Archives For Chris Wright

Earlier this year I heard Christopher J.H. Wright speak here in Phoenix about “saints in the marketplace” – what it means to be a Christian whose work does not take place inside a Christian bubble.

I’ve been reading Wright’s excellent book The Mission of God’s People: A Biblical Theology of the Church’s Mission (Zondervan), which includes a chapter on mission in the public square, on which (I assume) his talk was based. For those unacquainted with the term public square, a synonym might be marketplace, though what Wright has in mind is broad: “the whole world of human cooperative effort in productive projects and creative activity.” He writes:

If society becomes more corrupt and dark, it’s no use blaming society. That’s what fallen human nature does, left unchecked and unchallenged. The question to ask is, Where are the Christians? Where are the saints who will actually live as saints — God’s different people, God’s counterculture — in the public square? Where are those who see their mission as God’s people to live and work and witness in the marketplace, and pay the cost of doing so?

Moral integrity is essential to Christian distinctiveness, which in turn is essential to Christian mission in the public arena. Integrity means that there is no dichotomy between our private and public “face”; between the sacred and the secular in our lives; between the person I am at work and the person I am in church; between what we say and what we do; between what we claim to believe and what we actually practice. This is a major challenge to all believers who live and work in the non-Christian world, and it raises endless ethical dilemmas and often wrenching difficulties of conscience. It is indeed a battlefield — internally and externally. But it is a struggle that cannot be avoided if we are to function with any effectiveness at all as salt and light in society.

He goes on to say that to do our work with missional distinctiveness, we must remember the story in which we are living, a story in which all of creation — the public square included — has been tainted by the fall, and yet is being redeemed by God even now.

Learning to discern the public square’s fallenness and learning to resist its temptations is crucial, he says, and it will not be easy, but it’s what we’re called to do as the people of God. And we can be assured that as we seek to participate in God’s mission in the public square, he will be faithful to us.

1. El Salvador’s gang truce
Earlier this year, imprisoned leaders of El Salvador’s two main gangs declared a truce, mediated in part by the head chaplain for the military and police. For the story of another person of faith who has been serving among gang members in El Salvador, see this. While the country’s murder rate has dropped dramatically (52%) and the truce has held longer than virtually anyone anticipated, it’s still a volatile situation. The Washington Office on Latin America’s commentary on the truce seems spot on (emphasis mine):

The current truce opens a tremendous opportunity: Salvadoran society, the Salvadoran government, the Salvadoran private sector, and international donors should move quickly to use the pause in violence to help install social service and job programs in some of the poorest and most gang-ridden communities, in a way that responds to the real needs of those communities most affected by violence. The Funes administration must take advantage of this moment to work with Salvadoran society in developing a solid, long-term, comprehensive anti-gang strategy that emphasizes violence prevention, reintegration, and rehabilitation. Quick movement, even of small amounts of money, for outreach centers, job training and placement programs, and other activities could send an important and positive message that might help transform the short-term violence reduction that has accompanied the truce into a long-term lowering of crime and violence rates. You don’t have to trust the truce to see the opportunity it presents.

2. Brazil’s “March for Jesus”
Last Saturday in Sao Paolo, more than a million Christians participated in the city’s annual “March for Jesus.” Brazil has long been traditionally Catholic, but evangelicals and Pentecostals are quickly gaining ground, as the size of this march demonstrates. But not all evangelicals in Brazil think this march is completely a good thing. Some are concerned about the event’s sponsoring church, saying, “The march has turned into the brand name for a patented pseudo-Pentecostalism.”

3. A different kind of mission trip
Those who’ve read my recent posts on short-term mission trips and on the Association for a more Just Society will be interested in this recent Huffington Post piece by Jo Kadlecek, journalist-in-residence at Gordon College, about Nicholas Wolterstorff’s recent seminar in Honduras and about questions to ask about mission trips:

The hundreds of young people and adults who travel for short-term missions here, [AJS co-director Kurt] Ver Beek said, don’t always understand what they’re walking into. He believes they genuinely want to be “agents of change,” but too often overlook the reasons behind a country’s systemic problems in the first place. “Justice: Theory Meets Practice,” a seminar he’d dreamt of for several years, was designed specifically to address the larger questions behind such troubles, those that triggered unjust and dangerous situations.

4. Friendship trips
While we’re on the topic of short-term mission trips, the good folks at Alter Video Magazine have a new short film featuring Brazilian pastor Claudio Oliver, who has been on the receiving end of a lot of teams, but proposes a new model he calls “friendship trips,” involving a building project of a very different kind. (HT Katie Jo Ramsey)

5. Chris Wright on missional churches
Chris Wright, head of Langham Partnership International, was the guest speaker at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana this year. The EPC shared this brief interview in which he speaks about missional churches.

