Saturday, November 11, 2006

Meet Dr.Chuck Pierce-A Man After God's Heart!

This weekend I had the priviledge of attending a holy spirit-filled, fire-baptized, anointing- saturated Christian revival meeting in Ann Arbor, Michigan. There was a host of world-known and very respected teachers and preachers of the Word of God. The most precious and memorable moment for me was when Dr.Chuck Pierce placed his hand on my heart and prayed over me. I could literally feel the presence of God all over me. Life will never be the same again.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

I Have a Dream! -The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr

I Have a Dream
The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr
Aug. 28, 1963
1965: In early March, shortly before leading civil rights demonstrators from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., King attended a memorial service for Reverend James Reeb, a white clergyman from Boston who was killed by white thugs in Selma.

King was a student of Mahatma Gandhi's extraordinarily successful non-violent methods of civil protest, and adopted them as a staunch theme of the American civil rights movement.

Here is the historic speech that this great son of a woman made before he died:

"Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of captivity. But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free.

One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land.

So we have come here today to dramatize an appalling condition. In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.

This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.

So we have come to cash this check -- a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God's children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the determination of the Negro. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights.

The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges. But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. we must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" we can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal." I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor's lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring." And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania! Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado! Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California! But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia! Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee! Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

God's "Angel"

Angels! A lot of responsibilities have been handed over to them in Jewish and Christian tradition, in myths and legends and folk theology. Communities have been speculating at it for 4000 years, probably longer. Angels are sent by God to convey the reality, particularly the immense truths, to particular people in decisive states of affairs. The principal truth (the one that Jesus Christ was existing, dying testimony of) is that God is with us and for us, and the angel is here as a part of that. God's communication can be a admonition, or be a consolation in moments of risk and fright.

Today I want to thank God for his “angel” that conveyed a very encouraging message to me. Only God knows how grateful I am to this brother. His name is Joshua Van Til. May the Lord bless him abundantly.

Sunday, October 22, 2006


Renowned teacher and speaker on the subject of Leadership, John Maxwell says that leadership ability determines a person’s level of effectiveness. In essence, our leadership level determines our organization’s level of growth in all aspects. It determines our church’s size, maturity etc.Our leadership is like a lid. It keeps anything underneath from going higher. The lid keeps everything underneath from growing and reaching it’s potential. It is almost impossible to see a situation where the organization grew beyond the lid of the organization. Leadership determines the size of the organization. If my leadership is 4 out of 10, my organization will most likely grow to 3-out-of-10. You don’t have a 4-out-of-10 type of leader leading a 7-out-of-10 type of church or organization. It just doesn’t happen.

A growing organization is the result of a growing leader. Grow a leader and you grow his church or organization. The leader is the lid. Grow it up. Lifting the lid is serious business. It needs to be taken seriously. We cannot have growth without growing leaders. In Proverbs 29 we see that when good people run things, everyone is glad. In the Old Testament, when Israel had a good king they prospered. When they had an evil king they went down the tubes.

The very fact that an organization is going down means that we have the wrong leader. If the organization is declining, it’s because you have a declining leader. If an organization is on a plateau, it’s because it has a leader who is on a plateau. He cannot climb higher.

Don Stevenson, Former President of Global Hospitality in San Diego, CA, a company that bought out other resorts that were going under said that they would take over a resort that was going under, fire the President, turn it around by re-training the workers, make a profit and sell it.According to Stevenson, everything rises and falls on leadership. You cannot expect a church, business, institution, organization or country to turn around and become successful when you have the wrong leader in the highest office. It just does not happen!

The Free Methodist Church in Tanzania has been on a plateau for several years now. In fact, right from the beginning there were problems in the FMCT. Tribalism, nepotism, corruption, witchcraft etc Most of them were because of poor leadership. The leaders that the FMCT has had in the last 10 years have been people who are either not growing or are declining. As a result, the FMCT has been going under in almost every aspect. The establishment of a leadership training program (The Free Methodist Bible College) for the leaders of the FMCT was meant to address this problem. Unfortunately, for reasons beyond explanation, that program had to be closed down. This has only served to aggravate the leadership problem in the FMCT.

Expecting people with very little or no ministry training at all to grow vibrant churches, lead departments in the denomination and have a vision and ministry plan of action in the whole country is a mere joke. It would take a miracle for that to happen. Let us be realistic. Where else have we seen it happening? I know some of you will ask me to look at the disciples of Jesus Christ and see how many of them had high school education or a college degree. Doing that is only being myopic. It is irrelevant and naïve to cast Greek paradigms in a country like Tanzania which has a totally different context all together.

I hate to say it but the reality is that the FMCT is fast becoming a graveyard of spirituality and it’s only a matter of days before it is erased from the books of the church. Many of her members, though not taken out in a coffin, have been left crippled or stunted in ways either subtle or conspicuous.I hope someone with a burden for that church is reading this. The FMCT needs immediate attention if it is to survive. I do not care what you say but the truth is, the FMCT is in a “spiritual intensive unit”! Get me right, I am not being arrogant. I am speaking this from the bottom of my heart knowing very well that it may not go down within some quarters but history would judge me if I did not speak out at such a time.

In such times, it doesn’t help to bring up Chanceldonian controversies. What needs to happen is just to address the question of leadership in that church and save it or ignore it and let it go under. Godliness does not automatically translate into great leadership. That is a fact. Following the laid-down procedures of electing and selecting leaders is not the solution in the FMCT crisis. Something more urgent needs to be down possibly by the Congo General Conference and the East and Central Africa Area Fellowship if it still exists.Spiritual laissez-faire will not help in any way.Eugene Peterson says, “The French have a wonderful phrase, deformation professionale, to refer to maladies that we are particularly liable to in the course of pursuing our line of work. Physicians are in constant danger of becoming calloused to suffering, lawyers in danger of cynicism about justice, and those of us who think and talk and read and write God are in danger of having the very words we use about God separate us from God, the most damning deformation of all". In the same light, those of us who think and talk and read and write the FMC Book of Discipline are in danger of having the very words we use about church discipline separate us from the Church.

