‘Knowledge of God is not an escape into the safe heights of pure ideas, but an entry into the need of the present world, sharing its suffering, its activity and its hope!’ (Karl Barth)

Allow me to put before you two very different but necessary mission challenges, as we continue to follow Jesus into the world…

1) The Challenge of Our World Ecology…

God is involved with the world he created, and so must we be. We need to appreciate not only God’s transcendence but his immanence.

Evangelical Christians’ neglect of things ecological is notorious. Decades ago I read Francis Schaeffer’s ‘Pollution and the Death of Man: The Christian view of Ecology’ (publ. 1970). In it he explained that humankind is separate from nature in that all people were ‘made in God’s image’ (Gen. 1:27), yet people are united to all other creatures as being created. They are interwoven into the web of life, related to and dependent upon every other living member of the ecosystem.

The Bible seems to indicate that the world will end in ‘fire:’ ”But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by (‘dissolved with’/NRSV) fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare … But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness” (2 Pet. 3:10 & 13/NIV). Closer examination reveals that the word ‘fire’ also means to cauterize or purify. Similarly, the phrase ‘laid bare’ means to be ‘discovered.’ The argument is that the world will be ‘purified’ at the end of the age and ‘discovered’ by those in Christ in a new earth. This interpretation at least makes sense of the Bible’s many hopeful statements about the world’s future, promising the earth’s liberation from bondage (Rom. 8:18-24) and it’s becoming a place where there will be no more mourning or crying or pain, for the first things have passed away (Rev. 21:1-5) (1).

Pauline expert Prof. Tom Wright in his ‘Surprised by Hope’ has written,“When God ‘saves’ in this life, by working through his Spirit to bring them to faith, and by leading them to follow Jesus in discipleship, prayer, holiness, hope and love, such people are designed – it isn’t too strong a word – to be a sign and foretaste of what God wants to do for the entire cosmos. What’s more, such people are not just to be a sign and foretaste of that ultimate ‘salvation’; they are to be part of the means by which God makes this happen in both the present and the future. That is what Paul insists on when he says that the whole creation is waiting with eager longing – not just for its own redemption, its liberation from corruption and decay, but for God’s children to be revealed: i.o.w. for the unveiling of those redeemed humans through whose stewardship, creation will at last be brought back into that wise order for which it was made.”

I wasn’t aware that William Wilberforce, who fought so hard for the abolition of slavery and the protection of children, also helped found the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA). If we each learn to ‘do our bit’ in our environment, as a family and faith group, great beauty can be restored to our earth, both now and in the future. What practical steps will you and I take in this regard??

2) The Challenge of the Islamic World… (1 out of every 4 people on earth is Muslim)

The world is still reeling from the Taliban’s recent invasion of Kabul in Afghanistan. CS Lewis wisely said, ‘If we are to convert our neighbours, we must understand their culture!’

For decades there’s been a huge neglect of Muslim evangelism, for different reasons. I was blessed during my formal pastoral days to have an astute missionary to Muslims serving on our eldership-board – he helped us keep in touch with the Islamic world and its needs.

Before we can influence Muslims, there are some huge issues that demand urgent addressing. I refer to a recent article, ‘Learnings From Kabul,’ by Dr. Daniel Shayesteh, a former radical Ayatollah-supporter from N. Iran (2). He writes that the fall of Kabul challenges the Western Church to ‘torrid self-examination.’ We in the West have to grasp that for radical Sunni Muslims, particularly, ‘democracy’ = ‘Christianity’ = licentious moral values. During the same period Islam resumed extremism, Western democracy has been fragmenting and declining in every way. From a nurturing ‘shelter’ for Christian beliefs, standards, attitudes and values, Western societies have increasingly become, not only non-Christian, but anti-Christian and aggressively secular, permissive, even pagan. Repeatedly the Church has flirted with emerging social and moral trends, embracing political correctness and affirmative action. The beautiful Gospel of Jesus has, in many places, been gutted, leaving an empty shell that has no authority to speak into its surrounding culture. Furthermore, many ‘Christians’ have embraced ‘moderate Islam’ through ‘ecumenism’ and ‘multi-faith’ events. Thus we have lost our capacity to discern good from evil, truth from heresy and God’s purposes from the wiles of the devil. ‘Sadly, the church now rarely speaks convincingly into its world. On the contrary, in many places it self-consciously teeters on the edge of extinction.’ How did this happen? According to Shayesteh, like with ancient Israel, it occurred as millions of believers ‘went to sleep at the wheel.’ They accommodated the godlessness of the surrounding nations and ‘did evil in the sight of the Lord.’ “Our world is in crisis because all of us incrementally compromise day in and day out. I find myself doing it. I’m reminded all too frequently of Rom. 12:2: of the world ‘squeezing us,’ molding us into the evils of the culture that surrounds us.” So, are you and I, and our faith-communities, willing to prayerfully repent before the Lord? Only then can we begin to impact our Muslim neighbours evangelistically, even those brought to our very doorstep. God created them in his image and Jesus died for them also, didn’t he!? They desperately need the message of God’s unconditional love in Jesus. (3)

