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Global Reflections

Fuller School of Intercultural Studies Blog

On this blog site you’ll find weekly updates and insights from faculty and friends of Fuller’s School of Intercultural Studies: missional conversations, up-to-date information, reflection, and new ideas regarding missional engagement of the global church.

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A Fractal Missiology for a Fractured World

9/14/17 in Missiology Conversations

What do US Christians think about Trump? Why do US Christians love guns and violence so much? These were the most popular questions I received during a five-day conference for the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES) alumni throughout East Asia last year.

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Does Your Organization Have the Moral Courage to Hire a Diverse Staff?

8/31/17 in Missiology Conversations

Last year, I spoke at a mission conference in Pasadena, California. As is the case in many evangelical events I have taken part in over the years, the speaker lineup as well as those in attendance did not reflect the ethnicities represented in Los Angeles, one of the most diverse metropolises in the world.

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Six Challenges of Missional Church Planting (Part 3)

8/23/17 in Church Planting

In the early phases church planting is too often more about launching a public worship service than planting a church that’s able to equip existing/new disciples of Jesus. Leaders will need to resist the urge to give too much energy and visibility to a weekly central gathering.

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Five Non-Negotiables for White Folks In Pursuing Reconciliation

8/18/17 in Missiology Conversations

“Racial reconciliation” is all the rage. Increasingly, younger white Christians are professing their desire for unity across ethnic lines. Christianity Today recently ran a piece noting the growing tendency of white evangelicals to recognize the systemic nature of racism and to desire to do something about it.

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Six Challenges of Missional Church Planting (Part 2)

8/14/17 in Church Planting

In its initial stages, the endeavor to plant may start with a project team on the ground or only a loose band of missionaries teaming to get a lay of the land and establish a beachhead for planting. Eventually this team will need to evolve to include load-bearing individuals committed to overseeing groups and activities that nurture missional engagement and the forming of a solid core group.

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Making Race in Puerto Rico

8/11/17 in Missiology Conversations

Have you ever wondered about how race differs between the U.S. mainland and the commonwealth of Puerto Rico? As in the case of missiology in which context shapes interpretations of reality based on understandings of God, Scripture, and human beings, issues of race are also contextually propagated and implemented.

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Six Challenges of Missional Church Planting (Part 1)

8/7/17 in Church Planting

The number of Christians who have had it with existing forms of church (the Dones) or who claim no religious affiliation at all (the Nones) is on the rise, perhaps eclipsing the 100 million mark in the US alone. These growing populations of dechurched and unchurched people present the body of Christ with fresh opportunities to follow Jesus into inventive expressions of church. Though certainly not exhaustive, this list represents what planters and planter coaches commonly identify as key challenges to starting sustainable missional churches.

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Missionary Self-care and Spirituality

8/2/17 in Missiology Conversations

I love missionaries because they get the job done. Against all odds. They’re committed to a long obedience in the same direction at any cost as an expression of their love for God.

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Learning from the Maasai

7/5/17 in Missiology Conversations

I was seated with a group of Maasai leaders outside their village at the foot of the Chulu Hills in the shadow of Mt. Kilimanjaro. We were enjoying large cups of fresh milk as the short rains had come and the animals supplied ample amounts. The men were giving me a lesson in the Maasai language and I heard their stories of life in this beautiful but rugged land.

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Spring Break Research in Thailand

5/26/17 in Pioneers of Today

Working on our John Templeton Foundation research grant with its focus on “recruiting field data for cognitive science of religion (CSR) questions,” we have been exploring various approaches to collecting people’s ideas about spiritual beings and powers (what anthropologists call “SuperHuman Beings”) and the nature of rituals that are driven by those beliefs.

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Lament of a Church Planter

5/12/17 in Church Planting

When a core group member leaves suddenly, or conflict erupts between two key missional community leaders, or your worship leader quits right before your public launch, how do you deal with the feelings of loss, pain, anger, and grief? When an unbeliever that you have befriended and baptized walks away from the faith, how do you pray? How do you navigate the chasm between how our theology says we ought to respond and how we actually feel?

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Of New Ducks and New Churches

5/5/17 in Church Planting

They say that in their first hours of life, baby ducks will form a special bond with the first moving object that they see, whether it’s their mother, an unsuspecting human, or the family dog. They will begin to follow it, imitate it, and consequently, their behavior will begin to take the same shape as the entity to which they have bonded. They call this process imprinting.

