Ministry Update: Ken Sande in China – The China Bubble

 Ministry Updates

Trip Report from Ken Sande: The China Bubble (Report 1 of 5)

I flew into Beijing, China, on October 12 to personally experience developments in this important country. Home to nearly 10 million people, Beijing is bustling with traffic and energy. Signs reading “Gucci,” “Rolls Royce” and “BMW” line the streets, along with “McDonalds,” “Starbucks” and “KFC.”

The skyline is crowded with dozens of modern high-rise buildings. In some areas over 20 giant construction cranes stand shoulder to shoulder in a single massive construction project. Just a few blocks away, another 20 cranes are pulling more buildings to the sky.

All of this is part of what some are calling the “China Bubble,” a massive $6 trillion GDP economy that is growing at 9% per year, compared to less than 2% in most of the West. According to the lead article in the October 31st issue of Time, the Chinese economy contributed 19% to combined global economic growth this year, and that is expected to increase to 24% next year. Its economic strength is considered to be essential to the recoveries of both the U.S. and Europe … as illustrated by the fact that the Gap jeans company is closing 20% of its U.S. stores and tripling its stores in China.

Yet with all this growth, financial challenges loom. Although China has the second largest economy in the world (after the U.S.), it ranks 90th in GDP/person (millions still work in fields by hand). Inflation is growing, as is the gap between rich and poor. Real estate prices have tripled in many cities, and apartment flipping has been the rage. At the same time, in some areas entire apartment buildings stand vacant, too expensive for most Chinese citizens to rent.

According to Time, the government is seeking to stabilize the economy by reducing reliance on factory production and exports and increasing domestic consumer demand for goods and services. This will be a delicate transition, and should the bubble burst and growth drop below 7%, some experts believe it could be difficult to maintain social stability. So the whole world is watching this Asian tiger.

As fascinating as China’s financial growth is, the purpose of my China trip was to immerse myself in another sector of exciting growth—the church. Christianity was suppressed during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), but since 1979 church life has resumed with a passion. There is no way to accurately measure the number of Chinese citizens who follow Jesus, but estimates range from 3 to 8% (40 to 100 million people). Some regions of the country may be 25% Christian, while others are largely unreached.

I traveled to China as part of a group associated with Overseas Council, a ministry dedicated to supporting exceptional seminaries around the world. Our party was led by Peacemaker Board member Manfred Kohl and his wife, Barbara, who have formed deep friendships with many Chinese Christian leaders. Our group included eight other people from Canada, South Africa, and the U.S.

During our time in Beijing we were privileged to climb the Great Wall of China and walk through Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. We visited the Olympic Stadium, Beijing University, and countless bustling business complexes, awed by the size and modern beauty of these structures. 

But best of all, we spent many hours with people who love Jesus. We learned about their joys and struggles, their victories and setbacks, their opportunities and limitations. I was invited to teach a class at a seminary in Beijing and gave them a set of resources for their library. You can imagine my delight the next day when a prominent pastor told me that the Mandarin translation of my book, The Peacemaker, was used to teach Sunday school in their church.

More importantly, I heard consistent reports that churches are growing steadily and saw with my own eyes how enthusiastically their members are worshipping and talking about Jesus. Such growth presents many challenges, one of which is that seminaries are strug­gling to train enough pastors to care for new converts. And without good pastors, new believers may lack adequate teaching and shepherding.

Based on my brief experience, however, I was encouraged by the quality of the pastors with whom I talked. They had a clear understanding of the essential doctrines of our faith and a passion for the gospel. All of my conversa­tions aligned with the following observation in the July/August 2011 issue of Books and Culture:

“The quality of biblical preaching and teaching in the patriotic (registered) churches and in the study groups and house churches typically seems much higher than in evangelical churches in America…. One may expect to find much higher levels of biblical literacy and theological clarity by three to five years post-conversion than amongst American counterparts after two or three decades in the church…. Their teaching is learned, yet marked by an evangelical urgency and commitment to obedient practice rather than simply intellectual assent.”

Although I still have a lot to learn when I return to China later this year, I am greatly encouraged by what I’ve seen God doing in the Chinese church. Unlike the financial bubble described in Time, the Chinese church seems to be going from strength to strength. May God help us in America to learn from their example and pray for their success in sharing the gospel in the most populous nation in the world.

Grace and peace,

 Ken

The Theology of the “Re”

The Leadership OpportunityDr. Tim Laniak of ShepherdLeader.com and contributor to The Leadership Opportunity (our study for church leaders), recently published this thoughtful article to his community. A snippet:

You can’t read the Old Testament carefully without noticing the amazing redundancy of words around this theme. Words such as revive, renew, recreate, restore, reform, refresh, return, repent, redeem, repair, and rebuild. I call this the Bible’s “theology of the re- prefix.” It is evidence that God finishes what he starts. He never gives up. The God we come to recognize in both Scripture and experience is One who lovingly keeps returning to his original plan. In fact, Revelation has a lot in common with Genesis. The end of things is one glorious return to the beginning of things. The Hebrew word for “return” can also mean “restore” (cf. Ps. 23:3).

