Mission of God Study Bible and Itinerant Ministry

The Mission of God Study Bible has just been released. It carries the missional theme and  . .  what I really love about it . .  it honors the memory of the Baptist missiologist Dr Francis DuBose who brought the word "missional" back into play with his 1983 book God Who Sends. [see the video I recorded of Dr DuBose shortly before his death] The Study Bible also has contributions from so many of my friends that I won't even start to name them. 

I was asked to contribute something on itinerancy that might share some light on Acts 12, when Saul and Barnabas are sent out.


Here's my bit which now appears on page 1153

Itinerant Ministry (Acts 12:2-3)


Maybe it’s not right, but I feel a slight pang of grief when I read the fate of Saul and Barnabas. Despite having a secure future as church leaders, they are sentenced by the church in Antioch to the downwardly mobile status of itinerant ministry. Doomed to wander the earth like Cain through places always foreign and rarely familiar, they will limp forward as borrowers and beggars, as strangers and sojourners, but never settlers.


MissionOfGod FNL CVR

An itinerant is a wanderer who travels from place to place without a home. Stereotypes are demeaning: drifters, hobos, vagrants, bums, squatters, tramps, and carnies. Some are neutral but few are positive. And yet there are people who have voluntarily embraced itinerancy for the purpose of the gospel, including circuit riders, pilgrims, mendicants and wandering monks. The worst examples of the latter were frowned on. Benedict called them ‘gyrovagues’ (lit. “those that wander in a circle) and Augustine called them ‘circumcelliones’ (lit. “those that prowl around the barns”).


However, despite the stigma of being homeless ragamuffins, it was often the wandering missionaries who enabled the church to accelerate its mission into new spheres: extraordinary itinerants including Jesuits, Franciscans, Methodist circuit-riders, tent-revivalists and the Celtic peregrine, who one writer described as “intrepid Irish adventurers”.


As an itinerant for most of my twenty-five years in mission service, I share both in the shame of this lowly disposition and the joy of freedom to travel wherever God is shining his light. I also have some perspective on why the Holy Spirit might have set such a precedent in Antioch.


Practically speaking, itinerancy is more effective in both cost and time, having no house to maintain or return to. Our apostolic efforts are not tempted by the idolatry of building our own empire because next week we will be somewhere else, serving another ministry project. But it’s more than that. 


As itinerants, our dependence on others for their participation with us in the gospel becomes a filter that leads us to the right people at the right time, as Jesus outlined in Luke 10.


We depend on God. We depend on God’s family. We even depend on the people we are sent to.


Like Abraham, we are told to go but not given a destination. We find ourselves in intimate company with the people of faith, who viewed the heavenly city as their real home. We have no house but we enjoy a hundred houses in this life and the benefits of a large and diverse spiritual family. 


We drink deeply of the sufferings of Christ who, having no place to lay his head, walked the same path we tread.


Strangely enough, recent years have seen a more positive spin added to the mobile lifestyle. Partly in response to globalization, and the necessity of competence in foreign cultures, many are eager to embrace new itinerant identities such as global nomads, couch surfers, existential migrants, and even families on the road.


Likewise, interest in itinerant ministry has intensified as a new generation discover a spirituality of the road and new forms of missional pilgrimage. 


Like Antioch, there are still young spiritual leaders of export quality being sent out on itinerant journeys that are initiated by God, modelled by Christ, led by the Spirit and given an enthusiastic thumbs-up by the church. 

Guys in dresses preaching to grandmas

What does a sex-drenched society need most of all? Another book on sex, perhaps? Some preachers think so. In Texas, Ed and Lisa Young are promoting their new book on sex from the rooftop of their house as part of a Sexperiment.

[Sounds like "Buy our book or we will do something you will regret!"]

Rooftop ed young

And on the blogosphere, Mark Driscoll is promoting the "sex manual" that he and his wife wrote by slamming the British, apparently calling their Bible teachers "a bunch of cowards who aren't telling the truth" and suggesting that young men wont go to church so long as there are  "guys in dresses preaching to grandmas!" [Link]

It's called PR Driscoll style, but it is quickly turing into the Battle of Superlatives.

