across the economy fared better during the great recession than communities where immigrants were more compartmentalised. They see the difference as rooted in reducing social and economic barriers to the inclusion of immigrants and minorities, which leads to occupational diversity.

The connection between poverty and resilience is well established, but what about the ability of churches to reduce the number of people in poverty? As you may expect, this is not a simple yes or no question. Eliminating poverty is more than providing resources. It requires a more complex attention to policy, economic factors, and a host of factors that create opportunity for the poor. Kretzschmar provides an informative analysis from comparing the experience in Chile with that in South Africa. In Chile the Catholic Church was consistent in its support of the poor and standing against the corruption and flawed polices of the government, all of which is seen as an important factor in the reduction of poverty and economic disparity in Chile. In contrast, the role of the church in South Africa was more mixed, in some cases complicit with the apartheid government. Likewise, progress on poverty and disparity was mixed. Kretzschmar concludes …

“In the future, the impact of the church on the government’s policies and practices with respect to poverty alleviation will depend on its credibility within civil society. Such credibility will derive from the church’s own intellectual and practical involvement in social protection and poverty reduction, and its freedom from the materialism of our time.”

Finally, can the church reduce violence against children? The current campaign to end violence against children rests in part on an assumption that engaging faith communities is necessary for success. But is there evidence to support this assumption? This is another complex issue. Child abuse is often associated with certain church groups. For example, churches and individuals that see God as punitive and condemning are more likely to engage in abusive practices toward children. What these churches and communities with high rates of child abuse have in common is social isolation. When churches engage with their communities, including working with agencies such as social services, they become factors in the reduction of child maltreatment. We argue that community engagement is fundamental to integral mission, and that such engagement has broad community impact, including reduction of violence.

Obviously, these are not conclusive reviews of the evidence, but the evidence shown does suggest a pattern. We conclude that our sampling of evidence provides support that at least some of the elements of Integral Mission, as described in the Cape Town Commitment, are shown to be related to community resilience. It should also be obvious to the reader that not all faith groups embrace these actions. In fact, there are unfortunate examples of faith groups contributing to ethnic violence, corruption, and division within their communities. Thus, we cannot say that these actions occur automatically among people of faith. Hence, the call for trained leaders who properly teach and equip believers.

Since this is not a comprehensive review of the evidence, the reader should view this as a starting point for conversation and not a definitive answer to the question of integral mission and resilience.

This leads us to the third and final question for our discussion: Is there anything unique about the church’s contribution to resilience? Or, put another way, does the church, as the church (and not as an NGO), live in a way that results in greater resilience in the community?

David Boan
14th March 2018

Resilience and Integral Mission

By David Boan

As Micah prepares for the upcoming Triennial on the theme of resilience, it may be helpful for us to prepare by considering some questions about resilience. In this article I will start with the question of whether there is any evidence for resilience, or if it is mainly an abstract idea or theory. I limit my discussion to recent research, which will also provide some sense of where this topic is heading.

One group of studies focuses on resilience and its effect on disaster recovery and trauma. If resilience means resisting and recovering from harm, such as from a disaster, and if disaster preparedness can be assumed to help a community better resist harm, then several studies show the factors underlying preparedness, and hence resilience.

For example, Hoffman & Muttarak (2017) show that high social capital, in addition to education and disaster experiences, motivates people to prepare for a disaster. What is meant by social capital in these studies varies, but it generally means active participation in the life of the community, including developing connections or relationships across the community. For example, Cui and Han looked at which people maintained their preparedness after a disaster. They found that people with strong community bonds did not show the typical decline in preparedness following a disaster, while people with low community bonds showed a significant decline in preparedness. Their way of measuring bonds emphasized social cooperation and engagement, which is a type of social capital.

A different approach is illustrated by researchers such as Ogtem-Young (2018) who questioned the approach of linking resilience to disasters and trauma. His view is in the tradition of many social scientists who argue that a disaster-oriented approach leaves out the many cultural and local community elements important to understanding resilience. He describes how resilience develops from everyday experiences and particularly how everyday faith plays an important role in resilience. Using in-depth interviews, he showed how people encounter loss, discrimination, crime, and other hardships, and how their ability to cope with these events is an important example of resilience. Further, religion was an important resilience factor for many but not all subjects. The role of religion depended on other factors, such as education, culture, and economic status.

The importance of these studies is that they show how we are clarifying the underlying constructs that lead to resilience. They show that resilience is not a single or homogenous trait, but rather a collection of actions (ongoing social interactions) and traits (bonds, awareness, strategies) that broadly lead to a variety of conditions that we association with healthiness, including the ability to respond to harm. Importantly, a number of authors are describing how those important actions and traits are not just those associated with disasters, but are part of the fabric and everyday life. This is important for many reasons, not the least of which is because of how difficult it is to keep people focused on disaster events that may never occur.

Finally, this work is important for the connection to faith and church, both of which appear often in discussions of resilience. This leads us to an intriguing question that I will take up next: Is there support for the idea that Integral Mission leads to greater resilience?