6. Introducing Deidox
Somewhere recently (through Jake Belder, perhaps?) I stumbled upon Deidox, “a new series of short documentary films exploring the faith of everyday people.” I’m really looking forward to following along.

Repaso is intended as a thought-provoking compilation of news and commentary from the past week related to the intersections of faith, development, justice and peace. As always, I welcome your thoughts on any of the links and ideas in this roundup!

[Photo credit: "Mara Salvatrucha gang leaders participate in a press conference at the end of a visit by Jose Miguel Insulza, OAS Secretary General, at La Esperanza prison, in San Salvador, on July 12, 2012. (Jose Cabezas/AFP/GettyImages)" via theepochtimes.com]

If you’ve been tracking with this series on the Lausanne Movement, you know that in the first three parts of the series, we took a look at three particularly groundbreaking presentations from the First Lausanne Congress in 1974 from René Padilla, Samuel Escobar, and Carl F.H. Henry, respectively. When I introduced the series in April, I quoted missiologist Al Tizon who argues these three presentations “laid the theological foundation for evangelicals to engage wholeheartedly in ministries of community development, justice for the poor, advocacy for the oppressed and the transformation of society, alongside ministries of evangelism, personal discipleship and church expansion.”

I want to add a fourth and final post to this series, adding a more recent layer that’s equally relevant to this blog’s focus on the intersections of faith, development, justice, and peace.

It comes from the Cape Town Commitment, the statement that came out of the Third Lausanne Congress in Cape Town, South Africa in October 2010. It was a collaborative effort, taking into consideration the perspectives and passions of the 4,200 participants at the Congress, and was drafted by Chris Wright, who heads up the Lausanne Theology Working Group and  directs Langham Partnership International.

The first part of the Cape Town Commitment, intended to lay the biblical foundation, is presented as a series of loves: We love because God first loved us; We love the living God; We love God the Father; We love God the Son; We love God the Holy Spirit; We love God’s Word; We love God’s world; We love the gospel of God; We love the people of God; and We love the mission of God. The second part of the Commitment is a call to action on the basis of those loves.

It’s a beautiful, remarkable document.

The section titled “We love God’s world” affirms a proper love of the world’s nations and cultures, with a particular emphasis on the poor and suffering, but also emphasizes the importance of creation care. Here’s an excerpt:

The earth is created, sustained and redeemed by Christ. We cannot claim to love God while abusing what belongs to Christ by right of creation, redemption and inheritance. We care for the earth and responsibly use its abundant resources, not according to the rationale of the secular world, but for the Lord’s sake. If Jesus is Lord of all the earth, we cannot separate our relationship to Christ from how we act in relation to the earth. For to proclaim the gospel that says ‘Jesus is Lord’ is to proclaim the gospel that includes the earth, since Christ’s Lordship is over all creation. Creation care is thus a gospel issue within the Lordship of Christ.

I’ve written before about how a concern for the poor and vulnerable must be connected to a concern for creation care, and in my story about a gold mine in Guatemala I reflected a bit on my theological understanding of stewardship in light of injustice and exploitation. Creation care cannot be reduced to an optional fad or the concern of a single political party.

I’d urge you to watch this talk Chris Wright recently gave at the Global Day of Prayer for Creation Care in Washington, DC. for a compelling theological basis for the importance of creation care, as well as its limits understood in light of scripture (delivered with a wonderful Irish accent).

[Photo credit: Muir Woods via MLeWallpapers.com]

1. Chris Wright interview
Chris Wright, Old Testament scholar and head of the Langham Partnership (a ministry started by John Stott), was interviewed on the UK-based Nomad Podcast about mission in the Old Testament and gives his perspective on what appear to be ethical conundrums in the Bible. Here also are my notes from a talk Wright gave when he was in town earlier this year.

2. 25 years of refugee resettlement
My former boss, Sheila McGeehan, is profiled by Church World Service for her decades of work resettling refugees in Lancaster. I love the way refugees and immigrants have turned Lancaster City into such a unique, vibrant place, and though she’s too modest to take credit, Sheila has played a big part in that:

Not many people can claim to have resettled thousands upon thousands of refugees to their hometown – but Sheila McGeehan can. Since she began her work with the Church World Service Immigration and Refugee Program (CWS/IRP) 25 years ago, she has introduced refugees from all around the world to Lancaster, Pa. – the “tranquil, prosperous, safe, pretty” city she loves. In turn, newcomers from Russia, Vietnam, Sudan, Bhutan, Ethiopia, Burma, Bosnia, Iraq and numerous other countries have transformed this small city in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch Country into what McGeehan calls a “very cosmopolitan” community, population 55,000-plus.

