Book Recommendation: Innovation in World Mission by Derek T. Seipp

Book Recommendation: Innovation in World Mission by Derek T. Seipp

Innovation in World Mission: A Framework for Transformational Thinking about the Future of World Mission. By Derek T. Seipp. Pasadena: William Carey Library, 2016, 2733 locations, $9.95 Kindle edition.


What does the future of world mission look like?  In Innovation in World Mission, Derek T. Seipp aims to answer this crucial question by examining current global trends. Seipp focuses heavily on a principle he calls “strategic drift”, or the widening gap “between what we actually do and what needs to be done (Kindle location 152).” He argues that the Church has been far more reactive than proactive when it comes to developing new strategies for missions. The book relies heavily on anecdotes from the business world to explain the dangers of not looking forward to the future. While Seipp does develop his thoughts by examining the Scripture, it is obvious that much of his thinking on innovation has been shaped from his experience in the business world.

The book is divided into 8 chapters, with chapter 1 being the most informative and chapter 8 being the most applicative. Throughout the book, however, Seipp instructs the reader to put the book down, think critically, even complete a project before continuing. I think many readers will find this helpful as they try to practice the skill of innovation in their own lives.

Chapter 1 explains the nature of our “changing world” and why innovation has been important since the beginning of time. The Creator God has created us in His image, “and we were called to be creative. When we apply that creativity to work, we simply call it innovation (Kindle location 216).” Seipp believes that a failure to innovate stems from a lack of awareness and will result in an unpreparedness for the future (Kindle location 244). In the business industry, the things that worked yesterday, may not work today. Seipp explains that “world mission is not less immune to these changes (Kindle location 189).” With several real-world examples, chapter 1 serves as a wake-up call for the global and local Church to innovate now.

Chapter 2 deals with the “mega-trends” that are contributing to the various changes we see in the world today and how these trends are affecting the Church and its mission. While only six mega-trends are listed in this chapter (globalization, technology, economic change, deculturation and reculturation, mobility, and environmental change), Seipp explains that the list is not exhaustive (Kindle location 272). I found it telling that he chose to write first and focus heavily on globalization. Globalization is good for global business: it helps stimulate global economies and essentially levels the playing ground for the poor and marginalized who previously had no opportunities (Kindle location 294). Yet, “Globalization is also changing the problems we face. Prostitution rings are now global in nature (Kindle location 320).” Seipp does a good job of explaining both the pros and cons of each trend; or it could be said that he demonstrates how they all come with their blessings and curses.

Chapter 3 also focuses on mega-trends, but specifically those to watch for within Christendom. Seipp spends much of the chapter discussing changes occurring within the confines of missionary sending and the current climate of the American church. Being that I am a 24-year-old American missionary, I felt as though this chapter was written about me. At various times, I would audibly say “that is so true,” or I would immediately share a passage with my wife for her consideration. Regardless of age or profession, readers of this book will find Seipp’s commentary in this chapter to be spot on, if not prophetic. I must also commend him for staying impartial while discussing some of the hot-button issues within the American church (e.g. rise of Pentecostalism and New Calvinism). However, the same cannot be said of the discussion of the shift in the American Church’s understanding of Missio Dei. Seipp seemed troubled by the reality that many young missionaries are bypassing mission agencies and “the wisdom and experience from a long history of mission involvement (Kindle location 791).” Time will tell if his cause for concern is warranted.

Chapter 4 explains the vital role innovation has played throughout Church history. The Apostle Paul is sited as a Gospel innovator, whose courage to “stand up” contributed to the conversion of Roman Empire (Kindle location 833).  Seipp also takes this opportunity to appeal to the Old Testament to support his thesis, most notably 1 Chronicles 12:32. Seipp believes that the men from Issachar’s ability to “understand the times and know what Israel should do” was a prime example of innovative thinking. Seipp will go on to site this passage several more times in the book. I noticed that Seipp stressed heavily that innovation is a trained skill. He also emphasized the need for “an entire organization of transformative leaders (Kindle location 905).” There is tremendous wisdom is discussing these issues with other godly innovators. However, it is difficult to understand how to carry these principles over into the local church whose leadership differs from that of businesses and para-church organizations. Perhaps Ephesians 5:21 is the key to applying these principles in every area of life.

Chapters 5 and 6 are more explanatory than others, but for the benefit of the student of innovation. In Chapter 5, Seipp explains the role of research in decision-making and ultimately seeking God’s will. A company or business that neglects research is susceptible to “creative destruction.” In other words, “the creativity of one company of organization causes the destruction of another (Kindle location 956).” Seipp claims the principle also applies to ministries and non-profits. If the non-profit’s supporters are not engaged by the “story” they will take their money elsewhere; to put it simply: innovate or die (Kindle location 1049).  The rest of chapter deals with s-curves and the importance of capitalizing on the life cycle of a product or idea. I have personally seen s-curves being incorporated in Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ) leadership training. In chapter 6, Seipp provides tools (scan hits, impact maps, and plausible scenarios) to help the Church innovate with the future in mind. This chapter is quite technical; it may seem out of place in a mission(s) textbook; however, I think it helps drive Seipp’s point home about looking to the future. It could be said that Innovation in World Mission is timely, ahead of its time, or a mixture of both.

