By Shane Bennett
I had a challenging, even upsetting, conversation after church a couple weeks ago. I had promo’d the upcoming speaker and mentioned the guy would be talking, in part, about racism. I may have mentioned that if you didn’t want to hear that, you might choose to stay home.
Afterwards, a friend asked to chat and expressed concern. One point led to another until he’d given me his socio-political view of life. When he paused after lamenting how divided our country currently is, I jumped in. “What’s the solution, Tom? What can be done?” He replied, “I don’t know. But I do know the socialism that’s being pushed on us these days isn’t going to make things better!”
Maybe not. But deep inside my brain a circuit fizzed, smoked, and blew. I can still feel my frustration. How often do we complain, complain, complain, but don’t lift a finger in an effort for positive change?
This pattern is not wholly illogical. Some problems are so huge, intractable, and deep-rooted that we throw our hands up and believe there’s nothing we can do but object. Other problems are our own that we project on others. And addressing some problems come with such high social risk that we back off. It’s safer to vent to like-minded friends than risk their disapproval by beating our swords into plowshares.
On the other hand, the Bible warns us about grumbling and complaining. Paul recounts for his rascals in Corinth how God dramatically responded to Israel’s grousing (1 Corinthians 10:8-11). Jesus was pretty straightforward when he told the Jews (and us), “Stop grumbling among yourselves” (John 6:41-51).
So, here’s the principle I’m trying to live by. Don’t complain about something that you’re not going to take productive action to change.
Just don’t complain
unless you plan to do something.
For instance, I don’t complain a lot about certain policy issues. I’ve learned they aren’t my battle, though my opinion about them play a role in how I vote. But the things God has called me to act on? I’m going to squawk about them! Intelligently. And graciously. And I’ll do my best to take the action God gives me to take, which I assume will often include equipping others to take godly action. Toward that end, two things people complain about and some positive action we can take.Instead of Complaining about Church
Have you ever been a pastor? I haven’t been a real one, but I’ve played around with some part-time roles and know some of how people, including me, complain about church. You may have far deeper familiarity, present pain or more serious grounds for concern. I get that.
But how often many of us complain about what’s said and what goes unsaid. About the choice of songs and the volume at which they’re played. About what’s not getting done, and then when someone steps up, how it’s not done right. We grouse about who’s there and who’s not there, how little the church does for missions, or kids, or the poor… along with pretty much everything the leaders say and do. At least we don’t complain about someone sitting in our pew any more. (We don’t, do we?) What positive, change-oriented action might grow out of our complaints?
Here’s one I’m thinking about these days: Pray for our pastors. Deliberately, faithfully. You may already do this. Kudos to you. I’d like to see a groundswell of prayer for our church leaders during Pastor Appreciation Month this coming October. A dear friend of mine says, “Maybe a good starting point is to pray about something for the same amount of time you complain about it!” I say, “Who has that kind of time?” But I do want to pray for my pastor.
I plan to put together a one-page guide to praying for pastors. If you’re game, I’d love to hear what you pray for your pastor or what you think should be prayed for them. Click below to the list. If someone has already said what you were going to say, feel free to put an “amen” or “I agree” beside or below it. The guide will be available in next month’s Practical Mobilization article.
I live in a beautiful part of Colorado. That describes pretty much the whole state! I haven’t been here all my life. Yet I can get a little chippy about new people coming here. Also, about Texans speeding on the interstate (sorry, y’all!). And in my nation and maybe yours, I hear many complaints about outsiders moving in.
Without getting deep in the weeds about border security, who’s an economic migrant and who really needs asylum, and the degree to which someone must look and sound like me in order to qualify as “integrated,” can I suggest four positive actions we might take or kindly propose these to others who seem particularly stressed about these issues?1. Have a conversation.
So much could happen if we simply asked some good questions and listened to the answers. Last week, an insightful and influential website, The Denison Forum, published an article I wrote on this topic of starting conversations. It would be great if you could give it a little boost simply by clicking through to it. If you comment, I’d be over the moon! The Denison Forum might be a good way to get some of what we all think out to a wider world. The article is about Muslims in particular, but the ideas would work with anyone somewhat different from you.2. Have dinner with a refugee family.
Check out the Bridge Experience. I think you have to live near Lancaster, PA to experience this, but what a fascinating idea: They train refugee families to host local residents in their homes for dinner. Refugees make some money and the locals get to experience the refugee’s culture. I’d love to see this idea popping up all over. Want to try to make it happen where you live?3. Watch films about the immigrant experience.
