Category Archives: Global issues

Gary Hamel speaks to church leaders on Shifting Tides

Gary Hamel is one of my favourite management gurus. His books are well written, and I have heard him speak live and in person on a number of occasions as he addressed business leaders in South Africa a few years ago. Gary was initially famous for his thoughts on innovation and helping companies create the right type of environment for innovation. More recently he has shifted his focus to the “future of management” – analysing the environment in which companies must now operate, and the structures that will help them achieve success. His book on the Future of Management is a great read – buy it at Amazon.co.uk or Kalahari.net.

What I didn’t know was that he was a Christian and has done some research on the challenges facing the church at the moment (especially in the USA). He spoke at his home church a while ago, and the talk was recorded and made available. After cataloguing the problems, he goes on to recommend some responses. And he brings his usual insightfulness to all of it. Well worth taking an hour out and watching.

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A New Kind of Christianity – Brian McLaren’s latest book

Regular readers of my blog will know that I am a fan of Brian McLaren. I am not sure I buy into every single thing he says (how could I?), but I do like his writings. And I have been privileged enough to get to know him personally over a number of years, and am even more impressed at his humility, his grace and his desire to learn from others. He is eminently teachable, exceptionally approachable and a remarkable Christ-follower.

Brian’s latest book has just been released. It’s called, “A New Kind of Christianity”, and chatting to him about it, he feels this book is one of his best contributions so far. I have had it on pre-order with Amazon.co.uk, and due to some technical issue between Hodder and Amazon, it has not yet been supplied to Amazon.co.uk. But you can order it through Eden.co.uk, pre-order at Amazon.co.uk or Kalahari.net (in South Africa).

Brian’s goal with this book is to deal with ten key issues that are blocking discussions and engagement both within Christianity, and those looking in at Christianity. He wants to help us to deal with these fundamental issues, so we can build a platform for further discussions on some of the details that threaten to divide our churches today. From what I can tell, he has succeeded in getting the discussions going. I have listed the ten questions below. Whether you agree with Brian’s answers and analysis or not, his questions are really good ones, and need to be dealt with.

I hope that fans and critics alike will engage with the content of his book, and not deal in personal attack and ranting rhetoric. What do you think of his questions? How would you answer them? How does that help you think more deeply about your own Christian faith?

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The poor you will always have with you

Originally posted on 2 October 2007, updated on 2 March 2010

Jesus said, “The poor you will always have with you” (Matt 26:11). You’ve heard that verse before, but here’s something you should be told about it in church and probably won’t be.

So, should we try and even solve the problem of poverty? Some people have used this verse to say that it is impossible to eradicate poverty. Others have argued that it is not only possible, it is possible within a decade – you can read Jeffrey Sachs in his best selling book, “The End of Poverty” (buy it at Amazon.co.uk or Kalahari.net) or connect with the Global Poverty Project and see their presentation, “1.4 billion reasons”.

Who is right? If Jesus himself said we’d always have the poor then maybe we shouldn’t even try to get rid of poverty. Is this what Jesus meant? I don’t think so.

Well, Jesus was quoting from the Old Testament. And here is the context:

Deuteronomy 15:11
“There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.” (NIV)

So, at very least, Jesus had in mind that we SHOULD give to the poor. He deliberately used a well known scriptural phrase to ensure that his audience would have this particular command brought to their attention, without him needing to make the additional points explicit. This was certainly a style of teaching used often by Biblical writers. It is one of the reasons that interpreting Scripture can be quite difficult, and why we must be open to new understandings and deeper interpretations.
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Telling the Truth vs Spreading the Truth

First published on 1 September 2007, updated on 1 March 2010

Is it ever OK to live a lie in order to tell the Truth?

Yesterday, 19 South Korean missionaries who had been held hostage by the Taliban in Afghanistan were freed after a 6 week ordeal. If you haven’t been following the story, and the controversy around the reported $ 2 million ransom paid, then read the New York Times article here or the Reuters report here.

This has brought to bear a HUGE issue that has been bubbling away just below the surface for many years. The Emerging Church has not quite wanted to touch this topic publicly, although many coffee shop discussions have spoken about it. The issue is now in stark relief. As part of the negotiations between the South Korean government and the Taliban, the Koreans promised to send no more missionaries to Afghanistan (South Korea has more missionaries abroad than any country other than the USA). I am guessing that not every church in Korea was complicit with that decision, but it is nevertheless a binding international public promise. (Read a Korean newspaper report on this issue).

Will the church comply? Those churches that have no intention of stopping sending missionaries surely have a duty to the truth to immediately come public and say, “We will not stop. We don’t agree with the decision.”

The issue that lies at the heart of this situation is the conflict between telling the truth and spreading the Truth.

More recently, in 2010, we have seen the case of some American church workers who went to Haiti to help in the aftermath of their terrible earthquake. But they tried to help by attempting to smuggle 30 or so children out of the country. They initially claimed that these children were orphans. It later emerged that many were not, but that their parents had consented to them being taken away by the church workers in order to live better lives in the USA. Besides the cultural imperialism going on in this story, there is an underlying current of dishonesty and lying that appeared to pervade the situation.

Doing good, but being deceitful in order to do so! Is that ever OK?

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The Archbishop of Canterbury on Global Warming

Originally posted on 11 Nov 2009

Recently, Dr Rowan Williams gave an excellent speech on the issue of our responsibility towards Creation and a Christian response to environmental crises. The Bible has a clear message about caring for the environment – not just for the here and now, but also because at the end of time this planet will be renewed and restored to pre-Fall glory and be the paradise heaven of God’s Kingdom.

I don’t agree with everything Dr Williams says, but his message is well made and worth listening to. You can read it on his own website, listen to it online (42Mb MP3), or see an extract below.

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