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POSTCARDS

PHIL OLSON

The Saints of Nagaland A few months ago I traveled to India as part of a team from Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary, invited to teach at the Missiological Research Center (MRC) in Dimapur, Nagaland.We arrived in time for the inauguration of MCR’s newest program, a master’s in missiology. Dr. Phuveyi Dozo, the passionate founder of MCR, also runs the nearby Great Commission Kids Academy, where children receive a quality education, healthcare, recreation, music lessons, and religious training (even Hindus are attracted by the Academy’s reputation). There were four of us on the team. Drs. Colleen and Jim DiRaddo, EBTS associate dean and adjunct professor, respectively, taught cross-cultural ministry—a relevant topic since most Nagas look more Chinese than Indian and thus are routinely dismissed by other Indians. Dr. Donald Brash, professor of systematic theology at EBTS, taught on the

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uniqueness of Christ, which was particularly pertinent in a culture characterized by a mix of multi-deistic Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity. My teaching focus was congregational-based holistic ministry. Nagaland is located in the northeast part of India, near Burma (also called Myanmar) and China. It is covered with thick vegetation and mountains, but pollution from open fires and poor sanitation services competes with the natural beauty. Some of the 29 Naga tribes are scattered in nearby Indian states or nations, but because the Nagas want to reintegrate all the Naga people into one state or nation, they are mistrusted back in the capital, Delhi, and maintain a difficult relationship with the federal government of India. A hundred years ago the Nagas were still headhunters. The British had long left them alone, forbidding anyone, including missionaries, to go into this “unprotected” area. When missionaries finally did enter Nagaland in the late 1800s, many of them went in holistically: doing evangelism and planting churches while offering education and healthcare. Some of the older people we talked with recall hearing testimonies of headhunter grandparents who were converted in the initial wave of mission work. Today, Nagaland is one of two “Christian” states in India (with another two or three headed in that direction).This means that about 90 percent of the people in Nagaland are Christians.The Indian government is suspicious of the church’s role, criticizing it for fomenting dissent and possible separation. On the contrary, however, the church is playing a role of peace-broker in the region. On the first day of classes, one of the students, Alem, came into our living quarters and began to share about his faith journey, the congregation he pastors, and the sacrifices it took for him to study at MRC.Alem then dropped to his knees before us, asking that we lay

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hands on him and pray for him and his family, his congregation, and his studies. We witnessed his humble spirit throughout the week as we heard more stories about his love for God and his people. Alem’s openness, we soon discovered, was not typical. Most of the students observed the Indian custom of merely listening to teachers, and all four of us Westerners struggled to try to get them to discuss, argue, and challenge. But we made a few breakthroughs. Ruma, a Nepalese pastor’s wife who is training to be the first Nepalese female pastor, told us that she had been kicked out of her Sikh home in Punjab for converting to Christianity. Still another pastor-student, Latru, shared his struggles with life and ministry in Bhutan, a country that has outlawed Christianity and whose king is considered “God.”Although once captured and nearly killed for his missionary work, he desires to go to an unreached Bhutanese group of 300 people. We had come to offer our knowledge to these students, but they gave us so much more, not least of which were their testimonies. One man told us he liked going on mission trips to Bhutan because “they only put you in jail for two weeks and they at least feed you.” They also offered us the Naga gift of hospitality. In addition to fixing us hot meals three times a day, cleaning our quarters, and doing our laundry by hand, they got up at 5 a.m. to boil hot water so that our pampered American bodies could enjoy warm showers ladled from a bucket. But the best thing I brought home was the memory of our farewell. On our last day the students, staff, and their families caravanned in jeeps, vans, and autorickshaws to nearby Green Park, where we enjoyed food, fellowship, photo sessions, and then teary goodbyes. In a little less than nine days, our team had truly come to love these beautiful saints of Nagaland. ■