3. Science in a fallen world
Jason Summers, a real-life scientist, has written a new essay for Q Ideas, calling Christians to faithful engagement in science:

Taking seriously our uniquely human role as practitioners of science, Christians must approach science with a deep grounding in theology and proper understanding of its practice in society. The most significant questions about how science is to be practiced in a fallen world will be settled on the field that spans the two poles of antithesis and common grace. But, if we are to have meaningful input in answering these questions we must heed Pope’s admonition to “check yourself before you wreck yourself” (as a more recent poet has phrased it). Overemphasis of common grace in the practice of science diminishes the unique epistemic perspective of Christians to the extent that faith is made private. In contrast, an overemphasis of antithesis magnifies issues of “ultimate explanation” to the extent that artificial barriers are created to use of valid theoretical constructs. Both distortions are barriers to creating a God honoring culture of science within a society that is pluralistic and fallen, but redeemed and image-bearing.

4. The most read books in the world
A guy by the name of Jared Fanning created an infographic featuring the ten most read books over the past fifty years. Some would be expected, but some are a bit more puzzling. (HT Jesus Creed)

5. Jeppe on a Friday
Here’s the trailer for a “collaborative neighborhood documentary,” set in Johannesburg, South Africa and showing “a day in the lives of eight residents of this area on the brink of massive change.” It looks really fascinating. (HT polis)

Repaso is intended as a thought-provoking compilation of news and commentary from the past week related to the intersections of faith, development, justice and peace. As always, I welcome your thoughts on any of the links and ideas in this roundup!

[Photo credit: eattheblinds.com]

Today and tomorrow, Katie and I are at The Justice Conference in Portland. Look for blog updates of some sort, if not over the weekend, then early(ish) next week.

1. The meaning of Lent
I’m grateful that Katie and I are able to observe Lent this year as part of Christchurch Mesa:

The Christian calendar season of Lent originated in the very earliest days of the Church. The ancient church that wrote, collected and canonized the New Testament also observed Lent, actually believing it to be a commandment from the apostles. The season has traditionally served as a preparatory time for Easter, when the faithful rededicated themselves and when converts were instructed in the faith and prepared for baptism. Therefore, Lent has always been a season of soul-searching and repentance – for reflection and taking stock.

2. Rocking the boat
Tom Becker, who lives in Lancaster and heads up The Row House (“nothing is not sacred”), writes for Catapult Magazine on the dangers of being, of all things… nice:

[W]hy should debate be considered taboo? Why are we so uncomfortable with those who rock the boat, even if they are motivated by love?  I’m going out on a limb here, but maybe we Pennsylvania Dutch tend be just plain cowards. Cowardice is a sin of omission I find myself confessing regularly. I create so many missed opportunities to speak truth lovingly. Guilty as charged.

3. Immigration and biblical justice
Tyler Johnson, one of the pastors at Redemption Church here in Phoenix, had a great essay on the issue of immigration “through the eyes of biblical justice” in last week’s Capital Commentary:

[As] Christians we must acknowledge that our current approach to immigration does not honor God or advance justice. We must confess that God’s command to love our neighbors includes loving people who don’t look like we do, who don’t speak English, and who weren’t born in the United States. And we must work together as leaders and citizens to develop a plan that brings together and commits to uphold the biblical mandates to love our neighbor.

4. Chris Wright on creation care
Chris Wright, whose talk on faith in the marketplace I summarized here, was interviewed by Jim Ball at the Evangelical Environmental Network about creation care and how it relates to Wright’s work with the Lausanne Movement:

5. Franklin Graham’s comments on politics and faith
This week Franklin Graham, head of Samaritan’s Purse and son of the world’s most famous evangelist, made some unfortunate comments speculating on the authenticity of various political figures’ identities as Christians. Peter Wehner, who was part of the Bush administration and is co-author of the excellent City of Man: Religion and Politics in a New Era (which I blogged about here), writes wisely:

The problem here is Graham is judging President Obama’s faith commitment based on a political, not a theological, basis. What Graham seems to be arguing is that Obama is a liberal, he’s wrong on “moral issues,” and so a question mark has to be put over the faith of the president, who has spoken in moving terms about his own journey to Christianity.This is dangerous territory for Graham to reside in. For one thing, it sounds as if the Reverend Graham is questioning whether one can be a political liberal and a Christian at the same time. Of course one can be and to suggest otherwise is offensive. (I’m tempted to say some of my closest friends are Christians who are politically liberal.)

Repaso is intended as a thought-provoking compilation of news and commentary from the past week related to the intersections of faith, development, justice and peace. As always, I welcome your thoughts on any of the links and ideas in this roundup!

[Photo credit: oregontravelcenter.com]