A high-quality movie about an immigrant or refugee experience can make a lasting mark on even a hardened heart. Going to the trouble of screening one at your church may have amazing results.
If you have ideas for films that will open our hearts to immigrants, as well as ideas about how to get people to come out to see them, please share them below or on our Facebook page.4. Take your kids to hang out with new neighbors.
I’m looking for three intrepid youth groups to visit (“invade”?) an American refugee community with me next summer. We’ll listen, play, and serve. Basically, we’ll stop our grousing about others and discover God’s up to amazing work in and through all sorts of people. Email me to learn more.Thoughts?
Do you have another issue which is easy to complain about, but hard to take action on? Let the Missions Catalyst tribe take a crack at it! Comment below or on our Facebook page.
In this issue: Millions seeking God on pilgrimage
Source: Cry Out Now, August 2019
This is a call for Christians to pray for Muslims as they go on the Hajj.
Since the Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam, all Muslims are commanded to perform the Hajj at least once in their lifetime if they are able. The Hajj begins on the eighth day of the twelfth month of Dhul Hijjah in the Islamic calendar. During these days, around three million Muslims from all over the world flock to Mecca to perform sacred acts and follow the steps of Muhammad, their prophet. This year, the Hajj will start on August 9 and last for three or more days.
» Short article from Cry Out also compares Muslim and Christian ideas about forgiveness.
More on praying for Muslims on Hajj:
Watch or download the international five-minute video, Hajj Prayer 2019 from Praying through the Arabian Peninsula. Informative. You can also download a prayer guide available in multiple languages.
Visit or follow Arab World Media on Twitter or Facebook. They will be posting updates from seekers in Saudi, the current social climate of the country, an insight into the rites of Hajj, and how you can specifically pray for the men and women seeking God.
Read God at the Hajj, by Shane Bennett.
Source: Tearfund, July 26, 2019
Chouma lives with her husband and daughter in a small village on the side of a mountain, near the border between Cambodia and Vietnam.
Chouma became a Christian when a few people from the local church prayed for healing from a sickness she’d had for many years. She was healed instantly and has been attending the church ever since.
However, living as a Christian in this community wasn’t easy. She was verbally abused by her neighbors. On a few occasions, she even had stones thrown at her while she was worshiping.
A few years ago, Tearfund’s local partner started working with churches in the area. Through a series of Bible studies and workshops, they equipped Christians to be agents of positive change in their communities.
The Bible studies sparked something in Chouma. She helped coordinate a number of initiatives in the village, such as a savings group and chicken rearing. [She also] set aside a corner of her house to raise crickets, which are a popular snack in Cambodia. With help from her pastor, Chouma had soon established a profitable cricket farm. Seeing her success, other members of the community started visiting Chouma to learn about the business. Now, 25 families in the village are raising crickets.
But Chouma didn’t stop there. The road to her village had been damaged for a long time—a big problem in such a remote area. Chouma got her church members to pool their resources and buy some cement. The whole community is now united around the road repairs, which are being led by Chouma’s husband.
The village now see the Christians in an entirely different light, and Chouma is hoping that the church will continue to grow.
Source: Christian Concern, July 3, 2019
In a landmark judgment, the Court of Appeal has upheld the rights of UK Christians to freely express their faith by handing victory to former student social worker Felix Ngole. Overturning a High Court decision to uphold Felix’s expulsion from Sheffield University, the crucial outcome represents a major development of the law. It is now clear that Christians have the legal right to express biblical views on social media and elsewhere in public without fear for their professional careers.
Felix was expelled in 2016 from his social work course at the University of Sheffield after quoting Bible verses on Facebook that were deemed critical of homosexuality.
In the court hearings, the University argued that Felix had “lacked insight” into the effect of his posts on social media. During his Fitness to Practice hearing, the University had told him that the expression of his Christian views was unacceptable and was effectively told either to renounce his faith or stay silent on pain of losing his career.
However, the Court of Appeal held that it was the university that was “lacking insight” in not understanding a Christian viewpoint.
» Read full story and watch Felix discuss what he did and the implications of his expulsion. Wonder how these cases will play out in the future?
» See also Christian Street Preacher Awarded £2,500 for Wrongful Arrest (The Christian Institute). Oluwole Ilesanmi was accused of hate speech for criticizing Islam while preaching outside a metro station in London and his Bible confiscated by police.
Source: INcontext International, July 11, 2019
A presidential committee tasked with rectifying the status of unlicensed Christian places of worship, chaired by Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly, approved on Monday [1 July] legalizing 127 churches and service buildings that used to be operating without permits. This brings to 1,021 the total number of unlicensed Christian places of worship and service buildings that have been granted legal status so far [since 2016]
After 160 years of tight restrictions on building churches in Egypt, these legalizations are not only ground-breaking in legal terms but also revolutionary within a Middle Eastern Christian framework.