References

Hoffmann, R.; Muttarak, R. (2017) Learn from the Past, Prepare for the Future: Impacts of Education and Experience on Disaster Preparedness in the Philippines and Thailand. World Dev. 96, 32–51, doi:10.1016/j.worlddev.2017.02.016.

Ögtem-Young, O. (2018). Faith resilience: Everyday experiences. Societies, 8(1), 10-10. doi:10.3390/soc8010010

Cui & Han (in press) Does social capital determine disaster preparedness and health consultations after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Nuclear Power Station accident? IJERPH

Saved!

At a conference in Kenya recently I noticed that each speaker or participant introduced themselves by stating their name, where they come from and then that they were saved or born again.

Throughout the Bible we see God being described as Saviour and Redeemer, and in the New Testament Jesus is frequently given this title. God always seems to be taking the initiative to come and save us. “And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Saviour of the World” – 1 John 4:14.

As we celebrated Christmas we recognised Jesus as coming into the world as the Saviour. Indeed, his very name means God the Saviour (as it relates to the Hebrew root word for “rescuer, deliverer, healer”). The whole Bible is the story of God being Lord and Saviour. With so much evidence in the Bible about salvation and the Saviour, we must be sure that we understand what we mean when we talk about salvation or ‘being saved’.

When working for an aid project in Mozambique after the floods of 2000, rebuilding destroyed homes, our team were returning to Maputo after celebrating the opening of these houses. One of our team cars was involved in an accident when a man stepped into the road and was hit by their car. Tragically, he later died in hospital. The driver of the car was in a state of shock and her faith was shattered. She said to me “I thought God was my saviour. If he can’t save me from such an accident, and if he can’t heal the man injured, then I am unsafe, uncertain and confused.”

Many people were physically healed by Jesus and later, his disciples. We have many stories and testimonies of people being healed today. Similarly, we have stories of liberation, of communities lifted out of poverty, of environmental recovery and bumper harvests, of justice being gained, of peace and reconciliation attained. We rejoice, we celebrate and we give thanks, and naturally long for much more. The Bible describes these amazing occurrences as “signs of the kingdom.” Lazarus was raised from the dead, but he also later would face death again. The 5,000 who were fed by Jesus, had to find food the next day. The signs of the Kingdom point to the King and all that he has accomplished on the Cross and will finally accomplish forever when he returns. Then there will no longer be illness, hunger, homelessness, injustice or environmental degradation.

So salvation now does not mean we will never face hardship, financial insecurity, Illness, injustice and or death. Salvation is the Good News that Jesus has rescued us from slavery to darkness, rebellion and death. He has set us free. A freedom in which we now are joint heirs in Christ of all he has created. As we live out this truth we become signs of the Kingdom of God too. We manifest the “not yet in the now”. Signs of liberation, transformation, healing, and restoration should be present in and through all we do and say, but they are not the salvation, only Jesus is the Saviour.

Let’s look deeper at the example of the tragedy in Mozambique. Just after the accident a large angry crowd gathered around our team’s car and our team were afraid. A pickup truck suddenly stopped. Two people from Samaritan’s Purse got out and helped. They took the injured man to hospital (no ambulances were available). We arrived ten minutes later, walked into the crowd and were able to calm them down, reassuring them that we were going to act justly. We offered them to choose a few of the community to come with us as we went to the police and hospital. They did. We amazed them as we showed another way to respond in love and compassion.

We covered the costs of hospital for the man and then offered his bereaved family help to cover the funeral costs. We met the family and loved the best we could. When the court heard all we had done they were amazed and said no one had ever responded in such away and no fines were given as they felt we had extended support to the family more than would be required by law. The driver of the car was still fragile in faith and in shock, and so she went back to her home church for a number of months to be ministered to through this tough season. We worked with her pastor and when she was ready, she returned.

This too shows signs of the Kingdom. When the people of God respond in compassion, when they pursue justice and care for creation, we will see these signs and indeed, see transformation, but salvation is found only in Christ. This is why integral mission is so vitally important. We cannot just do good works, as much as they are amazing signs of the Kingdom, we must also share the hope we have in our Saviour, so that all who see the signs, who experience the love we share, will turn to Christ and be saved.

Sheryl Haw
Director Micah Global

Liberation’s Option

By Rei Lemuel Crizaldo, Lead Co-oordinator for Integral Mission at Micah Philippines

Ever bought those nice finds in rummage shops for a cheaper price? But once you unpack it at home, you suddenly realize that it was already without the full package of the original? I myself once found a good pair of sneakers ‘on sale’ but minus the original shoestrings. Obviously, it made me think twice whether I should settle for the bargain and just live with what was lacking. In today’s marketplace of Christianity, one would also encounter similar versions of theological goodies on sale. The price tag may come appealing but what you might get is wanting upon closer inspection.

