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Archive for the ‘Mercy’ Category

As I’ve directed grants to mission causes over the past twelve years, I’ve been inspired to see the creative ways that followers of Christ use their varied gifts and experiences to spread the Gospel.  Some initiatives and projects are obviously spiritual, focused on Bible translation or dissemination or evangelism.  Some other projects, though, are less obviously spiritual.

I’ll never forget a proposal from a husband-and-wife missionary team whose fantastic ministry provides teaching, healthcare, and church planting to Amazon River villages.  A new, lighter, more efficient ship, they told me, would allow them to go farther down the River, get there faster, carry more people,  save gas and money… and thereby significantly advance their church planting and evangelism effforts.  They sold me, and our foundation supported their ministry.  When I visited them in Brazil and took at trip downriver on their boat, I saw firsthand how important that new boat was.

I saw that, in that case, engineering enhanced evangelism, shipbuilding served soul-saving, and marketplace met ministry.

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In The Meeting of the Waters, the first Global Current I discuss is Mercy — that is, various  forms of witness and testimony other than verbal proclamation. Today’s emerging generation of believers wants to serve the poor, care for AIDS patients, steward creation, rescue slaves, produce art and beauty, and create businesses of transparency — and thereby earn opportunities to talk about the Author of all that is good. I call these younger believers the Mercy Generation, because of their deep desire to be incarnational witnesses to Christ.

In the last half of the 20th century, evangelicals often expressed their faith in propositional statements,  leading with their personal testimony and supporting it with apologetics. I believe that the tendency of today’s emerging generation to express its Bible-based faith through acts of mercy and justice is generally a healthy and vibrant development. And if at times younger believers soft-peddle or undervalue evangelism, the good news is that they are generally eager and receptive to older Christian mentors.  That places a priority on older believers to keep younger ones balanced on both acts of mercy and also proclamation.

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One of the hallmarks of the emerging generation is its interest in bearing witness to God’s saving grace, and living out their faith, through actions as much as words.  This can take the form of joining in the fight against sex trafficking, or helping provide clean water, or providing help to sufferers of HIV AIDS, or saving our planet.  I’ve observed a few common characteristics about today’s younger people, whom I call “the Mercy Generation.”  They are not necessarily drawn to large organizations;  they like to work with their own tribe, often in young Mercy start-ups (think Invisible Children, To Write Love On Her Arm, Haiti Partners, Least of These International, Global Fast, etc., etc.); they don’t need buildings or stationery or land lines…and some times don’t think they need strong Boards; they are readily engaged by international causes; nonprofit work is often a career goal, and not a career diversion.

Andrew Breitenberg, a Virginia Beach-born artist and Swarthmore graduate, moved to Cape Town, South Africa to do art and glorify God. (Okay, I admit I don’t totally get it, either…but then, I’m fifty-one).  I do love these photos of a recent series Andrew did, which he called “Psalms on Zimbabwe.”  They don’t have all the hallmarks of evangelism, and neither are they overt, obvious Christian works hanging in a gallery.  I think, though, that they bring Beauty and Truth to their environment, and hopefully plant seeds and pique curiosity in the process.

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In one chapter of The Meeting of the Waters, there was a description of a very brave Chinese woman who smuggled food and the gospel into North Korea.  Here is a remarkable, moving speech by a North Korean girl, now studying in South Korea, as she pleas for help and prayer for her native country.

http://conversation.lausanne.org/en/conversations/detail/11671

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I-Heart Revolution

About the Author: When Christine Difato left for college she encountered some harsh realities.  Like most college students, it was her first time on her own…but she also faced the added challenge of being completely blind and getting used to her first guide-dog, Freddie. After earning a BA degree, she went on a Fulbright scholarship to the former East Germany.  Recently, she earned a Masters at Cambridge University, and is now pursuing a PhD at the University of Exeter in the UK.

As the Hillsong United band traveled around the world on tour, they saw the gaping disparities. Everywhere, there were huge gaps between rich and poor, with some people living in mansions and others in cardboard boxes. This struck a deep chord in their hearts.  From Hong Kong to London, they saw the needs of the people they met, the need for Christ’s tangible love.  They decided to make a documentary, not about their performances but about the real world outside of their performance venues.  As their site notes:

Globally, there is a generation of people who’s hearts, together, are turned toward Jesus through worship.