» Full story explains why strengthening Egyptian Christian communities is vital for reaching the region and how we can pray. Some of their data comes from an interesting, undated article Minority Report: Christian Persecution in Muslim Majority Countries (Fuller Studio).
» In Egypt Approves 127 Churches, International Christian Concern reports that the government has faced heavy criticism for moving so slowly in this matter, as thousands of churches await legalization. A related article from CBN calls the July 1 decision “sweeping approval” and “a promising start.”
» Also from East Africa, see Revival in the Western Nuba Mountains (Reaching Africa’s Unreached).
Source: God Reports, July 30, 2019
“Viktor” once smuggled illegal drugs from Tajikistan to the state where he lives in Central Asia.
“He seemed to have natural abilities to covertly network across communities,” according to a report by Open Doors. He was so good he was offered the opportunity to smuggle drugs across the Afghanistan border, which would expand his illicit operation into three countries.
But in 1996, Viktor was caught with nine pounds of heroin and sent to jail. Once incarcerated, he became depressed and suicidal. “I felt empty inside and did not want to live anymore.”
One day Viktor’s cellmate received a package from his mother that contained the Gospel of John. The cellmate offered to let Viktor read it. Viktor didn’t want any part of the book at first. But after 10 nights of poor sleep, he picked up the book and began to peruse it. It didn’t make any sense to him. “‘The Word was first and the Word was God’ made no sense to me… What did it mean? I put it away and stopped reading.”
But then something unusual happened. He had more sleepless nights. Thoroughly exhausted and despairing, he picked up the Bible once more and this time, he couldn’t stop reading.
“I read about eternal life,” Viktor told Open Doors. “Reading about eternal life caught my attention. Thinking about it, I really desired eternal life even more than I desired to be released from jail.”
The more he read the Bible the more he felt God’s presence. He didn’t know how to pray, but he called out to Jesus.
Today, he is the pastor of an underground church in Central Asia. He secretly stores Bibles and other Christian media useful for evangelism in his barn. Viktor marvels at the way God turned his life around. “Please do pray that my testimony and my life can bring many people to Christ, and pray also for my relatives,” he said.
In this edition:
- VIDEOS: Missionary Explainer Series
- ARTICLE: Senior Pastor Perspectives
- PODCASTS: Recently Heard
- SURVEY: Growing Global Kids
- EVENTS: August Conferences and Training
Source: Pioneers USA
Pioneers recently released a series of videos you may find helpful. Each one addresses a mission-related question people may have a hard time asking or struggle to explain to others. The videos have some Pioneers branding, but it’s fairly low-key. Topics:
- Who are the lost vs. the unreached? (what does “unreached” mean?)
- What is church planting? (especially cross-culturally?)
- Who is a missionary? (or are we all missionaries?)
- Why go with a mission agency? (instead of going without one)
- Why do I need a sending church? (how goers count on senders)
Know someone with questions like these? Share these videos with them.
» See also the explainer videos from Global Frontier Missions. These are great! I’m told they’ve been updated, too.
Source: Catalyst Services, July 2019
Are senior pastors too busy to lead their churches in global outreach? In this month’s Postings, two lead pastors describe why missions is a priority for them. They also explain how they ignite vision and serve as the #1 cheerleader for missions without being #1 worker.
At the end of the article, you will find (1) practical ideas for pastors who want to better shepherd their church’s global vision and (2) suggestions for a missions team that wants to strengthen their pastor’s global vision.
» Read the article. It includes links to other resources. Then browse the Postings archives for lots more great content.
Source: Missions Catalyst
There’s still time to complete our survey about helping kids grow in their global vision. We’d love to hear your thoughts on that. Read this article to get your mental wheels turning.
» Take the survey. One respondent will get a $25 Amazon gift card.
Have you subscribed to Muslim Connect, from Missions Catalyst’s own Shane Bennett? This weekly email is written to help people like us understand and connect with Muslims and equip others to do so as well. Just 300 words, it’s practical, pithy, and fun.
If you sign up now, you’ll get a free PDF called, “Ten Simple Ways Normal People Can Be Nice to Muslims. With a Danger Rating for Each!”
If one of these topics catches your attention, click through to listen. Like what you hear? Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.
- The Unstoppable, Global Gospel, with Tim Keese (The Gospel Coalition Podcast). Conference message; refers to Tim’s new book.