Word to the wise: Never insult the British because they are quick-witted, more clever in their use of the Queens English than you are [they invented it], and boast the sharpest critics in the world. And even though they are a small country, they are a great one, too. Or so said Hugh Grant.

Mark driscoll

In my opinion, its better NOT to stir them up at all. But Driscoll has indeed stirred them up and they are responding.

At the center of the discussion is an interview with Justin Brierley in which Driscoll shares his perspective on the British scene and is either quoted as saying some really dumb things OR has his words taken out of context. We dont yet really know.

Driscoll calls the interview "“in my opinion, the most disrespectful, adversarial, and subjective."

Both Christian Today and Christianity Mag will run articles on Driscoll. Christianity Mag was known as Christianity and Renewal Mag when it interviewed me back in 2004 on the emerging church and Premier Radio chatted with me the same year. That was back when the emerging church was an interesting subject. Nice people. I will watch for the interview with Justin Brierley.

[update: interview is posted here]

In the meantime, Driscoll has A Blog-Post for the Brits and it would be unfair not to read it first if you were thinking of blogging this conversation.

I, for one, do not have time for the discussion. Neither do I want to focus on the sex issue. I actually agree with Al Mohler [surprised?] that there are some things we as leaders DO NOT have to talk about. There is a place for discernment, for mystery, for some intimate secrets, things left unsaid. The bedroom is one of those places.

If you want the skinny on the controversy, and have already read Rachel Held Evans [who hasn't?] and you dont want to stick your head in the Twitterverse, and you are waiting for Adrian Warnock to say something, then I suggest starting with Bill Kinnon who is getting a lot of blog-action. And Bill points us all to WenatcheeTheHatchet Blog and also to one of England's finest Bible teachers, Chris Wright, who does not, repeat NOT, wear a dress! At least he didn't when we were teaching together in Cape Town.

Some related old posts: Is the blogosphere ready for Mark Driscoll? and Mark Driscoll: The Skinny

The books: Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, and Life Together [by Mark and Grace Driscoll] and Sexperiment: 7 Days to Lasting Intimacy with Your Spouse [by Ed Young]

Against the Tide, Towards the Kingdom

"We changed our language from a “simple lifestyle” to a “generous lifestyle.” We went with less in order that others could have more." Jenny and Justin, Against the Tide

New book that I highly recommend and just mentioned on my "Choosing to be homeless and poor" post. The book is called Against the Tide, Towards the Kingdom by Jenny and Justin Duckworth.

There are lots of books on the new monastic movement and the emerging church movement and radical Christianity among the poor. This book confronts you with all of at at the same time because its written by a couple who bring it all together in their lifestyle and ministry. Talking about Justin and Jenny Duckworth of Urban Vision who are are hidden treasure and shining beacon of in a world of mediocre books and mediocre lives.

This is radical with an apron.

This is throwing away the picket fence to let the unlovely into your lives.

This is walking away from aspirations of a comfortable lifestyle and career and allowing God to upgrade you into a meaningful life that will change lives, even though it will not impress your relatives.

I was so impressed by the book, and by their community during our visit this year, that I sent my son down to NZ to live with them in their monastery. He's still there.

Here's some choice quotes from the book.

"Offering home in our modern world is one of the most radical things we can do. Not just Sunday lunch, but a place for others to share life with, which nurtures the reality of God’s welcoming family. That’s the heart of the gospel."

"We have learnt to buy clothes at op shops, drive less, bike, walk and hitchhike more, share everything, eat less—both quantity and quality (less luxury food, particularly meat)—entertain ourselves and our neighbors for free or cheap, holiday where we are offered free places, or camp, and stop collecting bloody stuff we don’t need! We have found it both liberating and challenging"

"Just as we don’t choose our children, we can accept who God gives us and make the family of God a welcoming place. Taking on the people God sends us as our best friends is an offering that ripples out into our neighborhoods."

Book: Economics of Good and Evil

"Sedlacek's groundbreaking work promises to change the way we calculate economic value." Harvard

I just started reading a FABULOUS BOOK called Economics of Good and Evil: The Quest for Economic Meaning from Gilgamesh to Wall Street. I love it! It might be my best book of 2011.