I am not suggesting that the leaders of the FMCT are not saved. Neither am I implying that they are not sanctified. I am only saying that they do not have the capacity to grow great churches. The law of the lid in their case dictates so at the moment. The only thing we can do to help the FMCT is to first have the will to save that church. Lack of goodwill at all upper levels in the worldwide FMC is a major hindrance at the moment.There maybe genuine reasons for this and they may need to be addressed too.But the next crucial thing that needs to happen is to come up with a practical plan for leadership training. Then we can recruit suitable leaders to oversee the leadership development plan. Let me hasten to say that a patient cannot treat himself so it is childish for any of the leaders in the FMCT to be entrusted with the responsibility of heading the leadership training program should it become a reality one day.It is not going to be easy. Some of us will not come out unscathed, but that is the price of leadership.It is not without considerable trepidation that I have opted to walk this path.

Friday, October 20, 2006

"Make room for the human imagination" Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker

Beautiful Belief

On behalf of the Florida Conference I wish to express my appreciation to the Sherman family and to the Candler School of Theology for the Sherman Scholarship program. This generous trust makes it possible for Floridians as well as others to receive a theological education and vocational foundation in one of the most distinguished schools of theology in America. As a General Superintendent, I want to use this occasion to share reflections about the church’s confession of its belief as part of its mission.

I wish to speak to you tonight about "Beautiful Belief." At the outset, I need to define what I mean by ‘belief.’ The primary meaning of ‘belief’ for Christians is personal trust in the mystery of God’s self-giving revealed in Jesus Christ through the energy of the Holy Spirit. Yet there is also another way of defining ‘belief.’ It may also mean the doctrine of the church that represents the consensus of the global church over time about how to interpret the cognitive content of the revelation of God. As I speak about ‘belief’ I am referring to the doctrine of the church that is taught rather than the phenomenon of personal trust.

Usually when we think of Christian belief we do not understand it as an object of beauty. We tend to think of belief as being true or good, but not as being beautiful. The truthfulness of Christian belief is usually our primary concern. We want to know if a belief taught by the Church is true and how we can say it is true. Occasionally we are concerned with the goodness of belief. We want to know if it is good, i.e., good for us, to believe what the church teaches. One of the most important books of the last ten years is Ellen Charry’s By the Renewing of Our Minds: the Pastoral Function of Christian Doctrine (New York: Oxford, 1997). She demonstrates how believing Christian doctrine has a salutary effect upon our attitudes and our behavior. Likewise, Episcopalian Bishop C. FitzSimmons Allison makes the same point in his book The Cruelty of Heresy (Harrisburg, PA: Moorehouse Pub., 1994). Allison demonstrates that the heresies of the church are dangerous not only because they are not true, but also because they are cruel: they mislead people into attitudes and behavior that are destructive for them. So then, while we may judge Christian belief according to the standards of truth and goodness, we rarely consider Christian belief from the perspective of beauty.

Swiss Protestant theologian Karl Barth was the first in the modern era to consider the beauty of belief. In his discussion of the doctrine of God in the Church Dogmatics (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1936-1977) Barth concluded his explication of the attributes of God with the question, Can we also say God is beauty? He answered, yes. Barth went on to say that the beauty of God must be understood according to the biblical witness to the glory of God. For Barth, it was necessary to make a distinction between ‘glory’ and ‘beauty’ because ‘glory’ refers to the transcendent beauty of the God of freedom whereas ‘beauty’ may be understood only in terms of a delightful perception of form in worldly realities. Nevertheless, once he acknowledged that divine beauty is a manner of testifying to God’s glory, Barth affirms that we can say that God is beauty because speaking of God’s beauty is a way of perceiving who God is that cannot be said any other way. Barth has provided an enormous service to the church by recovering an emphasis upon God’s beauty that had been neglected by Catholic and Protestant theologians for centuries.

There is one 20th century theologian, Hans Urs von Balthasar who made beauty the central perspective by which to understand Christian belief. Balthasar, a Roman Catholic theologian, lived in the same city in Switzerland as Barth. He affirmed Barth’s insight about the beauty of God, and then proceeded to write a whole theology based on the perspective of beauty. His theological aesthetics is the seven volume series titled The Glory of the Lord (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1983). Balthasar said there are three transcendentals, faith, goodness, and beauty. While all of these are related, beauty is often neglected in the church’s teaching of its beliefs. In order to correct the imbalance, Balthasar wrote The Glory of the Lord to demonstrate what Christian belief is when it is seen from the perspective of beauty.

Balthasar’s own work has inspired the group of British theologians known as the school of "Radical Orthodoxy." The leader of that school, John Milbank, has written about Christology as poetics in his book The Word Made Strange (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1997).

The works of these two Swiss theologians, Barth and Balthasar—one a Reformed theologian of the Word, the other a Catholic philosophical theologian and arguably the two greatest theologians of the 20th century—should inspire those of us who are not academic theologians to reflect more on the beauty of Christian belief.

When I refer to the beauty of Christian belief I am not thinking primarily of the styles in which it is presented. I am not thinking about literary skills in writing, eloquent rhetoric in preaching, or the employment of all the arts in worship. Attention to style by Christians is important and there should be much more of it. Primarily I mean that the beauty of Christian belief is the attractive charm of the divine revelation itself. It is the story of God’s disclosure of God’s self in God’s revelation to Israel culminating in the coming of Jesus Christ as the unity of God and human being that is beautiful. It is no accident that the Greek word charis may be translated as both ‘grace’ and ‘charm.’ The grace of God fully disclosed in Jesus Christ is charming, and it casts its spell upon us in a way that attracts us.

I submit that the mission of the church to make disciples of Jesus Christ in the postmodern world requires us to teach Christian belief as beautiful as well as true and good.

There is an obstacle that the church must learn to overcome if it is going to be able to present beautiful belief to people in order to invite them to become disciples of Jesus Christ. That obstacle is a set of habits that the church acquired in the Western world as it tried to respond to the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment, the intellectual movement that began in Europe in the 18th century, is characterized by a rationalistic interpretation of reality. Combined with the scientific method, the view of the world engendered by the Enlightenment is one in which only that which can be comprehended by human reason or observed by the human senses can be legitimized as ‘real.’ In England, this movement was known as deism; in France, illuminism; and in Germany, Enlightenment. Immanuel Kant raised the challenge of the Enlightenment in Germany when he exclaimed, "Dare to know! Have courage to use your own reason!--that is the motto of the Enlightenment."

