So this morning as I was praying, the Lord brought to mind the nation of Brasil. A large and important country in our world. I’ve been praying regularly for the church in Brasil to rise up and seize the opportunity afforded it by the World Cup being on their soil next summer.
I quickly shot off an email to my colleagues, Steve Bailey and Bruce Triplehorn who serve @EncompassWorld for that nation. I found out earlier this week that Steve was on the ground there, and I wanted them to both be sowing seeds and listening to what the Holy Spirit might be stirring up. We are praying for a coalition of leaders, churches and ministries who would be mobilized to the ministry opportunities of relational evangelism, discipleship and church planting afforded by the World Cup in Brasil.
As that email left my computer, another came in from Tom Julien (who I always listen to):
A faithful warrior has entered heaven with his eternal “weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17). What an example he was.
I quickly scrolled down in the email to find out who, and it was Bill Burk. “Amazon Bill” as he was affectionately known who served as a missionary taking the Gospel to the unreached along the Amazon river for 6 decades! I remember as a child hearing the stories of the Amazon Rain Forest and the Good News going to people who had never heard about Jesus! I prayed for Bill and Imogene as a youngster.
In these moments, I’m reflecting on how the future of missions is breaking open in these two happenings around Brasil. A few musings:
- Like Amazon Bill, we still need people who are crazy enough for Jesus that they’ll take the Gospel to the hardest places on our planet!
- I’ve been challenged by the hundreds of “Unengaged, Unreached People Groups” in our world, and Bill Burk was going to those people groups decades before that “title” was dubbed in missions circles.
- Our heritage @EncompassWorld and “our present” both are strong in taking the Good News to the unreached of our world!
- The unreached are not just in the jungle anymore, they are in our cities…in the Urban Jungle.
- The breaking future of reaching these unreached peoples in not just in solo, pioneer missionaries, but in coalitions of leaders, churches and ministries who will covenant together for the Great Commission.
My deepest sympathies and prayers go out to Imogene and the whole Burk family. They will miss their beloved here, and we all know that another “saint in glory stands.”
Then I was scrolling through my email and came across a forward article about our nation from a patriot in our @LosAltosGrace Church family. The title of the email article was “We Are Not Coming Back.” It caught my attention because it was written by a Rabbi…
It was written originally in the days following the 2012 Presidential Election (Read it on his blog here). It certainly talked about politics and was very insightful. The part that grabbed me was this paragraph:
Obama also knows that the electorate has changed – that whites will soon be a minority in America (they’re already a minority in California) and that the new immigrants to the US are primarily from the Third World and do not share the traditional American values that attracted immigrants in the 19th and 20th centuries. It is a different world, and a different America . Obama is part of that different America , knows it, and knows how to tap into it. That is why he won.
The bigger question for me is not how the elections will go in this different and new America, but how can we see the Gospel and disciples of Jesus penetrate this different…and new America. This “new America” has long been rooted in our urban areas. I saw it for 8 years as I lived in downtown Columbus, Ohio. And now I’m living in one of the largest urban areas in the world…I’m still praying and wrestling with what is it gonna take?
This different or “new America” provides us with great challenges and opportunities for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Let’s take our energy, prayers and creativity and leverage them toward seeing our Jesus draw many to Himself!
Many prayers in the next 24 hours will be made for “revival” and I’m in favor of that. But what about our prayers for the thousands of people in our country who have never had a “__vival”; that is a “first life with Christ”, been “born again” nor even known about Jesus. We must pray for these and for the church and Jesus’ disciples to sow the Good News!
We see the fields white for harvest. Isn’t that what we should see in this different and new America? God is bringing the world to us and let’s see Jesus bring the world to Himself through US.
“CITIES are durable. Most last longer than the countries that surround them, or indeed any other human institutions. But some thrive, whereas others merely mark time (Cleveland, Minsk, Pyongyang), go into apparently long-term decline (Detroit, New Orleans, Venice) or disappear (Tenochtitlán, Tikal, Troy). What are the characteristics of a successful city? The short answer is good government and a flourishing economy. But such attributes may come and go in the life of a metropolis. In order to be continuously successful, a city has to be able to reinvent itself, perhaps several times.”
