Judson The Baptist

I’m currently reading through Adoniram Judson – A Bicentennial Appreciation of The Pioneer American Missionary by Jason G. Duesling. It’s a terrific read, giving good historical context to Judson’s decision in becoming a missionary and outline of his work and family.

He began his faith as a Congregationalist, coming from the house of a Congregationalist minister. But after working through the intricacies of being the first missionary with the denomination he became a Baptist while travelling from America to Burma. This certainly caused a bit of a stir at the time, as you could imagine.

In the 1913 issue of the Foreign Mission Journal there is mention of the presentation of the Judson Centennial fundraising movement at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting. One statement recorded from the evening summarised the guidance Judson received from the Spirit and the Word.

The mighty significance of the Judson spirit is not the fact that when a missionary is left alone with his Bible he becomes a Baptist, but the significant thing is that when a Baptist is left alone with his Bible he becomes a missionary.

This is one of the great mission quotes, let alone one that inspires those who call themselves ‘Baptist’.

Adoniram Judson’s Courtship Proposal

AAJudsonAnn Hasseltine asked Adoniram Judson to write to her father and ask for permission in order to begin a courtship with her, this is what he wrote in July, 1810:

“I have now to ask, whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next Spring, to see her no more in this world; whether you can consent to her departure, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of missionary life; whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean; to the fatal influence of the climate of India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death. Can you consent to all this, for the sake of him who left his heavenly home and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing immortal souls; for the sake of Zion, and the glory of God?”

That is some proposition!

Ann’s parents ended up letting her make the decision. And in her journal she writes:

Jesus is faithful; his promises are previous. Were it not for these considerations, I should, with my present prospects., sink down in despair, especially as no female has, to my knowledge, ever left the shores of America to spend her life among the heathen; nor do I yet know that I shall have a single female companion. But God is my witness, that I have not dared to decline the offer that has been made me, though so many are ready to call it a “wild, romantic, undertaking”.

A DIY Discipleship Plan

We are in the fortunate position of living in a Christian resource-rich period of time. No other generation has had such access to the teaching of the Bible and other resources that come with it. Only a few years ago it was impossible to hear any sermon other than the one you heard while attending your local church. Now, I can listen to one sermon on the way to work and another on the way home. That’s crazy.

The amount of books, podcasts, music, articles and blog posts, devotionals, and different versions of the Bible give a plethora of options in helping us to understand and know God better. But, it can also cause a tremendous amount of confusion because there is so much choice.

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Therefore, I find it helpful to think about how I’m going to grow in my understanding of God and develop as a follower of Jesus by having a plan. In previous years I’ve attempted to read the Bible through in a year. There are many good plans to help with this and I find committing to reading four chapters a day the most consistent method. Having said this, I haven’t been overly successful lately.

Because I enjoy learning, particularly through reading and listening, I’ve decided to approach my discipleship development in a different way for 2015. Rather than have broad goals of reading the Bible through in a year and praying regularly I’ve sought to make them a bit more specific.

In structuring this plan I’ve broken my development into four areas; biblical theology, historical theology, systematic theology, and practical theology. Within these four areas I then have specific resources I’d like to read or listen to at different times throughout the year. See below as an example:

Biblical Theology

  • Read the book of Jeremiah 5 times
  • Read a commentary on Jeremiah
  • Reach the book of Hebrews 5 times
  • Read a commentary on Hebrews

Historical Theology

Systematic Theology

  • Read 3-4 books on the topic of ‘Salvation’ (Do you have anything to recommend in this area?)

Practical Theology

There are many resources to read, watch, and listen to. There are conferences to go to and church to attend. There are small groups to join and other community activities to be part of. There is no doubt that discipleship is communal. I don’t want to negate this. But on a personal level I also want to continue to grow in my knowledge of God through his Word, what He’s done in history, through the teaching of others and then seek to apply it.

It’s at least a plan, and I like plans, even if they don’t always get achieved the way I think they should be. So next year I’m going in with a plan to develop as a disciple. What about you?