As the church responded to the Enlightenment, it tried to accommodate the Enlightenment’s dogmatic assumptions about what is real. In other words, the church went on the defensive by conceding too many of the claims of the Enlightenment. The consequences of the accommodation were two-fold. The church tended to succumb to reductionism; that is, it reduced its views of reality to fit the presuppositions of the Enlightenment. It leaned toward disavowing miracles and pushing divine revelation out of history into a realm of ideas or inner experiences. Also, the church tended to embrace deconstruction as a method for determining the truth found in Scripture and in its creeds. The church in the West assumed that if reality is as the Enlightenment says it is, then we must deconstruct the story in the Bible and try to find out what really happened, and we must also deconstruct the creeds of the church in order to recover the simple gospel, which must consist of the teaching of Jesus about love or the coming history of God’s reign of justice and peace. I realize I am over-simplifying, but it is necessary to grasp the story of how the mind of the church changed in its engagement with the Enlightenment. Whatever you may say about the church’s belief as a result of its encounter with the Enlightenment, I think you might agree that reductionism and deconstruction are not the ways to beautiful belief. There is something grotesque about the appearance of Christian belief once the jaws of reductionism and deconstruction have mangled it.

Rather than dealing directly with the claims of truth posed by the Enlightenment, I want to go in another direction. I agree with many who perceive that the claims of the Enlightenment are no longer normative for postmodern people. People today still give room to reason and science—as they ought—but they are no longer willing to allow reason and science all the room on the field of human inquiry into the truth of reality. Postmodern people assume that there are mysteries that transcend the capacities of human logic and human observation. In her book Winter Hours, (New York: Houghton Mifflin Co. 1999) the poet Mary Oliver spoke for many when she wrote,

"Knowledge has entertained me and it has shaped me and it has failed me. Something in us still starves. In what is probably the most serious inquiry of my life, I have begun to look past reason, past the provable, in other directions. Now I think there is only one subject worthy of my attention, and that is the recognition of the spiritual side of the world, and within the recognition, the condition of my spiritual state."

This openness to look past reason, past the probable of which Mary Oliver speaks is the mindset of many postmodern people. Whatever else the obscure label ‘postmodern’ means, it means that we are living in an intellectual climate that is post-Enlightenment.

Given that we are living in a new cultural context it will be more possible to teach Christian belief as participating in the true, the good and the beautiful.

I wish to suggest the new habits we must practice in order to teach Christian belief as beautiful. I am going to be merely suggestive, but I hope my suggestions point in the direction of the church learning how to teach beautiful belief.

First, there must be confidence in the Christian creed. The creed of the Church is the summary of its primary beliefs. The ancient Church called this summary the "rule of faith" or the "canon of truth." The summary finds its classic expression in The Apostle’s Creed and the Nicene Creed. The creed is the summary of the cognitive deposit of the revelation of God.

There are signs that the church is recovering its confidence in its creed. Christianity is growing most rapidly in Africa, Latin America and Asia, and in all these places the church has confidence in its creed. Even in the Western world there is increasing evidence that the brightest and most competent scholars take seriously the claims in the creed. I suspect that part of the reason for this is a new sense of liberation from the reductionist and deconstructionist presuppositions of the Enlightenment.

The creed is essential to beautiful belief because it is a particular aesthetic form—it is drama. The cognitive content of divine revelation is presented as a story or a drama. In this case, the drama is the divine drama of God’s salvation of the world. The British writer, Dorothy L. Sayers said, "the dogma is the drama." When people are taught what Christian doctrine really claims, Sayers said, they simply cannot believe that anything so interesting, so exciting and so dramatic can be the orthodox creed of the church."

Hans Urs von Balthasar followed The Glory of the Lord with a five-volume discussion of Christology titled Theo Drama (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1988). Balthasar interprets the event of Jesus Christ in the context of the theatre. The dramatic beauty of the gospel cannot be unveiled until the Church recovers its confidence in its creed.

The second thing that has to happen to perceive and to communicate the beauty of belief is there must be a synthesis of symbols. Anyone who compares the theological writings of the church fathers with many contemporary theologians will notice how much more the church fathers relied upon symbols in their preaching and teaching. One reason may be that most of the fathers were bishops or teachers in the church whereas most theologians today are academicians. Beyond a difference in social location, it seems that the ancients understood better than we the power of symbols.

You might describe the preaching of the ancients as a poetics of the creed. The poet Seamus Heaney describes poetry as "a source of truth" and at the same time "a vehicle of harmony." The same could be said of the speeches and writing of the ancients. They used symbolic rhetoric to elaborate the meaning of the creed in order to present the Christian faith as a harmonic whole without compromising the truth of the divine revelation in the witness of the prophets and apostles. The church fathers and mothers use of symbols such as the symbols of the descent and the ascent of the incarnate Word of God reveals the power that lies in symbolic speech.

Just listen to some of the famous rhetorical gems typical of the Church Fathers. Irenaeus said of Jesus Christ. "He became what we are in order to enable us to become what He is." Gregory Nazianzen said, "The Son of God deigns to become and to be called the Son of Man that the incomprehensible might be comprehensible." Leo the Great said, "He who became man in the form of a servant is he who in the form of God created man." These sayings bring delight to the mind and even pleasure to the body through the organ of the ear.

I view the Fathers’ symbolic speech as being based upon a synthetic method. They are taking the basic beliefs found in the scriptures and the creed of the church and organizing them into a synthetic whole. It is just the opposite approach to that taken by deconstruction or de-mythologizing, which too often is characteristic of a modern interpretation of Christian belief.