Harvard’s Edward Glaeser describes how Boston has done this three times—“in the early 19th century as the provider of seafaring human capital for a far-flung maritime trading and fishing empire, in the late 19th century as a factory town built on immigrant labour and Brahmin capital, and finally in the 20th century as a centre of the information economy.” On each occasion, human capital provided the secret to Boston’s rebirth. A strong base of skilled workers, writes Mr Glaeser, has been a source of long-run urban health.
Education was important from the first in Boston. But Mr Glaeser draws attention to other characteristics of the city that were present even in colonial times. It had a strong set of community organisations, because of its church structure, and something like the rule of law. It also had a tradition of “democratic egalitarianism”.
Law has been essential for urban life since Babylonian times, both because cities have usually been centres of commerce, and trade needs regulation, and because cities tend to draw different kinds of people, whose success in living together depends on common rules of behaviour. Democracy, too, has served cities well, providing a shock-absorber for changing economic times and a mechanism whereby immigrants can join the mainstream.
Immigration, or at least an ethnic and religious mix, has also been closely associated with urban success. As Joel Kotkin points out in “The City”, Chinese towns at the end of the first millennium AD showed the same cosmopolitan mixture as did Alexandria, Cairo, Antioch and Venice. Pre-1492 Seville, 16th-century London and 19th-century Bombay (now Mumbai) all contained a variety of different peoples, whether Muslims, Jews, Parsis or others.
Throughout history, cities open to the world have benefited both from an exchange of goods and from a trade in ideas from abroad. Japan, by closing its doors to foreigners, condemned its cities to slow marination in their own culture until the country’s opening up after 1853. Today the burgeoning cities with the best chance of overcoming their difficulties are those in Asia and Latin America that can gain from globalisation. Africa’s cities, largely excluded from this phenomenon, are winning relatively little investment, trade or entrepreneurial fizz from foreigners.
Some cities in the rich world, too, have been much more successful than others at exploiting globalisation. The ones that have done best are those that have plugged into global industries and been able to capture the headquarters or lesser corporate centres of globalised companies, especially banks and other financial firms, argues Saskia Sassen, of the University of Chicago. London, New York and Tokyo are pre-eminent in this, but some other cities—Paris, Frankfurt, Zurich, Amsterdam, Chicago, Los Angeles, Sydney, Hong Kong, São Paulo, Mexico City—are not far behind.
Not every city can “go global” or will even want to. There are other types of raison d’être. One is simply to be a pleasant place to live and work, pleasant meaning different things to different people, of course. In the developing world most people would be delighted to live in a city that was prosperous and well governed, if that meant jobs were available, officials were honest, the streets were safe, housing was affordable and transport, sanitation and basic utilities operated to minimum standards. Even in rich countries not all these things can be taken for granted.
Mercer, a consulting firm, publishes a ranking of big cities each year based on an assessment of about 40 factors falling into ten categories (political, economic, cultural, medical, educational, public-service, recreational, consumer-goods, housing and environmental). Last year the top ten cities were Zurich, Geneva, Vancouver, Vienna, Auckland, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Munich, Bern and Sydney.
The Economist Intelligence Unit, a sister organisation to The Economist, carries out a similar exercise (see table). Five of its top ten cities for 2005 were also in Mercer’s top ten. All ten in each list, with the exception of Sydney and Calgary, might be considered rather homely, even dull. The cities that have done most to excite attention the world over—New York, Chicago and Los Angeles—are also-rans. Smallish countries mostly do well, and Australia, the most urbanised country of all, ranks notably highly, at least in the EIU list.
No list includes the ability to reinvent itself among the desirable qualities of a city. That may, however, be increasingly put to the test, for some people believe that cities have had their day.”
Could the Church learn lessons from the histories of cities? If so, what might they be?