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20 Years of Innovative Education in China

5/3/17 in Missiology Conversations

Have you heard about the extremely creative artwork displays at the annual International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival in Harbin? I bet most of us have. But I bet not many of us are aware of the creativity in theological education in this capital city of the Heilongjiang Province.

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Can We All Get Along? Los Angeles Civil Unrest, 25 years later

4/25/17 in Responses to World Events

Rodney King famously asked, a few days after the fires started, “Can we all get along?” In the early ’90s, a report from the mayor’s office had described LA as a mosaic, with distinct colors, each section vibrant and essential to the whole. The civil unrest of 1992 called into question this glowing image of our city. The many churches in our city had to face the question of how this happened in a city with so many churches.

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Leaders Becoming Learners

4/7/17 in Missiology Conversations

Communal learning begins with leaderly learning—that is, with leaders as learners. For learning to be promoted and a culture of inquiry cultivated within a community, it is important that leaders become learners first. Accordingly, for spaces of communal learning to be created in their church or mission field, pastors and missionaries need to role model learning.

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Four Ways to Strengthen the Church Planter’s Marriage

4/5/17 in Church Planting

How is your marriage going to survive or even thrive when you are doing all you can just to keep the church plant going?

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Challenges and Opportunities for Women Church Planters, Part 2

3/10/17 in Church Planting

Gender aside, church planting is not for the fainthearted. Yet (to use a decidedly feminine metaphor), just like the labor of childbirth, the extraordinary exertion—combined with some degree of pain—is temporary, and beyond worth it!

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Challenges and Opportunities for Women Church Planters

2/22/17 in Church Planting

In 2010, I started one of the first two satellite churches for a large nondenominational church in Seattle. Not only did it feel very lonely, it is, in fact, very rare. I have yet to encounter a female lead pastor in an analogous situation. When I searched for data to substantiate my experience, it was also scant and difficult to find.

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The Shrewd Ethics of Starting a New Church

2/8/17 in Church Planting

From house churches to churches with full-time vocational pastors, we have experienced a breadth of ecclesial expressions in our city. While many of the frameworks that our churches prioritize are different, we have noted 12 commonalities as expressed by our 12 core covenant values

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Kingdom Embassies and Ambassadors

1/30/17 in Church Planting

“Where should we plant?” and “Who will be our church planter?” are two of the first questions our eager church planting commission asks as we hover over a detailed map of our North Texas region. Our team, with coffee in hand, has gathered this early morning filled with excitement and expectation as we analyze where new houses are being built.

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Feeling Inadequate for the Task

1/23/17 in Church Planting

Sometimes, it seems, God calls us to persist in a given ministry, even though we feel ill-equipped, seem to take two steps back for every one step forward, and generally (in our own estimation, at least), kind of suck. We struggle, don’t see the fruit we hope for, and wonder aloud why God didn’t call someone with better skills to take on this challenge.

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Different Pools, Different Fish: The Mistake of 'One Size Fits All' Solutions to the Challenge of Effective Outreach Among Muslims

1/18/17 in Reflections on Islam

“Different fields have different grasshoppers; different pools have different fish.” The wisdom of this Indonesian proverb has often been missed in discussions about Islam and how best to present a useful gospel witness to Muslims. Even many people wholeheartedly committed to reaching Muslims have made the mistake of treating Islam as a monolithic system and proposing “one size fits all” solutions to the challenge of effective outreach among Muslims.

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What All Planters Have in Common: Starting New Things

1/11/17 in Church Planting

Apart from sensing a clear call from God to plant a church, what do most church planting leaders consider to be the strongest indicator of being a fruitful planter? The answer is a demonstrated track record of starting new things either inside or outside of the church.

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The Dynamics and Diversity of Islam: South Asian Perspectives

1/3/17 in Reflections on Islam

Well over 500 million Muslims live in South Asia. They reflect what one is familiar with elsewhere, not least in West Asia, but so also the diverse local cultural contexts where they were born and raised. Until recently, Muslims in South Asia were understandably largely overlooked...

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Do You Want an Avatar for Christmas?

12/21/16 in Missiology Conversations

When my avatar and my sister’s avatar spar in a text message, are she and I really in battle? Why does my avatar headset have less sound quality than my master sound system? Is Dick Tracy an avatar of Warren Beatty or is Warren Beatty an avatar of Dick Tracy? What IS an “avatar” anyway? Is “avatar” really another word for “incarnation?”

