Thursday, July 31, 2008

Worship at Copper Mountain

For the last two years we've had the band The Autumn Film joining us to lead our (musical) worship times. These guys are extremely gifted, both as musicians and worship leaders. I've really enjoyed getting to know them and I'm certain that you will appreciate the way that they help us become aware of God's presence and worship him. One of the stint objectives is "Love the Lord", which is why we make sure that each morning we have time in the word with Chip and time singing and worship together with one another.

Here's who is in the band:

Tifah, the lead singer. The band was originally called Tifah, actually. But then it got all confusing when someone would shout, "Hey, Tifah" but they were talking to the band and not to Tifah individually, and then Tifah would say "Yeah?" and the person would say, "No, I'm talking to the whole band."

Tifah also plays various instruments, keyboard and guitar mostly. Tifah has a deep love for Christ and it's very clear in the lyrics she writes and the unselfish and Christ-focused way that she leads worship.

This is Reid. Reid plays the... I forget which instrument. Banjo or something? It's unclear to me looking at that picture. Reid always tries to make sure not to look into the camera.

It's Reid's birthday while we're all together in Copper, so be sure to tell him happy birthday every day you see him. Reid is a careful thinker and a loyal friend. You can tell people around him trust him deeply, and in many ways he shows his deep commitment to others and to God in the way he interacts with the band and his passion to lead others toward Christ.

Lastly, we have Dann the Drummer. I think Dann can do more pushups than the rest of the band, and this makes sense because BBC research shows that drummers are the athletes of the music world. Dann has a wacky sense of humor and tries to hide the intellectual books he reads, because it projects an image that is ill-befitting a rock star. Dann loves his bandmates, and he loves God, too. If you hang out with him it won't be long before he is telling you this himself. He's a great guy who wants very much for people to know and understand who God is.

I know you'll enjoy The Autumn Film while we're together in Colorado. They are excited about what you are doing as stinters, and they love to hang out. Be sure to grab some time with them between sets or during the free time.

When I spoke with them yesterday, they wanted to make sure you knew that they've made eight of their songs available for free download (DRM free and in formats for iPod, Zune, or the MP3 player of your choice). Four of the songs are from their latest album and the other four are from the album they're currently working on. So download those and get a preview of the great music and worship we're in for at Copper Mountain!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

WSN Interview: Chip Scivicque (part two)

Continuing a quick interview with our Bible teacher for our time together in Copper Mountain. Click here for part one.

WSN: So I’m sure you’ve heard the St. Francis quote, “Share the gospel with everyone, if necessary use words.” Would you say that’s the same thing or taking it too far?

CHIP: The best way to communicate the message is in word and deed, mixed together, blended together appropriately so that we can respond the way that Jesus did when the friends of the paralytic let him down in front of Jesus. If you read the account of the friends of the paralytic, they tore a hole in the roof and lowered him down in front of Jesus because they couldn’t get to him because of the crowd. That man had two pressing needs. One, he must have needed forgiveness, because that’s what Jesus gave him. That’s where Jesus started. “Your sins are forgiven.” The man also needed to be healed of his paralysis. And it says that Jesus seeing their faith, he responded to that by healing him. But there’s no indication that Jesus wrestled with, “Well, should I share how he can be forgiven and know God even though he’s a paralytic, or do I heal him and hope he gets it, that I’m God and I can save him.” He did both. He touched his human need and healed him of his paralysis and he spoke words of forgiveness.

WSN: I imagine some people would hear what you’re saying and say, “This is a great new evangelism technique. I can do something nice for someone and then they’ll listen to the gospel.” What would your response be to someone like that?

CHIP: Eric Swanson says that when we’re feeding human need, if it’s refurbishing a school, doing renewal in the community, or working at a soup kitchen or working in an orphanage, “Salvation is always our ultimate motive but it’s never our ulterior motive.” Of course we want to see people come to know Christ and be redeemed and live forever. That’s so much bigger than whatever human need they have. But we don’t do good deeds as a means to an end to share the message and chalk up how many people we shared the message with and how many decisions we got and how many members we got into our group. That’s not Christian.

WSN: It sounds like what you were saying earlier, that someone who is culturally very far away and would never sit down and listen to the good news, instead they saw it in action and realized that it could be a part of their life.

CHIP: Exactly. When they saw Christians serving sacrificially and when they saw them up to their ankles in nasty, moldy mud in New Orleans gutting these homes they said, you know, these people actually do have something to offer and that’s compassion and love.

