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Archive for the ‘denkschrift’ Category

A conversation with the Wheaton College Chinese Students Fellowship

16 September 2016

Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up.If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know.But if anyone loves God, he is known by God. (1 Corinthians 8:1–3 ESV)

  • You must believe that knowledge is a good thing
  • You must understand that ‘knowledge’ that denigrates another person is not true ‘knowledge’. It is folly masquerading as knowledge.
  • You must acknowledge that the opportunity to dedicate a portion of your life to acquiring knowledge at Wheaton College is a precious and unusual gift.
  • You will carry around the ‘burden’ of knowing more in your area of expertise than most of the people with whom you’ll interact … as well as the ‘burden’ of an inquisitive spirit.
  • You should internalize the fact that knowledge is ‘merely on the way’ to deeper knowledge.
  • You will learn to translate your knowledge for the benefit of those who lack the vocabulary and the abstract concepts that have become natural to you.
  • You must embrace the fact that there are many kinds of intelligence: emotional, intuitive, abstract, concrete, etc. You must not exalt your own strength of knowing over others.
  • You will become more and more contextually aware.
  • You must recall that knowledge proceeds from love and thrives best when encased in love.

 

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Near the end of twelve impeccably written lectures delivered to Fuller Theological Seminary in 1964 and published in 1968 as The Inescapable Calling, R. Kenneth Strachan summarizes his work by asking this question: What good is the Christian in the world today?

Strachan’s life ended prematurely in 1965, so this book is in some way the valedictory of a respected mission statesman who had found credibility among both his Latin American and North American constituencies at a time when such an outcome was by no means guaranteed. Indeed, it was doubtful, so tense were the times. The Latin America Mission was taking its first innovative steps towards ‘turning everything over to the nationals’, a step that raised eyebrows among conventional thinkers, put at risk deep institutional legacy, and—in retrospect—defined the genius of the ‘LAM’. (more…)

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Parker Palmer’s graceful little book Let Your Life Speak is the best work I’ve ever read on discernment and vocation.

In six chapters and just under 120 elegantly written pages, Palmer presses home the point that vocation emerges from within us and that we must listen carefully to our own lives if we are to discover it. Taking on someone else’s concept of calling or subjecting ourselves to an external and alien set of values and objectives will do violence to ourselves and to our usefulness—Palmer would probably avoid the word—to our community and our world. Throughout, the author’s rooting in Quaker patterns and rhythms is evident, but this book is anything but sectarian and will be welcomed—indeed, has been welcomed, for it was published in the year 2000—by readers of many faiths and perhaps of none. (more…)

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Convocation, Clark Theological College, Nagaland

17 April 2016

Honorable chairperson of the Board of Governors and members of this Board, Respected Principal Dr Takatemjen, incoming Principal Dr Mar Congener, faculty of Clark Theological College, distinguished guests, parents of the graduating students, graduating students, continuing students, staff, and the larger CTS family …

May I speak in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ?

  *   *   *

One of my favourite things is to look into the faces of graduands, like these 2016  graduands of Clark Theological College … and to imagine ….

Will you allow me to look without embarrassment into your faces?

I see feats that you hace already accomplished and sacrifices that you have already made …

Some of these achievements have been widely celebrated in your community as miracles of God and as heroic efforts by one or another of you.

Others have been quiet … even silent … invisible to all but one of you. These private acts of heroism may be known only to your closest family and friends. Or perhaps only to you. It’s no matter. God knows them.

  • Some have chosen a path of Christian ministry against other more lucrative careers that your family had in store for you.
  • Some have perhaps left a girlfriend or a boyfriend to pursue a calling that that person could not encourage or support.
  • You have worked late into the night to master Greek or theology or anthropology or the history of Jesus’ church.
  • You have encouraged each other.
  • Perhaps some have summoned up the strength against depression or sadness … the strength simply to get out of bed and to go to class. This, too, can be the deed of a hero.
  • You have discovered spiritual gifts that you didn’t know God had given you, and academic aptitudes that you didn’t know were yours to steward.
  • Your curiosity has been awakened and you have become alive to the joy that is learning to learn …
  • You have learned to stop talking in order to listen intently.
  • You have served your home churches or other ministries in which you have become experienced with new learning. You have learned to deploy that learning with humility and tact among sisters and brothers who have not had the opportunity of study.
  • You have discovered the heart of Jesus for the broken and the outcast.

