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Exemplary Christian Associations in Europe (3rd 0f 10)

Christians at Daimler-Benz in Germany Show Us the Way

Christians in Europe are forming small associations for the purpose of following the way of the Lord. The Christian way of living is praying always [1], self-denial [2], obedience[3], forgiving one another [4], thanksgiving [5], healing [6], faith, hope and love, and doing greater things than Jesus did [7]. This “upward calling” is more likely achieved in small communities. Christians who work for Daimler-Benz in Germany are showing us the way. Their mission:

“Christian Values at Daimler: The Best or Nothing at all!”

As employees at Mercedes-Benz and Daimler Truck, we are committed to ensuring that fundamental Christian values are visible in our personal working lives within our company and in our social responsibility outside our company.

Our concern is that we take our Christian values as a benchmark not only in our private lives, but also in our everyday professional lives, and live by them. We are convinced that this attitude has a sustainable positive influence on our company and also contributes to fairness towards supplier companies and competitors.

Our worldwide network of “Christians at Daimler & Benz” (formerly “Christians at Daimler”) comprises more than 1,500 members. Within Mercedes-Benz and Daimler Truck, there are approximately 50 Prayer Groups  at various locations, where Christians of different denominations and church affiliations meet regularly outside of their working hours to pray for their company, their superiors, and their colleagues. In addition, annual Christian Meetings have been taking place outside the company since 2006, to which all employees of Mercedes-Benz and Daimler Truck are invited who also want to stand up for basic Christian values in their everyday working lives.

It all begin in 1978 and Men’s weekend at the Bernhäuser Forest:

In February 1978, an annual meeting (‘Silent Weekend for Men’) took place during the carnival season at ‘Bernhäuser Forest’, at which the three Daimler employees Dr. Ing. Peter Philipp (at that time assistant to the board for public relations), Christoph Burckhardt and Hans Grefe participated. Inspired by a lecture given by Brother Matthäus of the ‘Brotherhood of Christ Community Selbitz’, these three men, employed at the Untertürkheim Daimler-Benz site, decided to meet once a week for spiritual reflection before starting work. As a guide for their meetings, they used the ‘Daily Watchwords of the Herrnhuter Brüdergemeine’ which consist of a collection of short biblical texts from the Old and New Testament and are still being published until today.

A fresh wind of the Holy Spirit is blowing in Europe. It is all quite extraordinary. An internet site, Christian Professionals Portal, features dozens of associations established by Christians in Europe. You can read more about Christians at Daimler & Benz here.

[1] Jesus taught them a parable that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.” Luke 18:1.

[2] Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).

[3] Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey my commandments.” John 14:15

[4] Jesus said, “’If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matthew 6:14-15

[5] “Jesus took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them.” Luke 24:30

[6] Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. Matthew 10:1.

[7] Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” John 14:12.

“Heart by Max.” Emily Colson’s true story of raising her special needs son.

Emily Colson’s son Max is autistic. He screamed every moment he was awake for the first year. Her husband divorced her. Max is now 24 and he made heart signs and planted them around the community during COVID.

In her book Dancing with Max Emily Colson shared the struggle and beauty of life with her son Max. The book has recently been awarded “Book of the Year” by the Autism Society. Through her powerful message of the sanctity of life, Emily has inspired many to persevere through their own challenges and see the gifts. Emily and Max live on the coast of New England where they can often be found dancing.

Here’s a story from Emily Colson’s blog:

It is 2am on a Tuesday night, and life with Max is loud and messy, all of our tried and true strategies failing. I breathe in and force prayer into my mind and mouth, to drown out the noise and my ugly thoughts.

I ask God for strength for the next second. I blow it. And then I ask Him again.

Finally, the raging battle, which is too big to be fought on earth alone, subsides. It is quiet. My son is asleep.

I stand in the bathroom with my toothbrush in hand. I have no energy to fall on my knees, or close my eyes. “This is really difficult,” I tell God as if He were standing in the bathroom beside me, helping me to hold the weight of my toothbrush. “I know you are here with us. I know, even when it is this hard.”

I turn on the television to clear my mind. I watch an ad for a body lotion that will shimmer in the light and make your arms “look thinner and more toned in your holiday dress.”

So let me clear through all the clutter and noise – in the midst of the Christmas season, wakeful nights, or mornings, or afternoons. There is one truth. Jesus.