WSN: How did this happen in your own life, how did the paradigm shift happen for you?

CHIP: Several factors converged. By God’s grace he’s given me a love for the Bible. I’ve read it over and over. For most of my life I’ve tried to read the Bible through every year. And as you read the scripture, it is so obvious that God cares about widows and orphans. Prophets always are condemning Israel for their lack of concern for the people on the margins of society, for the poor and oppressed and Jesus took up that same message when he came. So the first thing was looking at scripture and looking at my own life and the ministry I was in and saying, you know, we’re not really touching those groups of people. We’re just sharing the gospel message with the young, the bright and the beautiful and even when we do come in contact with the poor and needy we’re just sharing the gospel message with them and not really helping them with their needs. So that was the first thing, God’s word.

Number two, we went to Thailand in 1983 and I was 30 years old and the human need in Thailand began to get my attention. There were lepers on the street, there were deformed children on the streets begging. There were 70,000 orphans in the country and we, early on, began to visit orphanages. And the wealth and the poverty there was a lot more mixed in. Here in American we’ve done a great job of partitioning the poor off into certain sections of town that we upper-middle class white folk don’t have to go in and we live our lives and do our shopping and working and playing in these nice upper-middle class areas and never have to go through the depressed neighborhoods of our community. In Thailand it wasn’t that way. Wealth and poverty were all mixed together and you lived among the poor. That was helpful for me. It opened my eyes to the needs of this world.

The biggest thing in Thailand was in 1991. We walked into a handicapped babies home that had 450 children with all kinds of birth defects and we got involved in that orphanage and volunteered there regularly for two years and actually adopted a little girl from the orphanage. That, too, opened my eyes to how much human need is in the world and as I observed the Christians who were working in this government orphanage I realized what a beautiful thing they were doing and that sharing the gospel message among the bright and the beautiful is not the only thing that God values. I know he loved what these folks were doing in that orphanage. Then, coming out of Thailand, a big thing for me was—Thailand is 95% Buddhist, 4% Muslim and 1% Other. The Protestant population is still only about 4 to 6 tenths of one percent. And that’s after 200 years of Protestant missions.

WSN: Wow.

CHIP: So obviously the gospel has not been experienced as something powerful or effective in Thailand, so I wrestled with our own lack of effectiveness. Mine personally, Campus Crusade, Evangelicals. I just looked at the landscape and thought, there are all kinds of Christians here. We have people who are theologically liberal here doing mercy ministry and not sharing much of the gospel message, we’ve got people on the other end who are real conservative who are sharing the message but not doing much compassion ministry. We’ve got high church and low church, the stiff Presbyterians and some wild, crazy charismatics and nobody is responding to any of this. As I thought about that the thing that I saw was, you know what, everybody over here is either meeting human needs and hardly ever talking about Jesus or they’re talking about Jesus all the time but they’re not actually showing any concern for the poor and the needy in this country. So I walked away from Thailand when I was 40 saying, I wonder what would happen if someone were to put those two things together in a place like this?

WSN: And then the tsunami hit….

CHIP: When the tsunami hit we did begin to put those things together. And it’s been phenomenal. In the hardest hit province of Thailand, before the tsunami hit there were three churches. A year after the tsunami hit there was an article on the front page of a Thai newspaper that said that there were now 65 churches or Christian centers in that province. That’s in a Buddhist country where there’s never any Christian news because the Christian population is so insignificant, but on the front page of the Thai newspaper there’s an article about all the Christians who had been down there responding to the tsunami and how much good they had done as far as cleaning up, relief and re-building and –by the way—there’s now 65 churches where there were only three a year ago.

WSN: That’s pretty amazing.

CHIP: It really is. My buddy Mike Christians led a park ranger to Christ that has gone on in his faith and is still walking with him two years later. This guy received Christ with tears rolling down his cheeks and then turned around and shared with his friends and family and Mike said, “I’ve been here for twenty-five years and I’ve never, ever seen a Thai respond to the gospel the way this man did.”

WSN: I guess it does show that we’ve been presenting these different pieces of the gospel, but not the whole thing. And the whole thing put together is pretty compelling.

CHIP: It really is. I was talking with my friend Jay Lorenzen about this one day and he said, “I guess we as Christians have to bear the weight of the gospel’s implications before our message has any power.” That is so true. The gospel’s about a great God who condescended and came down to man not to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many. That’s what the good news is. So when we live that out, when we lower ourselves and humble our upper-middle class white selves (or whoever we are in the world) and go anywhere not to be served but to serve and to spend and be spent on behalf of the people’s needs and tell them the gospel as we go, it does become a really powerful thing.