 

The truth is, the churches and people of Nagaland and of India and beyond are fortunate to have you … blessed to know the kinds of servant leadership that you will provide over the next thirty years … or forty … or fifty … or sixty.

Rooted in scripture … eager to serve … with minds alert … and with hearts that sing … in more than one sense of the word, ready to go.

It would be awkward for an invited guest to speak anything but congratulations on an occasion such as this. It would be almost a social sin to speak of anything but commendation and well-deserved praise and encouragement to keep on into the future as you have walked in the past.

And I see the future, or at least I imagine that I do … and it inspires me … it makes it a wonderful thing to look into your faces this day and to think of things that will be.

Without invitation, my mind already wants to add you to the famous list of the book of Hebrews, chapter 11:

By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. (Hebrews 11:4–8 ESV)

 

It would be an easy thing, during a ceremony such as this, to add your names to this list and to sum up the deeds you will accomplish, by faith.

*    *   *

But the truth is, I don’t know your future. I can only imagine. Perhaps I can only speculate.

However, two thing I do know:

You will face hardship. And you will be resilient.

 May I give to you as my gift on your graduation day a passage from the ancient book of Isaiah that has become so very important to me?:

Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God”? Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:27–31 ESV)

Now back to those two things about your future, of which I am certain.

 

You will face hardship.

In fact, you will experience exile.

Do you know what an exile is?

Exile is simply the loss of everything that seems important.

Old Testament Israel suffered what is for Jews and for Christians an iconic exile.

This people of God, this chosen race, lost everything.

  • Temple
  • Priests
  • Sacrifice
  • Land
  • Promise
  • Identity
  • Future

Israel lost everything. That’s what exile does. It strips you of everything you knew …. Everything you thought you were … everything that sustained you … everything you believed …

What does an exile sound like? Israel’s voice out of exile sounds like this:

By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion. On the willows there we hung up our lyres. For there our captors required of us songs, and our tormentors, mirth, saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”   How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land? If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill! Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you, if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy! (Psalms 137:1–6 ESV)

It gets worse. Israel’s emotions in her exile become more savage and violent than I can bring myself to read out on a happy occasion such as this.

One thing was true of exiles in the time of Israel’s captivity in Babylon: nobody ever survived them. Exile was designed to liquidate peoples … to abolish all sense of separate identity … to destroy a people’s name and hope and future … to let captivity and assimilation accomplish their fatal work.

Exiles are final. They are terminal. They lead nowhere. Every exile claims to have the final word.

Yet the Lord turned Israel’s exile into one of his greatest miracles. He transformed an experience that could only possibly destroy his people into a rebirth that refined and resurrected them instead.

The Lord spoke  deeply into the lives of his captive people. He assured them that he was capable of being with them in this foreign place, as capable as he was of being present to them from the Holiest of Holies back in the promised land.

By YHWH’s grace, Israel experienced a national resurrection. Israel survived. Israel returned. Israel gave birth to Israel’s Messiah. You and I are here at Clark Theological College, brothers and sisters, together—sons and daughters of the Lord Most High—because of it.

*   *   *   *

I wish it were not true. It seems on such a happy occasion as this a shame to say it, especially as I exercise my privilege to look from this platform into your beautiful faces.

But you will experience your exiles.

For some, they will be momentary and fleeting. For others, the rest of your lives may prove to be an unremitting difficulty … for most of you, you will be somewhere in between.

Yet all of you—you, with your feats and victories and accomplishments, with your brilliant futures ahead of you, with your love and your families still awaiting you—all of you will know something of exile.

But here’s that second thing, that second prediction that I can make with confidence about your future.

You will be resilient!

 Resilient means that you will rise up from what should have crushed you. You will find your way past the moans of pain and into the songs of rejoicing.  You will discover strength when you thought you could only continue to collapse.

Out of your mourning, you will find that you have been given …

… a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that you are once again called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified. (Isaiah 61:3 ESV)

And then, miracle of miracles, you will be even stronger and more beautiful than you are today.

It seems impossible, but this is what awaits you, dear graduands.

Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God”? Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:27–31 ESV)

Thirty years ago, I was a young missionary in Latin America, learning to teach and to mentor young men and women with whom I had a powerful intuitive connection. Things were going well, and the Lord was causing a spiritual gift of teaching to flourish. I had been a very insecure person and found it difficult to imagine that all this good ministry was happening around me and even through me. I could not have been happier. I was 28 years old.

