Tuesday, February 20, 2007

tia: has god left africa?

There was a moment in Blood Diamond when I almost stood up and screamed "No!" at the screen. It crossed my mind to do so at the time. It really did. I was ticked off...

At various times in the movie people shrug their shoulders at the mess they see around them and simply say "TIA". This Is Africa. At one point this observation goes further as it is affirmed that "God left Africa years ago."

Really?! I just cannot let a statement go by without a few comments.

(a) The staggering growth of the church in Africa would suggest otherwise. This is evidence enough that God is still present and active in Africa. But to quote Shania Twain numbers "don't impress me much" (on their own) ... so I move on

(b) One of the reasons why I am a Christian - and not a Muslim or a Hindu or a Buddhist - is that I am drawn to the way the Bible takes time to reveal God as a God who suffers. Jesus is 'acquainted with grief' and was born so that he could die. The shadow of the cross falls over the earliest chapters of the gospels. God is not embarrassed by TIA. Nor does he try to escape from it. He knows it is the work of sin and evil deep within human hearts and systems. His unfolding plan is to deal to this problem. Nor does God turn his face away from it. For those who seek him he draws nearer and closer to them in their suffering. I love and worship this God...

Sometimes in April (the story of the Rwandan genocide) captures this reality far better than Blood Diamond (probably because it ain't been Hollywoodised!!). What happens at those moments of sharpest pain in that ghastly story? We find characters reciting Psalm 23 and the Lord's Prayer in order to gain comfort. The witness of believers down the centuries and across the timezones is that the light of hope and joy shines brightest just where the dark is darkest. God has never left Africa. He is more there than he has ever been (if that is possible).

We do God a great injustice when we nibble around the edges of this 'health and wealth, happy and clappy' gospel which is so prevalent today. He hates it.

(c) For me the issue of Blood Diamond is not about where God has gone in the face of TIA - but where have the people of God gone ... the very followers of Jesus in those countries where the diamonds are going. Why are they not standing up and confronting TIA? Why are they not joining with their God and drawing closer to this suffering? When will it click for them that a global church finding ways to 'weep with those who weep' on a global scale is going to become a compelling feature of God's global mission - and part of what will commend the gospel to unbelievers.

Maybe TIA is not the only problem. Maybe there is a mess in the movie caused by "This Is Europe" (TIE) or This Is America (a different TIA) or This Is New Zealand (TINZ). In this mess we find people addicted to consumption and unable to control a lust for more. It blinds them and it deafens them to the sights and sounds of TIA and so we do nothing.

nice chatting

Paul Windsor

Friday, February 09, 2007

a first eleven: mission

The essence of mission is being salt and light at the same time. Salt is about mixing in and participating in society. Light is about standing apart and being distinctive from the flow of society. Participating without being distinctive is not very missional. But neither is standing apart without mixing in...

Here in New Zealand there are heaps of examples of people/organisations who do this well. They inspire me! If David Letterman can have his nightly TopTen I am going to have a a go at a First Eleven (with the Cricket World Cup around the corner, of course!) of salty-lighty mission initiatives that give me hope and make me an optimist.

[Warning! What follows is highly subjective!]

#11 the 'God billboards' (www.godmarks.co.nz)
These people have thought about the barriers to the gospel and then in a simple, disarming way they've placed a few imaginary words from God into prominent places. Even the CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi is on record as an admirer... I certainly am!

#10 Maxim
While they do not claim to be exclusively 'Christian' and they have a perspective that not all followers of Jesus may share... I am drawn to the courage and perseverance with which they've engaged the political world with truths/questions long submerged. It's been long overdue.

#9 John Cowan on Sunday Night Talkback
His wit and humour may secure many ears - but it is his grace with people and his seasoned wisdom schooled on the gospel that keeps those ears.

#8 Parachute Music Festival
Regardless of the good it has done for Christian music, there is no denying that this movement has strengthened my arm in a core mission task: Christian parenting. 'Look, there are actually heaps of people who love Jesus.' To stand among such a throng of Jesus-followers helps make the gospel plausible in a pretty hostile land.

