Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Simple Math

Written by: on April 9, 2015

The teaching of math has been a source of frustration for me over the course of this year; well it’s probably been growing for the last few years, but this year it seems almost inescapable. Teachers are telling students to memorize and to download apps in order to solve equations. They are not challenging students to think or grapple with concepts in order to arrive at solutions. Math is put in easy to handle packages that make the students believe they have learned, but they have no concept of how to apply their thinking when the variables change or the questions get more complicated or the easy solution apps are not available. Don’t believe me – try giving asking the cashier, to not look at the cash register, and tell you how much change you should get from a twenty for your next meal at McDonalds.

I wonder if we do this with churches as well.

 jesus math

(J=Justice M=Mercy E=Evangelism eH=exponential hope)

Tracing the history of evangelicalism all across the globe through  Donald M. Lewis and Richard V. Pierard‘s book, Global Evangelicalism: Theology, History & Culture in Regional Perspective, leaves me wondering many of the same questions that I have with math. Historically, where the effects of evangelicalism have made the greatest differences in their societies, has been when right belief has been paired with compassionate action. Around the turn of the twentieth century we saw one example of this: “In terms of ongoing social engagement, many evangelicals saw the need to help to combat the evils of the urban industrial system. Among these were rescue missions to assist the down and out, shelters for homeless women and unwed mothers…” (Loc. 1670-1672)

However the zeal in these efforts made the western church blind to the influences of industrialization and we became enslaved to the culture rather than engaged in it: “Once the momentum began to falter, evangelical churches were increasingly burdened by the financial pressure of paying for and maintaining overly large buildings, and by elaborate organizational structures that could not easily be scaled back.” (Loc. 1555-1557)

When there has been an abandonment of belief or action, at any time and any place, problems have ensued and the church has either been relegated as irrelevant to its society or has lost its Christ-centered transformational core. Right belief with compassionate action – truth and grace, must go together if, we as the body of Christ, are to effectively extend the incarnational mission of Jesus.

What gives me hope for the Western church? Why do I still love the role the Lord has allowed me to have? Three main ideas:

  1. The call to belief and action is for everyone, not just paid staff. The Church, regardless of denominational affiliation is God’s Plan “A”, there is no Plan “B”. Therefore as those privileged with leadership roles we must not just strive for decisions but must lean in to the task of making disciples. We must strive to not just settle for right belief, but must model and challenge compassionate action. Action that reflects and meets the needs of our local communities.

“It is important to underline the fact that by its ability to localize and embed itself in new forms in diverse cultures, evangelicalism represents a powerful force resisting the homogenizing tendencies of globalization.” (Loc. 1117-1119)

 The question for leaders is: Why do we feel compelled to measure how many people come to a one hour service, once a week instead of how many people see their world as a mission field? Wouldn’t that emphasis change the way we, as leaders, spend our time, resources and teaching toward a more evangelical perspective?

  1. There is a renewed desire for ancient practices of leadership. It’s all of us together. Not just “staff” or “leaders” but everyone has an active, integral role in the advancement of God’s Kingdom initiatives.

 “The form of Christianity established in Latin America at the end of the fifteenth century was deeply shaped by the “evangelization” carried out by the conquerors in association with the military. The church was conceived as essentially a top-down, hierarchical and sacramental institution, rather than a community of followers of Jesus Christ from below.” (Loc. 2758-2760)

 The question for leaders is: how often do we take time to listen to and integrate what our “everyday” people are seeing in our communities into the ‘vision’ for the church?

  1. We have so much to learn from God’s work in other nations. However it will take humility and rethinking of current leadership practices to embrace what God has already made abundantly available.

 “As the centers of evangelical Christianity moved south and east, churches in the West struggled with their need to recognize that they had much to learn from their fellow Christians elsewhere in the world.” (Loc. 811-813)

 “Christians in the West are generally insufficiently aware of the works of theologians from Asia, Africa and Latin America, and the experience of interacting with these would greatly contribute to “building up the body of Christ”…” (Loc. 2943-2945)

 The question for leaders is: What needs to change in our organizational frameworks to move from “missions or outreach” as one small part of what we do to, “mission and engagement” being everything we do?

After so many years, my fear is that we’ve conditioned those who follow Jesus to be satisfied with only belief and action, which both flow out of convenience. We would do well for their sake and for the sake of those whom they have the potential to reach, to recapture both right, unyielding belief and compassionate, sacrificial action. The benefit for us is that we have teachers around the world who can model the way for us, like those in parts of Latin America: “Many thousands of people leave the “official” Church because they feel attracted to faith communities that not only preach the gospel but also enable their followers to live the Christian life deeply rooted in their socioeconomic and cultural context.” (Loc. 3032-035)

While problems may seem complex and the variables may constantly change, with Jesus all solutions are possible. It’s simple math.

“Now to Him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ…so that all nations might believe and obey him – to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ. Amen” (Romans 16:25-27)


About the Author

Deve Persad

12 responses to “Simple Math”

  1. John Woodward says:

    Deve, you have written a fantastic post that has so many rich insights and ideas that I don’t know where to start in my comments! I’ve been studying this semester (for my big paper) the historical background of my church tradition to try to understand why there is so little passion for spirituality or mission. Our churches tend to be overly focused on the Bible and maintaining the “truth” — that they almost have a defensive mentality, along with a belief that Christ has completed the work, we simply need to affirm it and we are “in”! This doesn’t lead to much mission or action. You pretty well stated it when you said: “Why do we feel compelled to measure how many people come to a one hour service, once a week instead of how many people see their world as a mission field?” This tends to the heart and focus of our church. My concern to is see the church moving forward (or outward). My conclusion is that what is missing is a proper view of Jesus or Gospel. The Gospel for many is about me, my salvation, my obedience (i.e. attending church once a week). That is pretty much it. For most, it isn’t joining into God’s larger plans and purposes that includes all creation, all people. You have to wonder how many in our pews today would remain there if they came to understand God’s call for compassion, sacrifice and action that is the very least His grace should produce in us! I am hopeful as well, as I think God is stirring up the Church in some exciting ways, that maybe it will be hard to sit in a pew any more and think that that is what being a Christian is all about! Great job, Deve!

