Category Archives: missional

The priority of relationships in the mission of God

I teach at a missional seminary. You might wonder what “missional” is all about. Well, I’ve tried to articulate why missional is all about redemptive and redeeming relationships. Such relationships change the ways we relate to those we seek to serve, whether here in the U.S. or in any other part of the world. To read a bit about how missional relates to serving others in Africa, read this post over at the Biblical Seminary faculty blog. It came out on Halloween but Hurricane Sandy made her appearance a few days earlier so I doubt many saw this.

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Filed under Biblical Seminary, christian psychology, church and culture, Doctrine/Theology, missional

Must Read: Diane Langberg on “Trauma as a Mission Field”

My supervisor, mentor, and colleague, Dr. Diane Langberg has been telling us for some time that “trauma is the mission field of our time.” Recently, however, a few Christian NGO/Missions leaders have heard this line in one of her talks and have become electrified by it. I cited it last week in a board meeting at Biblical as I was trying to make the case that developing postgraduate trauma training at Biblical fits our mission: following Jesus into the world.

But, some of you have not heard her give one of these talks. For you, I point you to the World Reformed Fellowship website so you can read a report she made on June 5 regarding the problem of trauma and the opportunity of the church to have a hand in healing this man-made scourge. Below is an excerpt of that short report. Do go to the WRF link and read it in its entirety. The report is not long but it is powerful and includes a couple of specific comments from two leaders in Africa.

We are the church. That means we are the body of Jesus Christ and He is our Head. In the physical realm, a body that does not follow its head is a sick body. That is also true in the spiritual realm. We are His people and I believe with all my heart He has called us to go out of ourselves and follow Him into the suffering of this world bearing both His character and His Word. And we do go – we send missionaries and the Scriptures; we provide food, clean water, education and jobs for many. And we should. We have rarely, however, seen trauma as a place of service. If we think carefully about the extensive natural disasters in our time such as earthquakes, hurricanes and tsunamis and combine those victims with the many manmade disasters – the violent inner cities, wars, genocides, trafficking, rapes, and child abuse we would have a staggering number. I believe that if we would stop and look out on suffering humanity we would begin to realize that trauma is perhaps the greatest mission field of the 21st century.


Filed under Abuse, christian counseling, christian psychology, Christianity, Congo, counseling, counseling skills, Diane Langberg, Great Quotes, missional, Missional Church, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Rwanda

Your opportunity to help asylum seekers

For my licensed mental health readers, you might be interested in checking out Physicians For Human Rights (PHR) an organization that helps asylum seekers get proper evaluation as part of determining their application for asylum. PHR has an “Asylum Network” that you can join for free and be contacted if there is a case in your area. These are usually pro bono cases. PHR also provides an extensive guide for those doing psychological evaluations of torture and/or persecution on the website. If you are looking for something exciting to do, I would think this would be a good choice–an opportunity to immerse yourself in another’s world and to care for the “alien” among us in obedience to God. My friend who does this says that you are not required to take cases offered to you and that you determine how many cases you might want to do in a year’s time.

Check them out! I plan to join.

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Filed under Abuse, christian counseling, christian psychology, counseling skills, missional, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Psychology

Check out this Biblical event!

Want to meet a number of key missional leaders all in one place for a reasonable price? Wondered what missional was all about? Come to Biblical Seminary on October 10th (THIS FRIDAY) to hear Scot McKnight(, Tim Keel, Darrell Guder, and the ever stimulating, even controversial Brian McLaren (along with some local greats as well) do plenary talks and break-outs on a number of related topics. It costs $75 for the day or $40 for the evening. The size will not be too large so you can expect to have actual conversations with some of the leaders. The event is capped by installing our very own theologian, Dr. John Frankeas the Lester and Kay Clemens Chair of Missional Theology.

Check out this link for more info:

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Filed under Biblical Seminary, Christianity, Christianity: Leaders and Leadership, Doctrine/Theology, missional, Missional Church

Do YOU know where you are going on YOUR journey?

