April 27, 2010
Who is Missionary Max?
Watch this space in May to find out.
April 22, 2010
Book Review: The Great Jesus Debates
If you have ever wanted a clearer understanding of how our orthodox positions on the person and work of Christ were formed and cemented, The Great Jesus Debates: 4 Early Church Battles About the Person and Work of Jesus is the book for you. Douglas W. Johnson has done the layman and Christian worker alike a great service in spelling out--in as simple terms as possible, the great historical conflicts that served to solidify orthodoxy in the Church.
After a somewhat lengthy introduction in which he lays the historical and theological framework for the debate, Johnson divides his book into four chapters, each one having to do with one of the great theological conflicts: The Gnostic and Marcionite Controversies, The Trinitarian Controversy, The Christological Controversy, and The Controversy Over Grace. Each of these sections is treated in an easy-to-read manner, and from an orthodox perspective.
The Great Jesus Debates: 4 Early Church Battles About the Person and Work of Jesus was a great help to me as I sought to firm up my knowledge of early Church history. If the subject is of any interest to you, this is a great book to have in your library.
Talk back to the missionary: What is your favorite period or personality of Church history? Go all historical in the comments section.
Brazilian Musical Interlude: Ve Se Te Agrada
The title of this song, roughly translated, is "See If You Like It". I can't imagine anybody listening to this and not liking it...but that's just me.
Talk back to the missionary: Taking off on the title of this song, what musical styles do you like? Let us know in the comments section.
April 20, 2010
Been a while since I have posted some links, so here are some of the sites that have been challenging and/or edifying me of late.
Great little website poking gentle, sarcastic fun at the culture we have built up around Christianity. The author, Jonathan Acuff, has recently published a book entitled--you guessed it--Stuff Christians Like.
We talk a lot about sacrifices missionaries make. But what about sacrifices their kids make, often without having a say in the matter?
What kind of irresponsible parent would fill a kids head with stories of a boy who had his very own houseboat and who traveled the world with no adult supervision? Um...that would be my Dad. He recently wrote down and expanded a series of impromptu stories he told me when I was a kid. You can read them here, chapter by chapter.
A man whose writings have been challenging my thinking on missions and church planting of late. If you have interest in any of these areas you should check out what he has to say.
CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, Michael Hyatt blogs primarily about leadership, publishing, and social media. My whole philosophy of the use of social media and missions was triggered by something he wrote.
Talk back to the missionary: Find anything particularly interesting/challenging/edifying on the web? Let us know about it in the comments section.
April 16, 2010
Define "Particularaly Severe"
The other day Itacyara was filling out the application for her US visa. Among the routine questions was this gem:
So...violations of religious freedom are not a problem, as long they are not "particularly severe"? One could even interpret that as saying that it is okay to carry out severe violations, as long as it is not particularly severe.
In fairness to the State Department, they are probably trying to make a distinction between the kind of violations of religious freedom carried out be evil overseas dictators and those promoted on a regular basis by the ACLU.
Talk back to the missionary: What do you think constitutes a particularly severe violation of religious freedom, as opposed to a mere violation? Share your legal acumen in the comments section.
April 14, 2010
Missions, Old Skool
Our mission agency, Baptist Mid Missions, has had missionaries working continuously in Brazil since the 1930's. All things being equal, I should live to celebrate the centennial of BMM efforts in this country. There is no group of people I admire more than those pioneer missionaries who paved the way for the work we do now. Their efforts met with hardship, persecution, sickness, and death. And yet they kept going. Their dogged determination to advance the Kingdom of Christ here in Brazil continues to bear fruit on a daily basis.
Recently a friend of mine--whose father was one of the toughest of those tough frontier missionaries--sent me some scans of a quarterly published by our missionaries in the fifties. In between the quaint illustrations and mid-century prose one fact is inescapable: these guys were passionate for souls. I have taken the liberty of capturing a few sections of the journals.
Betty BMM? Why have I never heard of her before? Why didn't she catch on? I think she is going to appear more often on this blog--perhaps a "Betty BMM Says" feature every week.
Oh, and read the article. What Betty says is still valid. The internet is no substitute for good reading material. Hint hint.
This page features pictures from the 1953 conference. A couple things jump out at me. 1) The conference was held here in the Cariri. The place referred to as "Joazeiro" is now called Juazeiro do Norte. 2) The top-left picture shows the mode of travel: train. Missionary Neal Smith (who was instrumental in the conversion of a Catholic priest) is shown. 3) What is referred to as the "mission compound" is now the site of a thriving church, a Christian school, and several storefronts that pay regular rent to our seminary.