    • Deve Persad says:

      You are so right, John…as a preacher/teacher of the Bible, I’ve tried to be much more aware of the individualizing of the message of the Gospel. Even as I audit myself, it’s amazing to me how much “unlearning” I need to do in order for those who hear and learn to also understand. Thanks for the reminder to keep pushing in that direction.

  2. Stefania Tarasut says:

    Deve, a couple of things…
    First, you’ve hit the nail on the head when you say, “my fear is that we’ve conditioned those who follow Jesus to be satisfied with only belief and action, which both flow out of convenience”- I’ve been thinking about something very similar lately. I wonder how much I’ve “cheapened” the Gospel message in order that it might fit into our schedule rather then encourage people to rearrange their lives in order to fit the Gospel truth… sigh!
    Second, on “mission/ outreach” vs. “mission/ engagement” … outreach is short term… engagement is long term…. My life doesn’t allow me the luxury to engage long term… I cringe inside as I say that, but I hear it over and over again… I’m so glad that weren’t “God’s service project” for a summer… Ok! I’m done 🙂

    • Deve Persad says:

      Stefania, thanks for those comments – they are certainly reflective of many peoples thoughts – as for the second one, “engagement” – if we say our everyday lives as engagement with the world around us, then it changes everything about the Gospel, our response to it and the way in which we interact with others…the Great Commission always starts at our front door.

  3. Deve,

    Excellent post; I loved every word.

    Thanks for sharing about leadership here. Yes, leadership, true Christian leadership, is a rarity today. However, there is always hope. God does lift up good leaders in His way and in His time.

    You say in your post, “…it will take humility and rethinking of current leadership practices to embrace what God has already made abundantly available.” I fully agree. Humility is the KEY ingredient for true, godly leadership. We have need for lots of rethinking and for new behaviors that will see a new and good emerging crop of leaders in the church. Deve, I see you being one of the lights in this area. Thank you for being a leader who hangs in there even when the going is tough.

    • Deve Persad says:

      Thanks Professor, it’s always good to hear from you. As I read your comments, I have recently come from a conversation where I was informed of a pastor in another church in our city who has decided to leave the city to plant a church in another city. He’s an amazing teacher/preacher; however, he has only been at this church for just over 2 years.
      I share this to say, one of the behaviours that needs to change within our Christian frameworks is longevity in ministry – where there is constant change in leadership there is little direction or sense of purpose among the rest of the people. At least that’s been my observation to this point…thanks for adding to the discussion.

  4. rhbaker275 says:

    You have given us very insightful and inspirational thoughts.

    Each question for the leader requires some deep and personal reflection. If we are to be an “evangel” – sharer of the “good news,” then we must get beyond responding/engaging when it is convenient. Our commitment must be more than the self-centeredness that this implies. To act when convenient is to not allow the good news to impact all of, the wholeness of life. With this shallow commitment, our people will never sense their own “sentness” or as you note, “’mission and engagement’ being everything we do?”

    We need the personal renewal and commitment that Shenk writes about in the early pietist movement, “a quickened and heartfelt Christian faith, nurtured and sustained by Scripture and actively applied in witness and service.”

    • Deve Persad says:

      Hey there Ron, the idea of convenience is one of the biggest obstacles that our western church has to contend with…Jesus was so clear about commitment, generosity and sacrifice (at least it seems clear to me); how did we get to the place of convenience?

      • rhbaker275 says:

        Is convenience symptomatic of modern self-fulfilling consumerism? James says we are “tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed (1:14) … you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures (4:3).”

  5. Liz Linssen says:

    You highlight some great points Deve, and ask some challenging questions. Indeed, there is so much we can learn from God’s church in other parts of the globe. Chinese christians have much to teach us of what it really means to live by faith. Iranian Christians, when they come to faith, understand full well it may cost them their life at some point. Our faith is so weak compared to these precious brothers and sisters. I remember meeting an Iranian pastor from London who told me, when an Iranian comes to faith, he takes that person the following day and asks them to share their new faith with someone. In other words, he throws them into the deep end straight off. Do we have much to learn from the non-Western church? Oh yes!
    Thank you Deve for such an interesting and thought-provoking read.

    • Deve Persad says:

      Liz, I love that story from the Iranian pastor…It reminds me of Jesus and the woman at the well (John 4)…After her conversation with Jesus, she goes into town, to the people who likely have been most cruel to her and tells them about what Jesus has told her and revealed to her…That wouldn’t work in most of our contexts because she would need to attend classes and pass interviews or serve in other ministries before being set free into the community…we have so much to learn indeed! thanks Liz.

  6. Clint Baldwin says:

    Deve, this was a wonderful post.
    I am thinking back at the moment to your reference on the blindness that zeal can bring (love is blind as the saying goes — well, at least false loves). Nuance, variation is not looked for, the quieter characteristics are not seen, when zeal is in the neighborhood. There’s no time for stream corrections because of how fast the flow is going.
    Anyhow, balance is needed in the midst of energy.
    Your post offered some of that. Thanks.

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