Remembering Missionaries This Christmas

cross and christmasEvery week I receive numerous newsletters and emails from cross-cultural workers (or missionaries depending on your preference) telling me what they’ve been up to and what they’d like prayer for in the coming months. As you can imagine this time of year brings with it a certain theme – Christmas.

Christmas isn’t an easy time for missionaries. The same can be said for many people back home too. But part of being a missionary means you’ve left your extended family to live and work in a place where you’re an outsider.

You don’t know the language as well as the locals, you are away from the comforts you’ve been bought up with, you’re more than likely unable to worship in the capacity you’re used to for this festive season, and the big Christmas meal probably won’t include a large succulent turkey. Christmas can be a tough little period where you begin wishing you were back home.

In among all the palaver that comes with celebrating a Western Christmas the main tinge of sadness comes from not being able to celebrate with others, particularly family. It is the relational aspect to Christmas that can be hardest, that can being with it this sense of disappointment.

In the two years we were in the Middle East we felt that strongly. We lived within a school that had a few other expat teachers to celebrate Christmas with. It was a great time together and we did of course have a lot of fun. But once the food has been eaten and the afternoon slumber has come over you there is that time of reflection and wishing you could just hang with people you know.

On the other hand there is a great opportunity for missionaries to share the good news of what God has done. Living in a different culture where Christmas isn’t thought of as anything more than a Christian holiday and a few days off work becomes a time where you can tell others about what it really means. That Christmas is actually the remembrance and celebration of God entering the world in human form, bringing hope and joy. And while this may be an assumed reason in the West, when living in a non-Western country the ability to talk about faith and religion is far greater. Striking up a conversation about why Christmas is important and what it means can come far more naturally in a foreign setting than in the Santa-obsessed, present-focused West.

This Christmas is again, like every year, a good reminder to think of those who are away from family.

I am making a conscious effort to pray for and drop a line to those who I know are serving in a missionary capacity. Perhaps you could too?

A few things you could pray for could be:

  • Joy among the sadness of being away from family.
  • Opportunities to share the real meaning of Christmas with those they live and work with.
  • Time for reflection and recuperation from the year that has been.
  • A deeper sense of the love of God and the love of those back home.

Around The Grounds (28/10/2014)

Around the Grounds is a list of articles or posts I recently found interesting. I hope you do too.

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The Unexpected Sacrifices Of The Mission Field – Kevin DeYoung is doing a little less blogging in the next few months – writing a book of course. But, this gives one of his mates a chance to do some guest blogging, particularly on missions. Looks like it’ll be a good read.

Six Millennial Statistics Every Adult Should Know – This post provided a few emails between colleagues as we began thinking through the questions he asks. I’ve already written about one of them here. I plan to write some responses to the other questions posed in the next few weeks too.

Millennials And The Bible – Another insightful post from Barna about the Millennial generation. I like the paper version too, much more authentic. 😉

Education, Millennials and Missions

millennials-graphic-600The post ‘Six Millennial Statistics Every Adult Should Know‘ was published a little over two weeks ago. I was sent a link for it through a colleague who also challenged a group of us to respond to one of the questions being posed and how it related to missions and missions engagement. As a side note, I reckon this article is worth consideration, as opposed to other Gen Y blog posts because it actually asks really good questions at the end of every point. In any case, I responded to the question through the group email in the following way. You’ll notice I’ve also included the paragraph and questions I was responding to.

Well Educated

School plays a larger role in this generation of young adults than any in American history. 23% have a Bachelor’s degree or higher, making them the most educated generation ever. Obviously, some have stayed in school due to a poor economy. (It just wasn’t a good time to launch a career). Others stayed in school because mom or dad pushed them to get that college degree and a “white collar” job instead of a “blue collar” job, and parents were all too happy to have them live at home during (and after) the process. So they’re well educated but may need to take a job they are over-qualified for at first. It also may mean they take a job where they must “pay their dues” in order to make progress. This is difficult.