WSN Interview: Chip Scivicque (part one)

Our Bible teacher at the Global Briefing is Chip Scivicque.

Chip has been on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ for thirty-two years. He served for two years at “Ole Miss” before moving on to direct the ministry in Auburn for five years. He’s spent a total of twelve years living and doing ministry in Thailand. Then he worked to help send college students to do ministry internationally. Since the tsunami in Thailand he’s been asked by Campus Crusade to work on a new “Good News, Good Deeds” focus, helping the US campus ministry to turn our attention toward living the gospel, not just talk about it. He jokingly refers to himself as the “Good News, Good Deeds Guru.”

WSN: As if world evangelization wasn’t enough, now Crusade wants to be a humanitarian organization?

CHIP: We don’t want to become a humanitarian aid organization, but continue to be who we are. Students are our target and the proclamation of the gospel is our lead foot, but--and here is the operative phrase--we want to weave the compassionate works and words of the gospel into the fabric of the campus ministry.

WSN: This sounds like a pretty major paradigm shift.

CHIP: Well, yeah, it is a major paradigm shift and I think it’s a lot bigger than Crusade. All of Evangelicalism was born in the 50s (pretty much). Theological liberalism had really swept the Protestant church and the great majority of Protestant Christians rejected the miraculous and the supernatural and removed that from scripture. Their approach to scripture was, “If I can’t prove it scientifically, then it must not be true.” So they rejected the virgin birth and the miracles of Christ and the bodily resurrection and a literal second coming and Christ became a good teacher rather than a savior and a redeemer and the Son of the Living God. When they did that the gospel message really had no power to redeem and to save mankind. They were left with the teacher’s advice to love your enemy, turn the other cheek, feed the hungry, take care of widows and orphans and in their minds, evangelism and missions became mercy ministry. Evangelicalism was born, and one of the things at the heart of it was belief in the inerrancy of scripture, that it’s the inspired word of God.

So Evangelicalism was born in this sea of theological Liberalism where there was almost nothing but mercy ministry with no gospel proclamation. We said, “Wow. If you feed someone or build a home for them or make their life better or heal them of their sickness and then they die and go to hell, what good did you do them?” A false dichotomy was created, that there’s either mercy ministry with no proclamation or proclamation with no compassion demonstrated toward human need. So the shift that’s going on is huge. Evangelicals and Campus Crusade are realizing that it doesn’t have to be either/or, it should be both/and. So all Evangelicals, including Crusade, are trying to bring proclamation of the message into the context of demonstration, trying to share both the words and the works of the gospel.

WSN: So how do you answer the critics who say, “What does it matter if we mow people’s lawns and they still go to hell”?

CHIP: One, you need to realize that the gospel is not just a verbal message. The gospel is a person. It’s Jesus. And the good news about him encompassed everything about who he is or was when he was on earth and everything that he did and taught. It wasn’t just propositional truth. So as we share the gospel with people, we need to share it through who we are, and how we live, and what we say. The gospel was never just a verbal message.

Second, usually for people to understand the gospel they have to both hear it explained and see it lived out. The further a person is in their worldview from the Biblical worldview, the more true that is. I learned that in Thailand. You take someone who has a very eastern worldview--like a Buddhist worldview, or Taoist or Confucianism-- they have to see the gospel both lived out and explained verbally or it just doesn’t compute. You have to put “the mowing of the lawn” and the proclaiming of the message together.

Another realization a person like that needs to make is that we are not here to just get people into heaven. We’re here to get heaven onto earth. That’s what Jesus taught us to do. He taught us to pray “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” God wants his will done on earth as it is in heaven and Jesus taught us to pray and work in that direction. And so we are to try to expand and expend the loving way of Jesus Christ on earth in every way possible and every place possible so that heaven breaks into earth and people get a taste of it and they want to go there. That’s what we’re here to do. They hunger for heaven and the king of heaven and want to know him and spend eternity with him.

Look for part two of the interview tomorrow!

The Great Peruvian Guinea Pig Festival

Here's a great photo essay about the Peruvian festival of the guinea pigs, in which the little guys are dressed in fancy clothes, fattened up and then... eaten.

Warning: There are before and after pictures at the link above.