[Keep posted for Pt. 4 of Missio Dei]


(1) Prof. HL Ellison, writing in the late 60’s, comments on 2 Pet. 3: ‘We shall always be plagued by those who insist on finding in Scripture what is not there… So we are told that v. 10 (together with v. 7 & 12) refer to the blowing up of the earth by a nuclear explosion… Such an idea has its place in science fiction but not in sober Biblical exposition. The earth is God’s, and neither Satan nor men can destroy it. What man’s puny A and H bombs have shown is that God can burn up the world by using natural law as easily as He destroyed life on it by water.’ Cf. British scholar Ian Paul’s excellent post ‘Which matters most: sin or climate change?’ (a false dichotomy): https://www.psephizo.com scrutiny

(2) Cf. https://dialogos.co.za/learnings-from-kabul

(3 The story of Nabeel Qureshi makes a brilliant read: ‘Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus.’ Cf. The conversion of Al Fadi, Saudi Arabian Wahabbi Muslim and former Jihadist: https://youtu.be/6az_5mGa3QA


A Sunday Without Church: In Crisis, a Nation Asks, 'What Is Community?' -  The New York Times
The Universal Priesthood of the Baptized - Light Of Truth

Part 2. What kind of congregation (ecclesia) can effectively journey with God into his world??

According to sociologist Prof. Josh Packard (University of N. Colorado) in his 2015 ‘Church Refugees,’ well over 30 million committed believers in the USA have left the institutional Church in recent years: ‘While everyone’s story is unique, there are some common tensions that emerge among the dechurched. They wanted community… and got judgment. They wanted to affect the life of the church … and got bureaucracy. They wanted conversation… and got doctrine. They wanted meaningful engagement with the world… and got moral prescription.’

Prof. Philip Jenkins (Baylor & Pennsylvania State Universities) in his 2002 ‘The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity,’ has argued that the greatest movement of the past century was not communism or capitalism but Spirit-filled Christianity. He estimated that in 20 years, two-thirds of all Christians will live in Africa, Latin America or Asia (because the Bible is alive in these continents). He foresaw, in 20-30 years, a 25% ‘Christian’ China (1).

Oikos Australia reports (Nov. 2021) many traditional churches considering other ways of ‘doing church.’ Oikos promotes simple church, focusing on disciple-making in households and multiplication across the nation. In one town, groups are meeting in the town gardens, reading the Bible and praying together, over a shared picnic lunch. Sounds awfully ‘NT’ to me!?

We have missionary friends in N. India. There also, under the Spirit’s reviving, the Good News is spreading from town to town through small groups of ‘simple’ believers ‘gossiping the Gospel’ and baptizing those newly won to Christ.

Recently I attended a Simply Mobilizing Interface Seminar, which reported that 16,000 believers have undergone their extensive discipleship/church-planting training in the Philippines, with the result that these islands now boast one of the greatest church-planting ‘movements’ in the world. This organization reports that the non-Western world now represents about 80% of all evangelicals world-wide.

Chinese Church Support Ministry confirmed a few weeks ago that the Chinese Church is growing by approx. 25,000 new believers every day.

Back in 2005 Douglas Banister published his ‘God On Earth’: ‘The ChurchA Hard Look at the Real Life of Faith.‘ Banister (Gordon-Conwell & University of Tennessee graduate) alerted us to the following:

1) ‘The church is not a machine or an institution. The church is alive, a living cell, organic, chaotic, nonlinear…’ Hmmm…

2) To use a precarious metaphor, the early church was organized like today’s al Qaeda terrorist networks. Contrary to popular opinion there is no ‘one great leader’ coordinating all activity from the top down in such networks. Instead, various cells within the network are interconnected like a spider web. The network has little hierarchy, and there are multiple leaders.

3) We can no longer follow the hierarchical leadership model of the military and corporate world! Personally, I see the Bible preferring an informal ‘plurality of elders’ (cf. Paul’s Pastorals) (function more important than office), leading the body horizontally (rather than top-down) through servant-leaders of Jesus’ ilk: “‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord – and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought also to wash one another’s feet… servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them'” (Jn. 13:12-17/NRSV) (2 & 3).

