Category: Christianity and the Church

The Body of Christ and #DisabilityInChurch

Conversing more on #disabilityinchurch has me pondering this section of  I Corinthians 12.  Do I believe this was put in the Bible specifically to address disabilities in church? No.  But the analogy here is poignant, and a corrective to a mindset that excludes our brothers and sisters in Christ.

 

I know this is a rather long quote, but please read it. . .

 

 

 For the body is not one member, but many.

If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason [c]any the less a part of the body. 

If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be?

But now there are many members, but one body.  And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”

On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it.

But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked,  so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.

And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.

I Corinthians 12:14-26

 

 

One of the things which jumps out to me is, “the members of the body which seem to be weaker. . . which we deem less honorable. . .”  It is no surprise that both the broader culture and even within the church, those with disabilities are often deemed to be “lesser” or weaker people.  (Just consider the push for the abortion of babies with disabilities for a dramatic way this plays out in the broader culture.)

 

Yes, our brothers and sisters with disabilities may be weaker in some senses, and really do need our support (physically, emotionally, spiritually.)  “[I]f one member suffers, all members suffer with it. . .”  Can we share in their suffering? Or work to alleviate it?

 

At the same time, many of these same brothers and sisters are strong in the faith.  God has used their weakness for them to be strong in Him, as I’ve seen in many people in my life (especially older saints who have walked with the Lord for years.)  On the other hand, we shouldn’t assume that people are strong in the Lord simply because they have suffered — one person shared with me that people only saw her physical disability and neglected care for her soul.

 

Interestingly, this section of Scripture is just prior to the famous “love chapter” in the Bible.  Perhaps that is also a reminder of how to treat one another in the Body of Christ?

 

I don’t believe any one local manifestation of the Body of Christ is going to be able to remove all barriers, accommodate all people at all stages of life. But I do believe we can learn and grow and serve one another in Christ, especially those who God puts in our paths.

 

#DisabilityInChurch

I’ve recently been in a discussion about #disabilityinchurch. While of course there will always be room for improvement, I’m so thankful for how sensitive the churches we’ve most recently attended have been.

 

What I’ve seen? Good sound systems, hearing assistance devices, or t-coils. . . And the seniors in church joking with me about my “old man hearing aids.”

 

I’ve seen plenty of large print bulletins and large print Bibles–not just on one side of the sanctuary to pick up if you need one, but placed in every pew.  I’ve seen requests in the bulletin to avoid wearing heavy perfume.

 

I’ve seen assistance, ramps, and drop off points for those with limited mobility.  

 

I’ve seen coaching from the Sunday school leaders how to help engage all the kids, when illiteracy is a factor. . . working hard so that no kid is embarrassed by that. Encouraging teachers to deal with disruptions gently, because those disruptions are often masking invisible disabilities.

 

I’ve seen dishes at potlucks clearly labelled for people who have dietary limitations — and people being conscientious to bring a variety of foods so all can participate in the meal.

 

Pastors being transparent about mental health struggles, and pointing to good sources of counseling, community, and medication. Communion being offered with both grape juice and wine; regular and gluten free bread.

 

Pastors saying, “Please stand, as you are able.” Pastors not showing any signs of distraction when kids/adults can’t sit still throughout the service.

 

I am sure that were our family more directly impacted by various abilities, I would be more aware of what could be done or is already being done. I know that I have blind spots.  I am thankful for the sensitivity and inclusion that I’ve experienced in our churches in Bahamas, Florida, and DC.

 

I know that many people and families still experience barriers in churches.  I know there are struggles to get to church for corporate worship, challenges to be part of the daily life of the church.  I see people with disabilities having to go the extra mile to participate — and I wish we all in the church would be better at going the extra mile instead.

 

I can’t imagine a church or environment with no barriers for people with disabilities.  But I can imagine growth in relating to one another as brothers and sisters in the Lord regardless of abilities, and working together to minister side by side.

 

 

________

Elseweb, a friend commented:  “Jesus is used to people being carried in to be healed by Him. Maybe the difficulties in access are in fact being used to bring the able-bodied into His presence as they carry in (or improve access for) those who aren’t? If all the access problems are solved, the disabled, who have other problems besides access, might be assumed to be able to go it alone. God’s ways are mysterious.”

Among other things, this discussion on  is a reminder to me of our complete dependence on God, and our interdependence with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

 

Reformation 500: Audio Resources

We are celebrating October 31, 2017 as the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing the 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenburg church. The Reformation, of course, was not sparked by that action, but it is symbolic of what the Lord was doing in the hearts and minds of His people.

I encourage you to use this month and the upcoming year to delve into history and the foundations of our faith. I’ll be sharing some resources that have been beneficial to me, and would love to hear what you’ve enjoyed as well.

