Equipping followers of Christ to engage in their everyday work as the work of God, so workplaces are invigorated, communities flourish and culture is renewed to the honor and glory of the Lord.

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Friday, September 27, 2013

The Problem With "We The People..."

Christian school principals in the State of Kentucky, where I was the guest of Dr. Randy Ross, Regional Director of the Association of Christian Schools International in the Ohio River Valley, who is standing with me in this photo (on the right).
This is what is missing in America today: Our children are being brought up in an environment without respect for God and His Word, and therefore no regard for what He has to say about anything. The outcome is a host of adults who have no regard for God or the Bible.

This is the problem with "We The People..." When the majority of voting citizens are brought up in an environment with no respect for God and His Word, they vote the way they see it. Naturally. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand why America is going the direction it is.

Last week I had the privilege of sharing with Christian school principals in Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia on the topic of what makes a Christian school "Christian," and how to keep it that way. It's no secret that some schools, like Harvard and Yale, start out strongly Christian and end up...well, something else.

The case for authentic Christian education, and the compelling need for it, is stronger today than ever. By "authentic," I mean education that connects the dots, by "contextualizing" every academic subject within the bigger picture of a biblical world-and-life view. This doesn't mean we tack a Bible verse on the end of a lesson, or just open class with a word of prayer. It means helping students to see how every academic subject makes sense when it is viewed within the context of God's larger frame of reference. Putting all things in that context is the challenge, privilege, mission and mandate of every Christian teacher--and parent as well.

While visiting these principals, I gave them a small taste of what is coming to the Bible Belt. I did this by showing them a short clip of street interviews my wife and I did a couple of years ago in Seattle. In doing back-to-back interviews for well over an hour, with people who gave us permission to record their comments and share them with the world, not a single person made reference to the Bible, in response to a question that past generations most certainly would have. Even in Seattle.

Take a look. Then say a prayer for "we the people" who make this country home: http://youtu.be/jsHiSLgTLv4.  

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Friday, September 20, 2013

Remarkable Courage

This map of Indonesia shows the locations of schools (elementary, secondary and post-secondary) that have been established by The Arastamar Evangelical School of Theology, also called "SETIA," located in East Jakarta. The lines go out to schools in rural, under-developed areas of the country that have been "left behind." They are also areas of recruitment by radical Islamic groups.

Why would a seminary in Indonesia be planting elementary and secondary schools? Shouldn't they just be planting churches? What's going on here?

What's going on is the Gospel of the Kingdom at work in Indonesia. By "Gospel of the Kingdom," I don't mean the Gospel of Personal Salvation (although personal salvation is included), but the Gospel of Reconciliation, that Christ may have preeminence in all things--in heaven and on earth (please see Col. 1:16-20).

This calls for reading, 'riting and 'rithmetic, because "things on earth" include business things, civil things, agricultural things, artistic things and family things. Neighborhood things. Educational things. Legal things. This is the wholistic Gospel, that not only provides blessed hope for eternity, but blessed hope for the here-and-now.

This vision has come at a high price for the Arastamer School of Theology. It is a price most Americans can barely conceive, and it demands remarkable courage. 

Such as the time when Dr. Matheus Mangentang, Director of the School of Theology, received word direcctly from the leader of one of the most radical Islamic groups in Indonesia that he was going to kill Matheus. What did Matheus do? He invited this radical leader to meet him for dinner. (What would I have done? I would have called the FBI and installed a serious alarm system around my house!) 

Matheus met his adversary face to face. When they got together, the radical Muslim leader wanted to know why Matheus was unafraid. This opened a deep conversation. When the Muslim leader saw that Matheus was working for the common good of Indonesia, the two men became friends. And they remain friends today.

But all has not been rosy for the seminary in Jakarta. In July of 2008, it was attacked by an angry mob, armed with metal clubs and machetes. As police evacuated students and staff, the attackers threw acid and slashed students with swords. The school was literally driven out of the city.

For a more complete account of this matter, and to find out what happened next, I urge you to view the stunning video contained in this link: http://www.memverse.com/stt_setia. If you think you have problems, take a look. More importantly, if you want to see grace in action, click the link.

With Matheus Mangentang and his wife, Ester, at the Business as Mission, Indonesian Economic Development Conference three weeks ago in Columbus, Ohio.