The theology of the “re-“ prefix has implications for our own relationships. Have we given up on people, marriages, churches, schools, our government…the world? God’s resilience presents us with a sometimes disturbing agenda that is eternally optimistic. Like him, we may often, after patiently waiting, “cut our losses.” The world was eventually flooded. A generation never made it to the Promised Land. Another generation was exiled. There is discipline to be sure. But in every case where God brings judgment, he declares hope. He issues a prophetic “re-“ word to let people know that he will find a way to bring them back to his original design. I must ask if we are as committed to restoration and return to God’s ideals as he is?

Anyone for REconciliation? Read the rest.

Only a Few Days Left to Get the Resolving Everyday Conflict Bundle!

As the month of October is drawing to a close (Hello, November!) I wanted to be sure to get out a reminder that through Oct. 31, we’re offering the special bundle on the Resolving Everyday Conflict book + the Resolving Everyday Conflict study online.

REC Book + Study

From our earlier post:

We are pleased to announce the release of Ken Sande’s latest book, Resolving Everyday Conflict, which is a concise guide to biblical peacemaking–packed with all the biblical wisdom of The Peacemaker, but in a short and extremely accessible format. It’s perfect for giving away!

To celebrate its release, we are making this book available along with the new online version of the Resolving Everyday Conflict video study for a special combo price of $19.95 (regular price $38.90) plus shippingThis price is valid only through October 31, 2011, so visit our online bookstore today for more information or to order.

Five Warning Signs of a Sick Church

From Thom Ranier of Lifeway. Seems about right…

1. The church has few outwardly focused ministries. Most of the budget dollars in the church are spent on the desires and comforts of church members. The ministry staff spends most of its time taking care of members, with little time to reach out and minister to the community the church is supposed to serve.

2. The dropout rate is increasing. Members are leaving for other churches in the community, or they are leaving the local church completely. A common exit interview theme we heard was a lack of deep biblical teaching and preaching in the church.

3. The church is experiencing conflict over issues of budgets and building. When the focus of church members becomes how the facilities and money can meet their preferences, church health is clearly on the wane.

4. Corporate prayer is minimized. If the church makes prayer a low priority, it makes God a low priority.

5. The pastor has become a chaplain. The church members view the pastor as their personal chaplain, expecting him to be on call for their needs and preferences. When he doesn’t make a visit at the expected time, or when he doesn’t show up for the Bible class fellowship, he receives criticism. In not a few cases, the pastor has lost his job at that church because he was not omnipresent for the church members.

Read the whole thing.

HT: Z

The Peacemaker’s Harvest

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When someone has wronged you, it is also helpful to remember that God is sovereign and loving. Therefore, when you are having a hard time forgiving that person, take time to note how God may be using the offense for good. Is this an unusual opportunity to glorify God? How can you serve others and help them grow in their faith? What sins and weaknesses of yours are being exposed for the sake of your growth? What character qualities are you being challenged to exercise? When you perceive that the person who has wronged you is being used as an instrument in God’s hand to help you mature, serve others, and glorify him, it may be easier for you to move ahead with forgiveness.

Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 216

Food for Thought

Conflict, along with trials, suffering, loss, and other hardships, can be what God uses to bring the most good in our own lives or in the lives of those around us. It’s often the most painful events of life that bring the biggest harvest.

Harvest is a prominent topic at this time of year. Here in Montana, the sugar beet and wheat harvest is taking place, and by all reports, this year will bring a good harvest. The hard work of tilling, planting, and watering through the year is finally coming to a fruitful end.

In the same way, God brings us through the times of conflict, trial, or suffering that can bring a great harvest. Yes, it’s work; often it involves hours (or months) of tears, heartache, and discipline, but the ultimate reward is one of becoming more like Christ. In these situations, God gives us opportunities to glorify him, to serve others, to be a part of what he is doing, and even to receive personal reward. Yet in our stubbornness, our refusal to forgive, or our demand to be right or vindicated, we fail to seize those opportunities. We miss the very harvest for which we’ve toiled.

The sowing, the tending, and the harvest all depend on each other–one could not happen without the other. But we are promised that “Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness” (James 3:18). May your harvest be a great one as you sow peace in the midst of the conflicts you face.