This post is prompted by a sermon I heard last Sunday. Duane Davis, student at WTS preached a wonderful sermon on Hebrews 11:8-22 and Abraham’s journey to the promised land. During the sermon I thought of this application to my own Seminary’s quest to teach and train missional church leaders and counselors for the 21st century. A little background: not everyone has been happy with our move to reach the emerging leadership of the emerging church. The emerging church has been willing to criticize sharply the prior evangelical style of church. In their effort to try new things, some emerging leaders, writers, etc. have tried on theological positions that run counter or at least perpendicular to conservative Christian doctrine. Because we at the Seminary haven’t led with our criticisms of emerging church, that has led some to criticize and attack us. One criticism has been the challenge that the emerging church and Biblical Seminary don’t know where they are going. We’re on a journey that can only lead to heresy and rejection of the Gospel–or so it is thought by some. Enter Hebrews 11.

Notice that Abraham travels with much uncertainty. He surely knew that God called him (at least he knew this enough to leave all his family and homeland at an elderly age) and so he went expectantly. I wonder if he grew tired of saying, “Here, Lord? This looks like a good spot. No, you want me to keep going???”. I wonder if he second-guessed himself.  But Hebrews does tell us that Abraham did look expectantly to one thing: heaven (v. 11). In fact, the promise of heirs the number of sand and land was never fully realized in his lifetime. As Duane reminded us, he even had to buy some land to bury his cherished wife. Even at age 100, he had yet to receive the promise of Isaac. Then a few years later he is asked by God to sacrifice Isaac.

We who have the entire canon seem to forget that we too do not know where God is taking us. We have a clearer picture of heaven and clear calls to seek and serve God’s kingdom. And yet we do not know exactly to what God is calling us to. We, like Abraham, may try to bring about God’s promises (these usually lead to bad consequence). God is faithful none-the-less. Unless He returns, we too will not see the full promise delivered.

So, in answer to those who ask whether Biblical Seminary knows where it is going, I say no. We don’t. We do know that God is faithful, the land is foreign, we own nothing, but we trust in his goodness both now and in eternity. We seek to live faithfully in worshipful service to God and in loving our neighbors as ourselves. It would be more comforting to think we had it all figured out. It is tempting to do so since that would make our vision planning much easier. In fact, it is tempting just to say we have it all figured out. That would be more attractive to students and donors. But, we believe a more faithful response is to ask the Lord to send us into the harvest and use as as He can.

One last point. Our lack of knowing just where we are going is not to say we have NO idea nor to say all viewpoints are valid and everyone’s expression of faith is good. Those interested in knowing more what we do seek and believe are welcome to check out our President’s “Missional Journal” at

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Filed under Biblical Reflection, Biblical Seminary, Christianity, Doctrine/Theology, Evangelicals, missional, Missional Church

When a good label loses its value, or, should we rethink labels altogether?

Ever found a word, term, idea that had great meaning for you become useless or degraded because it became popular? Well, maybe that only happens to academic and clinical types. As a counselor terms like idols of the heart, Biblical counselor, integration, christian psychology all are meant to help individuals identify themselves and shape a conversation. At Biblical Seminary, we are attempting to train students to think “missionally.” When we started down this path, not many were using the word. But now it seems everywhere and used in so many ways that make you question whether the word really has any meaning.

So, I’ve had these thoughts from time to time but last night I was reading Paul Wachtel’s (professor at CUNY) “Relational Theory and the Practice of Psychotherapy” and he had this to say about one of his terms, relational. You could easily replace all the relational words with your own favorite term.

[The relational movement] is a loose coalition that is encouraging a diversity in viewpoint rather than seeking to impose a new orthodoxy. But this diversity of meanings also introduces confusion. Students in particular often are unclear about just what it means to be relational, both theoretically and clinically. Some, for example, (mis)understand being relational as being almost relentlessly self-referentially interpreting everything that transpires as being about the therapist.

In part, the problem lies with the very success of the relational movement. As the term “relational” has come into broader and broader use in recent years, there has been a corresponding decrease in the degree to which it communicates a clear and unambiguous meaning. This is perhaps an inevitable cost of success; relational perspectives have become increasingly prominent in the field of psychotherapy, and we have reached a point where many people want to jump onto the bandwagon. As more and more people use the term, sometimes more as a token of membership in a movement to which they wish to belong than as a substantive reference to a clearly specified set of theoretical premises and practices, the ripple of meanings makes a phrase like relational psychotherapy less than ideally precise.

