Global Partnership as a Way to Fight Collective Impoverishment (Part 1)

The chasm among global neighbors leads to impoverishment and death in all of us. War, famine, and disease may be more rampant in the Global South and may be the direct cause for the loss of many people’s lives. The Global North suffers from its own problems. I will say the chasm is a greater loss to many of us who live in the developed nations. Because we are being left out from what God is doing in the Majority World. Spiritual vitality and alertness, active manifestation of both God’s power and the enemy’s work, youthful optimism and resilience of faith, and great affection and love for neighbors are commonly found among Christians in the Majority world. I am not saying these are not found in the developed nations, but according to a research, spirituality and the wealth of nations have an inverse relationship (http://www.pewglobal.org/2008/09/17/chapter-2-religiosity/). The decline of Christianity in Europe and North America is a trend no one can deny. It is a fact. Mainline denominations know it. Seminaries know it. And we are grappling with this issue. How can we breathe in new energy and vitality into churches in the developed nations?

I believe that the answer lies in reaching out to our brothers and sisters in the Majority World for help and support.

When you are facing a deep trouble and are caught in the middle of it, it is hard for you to look at the situation objectively with a fresh set of eyes. When you cannot come up with a solution, you need to find another person who is not in the thick of trouble and can assess the situation you are in. I believe that our Christian brothers and sisters from the Global South or developing nations can provide that new fresh perspective on the problems of our community.

The rich man in the parable of Lazarus and a rich man (Luke 16:19-31) is a self-obsessed and indulgent man. He looks at his surrounding from his residence, which he believes to be the center of universe. He cannot see the reality from any other way. However, this eschewed perspective on life could have been avoided if he could see himself from the perspective of Lazarus who was sitting outside the gate of his house. Lazarus could have pointed out the excessiveness of the rich man’s self-indulgence very easily. Only if the rich man was willing to stop at the gate or better invite Lazarus to come inside the gate and listen.
At ITS, from my conversation with students, who are mostly from the Majority World, I learn about myself as much as about them, because they become a mirror to me and my community. One thing I noticed whenever my students greeted me was that they would ask me how my family was doing. I would ask them how they are. But they respond to me by asking me how my family was doing. It is a very minor thing, but it represents a very different perspective on self and ourselves’ relationship with others. Every single time they asked me that question, the question reminded me of the fact that I am more than me and part of a bigger entity called family. It was the moment my individualistic mindset was challenged by their community-oriented mentality. And it is a needed reminder and also a prophetic voice to the individualistic Western society.

When we come in contact with our brothers and sisters from the Global South, our values and assumptions that have been shaped by the cultural force of our society are exposed. We no longer take them for granted. We are forced to question and examine them.

James Lee

James Lee

1 Posts | Member since 2015-09-21
Dr. James S. Lee is ITS president and associate professor of Old Testament. He earned his Ph.D. in Old Testament from Union Presbyterian Seminary, where his research focused on the exilic identity and theological formation of hope for restoration in the Book of Daniel. He received his M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary and a B.A. in Philosophy from University of Texas at Austin. He spent two years as a graduate student of theology at University of Münster in Germany.
A Passion For Christ, A Heart For Ministry

A question Christian educators often ask themselves is how they can best motivate their students to pursue mission and ministry for the Lord without shaming them into it through guilt. While looking for answers to this question, I received great help from a little book entitled, Beyond Duty, by Tim Dearborn. Dearborn reminded me of a very important principle which helps me keep the issue of ministry in its proper perspective. It is the principle of Matthew 6:33: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Mission lies at the center of God’s calling to His people, for it is at the center of His heart for the world. Tim Dearborn reminds us, “Christian mission is not our arrogant pursuit of other people to make them like us. Rather, it is our participation in God’s pursuit of all people to make them like him, and their lives like his.” I believe God’s people often collapse in exhaustion after throwing themselves into ministry because they mistakenly think God has given them a mission to perform in the world, and if they do not do it, judgment will come down upon them.

Yes, God has a work for all of us to do, but our involvement in mission is not only our personal duty. Rather it is our privileged participation in the actions of the triune God. We must begin by remembering it is His mission to the world, not ours. For us this means that our first responsibility is not the task, but it is a relationship. We err if we call people to a commitment to a task. Rather, we must call people to a commitment to a Person. Why should we care where one ministers in the world as long as he or she has a passion for Christ? Once one’s commitment to the Person of Christ is solid, the task will take care of itself.

Matthew 6:33 reminds us that we are to seek God’s kingdom first. When we love Jesus first, our selfishness in ministry disappears. Personal agendas are eliminated. Competitions with other ministries ceases. Things become less important and people become more important.

Furthermore, when we put things first and pursue Christ and His righteousness, a wonderful chain reaction of progress results. The more we desire to know Christ, the less time we will spend looking for a cause and more time we will give to cultivating our love for Him. The more we love Christ, the more we will love the people He created. The more we love God’s creation, the more we will want to participate in His mission to draw all creatures to Himself. And the more we participate in God’s mission instead of our own mission, the more joy and fulfillment we experience.

At ITS our goal is to cultivate in our students a heart for ministry that grows out of a passion for Jesus Christ, for those who minister most effectively are not necessarily the most gifted and talented, but those who most strongly desire to know God intimately.

(Article originally published by the author at ITS website)

Mel Loucks

Mel Loucks

1 Posts | Member since 2015-09-21
Dr. Mel Loucks is the former of President of ITS from 2010 until 2013. He has been teaching at ITS since 1984. He finished Master of Divinity at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Master of Theology and Doctor of Philosophy at Fuller Theological Seminary.