God Directed Deviations

Ministry, Mission, Philosophy, Scripture, The Bible, The Church, Theology

‘Where there is no vision, the people perish.’ Yeah… Umm… About That

world-view-eye-frymireLast night, after a few hours of discussing “what kills mission” in our Discipleship Group, one said that it was “important to remember that when it comes to mission, you need vision, because ‘where there is no vision, the people perish.’” It struck me as a bit off, but then we sang together and prayed.  Afterwards, I couldn’t get this question out of my head:

Does mission need vision?


The idea comes from the King James Version translation of  Proverbs 29:18 “Where there is no vision the people perish.” Usually, when I hear this verse quoted in exactly that way, I get suspicious as to what’s coming next. The Christian leadership culture often quotes Proverbs 29:18 as a rationale for writing vision statements or determining courses of action.  These visions or vision statements are often done by individuals or a minority group within a larger community. Visions are cast and then people decide to jump, or not jump, on board.

The unfortunate translation in the King James Version has led to many misunderstandings and misapplications regarding ‘vision. The ESV gives this translation of Proverbs 29:18 “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.” The word translated “prophetic vision” refers to special revelation or God’s Word.[1] The word translated “cast off restraint”[2] carries the idea of there being a total loss of social order. It is the same word used in Exodus 32:25 to describe the Israelite’s frenzy during the Golden Calf disaster.

The NIV translates it this way; “Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint; but blessed is the one who heeds wisdom’s instruction.”  I think it’s a good translation. It also solidifies that ‘vision’ doesn’t come from some ecstatic extra-biblical spasm, but from the scriptures. It seems, to me at least, that we need less vision and more obedience to what has already been revealed.  “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” John 13:17 An inordinate amount of time is spent in trying to squeeze visions out of people rather than helping them to lay hold of the vision that God has already cast.

I remember when I was studying Taekwondo.  When it cam time to breaking a board. my instructor said “you have to see the board as broken before your hand gets to it. You must envision it.” We’ve all heard things like that before. But again, is that what we’re suppose to do when it comes to God’s mission?

Does mission need vision? 


[1] “חָזֹון”, see Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, Edward Robinson, Charles A. Briggs, and Wilhelm Gesenius, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament : With an Appendix Containing the Biblical Aramaic : Based on the Lexicon of William Gesenius as Translated by Edward Robinson (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1979), 302.
[2]“פָּרַע,” has the idea of “let go, let alone.” Brown, Driver, Robinson, Briggs, and Gesenius, 828. There is some confusion about the meaning of this verse because of the King James Version translation, “perish.” See Robert L. Alden, Proverbs: A Commentary on an Ancient Book of Timeless Advice (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983), 202.
Blogging, Christianity, Incarnational, Ministry, Missiology, Scripture, Social Justice, The Gospel, Theology

Becoming Indigenous – Part II


Illustration by Nicholas Wilton

In the first part of this series, I briefly laid out the foundation for the idea of “Becoming Indigenous.” I also asked some questions to help frame the conversation going forward. I’m going to pitch my tent on this topic  for a while with an occasional deviation. You can follow me on twitter @Missionaries, to receive notifications of the next post in this series. I was motivated to write on this topic for a few reasons;

1. My wife and I stumbled onto the idea in a conversation and on the course of everyday mission.

2. My frustration with the inability  of ‘incarnational’ terminology to communicate what it means to be ‘incarnational’ with everyday people.


3.  The resistant attitude of some in the church to let go of colonialism in mission, specifically, the domination, domestication, and denominalization that remains prevalent in the spheres of disciple making, church planting, and evangelization.

To be frank, I’m ‘fleshing out’ these ideas as I go. I am discussing and collaborating with some who have pioneered this idea and learning from some who have investigated it for a while.  What’s lacking on the idea of ‘Becoming Indigenous,’ is a Christian World-View.  In other words, how do we approach Christology (the pursuit of the person and work of Christ), Missiology (the pursuit of a sending God and His sentness in us), and Ecclesiology (the pursuit of being a peculiar, or chosen people, amongst people).  See what I did there? Replacing ‘the study of’ with ‘the pursuit of’ makes more sense, to me at least, for an indigenizing theology. For the most part, this subject has been approached from a non-christian perspective, and often one that is antagonistic towards it.

The analyses that I have encountered to date have been thoroughly developed and supported.  My goal is to conceive the idea of ‘becoming indigenous’ in a comprehensive, new covenant, gospel, or ‘Christian World-View.’  I hesitate using the phrase ‘christian world-view,’ because of the way it has become convoluted, conquered, and co-opted.  In the continuation of this series you may see some unusual vocabulary.  My goal is to use an alternative simpler phraseology to better communicate the idea of ‘becoming indigenous.’