Labels like relational, object relational, classical, or contemporary Freudian (to use examples from the psychoanalytic realm) often serve less as a medium of illuminating discourse than as a functional activity of boundary making, akin to the way our animal cousins leave their  scent to mark off the boundaries of their territory. “I belong here, you belong there,” may be a sentence; but it is a sentence whose message is not very different from what is conveyed by the glands of our mammalian kin. (pp 7-8)

He goes on to say that words should not merely make boundaries but to “alter and complicate” them through the act of conversation. While there are boundaries, they do move and change and no one human created word will adequately separate the sheep and goats, to mix my metaphors.  

So, what do we do with labels if they lose explanatory power when others find them helpful? Get rid of them? Or, do we use them with greater and greater humility. I like Wachtel’s description of the problem with another set of labels, 1person and 2 person approaches to counseling (1 person refers to analysis where the client monologues and interacts with their own psyche and 2 person approaches tend toward a relational, experiential interaction). Wachtel holds a 2 person theory. But here’s what he says,

To begin with, it is worth noting that the distinction [between the two labels] is almost always employed by putative two-person thinkers, as a critique of one-person modes of thought. There are rather few writers who defiantly proclaim, “I am a one-person theorist and proud of it,” although there are, of course, many writers who declare themselves to be proponents of the models that are called one-person models by two-person theorists. Writing as someone who, if the dichotomy is usable at all, would without question fall on the “two-person” side of the divide, I must say I find it disquieting to be characterizing competing theorists in a way they do not acknowledge as the basis of their own thinking.

This lack of acknowledgment on the part of “one-person” theorists, of course, does not in itself invalidate the critiques. It is certainly possible that critics of one-person models are recognizing something about the theories they are criticizing that their advocates do not. Indeed, in certain respects I myself believe this to be the case. It does, however, raise a question as to whether there might be a way to frame the critique that would be more illuminating and experienced as less of a straw man by more traditional theorists.” (p. 11)

I think Wachtel is helpful here and I have said similar ideas in the past. We need to be willing to come at a situation with differing dividing markers than we may have used in the past. For us Christian counselors, this is especially true. Mark McMinn considers himself to be an integrationist. But, his recent book, reviewed here, shows willingness to describe his model in ways that might make older integrative folks uncomfortable (i.e., giving Scripture trump power). So, we need new ways of looking at the data and less focus on division and more focus on description. Maybe we take a little longer look to see what is shared in our venn diagrams… 


Filed under book reviews, christian psychology, Communication, Cultural Anthropology, Doctrine/Theology, Great Quotes, missional, Missional Church, Psychology

Teen Missions Int’l feature in Christianity Today

The print version of February’s Christianity Today arrived at my home. In it is a short story about Teen Missions International(TMI) based in Merritt Island, FL.  I can’t find the article on the web yet, but here’s why I enjoyed seeing the pictures and reading the short story:

24 years ago (1983) I reluctantly agreed with my parents to register for a TMI summer missions team. I would be giving up the summer between my junior and senior years in high-school to go with a group of teens somewhere in the world in order to do construction and evangelism. Why didn’t I want to go? I wouldn’t be able to train for the fall cross-country season and I was intent on being the #2 runner on the team (#1 was impossible since he was the New England regional champ). So, I set limits. I would go only if I got my first choice: Austria. Not sure why that was my first choice having never been to Europe. I would only go if the money I raised came in without me having to do much asking, since I hated sales. Well, I got my first choice and the money “magically” appeared within very short order. So I had to go.

I know that some have significant doubts about the value of short-term missions trips. Is it worth the cost? Who really benefits? And while the concerns are not without merit, I am fully persuaded that the summer of 1983 changed the course of my life. No, I wasn’t on the road to drugs and alcohol. But, the faith of my parents really hadn’t become mine. But by the end, I had begun to mature in my faith and committed myself to some sort of full-time Christian service.

So, what is this TMI, you might be asking. Youth and adults join teams at Merritt Island, FL. You live in tents for 2 weeks in a true bootcamp environment. The water smells like rotten eggs. There are chiggers and mosquitoes. Daily, you do bible study, learn construction skills (e.g., laying brick, mixing cement, digging footers), and train as a team on a serious obstacle course. No phones, no ipods. You wash in a bucket and you flush with a bucket. You wear work-boots all the time. Then after 2 weeks of work and bonding, you gather your army bags and travel with your team to your part of the world for the rest of the summer to do whatever your team intended to do. My team traveled to Austria by plane and train. We were to begin construction of a building for a ministry to addicts (if memory serves). We had all sorts of trouble with the site (mud slides) but accomplished building some of the base structure. We did some evangelism. But the largest construction was to our souls. I went from knowing about Christ to knowing Christ. When you are out of your comfort zone and away from family, you have the opportunity to consider your life, your values, and are primed to hear from the Lord.