Although, if I am honest, most books I have read this year have been CRAP!

I met the author, Tomas Sedlacek, last week in Prague at a BBQ. The host, Sasa Flek, who published Czech Republic's top selling book last year, which just happened to be his new translation of the Bible called Bible21, invited me over and let me know that one of the countries top economists would be at the BBQ.

Actually, the BBQ was settling into its calm mid-life before I realized that the red-haired pony-tailed young guy who was grilling my chicken thighs and chatting to me about Zizek, Derrida, and the importance of integrating economics and ecclesiology,  was actually the Tomas Sedlacek I had heard about. [DUH!]

Silly me! I was expecting someone old and boring.

Screen shot 2011 07 13 at 6 15 28 PM

That's Tomas in the retro-sailor-inspired blue and white shirt.

He doesn't look like an economist but he sure cooks a mean BBQ.

Anyway, his book, unlike many of this year's readings, is crap-free and presents quite a unique view of the subject of economics. Apparently it is based on his PhD dissertation which was rejected by Charles University in Prague because, as a treatment of economics, it lacked NUMBERS! Heh heh!!

But the book is not about numbers. Its about economics and theology and postmodern philosophy and ancient Jewish mythology and Greek philosophy and Mesopotamian poetry and Adam Smith's ideas on ethics. . . and a whole lot more. Tomas believes that if you want to understand economics, you need to go back a long way and read widely of all the disciplines.

So, I just started the book and I think I will do a quick blog interview with Tomas if he is up for it. Which means that you should start reading his book now and send me a question or two that I can ask him in the interview. And lets go from there.

His book has been forwarded by ex-president Vaclav Havel, published by Oxford Press and has sparked good reviews by Financial Times and New York Times. Thats impressive! And BTW Tomas will be speaking at Greenbelt Festival in 2012 so you can meet him there.

Now send me those questions and lets get working on a kick-ass interview!

I need books on emerging blogging nomadic couch surfing apostles

I need you to recommend some books for me. The creative people at Cornerstone Festival have taken my three seminars and given them a single title. THANKS! I have asked them to change the "emergent" word, which I try to avoid, but that's fine if they want to use it. Here's how the seminar looks on their website:

Emergent Blogging Nomadic Couch Surfing Apostles
Andrew Jones (3 Sessions)

The Tall Skinny Kiwi offers a travelogue of places and people on the road into the 21st century. First, an account of one man's journey through Emergentdom, its rise, controversies, and what remains after the movement finally shaves off its goatee and gets a real job. Second, a survey of Christian blogging and look ahead down the online stream. Third, a look at existential migration as an alternative to short term missions — how to survive, and how to make an impact.

Heres the deal. For Northern Seminary to offer credit for the courses they sanction at Cornerstone,  I need to recommend some books in each of the three areas. Can you help me?

The three sessions needing books for students to read before they come, and the books you can possibly point me to, are:

1. The global emerging church. I want to trace the movement over the last 25 years as it has grown on each continent. Most books only deal with USA and sometimes UK. Very few, if any, deal with Asia, Latin America and Africa. I suggested The New Conspirators by Tom Sine because it deals with plenty of countries (although mostly Western) and include the new monastic movement which is important in my opinion.

2. Social media and Christian ministry. My talk will be an overview of the first decade of Christian blogging, how social media has changed the way we do ministry today and the future of life-streaming online, publishing on tablets and the shift from web site to app. Any books on this????

3. Mission among the next generation. What global missions is looking like today with young couch surfers, new monastics, global nomads and missional pilgrims carving out a new and more sustainable way of changing the world on a budget through Kingdom oriented social enterprise. I can think of a lot of real life examples but I am pulling out my hair trying to think of a single book on this subject.

Somebody help me.

Letters to the House Church Movement

Rad Zdero has released a new book today: Letters to the House Church Movement. Its a collection of ACTUAL, REAL, GENUINE letters. Almost sounds . . . biblical. My endorsement on the book says . . .

