Pentecostals and the Poor | Book Review


Pentecostals and the Poor began to take shape when the Asia Pacific Theological Association invited Ivan Satyavrata to present four lectures on the theme, “Power, Tradition, and Social Engagement,” at its fall 2011 General Assembly in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Satyavrata reworked those lectures into the resulting monograph, the inaugural volume in The APTS Press Occasional Papers Series. It outlines the author’s mature reflections on four topics: (1) the Pentecostal tradition of social engagement, (2) the biblical perspective on Pentecost and mission, (3) a Pentecostal theology of social engagement, and (4) the role of Pentecostal theological education.

Satyavrata is, in the words of his publisher’s website, “Senior Pastor of the Assembly of God Church in Kolkata, which has close to 4,000 people and a significant social outreach, providing education and basic nutrition for several thousand children in and around the city of Kolkata. He has played an active role in Christian leadership training as President of the Centre for Global Leadership Development (formerly SABC), Bangalore, of which he now serves as Board Chairman, and has recently been invited to serve as International Deputy Director for the Lausanne Movement in South Asia. His chief interest has been in issues relating to the Christian witness to people of other faiths.”

Regarding (1), Satyavrata argues that “strictly speaking there is no one Pentecostal tradition; what we do have is multiple Pentecostal traditions which bear a certain family resemblance.” That resemblance centers around “the immediate, manifested presence of the Holy Spirit experienced by the early Church in Acts [which] is normative for the Christian faith community today.” Crucially, social engagement has always been part of that tradition. “Pentecostals today offer not only spiritual refuge from the problems of this world but concrete and authentic social engagement alternatives. They have in fact done so from the very beginning [of Pentecostal history] as a natural extension of their evangelism and missionary efforts.”

Turning to (2), Satyavrata argues that biblically, “the Church’s mission [should be seen] as a continuation of the mission of Jesus.” Jesus’ self-conception revolved around the concept of the kingdom of God. According to Satyavrata, “three crucial aspects of Jesus’ teaching on the kingdom have bearing on our understanding of mission”: (a) announcement of the kingdom’s arrival, (b) demonstration of the kingdom’s reality, and (c) extension of God’s kingdom-rule. Just as the Spirit of God empowered Jesus’ mission, so the Spirit continues to empower the Church’s mission. “Pentecost made the church a witnessing church, and her witness was spontaneous, immediate, effective and directed to ever widening circles of men,” Satyavrata writes.

Based on critical reflection on the biblical witness, Satyavrata arrives at the following conclusion: “A theologically robust Pentecostal understanding of mission thus views mission in terms of God’s ongoing redemptive project of extending his kingdom-rule to people of all nations as the Holy Spirit empowers the whole Church to take the whole gospel to the whole world.”

Flowing out of this broad understanding of mission, Satyavrata then turns to (3) a Pentecostal theology of social engagement. At the outset, he makes the following statements: “The extraordinary success of the Pentecostal movement is largely due to its outreach to those on the periphery of society…. The genius of Pentecostalism has thus been its relevance to the powerless—its ability to penetrate enslaving power structures of the socially and economically marginalized.” American readers need to keep in mind as they read these words that Satyavrata is referring to the global Pentecostal movement, not just the expressions of that movement in America. (American Pentecostals are both like and very unlike Pentecostals throughout the rest of the world.) Satyavrata also notes that Pentecostals “have in general been better at doing it [i.e., social ministry] than articulating it in statements of faith or theological formulations.”

Following on his understanding of mission, Satyavrata notes the relevance of the kingdom concept to the church’s social ethic: “The kingdom ethic of Jesus is made operational within the charismatic community by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit and becomes thereafter the moral foundation for the life of the early church.” He then examines “how Pentecostal spirituality shapes Pentecostalism’s social response” by looking at five key features of that spirituality: prayer/worship, liberation, healing, community, and hope.

In the final section of his monograph, Satyavrata sketches (4) the role of Pentecostal theological education in mission. He defines theological education as “the Church’s mandate to disciple God’s people, further their growth in vocational giftedness and maturity in Christ, and thus equip them to fulfill the kingdom-mission of Christ.” This means that the aim of theological education is transformation holistically understood, including the transformation of (a) spiritual passion, (b) theological formation, (c) community, and (d) mission. He concludes: “Since education is for mission it must generate creative and fervent missionary engagement and make a difference in the whole world!”