- The Future of the Missions Organizations, with Eric King (The Upstream Collective Podcast). Emphasizes that churches, not organizations, need to own the mission.
- The Rise and Fall of Movements, with Steve Addison (Engaging Missions Podcast). Also the title of Steve’s new book; get a taste.
- It’s Tea Time Somewhere: All about Expectations (Taking Route Podcast). Women living cross-culturally talk about comparison.
Source: Missions Catalyst Events Calendar
August 2-9, ReBoot Re-entry Program (Calgary, AB, Canada). For returning missionary kids, ages 17-20, transitioning to life in Canada. Held in two locations each summer.
August 5 to December 8, Perspectives on the World Christian Movement (online). Another class will take place August 12 to December 15. Live classes will be launching in many locations throughout the month.
August 10, Reaching Your Hindu Neighbors (King of Prussia, PA, USA). A one-day training where you discover simple ways to share your faith with Hindus via everyday relationships.
August 12-16, Cubs to Lions (Vancouver, BC, Canada). Discipleship for Christians with a Muslim background. From Horizons International. Similar events held worldwide.
August 15, Circle Up! (online). Part of a series of “nugget” trainings for disciplemakers; this one about coaching circles. Provided by Beyond.
August 16-17, One More Conference (Rome, GA, USA). Weekend conference on missions for lay leaders as well as professionals.
August 17, An Introduction to Bible-based Trauma Healing (Clarkston, GA, USA). One-day course from the Trauma Healing Institute.
August 19 to December 6, Christian Engagement with Muslims (online). Course provided by the Lilias Trotter Center, in partnership with Wesley Biblical Seminary.
August 22, Spiritual Direction: A Growing Practice in Missions and Member Care (online). Webinar from Missio Nexus.
August 26 to September 6, Engaging Islam Institute (Beirut, Lebanon). Training event from Horizons International.
August 28-29, Support Raising Bootcamp (Charlotte, NC, USA). Provided by Support Raising Solutions.
August 28, The Sending Triangle: Missionary, Church, Agency (online). Free webinar from Sixteen:Fifteen.
August 29, Stewardship of Short-Term Missions with an Emphasis on Discipleship (online). Webinar from Missio Nexus.
» View the complete calendar. Additions welcome. Want to know more about a specific event? Contact the event organizers.
In Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan, it sometimes seems all hope that the gospel will penetrate is lost. But God is at work, and the church is growing. See related story below (International Mission Board).
In this edition:
Source: International Mission Board, July 19, 2019
Iraq: Northern Iraq has appeared in a lot of headlines over the past few years. As ISIS inches its way closer and closer to Iraqi Kurdistan, stability in the region deteriorates. Military checkpoints dot the land and make land travel long and stressful. [Yet] many say the region is more open to the gospel than it has been in a thousand years.
Iran: Forty years ago, the Islamic Revolution swept [Iran]. Since then, many Iranians have come to a place of spiritual openness. They are fed up with Islam and eager for other options, including Eastern religion and New Age philosophies. Within this spirit of exploration, an overwhelming number of Iranians are finding the truth of Jesus Christ and putting their trust in him.
Afghanistan: War has ravaged the country of Afghanistan for over forty years. The constant change of new regimes and power brokers has worn the people down. Yet the church in Afghanistan is growing. In today’s global environment, even the poorest of the poor own a mobile phone. People are accessing Scripture on their phones and coming to faith in Jesus.
» Full story includes links, stories, and prayer points. Encouraging!
» Another thought-provoking IMB article: Staying on Mission: What Missionaries Can Teach Us in Post-Christian America.
Source: Pioneers USA, July 8, 2019
Jay lives in one of Asia’s poorest and least-developed countries. It’s home to more than 100 people groups and further divided by variations in culture and dialect. The gospel does not easily cross such barriers. The church there was weakened when, decades ago, two-thirds of the Christians and most of the trained pastors left after facing government pressure.
But things are starting to change. Poverty and isolation are lessening. The church, though persecuted, is growing. And groups of foreign and local believers focused on church planting are working together and seeing the gospel start to go places it hasn’t gone before.
We’re encouraged to hear what God is doing in Jay, a young man from one of the people groups we’re praying for. A few months ago, Jay decided to become a Christian. Recently, he shared with his family that he is now a follower of Jesus and is planning on being baptized. They responded to this news surprisingly well… in fact, they are open to hearing more about the gospel of Jesus.
Jay is one of the first in his people group to become a believer.
Source: Assembly of God World Missions, July 22, 2019
Missionaries Don and Jacquie recently finished training 300 Cuban global missions workers, 80 of whom were commissioned for worldwide service at Cuba’s Assemblies of God General Council this year.