God sent his one and only Son, Jesus, into this world as a tiny baby. He sent His Son into this world of Tuesday nights, to be our hope. God planned this before He ever created you or me, knowing that this world, and our hearts, would be filled with brokenness and struggle. He knows it’s difficult. He has not forgotten us. He tells us, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, for I have overcome the world.” He tells us, “Never will I leave you. Never will I forsake you.” He tells us, He knows the plans he has for us, plans to prosper us and not to harm us, plans to give us a hope and a future.

Right now someone else might be standing in a bathroom at 3am with a toothbrush that is too heavy to hold alone. And if that someone is you, take comfort.

There is One Truth we can hold onto. It is the same Truth that holds the whole world together. Jesus.

Sincerely, Emily

Emily Colson is Chuck Colson’s daughter. You can read about her life with Max here.  Thank you, Anne R. for letting me know about Emily Colson and her faith in God and her love for her son Max.

Exemplary Christian Communities in Europe (2nd of 10)

Dozens of New Christian Communities are Forming in the Arts and in the Marketplace. Is Christianity on the Rise in Europe?

Dear Readers, thank you for sending examples of Christian communities that you admire or that you have joined. God has placed in our hearts a desire to follow Jesus Christ our Lord and Master. Since the beginning of Christianity, the Holy Spirit has established two kinds of Christian communities; the larger is the entire Christian congregation, like a synagogue. Jesus attended the synagogue, “as was his custom” (Luke 4:16). The second, smaller kind, is the community for personal growth and good works, like a Jewish hevrah. Jesus formed a hevrah of twelve men. Jesus told them they were his “haverim” (translated John 15:15). Thus, two Jewish structures provided a pattern for early Christian congregations and smaller missionary bands that we hear about in Acts (Paul, Barnabas and John Mark, Prisca, Aquila and Apollos). Neither can say to the other, “I have no need of you.”

What is the Christian way of living? To answer this, we must study the Bible, especially the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Christian way of living is praying always,[1] self-denial,[2] obedience,[3] forgiving one another,[4] thanksgiving,[5] healing,[6] faith, hope and love, and doing greater things than Jesus did.[7] This “upward calling” is more likely achieved in small communities of Christians who commit to one another to live a Christian life.

Scott B. sent a link to a wonderful website, Christian Professionals Portal, which features dozens of Christian communities that are active in Europe. It is all quite extraordinary. In fact, I have never seen anything like it. One of the featured Christian communities is Arts Centre Group, located in the United Kingdom. Its mission:

We have a mandate to our calling in the Arts, to be a light in the marketplace. Arts Centre Group began in 1964, “Artists and actors began meeting in dressing rooms to pray; walking the streets of the West End and praying; pursuing a deeper relationship with God whilst bring fully committed to their gifting. Many were pressured by the church to give up their gifting . . . “

You can read an interview with Cliff Richard here. Cliff Richard is co-Founder of Arts Centre Group.

A second community featured on the Portal is Ars Vitalis, located in Spain. Members of Ars Vitalis are musicians and artists and actors. Here is the Ars Vitalis mission statement:

The work, enjoyment and learning of artistic disciplines contributes to the development of the intellectual, ethical, aesthetic and emotional faculties of the individual. All Ars Vitalis Forum activities and programs are aimed at this noble work.
Art, in the best moments of the most advanced civilizations in history, has always performed the noble task of providing solace and edification to the spirit, as well as beautification to the world, following the classic maxim of “educating by delighting.” Therefore, the arts have contributed in this way to the integral development of the individual as a person, and to social harmony.
That has not been the case in times of moral degradation and disintegration. For in those fateful moments, art has always ended up being nothing more than a caricature, a kind of ridiculous comedian at the service of entertainment and political and ideological propaganda; or worse still, a form of ethical and moral debasement.

Dear Reader, do you feel encouraged, as I do, to read of Christian revival in Europe? Church attendance in Europe may be dwindling; but revival may already have begun. The Holy Spirit is breathing life into Europe as Christians find one another and form communities of prayer, study, confession, and good works. As Ralph D. Winter said, “We should be on tiptoes to see what is about to happen.”


[1] He taught them a parable that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.” Luke 18:1.

[2] Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).

[3] Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey my commandments.”

[4] Jesus said, “’If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matthew 6:14-15

[5] “Jesus took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them.” Luke 24:30

[6] Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. Matthew 10:1.