A case for example, do a careful re-reading of the Bible and it shall make today’s popular offer of salvation, i.e., “your soul’s chance of migrating to heaven,” look like no different from those rundown goods on a markdown sale.[1] This blunt comparison has to be made considering that God’s plan of redemption, that is, his mission of renewing all that He has made, includes the planet, its people, and their pattern of life. That is, today’s devastated creation, polluted rivers and corrupted human beings alike, including the deteriorating cultures and civilizations that thrive within it are all objects of God’s liberating mission. [2]

I came upon this observation upon realizing that the Bible speaks of salvation as the full restoration of all aspects of life in the world, exactly as God has sketched it from the very beginning.[3] A blueprint of this plan can be found in the initial pages of the book of Genesis.[4] In it, the writer presents a picture of a life wherein God and humanity were happily together, in a beautiful dwelling place, and with a pattern of relationship marked by trust, nurture, and joy. The Hebrews of old have a term for this particular way of life characterized by remarkable harmony – ‘shalom.’ Repeatedly, their prophets speak of a dream and a hope that is no less beautiful (see for example: Isaiah 65:17-25, Jeremiah 31, Micah 4).

Shalom is simply the Old Testament’s planetary vision for what in the New Testament was often referred to as God’s gift of ‘salvation.’ But make no mistake about it, the apostles Peter, John, and Paul have in mind a notion of redemption that is as equally comprehensive as that of Isaiah and Jeremiah.

The Victory of Christ

For an instance, Apostle Paul in Colossians 1:20 speaks of how God, through Christ and by His work on the cross, is reconciling “all things” in heaven and on earth back to Himself.[5] In this verse, the apostle to the Gentiles was alerting his readers at the city of Colossae that until then all of these things have been snatched away from God. And indeed, for a time, the whole world was in the clutches of the Evil One who has sought to steal all that was in it, drain it of its life, and ultimately cause its destruction (John 10:10). But this is not because this fiendish being has proven to be stronger than God and has actually prevailed against Him. No! It is simply because he has effectively triumphed over creation’s designated ruler and steward -human beings. To put it in contemporary terms, the Evil One laid siege on God’s earth, held its human rulers and inhabitants hostage, and terrorized what he was able to capture with his flag firmly planted in their hearts and homeland.[6]

How such terrorism of God’s creation happened is a loop that repeats itself throughout human history. But Genesis 1-3 unlock to us the internal mechanism of how this subtle infiltration works out. It tells a story of how the Serpent tricked the newly weds Adam and Eve and managed to subdue them under his will. By listening to the Enemy’s lies, the couple threw away God’s wonderful plan for their lives which is to be the world’s rightful ruler and caretaker (Gen. 1:27-27, 2:15). In effect, they exchanged God’s royal image in them (as prince and princess) for a lowly status of a refugee and a vagabond. Thereafter, the Evil One and his minions presented themselves as ‘gods’ and ‘rulers’ of this world (II Cor. 4:4, John 12:31, Ephesians 2:2). Later on, the Evil One even got the nerve to bribe God’s own Son in the flesh with all of the world’s riches and glory (which he claims to be his) in exchange for an undivided allegiance to him (Matt. 4:8-10).

But God’s Son knew better. He knew that His Father is launching a take-over project. That he was sent with a messianic mission of reclaiming control of all that which his Father has created, away from the clutches of the Evil One, and restore it to its rightful rulers. As John understands it, God’s Son was sent for the specific purpose of destroying the devil’s work (I John 3:8). Apostle Paul in Colossians 2:15 talks of how God’s Son has disarmed the Evil One and his minions of their powers. In his letter to the church at Ephesus (Eph. 4:8-10), he added how God’s Messiah has so effectively triumphed over them and that he succeeded in giving back to human beings their royal identities (Eph. 2:6, Col. 3:4). By a swift execution of this covert operation, the power of the Evil One has been broken, or as CS Lewis puts it in his famous novel, the grim spell of dark magic casted by the Great White Witch has been undone, at Aslan’s slaying at the Stone Table, and thereafter, Narnia and the Narnians were free again.[7]

Liberating the Planet. Apostle Paul writes in Romans 8 that the natural environment “groans in pain” as its await its liberation from decay in as much as humanity struggles to be set free from whatever it is that enslaves it whether selfishness, sickness, or even death itself.[8] The outpouring of God’s Spirit in people’s hearts (Ezek. 36:25-27), and the remarkable personal and social transformation that comes with it, is the earth’s assurance that one day it shall also see its own light of day. That is, liberated from the curse of devastation, the earthly realm shall once again be in full bloom. Apostle Peter speaks of God’s purifying fire that shall render the old heavens and old earth no more to usher in a new world (II Peter 3:12-13). The final picture was painted with more vivid details by Apostle John in his apocalyptic book (aka the Revelation). In its final chapters, he wrote down his vision of a new city of Jerusalem coming down from the heavens into a new earth. And he saw God dwelling with human beings once more in a place where there shall be no more tears, or pain, or sickness (Rev. 21:1-4).