“Everywhere we go, a vision for missions is being birthed in this nation,” says Don. “Jacquie and I have traveled this island end to end multiple times. There’s not a place we go that we don’t see God awakening a burden for missions. The church is just exploding.”
In the process of training candidates for missions, Don and Jacquie have discovered a wealth of highly skilled Cubans.
“We know chemical engineers, English professors, lawyers, doctors, and more who are called to go to the nations,” they share.
Cuban culture places a high premium on education, and this cultural value is reflected in the church. Cubans’ professional training strategically equips them to reach sensitive contexts.
And for the first in time in over 50 years, Cubans are now allowed to leave the country for up to two years at a time, providing the first official opportunity to release these uniquely gifted and highly equipped Cuban missionaries.
“It’s like God in the last 60 years has just been training a huge missionary force,” Don and Jacquie state.
» Read full story. It also describes a decades-old prophecy of all this.
» Also from Cuba, we read that a religious freedom defender in Cuba has been released after seven days in prison (Christian Solidarity Worldwide).
» Readers may be encouraged to hear that Christianity has continued to grow in Nepal, despite persecution, with more than 8,000 churches established and over a million converts to Christianity since 2008 (Premier).
Source: Jews for Jesus
[A missionary] who connects with Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) as well as formerly Haredi [men], reports, “A man raised in the Haredi community came to our website and told a volunteer on LiveChat that he had prayed to receive Jesus and wanted to be baptized. His name and contact information were passed on to me. I called John and we had a great conversation.
“John grew up in the Haredi community, but no longer believes in Orthodox Judaism. He described himself as ‘off the derekh,’ a term for ultra-Orthodox Jews who have left the community.
“John met a Christian woman who explained the gospel to him and led him in a prayer of repentance. He then searched online for Jewish people and baptism and found our website.
“At first, we spoke on the phone every few days. When we finally met in person, John described his lifelong search for the truth, including his curiosity about Christianity. He loved the idea of becoming a new creation through faith in Jesus. The topic of baptism was particularly important to him, and when I asked if he’d like to meet and discuss the New Testament together, he agreed.
“In the following weeks and months, John limited our contact to short phone conversations. After a while, he confided his fear that faith in Jesus will alienate him from his family. However, he still wants to stay in touch.
“Around the same time that I reached out to John, Zach contacted us through Facebook. He also grew up practicing ultra-Orthodox Judaism.
“Zach struggles to live up to the standards and expectations of his community. He feels compassion for us because we are Jewish but excluded by his community. He says he also feels excluded.
“We meet in person and between meetings, Zach sends me videos about Judaism. He insists that he isn’t interested in believing as we do yet continues wanting to meet.
Please pray for John and Zach, and for God’s grace to overcome the challenges that would prevent them from following Jesus.
Source: OMF International, July 2019
Recently OMF International has been highlighting stories showing that Buddhists aren’t all the same. They don’t necessarily believe or behave the way you might expect from a textbook!
Jane, a devout Buddhist in Taiwan, shared what Buddhist means to her without ever mentioning the “noble truths” or the “eightfold way.” Instead she talked about loving her family, the importance of listening to others, respect and treating all people equally.
Japanese Buddhism is hard to define, acknowledges an OMF worker in Japan, though it focuses largely on keeping the traditions of one’s ancestors. Confucianism and Shintoism are also part of the Japanese worldview. “Teasing out the differences between the three is nearly impossible.”
“We were surprised to hear the branch of Buddhism they belonged to also teaches salvation by grace,” say other missionaries, also in Japan, with friends who follow Pure Land Buddhism. They grapple with the implications of having similar but different understandings of grace and faith.
» See also OMF’s new infographic about Buddhism. Well done.
Source: International Christian Concern, July 24, 2019
India’s Supreme Court has granted bail to Bijaya Sanaseth, one of seven Christian prisoners who were wrongfully charged and convicted of murdering a Hindu priest in 2008. Sanaseth is the second of the seven Christians to be released on bail.
This false accusation triggered months of anti-Christian riots that swept across the Kandhamal District of Odisha. As a result, over 100 Christians were killed, 8,000 homes were burned or looted, 300 churches were destroyed, and 56,000 people were displaced.
As the riots raged, police arrested seven Christian men and wrongfully charged them with the murder of [the Hindu priest]. On little and often contradicting evidence, these seven Christians were found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment in 2013.
» Read full story and pray for the men still imprisoned.
» See also a story from Delhi about a missionary’s dream, a passage from Ephesians, and an Uber driver who came to faith (God Reports).