The Gospel and Church Conflict: Tullian Tchividjian in Christianity Today

Christianity Today recently published an article containing an interview with Tullian Tchividjian, pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft Lauderdale, FL.  In what was undoubtedly a horribly painful time for all involved, Pastor Tchividjian shares his perspective and gives this helpful conclusion:

When I speak to pastors I say, “There is only one thing that will enable you to survive, and that’s the gospel. It’s not whether your church grows or not. It’s not having the right leadership principle. All of those things might be helpful, but the gospel is the only thing that will save you in ministry.” … What I love about the freeing, liberating power of the gospel is I can stand up on a Sunday morning without fear or reservation and be able to identify my own idols in front of my people … The pressure’s off. Jesus measured up so I wouldn’t have to live under the enslaving pressure of measuring up for others. And that’s good news.

HT: Thabiti

Investing in People: In Memory of Don Bubna

Don BubnaPeacemaker Ministries recently lost another close friend — longtime board member and surrogate pastor to many, Don Bubna.

Ken Sande wrote this in a tribute to Don:

Some people invest in real estate or the stock market, you chose to invest in people. The real estate bubble has burst, the stock market goes up and down like a roller coaster. But the people you have touched go from height to height in serving Jesus, and they are involved in spreading the kingdom in every corner of the globe.

 
What a great reminder of what’s important in this life and where the eternal returns of our investments are the greatest.

John Stumbo, a pastor from Oregon who spoke at our 2008 Peacemaker Conference, wrote the following about Don and his connection to biblical peacemaking. It’s also a great reminder for us all:

The Top Ten Things I Learned from Don Bubna
By John Stumbo

I visited Don just a few days before his passing. I asked him if he had a “word” for me. He seemed grateful to be asked. Through a hint of a smile he said, “Love God and love people.” After a thoughtful pause, he added, “We don’t need new truths. We just need to live the old truths better.”

The simple and profound “word” was a classic Don Bubna moment. As I reflect upon this man and his influence in my life, I offer the following list of lessons Don modeled for me. Each of them in some way helps me “love God and love people” better.

  1. Take care to make sure you truly understand what the other person has said. Don drove me nuts with his habit, but I grew to appreciate his intent. Anyone who ever had a significant conversation with Don no doubt had him look them in the eye and say, “What I hear you saying is this…” and then he’d repeat back a synopsis of what he had heard. He wasn’t content to move on in the conversation until there was consensus that he had heard correctly. Don never took listening lightly.
  2. Most any situation is made better with a good joke or quick quip. Don’s smile was contagious and frequently used. Even in his wheelchair, with cancer and shingles tormenting his body, his smile greeted me warmly. Later in the conversation, I thanked him for reaching out to me when I was recovering from my own illness. “That’s who the body of Christ is supposed to be,” Don deflected. And then he added with a twinkle, “Someone wrote a book about that once, I think.” I laughed out loud as I realized he was referring to the book he himself had authored decades before.
  3. Most anything that should be said in an email can be said in three lines. Don emailed me frequently in recent years, but his emails weren’t a nuisance—primarily because I knew he had my best interests in mind, but also because they were famously concise. Three lines deep and fewer than a dozen words wide seemed to be the formula. If more needed to be said, he found another way to say it.
  4. With intentionality, we can be the transmitter of grace and peace. Don’s final words to me were “grace and peace to you.” As he said them I wondered how many thousands of times those words had fallen from his lips—to close a church service, to bless a friend. They came to me again, not just as a saying, but as a genuine blessing. And, obviously, with Don “grace and peace” were more than a benediction but also a lifestyle. He wanted these characteristics to mark his life.
  5. Always speak of your family with special pride. I loved the way Don spoke of his wife, children, grandchildren, deceased brother and all people related. There was a joyful pride in his eyes and voice for those closest to him.
  6. Your role as a leader on this earth is not complete until you’ve built your life into other leaders. Don walked countless miles—both literally and figuratively—with men half his age. In a world where so many older saints are hesitant to allow themselves to be considered a mentor, Don was intentional about building into others. One expression of this was an internship program he ran for years—the fruit from which I am still hearing about to this day.
  7. Proactively solicit constructive criticism from people you trust. On more than one occasion, I found Don in my office asking for feedback and instruction. I had conversations with Don I’ve had with few other leaders because of his willingness to welcome critique. He wanted to be a better leader, asked the questions few others are willing to ask and thoughtfully weighed my input without defensiveness.
  8. Seek or establish structures under which you can hold yourself accountable. When Don reached the age at which most men retire, he retooled. He spent the last decade of his life making leaders and ministries better. He needed no introduction as he travelled. His lifetime ministry legacy spoke for itself. Yet, Don was very concerned that he be able to obtain the covering of a local church, ideally his own home church, Salem Alliance. He wanted to be sent out by us and to report to us. He could have easily done what he did independently, but he wanted to be an extension of a local church and accountable to a body of elders.
  9. Take one last trip while you still have the chance. Don was starting to have some health issues arise that served as cautionary flags when he received an invitation to bring peacemaking principles to church leaders in China. He mentioned to me the possibility, but expressed appropriate apprehension. I gently challenged him—was it wisdom or fear that was holding him back? Was there truly anything keeping him from going? He seized the opportunity and later reported it was one of the most effective ministry trips of which he had been a part. It proved to be his final international trip.
  10. The vision for peacemaking is greater than most people realize. In the last decades of his life Don dedicated himself to the dream of peacemaking. He served on the board and advocated the causes of Peacemaker Ministries because he was convinced that the body of Christ and the world itself would be the better for it. He knew that if the principles of peacemaking became the church’s common practice, divorce rates would plummet, homes and churches would thrive, places of employment would have greater health, cities and nations would benefit and on the ripple effects would go. I failed to see the vast potential for this ministry until I met Don.