POSTCARDS

PHIL OLSON

Break It Down “Explain plate tectonics to a third grader”: Such was the test question for my geology class at the University of Colorado, where Professor Harry Zimbrick was known for that type of exam question. He didn’t want us regurgitating class lectures and reading assignments, and he felt that if we could break down complex concepts into their basic components (so that even a third grader could understand them) then we must truly understand the material. Vince Lombardi, the legendary football coach, began each training camp with the statement, “This is a football,” and I once heard Corrie ten Boom, the Christian heroine who was sent to a concentration camp for harboring Jews during World War II, use the famous aphorism “KISS” (“Keep it simple, Stupid”). Each of these was right—Zimbrick for knowing how we learn best, Lombardi for sticking to the fundamentals, and

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ten Boom for keeping things simple but not simplistic. This is also true in Scripture. God gave the Hebrews a short list of 10 commandments. Jesus, when queried about the breadth of the God’s law, broke it down to “Love the Lord God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.” Ministry benefits from simplification as well. Some congregations around the United States distill those two basic commandments into a mission statement that reads “Love God, love neighbor.” Playing off of the basics of education,John Perkins breaks down Christian community development into another set of three Rs: reconciliation (between God and humans, humans and humans, humans and creation), relocation (incarnational ministry), and redistribution (reallocation of all God’s resources). Breaking down holistic ministry to its simplest components isn’t easy. One tendency is to put things into a linear fashion:steps one,two,and three.Another tendency is for amnesia to set in, causing us to forget the messiness, false steps, and fits and starts that characterize so much of ministry life. Either way, the result is a picture-perfect and highly misleading presentation of holistic ministry. The image I use to communicate the realities of holistic ministry is that of a star. Holistic ministry is at the center of the star, while the points represent its various components, components which are only effective when they shine in concert with all the other points. For example, one point of the holistic-ministry star might represent Bible study. Some congregations engage in holistic ministry because they are either convicted or inspired by God’s Word. Another point might be small groups. Some congregations experience a new or renewed vision for holistic ministry because a small group begins

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to live out what they are learning. Still another might be a special speaker (Tony Campolo, John Perkins, Ron Sider,Tom and Christine Sine, or Jim Wallis, to name a few) who lights a fire in a congregation, and the people respond appropriately by going forth into holistic ministry. Another point of the star might be a community crisis or challenge that requires the congregation to respond rapidly: a rash of teen suicides or pregnancies, a new immigrant group appearing in town, a factory shutdown and subsequent job loss, a racial/ethnic incident, or an environmental catastrophe, for example. Or the crisis or challenge might be a long time in developing: lack of affordable housing, hazardous waste, corrupt courts, unjust banking practices, a scandalous school system. Another point is prayer.The congregation engages in prayer walks, prayer vigils, concerts of prayer, “Lighthouses of Prayer,”“Share, Care, and Prayer,” and more. Prayer drives people into deeper relationships. When congregations engage in authentic, Spirit-inspired worship they are propelled out into a world that God loves so much, equipped with spiritual gifts and a passion to make a difference in the lives of individuals and communities.Although each point is important, no single isolated point reflects the fullness of the holistic ministry star. All points ought to be present. Every congregation is different; some will start in one place, others in another.There’s no “right” place to start, but start we must if we are going to be faithful to the whole gospel. And when that holistic-ministry star shines, “then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday” (Is.58:10b).Then even a third grader will understand what holistic ministry is all about! ■


POSTCARDS

PHIL OLSON

Leadership Development for Effective Outreach In my March/April column I wrote that congregations need to leave the safe confines of their church walls and “hit the road,” reaching out to the hurting world around them.The best way to do this is to develop leaders capable of breaking through those walls. Much has been written about leadership development within the life of a congregation, but I’ve not seen much material concerning how we identify, recruit, and train ministry leaders for local outreach mission. So I’m going to take a stab at it. Apart from the first one, the following items are not necessarily sequential but are to be viewed as components of a plan. Begin with prayer (this may sound obvious, but it’s a frequently overlooked and undervalued factor in missions work). Pray that God would raise up gifted people, open their hearts to heed the