So, what does it mean for a Christian to “Become Indigenous?”  Well, we can start with some well-known and perhaps some not very well-known biblical texts like:

“He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds.” (Titus 2:14)


“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)


 “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9)

These verses and others speak to DNA, purpose, design, and ‘top-down’  (from God to us) indigenization.

“When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:22)


“This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.” (Romans 1:17)


“The man who professes to be continuing in Him is himself also bound to live as He lived.” (1 John2:6) WMT

These and other verses speak to becoming, realizing, reconciling, and participating in God’s indigenization of us amongst others.

It’s important here to take a moment to understand what ‘Becoming Indigenous’ is not.  It’s not a new technique, method, or model for ministry.  It is not to satiate those who are always looking to hear something new (Acts 17:21), or to appease the post-modern. To make it such can skew the trajectory before the commencement of a new mission work or cause an existing one to deviate.  It is also not just a retelling of incarnational theology, because it comes from a different originating principle.

The term “indigenous” typically refers to societies that are relatively small-scale, people who sustain deep connections with a place. When applied to diverse communities, the name does not presume cultural similarity or essence but rather refers to comparable experiences, stories, and origins.” ~ adapted from Clifford, James (2013-11-04). Returns (p. 15). Harvard University Press. Kindle Edition.

I’d invite you to join me on this journey of ‘becoming indigenous’ believers in Christ and amongst His people in the places where He would have us.  Rather than asking my normal 3 questions, I’d like to ask you what questions you have for me about ‘becoming indigenous?’  Use the comment section as appropriate.






Ecclesiology, Evangelism, Evangelists, Mission, The Church, The Gospel

Is ‘Listening’ The New Holy Grail of Evangelism?

c1310I breezed through this article on the Huffington Post’s religion section last night before I went to bed and it gnawed at my conscience all night.  It’s called “How I Kissed Evangelism Goodbye,” and it is a REALLY GOOD article.  But, I think it’s full of bad assumptions and reflects a poor missiology & ecclesiology.  Here are some quotes from the article:

The biggest problem I have with evangelizing is that you enter into a relationship with a prescribed intention, and that stands in the way of listening well.

Of course we have a ‘prescribed intention.’ It’s making disciples of people by ‘going’ to them, and in that going ‘preaching the gospel to them,’ (Isaiah 52:7) (Mark 16:15), ‘baptizing them,’ and ‘teaching them to obey all that Christ commanded.’ (Matthew 28:19,20) (Acts 14:21) All the while we love them as we love ourselves so that they and we can love God with all of our hearts, minds, strength, and souls. (Luke 10:27)  If we’re not making disciples of people, we’re not loving them.

“You can’t listen well when you are carrying an agenda.”

Sure you can. It’s not the agenda that impedes listening, it’s dull ears and hard hearts (Matthew 13:15) etc. These dull ears can belong to the not yet evangelized and the evangelizer.  Besides, the ‘agenda’ of ‘listening’ is still an agenda. The agenda is a divine one because God is a God of agendas. Our agenda is one of agency. It is to be the ambassadors of the King and His message. (2 Corinthians 5:20) We speak it, announce it, appeal to it, and live it. Luke 9 & 10 bases evangelism in the context of whether or not THEY want to listen. If they don’t, we’re to move on until we find someone that does.

“You can’t listen well when you are looking for ways to fortify your own position.”

Totally agree. But likewise, we’re to “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” Not ‘defending our faith,’ but giving reasons for the hope within us (Jesus). (1 Peter 3:15) And, at times ‘contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.’ (Jude 1:3)

“You can’t listen well when you are searching for what is broken in your conversation partner, in order to introduce the solution.”

I understand what she’s trying to say here, but the gospel touches on ALL brokenness. Listening is not the magic key. The multifaceted gospel is. The problem is not poking and prodding looking for a soft spot to determine the malady, it’s never offering a robust, freeing, healing, and reconciling gospel to begin with. A gospel of Kingdom, of peace, of grace, of eternality, of salvation, and of Christ not only exposes brokenness, it becomes its salve.

The Pope’s quote, “The church grows by attraction, not proselytizing.” Is just wrong. In the first place, he’s only talking about his kind of church. The kind of church that proclaims “Extra Ecclesiam nulla sales,” which means “outside the Roman Catholic Church there is no salvation.”  That church is not what the bible speaks of when referring to church. The church does not grow by attraction or addition. It grows by multiplication, the multiplication of discipleship. The church does not grow by attraction, it grows by mission. The church does not grow by attracting, but by sending. The church does not grow by gathering together, but by being sent together and gathering ‘along the way.’