Pentecostals and the Poor is a short, easily digested monograph worthy of your consideration. Although its origins lie in an academic context, its reasoning and conclusions are stated clearly and is well worth reading by pastors and other leaders in local churches.

(Full disclosure: he Satyavrata is a professor and friend of mine.

Book Reviewed
Ivan Satyavrata, Pentecostals and the Poor: Reflections from the Indian Context (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2017).

P.S. If you liked my review, please click “Helpful” on my Amazon review page.

Evangelism, Compassion, and Mission(s) | Influence Podcast


“When compassionate missions stand apart from evangelistic efforts and apart from the work of the local church, the uniquely redemptive role of the church is either diminished or lost altogether,” writes Dr. Jerry Ireland in For the Love of God.

“Therefore, missionaries must find ways to engage in compassion in ways that are more directly linked to the evangelistic calling of the church.”

In this episode of the Influence Podcast, I’m talking to Dr. Ireland about the relationship between evangelism and compassion in the Church’s mission. I’m George P. Wood, executive editor of Influence magazine and host of the Influence Podcast.

Dr. Ireland is chair of the Intercultural Studies and Ministry, Leadership, and Theology departments of the University of Valley Forge, in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. An ordained Assemblies of God minister and former missionary to sub-Saharan Africa, he is author of Evangelism and Social Concern in the Theology of Carl F. H. Henry and editor For the Love of God: Principles and Practice of Compassion in Missions.

My conversation with Dr. Ireland is coming up after a brief word from our sponsor.

This episode of the Influence Podcast is brought to you by My Healthy Church, distributors of Tru Fire Curriculum:

Children’s leaders often feel worn down by curriculum that doesn’t give them what they need to be effective. Tru Fire provides leaders with engaging lessons and empowers them to connect kids to the Holy Spirit so that they can feel confident their kids are developing lifetime faith through experiences with God they’ll never forget.

To download free sample lessons, visit TruFireCurriculum.com.

P.S. This podcast is cross-posted from InfluenceMagazine.com with permission.

For the Love of God | Book Review


For the Love of God, edited by Jerry M. Ireland, examines “principles and practice of compassion in missions,” as the subtitle puts it. Part 1 examines principles, and Part 2 examines practices. Contributors are for the most part missionaries with practical experience and/or relevant academic training.

Part 1 includes five chapters: “Introduction” and “A Missionary Theology of Compassion” by Ireland; “Missions and Compassion: The Indigenous Principles” by Alan R. Johnson; “Defining Poverty” by JoAnn Butrin and A. Chadwick Thornhill; and “Best Practices in Compassionate Missions” by Suzanne Hurst.

Part 2 includes nine chapters: “Compassion and Unreached People Groups” by Jeff Palmer and Lynda Hausfeld; Counterintuitive Missions in a McDonald’s Age: Recovering the Apostolic, Incarnational Model to Integrating Gospel-As-Mission and Gospel-As-Deed” by Jean Johnson; “In Pursuit of Holistic Economic Development” by Brian Fikkert; “The Church’s Response to Injustice” by JoAnn Butrin, Suzanne Hurst, and Brandy Tuesday Wilson; “Orphans and Vulnerable Children” by Ireland; “Health Issues and the Church’s Response” by Karen Herrera and Paula Ireland; “Natural Disasters and the Church’s Response” by Jeffrey Hartensveld; “The Local Church and Faith-Based Organizations” by Jason Paltzer; and “Conclusion: For the Love of God” by Ireland.

Ireland summarizes “the approach of this text” in his Introduction:

This text addresses compassion in missions from a thoroughly evangelical perspective. As such, this text will center around three themes to which we will often return: biblical foundations, the local church, and development principles. The central thesis of this text is that these three themes must guide evangelical responses to compassion if we are to be faithful to Scripture and to the church’s uniquely redemptive purpose. We will argue that Christian compassion is fundamentally a matter of discipleship and that modern Christian missions often tends, contrarily, toward the professionalization of compassionate ministry. Such an approach robs local believers of their God-given mandate to love their neighbors (Matt. 22:39).

In other words, the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16–20) commands believers to make disciples of all “nations,” that is “people groups.” A necessary outcome of discipleship is compassionate individuals and congregations who minister to the needs of their neighbors holistically. In cross-cultural situations, missionaries’ primary work is to empower the local church to make compassionate disciples, rather than to do the work of the local church themselves.