"I am thrilled that Rad Zdero has released this series of insightful letters into book form... a timely, biblical, poignant yet gracious response to real-life concerns... Highly recommended!" Andrew Jones

I just want you to know that I havent pushed all of Rad's books. I felt his Global House Church movement book was a little over-reaching in its title and therefore a tad disappointing, even though a helpful read. This new book, however, is far better and gets a thumbs up from me. Well done, Rad!!!

Philip Jenkins on Jesus wars, heresies and orthodoxy

I just finished Philip Jenkin's latest book called "Jesus Wars: How Four Patriarchs, Three Queens, and Two Emperors Decided What Christians Would Believe for the Next 1,500 Years"

Jesus wars philip jenkins

Funny title. Good content. Not a riveting book but quite a relevant one to read this week, with all the controversies about what is orthodox and what is not. What Jenkins adds to the conversation is that the fate of "Christian orthodoxy" has been very fragile and fickle, the councils and creeds could have gone any which way, the fight over heresy had a much greater body count than present day twitter-spats over Rob Bell's book, we will always be fighting over how Jesus is both God and Man, and Turkey in the summer is far too sultry to enjoy a good theological conversation.

Best part was hearing about the Coptics and their theological journey, something that I think might pop up in the near future, especially in that part of the world.

Jenkins ends the book with this sentence . . .

"A religion that is not constantly spawning alternatives and heresies has ceased to think and has achieved only the peace of the grave."

How To Survive a Christian Bookstore: #1 EMBRACING THE FEAR

You need to buy a better Bible but you dont want to enter a Christian Bookstore to buy one. OK. I get that.

Actually, I have a phobia of Christian bookstores myself. Last year I managed to avoid them completely, except for one quick appearance to buy a Bible for one of my daughters. And that was not easy - I tell you! I had to psych myself into it . . . deep breaths and everything. But I did it and so can you! And if you want to buy a decent Bible then eventually you are going to have to make the leap. Here's some guidelines on surviving a Christian bookstore.

Step #1 is to EMBRACE THE FEAR

For me, it's more than an aversion - its a phobia - a nightmarish dream, a dreadful paralyzing fear that i will be sucked into the very bowels of a Christian book store, kicking and screaming, beyond my control, dragged passed the Joel Osteen books in the front and all the way over to the Dreaded Footprints Poster on the far wall.


And then it hits me that I am actually INSIDE A FREAKIN' CHRISTIAN BOOKSTORE and I start to perspire and cheese starts oozing from all of my orifices and forms a river and its caught me in its cheesy current and its sweeping me along and little precious moment figurines are jumping on me, biting my legs,


and little old ladies are running at me to put Rob Bell dark-rimmed glasses on my face and saying, “Isn’t he a lovely man?” ...


and then i am drowning, fighting for breath, going under and the last image in my mind before I pass into eternity is the gleaming smile from a hundred Joel Osteen book covers. I fight for breath but its no use.


And then Joel’s penetrating evil smile gets bigger and bigger and brighter and brighter and WHITER AND WHITER and then everything is FADE TO WHITE and i am suddenly in eternity . . . but I have entered through the wrong kind of pearly gates!

You know what I'm talkin' about???

Your fear of Christian bookstores might be different than mine - perhaps a phobia of 80s retro burgundy leather Bibles or maybe, like mine, its some footprints in the sand that chase you down the beach, appearing and disappearing in a way that would freak anyone out. But whatever your fear is, you need to embrace it, suck it in, and get over it. Because we are going to get through this thing together and get you into a Christian Bookstore where you can buy a Bible.

Next - How To Survive a Christian Bookstore #2 FINDING YOUR HAPPY PLACE

Previously on TSK: The Prayer of Jael

Best Books of 2009

will jesus buy me a double-wide

I thought the most readable and timely book, considering this years economic downturn, and the discussion of prosperity after passing of Oral Roberts, is Will Jesus Buy Me A Double-Wide ('Cause I need more room for my plasma TV) by Karen Spears Zacarias. Its also a hilarious read and has the best cover art. By far!!!

The book I read most often was Justification: God's plan and Paul's Vision by Tom Wright. See my review here. Reading this book as part of this interesting theological discussion is better than following a good TV serial. I read it 3 times.

