I have been an avid reader and lover of history since college. And I have learned a lot from Scott Sunquist, a close friend for the past 34 years since our days in seminary together. Scott went on to get his PhD in Asian Church history and missiology, and is now a Professor of World Christianity and a Dean at Fuller Theological Seminary. I recently sat down with him around the question: What are lessons we need to learn today on how the Holy Spirit has expanded God’s kingdom these last 2,000 years? Here are a few of his insights: Look for the life of Jesus on the margins. From Jesus and the 12 in Galilee, to the surprising growth of Christianity among slaves in North America and the Caribbean, to the church explosion among farmers in northern Korea in the early 20th century, to the launch of the Pentecostal movement at Azusa Street. Read more.
When we take on a new role or position, it is helpful to remember Tertullian’s (155–222 AD) wise counsel: “It is God’s nature to be patient. One of the signs the Holy Spirit has descended is that patience and waiting is always by its side.” A few years ago Bobb Biehl, one of my mentors, shared an application of this principle that has served me well. It is the 4-year rule: When you take on a new position or role, it will take you 4 years to learn it. (This applies even if you have been in the organization for 20 years yet are moving to a new role). Year 1: Orientation – It takes one year to adjust to your new role. By the end of the 1st year, you are beginning to understand where things are, how to relate to co-workers, the strengths and weaknesses of the ministry, etc. Year 2: Experimentation – By the. Read more.
For years I heard the maxim: “Hire to your weaknesses.” A more important truism, however, might be: “Hire to minimize your toxicity.” I used to idealize gifted leaders who were “successful,” projecting on them a weight they could not bear. Getting close up to them always revealed their “dark” side, their limitations, and their toxicity. I found out they too were sinners, deeply impacted by the Fall just like me. What can we do then? None of us wants to unleash our toxicity into the organizations and communities we lead. Here are three suggestions: 1. Grow in Self-awareness. Ponder. Reflect. Invite feedback. Slow down to listen and ask questions. My 22 year old recently commented on the way I took for granted the time of a young New Life staff person who was waiting to meet with me. After defending myself for a few minutes, the Holy Spirit quietly whispered, “Shut up and listen.” I. Read more.
It is always a rich privilege to step outside one’s context and world. This trip was no exception. The following are a few additional learnings I noted on the way home yesterday: 1. God is moving all over the world. God reminded me of this text often during this trip – “the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world – just as it has been doing among you” (Colossians 1:6). 2. The impact of China. With 1.3 billion people and a church about 100 million strong, the economic, spiritual, cultural, and political influence of China is staggering. Few of us in the USA or the West, I think, appreciate this reality. 3. South Africa. One church we visited had about 400 white South Africans. Perth, Australia has over 100,000 more. Why? Violence and racial tensions. Having spent a most of my adult life wrestling with racial tensions here in the USA,. Read more.
As with our time in New Zealand, we experienced a very full 7 days in Singapore, teaching 3 different seminars to over 500 pastors/leaders, and speaking to 1600 people at a plenary session. We had the privilege to interact and learn from leaders from China, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Myunnmar, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Brunei. How did God come to us? 1. The groundswell of the life of God in Asia is quite distinct from our 35 years of leadership in the United States. There is an aliveness, a power, a passion, a creativity, and a movement of the Holy Spirit that is impossible to miss. The sheer number of Christians in China (estimates put it at 100 million) dwarfs North America. The center of Christianity truly has moved away from North America and Europe to Asia (along with Latin America and Africa). 2. Emotionally Healthy Spirituality seems to meet a profound felt need. Read more.
Tony Campolo frequently points out that Matt.7:1-5 does not teach “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” Instead, it means we are to: “Love the sinner and hate your own sin.” Thomas Merton made a similar point: “If you love peace, then hate injustice, hate tyranny, hate greed – but hate those things in yourself, not in another.” Geri and I just completed our 3-city tour in New Zealand (EHS in partnership with the Willow Creek Association NZ). I was particularly struck by the generous spirit of believers on issues that are particularly contentious and divisive in the USA. Consider the following: Charismatic Baptists. While I know of one or two pastors who might identify themselves as such, this is quite common in New Zealand. Women pastors and elders. We met many here on this tour. Learning from the multicultural, global church. The church I preached in last Sunday had 38 nations represented. I particularly. Read more.