Chapters 7 and 8 brings the book to a close by providing examples of ways to practically implement the information from the rest of the book. Seipp points to organizational leadership for successful innovation in chapter 7. He devotes a lot of time to the value of learning and dialogue within these organizations (Kindle location 1912). I found this chapter to be a little redundant a times, but I can’t deny its truthfulness regarding innovation within missions. Chapter 8 wraps things up nicely by recapping the content from the other chapters. Seipp does an excellent job of encouraging the reader to experiment, but on a small, focused scale at first. He also makes clear that failure is a good thing; it is “an opportunity to grow (Kindle location 2091).” Seipp closes out by looking to the cross. “If God simply drew a line from our past, he would have never sent his Son (Kindle location 2157).” Seipp seems to be saying that the things/ideas/events that change the world come from drawing a line from the future to today.

I would recommend Innovation in World Mission not only to new missionaries, like myself, but to anyone curious about where our world is headed. It is a wonderful resource for the local and global Church to take a step back and look at its current course. If I have any critique it would be for Seipp to have spent more time examining the Scripture. Occasionally, I felt as though he was reading some of his personal biases into the text; yet, nothing he said ever made me feel uncomfortable. Overall, Innovation in World Mission is a quick read that will help train many new innovators to carry out the Great Commission in new and exciting ways.

Martin Luther’s "The Freedom of a Christian"

Every Christian Should Read: Martin Luther’s “The Freedom of a Christian”

Don’t let the title or length of this blog post intimidate you. I know it looks very academic and wordy, but if you will stick with it I believe you will come understand some essential truths of the Christian faith that will truly free you to live as a servant to all people. This paper was originally submitted for my Church History class at Asia Biblical Theological Seminary.


Introduction to Martin Luther

Martin Luther was a German monk, theologian, and perhaps, the most influential figure of the Reformation. Luther’s name was thrust into the limelight “in 1517 with his Ninety-Five theses criticizing the abuse of indulgences (The New Westminster Dictionary of Church History, 399).” In addition to his emphasis on the priesthood of every Christian, Luther stressed the Bible as the “only source of religious authority (sola Scriptura),” and grace though faith, not works “as the sole means of human salvation (sola fide)” in his writings (www.brittanica.com, “Martin Luther”). One of his greatest contributions was the translation of the Bible into German, the vernacular of the common people. While Martin Luther was by no means a perfect man, his works have helped myriads understand how we can approach the One who is.

Introduction to the Document

Luther’s The Freedom of a Christian, sometimes referred to as, “A Treatise on Christian Liberty” was written in 1520 (class notes, 43). By the time it was released, Luther had written two other important books (Address to the Christian Nobility and The Babylonian Captivity of the Church) calling for drastic reform and had developed a significant following (329). Dedicated to Pope Leo X, the document came out just a year before Luther was excommunicated by the Roman Catholic Church (class notes, 43). Although “it was written in a conciliatory spirit,” Luther makes it apparent that he views the Pope “as an equal (329-330).” In The Freedom of a Christian, Luther presents his “evangelical views” on the relationship between faith and works (330). Ultimately, he “makes clear that a believing Christian is free from sin through faith in God, yet bound by love to serve his neighbor (330).”

Summary

  1. Dedication and Open Letter to Pope Leo X
  2. Introduction
    1. The freedom of the spirit
    2. The bondage of the spirit
  3. Considering the inner man
    1. Righteousness through faith alone
    2. Priests and kings
  4. Considering the outer man
    1. What good are good works?
    2. Criteria for truly good works
  5. A middle course vs.
    1. Ceremonialists (lacking faith)
    2. Weak in the faith
  6. Final words on ceremonies

Luther’s treatise is preceded by a brief letter to the mayor of Zwickau, Herman Mühlphordt, making mention of their mutual friend, Johann Egran; Luther esteems both gentlemen as learned and wise (333). Luther explains that Egran has described Mühlphordt as a man with a great “love for and pleasure in Holy Scripture,” who stands in stark contrast to those “who oppose the truth with all their power in cunning (333).” In order to honor their new friendship, Luther dedicates the “treatise” in German to him, whereas the Latin version was dedicated to the pope (333).