Liberating its People. It is with this planetary renewal that the New Testament also pictures the promise of our bodily resurrection.[9] God’s work of transforming human beings into a new creation (Col. 3:10) does not stop with a renewal of personal morality and social relationships (Col. 3:5-11), not even with the security of one’s soul (I Peter 1:9). It includes, perhaps, most importantly, a promise of gaining a physical body free from imperfections and decay and death itself, exactly as the one Christ himself carried with him when he rose from the grave. Paul explains that as citizens of an new eternal city, its inhabitants shall need a new body that would be as equally glorious (I Cor. 15:35-55). If anything, this belief in bodily resurrection sets the early church’s understanding of salvation as sharply opposed to that of their Greek culture they inhabit which thinks of salvation as the liberation of the soul from the body.

While this hope of bodily redemption can easily be taken for granted by the average person, it is definitely good news for those who suffered from blindness and other physical ailments. That the lame can one day run and swim again, and that those born deaf can hear the most beautiful of Mozart’s musical composition shall be a most splendid news for those who went through life bereft of such simple joys. That this new body defies even the threat of death as well only means that the joys of life in the new heavens and new earth is something that human beings will enjoy with God not only for a limited moment but for eternity.

Liberating their Patterns of Life. As mentioned already, selfishness is part of what Christ has set human beings to be free of. This particular trait cuts across both the vertical and horizontal dimensions of human relationships. This is because what is commonly regarded as ‘sinful’ acts are basically manifestations of a disposition of the heart and attitude of the mind that have no regard for the will of God and the welfare of other people. The so called problem of sin, at its very core, is an issue of idolatry at one level and apathy on another.[10] That is, the relentless turning of one’s desire to godlike proportions and putting one’s personal interest to the disregard (and in many times, to the detriment) of another human being. All the horrors of humanity, corruption and injustice in government, abuses and oppression in society, etc. can be rooted in this twin habits of the human heart.

In its place, Christ left the world with a way of living that mashes-up one’s love for God and one’s love for neighbor as two inseparable sides of the same coin (Luke 10:25-37).[10] At the cross, he exemplified what it means to live a life of sacrificial love (John 15:14, I John 3:16).[12] All who are to be called his disciples are enjoined to follow in his footsteps and live a life of compassion, forgiveness, and humility.[13] Christ spelled out how this pattern of life works out in everyday life most specifically in what is now called as the “Sermon on the Mount.”[14] Simply stated, to live a life that is godly is to be a good neighbor to all people, especially those mostly in need. This pattern of Christlike living has not only confronted but also influenced cultures and civilizations on what it means to look after the less fortunate and how to look upon and treat those pushed at the margins of society.[15]

This brief sketch of a possible re-reading of key passages in the New Testament shows that at the heart of what God sought to accomplish in history may well be about the liberation of life for all of His creation -the bees, the birds, your neighborhood and its cultural practices, including the rivers and hills in which it is located (Acts 17:26). Perhaps, this musing can provide an alternative for those coming out shortchanged as they look for what salvation is all about in today’s shopping complex of Christian goodies.

