Wednesday, July 30, 2008


A couple weeks ago my wife and I headed south to Oregon for a missions conference. It had been awhile since I had been to one and I wanted to get updated on what was going on in missions in our denomination. It was billed as the Northwest regional conference. There was one in the Midwest and the East, as well. First impressions: First, our upper middle aged selves were among the youngest attendees which caused some concern and the turnout from the Northwest was pretty poor which either meant the Northwest cares less for missions or there are fewer churches to draw from (most of the attendees seemed to be from Oregon); Second, there seemed to be a whole lot of cheer leading for missions going on from the denom admin folk which was a cause for concern cus if they were anxious about the missions program of the denom what were we supposed to do about it; this was reinforced by the missions offerings that were taken at every meeting; Third, there seems to be a requirement that every time you have a church meeting today you have to have a worship band and contemporary music. This was the case here and I had a thought that the composition of this audience was mostly the group of people who had fought the worship battles in their churches .... and lost.

Second Impressions: By the time we got around to the content of the missions conference, ie, the reason we were there, things had improved. There are some deeply committed people who are open to God using them to make a difference in the part of the world they serve. There was a woman working with young men and women caught up in the trafficking of bodies for sex and/or work in Asia. There was a couple working in a seminary in war torn Lebanon. There was a couple training pastors in Costa Rica and a man doing the same in Congo. They all had fascinating stories to tell about what God was doing in their lands. This was why we came and we wished for more of it. But what we got was a push for short term mission trips. It must be harder to get people to commit to a full time career in missions today or maybe the money isn't there to support them. Surely, the offerings that were taken were not going to solve this problem.

Final Impressions: It was hard not to leave with the impression that missions in the mainline church and perhaps American Christianity is a sideshow. Mainline denoms are dying and the megachurches are too self absorbed. Missions is what we are doing with the leftovers. As was evidenced at this conference missions today is still a heroic work at the heart of God. It is the lifeblood of the local church and if missions is going to be revitalized it will not be the big denoms that do it but it will be the local church. I remember hearing when I was younger that the church exists for missions like a fire exists for burning. We need a fire for missions rekindled in our local churches.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

All Eyes on China

Most of us have heard by now that one of the big reasons we are paying more at the gas pump is China. China's economy is booming and so it's energy needs are booming, as well. The world's demand for oil is not meeting it's ability to supply. China's growth in the past decade is truly incredible. Consider: China has four times more people than America; since 1978 China's economy has grown over 9% annually (in 1978 China made 200 air conditioners - in 2005 it made 48 million!); Pudong, China's main financial district is about the size of Chicago; Chongqing is the world's fastest growing city adding 300,000 people a year (the 20 fastest growing cities in the world are in China); to prepare for the Olympics Beijing has built six new subway lines, a 43 KM light rail system, and a new airport terminal that is now the world's largest; China is the largest producer of coal, steel and cement in the world; it is the largest cell phone market in the world; it has more square feet of space under construction than anywhere else in the world (5x more than the US); it's exports to the US have grown 1,600% over the past 15 years; it manufactures 2/3 of the world's photocopiers, microwaves, dvd players and shoes (Walmart alone imports 18 billion dollars worth of goods from China every year); by2010 Starbucks will have more cafes in China than the US. Today, Fareed Zakaria says, "China is the world's largest country, fastest growing major economy, largest manufacturer, second largest consumer, largest saver, and second largest military spender." (The Post-American World, p.92)

If all eyes are not on China yet, they will be in August when China hosts the Summer Olympic Games. Some American Olympians have thought about boycotting the Olympics this summer due to China's awful human rights record. For all its emphasis on public relations for the upcoming Olympic Games, China is still one of the world's greatest human rights violators. Christians, especially, are targets. China's state government controls what happens in China. If it says you may only have one child, you only have one child or face the consequences. If it tells you to move because a major employer wants to build on the property you and all your neighbors live on, you move or face the consequences. If it tells you to register your house church with the state controlled church, you register or face the consequences. Many non-registered Christians and house churches have been persecuted. Pastors are arrested and sent off to hard labor for "re-education".

That's why a prominent house church leader has asked Christians in the US and throughout the free world to remember to pray for China during the Olympics. China Aid has a helpful website to keep up with what is happening as far as persecution of Christians goes ( They are offering bracelets to be worn during the Olympics as a reminder to pray. These bracelets are being offered in China, as well, so our brothers and sisters in Christ can pray for us, too. You can order then on the China Aid website. I ordered mine today.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

July 4th

This week we celebrate the birth of our country, again. I will confess to being more impressed with a day off than the celebration of our nation's birthday in the past. Not this year. I have done some reading about events of 1776 and I am approaching July 4th differently this year. I have read David McCullough's 1776 and his later volume on John Adams and my wife and I have just finished viewing the HBO series on John Adams on DVD. I recommend both the reading and the viewing. I came away with the overwhelming sense THIS SHOULD NOT HAVE HAPPENED! This country, I mean. In the midst of an impending war with the strongest military power at the time, a small group of ordinary people risked their all to declare our independence and usher in a whole new government - the likes of which had never been seen before! It is an amazing story. One surely worth more than the few paragraphs most high school history texts give it. More than one of our founding fathers saw God's hand in it. For if He was not involved how could this thing have happened? George Washington called it a "miracle". The later historian Joseph Ellis (American Creation, 2007) does not want to believe this and comes up with a rational explanation. But his historical analysis does not detract from the fact that people who were there, who were living it, called it nothing short of miraculous and gave the credit to God (Washington, and Adams, at least). If you don't have time to read these books or watch the DVD this week, you might at least read the Declaration out loud and the list of signers who put their names on the line knowing that if they were caught they would be hanged as traitors. If you have a family, what a great exercise in citizenship to read it aloud as a family. Then pray for our country, thankfully, for what God did then and with petitions for what God needs to do now. As Adams prayed, let freedom which was gained by the sacrifices of so many, ring true today.