Hillsong UNITED’s feature-length documentary “demonstrates the potential impact of this unified heart if put into practice by showing the love of God toward others… To not just preach the good news, but together, to be the good news.” In other words, the heart of worship turned into action means serving the millions of people living in
poverty around the world.  That’s music to the ears of the Mercy Generation.

Hillsong’s documentary was  aired on June 17, 2010.  On that one night, the video convened youth from churches
across the globe to focus on the needs of their world.  Theatres were sold out in London, and even the smaller crowds in Berlin surprised venue managers and delighted youth pastors.

The film illustrates the marriage of two major trends of the global church: Christ’s love expressed through Mercy, and Machines used to communicate need and call to action.  Let’s lift up this generation in prayer — that its message will start a sincere, heart-filled revolution of Christ’s love to his precious people.

http://www.theiheartrevolution.com/

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Mercy is one of the 7 Global Currents.  Today’s followers of Christ, whom I call “the Mercy generation,” are increasingly electing to honor and point to Him by meeting the physical needs of others.  In a world where Christianity is often dumbed-down, though, the idea of a Mercy trend is concerning to Bible-believing Christians.  Some warn that emphasis on mercy (some deride it as “mere social justice”) inevitably equates to compromising Christ.

The Bible gives us both the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20), commanding that we preach the gospel throughout the world, and also the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:37-40), telling us to love our neighbor like ourself.  We are to practice both of them, not drawing false distinctions.  Noted author and head of International Justice Mission, Gary Haugen, wrote, “It makes not sense as an authentic follower of Jesus to bifurcate those things…if you don’t care anything about the spiritual health of people you are helping, then that is not truly, deeply loving them.  But if you are attending to their spiritual needs without attending to the man beaten along the side of the road, that’s not love either.”

I am able to be encouraged about “the Mercy Generation” precisely because I know that the gospel is also being proclaimed. A friend recently sent me this video of a street preacher in Atlanta.  This man is a big-firm lawyer, who after work hits the streets after work and preaches the gospel.  I am most encouraged about this, too, and thank Alex for continuing to be a faithful presence in his marketplace and on the streets.

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Scholars say that Americans have been used to “a grand narrative with a dualistic nature.”  What’s that mean?  It means we have experienced things as a choice between two options.  Republican or Democrat.  Christian or Non-Christian.  AT&T or MCI.  Bayer or Tylenol.  Coke or Pepsi.  Capitalist or Communist.  Black or White.  Pro-Life or Pro-Choice.  Personal Piety or Social Justice.  The list goes on and on,  running the gamut of economic, philosophical, religious, or commercial choices.  Christians  also fall into this pattern.

But things are changing.  Long held coalitions, whether political or ethnic or religious, are fragmenting.  Previous assumptions are being questioned. Christianity, of course, is not exempt from this transition.The Mercy Generation (people under forty, often called  Millennials or Gen X’ers) is searching for new ways to bear witness to Jesus as God’s salvation plan for the world.

A group of younger believers has created a gathering called “Q”,  which seeks to ask questions about world, faith, and global issues. As the Huffington Post reports:

“Having the quick answer to everything doesn’t exhibit the humility that Christ exhibited,” (the founder Gabe) Lyons explains…. Not that they are any less on fire for Jesus, but these Q-generation Christians are comfortable in complexity and ambiguity. The new guard seems to be pleading with the elders: “It’s not that simple!” … But don’t get the impression that this was a grand exercise in leaning left. One presentation, for example, made the case for delaying sex until marriage.”

As the Mercy Generation gradually assumes a seat at the table in the global church, new perspectives are emerging.  This brings me back, as often happens, to Dr. John Stott’s admonition to practice double listening: “listen(ing) carefully … both to the ancient Word and to the modern world, in order to relate the one to the other with a combination of fidelity and sensitivity.”

To read the full Huffington Post article, click here:http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tom-krattenmaker/q-conference-2010-heraldi_b_571089.html

To visit the Q Ideas gathering website, click here:  http://www.qideas.org/

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