-Rei Lemuel Crizaldo

NOTES:
[1] This soteriological notion is reflected in popular Gospel presentations such as Evangelism Explosion (EE), Simplified Bridge Illustration, the Roman Road, and even in what is called as “The Wordless Book.” By the way it formulates the Good News, it also necessarily reduces the concept of salvation as finding the solution to the problem of sin and its punishment (the fires of hell) by securing the destiny of one’s soul in heaven. But as Prof. John Stackhouse Jr. of Regent College reminds us, “An understanding of salvation that amounts to a sort of spiritual individualism is little better than Gnosticism.” This is why he thinks there is a need to “redouble our efforts to teach what the Bible teaches about salvation in all its glorious complexity and scope” and“prod evangelical theology toward a vision of salvation as large as God’s mission to the world He loves and redeems” (see the book he edited, “What Does it Mean to Be Saved? Broadening Evangelical Horizons of Salvation” published by Baker Academic in 2002). This blogpost is a humble contribution to such a clarion call.
[2] Unfortunately, the term ‘liberation’ has been so rigidly associated (or even, ‘hijacked’) in theological literature as referring to the movement called Liberation Theology developed in Latin America (cf., Gustavo Gutierrez). But the term itself is a rich word that captures a lot of what the Bible says about ‘redemption.’ I am of the opinion, that the word might as well be redeemed from the usual theological baggage associated with it and be given a fresh lease of life. Interestingly, the Micah Global has recently framed its missiological understanding along the lines of ‘liberation’: “Scripture has a ‘liberating’ theme running through it and the climax of the Good News message is one of redemption and restoration. God is our Liberator, not only of humanity, but of all creation… We are to be signposts, demonstrating God’s liberating agenda for his world, proclaiming and pointing to the ultimate liberation of all things in heaven and earth when Christ returns” (cf., Sheryl Haw, Micah Global Inform October 2017 – “God’s Liberating Agenda”).
[3] The works of Old Testament scholars such as Walter Brueggemann (“Theology of the Old Testament”) and Chris Wright (“The Mission of God”), including the works of New Testament theologian NT Wright (initially, his book, “Surprised by Hope”), as well as the numerous articles of Latino missiologist C. Rene Padilla became formative influences in my reflections.
[4] I previously run a series of blogposts on this topic. First post can be found here: http://xgenesisrei.tumblr.com/post/159811395065/lifes-perfect-playbook
[5] Elsewhere, in Ephesians 1:8-10, Paul said that this project of reconciling everything in the heavens and on earth to Christ is God’s “secret plan.”
[6] This led some thinkers such as Greg Boyd to develop an overtly negative picture of the world wherein it has been so-wretched by Satan’s works that God has totally lost control of it. According to him, the whole world has turned into a kingdom of darkness and doom in which God’s people are called by God to set themselves apart. See his book “The Myth of a Christian Nation.”
[7] This storyline is from CS Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. But the idea of liberating the world from the dominion of the Evil One is articulated in what is called as the “Christus Victor” theory of the atonement. In essence, this theory highlights the ultimate issue underlying all that is wrong and broken in the world -the cosmic conflict between good and evil in the universe. It focuses on the element that what Christ has accomplished in his earthly mission is to liberate the world from Satan and undo the havoc that he and his demons has wrought upon God’s good creation. Simply said, the problem of humanity is not simply a sin-problem but a more bigger problem of devilish dominion.
It is unfortunate that the individualism and secularism of the Western world, with its skepticism of the paranormal and supernatural beings such as angels and demons, have paved the way for the monopolization in soteriology (theology of salvation) of the atonement theory called as ‘penal-substitution.’ This particular theory teaches that what Christ came to do is to pay for the sins of humanity and serve as their substitute sacrificial offering to appease God’s wrath and let them off the hook of His judgment and punishment in the lake of fire. It fostered a rather narrowed-down idea of redemption as basically an issue of sin-management and at a very personal level.
But the surge of Pentecostalism recaptured the notion of spiritual warfare and the importance of being delivered from the activities of evil demonic spirits. It brought back into the table the neglected dimensions of soteriology that involves the need to free the world not only from penalty of sin but also from the power of Satan.
[8] Paul used in this verse the Greek word ‘eleutheroo’ which means to be set at liberty. Same word used by Paul in Galatians 5:1. ‘To be set free’ is the common translation in English but the picture suggested by the Greek is to possess liberty.
[9] Walter Brueggemann insists that people’s identity are closely tied up to the land they inhabit, even and most especially, the people of God (see his book “The Land: Place as Gift, Promise, and Challenge in Biblical Faith”).
[10] Interestingly, Apostle Paul taught both the believers in Ephesus and at Colossae that greed is basically a case of idolatry (Col. 3:5 and Eph. 5:5).
[11] Elsewhere, Jesus called this two commands as the greatest of all (Matt 22:36-40 and Mark 12:28-34). John the Beloved vividly captured the fusion of the two commands by saying, “If people say, ‘I love God,’ but hate their brothers or sisters, they are liars. Those who do not love their brothers and sisters, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have never seen” (I John 4:20).
[12] It is by laying down this example of giving one’s life for another that Jesus left a new commandment to his disciples in John 13:33. Unlike what he regarded as the greatest of all the commandments in the Old Testament, his new command raises the bar of love for one’s neighbor -no longer just love for one’s self but Christ’s love for the world.
[13] Perhaps, the Old Testament counterpart to this kind of life is what prophet Micah enjoined the Israelites to do as the sum of what Yahweh expects from them: “This is what God requires of you: to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God” (Micah 6:8).
[14] See Matthew chapters 5-7.
[15] Works abound on how the ethical teachings of Jesus have left a deep impact in Western society that in time has embraced Christianity not only as a way of life but also a way of organizing society. See for example Rodney Stark’s “The Rise of Christianity” and Alvin Schmidt’s “Under the Influence: How Christianity Transformed Civilization” and Glenn Sunshine’s “Why You Think the Way You Do: The Story of Western Worldviews from Rome to Home.” On how the early church made such a deep impact to Roman society, see Helen Reese’s “Loving the Poor, Saving the Rich: Wealth, Poverty, and Early Christian Formation.”

 

Bride Price – Lobola

Lawrence Temfwe of Zambia shares his thoughts on Lobola …

In what could prove to be a landmark case for Southern Africa, a Zimbabwean woman has gone to the highest court in the land to challenge the payment of the bride price. Priccilar Vengesai, a Harare lawyer, wants the Constitutional Court to deal with the matter. Her contention is that a bride payment (or lobola) leaves a woman subject to her husband’s control. In the paper she has filed, she, contends that “women’s rights to dignity, equality and non-discrimination were at stake and that the court should be quick to declare the customary practice unconstitutional.”(http://www.herald.co.zw/woman-wants-lobola-abolished/).

In September, Jubilee Centre sponsored 5 young people from the Chifubu Network of Churches’ Junior Parliament to Seychelles (a small island off the coast off east Africa). It was an exchange program with National Youth Parliament of the country. During one of the cultural discussions, the youth from Seychelles heard for the first time about the bride price. The young women and men of that country could not believe that there was such a thing in Zambia. One narrated, “It is like going to the grocery store to pick up a product.” Ms. Vengesais argues that a woman is reduced to an object. The young people of Zambia could not convince their counterparts from Seychelles that this practice dignifies the woman. Three young men and two young women are now asking: What is a Christian response is to the bride price, especially in our context where prices are us much as K60,000 ($6000)?

