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April 3, 2013

Translating Faithfully and Accurately

by Dave Brunn

This question was paramount in my mind when my wife and I first arrived in Papua New Guinea in 1980. As a new missionary-translator I was committed to translating God’s Word as faithfully and accurately as possible. I thought I had a good understanding of what that meant, but when I started translating into the Lamogai language, I quickly realized that my view of translation was incomplete and even a bit idealistic. Bible translation is an incredibly complex undertaking, but somehow I had developed an oversimplified view of the translation process.

It didn’t take me long to realize that some of my standards of faithful and accurate translation were based on English grammatical features that do not exist in Lamogai. If those standards were really God’s universal standards then Lamogai would automatically be disqualified from having a faithful or accurate translation of God’s Word.

One piece of the puzzle that I had not taken into consideration is the fact that English and koine Greek are related languages—both members of the Indo-European language family. That means the degree of literalness that exists in some English versions of the New Testament is largely due to the fact that the translators were translating from one Indo-European language into a distantly related language.

I realized that I had unintentionally made English the ultimate standard for Bible translation. This realization became even more noteworthy when I learned that only 6 percent of the world’s living languages are classified as “Indo-European.” That means 94 percent of the languages spoken around the world today are not related to koine Greek in the way English is. My view of translation was based on a pretty narrow segment of the worldwide linguistic landscape.

As I continued translating the New Testament into Lamogai, I frequently compared various English versions side-by-side. That is when my idealistic perception of translation really started to unravel. It quickly became apparent to me that the English Bible versions identified as “literal” versions are not nearly as literal as I had previously thought.

As a career translator, when I would hear Christians arguing about Bible translation, it was apparent to me that much of the debate was based on an incomplete, oversimplified view of the Bible translation process—similar to the view I held when I first started translating. So I set out to document some of the things I had learned about translation through my twenty-one years as a translator in Papua New Guinea.

During that time, I read a lot of books and articles that deal with the ongoing translation debate. I found that most of those books and articles focus almost exclusively on theoretical “ideals” and do not attempt to give an objective, comprehensive view of “real” translation practice. The authors would generally start by explaining their predetermined point of view and then use a few carefully selected translation examples to support their philosophical position.

As I continued to document the things I had learned as a Bible translator, I determined I would not argue translation philosophy, and I would not disparage any translation of Scripture. Instead, I resolved to humbly and respectfully present objective evidence that had often been left out of the translation discussion. My aim was to raise the light level of the average English-speaking Christian, allowing the truth about translation to dispel unwarranted disunity related to this issue.

Eventually, my writings came together as a book, designed expressly for the church in the English-speaking world: One Bible, Many Versions, published by InterVarsity Press. My prayer is that Christians will read this book with an open mind—sincerely seeking to gain a truer understanding of what translation is all about. When they do, I am convinced that their perspective of translation will be broadened, challenged and in some cases transformed.

BrunnOP.jpgDave Brunn is dean of academics for New Tribes Mission (NTM) USA Missionary Training Center. A missionary, translator and educator, Brunn spent over twenty years in Papua New Guinea where he served the Lamogai people through church planting, literacy training and Bible translation and consultation. Among his works is a complete translation of the New Testament into the Lamogai language.

Posted by Nate Baker-Lutz at 2:59 PM

August 8, 2012

Five Environments Needed to Create Missional Culture

by JR Woodward

Christ calls us to make disciples, yet too often our churches are filled with consumers of religious goods and services instead of Christlike disciples living in the world for the sake of the world in the way of Christ.

One of the most overlooked elements to making missional disciples is recognizing how the culture of our congregation shapes us. It either pulls us down toward our base instincts or lifts us up to our redemptive potential. We create culture and culture in turn recreates us.

Creating a missional culture develops a current within the congregation that enables people to catch the wind of the Holy Spirit and live missional lives. So what are the different environments necessary to create a missional culture?

A learning environment allows people to inhabit the sacred text. A learning environment moves past monologue to dialogue and praxis. Praxis takes place when thought, action and reflection operate in a cyclical fashion. We demonstrate we have learned when we are better able to live faithfully to God’s story. A learning environment can be cultivated as people allow God’s future to reshape how we live in the present and as we avail ourselves to various sacred assemblies for mutual learning.