The most fascinating book was Merton and Sufism: The Untold Story, but the book was published many years ago so it probably doesn't count. However, considering the challenge of our response to Islam that becoming such a big issue, this book has some fascinating insights.

The most frustrating book was The Next Evangelicalism by Soong-Chan Rah which made me feel bad about our itinerant lifestyle, as though "geographical fluidity" was a life-style choice of the rich and white, rather than an intentional ministry decision. In fact, it t has led us to be downwardly mobile in a huge way, rather than upwardly. And of course the unfortunate chapter on emerging church in which all the color was removed and placed in other chapters in the book. I appreciated Julie Clawson's take on the book which articulated some of my concerns and relieved me from responding myself. Good chapter on the church growth movement, however and the need for postcolonial thinking in American churches.

Deep Church shifts over to USA

" . . . Deep Church is back with a vengeance. Get used to the term because you are going to hear much more of it." TallSkinnyKiwi, 2007

A few years ago the UK experienced a "Deep Church" wave. There were books, blogs, lecture series,  Now the USA is taking a look at this term that C.S. Lewis preferred for his book "Mere Christianity".

Hot off the press is Jim Belcher's book called Deep Church: A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional". I took a quick look this morning.

Initial responses:

- Jim Belcher seems like a lovely guy with a good mind and a big heart. I think we will be meeting up at Lausanne 3 next year in South Africa. Look forward to it.

- Jim has really caught the attention of the American church with this book and it seems to promote unity and understanding. Good.

-. I am a little uncomfortable with the idea that the emerging church emerged out of protest, which Don Carson also suggested in his book. For me, and thousands of others like me, it was a strategic move towards a more sustainable, effective, contextually appropriate way of creating new church structures for a new wave of Jesus followers in a way that jived with the Scriptures AND the denomination's [I was Baptist] framework at the same time. And not having any money to buy buildings or pay pastors salaries meant we just did what we could with what we had and what we could find (coffee shops, etc) . And the traditional denominations and organizations applauded what we were doing and were quick to support it. Of course we had to do a little reminding of what pioneer ministry looks like in our world as well as how it looked like for them when they first started.

- The distance between the traditional and the emerging is not as wide as most people think. Many denominations have a two track (traditional and emerging) strategy reflected in their budget and staffing. I would say most new church starts are actually "emerging" whether planted by traditional or emerging groups. Also, many of the emerging church's key leaders have either been brought on staff on older mission organization or denominations, or they have been deeply embedded all the time and there has not been a significant controversy over doctrine or methodology. The few mavericks get all the attention. Controversy sells.

- A really good review of the book is by Kevin DeYoung, who, despite being on the opposite side of me, comes out with pretty much the same conclusions.

- The Pryos liked it. Who would have thought?

-. The conversation on "deep church" and "deep ecclesiology" happened a few years ago in the UK, and was followed closely by Jason Clark . The key book was Remembering our Future: Explorations in Deep Church by Andrew Walker and Luke Bretherton.

- The conversation in the UK pointed back to the Great Tradition, especially as outlined by DH Williams in his two excellent books: Retrieving the Tradition and Renewing Evangelicalism; A Primer for Suspicious Protestants which I suggested in my review was a better and more edgy book that his later "Evangelicals and Tradition". Jim Belcher also points to the Great Tradition, and references DH Williams, and I hope his American audience takes note.

- There is plenty of good material online around the subject "deep ecclesiology". I taught on it many times, In fact, I think I coined the word in Europe in 2002. It was later was picked up by Brian McLaren and adopted by Emergent Village officially, and other groups more informally. I dont find Belcher referencing much of this previous conversation. But maybe he is a book person and not a blog person. All the same, Belcher points the church in a good direction and good things will no doubt come of it.

"A deep ecclesiology, from what I have seen, is still around the corner." Andrew Jones, The Ooze, 2002

- I have 200 books on the emerging church and really don't need more unless they significantly add to the conversation. But Jim Belcher's book does and deserves to be on the shelf. However, I am still not convinced that we need a third way. So I will keep on planting new churches as someone equally at home in the traditional and the emerging global mission scene.