Missions Conference highlights a Third Way regarding indigenous missions and new expressions of church.

December 29th marked the culmination of a great international missions conference. Highlights were a Christmas morning resolution, drafted by the Japanese and Chinese delegates and adopted unanimously, and a long series of talks that dealt with, among other issues, the increasing interest of the gospel among Muslims, Muslim secret believers, indigenous churches, relating to other religions, explaining the "Trinity" to Muslims, and new expressions of church.

Here are some quotes worth reading.

New Expressions of Church

An official group from the conference released some "Findings". Two of these stand out to me:

1. "The Church is called to a fuller and more adequate understanding of other religious faiths as total systems of life." 

2. "The Church is called to make experiments in the enrichment of the Christian group life."

"It is an encouraging sign that among certain of the younger churches experiments are being made in new expressions of Christian witness. In India the Christian Asram is a centre of simple community life shared by men who are engaged in some common work, connected with education, medicine or research. In China, a Christian monastery holds a similar position. The churches of Japan feel the need of a visible demonstration of the Christian life expressed in terms of social relationships, and some such fellowships have been begun."

Secret Muslim Believers

"How can the 'secret believer' who wants to witness for Christ among his own people by remaining one of them but nurtured and strengthened in his Christian faith and experience?  . . [T]he fact that there are, in the aggregate, a fairly large number of Muslims who are trying to live for Christ while remaining in the Muslim community seems to call for very definite efforts to hold and strengthen and encourage such believers in their effort to make their new-found Saviour known without being cast out. The method for this must be prayerfully sought and worked out."

Indigenous Missions

"In India there has been a strong tendency to identify western social patterns and customs with Christianity. SIngle converts, cut off from the society from which they were accustomed, have tended to abandon its patterns and customs for those of their western confreres in religion. This tendency has been a menace to the welfare of the church and of the nation because of influences it has exerted, for instance, that many Indian Christians, whose conversion has involved a break with relatives and caste or community associates, have lost pride in Indian nationalism."


"The programme for improving economic conditions has in the past been too much centred in institutions . . . Co-operative societies have produced better results but have in some instances done more harm than good because of poor management and the intrusion of 'charity'."

Insider Movements

In Indonesia, two approaches to missions were discussed. While Father Emde in Sourabaya was using a very Western approach of worship meetings and distributing Christian pamphlets, C.L. Coolen, the son of Russian and Indonesian parents, "preached the Gospel in Javanese style and tried to rid Christianity of its Western forms. This was very unlike Emde, who was demonstrating that "acceptance of Christianity was on a par with appropriation of western customs and manners."

Relating to Non-Christian Religions

Regarding our approach to non-Christian religions, one good suggestion from Karl H. was to avoid the two traps of superiority and sympathy and instead find a "third way" of approaching non-Christian religions, a way that is "saturated with the fulness fo biblical views". His third way is described as

1) the way of "true translation" which calls for a thorough knowledge of their language, life and existence,

2) a "sincere and human attitude towards the others" in which requires love and patience. 

3) the need for radical decision in calling out people to the feet of Christ.

Summing up, Karl says "To proclaim truth in humility, that is the central task and the lifelong work of a man who is called to be an ambassador of Christ. 

The meeting that concluded on Dec 29, the gathering that I have just quoted from, was officially named the International Missionary Council Meeting and it happend in Tambaram, Madras from December 12th to 29th, 1938. 

And . . . NO . .   I wasnt there despite being in my late 40's.

It amazes me how the same issues continue to rotate through our more recent mission gatherings, and yet with little resolve. 

It may interest you to know that Karl Hartenstein, who gave such a good balance to the conversation in 1938 with his "third way", would later coin the term "Missio Dei" in the 1950's.

Let me finish with one more quote on the younger churches [what we sometimes call emerging churches]

"An indigenous church, young or old, in the East or in the West, is a church which, rooted in obedience to Christ, spontaneously uses forms of thought and modes of action natural and familiar in its own environment. Such a church arises in response to Christ's own call. The younger churches will not be unmindful of the experiences and teachings which the older churches have recorded in their confessions and liturgies. But every younger church will seek further to bear witness to the same Gospel with new tongues also; that is, in a direct, clear, and close relationship with the cultural and religious heritage of its own country." The Growing Church, Tambaram Madras Series, Volume II, Findings of Tambaram Meeting, Oxford University Press, 1938, page 297

Related on TSK:

Fourth Sector and Emerging Mission

My role in The Hobbit: I was the Fairest of the Elves

The Hobbit premieres tomorrow. My daughter Elizabeth attended a special opening event in Wellington but we are all waiting for the real thing to release. I think most people would agree that my role was pivotal to the success of the movie and, indeed, I was the fairest of the Elves. 

