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A vida é simples

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A vida é simples

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Podcasts I listen to

Of all the podcasts I have tried, I only listen to two regularly. One is the Mars Hill church podcast for the music (enough with the preaching and interviews allready!), and the other is The bored-again christian, a kind of radio program show (mostly music), both available in iTunes.

To be honest I don't like podcasts very much. I've used many podcasts in the past, but stoped hearing most of them shortly after. News podcasts is a no-no for me, I prefer reading news. The same with interviews.

So, in my opinion, what are podcasts good for? For everything that text and images is not enough. And what's that? Music, of course. There is no substitute for a podcast when the deal is music. And if somenone has the kind of music you like, like Mars Hill, and they offer it for free in a podcast, that's great.

On the other hand, podcast are excelent for blind people. And that's why I'm thinking about podcasting some content in this blog. We shouldn't exclude people with disabilities. And also, there are some people that don't like reading text in the computer, and want to take advantage of the time they spend in traffic/transports. For those,podcasts are great. I prefer reading a book and listening to music (yes, at the same time), but someone who is driving can't really read a book, can he? But not me, I use public transports.

And what about videocasts? Well, a similar rule applies: Videocasts are good for anything for what text and sound is not enough. In that sense, a videocast of someone telling you some news, or with a interview, is the biggest waste of time. Videocasts are cool for anything that requires some movement. Like cooking. Or music videoclips. Crazy stuff. But not for news.

Revolucionar o ensino

Desde o tempo de Lutero, a pregação não mudou (ou mudou mesmo muito pouco). E essa é a forma principal de ensino na igreja dos dias de hoje. O resultado é que os cristãos habituaram-se a sentar-se e ouvir o "especialista" a falar das escrituras. Calados, obviamente. Estão habituados a não participar, a não analisar o que está escrito, a não expressar a sua opinião, a ver o ensino como algo essencialmente teórico.

Nem todos são assim, alguns pesquisam as escrituras, procuram saber mais, procuram praticar aquilo que aprendem. Os que o fazem, fazem-no por um impulso interior, e não porque o ambiente à sua volta os ajude a isso. Mas mesmo esses encontram vários impedimentos ao processo de aprendizagem.

Infelizmente, mudar a forma de uma pregação para pequenos grupos não é suficiente. É suficiente se as pessoas fizerem parte daqueles que pesquisam. Mas não é suficiente para os outros. Um pequeno grupo pode tornar-se uma mini-pregação, e manter os mesmos defeitos. E tudo porque é a isso que as pessoas estão habituadas.

O que é preciso fazer? É preciso revolucionar a forma de ensino de tal forma, que não seja criado espaço para ficar apático a ouvir. É necessário criar várias formas de levar as pessoas a pensar por si próprias.

Como? Essa é uma boa pergunta. Foi-me dada recentemente a oportunidade que eu estava à espera para experimentar algumas coisas, e é isto que vai ser feito: Quem participar, terá de meditar em determinados textos durante a semana que antecede. Depois, num dia marcado, juntamo-nos num sítio combinado. Aí, as pessoas passarão por uma experiência prática daquilo que meditaram durante a semana, e poderão ou não ter um papel com algumas perguntas a responder durante a experiência. No fim, teremos um espaço em que cada um partilhará o que aprendeu.

Depois disso poderemos ter reuniões em pequenos grupos, ou outras formas, que as pessoas já estarão habituadas a participar activamente. Mas deve ser algo repetitivo. E principalmente, não pode ser uma situação em que uma pessoa fica constantemente em destaque. O alvo deve ser um grupo em que todos aprendemos uns com os outros, e não em que uma pessoa se destaca como o mestre. Há um só mestre, Jesus Cristo. Somos todos seus discípulos.

When missionary organizations say jump: Rosetta stone

I really admire people like Simon, who is preparing to go as a missionary to Japan, and while doing so, he is allready learning japanese. Most people don't, specially if they are in bible school at the same time.

Learning the language is essencial. Language is the biggest breakthrough. If you can't talk, there is not much you can do. And that process should start before you embark on the plane. We get plenty of missionaries here with no language skills, and they are a blessing, but there's not much they can do, and they get frustrated really fast (yes, even those that arrive smilling from ear to ear).

You should at least know what you are geting into. "Sit down and estimate the cost" (Luke 14:28). Normally people need at least 3 years to learn the language well. And if you are going to a country on a 5-year mission trip, you'll only have 2 years left. Time goes really fast. Some realize portuguese is a hard language too late (~150 different verbal forms? Hundreds of irregular verbs and male/female forms? What's the deal?), and give up.

In the end, being a very important subject, language will come with time. And you will learn it better if you learn in a country where they speak it, no doubt about it. But if you learn the language while you are in bible school, you'll spare yourself much misunderstandings later. And it won't be as easy for the locals to fool you (some "christians" will try to).

In terms of language, be prepared, you'll thank me later.

When missionary organizations say jump: No Jeans

Missionaries come allready traumatized. They bring a list of no-can-do phrases. Stuff they should avoid so that they don't scare people off. A mentality of "You can do no mistakes".

Well most no-can-do phrases are crap anyway. Missionaries come here with their best clothes because someone tells them that we use fancy clothes in Portugal. No jeans, no havannas, only suits. We have a bunch of missionaries from Canada that don't use more than half the clothes they brought because someone told them we used fancy clothes all the time! Ridiculous. And this is just an example.

The result is a plastic life. And it notices, too. You know when you meet someone, and you feel like he is hiding something? That he only tells nice things? Everything is ok, everything is fine, they never say no. Well, that's how a missionary looks like when he gets to a country. A friendly robot, with no identity.