I am not a good example to this debate because I did not pay the bride price. I had long before disagreed with the practice and had talked with Martha about it in the past. When I proposed and she said yes, we were in agreement that I will not pay bride price for her.  When her father heard that her daughter was going to get married to a ‘priest’ (he is Anglican), he was so happy. Further, when he heard that I would not afford bride price he told my wife’s uncles that there be no bride price “because my daughter and her husband are going to serve the Lord.”  When I heard the news, I told my wife to be, “The Lord paid it all.” WOW.

At the Global Leadership Summit in Lusaka two weeks ago, Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, shared in her interview with Bill Hybels that, in her experience, when a girl demonstrates leadership qualities she is considered “bossy.” However, when it is a boy, he is assumed to have leadership qualities. She stated, “I believe women can lead more in the workplace. I believe men can contribute more at home and I believe this will create a better world.” After her talk participants were broken into groups to discuss her interview. In the group I visited, one of the women said it would be very difficult for Zambian men to contribute more at home because culture teaches us that the place for a woman is in the kitchen. She further stated that it will take a man to stand up against such a culture and such men are rare and women have no power because they are sold as if they were slaves.

As the church, we know that the first family did not have to pay bride price because God brought the two people together and gave the wife as a gift and helper to the man. Love was to be the bond not ‘lobola’ and the goal was oneness. If we understand marriage as a gift from God, there will be no room to think that ones’ sex is superior. Our focus as the church or family ought to be the happiness of the two God is bringing together. The church in Southern Africa must have a second look at whether bride price really does reduce women to mere objects that are open to abuse. Paul tells us that “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:28,29).

The Meaning of Peace

By Samuel Muderhwa

Peace is an easy path to tread

Peace is where our fears are mislaid
Peace is beginning to restore
peace for each man and women and children
peace for the troubled streets gone wild
peace is the old and young
peace in the end will overcome
peace builds trust into a lifestyle
peace is a friendly open hand
peace is a place to understand
peace is a legacy to leave
peace is when we do not have to grieve
peace is why we negotiate
peace is an end to all the hate
peace for all the victims of war.

For the original post, click here.

Accountability cuts both ways

(Written in 2015, by Eddie Arthur)

A few days ago, I wrote a post which suggested that it is unhealthy when Western
Christians use their funds to control how the Church in the rest of the world
grows, develops and theologises.

Predictably, there were some responses saying that there has to be financial
accountability. Obviously, there need to be controls and agreements to ensure that
money is used in an honest and transparent fashion; that goes without saying, but
when people talk about accountability, they generally mean much more than this.
In effect it is the modern way of expressing the old saying “he who pays the piper
calls the tune”.

To compound things further, accountability is almost always one way. Those who
are receiving funds have to meet targets, fill in forms, prove compliance with
objectives and jump through all sorts of other hoops, but there are rarely any
similar constraints placed on the funders.

Before you read on, it may be worth looking at this article from the Guardian,
which illustrates some rather dodgy fund-raising practices. It would be nice to
think that Christian organisations are immune from these sorts of things; but in
my experience they are not. Indeed, Christian organisations can be worse because
they add a layer of spiritual gloss to their stories which increases the pathos, if
not the veracity.

With that in mind, here are a few suggestions for accountability standards that
should be placed on Christian funders in the West by organisations and churches
in the developing world.

• You will tell our stories and use our photographs honestly and accurately.
• You will not portray us as people who are unable to help ourselves or to do
anything without aid from the West.
• You will not use our stories or photographs to build contingency or
administrative funds for your organisation.
• You will not use disasters in our area (or anywhere else for that matter) to
raise the profile of your organisation or to raise funds for other parts of the
world.
• Good relationships are always mutual. You have to learn to receive
blessings from us, just as we have to be humble to receive finance from
you.

Simon commented on my earlier piece:

What’s particularly interesting is that in a discussion about *partnership*, the only thing people have talked about is who gives *money* to whom.

I make no apology for this. Simon is implying that there is far more to life and
partnership than finance (see my last bullet point, above) and he is dead right.
But money is particularly important in many situations because it is used as an
instrument of power and influence and has the power to distort partnerships and
relationships.

By Eddie Arthur

See related text here: http://www.kouya.net

When is a good time to talk about climate change?

Hurricane Irma proved to be a storm of record-breaking dimensions and power. Communities all along its track from the Caribbean to the southeastern USA are only just beginning to come to terms with the devastation it caused. Satellite images showing Irma as the size of Texas were truly sobering.

But devastation of communities and habitats was not all that Irma left in its wake – an intense public debate immediately started about whether or not we should talk about climate change at times like these.

Some, such as the administrator of the USA’s Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt felt it was “insensitive”. He has previously made no secret of his own scepticism of the scientific consensus that human activity is inevitably leading to more extreme weather events like Irma. Others, such as the UK’s Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Sir Alan Duncan, rebuked the only elected Member of Parliament for the UK Green Party, Caroline Lucas, for suggesting that it was the right time to discuss the wider issue of climate change, saying that she was ‘lacking humanity’ for ‘linking Hurricane Irma with climate change.’