I recall with joy my visit to Cote d’Ivoir in West Africa some years ago. I had taken a team to meet with Pr. Dion Robert to learn from his influential cell-based congregation in Abidjan (generally I don’t favour megachurches). He and his elders were the humblest of servant-leaders. Across the front of the huge sanctuary was posted Jn. 13:17,‘If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them!’ [PS, I was privileged to share in a mass baptism (by immersion) of some 250 new, thoroughly-instructed believers. Unforgettable!] Returning to Jn. 13, I’ve seen this servant-leadership increasingly implemented in my own city over a few decades. Years ago Leighton Ford, American pastor and evangelist, called this ‘leading from within.’

Matthew 21 Jesus Cleanses the Temple Kids Bible Story | Sharefaith Kids
[Jesus has a way of upsetting the Church of the day]

How does the contemporary, largely nominal Church get to discipling all ethne? I humbly submit via repentance, revival, reformation and radical following of Jesus. It’s an historical fact that all true revival/reformation has sprung from penitent intercession of young and old, even on the part of a few (Cf. Archives Nov. 14, 2018 on ‘Revival’). By our obedience we can, under God, make a world of difference. I vividly recall meeting Happy (real name) in N.W. China. A grandmother from the USA, she chose to spend much of her time in a key university city. Almost every day she made her way up the mountain to intercede for the children living below. I was so moved by her example that I (prophetically?) called her ‘the mother of nations’ – she burst into tears, humbly accepting my accolade. On my desk there is a pink-and-white veined stone taken from Happy’s mountain. Another team member team related an experience in a Buddhist temple, where a young child followed him all over, repeatedly jumping into his arms while laughing merrily: hereby God showed him the future openness of the younger generation to the Good News!

It’s a ‘given’ that it is Christ himself who builds his Church (Mt. 16:18). Just maybe that’s precisely what he’s doing in our present world, doing it his/the early Church way? My beloved colleagues in traditional congregations agree that, following Covid, ‘church’ can never be quite the same again and that smaller is often better.

Concerning penitent intercession, may I challenge you to begin by gathering regularly with a few ‘simple’ but serious believers in interceding for God’s Church in these momentous days?? John Wesley reminded us that God does nothing redemptively, except through prayer (consider your own redemption!)

[Please look out for Parts 3 & 4 of our Missio Dei series and check the footnotes below]


(1) Cf. prophetic@revivalschool.com, anzac@welovegod.org Cf. TIME’S David Aikman and his ‘Jesus in Beijing’ (publ. 2006)

(2) The academically-minded, cf my MTh Dissertation,“Toward A ‘Reincarnation’ Of Church In The Twenty First Century: The Re-Emergence Of ‘House Church.” Many helpful books on ‘organic church’ are available, e.g. Frank Viola’s ‘Finding Organic Church,’ ‘Re-Imagining Church,’ ‘Pagan Christianity’ (co-authored with George Barna), etc.

(3) Cf. Wayne Jacobsen’s ‘Can Institutions Be Redemptive?’ Blog Lifestream.


[To understand where I’m coming from in terms of Jesus, community and mission, please see my Blog ABOUT… respect to my followers who may not see these issues quite as I do, but let’s at least have an open mind and be prepared to think out of the box]

Top 3 Missio Dei Quotes & Sayings

Recently I’ve been writing on the inward journey into true worship, now it’s time to contemplate the outward journey into a lost world (Jesus certainly believed it was/is: cf. Lk. ch. 15). Worship and witness are inseparable! Consider with me the passage related by the evangelist Mark where Jesus was healing a demon-possessed man (1) who had ‘bowed low before him’ on the far side of Lake Galilee: “As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. But Jesus said, ‘No, go home to your family, and tell them everything the Lord has done for you and how merciful he has been.’ So the man started off to visit the Ten Towns and began to proclaim the great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed at what he told them” (Mk. 5:1-20, especially v. 18-20/NLT). Another very obvious link between worship and witness is found in Jesus’ ‘Great Commission’ (Mt. 28:16-20). In some ways worship and witness could be compared to believers’ breathing IN and breathing OUT – and these in balanced rhythm. Put another way, we could speak of spiritual input and spiritual output. It’s a case of balance, which is often an elusive target, for me at least!

My esteemed missiology professor, Dr. Ralph Christensen, had the habit of asking his students ‘Where is God??’ After some vague guesses on the part of his students, he would respond ‘God is going into the world!’ The celebrated South African missiologist, Dr. David Bosch, often affirmed that ‘Missiology is the Mother of Theology.’