Who should read this book? Missionaries are obvious candidates, especially those working in compassion-focused missions. Those preparing for missionary careers or those teaching them also are intended readers. However, I would also recommend the book to pastors, especially those whose churches sponsor compassion-focused missions or who send abroad short-term missions teams. The emphasis on empowering indigenous local churches to perform compassion ministries, rather than doing it for them, should affect the way U.S. churches fund their missions program, as well as how they utilize short-term missions teams.

The book includes a 14-page Bibliography, but not an index. Though an index would be helpful–indexes are always helpful in academic books–the specificity of the chapter topics obviates need for one.

Book Reviewed
Jerry M. Ireland, ed., For the Love of God: Principles and Practice of Compassion in Missions (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2017).

P.S. If you liked my review, please click “Helpful” on my Amazon review page.

Disruptive Compassion | Book Review


“If I want to do something with my life and make a difference in the world, how do I do that?”

A college student asked Hal Donaldson this question several years ago after Donaldson made a presentation at his university. In the succeeding years, others asked Donaldson the same question. Though they were older than the student — some middle aged, others past retirement — each desired more than to do well; they wanted to do good.

Disruptive Compassion is Donaldson’s answer to their question. It reflects lessons he has learned personally, having grown up poor, and professionally, as CEO of Convoy of Hope. Convoy is a leading Christian compassion ministry whose mission is to “empower others to live with greater independence and freedom from poverty, disease, and hunger.”

But what precisely is “disruptive compassion”? As Donaldson explains, it’s not “code for sanitizing the world or condemning people who don’t measure up to your standards.” That is not the way of Jesus. Rather, disruptive compassion is “a rejection of the status quo and a belief that a tidal wave of love and acts of kindness can heal a wounded world.”

That sounds easy enough, right? Yes, and in a sense it is. The book’s thirteen chapters each contain an imperative for “compassion revolutionaries” to follow:

      1. Believe
      2. Define the Mission
      3. Do Reconnaissance
      4. Conduct an Audit
      5. Be Authentic
      6. Build a Team
      7. Pay the Invoice
      8. Create Momentum
      9. Eliminate Distractions
      10. Take Risks
      11. Measure Outcomes
      12. Persist and Pivot
      13. Go

These imperatives, while easy to articulate, are difficult to apply, however. Even to get started, you have to overcome what Donaldson calls “the true enemies of progress”: “doubt, apathy, and blame.” In my experience, this is the hardest threshold to cross because it calls us out of our comfort zone and challenges us to make a difference in our circle of influence.

While the imperative to believe presents a psychological challenge, the remaining imperatives present practical challenges. Where will I focus? What are the resource gaps that I can fill? How has God prepared me uniquely to address these gaps? Who will team up with me? And what costs am I willing to pay to see the mission through? These are some of the hard questions Donaldson asks (and answers) in his book.

Compassion revolutionaries come in all kinds. Some, like Donaldson himself, are full-time visionaries who create organizations, like Convoy of Hope, that become movements of love and kindness. Others excel in their professional careers but leverage their influence and wealth for Kingdom purposes. And still others serve in the army of volunteers that every genuine movement needs. You can read the stories of all kinds of compassion revolutionaries in the book.

The key thing, however, is to seek personally to “make a radical difference through disruptive compassion, wherever you are.” And so, having read the book, I find myself asking a simple question: Today, where can I show love and kindness to a person who needs it, whether through my words or by my deeds? Read this book, and I think you’ll start asking yourself the same thing. Answer it in word and deed and who knows how far your circle of influence eventually may extend!

Book Reviewed
Hal Donaldson, Kirk Noonan, and Lindsay Kay Donaldson, Disruptive Compassion: Becoming the Revolutionary You Were Born to Be (Grand Rapids, MI: 2019).

P.S. To hear my conversation with Hal Donaldson about Disruptive Compassion, please listen to Episode 184 of the Influence Podcast.

P.P.S. If you liked my review, please click “Helpful” on my Amazon review page.

Change the World By Starting With Yourself | Influence Podcast


“Every movement begins with revolutionaries who grow disillusioned with how things are and imagine how things could be,” writes Hal Donaldson in his new book, Disruptive Compassion: Becoming the Revolutionary You Were Born to Be.

In this episode of the Influence Podcast, George P. Wood, executive editor of Influence magazine, talks with Donaldson about how to become a compassion revolutionary who changes the world … starting with yourself.