The kind of theology that is a synthesis of symbols is still characteristic of much Eastern Orthodox theology, which is, of course, directly dependent on the church Fathers. I like to compare the notes in The Orthodox Study Bible with those in The Oxford Annotated Bible and The New Jerusalem Bible (NJB). In the notes on Mark 1:9-11, which is the brief report of Jesus baptism, The Oxford Annotated Bible only cities other biblical references and merely comments on the word "Beloved" in the statement, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased." Oxford says, "Beloved, similar in meaning to chosen (Is. 42:1), refers to an act of will rather than of feeling..." By contrast The Orthodox Study Bible says,

"By saying He came up from the water, Mark suggests Jesus was immersed in water. Christ’s rising from the water is symbolic of His ascension, since the same Greek verb is also used to refer to that event. The church Fathers taught that in coming up, He lifts the whole world with Him. The Spirit descending upon Him foreshadows the Spirit’s descent upon the first Christians at Pentecost. ‘Like a dove’ does not mean the Holy Spirit is incarnated as a dove. Rather this is a special sign indicating the presence of the Spirit. A dove symbolizes purity, peace and wisdom. The voice of God the Father from heaven makes Jesus baptism a manifestation or epiphany of the Holy Trinity. The Father is not adopting Jesus as His Son, but proclaiming that He is and always has been His Son. The divine proclamation, combining a messianic Psalm (Ps. 2:7) with the first song of the Suffering Servant of the Lord (Is. 42:1), reveals who Jesus is. Thus Jesus’ baptism anticipated His Transformation and Resurrection, the dawning of the new creation."

The NJB has no notes on Mark 1:9-11.

The purposes of these study Bibles are quite different. The Oxford refers to the best contemporary Protestant scholarship. The NJB represents the best contemporary Roman Catholic scholarship, and the Orthodox Study Bible represents an interpretation of scripture in light of the Great Tradition of the Orthodox. Nevertheless, the ability of the Orthodox Annotated Bible to present a synthesis of symbols in its interpretation of the Bible is striking by contrast to the Protestant and Catholic Study Bibles.

There are some 20th century apologists who understand the power of symbols. The two best known are G. K. Chesterton and C. S. Lewis. It is probably no accident that both were literary men and laymen as well.

Postmodern people are hungry for symbols. The success of Lewis’s friend J.R.R. Tolkien’s trilogy The Lord of the Rings (Houghton Mifflin Co., 2002) is a demonstration of the attraction of a symbolic world.

Beautiful Belief is an expression of the Christian faith in which symbols are synthesized in a harmonic whole in a way that expresses the beauty of the world of divine revelation.

The third thing that must happen in order to perceive and to communicate the beauty of belief is to make room for the human imagination as a means for illuminating the work of the Holy Spirit in the exegesis of scripture. In theory, there needs to be a recovery of the allegorical method of interpreting scripture. The allegorical method was adopted by Origen around 200 CE, and became characteristic of Alexandrian theology in the ancient church. Origen said there are three meanings in scripture: the physical, i.e., the historical or literal; the moral; and the spiritual. Origen and his followers believed that the letter kills, but the Spirit makes alive. Therefore, they were always looking for the spiritual meaning of the text, especially in the Old Testament, as a way of making the text come alive. The abuses of allegory are well known, and they should not be repeated. Nevertheless, there should be a recovery of a freedom to practice an exegesis that allows room for the Spirit to illuminate the spiritual meaning of the text. Only in this way can preachers relate to the spirituality of the culture.

In Christian Century, Richard Lischer stated,

"More and more preachers are engaged in the spiritual reading of the Bible using methods taught by the fathers, mothers and mystics of the church. One such method is the use of allegory, which instead of constricting the interpreter’s options celebrates the divine abundance within the biblical text. The church ‘settled’ the matter of allegory twice, repudiating it first during the Reformation and a second time in the heyday of historical criticism. Yet the debate over the multiplicity of meanings in text has not gone away, as postmodern interpreters have made clear. Literary criticism has opened our eyes to the multivalency of the texts. Contrary to what many of us learned in seminary, most biblical texts do not broadcast one clear, easily outlined lesson. And theological interpretation, which makes the modest proposal that texts are about God and are meant to be read by church at worship, has opened our eyes to the great galaxy of riches of patristic exegesis, including once-despised allegory."

During the 20th century the focus has been on deconstruction of the text into its many layers of tradition and the history of its words. There is a place for this kind of scientific exegesis, but what this kind of exegesis does not accomplish very well is conveying the theological and spiritual meaning of the text.

Acts 27, Luke’s narrative of the apostle Paul’s shipwreck, provides an example of how one might infer a spiritual meaning from a text. F.F. Bruce, a modern conservative scholar, was quite interested in the theological and spiritual meaning of texts. He acknowledged that some have found allegorical meaning in the story but he quickly adds that these interpreters should "…beware of supposing that Luke had any such interpretation in mind when he penned his narrative." (Commentary on the Book of Acts [Eerdmans 1971], p.498) How can Bruce be so sure? Isn’t this just the convention of modern scholarship prohibiting him from finding allegorical meanings in the story?

By contrast, Hans Urs Von Balthasar states, "Luke is very aware of the symbolism of his narrative."(The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics, Volume III: Theology: the New Covenant [Ignatius Press; San Francisco, 1989], pages 542-543) Bathasar perceives that the ship is the early visible form of the church in history. It is going to encounter the storms of persecution and oppression. The institutional form of the church may indeed be splintered and broken. Yet the church has its own soul and spirit, an inner form that is given by God, and these cannot be destroyed. In the shipwreck, it is the Apostle and those who have eaten the Lord’s Supper with him who survive. Here is an indication that even though the institution of the church may be broken, the church as a community based upon apostolic witness will endure. Paul escapes the wreckage by clinging to a plank. Balthasar suggests that the plank represents Christ who carries us on his back through all he storms of time. A careful reading of Acts 27 suggests many images that speak to the meaning of the church as a spiritual community as it moves through history.

I suggest that the apprehension and communication of Christian belief that will attract spiritually seeking people in postmodern culture is one that is beautiful. Beautiful belief is characterized by a confidence in the creed, an ability to synthesize the symbols of the faith, and a willingness to allow room for a spiritual sense of the scriptures.

The early 20th century English novelist and poet Thomas Hardy once described poetry as being akin to religion. This secular poet who rejected Christian belief was like Wallace Stevens who sought the spiritual meaning of life in art. Art is no substitute for religion, but it is true that they are kin. What unites them is what is too often missing in the church: the sense of the beauty of the mystery of Being. The Christian conviction is that the revelation of God in Jesus Christ is not only the divine truth and divine goodness, but also the divine aesthetic that has the power to draw all people to it.

Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker
Florida Conference
Delivered for the Sherman Advisory Board
at the Sherman Scholars Dinner, October 29, 2002.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

"Betrayal in the City" by Francis Imbuga

Today I woke up with my mind traveling down memory lane. I remembered some of the books that I read as a young man in high school. I thought of Chinua Achebe's "Things Fall Apart". I also thought of Elechi Amadi's "Concubine" but the book that stuck on my mind the whole day was Frank Imbuga's "Betrayal In the City"

In Betrayal In The City, play wright Francis Imbuga paints a picture of an independent African state, which has to bare the brunt of repressive leadership.

The head of the state of Kafira, who is perfectly referred to as "Boss", gives no room to alternative view.Those around him perpetrate this, and even believe that Boss' interests have to be protected, whatever the case and cost.

One of the characters, Mosese wa Tonga, who succumbs to this repression, looks back, in the history, and into the future of Kafira under Boss, and what he sees is emptiness.

He envisages a state failed by the politics of bad policy, improper ideology, tribalism and corruption.

Reading Betrayal In The City, one does not escape the nostalgia that informs the disillusioned citizens of Kafira; from the peasants in the village to the elite in the city.

Mosese sums this up in the resounding words; "It was better while we waited. Now we have nothing to look forward to. We have killed our past and are busy killing our future..." What ails Kafira is the spectre of Political realism. This is a socio-political Darwinism in which those in leadership believe that by whatever means they got to their positions, they were born to lead over others.

Alexander Mosley, in the On-line encyclopediaaedia of Philosophy © 2005, says Political realism .. takes the assumption that power is (or, ought to be) the primary end of political action... it assumes that interests are to be maintained through the exercise of power.True, this is how dynasties and kingdoms exercised power before the emergence of nation states brought about by political revolutions and civilization.

Civilization meant that nation states exercise universal suffrage and a doctrine that those affected by social institutions participate in their established management.

Coming back to the Church and mission organizations in the 21st Century, one wonders how many churches/organizations are suffocating under the authoritarian leadership of "Boss" and his lieutenants. I hate to imagine it but the more I talk to people who have been in the church/mission organizations for a long time, the more I realize how Francis Imbuga's novel brings out the sufferings of many faithfuls and clergy. How I wish some churches/mission organizations would just take this book and read it then prayerfully and humbly glean some valuable insights from it.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Hero of the month!

The mark of a true professional is giving more than you get-Said Robert Kirby (1948 British born musical arranger) This past week was rather challenging to me in several ways. First I felt betrayed by people that I have always loved, trusted and respected. Then I got this terrible toothache that seemed to grow each hour. To make the matters worse, I went to a dentist close to the school that I attend only to be charged a huge amount of money just for “consultation” then he gave me an appointment to go for treatment with another huge amount of cash. Am talking of at least one thousand bucks! Of course I could not afford the amount that he needed in order to treat me.

A friend of mine from Kenya saw the pain that I was in and decided to take me to another dentist in Cedar Springs, Grand Rapids,MI. He is a Christian and the love of Christ just exudes from his face and words. He did not give me an appointment. He worked on my teeth immediately and restored my smile. Dr.Jerry did not tell me many stories to “convince” me on how good he is. He just did his work. On top of that, he understood that I am just a student from Africa. Talk of having people who are humane. Now I agree with Andrew Carnegie, (1835-1919, American Industrialist, Philanthropist) who said, "As I grow older, I pay less attention to what men say. I just watch what they do." Be it in the Christian circles or outside. Just watch what they do!

He and his assistant, are my hero and heroine of the month!

Friday, September 15, 2006

Excerpt from: The Way of the Heart by Henri Nouwen

"Solitude is the furnace of transformation.
Without solitude we remain victims of our
society and continue to be entangled in
the illusions of the false self. Jesus himself
entered into this furnace.

There he was tempted with the three
compulsions of the world: to be relevant
("turn stones into loaves"), to be spectacular
("throw yourself down"), and to be powerful
("I will give you all these kingdoms"). There he
affirmed God as the only source of his identity.
("You must worship the Lord your God and
serve him alone"). Solitude is the place of the
great struggle and the great encounter - the
struggle against the compulsions of the
false self, and the encounter with the loving
God who offers himself as the substance of
the new self."

How I wish all people would develop these three disciplines: silence, solitude and prayer in our noisy, busy and fast-paced society. Gerald Baraza.

Friday, September 08, 2006

African Churches In Your Back Yard !

Christian Leaders for Africa Update
September, 2006 www.clafrica.com
African Churches In Your Back Yard
You know God is up to something when African churches start showing up in the cities and suburbs of America.

Look around. You may be surprised.

There are over one million Africans who have settled in the United States in the last several decades. Many of them are Christians. Many are missionaries. Many believe the Lord sent them to take the Gospel to every nation, even ours.

There are African denominations that are planting churches across the world. Some of the largest churches in London are African. The largest church in Kiev, Ukraine, was started by an African. The Redeemed Christian Church of God which is based in Nigeria has planted hundreds of churches in the United States and each of them is planting more churches.

The immigration of so many Africans is good news for us but not necessarily good news for the countries they left. Many of these Africans are highly educated professionals who left Africa to get away from civil war and to give their children a better opportunity. We cannot criticize them for this because most of us would probably do the same if we were in their circumstances.

The African churches that have emerged in the United States are often ethnic congregations. Kenyans, Nigerians, Ethiopians, Sudanese, Congolese and Liberians gather in communities and create churches for themselves and their families. The second generation will require services in English and will become more culturally American. Many will reach out to non-Africans and their churches will slowly become integrated.

Your church can be a partner by offering space in your building for an African church to meet. This begins a cross-cultural relationship between two congregations, good for both.

Many Africans who already speak English may choose to enter an American church and become active members. They can help your congregation to develop an African connection and commitments to the church in Africa.

You will discover that you are in touch with a growing missionary movement from around the world coming to the United States and you will realize the Holy Spirit is in it.

NEGST Professors Lead Bible Commentary Project
According to Grant LeMarquand, an Anglican church historian who taught in Africa for many years, “In the West, scholarship has been done primarily within the academy. In the interest of objectivity, critical methods are used to uncover the meaning of the text in its original context. The faith stance of the reader is considered to be irrelevant or problematic in the unbiased search for the truth. In Africa, there is more of an attempt to acknowledge the place of the faith of the biblical scholar. Almost all exegesis in Africa is confessional and written for the edification of the believing community.” (Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of Scripture, eds. Kevin Vanhoozer, N. T. Wright, Craig Bartholomew, and Daniel Treier (Baker Academic, 2005, page 33).