[7] Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” John 14:12.

Ten Exemplary Christian Communities Today (1st of 10)

(Did I Say Ten Exemplary Christian Communities??? I am Going to Need Your Help to Find Five of Them).

What is the Christian way of living? To answer this, we must study the Bible, especially the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Christian way of living is praying always [1], self-denial [2], obedience[3], forgiving one another [4], thanksgiving [5], healing [6], faith, hope and love, and doing greater things than Jesus did [7]. This “upward calling” is more likely achieved in small communities of Christians. Small communities are secondary to the entire worshipping congregations where we worship on Sundays. (At this point, I must forewarn that some will say, “Why do you need to meet with other Christians apart from church? Do you think that you are better than the rest of us?” I think nothing of the sort). Everyone should join a congregation; not every Christian wishes to join a smaller community. We live in a time when many Christians are leaving the congregation. I do not think this falling away is a good idea; however, church leaders should examine their assumptions of what we normally call church; what we normally call church has become somewhat worldly and prone to divisions. Therefore, renewal must be our prayer. Renewal does mean that we simply wish to refill our emptying pews; Attendance is falling as much because of church worldliness as their own lost faith. Church leaders! Look at the log in your own eyes. and It is our theory that Christian renewal is “on its way” from God the Holy Spirit. Jesus told us to “watch and pray” (Matthew 26:41). Readers, Watch and pray! Renewal is coming, but not in in the way most people think; Renewal, if it comes as it has in the past, will come like a wind from unexpected places. Renewal is “already coming” where Christians are joining the smaller, secondary communities.

We have seen this before, for example in the Wesleyan bands of men and women. These small meetings helped their members live as Christians. You can read about the Wesleyan bands here. A weekly “method” meeting was required of all the members. Members also attended Sunday church, but their personal renewal took place in the meetings that happened in homes. In this way all of England was changed; the “Methodists,” took up the humanitarian issue of their days: public hangings were outlawed; the slave trade was denounced; sale of alcohol collapsed in the face of public outcry over the ruin that liquor inflicted on families. John Wesley his “Methodists” spoke against the cruel prison conditions, and brought about prison reform.

Benjamin Hartley, professor at George Fox University, wrote:

The Wesley brothers and their friends even accompanied condemned prisoners on the wooden cart as prison officials drove them to the gallows. They hugged them, spoke with them, prayed with them, read Scripture with them, sang with them, and otherwise comforted them–often amid jeers and refuse thrown from the crowds. Early Methodists were bold enough to get on the cart. The way we today choose to address the problem of incarceration will involve a similar boldness, even though our “cart” may take many different forms.[8]

Renewal came to all of England, but it came through small communities of Christians who knew they needed one another to live the Christian way of life. And not only in England; here is a thesis written by a Filipino, Armando C. Arellano, brimming with thanks for the influence of Wesleyan humanitarian reform on the Philippines.

The Methodist triumph was long ago; do we have any examples of voluntary Christians associations today? I have a few examples that I will feature soon. However, truthfully, I know of too few examples, too few by far. Dear Reader, I need your help to get the word out about voluntary Christian communities today. Write to me and tell me what groups you are part of or admire. Joining smaller communities to pray for one another is how renewal, or revival, will likely come. Our deflated version of Christianity will not do anymore, and many people in the pews want to start over. Let us renew ourselves; church renewal will follow. Renew yourself by confessing to yourself and a few others, “God, be merciful to me a sinner; pray for me.” Renewal will appear, a cloud on the horizon the size of a man’s hand! We have to find like-minded souls who want to live a godly life, but know they need a few others to pray for them. I am looking at a picture of celebrity pastors, many of whom you have heard of. Get this: all but one of whom are wearing expensive watches. It’s pretty interesting. Let’s be glad for the who is wearing a $10 watch. But do we really expect renewal to rise up from church leaders who wear watches that cost as much as a used car?

In the next blogs I will feature Christian communities that are making a difference in their members’ lives. These communities were started by regular Christians. Dear Reader: I need your help; what examples do you have to inspire us to start or join still more small, secondary communities that will make a difference? And thank you for reading all the way to the end.

[1] Jesus taught them a parable that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.” Luke 18:1.

[2] Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).

[3] Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey my commandments.” John 14:15

[4] Jesus said, “’If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matthew 6:14-15

[5] “Jesus took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them.” Luke 24:30

[6] Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. Matthew 10:1.