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call of the church when it comes, and create a balance in leadership—men and women, younger and older, those new to the church and old-timers, a good mix of temperaments and races and gifts. Offer a discernment process. Include opportunities for congregants to discover their spiritual gifts, learn about their personality profile, and fill out time and talent inventories. Follow this up with a personal interview by members of the deployment team. Create leadership incubators. I call this the ministry of small jobs—assigning small yet important tasks to parishioners to learn how they might handle bigger ministry responsibilities. But don’t leave people alone; encourage current leadership to develop apprentices. Emerging leaders need to exhibit proven competencies before being moved on to other tasks. View all committees/teams as learning communities in which participants will gain insights about the Christian faith, life, ministry, and their own spiritual formation even as they serve. Select “in-sync” leaders.Who’s getting a grasp on the mission, vision, core values, and bedrock beliefs of your congregation? “Hire” them! Mentoring or coaching of rising leaders can be either formal or informal. The method doesn’t have to be confined to an office or classroom.As a matter of fact, the mentee doesn’t even have to know he or she is being mentored.The key is that mentors know why they’re in a relationship with the developing leader. Some of the seven guys I meet with (two are long-distance relationships via phone) know they are being mentored (either they or I have initiated the involvement), others don’t—but that doesn’t matter.The important piece is intentionality: purposeful conversations. We also need to train leaders. Most churches do not train their leaders except through on-the-job training. Even the best of “natural” (if there is such a PRISM 2004

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thing, and that’s a matter of debate) leaders needs education and continuing education. Such education can be in-house: classes, workshops, seminars, one-on-one meetings, even your own conferences. For each of these venues, you can either use mature leaders or bring in outside resource people.The latter can be especially helpful, since no church has cornered the market on leadership skills. Don’t overlook outsourcing that can come from other churches (pastors and lay ministry leaders), denominational staffs, and educational institutions. The latter can be religious or secular; I once brought in a specialist from the local community college to deal with people’s number-one fear, public speaking. Additional educational possibilities include scheduling guest preachers or professors, providing a theologian- or missionary- or scholar-in-residence, enlisting the help of training coaches (Network 9:35 offers a diverse team of coaches to assist your congregation— email me at phil@esa-online.org to inquire), and bringing in a musician who also has a teaching ministry (check out Ministry of Money’s Bryan Sirchio at www.sirchio.com). A booming pedagogical tool is the Internet. Most educational institutions and some ministry organizations have distance learning available online. Check out the Eastern School of Christian Ministry at www.ebts.edu/online.htm, as well as other Network 9:35 Partners’ offerings: www.nacsw.org, www.chalmers.org, and www.forministry.com. Speaking of distance, get away from it all by checking out the options away from your congregation’s campus. Offer leadership-training taste tests, whether they last an hour (seminar), a day (conference), or a weekend (training event). You can also dig in by sending emerging leaders on short-term mission trips, congregation or ministry staff exchanges, Continued on page 33.


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less wasn’t reserved for those times when there was a little something left over: It was a portion required by God from each person’s livelihood. In return God promised to bless those who cared for the fatherless—and to curse those who did not. Moreover, as evidenced in the story of Ruth, care of the fatherless went beyond the provision of material goods. It called for an involvement in the lives of the fatherless and their inclusion as members of one’s own family. In his exposition of New Testament Scriptures, Davis shows that God requires no less from us today.“If we are to please Him,” he writes,“we must recover what

has become a lost cause—the fatherless. … It doesn’t mean you have to become a missionary or take a vow of poverty! In some very practical ways, you can participate in the lives of those God is so passionate about and make differences that will last an eternity.” Sponsoring an orphan abroad; inviting and keeping in touch with foreign students at your local university; babysitting or sharing groceries with a single mother on your street; mowing the lawn or running errands for a neighborhood widow, or just inviting her over for a cup of tea: these are the ways we can make a powerful difference in the life of the fatherless.

“Your creative energy could be the very thing that helps him or her keep going and even experience God’s love for the first time,” writes Davis. “Will you plant a seed of hope in lives that have been stripped bare by the misery of this world?” This book brings power and urgency to the saying, “To the world, you may be just one person. But to one person, you might just be the world.”To mean that much to someone is itself blessing enough. ■

Postcards from the Road continued from page 26.

Art & Soul continued from page 27.