A Rocha’s concerns as Irma approached the USA were personal and immediate – our marine team leader Bob Sluka and his family had recently re-located to coastal Florida (you may read his first-hand report, Waiting for hurricane Irma). And it is in that personal vein that we should first respond as Christians and fellow planetary citizens to those communities that have been battered and bruised by these truly shattering storms – by standing with them in grief and reaching out to them with loving support. Churches and NGOs are rightly at the fore front of community efforts to provide clean water, food, shelter and all that is needed in a coordinated disaster response. But as the floods recede, and people and places begin the long recovery, we also hope to support the emergence of a wiser and de-politicized conversation about climate change that is rooted in two Christian convictions. The first is that people who are made in the image of God have a sacred mission to live by the truth that sets us free. So the practice of honest science can be a holy calling, however unwelcome the data to our previous ways of life. And secondly we have an equal, Christ-inspired calling to care for the wider creation and for poorer human communities, both of which are proving themselves to be the most vulnerable to the effects of our rapidly changing climate.

Recent events bring even more determination to live out those convictions. Even this year we have witnessed flooding in south Asia where according to International Health Partners 1400 people have lost their lives and 40 million have been affected by rising waters in the last two months, we have seen a heatwave and then fires that caused unprecedented numbers of deaths in Portugal, and several other A Rocha teams around the world report extreme weather events that have directly affected their work. All of these phenomena closely correspond to the predictions of climate scientists. So for us this is a matter of compassion and truth-telling, and as the issue is fundamentally rooted in the choices of human societies that are in turn guided by what they know and believe, our first response is moral and not political.

We are proud to be hosting the eminent climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe in UK for our evening London Lecture on November 16th, and she recently argued in the New York Times that ‘When we try to warn people about the risks, there’s no ‘news’ hook. No one wants to listen. That’s why the time to talk about this is now. The most dangerous and pernicious myth that we’ve bought into when it comes to climate change is not the myth that it isn’t real or that humans aren’t responsible. It’s the myth that it doesn’t matter to me. As humans, we are all too good at pretending that a risk, even one we know is real, doesn’t matter to us.’

So we believe not just that this is the right time to be talking about climate change, as well as acting to protect people and non-human species from its immediate impacts. And we also believe that a better conversation is possible and it is one that should be welcomed by all those who are committed to knowing the truth that sets us free, and to finding that truth by every available means.

Do you agree?

By Chris Naylor

Original post: http://blog.arocha.org/en/when-is-a-good-time-to-talk-about-climate-change

About Chris Naylor

Prior to joining A Rocha, Chris had wide experience of science teaching and schools’ management in the UK and the Middle East, attending Bible College and learning Arabic (in Jordan) along the way. He joined A Rocha in 1997 working, until 2009, as Lebanon Director where he cofounded the work. He oversaw the habitat restoration programme at the Aammiq Wetland, the development of the environmental education project and the field research programme, identifying 11 new Important Bird Areas. Since April 2010 he has been Executive Director of A Rocha International and is based in Oxfordshire. His book Postcards from the Middle East: How our family fell in love with the Arab world was published by Lion Hudson in March 2015.

Creating Shalom and the Challenge of Cities

Through the collaborative vision and work of Dr. Chris Elisara–director of the World Evangelical Alliance’s Creation Care Task Force, and Dr. Ash Barker–director of the International Society for Urban Mission, the Urban Shalom Project started at Micah Global’s triannual consultation in Peru, 2015.  It gained further momentum at two important gatherings in October 2016 in Quito, Ecuador. The first was the Gospel and the Future of Cities summit followed by the UN’s Habitat III conference. For participants, both events highlighted the crucial importance of cities and the need for faith communities to directly and positively contribute to building just cities, towns, and neighborhoods that are commensurate with God’s vision and desire for shalom.

The world is urbanizing at an unprecedented rate with over 2/3 of the world’s population expected to live in cities within the next 50 years. This creates both a series of ‘wicked’ or complex challenges as well as wonderful opportunities for faith communities to engage. The door is open for us to participate in creating great urban spaces where everyone can find a place to belong and experience a sense of shalom or flourishing as the biblical picture of humanity points.

The concept of urban shalom is propelled by Micah Global’s emphasis on integral or holistic mission, and beckons communities of faith to move beyond existing modes of engagement to take seriously the challenge and opportunities that cities present.

The Urban Shalom Project, a key Micah Global initiative, aims to equip and empower the Church, Christian NGO’s and others to engage in conversations and actions around the UN’s New Urban Agenda which is setting the tone for the development of cities over the next 20 years. The document itself, ratified by most of the nations of the world and put together by city leaders, practitioners, academics, urban planners and a range of NGO’s echoes biblical aspirations for our communities and cities, creating the opportunity for significant partnerships between faith communities and the broader community.

