William Cavanaugh on Religious Violence

William cavanaugh

"The myth of religious violence promotes a dichotomy between us in the secular West who are rational and peacemaking, and them, the hordes of violent religious fanatics in the Muslim world. Their violence is religious, and therefore irrational and divisive. Our violence, on the other hand, is rational, peacemaking, and necessary. Regrettably, we find ourselves forced to bomb them into the higher rationality." William Cavanaugh, DePaul University

Tomorrow, I will be enjoying a lunch with William Cavanaugh. If you have any questions you would like to ask him, let me know in a comment below.

On Muslims Destroying Religious Shrines and Pagan Artifacts

Are the Muslims REALLY planning to destroy the pyramids? I think NOT. The story this week from Egypt appears to be a hoax. Which is good news.

Last year we had a fantastic tour of both the pyramids and the Cairo museum by Ibrahmim Morgan, an egyptologist and historian. We even took a camel tour of the area. So you can imagine my concern this week to hear of plans to destroy the pyramids or cover them with wax because of their pagan symbolism.

Destroy pyramids

But apparently there are no such plans to destroy the pyramids. 

Calls from a Bahraini Sunni cleric to destroy Egypt’s Great Pyramids have been revealed as a hoax. The demands were made from a Twitter account which claimed to be owned by Bahrain’s President of National Unity, Abd al-Latif al-Mahmoud. Source

But the story, even though a hoax, does illustrate the tension between religious extremists and pagan artifacts which have been destroyed and defaced through the ages by Christians and Muslims alike. What is our response to pagan symbols? Idols? 

Pyramids egypt giza

But first, let me show off my pics of me in Egypt last year. This is the photo where you imagine my right hand is actually a little lower than it is and it looks EXACTLY like I am holding the pyramids in my hand and you say  . . . . "Wow that looks EXACTLY like you are holding the pyramids in your hand!"

Andrew sphinx cairo egypt

This is the famous Sphinx and I am attempting to do a Maori hongi nose-touching greeting. But, obviously, as you can see, even with my head positioned lower than it should be for such an amazing photographic illusion, the Sphinx has no nose, ever since its face was vandalized, they say, in 1378 A.D. by Mohammed Sa'im al-Dahr, a "fanatical sufi of the oldest and most highly respected sufi convent of Cairo." Source.

Looks like payback time for the sufis. According to news reports, sufi tombs and shrines are, in fact, being destroyed in Timbuktu, Mali. This is a tragedy and an outrage. In fact, I am considering doing a series of blog posts, one for each sufi shrine destroyed in Mali. That would be a way of preserving them on the internet, even though the physical tombs and shrines are disappearing.

In Morroco a few years ago I visited the tomb of the famous sufi mystic and poet Sidi Ali ibn Harzihm. It would be a terrible shame to see these shrines around the world being destroyed. So much history to learn from. I believe we should preserve pagan history and learn from it.

Yes, you can preserve something without worshipping it!

William Carey, famous Baptist and father of modern day missions movements, believed along similar lines. He was a positive force in PRESERVING religious history, even though it conflicted with his own views. The Ramayana, Hinduism's major mythological epic, only existed on birch bark and palm leaves before Carey and Joshua Marshman decided to print it in book form for the world to read and understand.

"I have recommended the Ramayana to begin with, it being one of the most popular of all the Hindoo books accounted sacred .. The Ramayana will furnish the best account of Hindoo mythology that any one book will, and has extravagancy enough to excite a wish to read it through." William Carey, July 24, 1805

What about icons? As I blogged once in "How your Emerging Church can stay in Calvary Chapel", the subject of icons has come up before and the Second Council of Nicea 787 names 'the pictoral icons" as something good which the church has received. Jean Luc Marion in his book The Crossing of the Visible (Cultural Memory in the Present), distinguishes between the idol, which receives the "gaze" and the icon, which passes the "gaze" onward to it proper destination.

What about pagan symbols and practices already embedded in Christianity? Now thats an interesting subject. I recommend a book by some friends of mine called Pagan Christianity. Or have a look at a few of my blog posts:

Easter at the ancient stone circle, Sometimes I dress like a pagan, Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree, We Bow Down and Worship Thee.

Coptic Pope Shenouda III Dies

The head of the Coptic Orthodox Church Pope Shenouda III has passed away at the age of 88. He was greatly loved and respected. I saw pictures of him on walls all over Cairo.

