Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Repentance and Culture Shock

In my preparation for India, one of my concerns has been the language barriers. India has several dialects, after all. And while I know that all of my teaching times will be with the assistance of a translator, it still felt like there was some part of my language that didn't seem like it would properly translate. While I know how to say what I need to say, it was making me nervous whether or not I could say it clearly and precisely with the muddle of my "Americanisms."

The more I've thought about it, I've come to understand just how much my culture plays a part not only in what I say, but in how I say it. The manner in which Americans communicate is rapidly changing. The English language isn't just left to its own - there's tone, body language, and even simple inflections that make up our linguistic intent. And all too often, as many of us know well, the way you say something often says more than the content of what you are actually saying.

For myself and countless other people (mostly young men, I'd gather) in our generation, I've fallen prey to the cultural linguistic norm of sarcasm and cynicism. Our primary forms of entertainment are saturated with overwhelming levels of sarcasm and cynicism, from "The Soup" to "The Daily Show" and the "Colbert Report" to practically every Will Ferrell movie. For young guys, this makes us laugh, and having the desire to make others laugh gives way to us adopting the cultural methods of communication that entertain the most. I admittedly LOVE to laugh and make people laugh, but I fear much of my humor ends up being biting sarcasm and cynicism that is often at the expense of someone else, which doesn't exactly scream Christ-likeness.

In the end, sarcasm and cynicism are simply a means to avoid speaking and communicating deliberately and with purpose. In other words, it takes courage to clearly say what you mean the way you mean it without having to bathe it in a mess of sarcastic cover up. When you speak deliberately, you take responsibility for what you say, what you don't say, and even how you say it. Rarely do we want to suffer the consequences of our communication. But doing so is an act of steadfast obedience to Christ. Our yes' are yes' and our no's are no's in a disciplined act of worship.

There are three verses to point out in Ephesians 4 that speak to this. Verse 15: "Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ." Verse 25: "Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body." And also Verse 29: "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."

Why then, do we lay aside sarcasm? Because it does not build up - it tears down. Every word out of our mouth is intended to be an edification of the Body of Christ. The content, the message, is not packaged in sarcasm and cynicism, but love. Love is the medium of our language, because love does not take away from the truth - it further clarifies and magnifies it.

The hard truth? If Indian pastors would be hindered by my American sarcasm and cynicism in understanding the Gospel, then it is surely hindering here as well. I need to repent of conforming to the (speaking) patterns of this world, and I need my sarcastic and cynical mind to be renewed and transformed in the knowledge of Christ. An uphill battle? Oh yeah. A worthy cause? Absolutely.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Update! A New City On the Horizon...

Latest News: Passport is sent off, letters are soon to follow. Hopefully I can get this stuff out of the way ASAP. I found our from Randy that our traveling plans have changed. We'll spend the first week with pastors in a village outside of Ranchi, which is in Northeastern India. Then we'll head to Madurai to do in one week what we planned to do in two. Looks like these classes will be full of cramming. Just to give you an idea, here are some pictures of these cities.

And Madurai:

More to come soon!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Introduction to the Kingdom of God

The primary task of my trip to India is to teach a class called "The Ministry of the Kingdom," based upon curriculum from the Vineyard Bible Institute. Luckily I'm pretty well-versed in the theology of the Kingdom of God because (A) it's one of the core theological values of the Vineyard Movement and (B) I was the primary developer of our "Kingdom" message series and curriculum this past fall here at VCC. I spent 2 months reading every book I could find on the kingdom of God, most notably being George Ladd's "The Gospel of the Kingdom" and his survey of New Testament theology (among many others). So when I heard I'd be teaching on the kingdom of God, I was excited.
Growing up in a Baptist Church, I had heard very little about the kingdom of God. But as you read through the Gospels, it's hard to ignore that it was Jesus' primary message throughout His ministry. There's many reasons for the seeming ignorance of "kingdom of God" theology in evangelicalism. The early part of the 20th century saw liberal mainline denominations adopting the terminology, where it was associated with social action divorced from adherence to orthodox Biblical theology. On the other hand, dispensationalism has pigeon-holed God's kingdom as being synonymous with heaven and the afterlife. In a more practical sense, Americans are hundreds of years removed from being in a true 'kingdom,' so the terminology seems archaic. But it's impossible to ignore Jesus' emphasis on the kingdom of God throughout.
When we hear kingdom, we often first think place or location. But a kingdom is not a realm, but a rule. It is anywhere the King rules and reigns. So when Jesus says "The kingdom of God has come near," He is speaking of the reality of God's rule and reign coming near. How was it coming near? In Jesus! Jesus, as the coming Messiah King, was ushering in the rule and reign of God here on earth. Throughout his parables, He used the phrase "the kingdom of God is like..." to introduce a picture of a God-reigning reality here on earth. In other words, through the life, works, teachings, and stories of Jesus, we see the kingdom of God coming near and revealing to the world - this is what it looks like when God is in charge!
Now understanding this opens up a whole slew of questions, most notably this one: If the kingdom of God has come near in Jesus, why suffering? Disease? War? Famine? How do we reconcile the statements where the kingdom of God is 'here and now' and those that say it is a reality still to come?

We'll deal with these questions in my next post. 

