Sunday, February 17, 2008

Sub-merge by John Hayes of InnerCHANGE

If you have not yet read Sub-merge, I'd advise a click and an order.

Here are my thoughts on the book that I wrote up as part of my work at Bakke Graduate University.

John Hayes describes his book as “a manifesto, a prophetic call to join what God is doing among poor and marginalized communities, those who are shut out from or cannot find footing in the market-driven economics of the world.” (Page 14) His prophetic call is to the church, and those of whom she is formed. His message, Wake up; the ground – the world – has shifted, and the church in the west which is becoming less and less relevant to this new world has been called by God and resourced with amazing capacity to join God in incarnating Jesus to the peoples of this new world.

What does this new world look like? It is increasingly urban, increasingly marginalized, increasingly separated from the church in the west that often has no idea the conditions in which most of the people whom God created in his image must exist. Dr. Hayes writes this book with four areas of urgency in mind:

1. Too few Christians are answering God’s call to live and work among the poor;
2. Those who go, do not stay long enough to make a lasting impact;
3. Mission agencies are organized in ways that make it difficult to sustain missionaries and empower the poor; and,
4. The Church needs to draw more people of varied backgrounds into work among the poor.

This prophetic call is essentially a call towards incarnation. Just as Jesus became flesh to humankind so that humanity could touch God, so we who have been touched by God must incarnate the gospel so that others might touch him as well. Sub-merge is a tapestry, consisting of interwoven threads of incarnational stories as well as the exegesis of those the biblical heartbeat that is behind those stories. One extremely powerful story, in fact, sums up the whole message of this book. It is the story that Dr. Hayes’ tells of his time in Calcutta, where he had gone with great plans and purposes only to be confronted with his own helplessness as he watched a legless man being severely beaten by the police and found himself unable to do anything to stop it. It was not until much later that Dr. Hayes was able to see that the only thing he could have done for the legless man would have been to get on the ground with him and cover him with his own body. That is the heartbeat of God that is the incarnation. It is only through entering into the suffering of others – especially the poorest of the poor – even at the risk of our own lives that we can incarnate the gospel, bring hope to the hopeless, and I believe be faithful to God’s heart for the marginalized.

God has used this book, among many, to stir in the hearts of my wife and me a hunger to incarnate Jesus to the poorest of the poor, and to go wherever God would have us go to do so. As I write this, we are preparing to leave Southern California to move to southwest China which is in the midst of an AID’s pandemic which is resulting in hundreds of thousands of orphaned children. We feel no sense of sacrifice, only that God has brought our hearts more in line with what we believe is his heart, the heart of Jesus – to proclaim (and be) good news to the poor. I believe this book is indeed a prophetic call, a call to which the church in the west must respond, and for which she will be judged.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

OK, Plan B

The great thing about good intentions is that they can be inspiring -- even vision producing. The bad thing is that they are intentions, which by definition are future, and there may not happen. Like my good intention to blog each day from my classes in Seattle -- the intention was indeed good, the follow through, not so much.

So, instead a summery. (I'll add here that class was mostly long days of fascinating interaction plus journaling each evening which left me too worn out to blog each night). Anyway, a big theme of the class was providing opportunities for the students to be challenged, to defend, the be pushed, to push back and to overall be exposed to what an urban theology in a post modern world might look like; what does it look like to contextualize the unchanging gospel into a rapidly changing world.

The really cool thing was that the answer to that question -- which would usually vary from person to person -- was as diverse as the makeup of the class (31 people including students from Africa, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Korea, Kazakhstan, India, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Canada and the United States (more than half of which were African American). The questions of what the church looks like in a post modern, post christian society and all that goes with that question are things I am very familiar with, or so I thought. I realize that I am very familiar with the white middle class American version of that. How many times did I hear "what you said has no application in my country," and to learn how the post christianization of the west is viewed and even effects people other places, and how our how our missionary efforts in some of these countries which I am so quick to point out were often prompted more by colonialism than gospelism are still seen by many in those countries as amazing blessings by God.

Anyway it was a cool time, I was stretched, I made great friends, and look forward to continued learning.