One day, after I’d finished teaching my heart out, an elder colleague whom I still refer to as the man who shaped me in ministry, approached me and said something I have never forgotten: ‘I want to hear you when you’re forty’.

Forty seemed a long way off then. Now it seems a very long way in my past. But that man knew that the best things come through exile and resilience … and that these take a long time to have their effect.

I want to hear you … I want to see you when you’re forty.

 35 years ago I read an essay on the back page of a famous magazine in my country called TIME. It told the story of two older gentlemen who loved classical music and frequented the performance hall of one of the world’s most prestigious symphonic ensembles, the New York Philharmonic.

One day a very young Korean girl—a prodigy really, for no one should be able to make music like the music she made at such a tender age—appeared on the program to play the famous Brahms Violin Concerto with the New York Philharmonic. It was the first piece on the program, to be followed by an intermission, and then by music of a different composer.

The performance was technically perfect. This little girl never missed a note. It was astounding. The audience was baffled by the ability of such a youth to play the music of a master as she had done.

There was only one problem: the performance had no soul to it … no pathos.

The one elderly music lover came upon his friend in the lobby of the concert hall during intermission. After exchanging pleasantries, he asked ‘So, what did you think?’

The other man looked thoughtfully down at his shoes for a while before answering. Then he looked his friend in the eyes and offered this comment: ‘She needs to suffer before she plays that piece again.’

*   *   *   *

You look this morning as though you are at the height of your powers. Vigorous … beautiful … strong … youthful.

But, in truth, you are not yet at the height of your powers. You are merely on your way.

The height of your powers will come to you when you have suffered your exiles and, in them, found resilience through the strength of the living God … The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob … the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ … the Giver of his empowering Spirit.

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:28–31 ESV)

May it be so.

And congratulations for a most admirable beginning!

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What have we heard?: Twelve Stones

(David Baer on behalf of the Consultation ‘Listening Group’)

ICETE C-15: Engaged and Effective

 

As the program for this consultation was taking shape, Riad Kassis tasked me with delivering in this final plenary session a report under the working title ‘What have we heard?’

I confess that, over the past five days, I have had one or two unkind thoughts—mere fleeting spasms of rage, really— about my dear friend Riad. We have heard so very many things. After all, how am I to know what we have heard! I am hard of hearing and torpid of speech. I bring to this consultation more than my share of my own treasured biases. They not only motivate and empower me; they also filter and distort what I hear.

As I was writing these opening lines yesterday afternoon, a large flock of birds converged on a rooftop near the balcony where I was sitting. They came not from one direction but from many, returning all at once to their rooftop home as thogh upon some inaudible signal. Only half in jest, I decided to take this as a sign.

Let me see whether I can tease some of the words we’ve heard from the many directions to which those sounds have taken flight back into a common place, like birds near sunset returning from their day’s many activities to their community roost.

But first, a word about what this report is, what it is not, and how it comes to be.

I was assisted by a Listening Group that I selected on shamelessly selfish grounds. Quite simply, these are people whom I know, whom I consider discerning, and whom I guessed would not say ‘no’. They are: Ashish Chrispal, Mariel Deluca Voth, Lori Drexler, Mardochée Nadoumngar, Ivan Rusin, Wojciech Szczerba, Rana Wazir, John Jusu, Jane Overstreet, Mark Royster, and Jung-Suk Lee.  We met each evening to ask each other, ‘What are we hearing?’

However, this report is my own responsibility. Even these Listening Team members are likely to be surprised—though I hope not dismayed—by what I have left out and by perhaps some thoughts of my own that I have witlessly placed upon their lips.

What did Listening Group members attempt to accomplish as we served you by listening to plenary sessions, workshops, conversations at all hours, the delightfully barbed banter of old friends, and musings and comments overheard in passing?

Well, we did not understand our job as simply rehearsing or summarizing for you things that people said. This is not a Summary of the Proceedings of ICETE C-15.

Rather, we have attempted the audacious task of discerning what we have heard from God, that is, what God might be speaking to us through those plenary sessions, workshops, conversations, musings, and overheard conversations.

We have attempted to perform a theological task on the assumption that our Lord has been present in this gathered community, and that he has desired to makes us wiser, to move us forward.

I make no claim that we have heard exhaustively. In fact, I’m sure that we have not.

This is not an assessment exercise.