If you want to see for yourself how African biblical scholars interpret the Bible confessionally and for the edification of the believing community, get your hands on the new Africa Bible Commentary just released this summer in a grand ceremony in Nairobi, Kenya (link to attached photo spread). This one-volume collection of articles on every book of the Bible and numerous biblical topics was written by 70 African evangelical scholars representing 15 African countries and 10 different church traditions. The book is 1585 pages in length and took five years to produce. Leading the effort were two NEGST professors, Samuel Ngewa and Tewoldemedhin Habtu, who served as editors and who each wrote many chapters.

The general editor of the book was Tukunboh Adeyemo, the honorary chancellor of NEGST. Also contributing chapters were Douglas Carew, James Nkansah-Obrempong and Victor Cole.

The commentary is available in English but will eventually be published in French, Swahili, Amharic, Yoruba, Zulu, Afrikaans and Portugese. The purpose of this volume is not only to demonstrate that African evangelicals are making their contribution to our understanding of the Bible but to give African pastors a tool to help them preach and teach the Word of God in an African context. A rapidly-growing church on the African continent needs trained leaders and trained leaders need resources that help them know and apply the Scriptures to the challenges they face.

What a milestone this commentary is—produced by Africans for the church in Africa!

You can order your copy of this volume online through almost any service such as Amazon or Barnes & Noble, or from the American publisher, Zondervan.

Reaching Muslims By Understanding Their Cultures
Dr. Caleb Kim teaches in the Missions department at Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology in Nairobi, Kenya. Caleb and his colleague, Dr. Stephen Sesi, are pioneering an Islamic Studies program at NEGST that will equip missionaries to serve in Muslim communities. Caleb is also an adjunct professor at Fuller Theological Seminary where he teaches Korean students in missions. A recent article summarizing his research in African-Muslim contexts was published in the Lausanne World online publication.

Where did your interest in Islam begin?
CK: In 1989 I was sent to a remote region of Kenya by my Presbyterian mission board in South Korea. The tribes to whom I was sent to preach the gospel were mostly Muslim. I soon realized I did not understand these people at all. I knew about Islam as a religion but these people did not act or believe as Islam taught. They used the language of Islam but followed their tribal customs and religious practices. It was actually a shamanistic society where spirit possession was very real. A Muslim cleric condemned these practices but the ordinary people did them anyway. I decided to learn more about Islam in Africa and so began my career as an anthropologist. I eventually did my research in Tanzania which was recently published by a publisher in Nairobi, Acton Publishers.

What did you learn as you studied Muslims in East Africa?
CK: What I have been studying is folk Islam. Most people think of Islam as a world religion and an ideology. They look at it on the universal level. But locally and in settings like Africa, Islam looks very different. It is a culture, not just a religion. Islamic beliefs and values have been blended into African traditions. This happens among Christians as well. We call it syncretism. In Africa, Islam is adapted by the culture and made practical for the benefit of the community. Christians have to approach Muslims in Africa on this cultural level and communicate in culturally understandable ways.

The most striking example of folk Islam in East Africa for me was the ritual of healing conducted by a Muslim healer who made contact with spirits while in a trance. I was able to witness these ceremonies in person. The Muslim healer acknowledged Allah but also used his divination powers to solve a patient’s problems. Jinn are possessive spirits that are believed to cause incurable diseases. The healer, or shaman, negotiates with the spirits to reduce the power of jinn over the patient. Orthodox Muslims denounce such practices but they are very common all over Africa. Christians have to take this type of activity seriously but focus on Jesus who casts out demons and who has power over the spiritual and the physical world.

Why is this research important for Christian missionaries?
CK: The challenge for every missionary is to present the Gospel in a culturally relevant way. This requires the missionary to study cultures and to consider how all the elements of a culture can affect the perception of the Christian message. We can easily confuse or offend someone by the cultural forms we use as we present the Gospel. For example, Muslims consider worship an act of total submission to God often demonstrated by kneeling or lying prostrate on the floor. To stand or to sit in prayer as Christians often do can be considered by some Muslims to be a lack of respect for God.

How do you go about training people to be missionaries in a Muslim culture?
CK: One of the first things I require of students at NEGST is to start a friendship with a Muslim. For many, this is the first time they have spoken with a Muslim. Many are often afraid to contact even their Muslim neighbors. Some assume Muslims are controlled by evil spirits. They fear having a curse put upon them by the Muslim. Though a bit different from these ordinary people, our students at first express their uneasiness about contacting Muslims for the study; however, they soon discover the power of Jesus and the importance of relationships as the way to show the love of Jesus.

They learn that not everything about Islam is bad. They study the Muslim’s culture and learn to appreciate some of its strengths. I often refer to the symbol of Islam, the crescent. This is the light that shines around the moon. It is all the truth a Muslim can see. Jesus is the Son of God and in him we see all of God’s light. When a student reaches out to a Muslim friend, he is starting with the crescent and moving toward the sun.

Why is it important for NEGST to have a Ph.D. in Islamic Studies?
CK: All we have at the moment is an M.A. But the need for trained African missions leaders in Islamic Studies is great. Islam is growing steadily on the African continent. Muslims want to capture the continent as much as Christians do. We want to model a Ph.D. after the one NEGST has already started in Biblical and Translation Studies. It will be rooted in the African context with hands-on field experience. It will bring in other disciplines as well so that a graduate is broadly educated as a missionary.

There is always a high price to be paid by a Muslim converting to Christianity. Does it have to be this way?
CK: Yes, because Islam is a culture and not simply a religion which can be practiced as much or as little as we want. To convert to Christianity from Islam is to betray your own people. It is a rejection of your community. A Muslim family will disown the convert and experience great shame. I know what this is like because I converted from Buddhism and my family rejected me. That is why Christians must provide a strong community for Muslim converts because that will be their new family.

I have a student at NEGST who used to be a Muslim scholar in an African country. He lives every day with the awareness that someone may try to kill him because of his conversion to Christ. He has helped so many students at NEGST see the Muslim world from the inside.