#7 Hamish Stevenson and Soul Purpose
This is a little gem. Take a little time with this mag and you quickly discover an immersion in youth culture - but in a way that is aglow with distinctive lights all the way through.

#6 Parenting Inc
Schools and Community Centres and Churches throughout this country - for some years now -have been crowded with people coming for some wise lotion for the very itchy itch that scratches so much. Keep at it Ian and Mary and Co!

#5 Andrew Becroft
I've followed this career for many years. Just a hint of Joseph and Daniel! Immersed in the public world as Principal Youth Court Judge - the criminal activity of young people in his face every day - here is a person of humility and integrity who mixes truth with compassion in order to find a just way forward.

#4 TEAR Fund/WorldVision
Is there another country in the world where this Christian Aid agency combo has such a high and respected profile? I doubt it... It is a massive achievement over many years. Stick at it Steve and Lisa and Co!

#3 Kim Workman and Prison Fellowship
With nightly TV news bulletins being a sequence of criminal activity, the headline sins of the very naughty receives huge exposure in our land. But behind the scenes there is this quiet achievement of 'faith-based prisons' as a testimony to the power of the gospel.

#2 Sam Chapman
The politicians can debate the presence or absence of an underclass in NZ through to the next election ... and they probably will. But there is no denying the power of a transformative gospel at work through Project Awhi - in the very places where our nation is most desperate.

#1 Brooke Fraser
Yes - this one is tops! I am still baffled by the fact that Albertine is a mainstream release. This is my favourite example of salty-lighty mission... lyrics laden with truth wrapped up in the gracious winsomeness of a person with outstanding musicianship.

Yep - these are people who participate in the world in a way that seeks to be distinctive. There are many, many more - many with names we do not recognise! - but these are someo of the ones who have helped me with my Jesus-following.

Two crucial comments with which to conclude:
(a) These are the sort of people who need our persevering prayers...let's not forget to do so.

(b) Let's not forget the local church. I could have offered a First Eleven of salty-lighty local churches. Easy-peasy! I've discovered dozens of them. The local church is where the prime responsibility for gospel-shaped mission lies. Here is where our prime efforts to participate in such mission lies as well. Go for it!

nice chatting


Saturday, February 03, 2007

familiarity breeds content

After an extended summer break in the South Island it is time to get stuck into another year.

When on holiday I love exploring new places. This holiday was no exception. We walked the Abel Tasman Track. Seeing is believing! Bark Bay and Te Puketea Bay will be part of the family vernacular forever. We made our first visit to Golden Bay with Wharariki Beach and Harwood's Hole atop Takaka Hill grabbing our imaginations. We cycled the Central Otago Rail Trail just managing to stay upright amidst the distractions of Poolburn and the Ida Valley and the Taieri River ... and we will be back to do them all again.

But what surprised me most was just how much it was the familiar that bred contentment.

We've lived in Southland. I still find that I support Otago/Southland sports teams. So much in the South is so familiar. Be it traveling over the Lindis Pass from the north OR racing up the side of Lake Pukaki to see the Cookie Monster up close and personal OR tasting everything in the Barker's store in Geraldine OR soaking up that view of the Wakatipu Basin from Coronet Peak OR swimming at St Bathans OR taking those bracing walks up to the glacial faces known as Fox and Franz Josef in shorts and jandals surrounded by tourists dressed to the hilt OR (on the way home) sleeping in the bay window of a 'fisherman's cabin' overlooking Lake Waikaremoana... I could never tire of experiencing any of these.

And yet in life and mission today it is 'the new' which receives so much focus. The pressure to be innovative. The need to be entrepreneurial. While I have no problem with this, I do wonder if we can lose sight of the value of the familiar. Building traditions. Making memories. Returning to sites. Favourite songs. Cherished texts. Valued friends. These breathe a peace and a joy and a contentment into our lives in a way that the 'the new' never can...

Let's pause before we treat the familiar with contempt.

nice chatting - again!