Monday, August 17, 2009

What everyone needs to know about Missions

I spent a while today putting the finishing touches on my support letters (coming to a mailbox near you). As I wrote out what I hoped would be sufficient reasoning for people to support me, I realized what an odd thing it was for someone my age who has been immersed in ministry and "church culture" for most of my life to never been on a mission trip outside of the United States. It's commonplace nowadays for youth groups to take week-long trips to Mexico or the Domincan Republic. And if you missed the boat before heading to college, almost all campus ministries offer 2 week, spring break, and/or summer trips to exotic mission locales in mission-dom.
In college, as a part of a campus ministry, I had endless opportunities to go overseas. To be honest, the main thing that kept me from pursuing said opportunities was the unspoken air of Christian-elitism attached with going on mission trips. It was subtely implied that true and total obedience for every believer began and ended with going overseas. I knew this not to be the case by the countless men and women who supported missions (through both prayer and financial support) but never went themselves.
What I've learned since are two important truths about mission involvement that drive my upcoming trip.
First, absolutely every Christian is called to missions. This seems like an strong statement, but let me explain. You are called to missions in being both the sender or the goer. It's clear in Paul's letters that the churches he'd help plant and pastor continued to support his mission endeavors. On the other hand, there was a small collection of people who traveled with and supported Paul in his travels as well. But all followers of Christ, we are biblically called to both. Why? That leads us to the second truth.
Missions is not a location or destination, it's the natural product of discipleship. To follow Jesus is to submit to the mission of Jesus to make disciples of all nations. This is true in Kentucky and Kenya, India and Indiana. To pursue overseas missions to the ignorance of the mission God has called you to across the street, in your workplace, and in your own home is an act of disobedience. We must surrender to the call of missions as an act of becoming like Jesus wherever we are.
We are called to both send missionaries and be missionaries wherever we are. Making disciples of all nations is the very purpose of God's redemptive body in the world, the Church. It's our joy and passion to pursue this mission with all of our hearts.

More to come soon.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Justin Goes to India...this fall!

Hi everyone, and thanks for visiting the site. If your wondering about the blog title, it's not just a catchy name - I'm actually going to India the first two weeks of November 2009 through United Missions Abroad, a missions organization that operates out of my church (Vineyard Community Church) here in Lexington, KY. Here's some basic info about my trip:

Where I'm going: Our team will be spending the majority of our time in Madurai, a large city in southern India. Madurai is located in a state called Tamil Nadu, and is known for having the largest Hindu Temple in all of India.

What I'll Be Doing: My team has three primary objectives on this trip. First, to provide teaching and training for about 100 local pastors and potential pastors. Myself and Randy Rodgers, our Missions team leader and U.M.A. founder, will be teaching a theology class called "The Ministry of the Kingdom," which focuses of the theology of the Kingdom of God. It's a class from the Vineyard Bible Institute, the Vineyard's version of Bible College. Second, Our team will provide Medical assistance and classes in the local villages (I'll be less involved in this, obviously). Finally, we have a documentary filmaker named Zach Carter who will be filming throughout, highlighting the various ministries throughout the area in India (how cool is that?). In addition, I'll be leading worship on a few occasions on the weekends when time permits.

Why a blog?: The blog has two purposes - first, I'll be updating my progress on preparing for my trip to India. There's a lot to get done between now and then logistically, between raising funds and getting my class materials together. But more importantly, God has a lot of work to do in me spiritually to prepare me for this trip. I feel so humbled and honored to be able to serve these Indian pastors and leaders and be a small part of the kingdom of God advancing throughout India. I'll also be doing a very focused study of the theology of the kingdom of God and the Gospels in the months leading up to the trip, so I'll be sharing from those studies also. And when I get there, I'll update my progress as much as possible, hopefully with pictures!

Are you raising support?: Yes! I need to raise $3000 dollars for this trip. In our current economy, this certainly seems like a lot. But I also know that where God leads, He provides. And I certainly feel as if this is something God has called me to do in this season. If you'd like to give and support my trip, here's how:

A. Make checks out to United Missions Abroad, or UMA.
B. Send checks to

United Missions Abroad c/o
Vineyard Community Church
817 Winchester Rd.
Lexington, KY 40517

C. Your gift is tax deductible. BUT - do not put my name in the by line, or it will not be. Write on a separate sheet that gift is intended for my trip.

How can you pray?:
First, pray for the Church in India. India is primarily Hindu, with only about 2% being Christian. In a country with billions of people, there is obviously a need to see the Gospel advance. Hinduism is a religious system that puts a lot of bondange on India spiritually, economically, and socially. Pray that the kingdom of God would break into India in a mighty way.
Second, pray that God would continue to shape me and prepare my heart for the task at hand. Pray that the Enemy's attacks against me would be thwarted and that my heart would continue to be transformed by the Gospel.
Finally, pray that myself and all the members of the team would be able to raise the support needed for this trip. We trust that God is faithful and will provide.
If you have any questions about the trip, giving, India, or anything else, feel free to ask by emailing me at justin.rhorer@gmail.com.
To close, I am deeply indepted and humbled by your prayers and support, as well as the opportunity to serve the nation of India and the Church in such a tangible way. Thank you for coming along on the journey ahead, and stay tuned because there's more ahead!