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Gospel Heresy

12/20/16 in Missiology Conversations

Heresy is a very strong word. In times past heretics (from one group’s perspective) were tortured, exiled, or killed for their beliefs. Therefore, we do not use the word lightly. It may be of value, however, to resurrect the word in Christian circles, because some of the “Christian” beliefs being espoused today compromise the gospel to such an extent that it may very well be heresy.

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Seedless Watermelons and the Gospel

12/12/16 in Church Planting

One of the great inventions of history is seedless watermelon. I sometimes wonder if kids growing up today can even imagine a past when anyone eating watermelon would have to carry around a little bowl that would function as their seed-spittoon. I’ve thought quite a bit about seedless watermelons and the gospel, and it’s caused me to be convicted about my own faith.

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Got theological education?

12/6/16 in Church Planting

Do church planters need a theological education? Should those of us guiding potential church planters encourage them to get a theological education? We’ve all heard the well-worn put-downs that seminary can be a spiritual cemetery and that people just need Jesus, not exegesis.

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Anger, Peace, and God’s Mission

11/14/16 in Responses to World Events

On a number of occasions I have had a student, staff member, or faculty member sit in my office with fists clinched or teeth gritting as they describe an issue they are concerned about. Occasionally I will stop, look in their eyes, and make the observation: “You seem to have a lot of anger . . . where do you think that is coming from?”

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A Muslim Counter-Narrative to Challenge the Islamist Extremist Narrative

10/31/16 in Reflections on Islam

Two old Arab Bedouin sayings are as follows: I, against my brothers. I and my brothers against my cousins. I and my brothers and my cousins against the world (outsider/stranger); and: The length of our age is less than our spears. Early Islam demonstrated this adage as seen in the murders of the first three righteous Caliphates to the current Sunni–Shia and Salafi–Sufi conflict.

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Black Lives Matter Through the Lens of Discourse Modalities

10/28/16 in Missiology Conversations

Why was the position “Black Lives Matter” (BLM) met with the response “All Lives Matter” (ALM)? I am not going to approach this issue from the paradigm of racial tensions in contemporary US society, but rather using a new approach that I call discourse modalities.

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Islamic Diversity and Missiological Response

10/19/16 in Reflections on Islam

Malik Mumtaz assassinated the governor of Pakistan’s Punjab province, Salman Taseer, in January 2011. He killed in cold blood, publicly, witnessed by many who did not move to stop him. Malik himself immediately and openly acknowledged what he had done.

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Christian-Muslim Relations: Are Missiologists Getting Brilliant on Old Ideas?

10/13/16 in Reflections on Islam

In 1985 when I was applying to PhD programs in economics I went to one of my ex-professors for advice on universities. I told him about one of the schools I had in mind and immediately he said: “If you go to that university you will get brilliant on old ideas.”

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Flush Out Your Toxic Thinking about Islam before Election Day

10/5/16 in Reflections on Islam

As we approach election day, at a time when the question of Islam and Muslims in America has become so divisive, it would be easy to vote for the wrong candidate for the wrong reasons. In this brief reflection, I would like to point out a few mistakes that we often make in our thinking about Islam and Muslims.

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Three Ways to Build a Church Planter Pipeline

9/26/16 in Church Planting

Where do church planters come from? This morning I got off the phone with a friend who is a denominational church planting leader. We both agreed that one of the major obstacles to planting more churches is the lack of identifiable pipelines for church planters.

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The Western Frontier

8/30/16 in Reflections on Islam

All too rarely does any discussion of Islam in Europe end on a positive note. Commonly, we hear about failures of integration, of the oppression of women and sexual minorities, and in extreme cases, the focus is on extreme acts of terrorism. The prospect that Europe could succumb to Islamic cultural domination is a nightmare that drives nativist and right-wing political parties.

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Holy Discontent

8/25/16 in Church Planting

My call story begins in my fifth grade science class when I learned about the cardiovascular system. I was utterly captivated by the heart and started dreaming about becoming an open heart surgeon. I knew from age 11 that I would be working on hearts, I just assumed at the time that it would be through surgery.

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Food and Faith

8/15/16 in Missiology Conversations

The Gospel of Luke includes many moments when food and eating become key events in the life and ministry of Jesus. Jesus ate with all kinds of people—friends, enemies, tax collectors, sinners, women, Pharisees, disciples—the list goes on. On several occasions, Jesus’ eating habits earned him such labels as “a glutton and a drunkard,” “a friend of tax-collectors and sinners,” one who “welcomes sinners and eats with them,” and “a guest of a sinner”.