But before I tell you about that, something strange happened a few weeks ago. After driving by Mount Doom with my family we stopped at some natural thermal pools near Taupo for a swim. In the bottom of the pool, under the sand and rock, my daugther Hannah discovered a ring with writing on it. Really! She showed me and I dropped it and we tussled a little to find it but eventually she retrieved it from the warm waters and she still has it today. We all thought we should go to Mount Doom where she could ceremoniously throw it into the center and watch it vanish into  . . who knows what. But as it stands, she is quite attached to her little precious and doesnt want to part with it. 

What does the writing say?

Not sure. I think its in Elvish . . . no . .  actually its in English and its the name of the couple that lost their ring. Its that you, let me know.

But back to my acting role in The Hobbit. How mysterious, that after wandering the earth for 30 years, I should return to New Zealand just in time for the filming of the Hobbit. And how strange that there was such a need for tall skinny fair skinned people to play elves. More than coincidence??

hobbit casting

Which is how I ended up at the big casting call amidst all the other actors and wanna-be actors. As it turned out, more people than expected turned up to audition and even I, despite being the fairest of the elves, did not make it into the interviews. Even my tall, fair, elvish son missed out. But I think my presence at that big day added to the excitement to the whole thing and I am sure that Peter Jackson will one day thank me for turning up all the way there and back again . . . What a journey!

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey opens tomorrow. We will see it when the crowds die down.

Hanging with the Brethren Church

We visited my old Brethren church yesterday which is now called Orewa Community Church. I attended the youth group here as a teenager and a few people remembered me. I have been away overseas for 30 years so I thought it would be just POLITE to return and say hi, and thanks.

Good Bible teaching, as always. I much prefer a good old Bible study over a motivational talk with quaint illustrations and tedious stories. I like to bring my Bible into a church and get to actually use it. Which I did. The worship was a little too quasi-Hillsong for my liking - think Willow Creek on a budget - but the people seemed to enjoy it. Great missions focus and we hooked up with a few missos over tea.

We had lunch afterwards at the invitation of Phil Tait who is connected with SIM, the Langham Partnership and who recently wrote on the state of the Brethren churches in New Zealand. 38,000 Kiwis are Brethren, apparently,  which is not a lot but they make a big splash overseas.

Thanks to Murray and Linda Barclay of Puhoi for the wonderful mutton and venison sausages that fed a big crowd.

Catholic Worker Community in Hokianga

We are spending a few days up in the north with the Catholic Worker community who are spread over various low-tech farms in the Whirnaki/Opononi area of the Hokianga harbour, a site famous for the entry of Methodist and Catholic missionaries into New Zealand in the 1700's.

House truck

Great people. Some of them are fourth generation Catholic family members who have been here since Peter Land - philosopher/farmer - moved here a few decades ago. The community here is "screen free" so I am blogging near the beach so I don't have to violate the vibe. Like Dorothy Day, there is an anarchist bent here which is related more to pacifism than vandalism and, mixed with a Catholic ethos and a heart for the poor, its a good place view the world from Christ's perspective.


We have parked the truck at St Francis Farm but the kids have been hanging out at the "Clarehouse" in Opononi which is where a lot of the hospitality to travelers takes place.

What are we learning?

We are learning that despite how simple and sacrificial we think our nomadic lifestyle is, these people really know how to live with less and live off the land in a way that is effective and happy without being weird or self-righteous. They use solar power, hand-powered everything, clydesdales to pull carts, and one of husbands told me the most expensive thing they buy is tea leaves. We are talking of further downgrading our lifestyle and not being so OPULENT. 

One of the signs here, next to a 1940's house truck, says "Live simply so that others may simply live."

Live simply so that others may simply live

Other bloggers who have been here: Fiona and Lauren.

