LGP Stories

Personal Stories from DLGP

A Listening Ear

Written by: on February 21, 2017

Author’s note.  In place of visual elements, I have opted for audio only.  As one who deals with the reality of diminished vision myself, I am keenly aware of the challenges faced by people who have diminished or no sight.  I thought it to be a worthy endeavor to capture a few little pieces of this sound-rich world and share them in the context of this synthesis. 


(These metal strips are inserted into every sidewalk in Hong Kong.
Designed to assist visually impaired people find their way around.  Kind of like brail for your feet!)


The sounds of Hong Kong.

We are studying the interplay of economics, church leadership and culture.  I am particularly interested in whether or not the presence of the church makes a substantive, measurable difference in the economic landscape of a culture.  Is it a contributor or a consumer?  I am hoping to find that the church contributes to physical and spiritual well-being for the individual in this life, not only in the life to come!

As I venture into more diverse cultures and societies, I am discovering some general principles to be true.  People are:

-vastly different yet in many ways the same

-mostly hopeful but struggling to have that hope sustained

-dreaming of a better future while managing the numbing sameness of present reality…

These can be clearly seen in an urban context where a massive volume of people are pressed together into a limited space.  While any major city around the world would serve to illustrate these points, Hong Kong seems to stand as quintessential.  Skyscrapers rise higher and higher as the population swells upon finite land space, there really is no where to go but “up!”  The struggle for sustainable life is real.  Surely here, surrounded by opulent buildings and smoggy air (signs of progress…), the human population would be advancing steadily!  Poverty must be close to being eradicated and the brotherhood of humanity will be on display, right?  Each one caring for his fellow man, laboring for the good of all…


Do the sounds of progress reach the ears of those wondering where the next meal will come from, or where they will sleep?  Does the hustle and bustle of prosperity sound the same to the young woman openly selling her sexual services as it does to the traveling businessman who purchases those services from her?  Does a bourgeoning economy translate into overall human flourishing?  Today, we can travel to all points on the globe with remarkable ease, effectively blurring nationalistic lines but are we any better off for it?

(Close your eyes and press “PLAY”)


Where is the church in all of this, do we steward our economies to facilitate transformation?  Is there place in Hong Kong (and other urban centers) for a “balance[d] approach to evangelism and social action that is modeled after Jesus’ example of not only preaching about the coming kingdom of God but also ministering to the physical needs of the people they encounter?”1  If there is, it is not easy to find amidst the sea of humanity where hard work is rewarded with more hard work and even the popular art of this “multi-directional, hybridized”2 people has become techno-oriented.  The most popular public display of artistic creativity is the synchronous lighting of their skyscrapers facing the harbor each evening, a monument to their economic might.

It seems that Hong Kong is dead set in their desire to prove to the world that they are a global city with global aspirations and word-class economic systems.  But do these economic advances trickle down (out) to the average person on the street?

(Close your eyes and press “PLAY”)


Again where does the church fit in all of this?  It seems that instead of influencing the world’s economic systems toward providing fuel for community transformation, using financial resources to elevate the downcast, we have adjusted the other way.  Our “leadership” studies are anchored in the teachings of Collins, Friedman and Maxwell instead of Jesus, Paul and Peter.  We have modeled ministry in the church after prevailing economic systems.  Think about the typical gathering of the religious for a moment.  We show up (wherever “there” may be), pay some kind of admission price (tithes or other), observe the proceedings from the safety of our chairs, then go back about our lives.  It is the height of consumerism!  But do the communities around us look measurably different as a result?  While there are exceptions (Jackie Pullinger and St. Stephen’s Society come to mind), for the most part, the sad answer is no.  The sounds of the church don’t seem to reach much beyond the stained glass and polished wood of the chapel.  And how are those sounds much different than the Taoist shaking her fortune sticks?  “Bless me!”  “Show me!”  “Give me!”  These are the prevailing themes that occupy the prayers of the faithful…  In any language…


(Close your eyes and press “PLAY”)


Do we, among the clamoring noise, listen to hear the sounds of the people?  The hurting, broken and lost are surrounding us in greater numbers every day!  How will we make use of our freedoms to leverage these ones up out of the depths?  As global leaders, we must use the gifts of economic prosperity, capacity for travel and ease of global communications to make whole those who have been shattered by the effects of sin.

What remains to be seen is, will we?


  1. Donald E. Miller and Tetsunao Yamamori. Global Pentecostalism: the New Face of Christian Social Engagement (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2007), 212.
  2. Kam Louie, ed. Hong Kong Culture: Word and Image (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2010). loc. 220


About the Author

Jon Spellman

Jon is a husband, father, coach, author, missional-thinker, and most of all, a follower of Jesus.

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