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Breaching the Divide of Islam: Muslim Women at the Margins

8/3/16 in Reflections on Islam

What do Muslim women who advocate for a radical reinterpretation of Islam, Muslim women of the piety movement, and Muslim women activists for social change have in common?

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A Call to Love Not to Fear

7/1/16 in Responses to World Events

It is tough loving our enemies: something Jesus calls us to do. Yes, there are reasonable fears about Muslim extremists today, but why don’t we start by loving our Muslim neighbors, who overwhelmingly are proud Americans and want to contribute to the good of our society?

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Mission in a World Gone Wild and Violent: Challenging the Monochromatic View of Islam from a Silent Majority Position

6/17/16 in Reflections on Islam

How do we understand militant jihadism within the grander scheme of the Islamist and Salafist ideologies of the twentieth century? What does a twenty-first-century perspective on the Middle East and global developments tell us?

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A Focus on Muslim Societies at the 2016 Missiology Lectures

5/17/16 in Reflections on Islam

The other day, I enthusiastically invited a Christian friend of mine to attend the 2016 Missiology Lectures at Fuller Theological Seminary on November 3-4. After glancing at the invitation website he remarked: Why are you not focusing on the two hottest issues currently debated in churches, namely the refugee crisis in the Middle East and the ongoing violence by ISIS and other related groups?

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Why Plant a New Church When There Are Already So Many?

5/10/16 in Missiology Conversations

Fuller is excited to now offer a new degree emphasis in Church Planting to master’s students, in addition to our Certificate in Church Planting. As we seek to equip men and women who are called to plant churches, we must ask the question: Why plant a new church when there are already so many? Why not just invest in churches that already exist?

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6 and a half Reasons for a Degree in Intercultural Studies

3/16/16 in Missiology Conversations

In the early years of the 21st century, mission degrees and programs began to transform into degrees in “intercultural studies.” The change was necessary, intentional, and controversial. The degrees broadened in scope to prepare Christian leaders for more than traditional missionary work overseas. As the West was slowly recognized as a mission field, some began to equip themselves with intercultural studies (ICS) degrees in order to reach different cultural groups— “unreached peoples”—in North America. Others enrolled in ICS programs to engage in development work, pursue reconciliation work, or enter the struggle against human trafficking. Motivations and vocations are now much more diverse than they were when mission degrees first emerged in the middle of the 20th century.

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12 Must-Reads on Mission and Islam by Fuller Professors

2/23/16 in Missiology Conversations

These books represent the work of Fuller professors who have seen God at work amongst Muslims and have shared their knowledge, stories, and research. Our hope is that these resources would bring you to greater understanding, fuller passion, and more fruitful witness among Muslims.

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A Christian Response to a Muslim Declaration of Rights for Religious Minorities

2/12/16 in Responses to World Events

In response to the violence by ISIS, Boko Haram, and al-Shabaab against religious minorities, more than 250 Muslim scholars and government officials from more than 120 countries met in Morocco January 25-27, 2016, and made the “Marrakesh Declaration on the Rights of Religious Minorities in Predominantly Muslim Majority Countries.” They based this on the Charter of Medina made 1,400 years before, when Muhammad fled from Mecca to Medina with his followers and made a contract with the local people that guaranteed liberty for the Jews as long as they were loyal.

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Filling Power Vacuums with Christ

2/11/16 in Missiology Conversations

Violence you can meet with violence. And Western states are good at violence, with their massive defense budgets and sophisticated weaponry. It is quite possible that even from the air Western forces could push Islamic State out of parts of Syria. Problem is, the fighters go elsewhere, and this year Islamic State been setting up Libya as a new base. Vacuums, though, are the key. This is the most important advice any leader—political or otherwise—should remember: Extremists flourish only after the forces of moderation fail!

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Sharing the Gospel in Unexpected Ways

1/27/16 in Pioneers of Today

As a Chinese immigrant to America, I was raised like many other Asian immigrant children to become a doctor or lawyer. But in the most difficult decision of my life, God convicted me to leave a top law school for international law to study God’s law at a top seminary: Fuller.

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Reflections in the Wake of the Paris Attacks

11/25/15 in Responses to World Events

The term “interconnectedness” is ubiquitously used to describe the effects of social media, global markets, or international travels. After the November 13 Paris attacks, this term took on a new meaning as the flow of global empathy reached me as a French citizen.

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A Dream Come True for Leaders Around the Globe

11/3/15 in Our Mission Legacy

You might say that the dream began with our Lord as he looked out on the crowds and said, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out more workers into his harvest field” (Mt 9:37–38).

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