In his open letter to the pope, Luther assures Pope Leo X that he still has the highest respect for him, despite what others may have said. Luther refers to him as “most blessed father,” “Your Blessedness,” even “a Daniel in Babylon (334).” Luther hopes that the letter will “vindicate” him in Leo’s eyes, as well as, properly explain what he is actually taking issue with (335). For Luther, the point of contention is actually the Roman Curia, which he claims, “is more corrupt than any Babylon or Sodom ever was (336).” He goes as far to say that the Roman Curia deserves to have Satan as its pope, instead of a righteous man like Leo (337). Luther adds that Johann Eck was another enemy of the pope, furthermore “a notable enemy of Christ” Himself (338). According to Luther, Eck’s debating only made matters worse (340). And though Eck would have him to be silent out of fear of the pope, Luther makes clear that he has “more courage than that (340).” Luther concludes the letter by once more blessing Leo; however, he makes obvious that he does not view him as a “demigod,” or the “lord of the world” as some would believe (341). He instead, refers to Leo as a “servant of servants,” following the tradition and example of the apostles (341-342). As such, Luther prays that Leo would put a stop to those who “have been too literally [Christ’s] vicars,” for Christ is not absent, but dwells in the hearts of His servants (342).

Luther begins his treatise on Christian Liberty by presenting the “two propositions” he seeks to make clear for the “unlearned (344).” First, “A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none;” second, “A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all (344).” Luther acknowledges that these may seem to contradict one another at first glance. However, he notes that they are simply a reiteration of what the Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:19 and other places in his letters (344). In order to explain this dichotomy of being a “free man and a servant” more fully, Luther transitions into a discussion about the “twofold nature” of man (344).

Luther starts by examining the nature of the inner man, and how it is that a man can become free. He claims that external things have no way of “producing Christian righteousness or freedom, or in producing unrighteousness or servitude (345).” How one dresses, eats, prays, etc. play no part in making a person righteous, for even wicked people can do these things (345). Luther says there is one thing that has the power to make a man free, and that is the “holy Word of God, the gospel of Christ (345).” Furthermore, Luther states simply that the soul is “justified by faith alone and not any works (346).” And this faith, according to Luther, takes place within the inner man alone (347).

He then goes on to explain that the commandments and promises found in Scripture cannot be kept or claimed through any kind of work (348). He writes, “God our Father has made all things depend on faith so that whoever has faith will have everything, and whoever does not have faith will have nothing (349).” Luther summarizes this idea by saying that there is no work that can equal the power of faith (349). There are three main aspects to the power of faith, says Luther. First, it makes “the law and works unnecessary for any man’s righteousness and salvation (350).” Second, it enables the Christian to regard God as truthful and trustworthy (350-351). Third, Luther states that faith “unites the soul with Christ as a bride is united with her bridegroom (351).” Luther repeats himself once more by saying that works are incapable of accomplishing such things; however, they are not useless to him. He argues, “they can, if faith is present, be done to the glory of God (353).”

Luther then describes how every Christian is both a priest and a king, not by blood, but by faith (354). He argues that Christians are exalted even higher over things than earthly kings are, for “nothing can do [them] any harm (354).” Luther makes sure to note that this does not mean Christians are free from suffering, rather it means, by faith, a Christian can say, ‘all things are working together for my good’ (355).” As good as this kingship is, Luther believes that each Christian’s priesthood “is far more excellent” in nature (355). Unlike unbelievers, priests have the privilege to go before God, even pray for and teach others (355). For Luther, such freedom, liberty, and honor in the inner is the result of faith, and faith alone (356-357).

Luther now turns to address the outer man, specifically answering the question: “If faith does all things and is alone sufficient unto righteousness, why then are good works commanded (358)?” To this Luther replies that works are not done to obtain righteousness, instead they are done “freely only to please God (360).” Luther uses the analogy of a tree and its fruit to explain also that any “good” things done prior to becoming a Christian amount to nothing (361). He claims that the tree must precede the fruit. Furthermore, the fruit does not make the tree good or bad; instead, the tree dictates what the fruit will be (361). Luther tags on that a “tree” is only made good through faith, and evil through unbelief—works have nothing to do with it (362). Yet, Luther wants to make clear that he does “not reject works;” he simply does not view their role the way the, as he calls them, “blind leaders of the blind” view them (362-363).

He states that good works are not done for oneself, but out of love for one’s neighbor (364). Luther argues that the Christian is to follow Christ’s example in becoming a servant to all, for this is how “God through Christ has dealt and still deals with him (366).” Sadly, writes Luther, most people are taught to only look out for themselves and desire the praise from men (368). The purpose of doing good works, according to Luther, is to either keep one’s body in control or to serve one’s neighbor, anything else is neither “good [nor] Christian (370).” Luther sums up by saying a Christian “lives in Christ through faith, in his neighbor through love (371).”