Ron Sider continued from page 36.

internships, and/or witness weekends (see Network 9:35’s free resource, Congregation2Congregation, at www.net work935.org). And the final component? Keep praying. Prayer needs to be more than an occasional activity in worship or meetings. “Pray without ceasing” for future leaders. Last year, while serving a congregation whose pastor was on sabbatical, I helped their staff and leadership brainstorm about potential leaders, developed a prayer list of those names, and encouraged current leaders to look for ways to mentor future leaders in a prayerful way. If your congregation wants to “hit the road,” they must create an efficient leadership-development plan for effective outreach. Let me know how I can be of help as you undertake this exciting process. ■

You get the idea. Not only does each artistic act bring a touch of beauty to an increasingly hard world, but by engaging with those creative folks in their artistic venues, we create new opportunities for friendship and truth. Because whatever we think of the film, it wasn’t that long ago when “The Passion of the Christ” was merely an idea for a movie that required a whole lot of creative planning and financial backing before it could ever be made. And since so many Christians paid to see it, couldn’t we be equally passionate about investing in the lives of artists of faith who show us God’s kingdom from a thousand different perspectives? Shouldn’t God’s extravagant grace in our lives motivate such generosity? Imagine what will happen if it doesn’t. ■

Both Bush and Kerry have a political philosophy that calls for some government taxation and spending to help the poor. But Bush favors huge tax cuts for the rich, and Kerry wants to reduce those tax cuts for the richest in order to have more resources to assist the needy. (My analysis supports Kerry here.) The choices are not easy. I find that in virtually every presidential election, each candidate is better on some issues and worse on others. In my next column, I will try to evaluate the Bush and Kerry platforms in light of what I consider a biblically informed evangelical political philosophy. But no mathematical calculus exists that allows one to reach an easy, certain conclusion. One must think hard, pray hard, and then vote, knowing one may be wrong. Politics remains a messy, uncertain art—even with a good evangelical political philosophy. ■

Pamela Robinson is a freelance writer and college composition instructor living in Mt. Vernon, Ind.

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POSTCARDS

PHIL OLSON

Risky Business “Security is mostly a superstition,” wrote Helen Keller.“It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it.Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure—or nothing.” Keller was uniquely qualified to comment on the fantasy of security, having forced herself to overcome the challenges and dangers of being born blind, deaf, and mute. Like life, holistic ministry by its very nature involves risk—often minor, sometimes major.The risks are numerous and varied, inherent to any service to the King, but I’ll list just a handful in this column. With all the exciting ministries that exist around the country, some congregations feel the need to do—if not everything—more than they can realistically handle: a form of “keeping up with the Joneses” or, in this case, with the Baptists or the Methodists. In the process, some of these congregations take on a tsunami of needs and end up drowning in deep water.

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Those on the shallow end of holistic ministry are often guilty of not waiting on the Lord.They may be terrific at generating needs assessments, strategic plans, mission and vision statements, but without bathing the whole process in prayer they run the risk of running ahead of God’s intentions. Churches that stay at one end of the ministry spectrum run the risk of missing out on the many ways we can serve our communities, nation, and world. While some congregations limit themselves to acts of compassion and charity, others engage exclusively in acts of advocacy and social justice. But both are needed in order to bring God’s transforming power and presence into the lives of individuals and communities.In between those polarities are other means of service: personal, community, and economic development. Early this year, news broke of the $1.5-billion gift to the Salvation Army from McDonalds’ heiress Joan Kroc. Money issues are rife with big risks. Receiving a lot of money (especially too quickly) can divert attention from what first called us to our ministry, as well as lessen our trust in God’s provision on an ongoing basis. On the other hand, giving money comes with the risk of relinquishing control—of how it is spent, for example—whether the gift is from a contributor to a cause or from a congregation to an individual.Additional money risks include an organization’s temptation to accept funds with the strings attached (when they run counter to the mission’s vision) and the need to raise enough money to operate the ministry fully and do it well. Regrettable consequences are always incurred when we help people in need but fail to work with them to help them break their cycle of poverty or addiction, in which case we become codependent with them, supporting them rather than solving their problems with their input, assistance, and ownership of the issues. Holistic ministry also entails risks to PRISM 2004