[7] Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” John 14:12.


AHA Foundation

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Founder

Ayaan Hirsi Ali was born in Somalia to a Muslim family. She was raised in Kenya, until an arranged marriage was forced upon her. She moved to the Netherlands and asked for political asylum. She renounced Islam after the 9/11 terrorists attacks on America. She became an atheist and was praised by well-known atheists for her opinion that all religions lead humanity on a downward path. However, in November 2023 Ayaan Hirsi Ali said she has become a Christian. She wrote about her conversion here. It is a wonderful testimony. She writes, “I still have a great deal to learn about Christianity. I discover a little more at church each Sunday.”

Today we are promoting the AHA Foundation, which Ayaan Hirsi Ali founded in 2007. Its mission:

We stand up for universal human rights and oppose tyranny in all its forms, whether it comes from oppressive traditions such as female genital mutilation, honor violence, and child/forced marriage, illiberal ideologies shutting down free speech and inquiry on campus and beyond, or Islamist extremism.
We believe that Western values and ideals apply to and protect everyone. We champion a world defined by liberty for all.

You can read more about the AHA Foundation here. You can read a brief biography of Ayaan Hirsi Ali here.

Ralph D. Winter Addresses Three Christian Problems: Unity, Renewal, and Mission. Part 2

Ralph D. Winter wrote on the topic “Three Church Problems: Unity, Renewal and Mission.” Winter introduced the topic in this way:

As a fairly narrow Presbyterian seminary student, one of the first shocks the writer experienced was to encounter Baptist Kenneth Scott Latourette’s statement that, for all intents and purposes, the early band of highly evangelistic Methodist circuit riders adhered to characteristically Roman Catholic vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. This disturbing thought germinated and, along with other broadening influ­ences, eventually wreaked havoc with my typically Protestant limitations.[1]

Winter then writes:

It was the beginning of an intellectual pilgrimage in which the writer would eventually come to see the emergence of the Protestant mission society as a parallel to the Roman Catholic order, despite the fact that it is viewed as a major, yet somehow “foreign,” structure within the Protestant stream of history. He would come to see the Protestant mission society as unintentionally and, unfortunately, the basis of a veritable “schism” not often confronted and analyzed structurally, an internal strain in Protestantism between church and parachurch organizations which profoundly frustrates the contemporary tasks of renewal and unity as well as mission.

Winter theorized that these problems could be addressed if Protestants took advantage of the superior organizational relationship between congregations and voluntary (parachurch) societies operating in the Roman Catholic tradition. Protestants, in their favor, restored the doctrine of justification by faith; yet all is not well; the biblical commands for Christian renewal, unity and mission are almost out of reach for Protestant churches. This problem is “not often confronted or analyzed structurally,” Ralph D. Winter wrote.

Who is Ralph D. Winter?  He studied engineering at Cal Tech in Pasadena, then theology at Princeton and Fuller seminaries. He earned a PhD in linguistics from Cornell University, then lived as a missionary for ten years in Guatemala. Invited by Donald McGavran to join the faculty in the Fuller Seminary School of World Mission, Winter taught missions history for ten years. In 1976 he and his wife Roberta founded the US Center for World Mission in Pasadena. I was Winter’s doctoral student in the PhD program at William Carey International University.

Winter analyzed the three problems structurally, giving credit to the “enviable synthesis” achieved in the Roman Catholic tradition. Catholic bishops govern Catholic congregations, but there is a second kind of Catholic organization that men and women can join. It was this second kind of organization—the communities of men or women who pledge to one another to live a Christian life—that has enabled the Catholic church to rather effectively address the biblical mandates of Christian renewal, unity and mission.