If you really want to learn the culture of a country, you have to talk with people from that country. And relax, at least where globalization has reached, people understand that you are different. They will be able to tolerate some mistakes because you are foreign. Just be humble and honest. People like honesty. They prefer it to plastic people that are allways smilling and that look like everything goes well with them.

And another thing. You are foreign. You are different. People will notice that even if you stay in a country for 30 years. There's no point in trying to imitate locals, you'll never look or sound like them. Just relax, being different is not that bad. And if you don't like eating snails (we do in Portugal), that's ok. You'll still be accepted, people will still hear your message.

If you want a recipe: Learn the language, do your best to learn the culture humbly. But that will never be your culture, and people know that. Just be polite when you say no. Be humble. Be yourself, but in a humbly polite way. Create relationships. Love people. That should be enough.

From Nazareth To Patmos by Frank Viola

The objective of this book is to tell the story of the new testament in a chronological way, showing how the kingdom of God spread in the early church.

Well, I think there's not much to see in this book. It doesn't go deep enough in anything, and there are plenty of other books that go much deeper in this subject and in a much better way.

So, this book is really a waste of money, in my opinion. Anyone wants to buy mine?

When missionary organizations say jump: Being prepared

It all starts with a dream. Mary and Joe feel a calling to plant churches, and they contact a missionay organization. Or maybe they went on a mini mission somewhere, and liked it. That's when the process starts.

First, of course, it's required of them to go to bible school get a degree on missions, which looks great. But they are educated in theology, and not in missiology, even if the name of the degree is missiology. The problem is that bible school is all about information, and not much about practice. We learn how to understand the truths of the Bible, and we learn all the theory in evangelism and missions. But no practice.

After 3 or more years, Mary and Joe are ready for the great adventure. So they are sent to some place where a church has been planted for sometime by another missionary, but instead of doing missions, they'll be doing some kind of church ministry like they did in the church where they came from.

Finally, maybe after 1-2 years, they are sent to plant a new church. Normally, in a place where they don't know the language, they have no contacts (or maybe a couple of locals), and where they don't have a job (since they work full time for God). Not an easy task. And on top of that, they are really inexperienced in church planting, since they never saw anyone doing it, and neither helped in it.

This are the conditions a missionary meets when he gets somewhere to plant a church. No experience, no language skills, no job, no (or few) initial contacts. This is where it all really starts.

Preparation is of utmost importance. Bible school doesn't prepare you, real life does. And that's the first problem a missionary gets into. They really don't get the kind of preparation they really need. Bible schools and missionary organizations should provide an environment where missionaries could learn about missions in practice, not just in theory. That means working side by side with a seasoned church planter while he is planting a new church, not doing bible school for an already implanted church.

Preparation is practice, not (only) theory.

When missionary organizations say jump: An introduction

This is the first of a series of articles I am going to write about missions. Why? Well, there are at least two ways of looking at missionary work. The point of view of the organization that sends the missionaries (and the missionaries themselves), and the point of view of the people that are ministered to by the missionaries.

I have received ministry and collaborated with several missionaries. I have seen their work here in Portugal. I have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. And we (me and other portuguese) are the ones left here to pick up the pieces after they are gone. After some of this, I guess I earned the right, no, the responsability of doing so.

Who should read this? Everyone who wants to be a missionary (in the traditional way) and everyone that supports missionaries or sends them. This is for everyone that want's to know how it feels to have missionaries sent to him. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Sometimes my words will be hard, but that's a price I am willing to pay. It's just that... this is too important to be left unspoken.

Agências Missionárias

Se Paulo tivesse sido enviado por uma agência missionária moderna, não tinha feito metade do que fez.

O modelo usado nos tempos da igreja do novo testamento era bem diferente. Eram as igrejas que enviavam os apóstolos, e não agências missionárias. Esses apóstolos iam a uma zona e fundavam uma igreja. Quando essa igreja tinha um número suficiente de cristãos habituados a viver em comunidade debaixo da soberania de Cristo e a usar os seus dons, o que levava cerca de um ano, o apóstolo passava para outro sítio. A igreja continuava a crescer, chegando a um ponto em que surgiam naturalmente líderes do meio deles. Mais tarde o apóstolo voltava e reconhecia os líderes que já haviam emergido. Nos anos seguintes o apóstolo continuava a ajudar através de cartas, ou visitas esporádicas. Financeiramente, o apóstolo suportava-se a ele próprio muitas das vezes, outras vezes era suportado pela igreja de origem.

Em contraste, o missionário do dia de hoje não é carne nem peixe. É enviado por uma agência (que organiza um grupo de igrejas para lhe dar o dinheiro), e espera-se que ele se mantenha lá durante 3-5 anos. No decorrer desse tempo, é esperado que arranje um espaço onde congregar a igreja, e que comece a trazer pessoas a esse edifício. Se as coisas correrem de feição, ele próprio cria uma equipa de liderança, e em grande parte dos casos torna-se o pastor principal da igreja, passando a ser pago pela igreja. O missionário é uma mistura de apóstolo e pastor.

O resultado do primeiro caso, é uma comunidade de discípulos que se habitua a viver debaixo do senhorio de Cristo, e onde cada membro é participante activo, usando os dons que o Espírito lhe deu liberalmente. O resultado do segundo caso é uma instituição, constituída por uma pequena liderança que faz tudo, e um grande número que apenas assiste à missa (ou culto), sem que se tornem participantes, utilizem os seus dons (muitos nem os conhecem), ou façam muito mais do que aquecer cadeiras.

London in April-May

I'll be in London for tourism from April 28th to May 2nd, and I'm still searching for a nice cheap place to sleep in, preferably near the center. There will be 3 of us. If anyone knows such a place, please leave me a note.

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