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our buildings and homes, our staffs and families, our health and equipment. While we need to build some commonsense protections into our ministries, we do not reach out and touch the hurting with Christ’s love when we distribute lunch bags through a window in a closed door or erect fences around our church buildings—complete with “No Trespassing” signs. Our ministries also run the risk of misunderstandings. This can happen in our relationships with the community, sometimes even resulting in harassment, hostility, and rejection. In Mount Holly, N.J., for example, where I served as mission pastor for 13 years, a belligerent town council revoked tax exemption for two of our prize ministries: a low-income housing program and a retirement home. As a result both ministries were stymied with great tax burdens. Similar dynamics can occur internally when we pit “pastoral care” against “outreach.” Leadership, too, is risky business. Will anyone follow? Will alienation take place between camps within the congregation (“There’s money in the budget for the soup kitchen but not the choir!”)? Will the vision and mission of the church rally or rile parishioners? Will the pastor take on the role of Lone Ranger or Pied Piper? Other risks abound.When a ministry or program takes a much-needed pause in order for congregants to catch their breath, it risks losing momentum and screeching to a halt.When a ministry keeps drawing from the same pool of volunteers, it risks siphoning off workers from longtime programs of the church. Here’s another risk we rarely consider: success. What happens when our ministry expands beyond our wildest dreams, when we find that our prayers —based upon Ephesians 3:20—have been answered and God does exceedingly, abundantly above what we could ever ask or even imagine? Yikes! Continued on page 38.


Building a Bridge of Hope continued from page 15. tion to answer.That’s when mentors can be the hands and feet of Christ. They can say, ‘We don’t know why this happened to you, but we don’t want it to happen again.’” “I thought I was one of God’s lost children,” explains Carol.“How could I talk to him? I was so far down that I really believed this. But I started reading my Bible and praying again. I started coming back.” She remembers sitting in church one day, realizing,“God is cleansing me.” Yoder reports that about 25 percent of their families integrate into their sponsoring churches. Many others return to churches they had attended in the past. While the Bridge of Hope commitment ends after a year and a half, the friendships developed between the families do not.Yoder recounts the story of a young graduate of the program who now attends church regularly with one of the older couples from her mentor group. Many people in the church just assume that she is the couple’s daughter, unaware of how the original connection was established. Another graduate still enjoys a monthly “girl’s night out” with some of Off the Shelf continued from page 35. side of the mountain, jarred free by an earthquake, had crashed down over it, killing hundreds instantaneously. I dug feverishly, but I could offer even less than a fat belly.The open blisters on my hands would uncover only mangled bodies; it would not bring any of them back. Bergman admits her contributors, heroic as they are, do not change the world, but she clings to the plausible idea that there is a cumulative long-range hope provided by the collective humanitarian industry.As a Christian, I ask,“A

her former mentors. Others stay con- Postcards nected through occasional babysitting, continued from page 28. frequent phone chats, and email. And then there are the risks inherent Carol, Penny, and Karen say it’s been much easier to develop their relationship at the very foundation of holistic minthan they expected. “It’s very comfort- istry: that we might do evangelism to the neglect of social ministry or vice versa; able,” says Penny. “It doesn’t feel like it’s help in the that we might concentrate on individual change to the neglect of systemic change; sense that I’m needy,” adds Carol. Penny thinks for minute, then holds that we might focus so much on the her hands together, chest-high, palms “doing” that we neglect the “being”; that down, her fingers aimed outward to we might spend so much time building illustrate her point. She says of their up individuals that we forget to build an relationship,“It’s like this. It feels smooth alternative community. These and many others are the risks and even.” “Exactly!” Carol exclaims. “It feels we run, but, as Helen Keller reminds us, it’s all part of the daring adventure even!” Although BOH often links families of life—and holistic ministry. ■ to government services, affiliates receive no government funding. About half of their funds come from committed individuals; the other 50 percent comes from churches,businesses,grants,and fundraisers. If you are interested in supporting Bridge of Hope or would like information on starting an affiliate in your area, you can reach them at www.bridgeofhopeinc.org or 866-670-HOPE. ■

“Loose the chains of

A freelance writer living in western New York, Amy Durkee is a regular contributor to PRISM. hope for what?” and diverge from the way these courageous colleagues often respond. My search for redemption of structures, and of souls, takes a turn toward the supernatural. The weakness exposed in the contributors is every bit as present in me. But I nonetheless have hope. It rests in a God that does care, and whose justice will, ultimately, prevail. ■ Steve Offutt recently completed service as World Relief’s country representative in El Salvador and is currently earning his doctoral degree in sociology at Boston University.