Question: How can we enable young adults to capitalize on their education and leverage it to take them where they’re most gifted to serve?

My thoughts:

Most of my “ministry career” has been doing youth and young adult ministry in the rich part of Melbourne. The majority of my kids were going to private schools or top public schools in the state. The importance of education is taught at an early age and takes away time from church. The pressure from the school and parents was enormous, so much so that many of the year 11-12’s were having mental health issues like anxiety and depression.

The expectation is to continue this education into their university studies and then career. Western culture teaches them to continue studying and gain better and better results in order that they can do the exact same with their kids etc.

We all really know this don’t we…?

But, because they’re so educated it means they won’t begin to think about missions in a serious capacity until they’re almost out of their university degree. This has implications for us as the average age of someone jumping into missions and heading off long-term will continue to be pushed out to the 30s and 40s – once their education and career has been established.

Because they’re so educated it means they will want to use what they’ve learnt in the future. It’s not often to have someone come and say they’d like to just give up what they studied and worked toward for something else. Well, unless they’ve been in the workforce for 10 years and its time for a career change or something. This has implications for us as those who wish to do missions will want to use their skills and education as the backbone to their missionary effort. This might mean people won’t fit into our organisation but on the other hand it will mean we get well-educated professionals when they do fit.

Because they’re so educated they will be better able to understand the concepts and ideas that missiology and theology present to them. I don’t think any teaching is too deep for any Millennial, as long as its clear and answers the question of why. The implication for us is that there needs to be in-depth and rigorous training and development given throughout their “missionary career”.

Because they’re so educated they will have a fair bit of financial debt. While Fee-Help and HECS is brilliant and in reality may not need to be paid off because they won’t earn enough it is still a debt they will be carrying. Depending on their personality they may wish to pay it off or live with it hanging over their head – like I do. This has implications for us because they may wish to pay this off as they serve and therefore have it included in their support budget. Also, if they’re required to go to theological college then that debt will be increased at a significant rate because of the private nature of theological schools.

I think the tough question is how do we show that they will be using their education as part of their missionary efforts on the field?

To suggest that they won’t be using any of their studies will simply drive people away. We need to take each person as they are and show them how they can be of great help using their skills and what they’ve learnt. Telling stories of workers who’ve gone over and found that their skills and education help them build relationships and teach others is important. And, I think it’s important to show people that their education is more than just a visa platform too.

How would you respond? 

A Radically Ordinary Faith

There is much written about the radical nature of following Jesus.

The call to come and follow Him.

The call to take up your cross.

The call to be a radical disciple.

Whatever way you put it Christianity can be portrayed as some type of hyper-enthusiastic, always active, and amazingly awesome life.

And then you have to clean the dishes currently lying in the sink, change the babies nappy, make your bed, or put the rubbish out.

That’s not amazing.

That’s mundane.

That’s ordinary.

A Radically Ordinary Faith

And what do you do with a verse like 1 Thessalonians 4:11, “…make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you…”?

Sounds pretty ordinary to me.

There can be a tendency to believe we’re not ‘radical’ enough in our faith,  that we’re not doing enough radical stuff with our lives. The implication of this is that we’re not being obedient. We’re not living up to the kind of discipleship required of us as followers of Jesus.

But when we think this way we begin to diminish the life God has given us.

If God has created us, made us who we are, and has us in the place we currently find ourselves in, then perhaps we can trust that our faith is ‘radical’ enough.

This isn’t to be used as an excuse for laziness, a reason to neglect serving others, and avoiding any form of growth in our faith. But, our faith must be something that relates to and be relevant to our daily lives.

I always find it inspiring to hear of the adventures and opportunities missionaries have as they serve God overseas. It’s inspiring to see people get involved in missions, church planting, and other evangelism initiatives. Every now and then I get an email from a university worker working with international students. The stories that are shared are quite incredible, hearing of the way people are attracted to hearing more about faith and understanding the Bible for themselves. Some of these stories are very encouraging.