Hal Donaldson is CEO of Convoy of Hope, a faith-based, nonprofit organization with a driving passion to feed the world through children’s feeding initiatives, community outreaches, and disaster response. He is also author of 30 books, the most recent of which is Disruptive Compassion, just published by Zondervan/HarperCollins.

P.S. This podcast is cross-posted from InfluenceMagazine.com with permission.

How the Church Can Serve the City | Influence Podcast


On the Day of Pentecost, the first Christians preached the gospel of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. Soon after, they also organized ministries to help the poor. This combination of evangelism and compassion is a biblical hallmark of Spirit-filled ministry. It’s also a template for action today.

In this episode of the Influence Podcast, George P. Wood, executive editor of Influencemagazine, interviews Dave Donaldson and Wendell Vinson about how the local church can serve the city through compassionate ministry.

Dave Donaldson and Wendell Vinson are editors of CityServe: Your Guide to Church-Based Compassion, just published by Salubris Resources. Donaldson is co-founder and chairman for CityServe International, whose visionis “to see the local church fulfill its calling to be a stronger catalyst for healthier communities and the restoration of broken lives.” Vinson is also co-founder of CityServe and pastor of Canyon Hills Church in Bakersfield, California.

Monday’s Influence Online Articles


Today, over at InfluenceMagazine.com:

  • “Between 2001 and 2008,” Jerry Ireland writes, “missions budgets for evangelism and discipleship declined by almost 11 percent, while funds for relief and development work increased by nearly 9 percent.” My guess is that this trend continued in the second decade of the twenty-first century. Both Jerry and I believe that Pentecostal mission must include evangelism and compassion. However, discipleship has a missional priority. Jerry writes, “The most compassionate thing your church can do is support missionaries discipling local people to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16).”
  • In today’s #InfluencePodcast, Daniel Im and I talk about how new book, No Silver Bullets: 5 Small Shifts That Will Transform Your Ministry. Daniel argues that churches need to make five micro-shifts in ministry: (1) from destination to direction, (2) from output to input, (3) from sage to guide, (4) from form to function, and (5) from maturity to missionary. My review of the book will be up at InfluenceMagazine.com and here on Wednesday.
  • Chris Railey highlights the importance of church planting in the August-September issue of Influence magazine: “Church planters want to change the world, and the truth is, they are the Church’s best hope. The Assemblies of God is seeing incredible growth in the number of new churches. In fact, 2016 was the best church-planting year in our 103-year history, with 406 new churches opened. Church planters connect us to our pioneering roots; they represent the missional and Spirit-led work of expanding the kingdom of God that has always defined our movement.”

Please make sure to follow and like InfluenceInfluence magazine on Facebook, Twitter, and iTunes!

Review of ‘Your Next 24 Hours’ by Hal Donaldson


Kathleen Connors unwittingly started a chain reaction of kindness when she paid for a family’s meal at the L&M Diner in Barre, Vermont. Over the next 24 hours, 46 other patrons paid it forward and purchased meals anonymously for other customers. Connors found out that “kindness is seldom followed by a period,” Hal Donaldson writes. “One act of kindness can be the opening sentence in a volume of goodwill.”

Donaldson is president of Convoy of Hope, which he cofounded with his siblings in 1994. Since then, Convoy has distributed $1 billion of food and emergency supplies to 80 million people in the U.S. and around the world. He and his siblings were the beneficiaries of the kindness of church folk who took them in when their dad was killed and their mom seriously injured in a drunk-driving accident. “Out of anger and bitterness,” he writes, “we could have chosen a life of crime or greed.” Instead, out of thankful hearts, a charity was founded that has brought help and hope to millions.”

We often hear stories of random acts of kindness. The challenge Donaldson poses in Your Next 24 Hours is to make the day before you “day one of a more rewarding life” (emphasis in original). To help you do that, he offers 22 short chapters about how kindness can make a lasting difference in your home, workplace, school, and community. Each chapter ends with “Kind Ways,” action steps to put kindness in action. The book is written winsomely, with stories from popular culture illustrating biblical principles about kindness, gratitude, and the power of hope.

I’m a friend of Hal’s and a fan of Convoy of Hope, so I’m happy to recommend both him and the organization he leads. But I also thoroughly enjoyed this book and the advice it offers about how to make acts of kindness a nonrandom part of each day.

_____
P.S. If you found my book review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

P.P.S. This review originally appeared at InfluenceMagazine.com and it is republished with permission.

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