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injustice...” –Isaiah 58:6

Stand with us as a voice for the poor and oppressed. Advocate for justice.

www.seekjustice.org

World Vision is an international Christian humanitarian organization serving the world’s poorest children and families in nearly 100 countries.


POSTCARDS

PHIL OLSON

“Hit the Road, Jack” Ray Charles may suggest it in his classic pop song, but “hitting the road” is one of the hardest things for a church to do.We like the cozy confines of our congregation’s facilities and, as a body, don’t like wandering off campus.We find it difficult to heed the Great Commission of Jesus:“Go into all the world...” (Matt. 28:19-20). Tom Bandy (senior editor of the church-vitality magazine, NetResults), wrote a book called Road Runner (Abingdon Press, 2002). His contention is that Jesus is always “on the way” ahead of us and we need to catch up with him on the road from Jerusalem to Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the earth. Jesus doesn’t stay home in his easy chair and neither should we. This month I, too, will be hitting the road, joining Bandy and his Texan partner, Bill Easum, as a workshop leader for their annual Convergence 2004 tour. This year’s team of a dozen nationally known speakers will challenge church

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leaders from around the country at sites in Ohio, Minnesota, and Georgia. Check out www.easumbandy.com for details. Entitled “Get Out of Here!”my workshop challenges congregations to hit the road in holistic witness. Basing the message on the “Great Go-mission” text in the Gospel of Matthew, I offer a practical look at the art of being “in the world but not of the world.” Why do we need to hit the road? Three reasons: in order to follow Jesus’ example (“As the Father has sent me, so I send you” [John 20:21]); in order to be obedient to our Lord (“You shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth” [Acts 1:8]); and in order to fulfill the Abrahamic Covenant (“blessed to be a blessing to the nations” [Gen.12:2-3]). How do we hit the road? Check out Philip the Deacon in Acts 8 for a few clues. In spite of being in conflict with Jewish religious leaders, the early church still liked Jerusalem and its environs. But Jerusalem was only a quarter of the fourfold charge; they failed to take the good news of Jesus to Judea, Samaria, and beyond. It took an all-out persecution of the church to move it away from the center of their religious universe (see Acts 8:1). Who leads the church down the road? Not an apostle (i.e., clergy person), but a lay person: Philip the Deacon, who goes to despised Samaria and presents the gospel in word and wonders (Acts 8:5). Next, the Spirit propels Philip into the wilderness to rendezvous with an African government official (Acts 8:26). Finally, Philip is whisked away to Azotus (8:3940),one of the five famous Philistine cities and archenemy of Israel, to continue joyfully spreading good news in word,works, and wonders. In all endeavors, Philip obediently goes where God’s Spirit takes him. Where are we to go? How about to the Gentiles, Greeks, and Geeks of our day—to the nonbelievers and those of other faiths; to those people who, like the “moderns” of the Disciples’ era, are PRISM 2004

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struggling to adapt to an era of chaos and relativity; and to those oddballs who don’t fit in anytime, anyplace, or anyhow but need to know they are uniquely made in God’s image. We can also go to “the least, the last, and the lost” and to those I call “the lonely, the left out, and the left behind.” Christianity has always been at its best when it has reached out to those on the margins of society, the ones communities and governments choose to ignore. One excellent example is the American Baptist ministry to race-track employees at Philadelphia Park. We can go to the pain. My friend, Keith Uffman of Alamance Presbyterian Church in Greensboro, N.C., points out how Jesus’ fishermen friends could easily isolate themselves from others. Have an argument with a family member or neighbor? Harassed by tax collectors or Roman soldiers? Get in the boat and push off. Jesus took these men and put them in touch with the pain of the world (see Matthew 8-9). Last year a pastor friend of mine and I stopped by a large vacant store in a strip mall. Seeing a group of men clearing out equipment and supplies from cavernous space, we asked them if they knew what, if anything, was going in there next.The crew boss asked us why we were interested.When we told him we were pastors he said, “Go to hell. We don’t need any more churches around here.” Later, as I reflected on that incident, I thought,“Why not go to hell?”Where’s the hell-hole in your community, the place no “decent” Christian would be caught dead? Go there! That’s what Belmont Church does in Nashville,Tenn.They take their customized Blue Bird bus and go weekly to the red-light district to minister to the pimps and prostitutes.Doesn’t your community have a place like that? If so, hit the road, Jack—or Jackie— and join Jesus, Philip, and scores of other Christians who are willing to take risks for the sake of God’s kingdom. ■