A healing environment allows people to work through their past hurts and move toward a sense of wholeness and holiness in the context of community. A healing environment is developed when people sense an atmosphere of acceptance, where they understand that others are for them, no matter what they do. We are told to accept one another, just as Christ has accepted us (Rom 15:7). Being “for people” also means desiring God’s best for their lives. A healing environment can be cultivated as people find true friendships where they can be open and vulnerable.

A welcoming environment reflects that we understand that our God is a welcoming God. From the call of Abraham to John’s vision of people from every tribe, tongue and nation gathering to worship the living God, we see God’s welcoming heart. We cultivate a welcoming environment by following Christ in extending the table of fellowship to those whom society has marginalized by being witnesses of his great love. When we practice the art of hospitality, we give God room to work in people’s heart.

A liberating environment helps the congregation experience liberation from personal and social sins by forming Spirit-transforming communities. A liberating environment encourages people to overcome addictions, grow in personal holiness, speak truth to power and live in the power of the Spirit. A liberating environment is formed by connecting to our liberating God, the God of the exodus, the God of the cross, the God of the resurrection and the God of Pentecost, and by practicing the presence of God through the Spirit. For where the Spirit of God is, there is freedom.

Finally, if we desire to create missional culture, we need to cultivate a thriving environment, where a strong discipleship ethos is developed and the multiplication of disciples, ministries and churches take place. This happens as people understanding their sense of calling and live it out. This will take place as people work out their mentoring matrix, finding experienced mentors, peer mentors inside and outside of their organization and mentor others.

Each of these environments are linked to the five equippers in Ephesians 4, where Paul links the spiritual maturity of the church to the five kinds of equippers operating in the church: apostles (thriving environment), prophets (liberating environment), evangelists (welcoming environment), pastors (healing environment) and teachers (learning environment).

woodwardOP.jpgJR Woodward is the author of Creating a Missional Culture, and cofounder of Kairos LA and the Ecclesia Network. You can find a free cultural assessment on his website, www.jrwoodward.net.

Posted by Nate Baker-Lutz at 11:13 AM

July 26, 2012

Discernment: The Heart of Spiritual Leadership

By Ruth Haley Barton, author of Pursuing God’s Will Together

It was a conversation similar to many I have had with Christian leaders. An associate pastor from a large church was telling me that his church was going through a major transition as they tried to respond to the growth they were experiencing. They had outgrown their facility (a good problem to have!) so the obvious question was “Will we add on to our facility or will we start another church?”

As we talked, it became clear that this question was only the tip of the iceberg. Beneath the surface larger questions lurked: What should be our emphasis now? Does our stated mission still capture what we are called to now? Is our leadership structure effective for all that is emerging? Can we keep going at this pace, or will we burn ourselves out by adding a building campaign and more people and activities to our plates?

Sensing the weight this pastor was carrying, I probed a little deeper and asked, “How are you going about answering these questions together? Do you have a process for discerning God’s will in these matters?”

A look of awareness crossed his face as he realized that the answer to the question was no. After recovering himself a bit, he added, “But we always have a time of prayer at the beginning of our meetings!” It was awkward, to say the least.

Decision-making or Discernment?

This pastor, like so many Christian leaders, had a vague sense that there should be something different about our approach to decision-making than what secular models put forth—particularly when we are leading a church or an organization with a spiritual purpose. The problem is that we’re not quite sure what that difference is. In the absence of a clear consensus, that difference often gets reduced to an obligatory devotional (which is sometimes viewed as being irrelevant to the business portion of the meeting) or the perfunctory prayers that bookend the meeting. And sometimes even these get lost in the shuffle!

Discernment—the capacity to recognize and respond to the presence and the activity of God both in the ordinary moments and in the larger decisions of our lives—is the difference between leadership models that are basically secular and those that are deeply spiritual. Discernment is the ability to distinguish or discriminate between good (that which is of God) and evil (that which is not of God). While there are many qualities that contribute to good leadership, it is our commitment to discerning and doing the will of God through the help of the Holy Spirit that makes leadership distinctly spiritual.