Audio resources:

The Life and Times of Martin Luther Podcast

5 Minutes in Church History Podcast (especially the October 2017 daily series)

Here We Stand (Heroes of the Reformation)

White Horse Inn: Solas of the Reformation

For thus says the LORD:

“Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river,
and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream;
and you shall nurse, you shall be carried upon her hip,
and bounced upon her knees.

“As one whom his mother comforts,
so I will comfort you;
you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.

“You shall see, and your heart shall rejoice;
your bones shall flourish like the grass;
and the hand of the LORD shall be known to his servants,
and he shall show his indignation against his enemies.”

  • Isaiah 66:12-1419

When Morning Gilds the Sky

One of the things I love about St. Andrew’s Kirk in Nassau is that the bulletin and liturgy are posted online early in the week.  I like to create a playlist to introduce the weekly hymns to the little ones. This is one way we prepare for worship. When the music is familiar, the little ones pay more attention — even if they can’t sing all the words.

Today my heart rejoiced as we sang one of my favorite hymns. “When Morning Gilds the Sky” was originally written in German in the 1800s by an unknown author, and was translated into English by Edward Caswell.

 


 

When morning gilds the skies,
My heart awaking cries:
May Jesus Christ be praised!
Alike at work and prayer
To Jesus I repair:
May Jesus Christ be praised!

To Thee, my God above,
I cry with glowing love,
May Jesus Christ be praised!
The fairest graces spring
In hearts that ever sing,
May Jesus Christ be praised!

When sleep her balm denies,
My silent spirit sighs,
May Jesus Christ be praised!
When evil thoughts molest,
With this I shield my breast,
May Jesus Christ be praised!

The night becomes as day,
When from the heart we say,
May Jesus Christ be praised!
The powers of darkness fear,
When this sweet chant they hear,
May Jesus Christ be praised!

Be this, while life is mine,
My canticle divine,
May Jesus Christ be praised!
Be this th’ eternal song
Through all the ages long,
May Jesus Christ be praised!

“…and Heaven have mercy on us all – Presbyterians and Pagans alike – for we are all dreadfully cracked about the head and desperately in need of mending.”

–Herman Melville, Moby Dick

Digital Publishing, the Church, and Reformation: Part 3

Digital publishing presents the Church an opportunity for the distribution of solid Biblical materials not seen since the age of Gutenberg.

In previous posts we looked at the rapid expansion of opportunity — an estimated 4 billion first-time internet users coming online due to expanded wifi coverage and low cost smart phones. We also considered the great impact books have both in personal spiritual growth as well as for leaders in the church.

E-publishing presents the Church an opportunity for the dissemination of solid Biblical materials not seen since the age of Gutenberg.

The Church is uniquely positioned to take advantage of the e-publishing boom.

With its historic emphasis on literacy and education, as well as groundbreaking work in linguistics and translation, the Church already has books and written materials in many languages around the world.  Wycliffe is known for its pioneering work in Bible translation, but even smaller organizations translate and write materials to be used by the local church in many languages.

Amazon continues to expand the languages that can be published on its e-readers and apps. Currently, Amazon distributes e-books in over 35 languages, and my understanding is that they support dialects related to those languages as well. Kobo claims e-books in 60+ languages in 190 countries, and is really focusing on the Asian market. While iBooks and Google Play are smaller players at this point, once a book is formatted for e-publishing, it takes just a few more clicks to get it on those platforms as well.

The strategic key here is that the hard work of writing or translating has already been done.  Churches, affiliated schools, and mission organizations already have the creative capital of written books and materials. In the past, the production and distribution of physical books has been an expensive and logistical barrier to getting them in the hands of people. But with e-publishing, those barriers are coming down.

 

Case Study: India

India provides a great case study for considering how the Church can use digital publishing to distribute sound Biblical materials to many people.  It is especially relevant because a great many of new internet users will be coming from Asia, Africa, and the sub-continent of India.

English is one of the official languages of India, and a significant number of new internet users worldwide will be either native English speakers or know it as the language of business and education.  However, e-book distributors are also targeting markets in other languages.  Amazon recently announced that it now is offering e-books in five of the regional languages of India — Hindi, Tamil, Marathi, Gujarati and Malayalam, Both the Kindle and mobile platform Kindle apps are able to support these languages.

Amazon says it has “thousands” of books in its India store in these regional languages. Thousands?  While that is great — it sounds as if Amazon still has a rather small pool of books for these languages.  When we consider the materials in these regional languages already written and translated by churches, schools and seminaries, it could easily add many more thousands of titles to Amazon’s regional language stores.

An inquisitive reader looking for e-book deals in his own language does an Amazon search — and what could they find?  Not just the Bible, but study materials and Christian living resources in their own language available at low cost.  If Christian organizations are are early adopters of widespread e-distribution, the likelihood that they will be found and read goes up.