And so it’s inspiring to see the work people are doing, and even more exciting to see people become interested in knowing more about Jesus. But I’m not sure they’d tell you they’re being radical in their faith because of the work they’re doing, and neither will a missionary or a pastor. The work is often very ordinary.

And so what does a radical faith look like for freshly minted teaching graduate who is in the middle of a long first year, struggling to find time to read their Bible because the nightly preparation takes so long. Or the plumber who has been dealing with crap all day, trying to spend time with the family among the household chores. Or the mum who looks after the children, who is waiting for her partner to arrive home from work in order to help her out.

What does ‘radical’ faith mean for them?

It may be me in my most cynical moments, where I totally turn deaf to this call to be radical, but I’m not sure whether telling people to be more radical is helpful. To me, it adds another burden, another layer of guilt, where I end up feeling my faith isn’t good enough and I need to do more. I see the need to make the call for people to be more radical in their faith, many of us aren’t. But at the same time, what does it mean for my faith to be relevant in the mundane?

What do you think?

Millennials & Mission Organisations

Time_MillennialI’m a 1982 baby. Depending on what survey you’d like to agree with I sneak into the Millennial, or Gen Y, generation.

My wife and I headed to the Middle East when we were in our early twenties. Spurred on by a call to global missions we spent two years working as missionaries through a local school. Since then I’ve continued the ministry path as a Youth & Young Adults Pastor, and now working with the Australian Baptist mission agency – Global Interaction. My main tasks include walking alongside young adults and encouraging them to follow God into missions, connecting with churches and pastors, and facilitating short-term mission teams. For the last 12 years my world has involved working with youth and young adults in a variety of ways and mobilising them toward long-term mission service – here or overseas.

In the recent Evangelical Missions Quarterly journal Jim Raymo writes an article entitled “Mission & Millennials: Encouraging A Generation Toward Mission Service”. In this post I simply want to engage with it and affirm it. But also, after months of pondering and talking about this article with a few people I’d like to add my own reflections to what Raymo has said.

Engaging with Millennials is an important topic for mission agencies and churches to be thinking about. It will be the Millennial generation who will be the most active on the mission field in 10-20 years time. They will be the next team leaders, the next organisational leaders, the ones who will pass the faith onto the following generation and continue the enormous task of reaching the least-reached.

When I look at the Christian young adults I come across I see people who are wrestling with what God is calling them to. They want to serve Jesus in the best way possible, use their gifts, skills, and abilities in ways that will extend His kingdom, and bring love and compassion to those who don’t see much of it. They seek to serve God and serve others, willing to give up opportunities in the West to serve in other places and in other cultures.

In light of this mission agencies may like to consider the following points in how best to integrate young adults into the life of their organisation.

1. Communicate regularly and clearly
A large portion of the points Raymo makes are related to communication, spoken and unspoken. In fact, it may cover all his points. Leaders need to be willing to communicate the ‘why’ in everything. Whether it is the ‘why’ of the organisation or the ‘why’ of a particular task in a particular project. We like to know why we’re doing what we’re doing and whether it actually has any significance. There’s nothing worse than being given tasks that seem irrelevant. But if the relevance is explained and questions answered, that’s certainly helpful. Oh, and don’t skirt the issue, just tell us plainly what’s going on.

2. Give room for improvement and growth
Linked to communication is the aspect of improvement and growth. In each role I’ve had I have always wanted to grow in my experience and expertise. In any role I want to know if it is actually helping me in my ‘career’ or chosen vocation. If it’s not helping or is looking like a dead end I get nervous. I want to improve and better myself, organisations need to show how this can occur.

3. Show and tell high expectations
Everyone has expectations and we, as a Millennial generation, have high expectations. We want the best out of ourselves and the best out of everybody else. If people aren’t pulling their weight then we quickly become frustrated and annoyed with them and the system. It’s like the group assignments at uni, nothing worse than a person who doesn’t put in and gets good marks off the back of everyone else. The leaders we work for need to show they have high expectations for themselves too. Give us a task and tell us you want to achieve a high level of success, tell us your benchmark of what success looks like. We’ll try our damn hardest to get there if we reckon it’s a goer.