Discerning God’s Will Together

Corporate leadership discernment is the spiritual practice that increases our capacity to recognize and respond as a leadership group to the presence and activity of God relative to the decisions we have to make. It is a commitment to discern important matters together so we can affirm a shared sense of God’s desire for them and move forward on that basis. It is hard to imagine that spiritual leadership could be about anything but seeking to know and do the will of God, and yet many leadership groups do not have this as their clear mandate. This raises a question—if we are not pursuing the will of God together in fairly intentional ways, what are we doing? Our own will? What seems best according to our own thinking and planning? That which is merely strategic or expedient or good for the ego?

Discernment together as leaders carries us far beyond human decision-making to an entirely different reality—the wisdom of God that is beyond human wisdom and is available to us as we learn how to open ourselves to it (1 Cor 2:6-16).

Embracing the Challenge

What’s so challenging about leadership discernment is that it can seem somewhat subjective and even a little mystical—which doesn’t always go over too well with the hard-nosed business people and pragmatists who often make up boards and other leadership groups. It is one thing to rely on what feels like a subjective approach when it pertains to our personal life; however, it feels much riskier when our decisions involve large budgets, other people’s financial investments, the lives of multiple staff, reports to high-powered boards and serving a congregation or “customer base” with varying levels of expectation.

And yet many leaders today are longing for a way of life in leadership that is more deeply responsive to the will of God than to the latest ideas from the New York Times leadership bestseller. We wonder, “Is there a trustworthy process that enables Christian leaders to actively seek God relative to decisions we are making?”

The answer to that question is a resounding yes but it requires leadership groups to move beyond human decision-making and to become communities for discernment. It involves working an intentional process that includes preparing individual leaders for discernment, cultivating the leadership group as a community for discernment, and committing to an actual process for discerning God’s will together. It emerges from the conviction that whenever and wherever Christians gather in Christ’s name to carry out his purposes in the world, we are the body of Christ and need to act like it.

As the body of Christ—the real-time expression of Christ’s presence on earth—there should be something about what we do and how we do it that is distinctly spiritually. Whenever Christians gather to lead something together we have the opportunity to make decisions in a way that reflects with that reality. Corporate leadership discernment is that way.

BartonOP.jpgRuth Haley Barton (D.D., Northern Seminary) is founding president of the Transforming Center, a spiritual formation ministry to pastors and Christian leaders. A trained spiritual director (Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation), teacher and retreat leader, she has served on the pastoral staff of several churches, including Willow Creek Community Church. A sought-after teacher, preacher and consultant to leadership teams, she is currently adjunct professor of spiritual transformation at Northern Seminary.

Posted by Nate Baker-Lutz at 9:43 AM

June 18, 2012

The Protégé Path: Cultivating a Leadership Development Culture in Your Church

by Steve Saccone

As a young, aspiring ministry leader, I wondered what it would take to excel in the years ahead. My quest began with a calling and a vision. A plethora of questions drove my learning and curiosity, and immeasurable drive and passion fueled my quest. What I didn’t have initially, though, was a mentor to guide me in a personalized, customized way. I didn’t have someone who was willing to take the time necessary to guide, sharpen and motivate me to be who God uniquely designed me to be as I gained insight into the realities of ministry and leadership. Unfortunately, seminary doesn’t accomplish this kind of development either.

That’s the dilemma I believe many young leaders face.

That’s the dilemma the church is staring in the face as we ponder how the next generation of leaders will be developed.

It’s going to take a culture change in the church. It’s going to take women and men who decide to intentionally build processes and systems and paths that facilitate transformational development.

As my journey evolved, God led me to a few key mentors who have altered the trajectory of my ministry and my entire life. Though not the path I expected, it’s been transformational, personal and influential. As a result, I’ve come to believe more deeply than ever in the power of being a mentor. And perhaps more significantly, I’ve come to believe more deeply than ever in the power of being a protégé.

