March has been a terrible month for me. Having caught a nasty cold at the end of February that caused me to have to cancel some important engagements, I finally recuperated in time... to catch another nasty cold. I spent the Easter weekend and much of this week either in bed or feeling like I shouldn't have gotten up. So, my blogging has suffered in March as a result. I do apologize. Neither the quality or the quantity of my blogging has been up to par.
My reading has also suffered some this month, but I need manage to get a couple of books read in between coughing fits and blowing my nose.
1. Missions and Money: Revised and Expanded by Jonathan J. Bonk (Orbis, 2006).
Having read Bonk's original version shortly after it came out in 1991, I was interested to see how my former missions professor had furthered developed his thoughts in the years since. This book is a significant rewrite of his original material, discussing the effects of western affluence on Christian mission. Bonk continues to call for significant reflection on how our affluence impacts the way in which westerners do mission work. How can rich young rulers be cross-bearing messengers is the question I am compelled to ask after reading this book. Although he does a better job of helping answer this question than he did in his earlier edition, Bonk rightfully (though frustratingly) notes that no one can write a discipleship agenda for another. Still, his new chapter on developing a missiology of the righteous rich provides much assistance. No one who is serious about working cross-culturally should ignore the challenge of this significant and convicting book.
2. In Procession Before the World: Martyrdom as Public Liturgy in Early Christianity by Robin Darling Young (Marquette University Press, 2001).
One of the most important ministries of The Voice of the Martyrs in Canada is that of educating disciples who will be cross-bearing messengers of the cross-centred gospel, equipping church leadership in areas where believers need assistance in responding to persecution in a biblically appropriate manner, engaging in and supporting rigorous research and dialogue on the biblical theology of persecution and discipleship, and enriching the ministries of other Christian organizations and educational institutions through consultation and training in the practice and propagation of the biblical theology of persecution and discipleship.
Presently there are two primary ways in which we do this: 1) through the publication and translation of books and articles on the biblical theology of persecution and discipleship, and 2) through pastors/leaders/teachers seminars and courses in educational institutions on the biblical theology of persecution and discipleship.
Young's 66-page book provides evidence that this training for martyrdom has historical precedence in the first three centuries of church history. The early Christians believed strongly that those who were facing persecution and possible martyrdom needed instruction on how to stand firm and provide faithful witness to each other and to the watching world. This instruction included the teachings of scripture (Paul's letters in particular), the stories of the martyrs, and visible human examples. These are all components of VOMC's "In the Shadow of the Cross" seminars which we are conducting around the world. I found this book a tremendous encouragement to know that we are on the right track and an incentive to make sure that we conduct these seminars in such a way that they can be replicated easily by persecuted Christians. More on that in future blogs.....