Related on TSK: What Dorothy Day might teach bloggers on TSK

American Christians and the Mormon factor

Right now is an interesting time in American politics and religion. There are plenty of conservative evangelical Christians in USA who are about to vote for a Mormon to be their president. Who woulda thunk???

I read a few snippets on Billy Graham removing the "cult" status on the BGEA website. I would be curious to hear from Steve Knight on this.

Interesting quote from Norman Geisler, who wrote the textbook on "Inerrancy" and once chastized the emerging church for relativism. Regarding today's election choice, he says,

" First, even if as voters we wanted to apply such a test, we do not have a really good choice religiously. We face a painful dilemma of voting for a liberal professing Christian (Obama) with Muslim leanings or a cultist Mormon who claims to be Christian. The truth is that we do not live in an ideal world; we live in a real world. Realistically, we have only two candidates who could win the election, and we can only vote for one . . .

Secondly, we do not live in a black-and-white world. There is a lot of grey. So, on the question of good, we don’t have a purely good or evil choice in this election. There is both good and evil in each choice."

Brian McLaren said something very similar yesterday in acknowledging that all parties have their weaknesses and their virtues.

Norman Geisler and Brian McLaren. Probably a different name on their ballots but finally on the same page. Interesting times indeed! Who woulda thunk?



Now that we are on the road again and living with reduced electricity, I am trying to adjust my blogging and social media accordingly. Blogsy for iPad might help me blog more often and easier. Worth a try. This is my first post from Blogsy.

OK heres a test ride.

A few videos thrown in . . .

ahhhh i cant see how to add a tweet. let me look into it . . .


Why I decided to become a follower of CHRISLAM

You know when a word has real scare potential when Hal Lindsay starts using it on TV. Like the word "CHRISLAM".

insider movements, mission, chrislam

Last year, televangelist Jack Van Impe got kicked off TBN for calling Rick Warren a 'Chrislam' promoter. Rick Warren says the newspaper reports were false and he does not promote Chrislam, but the damage had already been done: Van Impe still hasn't got his job back on Christian television which is a shame for all his TV-watching fans and for the hair-spray company that has lost a loyal customer.

It's a silly word. Can we please stop using it?


Chrislam is a tiny religion in Nigeria that happily mixes Islam and Christianity and counts about 1500 people in two churches in Lagos. I really don't think this group is any more a threat to American Protestantism than my daughter's dough recipe is a threat to Pizza Hut.

Today a conference is happening in Asia which tackles the "insider movements". One of the lectures scheduled for this afternoon is entitled "The Whoredom of so-called Contextualization: 'Spreading our Legs' for the Latest Religious Ideas." The book under discussion is called "Chrislam: How MIssionaries are Promoting a Islamicized Gospel" and it is published by the same people that are hosting the conference. I really hope its a balanced discussion today and not a one-sided witch hunt. Is anyone blogging it???

HEY - Lets talk about the controversial issues in missions, including contextualization and insider movements, but let's also try NOT to use scary words that freak out elderly evangelical ladies and drive extremists into tight corners. Like the word "Chrislam".

So why am I following CHRISLAM?

Because I was thinking that the blame for the end-times deception and the horrendous deviation of the past three decades of Christian mission should not be shouldered by a Vancouver based graphic designer named Chris Lam. Or a British breakdancer named Chris Lam, who I emailed this morning and apologized if people were blaming him for the destruction of the world as we know it.

So I am now following both Chris Lams. But I chose not to follow Chris Lam the MMA boxing/judo enthusiast as @cagedocbecause he looks as though he could kick my ass.

chrislam, insider, chris lam

Related: Emerging Muslim Followers of Jesus, Christianity's Next Challenge, Insider Movements and Wycliffe's Translation

Coming up soon: Is the Insider Movement the new Emergent Church Controversy of this decade?

BEST THING I saw recently on the Insider Movement was Cody Lorance's response to John Piper, summarized here by Warren Farah.

Global Church Forum

A really important missions gathering is happening from Tuesday to Thursday in Chicago and is being streamed. I was invited to be there and blog the conference but I am still in the southern hemisphere and couldn't make it. But I hope it goes well.

Global church forum

A lot of my friends are speaking there and I think this would be a conference thats worth following the streams and conversation.

Global:Church Forum for the live stream.

Twitter: #gcf12