But here, offered to you as a service lovingly rendered, are some things that I think we have heard.

Twelve stones, if you will, to mark and memorialize the portion of our journey that is just now completed.

 

*   *   *

  1. The tide has turned.

The assessment of what we are accomplishing in theological education is no longer the hobby, the crusade, or the mania of the social scientists and the educationalists.

Please hear carefully what I am saying. I am not saying that assessment can no longer be dismissed as those things because in some political sense the assessment enthusiasts have outnumbered those of us who, as one long-serving missionary teacher told me, never knew the word ‘impact’ back in the day.

I am saying that outcomes assessment is no longer the province of its native enthusiasts. The tide has turned decisively. Assessment has gone mainstream. We may be infants at the execution of it, but global theological educators have developed either a sense of obligation or an appetite (or both) for outcomes assessment. I do not believe this movement-in-the-making will lose its steam or fade away.

There are without doubt rear-guard actions against this new thing, and these may continue for some time.

But they will be ineffectual.

We are all assessors now. Let’s get on with it.

 

  1. An assessment culture begins and ends with humility.

On Monday of next week, when my legs are banging into the seat in front of me on hour eight or nine of Turkish Airlines Flight 7’s trajectory towards Washington, DC, my heart will still be rejoicing about several features of this Consultation.

One of these is the decided emphasis upon humility.

This is no small thing, for idolatries lurk like wolves behind the rubbish bins and broken-down vehicles in the Assessment Neighborhood, waiting for their moment to spring forth. Humility will keep them in their place.

This is no small thing, because assessment takes in its unforgiving hand what for many of us has been one of the most cherished privileges and passions of our lives and exposes it to reality’s sometimes harsh critique. We who have loved teaching and learning, we who have thrived as students and teachers and administrative leaders of seminaries … we whose hearts respond to every harsh critique of the seminary with a bit of pain and with the sense that this is not the whole story … we must now exercise the humility of taking this precious privilege and exposing it to the light. We must ask if what we have done … in fact what we have been … is what we believe we have done and been. And we must let others provide us with the answers.

Only humility will sustain us in that place.

But humility will not have done its work only when it has given us the courage to engage a culture of assessment. Humility will be required when our expanding expertise in assessment tempts us with the Pelagian delusion that, if we only perfect our systems, we will accomplish God’s will for Him. I find Chris Wright’s observation that some of us come to this theme with suspicion and others with enthusiasm particularly helpful here. I myself come with a degree of suspicion, for life and conviction have both alerted me to how quickly we arrogate to ourselves divine prerogatives when we have acquired just a little knowledge … just a little competence.

I rejoice that the note of humility has been sounded so clearly during this Consultation.

And while I am rejoicing … here’s a third stone for our little pile of remembering.

 

  1. We can begin with Scripture!

I am exhilarated by the way we have begun with Scripture and how we have seen our deliberations infused with the voice of Scripture. Messieurs Wright, Ott, and Parro come particularly to mind as I reflect on this, but they have hardly been alone!

In fact, I feel quite blown away by this.

When I think of the things we have heard, I thrill to register the fact in this report that more than anything we have heard God’s own Word: read, honored, scrutinized, and explained.

My own modestly suspicious reservations drain away as I observe this gathered community gathering around our Father’s Word to us.

 

  1. Expect unexpected outcomes!

A Canadian brother of a certain age fell into stride with me as we made our way to the group photograph … which by the way was conducted in an amazingly orderly fashion for a bunch of theologians and educators. He said something like this: ‘Why do we think we know what’s going to happen as we minister in Christ’s name?’ Then, with reference to his own long ministry, he mused, ‘All the best things that we ever saw happen were completely unintended consequences. We were never trying to do that.’ He gave me some stirring examples.

I have heard during this Consultation—and we must continue to remind ourselves—that the Lord will use us as his instruments to accomplish small glories and perhaps some large ones that we never saw coming. And that he will do this regularly just when we feel our intended outcomes have wrought nothing but frustration.

On that sad day when surprise has been drained out of our list of outcomes, we can be sure that we have created our own monster. It will devour us.

When we can no longer be surprised by the joy of unexpected outcomes because we have become too earnest about our intended ones, we will know that we have wandered off the gospel path.  Only repentance will help us find our way back.

 

  1. A question: In our zeal to serve the Church, does the tradition still speak? Or in this day of constant adjustments, has the tradition died?