“Proselytizing limits the wildly beautiful story of God and God’s people into a sample script.”

Yep, it sure can, but it doesn’t have to by necessity. The word ‘Proselytizing,’ sounds ugly. It is. Its focus, after all, is to make proselytes of religion. Our task is to make disciples by the means of relaying, relating, and discipling.

Finally she said,

“Our best hope for connectedness lies in having our stories heard. We earn our right to speak into other people’s lives when we have logged enough hours listening to their truths, and been willing to be changed by their beauty.”

Our best hope for connectedness does not lie in having our stories heard, it’s in having HIS story heard. The good news is a story about God, His Son, and His people. The gospel connects. Consider the multitude of scriptures that talk about the ‘message being heard’ or received, or spoken, etc. I think we get it backwards when we try to build community first, then ‘church,’ and then attempt to insert the gospel. The gospel is the catalyst of community, of Kingdom.  Can we presume to speak into another’s life without permission? No, I don’t think so. But, invitation and permission are worlds apart.

So much of what she said here makes me want to scream “YEAH, THAT’S RIGHT,” but likewise urge caution to not make listening, or any other thing apart from discipleship, the holy grail of evangelism.

If you’re reading this and have read the article itself, am I off base? What do you think?


Blogging, Christianity, Culture, Discipleship, Incarnational, Making Disciples, Mission, Missional, Philosophy, Social Media, The Church

Becoming Indigenous

Becoming Indigenous My wife and I were talking about being accepted as “one of their own” in various communities in the cloud forest region of Ecuador. She said, “It’s like we’re becoming indigenous.” My first thought was, “that’s brilliant!” We talked about it for a bit longer and then went on to other topics, but it has been ruminating in my mind ever since.

In the missional movement, there’s a lot of talk about ‘being incarnational.’ In fact, there are those who would pit ‘missional’ and ‘incarnational’ against each other with reductionistic sayings like “Missional is [to] go and incarnational is [to] stay,” etc. But one thing is for certain, the hipster’s vocabulary is often hard to understand, and harder to communicate to others.

This is why I think I’m going to dump ‘incarnational’ from my vocabulary and use ‘becoming indigenous’ instead.  My wife and I mission together in one of the most culturally diverse regions in the world. Just last week I spoke with a Cañari person and a Caranqui. Both represent branches of the Quichua people but with very distinct characteristics. Likewise, in the course of a normal week, we could potentially encounter upwards of 20 sub-cultures “as we go” and make disciples.

To be indigenous, is to originate in and have the characteristics of a particular region or country.  It is to be culturally and sometimes historically distinct.  It also can be innate, inherent, or occurring naturally within a specific region.  I’ve floated the question, “What do you think it means to ‘be indigenous?’ to a few people recently and there seems to be little doubt as to what it means.  I’m sure if I asked the same people what ‘being incarnational’ means they would politely attempt an answer (Classic Ecuadorean) or be offended because I’ve placed them in a situation where they don’t have an answer.

This post is the first in a series that will talk about ‘becoming indigenous.’  Over the next couple of weeks I’ll discuss:

What does it mean for a Christian to ‘Become Indigenous?’

Why using the word ‘incarnational’ might be doing more harm than good.

Being indigenous in The Kingdom of God.

And more as it develops.

I’d invite you to join me in this series by commenting, subscribing to the blog by email, or by monitoring my Making Disciples Facebook Feed for updates. For now, a few questions:

1.  What does ‘becoming indigenous’ mean to you?

2.  How does 1 Corinthians 9:22 contribute to this conversation?

3.  What other topics under ‘becoming indigenous’ would you like to see developed in this series? 

Christianity, Culture, Doctrine, Mission, Salvation, The Bible

What Does ‘Condemned Already’ Mean?

gavel_58Everyone, or so it seems, knows John 3:16:

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

Seems simple enough, but even Nicodemus, the Pharisee and Teacher of Israel couldn’t immediately wrap his head around it. (John 3:1-21)

The next two verses are a critical exposition, or a further developing of Jesus’ proposition by Jesus himself to help Nicodemus apply the basic truth to his own life and those that he would teach later.

17 “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”

Again, it seems reasonably simple.

Then, like a cleaver comes, verse 18:

“Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”

Verse 18 is divisive, exclusionary, and polarizing. There is no grey, no ‘both & and,’ and no ‘C, all of the above.” It seems obvious that the choice is either to believe or not.

But, what does ‘condemned already’ mean?’