 

Early Adopters — Big Fish in a Small Pond?

Since mission organizations already have materials in multiple languages, they are poised to be early adopters of e-publishing.  Consider the 60+ languages available for publishing through Kobo —  how many of these languages have limited number of books available?  If Christian organizations can work towards digital publishing of their materials, they will represent a great percentage of the books in some of the smaller language groups.  The likelihood that they will be found and read goes up.

I’ve heard (but can’t confirm) that Amazon is the world’s second most powerful search engine — second to Google. The more theologically solid materials that are available on Amazon, the more people who are curious will find them.  This is where people are looking for materials — let’s be where people are looking.

Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Google Play are leveling the publishing playing field worldwide — the church needs to take advantage of that.

Use the Existing Distribution Infrastructures

Amazon and the like are building amazing international distribution infrastructures for commercial use.  Barriers are continuing to fall to the spread of information.  Christian organizations can use the international distribution infrastructures which are being developed for commercial use.

In my initial research, I’ve been unable to find out which organizations are utilizing worldwide e-publishing to disseminate sound theological resources.  (Note: If you know which organizations are pursing this, please let me know!)

Some organizations offer materials free or low cost — but only from their website. This is true of one of my favorite publishers, Banner of Truth. They have some really excellent materials, but aren’t leveraging the existing distribution networks.

Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Google Play are leveling the publishing playing field worldwide — we need to take advantage of that.

 

Digital Publishing isn’t Complicated

My husband’s first book, Knox’s Irregulars, was initially self-published.  This was in the early days of Amazon working with indie authors, and we didn’t quite know what we were doing.  But you know what?  The formatting and uploading process was straightforward, and  it was low cost to get a book on Amazon. The learning curve to use other distribution sites such as Kobo is pretty small.  (This is a great how-to for getting e-books to the major distributors.)  While John’s book is now with a traditional publisher, it is still available worldwide — I just saw it on Amazon India the other day. The barrier to worldwide publishing is lower than it has ever been.

Perhaps a mission organization may need to designate a person to develop the skills of e-formatting and navigating the uploading process to e-book distributors. Mission organizations can charge the lowest sale price allowed to cover the download fees. Some books may be able to be put on sale for “free,” and others may require a nominal fee. It’s easy to imagine a pastor in  India finding a commentary on Romans and downloading it to his smart phone for 99 cents.

One caveat on it isn’t complicated. . . When publishing rights have been acquired for translated materials, it is important to double check that those include digital distribution.

The barriers to distribution are low, and the potential impact is so great.

 

I know there must be some organizations working on getting solid Biblical materials more widely accessed via mobile devices worldwide, but I’m not hearing about it. I’d love to know who is working on this sort of project even now.

 

Digital Publishing, the Church, and Reformation: Part 1

Digital Publishing, the Church, and Reformation: Part 2

Digital Publishing, the Church and Reformation: Part 3

Digital Publishing, the Church, and Reformation: Part 2

Quick, name the top five books which have impacted you.

I bet your challenge is limiting it to just five, or figuring out which are the TOP five.

We accept the assumption that we are changed by what we read.

When I consider my own spiritual growth, I remember reading over and over the New Testament with cartoon illustrations my grandmother gave me. I remember being in fifth grade and devouring a box of missionary-adventure stories from some Wycliffe friends. It was Let the Nations Be Glad (aff) which led me to consider maybe God could use even me, even me?, in mission outreach. When I read the analysis of the attributes of God in Berkhof’s “Systematic Theology,” my heart felt like it was with the angels in heaven singing “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty! Who was, and is, and is to come!”

We accept the assumption that we are changed by what we read.

Think again of those top five books which impacted your life.

Imagine if the book which most nurtured your walk with the Lord  was available for free, worldwide.

Consider the the four billion people who will be coming online for the first time in the near future reading your top five books.

Imagine a young woman in India who speaks English but can’t easily get a Bible, can now read the Bible on her low cost smart phone.

Imagine the man in rural Nigeria discipling young men around him, with sound devotional materials easily available.

Imagine the pastor behind the Rice Curtain accessing Amazon through a proxy to purchase study materials.

Imagine the curious Russian student who is inundated with new age mysticism and materialism reading solid apologetics materials. All at their fingertips — it’s exciting!

But it isn’t just personal spiritual growth that can be impacted by low-cost e-publishing.

When we lived in Kenya we employed a driver to help us navigate the crazy and often dangerous streets. Enoch was also the lay pastor of his church. When he asked us for a study Bible for Christmas, we were thrilled to give him one. We were also able to give him orthodox solid theological books for his further study from our personal library.

Enoch had a smart phone, as did most Kenyans we met. Even out in the villages cell phones were common, and are often charged from generators at small shops for a fee. I think of Enoch and the other pastors and lay teachers around the world being able to access an array of good study materials — maybe for the first time! These leaders can become better equipped to shepherd their flocks, people eager for God’s Word.