It seems like American Christians are not prepared to reach out to Muslims. What is needed?
The greatest threat to Christianity is not Islam. It is secularism. Secularism is the love of the world and the flesh and the neglect and ignorance of God. Secularism is also the greatest threat to Islam. Muslims associate secularism with the West but it is found in every society and undermines every religion. For Christians in the West, secularism is already deep in their souls. It eats up our passion for God and our compassion for people. Our witness to Muslims lacks credibility when we are indulging ourselves in the pleasures of the world. We should not fear Muslims as much as we should fear the failure of our witness because of the way we live.

What light can you shed on America’s conflicts with radical Islam?
CK: We have to understand something about the history and culture of Islam, especially the difference between the Sunni and Shiite communities. This distinction goes all the way back to Muhammad’s descendents. One family line was oriented to a more spiritual leadership; the others looked to the consensus of elders and community leadership. The two lines have been in violent conflict since the beginning. That is why it will be almost impossible to achieve a peace in Iraq. When Saddam was in power, he kept the tensions in check by brutal force. Freedom will allow the antagonisms to explode again. Only a minority of Muslims have adapted to the Western model of political life.

What should be American Christians’ role in reaching the Muslim world?
I believe God has spared the United States greater judgment because of what the church has done for world missions. In the last century, American churches led the world in sending missionaries. The United States still has an important role to play in missions but it will be different in this century. Instead of sending missionaries, the church in the United States must support the efforts of the church on other continents to train and send missionaries. This is a far more strategic use of their resources. Secondly, the church in America must see itself as the primary mission field, especially since people from all over the world are coming to America. There are 80,000 South Koreans studying in the United States. Over a million Africans have migrated to the U.S. in the last decade or two. And think of all the Muslims who live in America. Where will American Christians do their best evangelism among Muslims? In their own country, in cities like Dearborn, Michigan, where more Iraqis reside than anywhere else outside of Iraq. This will require lay people in the church to see themselves as missionaries for they are the ones who will do the work of missions.

This may be off the topic but tell us about North Korea. How do we understand and relate to this nation?
CK: Actually there is a connection because one has to understand North Korea as a religious society. My father and my wife’s mother were born there and it is always on the minds of all South Koreans. It is much more than a communist society. The father of the current president of North Korea ruled with a charismatic leadership style but he became an idol whom the people worshipped. I compare it to what happened in Waco, Texas, when the followers of David Koresh’s cult believed he spoke the words of God. Or the Jonestown cult in South America. To maintain this control, the leader must pay those around him large amounts of money to remain loyal. This means the leadership of the society will be corrupted. He must also build walls around the society and keep his people from having contact with outsiders. It is very hard for people in such a society to rebel against the leader because that is like apostasy. It’s not unlike Christians forsaking Christ.

NEGST Grads Head Kenyan Mission Agency
By now you know how excited we are about training African missionaries and the Missions department at NEGST.

But it gets even better. There is a Kenyan mission agency called Sheepfold Ministries that works among unreached peoples in East Africa, most of whom are also Muslim. Sheepfold has 50 missionaries on its staff and they are led by recent graduates of NEGST, Harun Kuruku and his wife, Judy, who has another year to go.

Sheepfold sends out its missionaries to live among Muslims, often as teachers or other occupations, living simply and frugally, bearing witness to Christ as they build friendships. They may not know the tribal languages but they speak the common trade language of Swahili.

Harun and Judy both studied at NEGST in order to help their missionaries be more effective. They both benefited greatly from the Islamic Studies program at NEGST. Even though the missionaries are Kenyans reaching Kenyans, there are still huge cultural barriers to overcome. Their passion is to bring the message of the gospel more effectively and relevantly to the Muslim peoples around them.

Harun and Judy are the kind of students NEGST receives and who can be supported with our scholarship gifts so they can study at NEGST. Just think of the investment in the next generation of missionaries who are sacrificing their lives for the Gospel among those most resistant to the Gospel.

We are seeking churches and individuals who want to support the education of missionaries like Harun and Judy. If you want to join this 21st century missions strategy, contact us at this address below or respond to this email newsletter.

Christian Leaders for Africa
P.O. Box 1642
Indianapolis, IN 46206

Sunday, September 03, 2006

"Spirituality for All the Wrong Reasons"

Spirituality for All the Wrong Reasons
An interview with Eugene Peterson in Christianity Today

What is the most misunderstood aspect of spirituality?
That it's a kind of specialized form of being a Christian, that you have to have some kind of in. It's elitist. Many people are attracted to it for the wrong reasons. Others are put off by it: I'm not spiritual. I like to go to football games or parties or pursue my career. In fact, I try to avoid the word.

Many people assume that spirituality is about becoming emotionally intimate with God.
That's a naïve view of spirituality. What we're talking about is the Christian life. It's following Jesus. Spirituality is no different from what we've been doing for two thousand years just by going to church and receiving the sacraments, being baptized, learning to pray, and reading Scriptures rightly. It's just ordinary stuff.

This promise of intimacy is both right and wrong. There is an intimacy with God, but it's like any other intimacy; it's part of the fabric of your life. In marriage you don't feel intimate most of the time. Nor with a friend. Intimacy isn't primarily a mystical emotion. It's a way of life, a life of openness, honesty, a certain transparency.

Doesn't the mystical tradition suggest otherwise?
One of my favorite stories is of Teresa of Avila. She's sitting in the kitchen with a roasted chicken. And she's got it with both hands, and she's gnawing on it, just devouring this chicken. One of the nuns comes in shocked that she's doing this, behaving this way. She said, "When I eat chicken, I eat chicken; when I pray, I pray."

If you read the saints, they're pretty ordinary people. There are moments of rapture and ecstasy, but once every 10 years. And even then it's a surprise to them. They didn't do anything. We've got to disabuse people of these illusions of what the Christian life is. It's a wonderful life, but it's not wonderful in the way a lot of people want it to be.

Yet evangelicals rightly tell people they can have a "personal relationship with God." That suggests a certain type of spiritual intimacy.
All these words get so screwed up in our society. If intimacy means being open and honest and authentic, so I don't have veils, or I don't have to be defensive or in denial of who I am, that's wonderful. But in our culture, intimacy usually has sexual connotations, with some kind of completion. So I want intimacy because I want more out of life. Very seldom does it have the sense of sacrifice or giving or being vulnerable. Those are two different ways of being intimate. And in our American vocabulary intimacy usually has to do with getting something from the other. That just screws the whole thing up.