4. Be open to new ideas
The phrase “that’s the way we’ve always done it” is the worst possible phrase to come out of any leader’s mouth. Don’t say it. Don’t even think of saying it. If you do, you’ll lose us. Our ideas aren’t meant to be radical or cutting edge. They’re not meant to be upsetting for people who are not used to them either. Our ideas are simply that, ideas. But somewhere along the line you’ll need to give us the freedom to work with them and do them. Let us do that and you might be amazed at how things turn out.

5. Respect
If you’re not communicating, not giving us room to grow, not setting high expectations, and not open to new ideas then you’re telling us you’ve got no respect. Respect is earned, but it is also there initially when you take us on or when you have that first conversation with us. Respect us for who we are and what we can do and help us grow as people.

6. Have a big vision of God and the work
Of all organisations, mission agencies should be the ones who are leading and equipping people to serve God. God who rules the world and continues to play an active role within it. God who is spoken of with such high and lofty language in Scripture that we should be able to see that vision of God a mile off. Like generations of the past, we hunger after more of God and seek to be part of what He is doing. So tell me why your organisation is one I should be involved with and what kind of vision of God you have in the work you do.

Why Joining A Short-Term Mission Team Is For You

I’m a believer in short-term mission teams and whether you’re 18 or 68 I reckon you should go on one.

Here are three reasons why:

why-joining-a-mission-team-is-for-you

1. Grow As A Disciple

A short-term team of 6-10 participants living in close proximity to one another for two weeks will do wonders for your growth as a disciple. Many of the fruits of the Spirit will be evident, many rotten fruits of the Spirit will become evident too!

But seriously, being a team member of an encounter trip will give you inspiration in your own faith as you meet new people, get involved in activities that stretch you, and see God’s creative design. Using your gifts, skills, and abilities in a place, and with people, you wouldn’t normally be in means a short-term team will stretch your capacity as a person and disciple.

In this environment there is a higher reliance on prayer and a deeper trust in God needed. And once your’ve returned you’ll realise who thankful you are for what you have.

2. Find Out What’s Involved

For all the supporter newsletters you read there isn’t anything like seeing what cross-cultural missions is really like. When you visit missionaries in their context you’ll have a more realistic look at the people and work that happens week-to-week. The interest you show will encourage workers in what they’re doing. You’ll have stories to share when you arrive home, and through them encourage the wider church in it’s mission. And you might also find you have new friends from other parts of the world. What an opportunity!

3. See What God Is Doing In The World

Seeing God at work in another place, particularly in another culture, puts into perspective our own situations. It places God at the centre, who continues to call a people to Himself in different places and in different ways, with the use of different people. This continuing work of God, as you talk with new believers, hear the stories of workers connecting with local people, and finding opportunities to talk about Jesus yourself, will simply be God-inspiring.

Visiting another culture will open your eyes to what God is doing in this world. He still works through His Spirit, bringing people to understand the Gospel through people like you. Knowing what He is doing in the world today allows you to look to the future with hope, and raises the question of how you can be involved yourself.

Like, Comment, and Share all you want. There is nothing like experiencing it for yourself.

More Millennial Posts

The last few days have seen an influx of Millennial articles hit my social media stream. The two I link to below are quite good and show an understanding of Millennial culture. Again, I do get sick of these articles a bit because they can be so generalised. Have a read and enjoy!

Millennials need a bigger God, not a hipper pastor by Drew Dyck is a good reminder to speak of a vision of God who is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-capable in this world. One who will continue to stay faithful to us, even when we reject Him and sin against Him.

Ten reasons churches aren’t reaching Millennials by Frank Matthew Powell is written for churches and pastors who are seeking to engage this generation. Unlike other posts which outline what’s wrong with the generation this outlines what’s wrong with the churches who aren’t respecting Millennials.