Don placed yellow sticky notes throughout his Bible. One of them contained two questions he had used as he had led a devotional time for a Board meeting in October of 2010. They strike me as classic Bubna questions: “What are you learning about God? What are you learning about loving people?”

I’m humbled to say that because of my friendship with Don, my view of God is larger and my love for people greater. And, I know that thousands of others can say the same.

Sometimes Our Sinful Desires May Be the Least of Our Worries!

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It is important to emphasize the fact that idols can arise from good desires as well as wicked desires. It is often not what we want that is the problem, but that we want it too much. For example, it is not unreasonable for a man to want a passionate sexual relationship with his wife or for a mother to want to stay at home with a newborn baby. Nor is it wrong for an employer to want diligent workers or for a pastor to desire respect from his deacons. These are good desires, but if they turn into demands that must be met in order for us to be satisfied and fulfilled, they can lead to bitterness, resentment, or self-pity that can destroy a family, business, or church.

How can you discern when a good desire might be turning into a sinful demand? You can begin by prayerfully asking yourself “X-ray” questions that reveal the true condition of your heart.

  • What am I preoccupied with? What is the first thing on my mind in the morning and the last thing on my mind at night?
  • How would I answer the question: “If only ______, then I would be happy, fulfilled, and secure”?
  • What do I want to preserve or to avoid at all costs?
  • Where do I put my trust?
  • What do I fear?
  • When a certain desire is not met, do I feel frustration, anxiety, resentment, bitterness, anger, or depression?
  • Is there something I desire so much that I am willing to disappoint or hurt others in order to have it?

Adapted from  The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) pp. 104-5.

Food for Thought

What was the first thing on your mind this morning? How about the last thing on your mind last night? Is there a good desire in your life that’s beginning to becoming a recurring thought pattern for you? As you consider this, remember the good news: God has ultimately satisfied that particular “good desire” through his Son. What remains is for us to trust and, through his grace, receive God’s eye-opening insight into the ways in which we are beginning to trust, fear, or dwell on something other than God himself. Spend time today in prayer to ask God to reveal areas of your life where you might be elevating a good desire into a sinful demand.

New E-mail Subscription Options

In order to serve you by allowing subscriptions based on precisely what you’d like to get in your inbox and cut down on the volume of mailings we send out, we’re rolling out new subscription options for our ministry e-mail communications.

The emails we send will fall into one of four categories:

  1. PeaceMeal – Our weekly devotional
  2. Reconciled – Our regular newsletter (about every 2 months)
  3. Ministry Updates – Overseas trip reports (such as Ken Sande’s recent updates from the Middle East and South Africa), occasional prayer requests, or opportunities for ministry involvement and support (about once/month)
  4. Training, Event & Product Updates – Occasional notices of training in your area or product information and discounts (About once/month)
If you’d like to receive any of these subscriptions, please sign up using our online form.

What Jesus Desires of His Followers

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“My prayer is not for [my disciples] alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17:20-23, emphasis added)

Jesus prayed these words during the final hours of his life. As death drew near, the Lord focused on a single concept he knew to be of paramount importance for all those who would believe in him. He did not pray that his followers would always be happy, that they would never suffer, or that their rights would always be defended. Jesus prayed that his followers would get along with one another. This was so important to him that he tied his reputation and the credibility of his message to how well his followers would display unity and oneness.

Adapted from  The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 48.

Food for Thought

Read Jesus’ prayer once more and think about how important unity is to him. Is it equally important to you? How can you demonstrate this unity in your own life today? In your family? At work? In your church? How might the world see that God sent his Son by the way you relate to those around you? Pray that God through his Holy Spirit will strengthen and sustain you to glorify God, serve others, and grow to be like Christ in the crucible of conflict.