To help churches in this task the Urban Shalom Project has run forums in Melbourne, Sydney, Thailand and Birmingham, with more planned for Detroit, Cincinnati and parts of Africa. In partnership with local people the forums aim to frame a theology of shalom, an understanding of cities and the complex systems that make them up. They also allow space for local people to talk about place making, community development, urban planning, issues of land use and a myriad of other local solutions and processes that might rise out of their context. We are keen to see these aptly named Urban Shalom Forums picked up in countries around the world. As a local or regional leader if you are interested in running an Urban Shalom Forum please see our website urbanshalomproject.org or contact Andre Van Eymeren, co-convener of the project (andrevan@tpg.com.au) for more details.

Lastly, this upcoming November 10-15 (2017) in Singapore, the WEA as part of the Urban Shalom Project is hosting a UN-Habitat Urban Thinkers Campus (UTC). Twenty six UN Thinkers Campuses were held in the lead up to Habitat III and played a key part in the formation of the New Urban Agenda. The campuses are now focused on implementation. We would like to invite you to join us in Singapore for what we believe will be a ground-breaking event. For the first three days we will meet as a Christian community to look at issues such as;

  • Theology of Cities and Urbanism (including the Church, mission, evangelism, spiritual formation, etc.)
  • The Academy and Education
  • Slums/Unplanned Communities
  • Community Development (includes homeless issues)
  • Urban Design (includes housing and ecological sustainability)
  • Land Tenure
  • Good Governance
  • Data and Technology
  • Health and Cities (includes violence and safety)
  • Youth & Leadership Development
  • Business, Productivity, and Economic Justice

In the final two days we will join with representatives of the world’s faiths to continue these conversations, the outcomes of which will include a side-by-side compendium of commitments and long-term strategic plans each individual religion, or religious organization, is willing to develop and execute to support the goals of the NUA. If you are interested in being a part of this event in Singapore please email Dr. Chris Elisara (celisara@worldea.org)

We are also developing a number of resources to help churches and others engage with urban challenges. The latest edition of The New Urban World Journal is available online at newurbanworld.org. The journal aims to provide a voice for activists, practitioners and academics to share and be resourced on solutions and thinking around urban issues. We are also producing a book from our time in Quito which will be released in October, details will be available on the website.

For more information on the project please connect with one of the conveners;

Dr. Ash Barker – ash@newbiginhouse.uk

Dr. Chris Elisara – celisara@worldea.org

Andre Van Eymeren MA – andrevan@tpg.com.au

Sign up for updates here: http://urbanshalomproject.org/save-the-date-un-habitat-urban-thinkers-campus

 

 

Why Pray?

This past week a friend said, ‘Why bother?’ when encouraged to pray for our country’s leadership, asking the often unspoken and unanswered question – “Will it really make a difference?”. I found myself saying, “If God says ‘pray without ceasing’ it must be for a reason.” But I understood his doubt. There are many things I have prayed for and about that have not been answered in the way or time frame I wanted them to be. But his comment also got me thinking about how many things I have seen change through prayer, and deep gratitude followed.

“Nothing of kingdom value happens outside of prayer,” says Greg Boyd, author of God at War and other excellent books, in a call to remind his Church to pray. God takes prayer seriously! And it is clear that it is part of our mandate on earth; playing our role in seeing God’s kingdom come on earth. Boyd goes on to say that ‘things hang in the balance on whether or not God’s people pray.’ God has told us we are His partner – the Bride of Christ – and that He shapes the world through prayer.

There are so many good motivations to pray, but here are just five to think about today:

1. Prayer helps us turn towards God: Often our posture changes when we turn to prayer, and moves us to face towards God and not try to figure it out on our own. When we find our heart breaking, or we are angry at injustice, or disappointed, or in crisis, prayer makes a statement about posture and turning our faces towards our all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving God.

2. Jesus Prayed: And he also encouraged us to pray. Our ultimate role model, Jesus said, when you pray, say, “Our Father in heaven … ” … and we know the rest of this prayer. It covers so much about how to pray. (Matthew 6:9-13) We also see Jesus pouring out his heart to God, his Father, when in pain and suffering the night before his death.

3. Prayer strengthens our relationship: God designed us for relationship with him, and prayer strengthens that relationship. Jesuit author, Richard Leonard, says, “Prayer is making space for God to love us, for us to hear that and then, through the community of faith, to have the courage to return the compliment. It changes lives.”

4. Prayer helps us imagine: Praying creatively and with imagination of what the world could look like, can be an inspiration to keep being involved in and committed to the hard work of transforming mission. It broadens our perspective and helps us dream and act towards ‘his kingdom come on earth, as it is in heaven.’

5. Prayer is Biblical: Prayer and speaking with God is a significant part of both the Old and New Testament. Nehemiah shows us how the people of God pray, as an example in the Old Testament, and Acts 4 is a great example in the New Testament. There are countless examples througout scripture of people communing with God in different ways.

With this, and more, in our hearts and minds to motivate us, let us pray …

If you would like to sign up for the monthly Prayer Focus please email prayer@micahglobal.org

Linda Martindale