Saturday, June 28, 2008

Remembering a Titan - Dr. Bill Bright

I venture to say that few people who have walked this earth have impacted my life so deeply as Dr. Bill Bright. His passion for Christ, compassion for the lost, and enduring fire to impact the lives of millions has left an indelible impression on my soul.

July 19th will mark the five year anniversary of Dr. Bright's passing from this world to the next. By looking back on his life, I continue to learn how to live as a slave to Christ compelled by His love for the world.

Dr. Bright founded Campus Crusade for Christ in 1951, after receiving a clear calling from the Lord. He went on to initiate some 60 other ministries and projects under this umbrella, effectively communicating the Gospel to upwards of 6 billion people worldwide. What riches we can inherit from standing on the shoulders of giants like this.

Due to how few people knew of Dr. Bright outside mainstream evangelical circles, I often considered him Christendom's best kept secret. But for those who wish to know, his secret of success is no secret at all. You can read a short blurb about his life from his memorial site, and watch a great video.

Bill Bright emerged as an evangelistic leader right alongside Billy Graham and Richard Halverson (Senate chaplain), under the tutalage of Dr. Henrietta Mears. What a powerful group! Not surprisingly, men and women used greatly by God often emerge from small groups like this.

Henrietta Mears' own circle included C.E. Fuller (Fuller Seminary) and J. Edwin Orr. Or how about the combination of David Wilkerson (Teen Challenge), Loren Cunningham (YWAM), and Howard Foltz (Teen Challenge - Europe/Asia), just to name a few examples of powerful groups of men and women committed to Christ. Sort of gives a fuller picture to what Jesus meant when He spoke about two or three gathering together in His name.

I praise God for Dr. William Bright, a life well-lived and a modern day model of a bondservant of Jeus Christ, until the very end. Thank you Dr. Bright.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Alaska Men's Project

Just came back a few days ago from Juneau, Alaska where my good friend and co-director Craig Johring leads a summer missions project for over 50 college students. I haven't found anything quite like taking men fishing for the first time, exploring the depths of who we are in Christ, feeling the rush of bald eagles flying overhead, watching whales breach while the sun sets behind snow-capped mountains, and fighting off a seal while reeling in a monster salmon. And that's just in a 5-minute time span.

I had the privilege of speaking with these men about launching movements in Juneau and living missionally wherever they go. Craig had already done an outstanding job laying this foundation and didn't really need me, but I had a rich time connecting with some sharp guys about apostolic ministry and planting churches and movements (and did some fishing too!). In a stroke of genius, Craig incorporated a dozen women into the project to help reach and mentor the local women that seem to flock to the men's project.

One of the traditions of the Juneau Project is Henry Weinhard's Root Beer, a great soda created during prohibition. You can enjoy a taste of Weinhard's for yourself through a little ad some of the guys put together, playing off of one of their values of "expecting God's greater reward".

Friday, June 20, 2008

10 Reasons for North America's Success/Christianity's Impact

Many learned individuals have sought to clearly distinguish the reasons that the New World north of the Rio Grande prospered, while its counterpart to the south floundered. Few do it so clearly, pervasively, and eloquently as Rodney Stark. In his book, The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success, he confronts centuries of historical bias to give a compelling analysis of Christianity's influence in the West. I won't tie everything together real nicely here, but you can discern Christianity's impact for yourself.