In addition to the pull of ‘what our churches and communities want from our graduates’, does biblical wisdom … does the gospel …does the accrued wisdom of the theological tradition push subjects that ought to be mastered? Just as we read books written far away and long ago in order to attenuate our cultural myopia, is it possible that we do not know all that we ought to learn and know, and that the tradition itself can be our teacher here?

I confess that I have not heard this question posed as often as I could have wished.

And here is a corollary:

 

  1. Does the seminary have anything to teach the Church that the Church may not have an appetite to learn?

In a moment of frustration, a long-time colleague in Latin America once observed: ‘You know, churches and groups of pastors can be self-preserving mafias too. It’s not only the seminary …’

I think he was right.

Similarly, an African brother this week recounted that pastors routinely fault his seminary’s students for wanting ‘to think things out for themselves’. He smiled and continued, ‘This is when I know that we have served them well!’ … though perhaps the pastor and his church would have preferred to have been served with a more docile crop of emerging leaders.
If the seminary is ‘where the Church goes to think’—as we have heard in these days—then does the seminary know some things that the church ought to learn?
Again, hearkening back to the dialect of a certain moment in Latin America, does the seminary have an uncomfortable prophetic voice that the church needs to hear, even if it would rather not?

If so, then perhaps the seminary’s entire loving vocation vis-à-vis the Church is not captured merely by 92% satisfaction results on survey and assessment instruments.

I would like to see this topic explored further.

 

  1. We need each other!

In the venerable tradition of bell curves everywhere, impact assessment in theological education has its beady-eyed fanatics and its burro-like intransigents. We need each other.

In the body of Christ, we cannot afford to demonize or ridiculize the brothers and sisters at either edge of the bell curve. What is at stake is too important and people are right now feeling the earth move under their feet. This is unsettling. I am unsettled!

Let us show grace to each other in this season.

I was deeply moved when veterans of change management towards an assessment culture within their respective seminaries, narrating their experience within our Listening Group, spoke of their affection for doubting and reluctant faculty members. They spoke pastorally of the need to preserve and honor the sacrificial service of such people. One of our case study presenters used the strong word ‘devastated’ to describe how faculty can experience the critique that an assessment culture necessarily brings.

As a community of theological educators in deeply uncertain times who fervently bear our own passions, we must exercise the judgment charity with those who see things differently.

Some of you enthusiasts will need to repent of attitudinal sins against the suspicious in these unsettling times. And some of us who are suspicious will need to repent of our sins against the enthusiasts.

I certainly need to.

 

  1. It is difficult, but not impossible, to measure a graduate’s faithfulness and effectiveness

 

Our Listening Group was struck by how widespread was the struggle to come down to particulars in measuring faithfulness and effectiveness.

Yet what I’ll call a healthy anti-gnostic impulse among us wouldn’t let us give up.

In my view, we would benefit from looking at the best research and the best practices in this area rather than reinventing the wheel. Having said this, a persistent undercurrent of conversation insists that these things will vary widely with context and therefore hew to the particular rather than the universal end of the spectrum.

I myself wonder how impact is to be measured in oppressive contexts where survival of the Christian community itself occurs against all odds and is itself an achievement to be celebrated.

I detect something of a heart’s cry at this stage of our journey: ‘Yes, Lord, we want to assess … Help our non-assessment … !’

 

  1. Clarity

I perhaps should not have come this far without mentioning the pressing matter of clarity, a topic that raised its hoary head at every turn of every day.

Clarity about vision. Clarity about mission. Clarity about intended outcomes. Clarity about actual outcomes. Clarity that trues our aim. Clarity that devastates. Clarity that empowers.

There were times when I though this consultation might have best been subtitled In Quest of Clarity.

Yesterday morning, I found myself tapping into my notes my own quasi-Logic Chain:

Humility … honesty … clarity … (repeat)

Humility … honesty … clarity … (repeat)

For some years, I have steadied my own soul in leadership with a small sticky note that appears on my laptop screen. I see it every day. It contains just three words: Don’t look away.

‘I keep hearing the word clarity … ‘

… one Listening Group colleague said.

Indeed. We’ll be the better for that.

 

  • Messiness

 

But clear does not mean clinical.

One brother working in Mexico, contemplating the Book of Acts’ assessment of outcomes under Maestro Parro’s baton, mused: ‘I’m amazed by how messy it all was … and is’.

