James on participating in the divine nature

I’m going to start leading our small group Bible study through a series on the Letter of James tonight. The thing I am most excited about is that this small group has become increasingly open to dig deeply into the Scriptures and into the dark places of our souls. We seem more willing to share with one another about the things we are struggling with and to keep one another accountable in our walk of faith. That’s what James is all about.

Since we didn’t decide until yesterday that we would be doing this study, I gave them a quick reading assignment to prepare: James 1:1-2 and 5:19-20. James is written to the twelve tribes living in the Diaspora. The people of God who have been scattered. By the end of the letter it is clear that this is no mere geographical designation. It is written to brothers and sisters who have wandered off the path of truth. And it is written to brothers and sisters who are in such a relationship with God that they can be His instruments to steer their wayward family members back onto the path of life.

Peter talks about participating in the divine nature through the promises of God (2 Peter 1:4), and James has his own message along these lines. In the beginning of the letter, James lays out a contrast between our own evil desires that lead to death (James 1:14-15) and the desire of our heavenly Father to give us new birth through his word of truth (James 1:17-18). This divine word is the only thing that can truly inspire us with godly wisdom, save us from the filth around us, and give abundant life to our mortal souls.

By the end of the letter, James presents a picture of the church accomplishing through prayer what only God can do: healing the sick, forgiveness of sins, stopping the rain and making it rain again (James 5:15-18). When we come alongside a wandering brother or sister in Christ and turn them back to God, we participate in the nature of God by saving others from death and covering over a multitude of sins (James 5:19-20). Surely, the prayer of a righteous person is very powerful since it is God who makes it effective (James 5:16).

May we each not forsake our first love (Revelation 2:4). May the love of God well up within us and overflow to all those around us.

Strategy Development for a Bible Translation Movement

I have been asked along with every other member of my organization to contribute ideas for developing our strategy over the next 5-10 years to be meaningfully engaged in Bible translation and language-based development in Papua New Guinea. Before I meet with other members to discuss our ideas, I have gathered together some of my own thoughts and share them here. I have put them relatively in order of importance or priority. However, some items near the end (e.g. recruitment) I consider to be some of our biggest needs, although items that appear earlier in the list are often foundational for things that follow.

(These are my own ideas and do not necessarily reflect the values of my organization or anyone else. These statements of need also do not necessarily reflect any present lack in these areas, but may affirm current values that need to continue.)

(1) We need to desire God’s kingdom before everything else. The patterns that are indicative of who we are and how we live and work should be characterized by a love for God and others, and not by an atmosphere of suspicion, self-interest, and blind workaholism.

(2) We need excellent member care resources (pastoral care, counseling opportunites, and a managerial system) that can proactively address members’ stresses and problems before these become urgent concerns. Members should be encouraged and given every opportunity to thrive spiritually so that they can work and minister out of the overflow of their hearts. We need opportunities to meet with trained pastors, counselors, and managers for routine maintenance, and not only for emergencies, worst case scenarios, and required yearly assessments. Every member needs people that can hold one another accountable for our overall health—spiritual, emotional, mental, interpersonal, and physical.

(3) We need a shared language strategy that is whole-heartedly owned and supported by all of the membership. Primarily, I am thinking of the kind of unity of purpose and mutual support that distills any atmosphere of mistrust and division. This means that we should work hard to make such a strategy attractive to all of the membership.

(4) We need a synergistic strategy that allows for member’s differences, and creates opportunities to work together creatively to accomplish something far greater than the individual members could accomplish on their own. To accomplish this well, we need team-building trainers to help teams work effectively together. This may also mean that we probably need to move away from the perspective that each language team has their own program and anything else is time away from that program.

(5) We need a system of adventurous accountability that allows for self-direction and regular accountability, perhaps developed on the learning contract model.

(6) We need church partnerships at the appropriate local, regional and national levels for every language project.

(7) We need to train PNGeans to continue in the Bible translation movement in every place in ways that are appropriate for that place.

(8 ) We need to regularly reassess our own programs and consider if our methods are still appropriate for each situation. This also entails that we are willing to change our programs if we determine that something is not working well, or if something else has great potential to work better.

(9) We need sociolinguistic surveys to consider dialect clusters and teaming approaches.

(10) We need to assess bilingualism in PNG (in each place) and consider how the vernacular (and translations) will best function alongside languages of wider communication.

(11) We need local ownership of translation need. We need to evaluate if “close enough is good enough” for related language dialects in PNG. If not, then the remaining need in PNG may be much greater than we are presently thinking.

(12) We need translation to be a spiritual and social process.

(13) We need scripture used throughout the translation process.

(14) We need to all proactively recruit new members to come be a part of our shared vision. Interaction with potential and new members should be a mentoring relationship from the start before they even arrive. But this relationship should also allow significant freedom to work in the ways that they would most enjoy.