Here are some of the main reasons he outlines for the difference in north and south in the New World:
  • Both continents were colonized by Christians - mostly Catholics in the south and protestants in the north. But that wasn't the difference that mattered most. What mattered was the Catholic Church's marked weakness, both politically and with the general populous, a fact long overshadowed by their legal monopoly on religion.
  • Christianity enjoyed great success in the north because of religious pluralism and the free market, which forced it to compete for the devotion of its followers. By contrast, Christianity in the south languished from the apathy of subsidized priests and money from the state.
  • Immigrant smallholders populated the north, represented by elected officials in the British Parliament, which allowed for freedom with governmental accountability. Upper-class landowners held massive estates as a result of royal decree in the south. All laws came directly from Spain, which held no democratic representatives for the colonies. The crown even sold administrative positions in the New World!
  • Emigrants to the British colonies came to stay; many Spanish colonists were only sojourners.
  • Contrary to some historical accounts, remarkably few Spaniards came to the New World. And those who did had less than glowing reports to send back home. Spain itself had few enterprising "shopkeepers" ready to pioneer a new frontier, and not many were willing to risk the dangerous voyage aboard poorly constructed Spanish ships. Britain, however, along with other parts of Europe, saw an outflow of some 600,000 emigrants from 1640-1760 to New England in search of high prevailing wages and opportunities to obtain fertile farmland or set up a workshop or store.
  • The British colonies were founded on production, the Spanish colonies on extraction. New England enjoyed a high level of political autonomy with a steady flow of imports and exports, while Spain ruled their colonies through oligarchies and a tightly controlled economy.
  • The Revolutionary War was won by a group of contiguous colonies closely knit together by culture, trade, outlook, circumstance, and personal relationships. The war only increased their unity. Liberation for their neighbors to the south only left widely scattered and isolated groups dominated by cliques and opportunists.
  • High wages in Britain's colonies actually encouraged rapid development of new technologies to enable workers to increase their effectiveness. This led to rapid economic growth which eventually surpassed that of Britain's, where manufacturers were reluctant to invest in technology that would increase costs and cut into profits.
  • American colonists invested heavily in human capital, creating the best educational system in the world in a short amount of time. With the invention of the printing press, the Bible was soon printed in "vulgar" (common) languages and became a bestseller. When the Pilgrims arrived in 1620, once of their first acts was to concern themselves with educating their children. Prior to the Revolution, New England had 10 institutions of higher learning (only 1 not affiliated with a denomination), compared to only 2 in England.
  • Latin America is only now starting to experience economic revival and the seeds of capitalism with the infusion of vigorous Christian activity and more religious competition. The question remains as to how they will deal with some of their newfound freedom.
Stark wraps up with a revealing quote by one of China's leading scholars:
One of the things we were asked to look into was what accounted for the success, in fact, the pre-eminence of the West all over the world. We studied everything we could...but in the past twenty years, we have realized that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity. That is why the West is so powerful. The Christian moral foundation of social and cultural life was what made possible the emergence of capitalism and then the successful transition to democratic politics. We don't have any doubt about this.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Islam's Snazzy New Look

Great find by Steve Addison on the new trendy undercurrent of modernization taking place in Islam.

PBS recently covered this new movement featuring Muslim televangelist, Moez Masoud and his attempts to present Islam in the "coolest possible way".

Any thoughts on this?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Alan Hirsch on Chaos

One of my favorites quotes from Hirsch from The Forgotten Ways:
"The history of missions is quite clear about this: Christianity is at its very best when it is on the more chaotic fringes. It is when church settles down, and moves away from the edge of chaos, that things go awry."

Sunday, June 08, 2008

The Mexico Journey Launches

This is long overdue, but I've finally carved out a little time to post on the Mexico Journey.

17 students from all over the U.S. have come down for seven weeks this summer to help launch movements on college campuses in 7 different cities around Mexico. I could rave all day long about how stellar these guys of the most enjoyable groups I've ever worked with (good thing since some days I spent 14 hours with them).

They have worked their tails off here, visiting numerous campuses and serving the city, even working alongside a church in Tepito, one of the most dangerous parts of Mexico City (this was even my first time in the area that every warns us to stay away from). Of course, we've had a blast every step of the way.

Just as a taste of how God has worked thru these guys, here are the stats from the first two weeks:
  • 3,115 exposures to Christ
  • 74 Gospel presentations
  • 11 decisions for Christ
  • 2 new potential movement launches

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Raising Up a Network of Businessmen

Rick Brekelbaum and Ed Thomas joined me in Mexico City for a few days near the end of May as we connected with some influential local businessmen. The agenda...begin to engage the business community more seriously in citywide transformation.

With the visit of Rick Warren quickly approaching, we hope to take advantage of his platform to engage more men and women in the cause of Christ and to bring His transforming touch to this supercity.

We met on Tuesday with three key businessmen in one of their offices. What a pleasure to see the Lord stir their hearts to use their connections to bring glory to Him.

I set up a meeting with a dear friend the next day who is initiating a project to develop entrepreneurs who will commit themselves to kingdom involvement and help others rise out of financial difficulty. Ed Thomas is an entrepreneur himself who has been involved in 30 businesses over the course of his lifetime. I thought he was going to start dancing on the table after hearing about this endeavor.

This group will come together again next week to begin to formalize the vision God has given them. Take a sec to pray for our time together.