Missionary Harold Burns drew this little cartoon which I think accurately expresses how missionaries saw themselves. You can tell this was "Cold War" time by the inclusion of "Communism" in the pack of sharks threatening the poor drowning Brazilian. If we were to draw the cartoon today, it would remain much the same. We might have to add a few sharks, and also add another man reaching out to the victim--The Brazilian Missionary. Below the cartoon was this essay:
Do you get the sense of urgency in their words? If not read the following article:
As I read this, it dawned on me: with very few changes this same article could be written today. Brazil is still called "The Land of Tomorrow", there are still thousands--millions who need Christ. And there is an appalling lack of workers stepping up to take the place of those who are leaving the field. Most of the pioneers have left. They stayed as long as they could, and poured their lives and energies into the work of the Kingdom. Where are their replacements?
Times have changed, but there is one constant: Missionary life is still an adventure. Yes, there are tremendous risks. There are high prices that must be paid. Who is going to step up and risk everything for the Kingdom of God in Brazil?
For those who are interested, I am making these bulletins available in their entirety for download. If you would like to get a glimpse of what missionary life was like "back in the day", click on the links below.
Talk back to the missionary: I know some of the "old skool" missionaries and their relatives read this blog. If you would like to tell us what life was like back then, please feel free to do so in the comments section.
April 13, 2010
Missionary Conference, 2010
In another of the many "lasts" we are experiencing as we wrap up our ministry here at the Cariri Baptist Seminary (last orientation, last midterm exams, etc.) we participated in our last missionary conference last weekend.
Ever one to "go out with a bang", this year I gave a seminar on the use of the social web in missions, and--along with Nice--gave a class on puppet ministry.
This picture, lifted from our seminary website, shows me during the social media seminar.
At the end, we asked for a volunteer to come up and show everybody--on the big screen--how easy it is to set up a blog. This pastor--one of our movement's elder statesmen--bravely volunteered and, in front of the whole crowd, entered the ranks of bloggers.
Some have asked for a printout of my seminar. For now I only have a Portuguese version, but it was an expansion of the talk I gave at our All Brazil missionary conference, which can be seen here. If there is enough interest I will whip up an English version for all you anglophones out there.
By far the best part of the conference, however, was the final evening when seven young men stepped forward to dedicate their lives to missions. It was a powerful moment.
Talk back to the missionary: Tell us some of your best stories from missionary conferences in the comments section.
April 7, 2010
AAAAHHHHH! I'm Surrounded by PUPPETS!!!
I was surrounded by sixty of them, to be exact. Puppets that had been hand-crafted during our two-day puppetry seminar in Fortaleza using Nice Braga's flawless technique. On Saturday night I stood on the stage for a photo opp with Nice, Pastor Nogeira, and all sixty students, AND their puppets. Here is what it looked like:
What follows are more pictures from the event.
After an eventful trip to Fortaleza the previous night (I actually sideswiped a mule...but that is another story) we came to the church on Friday morning, ready for action. This picture was taken just as Eder (a seminary student who participates in our puppet team) and I were arriving on the scene. Notice the "General MacArthur-I-have-returned" stride.
Once we were set up we lost no time getting down to the serious business of puppets. Note the passion with which I am expressing the value of puppet ministry.
No, this is not a mass response to an invitation. Our sixty students are practicing the correct hand and arm position--preparing for the day when they will be able to work their very own puppet!
Our master craftsman (or is that mistress craftswoman, or master craftsperson...whatever) Nice begins the process of teaching the students how to make their own foam and fabric puppet.
Some people had a hard time grasping the concept of a "hand puppet".
Others were quite creative.
The highlight of the event was when the students divided up into small groups and present their improvised versions of a biblical story. Here a Canaanite soldier stands guard on top of the foam(!) wall of Jericho.
In another scene from the performances, Esther beguiles king Xerxes (who is stylin' in his crown and necktie combo).
Finally we were ready for the graduation ceremony, where each of the participants received a certificate declaring them official puppeteers.
If you can't tell from the pictures, this was a very energetic group, and we all agreed that it was the most fun we have ever had at one of our puppetry schools. We are also pretty pumped about the idea of these guys taking what they learned and using it in ministry. Before I left on Sunday four people from the church cornered me and peppered me with questions about what it would take for them to start their own puppet team.
Talk back to the missionary: Puppets are a big attention-grabber here in Brazil. What are some ways you have used to gain an audience for the Gospel. Share your innovations in the comments section.