In essence, a protégé is someone who desires to master their craft and discover their true calling through the mentorship of another. Protégés have a humble, teachable heart and a deep longing and need to seek the guidance and wisdom of another. Protégés are hungry to grow and are passionate about excelling in all aspects of life and leadership. At the core, they know they can’t do it and don’t want to do it on their own. Joshua was Moses’ protégé. Paul was Barnabas’s protégé. Timothy was Paul’s protégé. The disciples were Jesus’ protégés. Ultimately, we have to decide whose protégé we will be, remembering that to be a great mentor, we must first learn to be a great protégé. That’s where the culture of the church must change.

But there’s a huge gap in the church. My experience and research has repeatedly revealed that there is a significant gap between a protégé’s strong desire to grow as ministry leader and the ability to find a substantial mentor who knows how to offer a customized, personal and transformational investment. Herein lies the great dilemma in developing the next generation of leaders.

As I moved from being a protégé to being a mentor, my conviction to do something about the gap grew deeper. As a result, in 2005 I initiated a leadership experiment called the Protégé Program, which is a customized, holistic development process that serves young and future ministry leaders. It is designed to shape their character, calling, mission, competencies and creative potential.

Over the course of this two-year journey, I come alongside protégés to help facilitate a personal, customized development plan for each of them. I seek to serve as a growth catalyst for their character formation, help them navigate the complexities of relational leadership and coach them in areas of mission, team building and organizational leadership. I help them craft a unique learning experience that sharpens their communication and stretches their theology. I challenge them to become entrepreneurial leaders who know how to face failure as they cultivate a life of initiative and risk. Real transformation and growth become a reality in their lives.

protegeOP.jpgI realize that not everyone has access to the kind of customized, personal development that the Protégé Program offers, nor can most pause their entire life and enter a two-year leadership development program. So, I recently put the DNA of the Protégé Program inside a book—Protégé: Developing Your Next Generation of Church Leaders. This book can serve as a way to help pastors and ministry leaders codesign their own protégé journey no matter what age or experience levels they have. In addition, the book intends to help them gain insight into developing the next generation of leaders—protégés—around them.

The DNA revolves around essential five areas:

  • Character Transformation
  • Relational Leadership
  • Effective Communication
  • Missional Formation
  • Entrepreneurial Leadership

Truth is, God is using a powerful movement to answer people’s deepest searches and longings. It’s called the church. And God is using certain people to lead the church: you and me. It is a high calling, one that requires the best of who we are and the kind of devotion this world has never seen and doesn’t think possible. Ultimately, we are all God’s protégés, called to learn from the Master and Creator of humanity. We’re also invited into a way of life that pushes us to be protégés as well as mentors to and for one another. Let’s follow in his footsteps and give the best of who we are to the One who gave his everything to us.

sacconeOP.jpg*Steve Saccone is a director of leadership development at The Highway Community in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he trains and develops emerging leaders, staff and volunteers. A specialist in leadership development and inner life formation, he also founded and directed The Protégé Program, a global leadership experience for future entrepreneurs, church planters and spiritual leaders. *

Posted by Nate Baker-Lutz at 8:53 AM

November 1, 2011

Ministry Apps: Using LifeGuides

By Douglas Connelly

If you have used IVP’s LifeGuide Bible Studies, you know that the strength of this series is the way the guides lead people into a deeper interaction with the biblical text and then to relevant application of the text to their lives. You should also know that LifeGuides can be used to enhance and enrich your ministry as a pastor.

I’ve used quite a few of the study guides in my own preparation for teaching. As I led a small group focused on prayer, I worked through Lynne Baab’s guide Prayers of the Old Testament to nurture my own soul. I also modified three or four studies and used them with the small group to give us better insight into how we can pray for our own and others’ needs. A friend of mine led a prayer retreat for denominational leaders and passed out copies of the LifeGuide on The Lord’s Prayer at the end. He wanted the study guide to prompt the participants in the retreat to a continuing commitment to prayer.

Occasionally I get a letter or e-mail requesting a copy of one of the LifeGuides I have written. Most often the request comes from a man or woman in prison. There is usually an explanation attached about how the Lord found them in the darkest of life’s circumstances. Now they are filled with a new desire to know Christ in his fullness. Those requests led me to begin to use LifeGuides more consistently in my counseling and in my discipling of young believers. I have a supply of guides in my office and often put one into the hands of a new convert or a struggling believer, and encourage them to get into the Word on their own as they grow in their spiritual walk.