POSTCARDS

PHIL OLSON

“Long-Haul” Holistic Ministry During back-to-back road trips this past fall, I was asked the same question twice: “How does a church sustain holistic ministry over the long haul?” The first person to ask the question was longtime ESA friend Beryl Hugen, social work professor at Calvin College and a keynote speaker at the 2003 North American Association of Christians in Social Work annual convention. The second inquiry came from three social activists I met while speaking at a church in Southern California. Their congregation had a long history of evangelical social action but seemed to be floundering in recent years. Nine congregants had attended ESA’s Celebration & Challenge 30th Anniversary Conference last summer where they were inspired to try and help their congregation move into a renewed future. The question is an important one, whether generated from the academic

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tower or from the ministry trenches. And while I may not be the best person to answer it—my evidence is anecdotal and derived from personal experience and observation rather than from hard research—I’m willing to share what I’ve found to be true. First, a congregation maintains holistic ministry over the long haul by understanding that holistic ministry is part of the warp and woof of what it means to be a church. It’s not a component or program that is suited to some members and optional for others. Effective congregations realize that being holistic is as important as doing holistic ministry. Two, holistic congregations “sell out” to the concept of holistic ministry, just as others might “sell out” to the concept of a cell church, house church, metachurch, purpose-driven church, etc. A holistic congregation fully commits all their theology, ecclessiology, missiology, time, energy, and resources to holistic ministry, intentionally laying everything on the line for holistic ministry in the way that Jesus advises us to cash in everything in order to gain a treasure (Matt. 13:44). Third, holistic congregations maintain momentum as they empower people.In the words of Baptist pastor Frank Tillapaugh, they “unleash the laity.” Each person’s spiritual gifts, abilities, and resources are put at the disposal of the church—not for institutional survival but for the sole purpose of effectively engaging the challenges and needs of their community.The church refuses to allow clergy and staff to be the drivers of the vision—or the bottlenecks—to an ever-expanding outreach. Fourth, speaking of vision, the mission of the congregation needs to be communicated consistently and repeatedly, in small and large group settings as well as through a variety of media (posters, banners, messages, classes, booklets, bulletins, newsletters, website, etc.). PRISM 2004

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Fifth,“long-haul” holistic ministry is entrepreneurial. Parishioners don’t sit around and talk about it—they do it! They’re not satisfied with just writing checks to ministry partners or hiring other people to do their holistic ministry for them or in their congregation’s name. Nor do they settle for becoming landlord to a variety of holistic ministries that use the congregation’s facilities. Sixth, they continue to grow in their understanding of holistic ministry: finding mentor congregations who might be a step ahead of themselves; exchanging staff and leaders between congregations for periods of intense learning and mutual sharing; sending out venture teams to discover what other congregations are doing; seeking out and bringing in highquality outside speakers, experts, consultants, and/or coaches.They even value some friendly competition between other likeminded congregations. In short, quality congregations avoid becoming self-satisfied. Seventh, these congregations take on a new major project every four to six years that the whole congregation can embrace with a high percentage of involvement by the parishioners. This gives time for previous projects to grow from seedling to mature tree. It also recognizes that congregations and ministries go through natural life cycles from birth to death.(Even funerals can be a time of thanksgiving!) New projects also make room for new leadership to emerge, engage, and embrace a fledgling enterprise. Eighth, when “long-haul” churches hire new staff from outside their team, they employ persons with proven competencies and a track record in holistic ministry.They cannot afford the luxury of hiring rookies, hoping they will grab onto a fast-moving train or climb a steep learning curve. On the other hand, the congregation is always internally training new generContinued on page 33.