It's very dangerous to use the language of the culture to interpret the gospel. Our vocabulary has to be chastened and tested by revelation, by the Scriptures. We've got a pretty good vocabulary and syntax, and we'd better start paying attention to it because the way we grab words here and there to appeal to unbelievers is not very good.

This corruption of the word spirituality even in Christian circles—does it have something to do with the New Age movement?
The New Age stuff is old age. It's been around for a long time. It's a cheap shortcut to—I guess we have to use the word—spirituality. It avoids the ordinary, the everyday, the physical, the material. It's a form of Gnosticism, and it has a terrific appeal because it's a spirituality that doesn't have anything to do with doing the dishes or changing diapers or going to work. There's not much integration with work, people, sin, trouble, inconvenience.

I've been a pastor most of my life, for some 45 years. I love doing this. But to tell you the truth, the people who give me the most distress are those who come asking, "Pastor, how can I be spiritual?" Forget about being spiritual. How about loving your husband? Now that's a good place to start. But that's not what they're interested in. How about learning to love your kids, accept them the way they are?

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Beauty of Mwanza!

ITEM Seminar Comes To A Successful Close.

Once again, the International Training and Equipping Ministries led by Dr.Steve Van Horn from Portland Oregon has conducted a seminar in Mwanza, Tanzania which was attended by 35 Free Methodist ministers and two from the Africa Inland Church. Most of the seminar participants left with a strong feeling that God’s Word, which is eternal in it’s redemptive message to all people is the center of the Curriculum in ITEM seminars. These seminars will help them to become a strong influence and positive agents for change in this continent for what is pure, productive and godly.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Monday, July 24, 2006

A Season For Everything!

Doug Firebaugh, Author, Trainer, Network Marketing Guru once said, “The greatest thing in this world is not so much where we are, but in what direction we are moving." I fully agree with him. I have given my best to the ministry in the last ten years. I have stretched my intellectual and physical capacity and put into practice every single ministry strategy that I knew. I have seen the Lord blessing the work of my hands together with the people that I have served with. The Lord has blessed me with a wonderful team of leaders both on the national and international level. There have been good and bad moments but like Joshua, today I can faithfully say that not one of all the promises that the Lord gave me, has not been fulfilled.

Well, In Proverbs 29:18 King Solomon says, "Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Bob Moore, The Effectiveness Coach ®, author of Turning Good People into Top Talent, adds on this and says “Vision without action is a daydream, Action without vision is confusion”. Brothers and Sisters, It’s time for me to move on. History will judge me harshly if I do not take another step of faith and achieve what I wholeheartedly believe that the Lord is leading me to. I feel that I need to make a bold move and finish my studies. So my prayer and request to all my friends is that you may join me in praying for God’s will to be done in this important step in my life.

I fully agree with Lord John Dalberg Acton who said “A wise person does at once what a fool does at last. Both do the same thing, only at different times.” On the same note, Oliver Wendell Holmes said "Every day do something that will inch you closer to a better tomorrow."

Pray that God’s will may done in my life and family. Thanks for being my friend.

The following links will enable you to see and listen to some of my passions:


Visitors from Cornerstone & Light and Life FMC

"It takes God and friends like you to see such programs running succesfully" Bro.Mlumba seems to be telling the visitors from the West.Bro.John Davey, head of Missions in the Cornerstone FMC-UK and Rev.Dr.Glenn Lorenz from the Light & Life FMC in Arizona-USA having a light moment with Bro.Raphael Mlumba, head of the Nuru Na Maisha Study Center of the Free Methodist Church--Nyasaka, Mwanza, Tanzania.

Rev.Andrew Belshaw teaching the FMBC students.
Rev.Andrew Belshaw, Senior Pastor of the Cornerstone FMC in UK poses for a group photo with the students of the Free Methodist Bible College in Mwanza Tanzania when he visited them and facilitated a seminar on Discpleship. The seminar was a life-changing experience for all the faculty and students of the FMBC.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Gigantic Mugumo Trees Grow From Tiny Seedlings!

Like many churches in Africa, the Jellys FMC has started under a mango tree. Pastor Josephat Michael Ntampaka, the deputy National Superintendent of the Free Methodist Church in Tanzania visits the people who live near the Jellys School and shares the Word of God with them. He then invites them to join him on Sunday under the mango tree for worship. Attendance varies each Sunday. On a sunny morning he can have up to twenty people. On a rainy day like yesterday he ends up with less than 10 people in the worship service. For him, it is not the numbers that matter but his faithfulness to his calling! Like the gigantic Mugumo trees that grow from tiny seedlings, the Jellys FMC hopes to grow and become a "gigantic" church in future!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Joshua & William attend Leadership seminar.

Outgoing leader of the Maasai FMC William Joseph Ole Oongowarak and the new leader Joshua Ole Ngelin were among the 20 leaders of the Free Methodist Church in Tanzania who attended a one-week leadership seminar that was held in Mwanza. Leadership lessons from the letters of Paul to Timothy and Titus were explored.

It is never too late to learn.

For Latang Lendemi, Ongoswe Tesi and Naranta Barimba life will never be the same again. They are serious students. They want to know how to read and write their names. They want to be able to write to their friends back in Longido. But above everything else, they want to be able to read their Bibles. Because of these reasons they come to class everyday!

Monday, April 24, 2006

Maasai Literacy class in progress.

Joseph Musuma Marwa teaching the members of the Maasai FMC how to read and write. They meet everyday between 9.00 am and 12:00 p.m.Pray that a classroom may be found so that rains may not continue disrupting their learning.

Sunday, April 23, 2006


Members of the Maasai FMC praising God this morning.
Joshua Ole Ngelin was today installed as the new leader of the Maasai FMC. He takes over from William Joseph Ole Oongowarak who is going to Kalemera Empowering Lives International to learn the Word of God and some vocational skills.
Joseph Musuma Marwa, a third year Free Methodist student at the Nassa Theological College will be with the Maasai FMC for the next two and a half months. He will be doing his "term out" practical work.