My point is that LifeGuides can be great tools in any pastor’s ministry and can be used in a wide range of situations and applications. They work wonderfully in traditional adult education and small group settings, but they can also help you minister more effectively to specific needs in your congregation.

LifeGuides will also enrich your own spiritual development and stir new insights to help you prepare that next sermon series. If you are considering a series on David, work through Jack Kuhatschek’s excellent guide on your own or with your staff or your worship team. You will find yourself thinking more clearly about how the series can be applied more personally and powerfully to your congregation. Prepare a series on the Ten Commandments by carving out time for a personal retreat. Take your Bible, Rob Suggs’s LifeGuide The Ten Commandments and a notebook. Leave the commentaries behind for a while and just let God’s Word and the Holy Spirit speak into your life. The message series will come alive in you before the congregation ever hears a word from the pulpit.

I enjoy the discipline of writing LifeGuides, but their influence on my life and ministry is far greater than the few guides I’ve been privileged to write. They work in so many situations simply because they lead people into the riches of God’s truth and that truth changes lives—even a pastor’s life.

connellyOP.jpgDouglas Connelly is the senior pastor of Parkside Community Church in Sterling Heights, Michigan. He is the author of several LifeGuide study guides for InterVarsity Press and has also written The Bible for Blockheads series for Zondervan.

Posted by Nate Baker-Lutz at 11:00 AM | Comments (1) are closed

September 27, 2011

Scripture and the Reformers: Retrieved for the Sake of Renewal

by Mike Gibson, series editor for the Reformation Commentary on Scripture

Martin Luther once remarked that the Reformation took place while he and Philipp Melancthon “drank Wittenberg beer. The Word did it all.” What Luther was suggesting, in his characteristically wry sense of humor, was that the incredible revolutionary movement of the Reformation was not the product of a human being, a personality, charisma, or the result of strategic planning, calculations or effort.

Rather, the Reformation unfolded through the cities, villages and hamlets of early modern Europe as an act of the Spirit—an act centered concretely in Scripture. Luther was not alone in this evaluation. The course of the Reformation occurred as men and women read, contemplated, proclaimed and acted upon Scripture. Above all else, the Reformers and their parishioners were immersed in Scripture. The Reformation was an event grounded in reading and exegesis of the Bible, in preaching the word of Scripture and living out its message in the world.

rcsOP.jpgThe Reformation Commentary on Scripture (RCS), a new series from InterVarsity Press, attempts to capture this dynamic. A twenty-eight-volume series, edited by leading Reformation historians Timothy George (Beeson Divinity School) and Scott Manetsch (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School), the RCS places in the hands of readers the writings of a wide array of Reformers on Scripture, collecting their comments across the whole canon of the Bible. Many of the quotations contained in the RCS are here made available in English for the first time. With these volumes readers enter the world of the Reformers gathered together around the Scripture, such that contemporary audiences are invited to read, think, discuss, debate and interpret Scripture in concert with the host of men and women who changed the course of history.

The unique nature of this series is not merely the historical interest of Reformation-era commentary, though readers will be introduced to a constellation of figures virtually unknown to most in the English speaking world, and they will also see the diversity of thought represented within the Reformation traditions (even disagreements over the proper rendering of passages!). Rather, above all else, the RCS is about renewal—renewal constituted by contemplation of Scripture within the folds of tradition. Pastors, preachers and teachers will find in these volumes resources drawn from the deep wells of the Reformation that can produce living springs within the church today.

The voices of the Reformation call to us to look at Scripture anew with different eyes, providing fresh insight and tools for hearing Scripture in bold and startling ways. As the Reformers themselves sought to renew the church through the reading and preaching of Scripture—which they did in conscious alliance with the ancient traditions of the church—so the RCS provides an opportunity to read and preach the Scripture with the Reformers, retrieved here for the renewal of the church and the world.

Posted by Nate Baker-Lutz at 11:39 AM