I find this exciting. Technology is opening more doors for worldwide spread of the Gospel and resources for spiritual growth.

Recently, I’ve reached out to some international and ministry friends to ask them what they are seeing around the world. I’ve gotten good feedback about some e-resources available and how they are being used in their contexts.

Yet I’m not hearing a lot about how organizations are taking advantage of e-publishing worldwide, especially through major distributors. My background includes a mix of nonprofit management, marketing, and msisions. I would love to be connected with organizations which are making efforts to use e-publishing to expand their worldwide reach, and help promote them.

If you are connected to Christian organizations using digital publishing to expand their worldwide outreach, would you tell me about it? Thanks!

 

 

Digital Publishing, the Church, and Reformation: Part 1

Digital Publishing, the Church, and Reformation: Part 2

Digital Publishing, the Church and Reformation: Part 3

Digital Publishing, the Church, and Reformation: Part 1

Over 3.5 billion people now have internet access. I’ve heard speculation that the over the next 10 years, its likely that there will be approximately 4 billion new users coming online for the first time.

Many of these new users are skipping right over accessing the internet via desktop or laptop, and going straight to mobile devices. And while the $4 smart phone in India may not pan out, it illustrates the way technology is getting more affordable and expanding into unreached markets.

Google and Elon Musk are in a creative collaboration to bring high speed internet to the entire planet. Google has experimented with using low level hot air balloons to bring internet to rural areas of India.

Inexpensive mobile devices mixed with billions of new users and the growth of books in e-formats? The reach of e-books seems limitless.

In the U.S. we’ve experienced an interesting combination of slow (over 20+ years) and fast growth of internet and digital technology infiltrating nearly every aspect of our lives. It isn’t just the tech geeks eagerly adopting the latest and greatest. We use tech to read books, order groceries, hail a cab, check the weather, pay for coffee… and these are just “entry level” uses.

While the term “Information Superhighway” is a bit dated now and seems quaint, information is still one of the most valuable commodities of modern tech expansion. Beyond Google and Wikipedia being our go-to for info, access to research, news, and books can be found with a few easy searches.

Amazon has been key in the normalization of digital books and e-readers, despite the protests of avid readers pledging their undying love for physical books. Barnes and Noble and its Nook, Kobo, iBooks and others are helping expand the inexpensive distribution e-books worldwide.

Taking a step back — inexpensive mobile devices mixed with billions of new users and the growth of books in e-formats? The reach of e-books seems limitless. This is fascinating to me as a book lover who does marketing for her author husband. The opportunities and markets are growing and vast parts of the world’s population will so be new consumers.

Even more exciting, though? The huge opportunity for the Church.

The written word has been instrumental in the growth and preservation of God’s Word through the ages.

The Reformation would not have happened were it not for the catalyst of Johannes Gutenberg and the movable type printing press.

The Hebrew scribes painstakingly copied the Torah and Hebrew Bible. Centuries before Christ, it was customary for almost all Hebrew young men to be taught to read in order that they could read the holy books.

The bounds of orthodoxy were reinforced by the Councils of Nicea, Constantinople and Chalcedon, and much of the discussion surrounding the theological questions in question are preserved in written form.

The Reformation would not have happened were it not for the catalyst of Johannes Gutenberg and the movable type printing press. First the Bible became more readily available in Latin, and then in the vernacular. Martin Luther and other reformers wrote pamphlets which were widely read and spread quickly throughout Europe.

Just a few year ago, I wouldn’t have considered the e-book the world-changing equivalent of the printing press — but I’m beginning to wonder?

 

Could digital publishing combined with mobile devices spark a worldwide reformation?

 

 

 

Digital Publishing, the Church, and Reformation: Part 1

Digital Publishing, the Church, and Reformation: Part 2

Digital Publishing, the Church and Reformation: Part 3

#GivingTuesday 2016

Yesterday was #GivingTuesday — a great reminder to all of us to both plan for our monthly, regular giving throughout the year as well as an opportunity to give spontaneously.

Some of you may know that my background is in nonprofit management and fundraising. If you haven’t made your giving plans for next year, touch base with me and let me know what brings out your passion — missions, arts, children, health. . . I’m happy to steer you in the direction of organizations which may help put feet to your passions!

(I’m not currently working with or consulting with any nonprofits. . . I just really find fulfillment in connecting caring people with organizations that are a good fit for their giving.)

St. Andrew's Kirk hurricane relief efforts have been greatly helped by our ministry partners. Mission to The World visited Nassau today and brought by another generous contribution.

St. Andrew’s Kirk hurricane relief efforts have been greatly helped by our ministry partners. Mission to The World visited Nassau today and brought by another generous contribution.