Recently my wife and I attended a missions prayer-breakfast with Mike Burnard of Dialogos (2). With his blessing I list some of the details he shared…

A) On Displaced People (recall Jesus’ refugee experience in N. Africa: cf. Mt. 2:7-23, 8:18-22). [Have you, or people you know, had such an experience as is happening in Afghanistan right now? I’ve been stranded in foreign countries for a few days once or twice, and that was traumatic enough!]:

  • Approx. 82 million people around the world are displaced at this time, including 35 million children.
  • Most refugees are currently fleeing Syria in the Middle East, S. Sudan and Somalia in Africa, Myanmar in the Far East, and Venezuela in South America.
  • The tiny country of Lebanon, has hosted the most refugees per capita in the World: yes, they live in tents and humble conditions but at least they’re safe. Germany, under Angela Merkel, the daughter of a humble pastor with a heart for the needy, has taken in some 50,000 Syrian Muslim refugees and housed them. A spin-off is that Muslim converts are reviving ‘dead’ German congregations! (3)
  • Mike Burnard has pointed out that while fleeing, these dear folk are most open to receiving the Good News of Jesus. Mike also left us with this pearl of wisdom: treat people like refugees and they will remain refugees – treat them as those made in God’s image and they become the children of God!

B) On Afghanistan.

  • In many ways the hub of the Muslim world. Population: 39 million.
  • The average age is 26. Many of these young adults have only known war in their life-time.
  • We need to pray especially for women (hugely restricted), children and the aged.
  • The only non-Muslim country bordering Afghanistan is China, with whom trade is cherished. You may have heard of ‘The Back to Jerusalem Movement’ mentioned by TIME journalist David Aikman in his ‘Jesus In Beijing,’ referring to Chinese believers’ desire to take the Good News ‘back to Jerusalem’ via the Muslim countries of the Middle East. Mike mentioned a Chinese pastor visiting Afghanistan who was invited to explain the meaning of Christianity to a class of school children. Praise God!

C) On Covid.

  • The pandemic (4 million tragic deaths since March 2020: 38 million have now been vaccinated), among other things, has led to huge poverty and unemployment worldwide. What a ministry- opportunity for the Church in our day. In centuries past the saints were magnificent in serving plague-ridden societies, even when endangered themselves. Is. 6:8’s challenge is to one of obedience, ‘Here am I, send me!’ (Listen to the powerful song at the foot of the page)

D) On South Africa (Mike’s/my home country).

  • 20% of the population suffers daily hunger. 10-20 children die of malnutrition every day.
  • 33% are unemployed. In the Eastern Cape where I live it is nearer 40%!
  • Many opportunities for evangelizing the nations are right on our doorstep, with refugees from Zimbabwe, Somalia and the Far East coming to South Africa.

The task of mission is not only for some believers, e.g. evangelists, ‘career missionaries,’ etc, but for EVERY ONE of us wherever God has placed us (cf. Paul’s sermon in Athens and specifically Acts 17:24-28). You and I as worshipers of the living God are called and privileged to humbly and obediently follow Jesus into his world!

NB. Part 2 considers a ‘must ask:’ what kind of Church is able to complete Christ’s Great Commission in these problematic and unparalleled days? What kind of Church can journey, with God, into his world?? Many are convinced that the traditional, institutional Church as we know her, can never get the job done. So many exciting things have happened since I researched this subject for a Master’s a decade ago. E.g. in Mongolia they’re now talking of establishing heavenly families – I like that immensely, because it all started with God’s divine family (the Trinity) and his first family on earth. Once more we need ‘new wine-skins’ (Mt. 9:16-17) for the application of ancient truth, a mixture of something very new and something very old. A few weeks ago the media reported that, because of global shipping problems, there has been a shortage of glass bottles, which in turn has affected the wine industry worldwide and in South Africa: hence wine has been sitting in barrels for longer, leading to it tasting ‘like a sawmill!’ (not that I would know the difference, lol). Join me for Part 2 soon…


(1) In my pastoral ministry of close on 50 years, I’ve been confronted with the demonic many times. My experience is not unique but is shared by thousands working on the front-line, especially in Africa, South America and the Far East. E.g. Dr. Michael Cassidy (Cambridge and Fuller graduate), head of African Enterprise for so many years, relates many occasions where he and his team were confronted with ‘evil supernaturalism’ during their evangelistic visits to the major cities of Africa. Certainly Jesus, his disciples and the people of the 1st century AD weren’t unintelligent and naive nincompoops (consider Luke, Paul, etc) as so many ‘clever’ modern/post-modern existentialist scholars would have us believe. Surely it is sheer arrogance on our part to put Jesus of Nazareth and his early followers in some kind of ‘primitive/mythical’ box. He interprets us, not we him! (Prof. Thomas Oden, describing his journey from Bultmann’s ‘demythologization’ of the NT to Christian orthodoxy).

(2) Cf. diaLOGOS at http://www.dialogos.co.za

(3) Here’s another encouragement for those pursuing the organic way. Marcus Rose of Joel News states that 1,000 new house churches have been planted in Germany (of all places) over the past 20 years. Where there’s life, there’s hope. Especially when/where Jesus is around!

(4) For starters, see Howard Snyder’s excellent ‘Radical Renewal: The Problem Of Wineskins Today.’