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Friday, September 13, 2013

"They Showed Us By Their Faith And Lifestyle"

Jamek Masque, in Kuala Lumpur, capital of Malaysia, built in 1907.  [Photo from Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams (Earth), licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic, from Wikipedia.]

After reading last week’s post, David Oliver (British author of Love Work, Live Life!), sent me this note about his experience in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, immediately north of Indonesia:

"I went up the Menara tower overlooking the city and purchased an audio tour guide. As I got towards the end of the tour (station 12 in the tower) I realised afterwards that this had of course been carefully choreographed as I stood looking out over row upon row of golden topped mosques.

The commentary ran as follows: 'In the 14th century, Indian [Muslim] traders came to our land and showed us by their faith and lifestyle that we could be freed from the shackles of Buddhism. So we embraced their faith and their language and have done till this day.'"

Let those words sink in: "…[they] showed us by their faith and lifestye...” Traders? Sellers of widgets? Business people? “…so we embraced their faith…” Today, 61% of the population of Malaysia is Muslim.

Therein lies an important message for Christians. What's the message? I hardly need to say it. But on the other hand, maybe I do.

Let me start on a positive note, by sharing hope from Indonesia. I became aware of this two weeks ago, while speaking at a conference for Indonesians in America. The conference theme was "Business as Mission and Indonesian Economic Development." 

One of the other speakers was Dr. Matheus Mangentang, Director of The Arastamar Evangelical School of Theology, a seminary established in East Jakarta in 1987. By 2007, this school had become the largest school of theology in Indonesia.

As I heard Dr. Mangentang describe his work, I realized this school is not your typical school of theology, and Matheus is not your typical school director. They do not advertise for students, and their goal is not to raise up theologians. They are raising up nation-builders.

A wholistic approach to Christianity has led them to plant scores of elementary and secondary schools throughout Indonesia, among populations "left behind." This is where their students come from, and this is where their students return. They come from undeveloped communities and return to them, engaging as Christians.

This has made Matheus a target among radical Muslim forces. Next week I'll share how he responded when the leader of one of these notorious groups informed Matheus he was going to kill him. I was dumbfounded.

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Friday, September 6, 2013

Not Part Of The Muslim Mindset

[This map of Indonesia is public domain.]

Indonesia is a fascinating country. It has some 17,000 islands (I say "some" because a few disappear at high tidean Indonesian joke), with 240,000,000 inhabitants. It is the fourth most populous nation on the planet.

Last weekend I spoke at a conference in Columbus, Ohio, where Christian Indonesian college students and young working professionals currently living in the United States gathered to focus on how business can positively affect Indonesian communities, particularly underprivileged people in rural areas. 

Many non-Indonesians are surprised to learn that 88% of the Indonesian population claims to be Muslim. In fact, Indonesia has more self-proclaimed Muslims than any other nation on earth. The number of Muslims in Indonesia exceeds the number that are in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Kuwait, Yemen, Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan combined! 

How did it happen that this part of the world, far from the Middle East, came to have such a large body of Muslims? Michael Baer, in Business As Mission, writes: 

"I once asked an Indonesian Christian why the country had become so predominantly Muslim...She said that when the Western Christians came, primarily from Holland, they built missionary compounds and missionary churches and expected the Indonesian people to come to them. The Muslims, on the other hand, came as traders, farmers, merchants, and businesspeople and simply lived among the natives."
Dr. Darrell Furgason, a friend of mine who holds a Ph. D. from the University of Sydney in Religious Studies, and is an expert on Islam, has this to say:  

"In places like Africa and Indonesia, the church has been intellectually crippled, with one hand tied behind its back. Western missionaries generally brought the Gospel in the way they learned it, as a purely soul-saving faith, with no real bearing on anything else--religion was a mostly personal matter, nothing to do with things like politics, science, law, economics...African people were given the Gospel, but not how to build a righteous nation, how to apply Christianity to everything...Muslims see their faith as all-encompassing..."

The "Sacred-Secular Split" [SSD] is not part of the Muslim mindset. Yet, regrettably for all nations, it is the mindset of far too many Christians. Take 2.5 minutes to hear what Dr. Aila Tasse told me about the problem of "SSD" in northern Kenya, where his organization, Lifeway Mission, plants churches in Muslim communities [http://youtu.be/o5qHFe6O1uU]

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