Whether our logic chain is scottcunninghamesque and linear … or johnjusuesque and spiral … the business of assessing the outcomes of our life’s labors and then responding to that assessment is messy and imperfect.

In my country, we have a statement that is hilarious in its context: There’s no crying in baseball!

To which we might add the dictum: There’s no whining about the messiness of outcomes assessment in theological education. It just is.

 

  1. The thing is, just begin!

 

In outcomes assessment as in most things that matter in life, the hardest thing is simply to start.

We heard this over and over again this week.

The one thing that makes me proudest of my own Overseas Council team’s role in this assessment project is the speed with which our partner seminaries in the project have progressed from ‘we need this so badly’ to voices of humble and confident authority in the practice.

For me, Ivan Rusin—leading the Ukrainian Evangelical Theological Seminary—is the poster child for this phenomenon, though many more could stand in for him. 24 to 18 months ago, such schools had only the deep conviction that they were standing on a burning platform and needed to do things differently if they were to survive, let alone thrive in the accomplishment of their ministry.

Over the last four days, school leader after school leader became our instructor in how to move humbly from confusion to clarity about what they were attempting to do to clarity about what they are doing and what they are accomplishing and on to the work remains ahead of them now that they know these things.

The corollary here: This is not as hard as it looks. You should try this at home.

The thing is, just begin!

 

  1. Tell me the old, old story!

 

Testimony and anecdote are God-authorized and contain metrics.

From Chris’ beginning to Elizabeth’s beautiful Colombian-accented exhortation, we have reveled in and perhaps even remembered how to remember the power of story, indeed the power even of the small stories that our stories as part of the Great Story of YHWH’s redeeming love.

I myself find it easier to love you who are enthusiasts of assessment when I realize that you will allow me to tell you my story.

Story matters.

 

Tell me the old, old story of unseen things above,

Of Jesus and His glory, of Jesus and His love.

Tell me the story simply, as to a little child,

For I am weak and weary, and helpless and defiled.

 

Tell me the story slowly, that I may take it in,

That wonderful redemption, God’s remedy for sin.

Tell me the story often, for I forget so soon;

The early dew of morning has passed away at noon.

 

Tell me the story softly, with earnest tones and grave;

Remember I’m the sinner whom Jesus came to save.

Tell me the story always, if you would really be,

In any time of trouble, a comforter to me.

 

Tell me the same old story when you have cause to fear

That this world’s empty glory is costing me too dear.

Yes, and when that world’s glory is dawning on my soul,

Tell me the old, old story: ‘Christ Jesus makes thee whole.’

 

Tell us the ever-new story of emerging Christian leaders who caught a holy, humble fire by rubbing shoulders with frail and fallen theological educators like us. Tell us how they went on from our classrooms and private conversations to—through faith—conquer kingdoms, enforce justice, obtain promises, stop the mouths of lions, quench the power of fire, escape the edge of the sword, become strong out of weakness, become mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Tell us how some received back their dead by resurrection, how some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Tell us how others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment, how they were stoned, and even sawn in two. Remind us how the world was not worthy of them … and how they surround us now as a great cloud of witnesses.

Count, measure, and assess, so that we can serve them still better and take our places alongside of them with humility, honesty, and clarity.

For this is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long.
This is our story. This is our song, praising our Savior all the day long.

 

I hope these reflections—these twelve stones, if you will—have in some small way helped that far-flown flock of ideas return home after an almost frenetically busy ICETE Triennial Consultation to their common roost, prepared to take wing again when flight is needed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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La expresión se le atribuye al  teólogo y pastor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945).  Sin embargo, la autoría le corresponde al jurista, escritor, poeta y teólogo holandés, Hugo Grocio, quien la pronunciaría tres siglos atrás. Por supuesto, Bonhoeffer la retoma y la contextualiza desde la realidad de su cautiverio: prisionero en la celda número 92, de dos por tres metros cuadrados, en la cárcel de Tegel, en Berlín, Alemania. (more…)

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On Friday evening I sat on the patio of my favorite Italian restaurant and listened to my son’s stories.

Little more than a year ago, he and his older brother successfully completed the U.S. Army’s Ranger School, often considered the most difficult thing the Army can throw at a young man outside of actual combat. As though that were not enough, this strapping son had just come through the Army’s other elite training program, the Sapper Leader Course (a.k.a. ‘Sapper School’). (more…)

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