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Posts from December 2012

2012: Muslims, Marijuana, Mormons and other things that make you go mmmmmmm

I kept a pretty low profile in 2012 with some pathetic sporadic blogging and only the occasional dip into blog controversies surrounding the church. But despite my silence, I was doing my best to keep up on the conversation. Here are my big M's of the Christian blogosphere in 2012, all of them stemming from the USA, which was by far the most interesting country to follow on the blogs in 2012.



During the year there was a lot of heated discussion about Muslims who follow Jesus but stay inside their culture. Words like Chrislam, Muslim background followers of Jesus, secret believers, and insider movements which were compared to emergent church. A movie called Half Devil Half Child was released but has made no splash. In fact, the whole conversation has fizzled since November, and summed up by Cody Lorance who said, in response to John Piper's video on the subject,  "There is no insider movement". But the conversation regarding Wycliffe and their Bible translations will continue into 2013. 


I remember 20 years ago when I was a young pastor in Washington State, asking another pastor what his stance on marijuana would be if the State legalized it. I dont think he took my question seriously. But now that has happened in number of States, including Washington, and the church will have to reevaluate its position. What will Driscoll do??


If the emerging church label is dead, as some have suggested, then Phyllis Tickle has rolled away the stone with her book Emergence Christianity. And if the label makes a comeback, we will have Phyllis Tickle to thank. For the record, and for those who have read Phyllis's book I didn't actually ask if "2009 was to be the end of the Emergent ethos". If anyone is interested, I might write a few posts about the Great Emerging Pivot of 2009 and why dozens of emerging church networks and ministries (I have visited them in over 30 countries since 2009) dropped the emerging terminology while continuing to expand, grow, [emerge], and move forward into 2010-2012. That is  . . .  IF . . . anyone is interested.


When some evangelical Christian leaders suggested we vote for Mormon Mitt Romley, the Church of Latter Day Saints was downgraded on the list of dodgy sects and even removed from the "cult" list on the Billy Graham EA website. Which left Americans asking the question,  What do we in post-election USA now think of Mormons? Richard Mouw suggests "For many evangelicals, Mormonism has now been "de-demonized."


As this YouTube video "The Charitable Deduction" Loophole or Lifeline? points out, charitable status for non-profits is not to be taken for granted and it might already be too late. While I applaud the efforts of the Charitable Giving Coalition, I believe that preserving this privilege will only be possible if mission leaders and ministers start living more simply, if we expose the abusers and call them to repentance, and if we offer more transparency. Which is why I am encouraging everyone to join the Exposed 2013 campaign. On top of this, ministries MUST develop other income streams and move away from dependence on donations. Many of us have already done this. 

Mike Bickle

In the wake of the terrible and almost unbelievable murder-tragedy in Texas, Mike Bickle and the International House of Prayer (IHOP) are under the ecclesial and doctrinal spotlight. Ex-IHOPer's are coming forward with stories of cult-like practices and dodgy doctrines. This could have a domino effect on parachurch ministries and short term mission organizations who are a little removed from the mainstream. Truthspeakers post "Open Call to all ex-IHOPers" and the comments it generated, was an important read whether you agree with them (Charisma Mag doesn't) or not.

For a better summary of global missions, see Bill Bray's Top Indigenous Mission Trends of 2012


Afternoon tea with Douglas Campbell

Just finished a nice cuppa with Douglas Campbell of Duke Divinity School. Douglas is the author of a whopping 1200 page book called "The Deliverance of God" which Tom Wright says will take readers breath away and, according to one reviewer,  "some enthusiastic readers proclaim Campbell’s book as potentially the most high-impact work on Paul since E.P. Sanders’ Paul and Palestinian Judaism (1977)."

I must read it when i get a spare MONTH!

douglas Campbell

But Douglas recommended his newer book in which he get "beaten up" by 3 other theologians regarding his view of Paul's letters in the New Testament. Does anyone know what it is called? Anyone read it?

I asked him about New Perspective on Paul writers and in particular Sanders and he said

"I like Sanders!"

Great. More reading for me to do.

He also likes Andy Rowell so I will finish with Andy's review here:

"Douglas Campbell’s continuation of the quest for Paul’s gospel is a bold exercise in deconstruction and reconstruction. One may disagree with parts of the analysis, or take a somewhat different route to the same destination, but his overall thesis is persuasive: for Paul, justification is liberative, participatory, transformative, Trinitarian, and communal. This is a truly theological and ecumenical work with which all serious students of Paul must now come to terms. "

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.