At this junction, Luther explains two errors in some people’s understanding of “the freedom of faith (371).” Some people use it as an opportunity to do whatever they want, disregarding everything “that pertains to Christian religion (372).” Others focus so much on ceremonies that they “do not care a fig for the things which are the essence of our faith (372).” Luther proposes that Christians “take a middle course (373).” In other words, Christians should joyfully exercise their freedom in Christ, while being mindful of those who are weak in the faith, citing Paul in Romans chapter 14 (373-374).

Luther concludes his treatise with some final thoughts on ceremonies (374-377). Luther argues that ceremonies, although people can be “imprisoned” by them, are not wrong in themselves (375). He likens them to a builder’s plans— “they are prepared, not as a permanent structure, but because without them nothing could be built or made (376).” Once the building has been completed, the plans are no longer needed (376). Luther makes obvious that it is not ceremonies or works that he has problems with. His problems lie with those who hold to a faulty understanding of how and why a Christian does them, as well as what they actually accomplish (376-377).

Significance of the Document

The significance of Luther’s The Freedom of a Christian cannot be overstated in terms of its effect on the Protestant Reformation. Luther, as he made clear in his introduction of the treatise, set out to make these essential theological truths understandable to the common people. Protestants today welcome doctrines such as righteousness by faith alone, the priesthood of every Christian, and good works done out of love for one’s neighbor largely because of Luther’s work here. Also, we see in the way that Luther addresses Pope Leo X in The Freedom of a Christian that he is applying the truths he has found in Scripture to his own life. In this way, this treatise is very pastoral in its nature, not simply a theological exercise. This is perhaps why it is still being read and admired by Christians hundreds of years later. Martin Luther’s The Freedom of a Christian is not only an important historical document of the Reformation; it is a wealth of knowledge and truth for Christians today who desire to understand biblically the relationship between faith and works.

Book Recommendation: Innovation in World Mission by Derek T. Seipp

Book Recommendation: How to Be Filled With the Holy Spirit by A.W. Tozer

Within the last couple of months, I have been doing a lot of personal study on the Holy Spirit. I have been reading tons of blogs, articles, books, and watching hours of YouTube videos—I have been consuming content at an incredible rate. I have realized that there are a lot of things that I affirm about the person and work of the Holy Spirit, but I haven’t really desired to see manifested in my own life. I hope to blog more about this in the coming days, but for now I want to share about a little book that has helped me tremendously in my studies. And I only just read it last night!

The book is called How to Be Filled with the Holy Spirit by A.W. Tozer. It is a very short read as it is only about 60 pages or so, but it is filled with truths about the Third Person of the Trinity. Tozer writes plainly, yet powerfully. He is one of those theologians who can explain deep, theological truths to any Christian, irrespective of age or maturity. I truly love that about his works. I still think that The Knowledge of the Holy is one of the greatest books I have ever read as a Christian. Tozer helped explain the attributes of God in such a way that they moved from my head and into my heart. Through Tozer’s teaching, I began to see how the attributes of God actually shape the way we live as Christians. Likewise, in this book on the Holy Spirit, Tozer helps explain the implications of living a life completely surrendered to the Spirit.

He also is careful to explain who and what is the Holy Spirit. I think many Christians focus almost entirely on the work of the Holy Spirit and fail to know and appreciate His Person. After all, the Holy Spirit is just as much God as the Father and the Son. Tozer really challenged me to think harder about the person of the Holy Spirit according to the Word of God. I especially liked what he said about about the creeds in reference to the Holy Spirit:

If there were any divergence from the teachings of the Word of God I would not teach the creed; I would teach the Book, for the Book is the source of all authentic information. However, our fathers did a mighty good job of going into the Bible, finding out what it taught, and then formulating the creeds for us (page 14).

In other words, we need to be careful to not simply take someone’s word about what the Bible teaches. We need to study it ourselves like the Bereans did to see if what they teach is true. If it is, then great! Praise God! But if it isn’t, then the teaching must be rejected and those teachers need to be lovingly corrected and called to repentance. There are a lot of so-called “preachers” and “televangelists” out there making big claims about the Holy Spirit. I am not saying they are all bad or “of the devil,” but I think many of them are calling things “the work of the Holy Spirit” that simply aren’t. I think reading this book will help you to become more discerning of what you hear and read. It may even call into question some of the things you attribute to God, but are not from Him.

Friend, if you are serious about pursuing a closer relationship with the Holy Spirit then this book is a great place to start. But be warned; this pursuit will mean total surrender to Him. I’ll close my recommendation with a warning from Tozer himself:

Are you sure you want to be possessed by a spirit other than your own? Even though that spirit be the pure Spirit of God? Even though He be the very gentle essence of the gentle Jesus? Even though He be wisdom personified, wisdom Himself? Even though He be as loving as the heart of God (page 46)?