As I write the U.K. is in a state of confusion and flux. There have been and are arguments that float terms such as ‘sovereignty’ and ‘taking back control.’ People on all sides have strong views which have sometimes led to violence and even bloodshed on English streets. Emotions flow freely, in a torrent that divides nations, families and tribes.
“Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.”
1 Peter 1:3-4
Like it or not, every day we face the unknown. Some changes we greet with joy, some with despair. We may see change coming from a long way off or it might come when least expected.
Destinations in China
Though Beijing (17%) and Shanghai (14%) attracted the lion’s share of international students in 2016, there was a notable spread throughout the country.[i]
Reasons for coming
Due to a combination of diverse factors, China will continue to grow as a destination for international students. It has some of the world’s top universities,[ii] boasts a great diversity of institutions and programs, and is much cheaper than western destinations.[iii] Well over 800 colleges and universities in China accept international students,[iv] with many offering accessible undergraduate and postgraduate courses entirely in English.
Mourning is something that many western cultures don’t do well. Unlike our Mediterranean neighbours, or more expressive people from tropical climes, we think holding our feelings in check is a Good Thing. “Stiff upper lip, old boy.”
Christians are often even less inclined to mourn than others, because we have a sure and certain hope that our departed have gone to be with Jesus. We use terms like “promoted” to express our positivity. I was even once told by a family member at a funeral that we were not going to cry, because it was a happy day of celebration for our friend who had gone to a better place. Which left me with a lot of grief and no outlet for it. Sometimes we need to express our emotion and have a good wail.
In the evangelical world, short-term mission trips are incredibly important. They exist as almost a right of passage for many students and other young Christians; joining a short-trip to Africa, or somewhere is one of the things you do before you settle down and get on with life. For many established mission agencies, short-term mission trips comprise one of their main publicity and recruitment tools and then there is a whole load of organisations whose whole purpose is facilitating short-term trips. Whatever the benefits or otherwise of short-term mission, you cannot ignore it.
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6
The word incarnate means “to become flesh.” Jesus did this, literally. He laid aside his rights to godliness and took on our fragile human form – living, laughing, loving, bleeding, dying.
In a profound reversal, we the Church also use the term ‘incarnate’ to describe OUR life-long process of growing in Christlikeness. But what does it look like to become like “the Word made flesh?” (John 1:14)
The Spirit blows across the pages of Acts, blazing in his enthusiasm for Jesus. His first appearance is in 1:2 in which we discover that it was the Spirit that inspired Jesus. In chapter 2 the Spirit ignites a fire that rages through the rest of the book. He brings courage and boldness to timid disciples, clarity to Peter, discipline to a wayward couple – and so on throughout the book. Lives are changed (usually for the better although Ananias and Sapphira may have a different take). People are healed. Evil spirits are thrown out. And the infant church grows.
Caring for ourselves can seem selfish but if we don’t then we can’t sustainably serve those around us. Self-care should in no way negate Jesus’ call to self-denial nor be an excuse not to work hard, rather it helps maintain our resilience and perseverance in the midst of the challenges of serving others. It’s not just a means to an end though; God simply loves us and our well-being matters to Him. So, here are 10 resolutions to help us stay well and stay faithful plus some suggested verses to meditate on:
I am beginning a series of blog posts on Acts of the Apostles. They will be a series of reflections as I seek to draw some lessons from the biblical text and apply them to the contemporary ‘mission scene.’ You may agree with the points I make – but equally you may want to question some of the things I write. This is healthy and I welcome your comments and feedback.
Other better scholars will (no doubt) offer different perspectives, but I am approaching the text primarily as a missiological narrative rather than as doctrinal or historical accounts. Acts is an account of the spread and growth of the early church, from ‘Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth’ (Acts 1:8). There are four main actors throughout the text: Jesus (1:1) and the Holy Spirit (1:8), the ‘Word of God’ and the Christian community. Off stage – in the wings directing everything – is the Father. The director and actors work in collaboration throughout the text as the story unfolds.
This was a question I was asked recently and it came up again just this week as I was participating in discussions about how to start new things. There are many possible answers and you can read many good books – and a number of not so good books – on this topic.
I think that there are three very basic foundations to effective ministry. In my opinion each of which MUST be in place if the project is to have any chance of getting started and thriving and you might be surprised to see that strategy and money aren’t included.