There are a million great stories and experiences (e.g., riding the train across Germany at night only sitting on a jump seat, being accosted by a hoodlum in the train station, staying up all night to shoot scenes in a film called, “Blood, Sweat, and Cheers”, bathing in a ice cold stream and using pit toilets in the woods). I won’t bore you with them but they were life shaping. You cannot easily live the same once you see the world from the perspective of another. You cannot easily live the same when you expose yourself to the larger Kingdom of God.

I still have one friend from that summer who drops by this site.  Maybe Don will give his take on the time. Oh, I came back weighing about 25 lbs less due to a food shortage on the team and because of the muscle loss, I was fourth on the x-country team. Disappointing but in the scope of things, not important.

If you ever have the opportunity to send a youth to this (or go as an adult), take the chance. It will change your life.


Filed under missional, stories

Upcoming social networking and conversation spot for Christians

Yesterday, our faculty listened to a presentation by Lance Ford, founder and director of This organization provides opportunities to study and dialog with a number of missional authors (e.g., Reggie McNeal, Ed Stetzer, Leonard Sweet, Alan Hirsch, Sally Morganthaler, etc.) in small groups. Using flash technology and webcams, they have created a site where one can read and/or watch authors discuss their material and then engage in threaded discussion and live video conferencing. They haven’t quite gone public but have been in beta-testing for the last 6 months and are ready to go in just a few weeks.

Lance started us off with a Dallas Willard quote: The failure to make disciples is the elephant in the church. (or something like that) He noted that church leaders sometimes want to build the church, and then make disciples. He thinks this is backwards. If you make disciples, they will evolve into a church. But if you do it in reverse, you create consumers who do not look much different than non-Christians. Transformation may not take place.

Further, preaching doesn’t make disciples. Rather, we need 1:1, or close to it if we are going to build disciples ready to make more disciples.

I can see the value of this sort of site for those isolated and unable to find local connections. Imagine using this technology to connect overworked church planters, missionaries, and lay folk around the world.  

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Filed under church and culture, missional, Missional Church

A bit more on the mission of God

My previous entry mentioned the missional movement in the evangelical church. In some ways this movement is best understood by its two main questions: (1) What is the mission of God? (2) What is our part in His mission? Or put more bluntly as Gary Haugen did at a recent AACC conference (talking about God’s response to injustice), “Are Jesus and I interested in the same things?”

Well, what is our part? Unbelievably, we are plan A in fulfilling his purposes in the world. Here’s my 3 core statements that describe our part of the mission:

a. to glorify God and enjoy him forever in the kingdom of heaven, first here on earth and then fully in heaven.
b. to extend the kingdom boundaries (a la Ezekiel 47) in order to participate in the healing of the nations through reconciling, binding up, loosing, feeding, clothing, and preaching the new good news.
c. to live righteously in exile (Jeremiah 29) for the benefit of all peoples (for their peace and comfort) and as lights shining on a hill giving glory to God (Matthew 5:14)

What else would you want to include in your top 5?
What do we have in our actual, lived-out top 5 that ought NOT be there?

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Filed under Doctrine/Theology, missional

How much does personality influence views on theology?

My last two posts cover the effect of personal stories on the positions we take in areas of controversy. One particular controversial area for our seminary has to do with “the missional turn” we are taking as an institution. For those not familiar with this idea, you can explore more by going to our president’s Missional Journal. But here’s the controversy in short. Bible-believing, Jesus-loving, theologians disagree about how the church should reach this generation and the next. Some see evangelicalism as highly deficient in its understanding of the Gospel, of community life and our purpose in the world, and our relationship to God. The system is broken and needs complete overall. Others acknowledge that much of the church is “me-driven” but that our theological systems are just fine even if we need to refine their application to everyday life.

Enter personality differences. Continue reading


Filed under Doctrine/Theology, missional, Missional Church, personality