Pope shenoudaiii

I have a lot of respect for the Egyptian Orthodox church. It's one of the oldest churches in the world and has so much to offer other streams of the Christian faith. While in Egypt last year, I got myself a Coptic cross tattoo as a way of identifying with the plight of the Coptic Christians in Egypt and a sign of respect.

coptic cross tattoo in cairo egypt

I heard Pope Shenouda speak at the large prayer gathering in Cairo that happened on 11.11.11 as a response to the recent violence. Some of us felt he should have been more embracing of the evangelical wing of the church and so we were disappointed when he banned their leaders from speaking from the platform. I hope the next Pope will be a little more ecumenical and not too frightened of the Protestants but at the same time I hope the Protestants will be considerate of their older brother in the faith, especially in the lands where the Orthodox have been holding the light for so many centuries.

See the video I shot of the the prayer gathering.

Sisters, skin-color, and sustainability in church planting

Church planting is a man's world, baby! The sisters have moved on to more holistic missional enterprise. Multi-ethnic churches are only part of the solution. Africa must move beyond a handout-mentality and embrace a more sustainable way of doing ministry if it is to be a global player in missions.

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Efrem Smith's response to my blog post got me thinking and out of respect to Efrem, and to get a few things off my chest, I have posted some thoughts here.

A little intro: A lot of people resonated with my post "12 Reasons Not to Plant a Church in 2012, even if it was a little . .  well . . . provocative and sensational. A few days ago it was translated into French [thanks].

And some people didn't like it at all. Thats OK.

The most well-thought out response was by Efrem Smith, church planter and a speaker at Exponential. I tried a few times to leave a comment on his blog but was unsuccessful. So instead I will just give some quick response to his objections which he called "My Take on, 9 Reasons Not to Plant a Church in 2012"


One, the advice on church planting begins with C. Peter Wagner’s outdated principles on church planting. If this is where we are beginning, not only should we not plant churches this year, we should stop completely. Planting churches doesn’t begin with what C. Peter Wagner says, it begins with what Scripture says. For example, “How does the book of Acts speak to whether we should plant churches or not?”


Efrem, I agree that we should start with the Scriptures but the impact of C.Peter Wagner on the church planting movement seems obvious to me. Pick up a few books on church planting or read some articles and you will see his influence.

'This is why a leading missiologist like C.Peter Wagner can say, "Planting new churches is the most effective evangelistic methodology known under heaven." Tim Keller, Why Plant Churches, PDF

Continue reading "Sisters, skin-color, and sustainability in church planting" »

New Christian websites

2 new Christian websites are launching soon that you should know about: from USA (January) courtesy of Kent Shaffer. from UK (February). Everyone say hello to Ian Matthews.

Both are open for Christian content, articles, blog posts, etc. Go check them out, join them and submit something before the crowds come. What other similar Christian websites are launching this month????

Also, I am getting traffic from, especially on my Prayer of Jael post. Does anyone know who is doing this website?

And more:

Julia Mitchell has an iPhone app to help women pray called GodFirst.

40 Baptist Voices from the UK.

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]

Practices of a new Jesus movement


I visited a number of Asian countries in 2011 and was amazed at the dynamism and commitment of the young Jesus followers.

One network, in a country that I will not mention, stuck out to me as an outstanding example. They have started almost a thousand new communities, many of them multiplying into the second and third generation. And like many new movements in the non-Western world, a Sunday worship service as an evangelistic entry point for potential members, has not been part of their ministry portfolio. Which was the subject of my somewhat provocative post a few days ago, 9 Reasons NOT to plant a church in 2012.

So if they didn't start worship services, how did they start a replicating movement of Christian communities and how do they maintain such a high level of spiritual growth?

Of course it's hard and a little presumptuous to claim which elements of their ministry are the most important but . . . here are 11 practices that I think have contributed to their success:

1. Bible study.

The Bible studies were simple and regular. And there was a lengthy program of discoving Jesus in the gospels which took months to complete. Most who completed the study decided to follow Jesus by the end. Discipleship was based on an "obedience-based approach" to the Scriptures that happened around their 3 simple Bible study questions [see 4. Simple habits]. When the group meets again, everyone is held accountable to do what they said they were going to do and this way the Word becomes an integral part of life.


2. Open houses.

The people were hospitable to visitors who seemed to come at any time of the day or night. Their houses were full of young people living there while their lives were being transformed. I did not see any buildings used for worship or church functions. Bible studies and events took place in the houses, with young people sitting on carpets and mattresses, but I would not classify it as a house church movement, since there was no regular worship service to invite neighbours into.