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Heard was a talented musician who possessed the vocal lilt of James Taylor and wrote lyrics that deeply probe the mysteries of the human condition, and the author presents him positioned on the periphery of the Christian music industry, someone who intuitively knew that his gifts deserved a wider hearing yet was unwilling to make the compromises necessary to obtain acceptance. Heard’s father refused to allow his son to sign a mainstream recording deal with Columbia Records back in 1972, feeling that the then 20-year-old should continue his education rather than launch out into the murky waters of a music career. Despite his father’s protestations, the young artist eventually signed record deals in the contemporary Christian recording industry with Larry Norman of Solid Rock Records in the mid-’70s and Chris Christian of Home Sweet Home Records in the ’80s. But neither of these were particularly fruitful relationships.The interplay between artists and proprietors of intellectual property has always been strained, each of them feeling they bring more to the table than the other. And while in time Mark Heard gained understanding of the “game,” it disillusioned him, and he ultimately refused to play on the terms that were offered him. Dickerson should be praised for not following in the footsteps of those biographers of Christian artists (like those who have written about Keith Green, for example) who opt for hagiography rather than deal with the complex realities of their subject. Heard is portrayed as a deeply contemplative artist overtly contemptuous of anything superficial. Friends wonder aloud whether they were really liked or how such a softspoken man could sometimes be so brusque with them.The author wrestles with Heard’s decision to sidestep regular church attendance, preferring instead the embrace of a loose gathering of likeminded musicians.

THE

SHELF

But as much as I enjoyed this book, I craved a more cohesive and topical (or at least chronological) approach, one that would tease out the obvious themes that emerge from Heard’s catalogue of music and would support them with a sound biographical sketch. Regardless, this is a good first foray into the life of an important artist whose musical legacy will be

discovered again and again by thirsty spiritual pilgrims, uncovering water in the parched desert of a banal Christian subculture. ■ David Di Sabatino is the editor of The Jesus People Movement: An Annotated Bibliography and General Resource (Greenwood Publishing Group, 1999).

Postcards continued from page 26. ations of leaders, incorporating interns from other ministries, churches, and theological schools, and moving people into key leadership positions who have demonstrated Christ-like servanthood in “the little things” (Luke 16:10a). Finally,“long-haul” churches understand that it is often necessary to go after root causes rather simply treat symptoms. Churches that not only survive but also thrive for longer periods find it’s important (and biblically mandated) to go

beyond acts of mercy, charity, compassion, and relief to ministries of empowerment (both personal and communal), development (community and economic), justice (individual and system), and advocacy (being a voice for the voiceless). What has been your congregation’s experience over the long haul? What would you add to or change on my list? I’d love to hear from you (phil@esaonline.org) so I can better answer the question next time I’m asked. ■

Ron Sider continued from page 36. Unfaithful evangelical lifestyles are a blatant denial of Jesus’ gospel. If the gospel were merely the forgiveness of sins, then we could accept the gospel and go on living in the same racist, adulterous, materialistic way. But if the gospel is the Good News of the Christ’s kingdom, as Jesus taught, and if part of the good news is that right now a new redeemed community of transformed persons living in the power of the Holy Spirit is breaking into history, then whenever so-called Christians live as the world does, their very lives are evidence against Jesus’ teaching. We need to recover the biblical truth that God is blazing holiness as well as overwhelming love.We need to recover

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the biblical teaching on the egregiousness of sin and the necessity of repentance and sanctification.We need to turn away from American individualism and recover the New Testament understanding of mutual accountability.We need to bring all our people into small discipleship groups of genuine accountability so we can, as John Wesley said,“watch over one another in love.”We need to rediscover the almost totally neglected biblical teaching on church discipline. The scandal of the evangelical conscience today mocks our evangelistic efforts and breaks the heart of our Savior. If we will not repent and change, we should admit that the whole thing is a fraud. ■

Postcards From the Road  

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