Don’t Expect a Seminary to Do the Church’s Job

As a graduate of two seminaries and as a current seminary instructor, I have often internally cringed at statements like, “Seminary classes need to be more practical” or “The seminary isn’t doing enough to care for the students’ spiritual needs.” On the one hand, a theological education should not be impractical, not should it ignore the spiritual formation of students. After all, the primary purpose of most seminaries is to train people to serve the local church in various capacities. But in the same breath, I fear that statements like those above betray a misunderstanding of the respective roles of both seminaries and the local church.

Many churches (but not all churches!) seem to believe that it is the seminary’s job to train, mentor, educate, and evaluate future ministers, evangelists, church planters, etc. But the seminary is being given an impossible task. Churches often perfunctorily sign-off on a recommendation form, and hand over people who are immature in their faith, expecting the seminary to single-handedly transform them into pastors. The seminary is seen as a pastor factory that should churn out graduates who are academically and practically prepared for full-time ministry, with the requisite personal spiritual maturity and godly character.

When Bombs are Close to Home

When we lived in Central Thailand, and something BIG happened in Bangkok (protest, bomb, coup, etc.), we could always tell people on the homeside, "We are fine. We live very far away from where this happened." Now that we've been in Bangkok for 3 years, we now say, "This was not far from us. We go there sometimes. But we are fine."

You might think that being not far from where a bomb goes off would be frightening and unsettling, but the reality is that we and everyone around us carries on as normal. Yes, there are disturbing things happening, but life goes on. I don't want to say, "It is not a big deal" but I hardly feel like we are in great danger either.

God is our refuge and our shelter, and if something happens.... well, something happens. We can't live life in fear of all the "what if..." possibilities of what might happen. Death by road accident is actually MUCH more likely than death by bomb in Thailand, and danger from vehicular traffic is a daily threat to just about everybody in Bangkok. We are all in this world for all long as God deems that we should be here, not a minute less, and not a minute more.

And please do pray for Bangkok. The nation could use pray for a plethora of complex and long-standing problems.  An occasional bombing is the symptom, not the disease.

 

Bomb Blasts in Bangkok ~ August 17-18, 2015

Breaking news in Bangkok tonight (Aug 17) is that a bomb went off near the popular Erawan Shrine in downtown, not too far from where we live. I actually didn't know anything had happened until someone called me and told me about. Only then did I realize that the loud clap of thunder I heard earlier this evening was a bomb blast, and not thunder.

Please remember in prayer those affected. I'll post an update if there is anything significant to report.

Here is an early report from the BBC.  I've embedded below a CCTV video of the moment of the explosion.

 

UPDATE:

On the afternoon of Tuesday Aug 18, someone threw a grenade from Taksin Bridge to Sathorn Pier below, but the device landed in the water instead of on the pier.  There were no injuries.  This is about a 10-15 minute walk from my home, but I rarely go down to the river.  Embedded below is a video of the explosion.

 

ภาพจากกล้องวงจรปิด วินาทีระเบิดท่าเรือสาทร ช่วง 13.00 น. ที่ผ่านมา เบื้องต้นไร้ผู้บาดเจ็บ-เสียชีวิตขอบคุณคลิปวิดีโอ : อาสาแจ้งข่าว

Posted by Thairath on Tuesday, August 18, 2015

 

Here is a Google map of the locations of the blasts:

 

 

Evangelism Idea - Pocket Books that Serve as Subway Cards

In the video below, books are given away with 10 free trips on the subway (underground) in Brazil in order to promote reading. The subway scan card is embedded into the back cover of the book, and can be refilled online.

What if this was done with some Christian books? evangelistic literature? In addition to promoting reading, people might find themselves reading about the Gospel sheerly by virtue of having it in their hand while traveling. Granted that many people in the world today are oral-prefered learners, but I would bet that many people don't prefer reading simply because they are not used to it.  Toting a book around in order to use the subway or train or bus might just encourage people to do something they otherwise would not have chosen: read a book.

Reaching such an agreement with public transporation authorities in some places would definitely be a challenge, but this idea seems pregnant with possibilities for both reading and evangelism.

[ส่องงาน #CannesLions2015] นี่คือแคมเปญโปรโมทหนังสือและส่งเสริมการอ่านที่ผมอิจฉาที่สุดเท่าที่เคยรู้เคยเห็นมาในชีวิตนี้ ทำไมเราถึงไม่ใช่คนที่คิดงานนี้ได้นะ

Posted by Zcongklod Bangyikhan on Friday, June 26, 2015

 Click here if you don't see a video above.

The 7 Characteristics of a Good Learner of Foreign Languages

Nearly all missionaries need to learn at least one foreign language (sometimes more) and I thought the following list reposted by a missionary friend was a good reminded of what it takes.  If you see characteristics that you have on the list, be encouraged.  If you see characteristics on the list that you don't have, don't worry.  Some things can be worked on, and some things can be done without, but you can still learn a language effectively.

Before I started learning Thai, I was asked if I was musical. I said "No" and there was an audible "Oh" at the other end of the phone. The veteran missionary went on to explain that Thai is tonal and that musical people do better at learning Thai. So, that was depressing. Later on, someone told me that out of 66 million Thai people who speak Thai fluently, not all of them are musically gifted. That was encouraging.

 

Taken from Rawlangs Blog, this is a slide from Professor Ghil'ad Zuckermann on what makes a good language learner. What would you add?

Posted by Memrise on Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Click here if you don't see any photo above.

Why Has the Gospel Advanced So Slowly in Thailand? (1871)

Over the nearly 200 years of Protestant work in Thailand, there has been one unanswerable question that every missionary has asked: “After all these years, why aren’t there more Christians?”1 

I was recently reading “Siam: Its Government, Manners, Customs, &c.” by Rev. N.A. McDonald, and was struck by the fact that he was asking the same question more than 140 years ago.  McDonald was a member of the American Presbyterian Mission in Siam (now Thailand) from 1860-1870, after which time he returned to the United States.  At the time of writing, Protestant missionaries had been working in Siam for a bit over 40 years.  

I have included below the full text of McDonald’s brief answer to this question that appeared in his 1871 book (minus one phrase that might be objectionable in the current political climate in Thailand). I have left his spelling as-is, but have added headings for his various points to make for easier reading.  Those who are familiar with Christianity in Thailand today will note that many of the points he raises are still applicable today (although the modern reader may not agree with, nor express, all of the points in the same way).

Also take note, that he ends his answer with a desire to see more missional business people in Siam. In this regard, he seems a bit ahead of his time.

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