3. Fringe focus.

The primary influx was young people from the margins, the underbelly of society and those discarded by it, drug addicts, and postmodern sub-cultures rather than mainstream folk. I have seen this trend all over Asia including Japan. Most of the leaders I met had come from these backgrounds also.


4. Simple habits.

Nothing took a lot of skill. Teaching Bible, sharing jesus, leading AA-type meetings, no need for a charismatic superstar to attract an audience and in fact, there wasn't one. Anyone could lead after a short time of instruction. The Bible studies, for example, were based on the same pattern:

After reading a passage together, they all answered 3 questions:

1. What does it say?

2. What does it say to me?

3. What I'm going to do about it?


5. Good business products.

Financial sustainability came partly from their micro-businesses. The organic products from these businesses were among the best and healthiest in the country, even if they had not yet found a way to promote or distribute them widely. They had also innovated in the production process and believed God gave revelation that is helping them produce more and better goods and in a way that blesses the environment rather than taking from it.


Continue reading "Practices of a new Jesus movement" »

Growing Cafe Churches Singapore Style

Tim Wong flew home to Singapore yesterday but we are still talking about his cafe-churches or "missional cafe communities" as he calls them.

“It costs $20 million to buy land and build a church in Singapore. For that much money, we could buy 100 coffee shops.” Tim Wong

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What's interesting to me is that Tim's dad was the co-author of a church planting book that I was forced to read in Seminary called Growing Churches Singapore Style: Ministry in an Urban Context by Keith Hinton and James Wong.

Canon Dr James Wong, a speaker at Lausanne 74, has shared the same principles on sustainable church planting that his son espouses with his fresh expressions of church.

Less capital cost and funding is required to get new churches started. It also allows for more flexibility and mobility of the centers of witness and worship. The house-churches can always be located where people are found to be most responsive.” James Wong [Evangelism in High-Rise Housing Apartment Buildings, Lasuanne papers, PDF]

Want to read the full post? Go to this spanking new group blog and check it out.

Ministry Real Estate: Buy or rent?

Real estate investment for churches and ministries can be a curse or a blessing. It's one area you can't afford to get wrong. Learn from the new church movements around the world that are RENTING URBAN and BUYING RURAL.

Buy rural real estate for ministry

RENT URBAN: Urban real estate is expensive. And if you buy too early, your ministry gets stuck. Renting is cheaper and gives more flexibility. Some ministries have a number of rental properties in the city that act as urban monasteries and intentional living communities and sometimes shelters in the red light district. Renting allows you to set up short term ministries and then change strategy and location when needed. Be smart and rent urban.

BUY RURAL: Land out in the country is cheaper and more spacious. Even better, you can plant crops and generate some income. Buying rural gives stability to the crazy and often temporal urban ministries. If you get the chance, buy rural.


-  I am blogging this from a rented shelter for street kids in Indonesia. They also rent a house for ex-prostitutes around the corner. But in the country, an hour and a half away, they have bought some land that enables them to plant crops, host big events and enable ex-addicts to start a new life with Jesus and his friends.

- Urban Vision NZ, an outgrowth of Youth For Christ, that rents houses in the city for ministry but purchased an old Presbyterian campground and turned it into a contemporary monastery. This monastery is the location for PassionFest in February.

- In San Francisco, we operated out of a rented space that became our urban monastery but enjoyed a rural training center that was donated to another ministry and made available to us.

Seeking unity in the Egyptian Revolution

Egypt: 33 bodies in the main Cairo morgue right now. Might be more in Alexandria and other cities. 1700 injured, many blinded by rubber bullets. Last month's violence against Coptic Christians, which resulted in 23+ deaths, was the bloodiest sectarian violence in Egypt in 60 years. This week, things got even worse.

Its a mixed bag. The horror of death and the pain of persecution but also the hopeful signs of revival among the Christians, evidenced by last weeks all night prayer meeting which attracted 71,000 people [video], and attempts at unity among Muslims and Christians.

In Cairo, we interviewed one of the guys who has been working inside the revolution to bring peace between Muslims and Christians. This is the Cross and the Crescent T-shirt he created to reflect his heart for peace and harmony.

Cross and crescent egypt

In the first video, he shares about the death of his brother during the riots but, as he says, he "still has to show the love."

[video taken down for some editing. sorry]

In the second video, he talks about his efforts to bring God's peace among the people and the Egyptian revolution that he says was stolen.

[video taken down for some editing]

The third video is about the crescent and the cross, how Egypt can be rebuilt when Christians and Muslims learn to love each other. Its still uploading. Link soon.