Wesleyan Bands of Men and Women. Ralph D. Winter points admiringly to the example of “Wesleyan bands of men and women” as a starting place for Protestants who want to resolve to live a Christian life with like-minded people. The reader can find out more about the Wesleyan bands of men and women from an online article by Robert Hargitai here. Hargitai writes:

At the heart of the (50-year) revival accompanying the life of John Wesley and transforming England as a whole there were groups of different kinds developed by him for varying purposes. Wesley’s followers, who were nicknamed “Methodists” because of these and other methods, belonged to the Church of England at the time (until Wesley’s death), and usually attended its worship services. Wesley arranged them in societies that roughly corresponded to our churches and were mainly places for (practical) Bible teaching. But Wesley knew that this is not enough, we have to go down to the level of deeds (it is often the primary level of learning), or even deeper if possible. Therefore, every member of the societies was, at the same time, a member of a “class” of 10 to 12 people. These classes were mixed as to age, spiritual maturity, gender, marital and social status. Those who wanted to walk more closely with God formed “bands” of 4 to 6 members of the same sex and status as well as mentoring pairs and spiritual twins. Most of the work was done in these small discipleship groups, the members of which were accountable one to another about their lives and sins, prayed for each other and encouraged one another to love, good works and holiness, avoiding theological disputes. They examined the teachings of the Bible in light of their personal experience, while new leaders were born and equipped for ministry. Each kind of group met at least once a week. Their meetings were characterised by an atmosphere of trust, confidence, and encouragement, especially in the case of the smaller groups. Wesley learned these methods from his parents (primarily his mother), and these groups functioned without considerable modifications from the early 1740s until about 50 years after his death. (As far as I know, nowhere are they used today, not even at places where they are said to be.) When George Whitefield grew old, he allegedly regretted that he had not used these methods, so most of the fruit of his labours had been lost.[2]

The Wesleyan bands of men and women show us how Christian renewal might be more than a wistful aspiration in our day. (Other Protestant examples will follow in the next blogs.) Christians need to feel the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to form themselves into new bands of men and women in our day. Christian renewal, unity and mission languish for lack of communities of men and women pledging themselves to one another to live a Christian life.

[1] Protestant Mission Societies and the ‘Other Protestant Schism’.” In American Denominational Organization Pasadena: William Carey Library, 1980.

[2] Robert Hargitai’s history of the Wesleyan bands of men and women.

Agros International. Breaking the Cycle of Poverty in Rural Guatemala.

Chi-Dooh “Skip” Li, a lawyer in Seattle, saw something of the poverty that plagues farming families in Guatemala. He lived in Guatemala for three years as a young boy before moving to the United States. “This poverty went back hundreds of years to the time when the Spanish Conquistadors came and took land—vast, vast swaths of land—from the indigenous peoples. That kind of poverty creates a sense of despair that is unspoken, but always present. We had to defeat that despair,” Li explains. Defeating this despair and enabling farmers to own land is Agros’ mission. With the help of donors, Agros International purchases large tracts of land. Rural families begin to make a profit and work toward owning the land. Over seven or eight years with the profit from their businesses, farmers can pay for the land. In 2020, Agros villagers received 758 land titles! That is amazing. For Skip Li, it is what he can do as a Christian. “There is no dignity in receiving gifts; The dignity is from their hard work to pay off the land. You can see the sense of dignity in their faces: ‘I am somebody because I own my own land.'”

Li was interviewed for Seattle Pacific University’s online journal, Response. You can read the interview here. Click on the Agros website here.

Ralph D. Winter Addresses Three Church Problems Unrelated to Sunday Morning Worship

Protestant churches have weathered many hardships over the 500 years since the Reformation. And, despite recent handwringing about their predicted demise, there are still 300,000 organized Protestant churches in America, or 24 churches for every Starbucks. (Interestingly, there are ten churches for the combined total of all the McDonalds and Starbucks restaurants). However, churches have not been able to solve three problems of no small importance: mission to unreached peoples, church unity, and Christian revival. Churches are not organized to send missionaries to unreached peoples; our Lord’s prayer for unity, “that they may be one,” is rendered invisible by hundreds of versions of Christian denominations and churches that find reasons to criticize one another; and third, renewal of Christian faith in our churches depends, mainly, on adult children refilling the pews as the founding generation ages. But fewer and fewer adult children of church members are feeling loyal to the churches they grew up in. A reading of the New Testament suggests the wholesome importance of all three: mission to unreached peoples, church unity, and Christian revival; yet church leaders do not seem equipped to address them. We have books a-plenty on leadership, and we have become “pretty good” at presenting a Sunday morning worship and teaching experience for Christians. But our efforts to teach and worship on the Sunday morning (and our efforts to make disciples through small group fellowships) have made some of us realize that the day will never come when churches (as we normally think of churches) fulfill the biblical expectations that we are concerned with here: mission to unreached peoples, church unity and Christian revival.

Ralph D. Winter is one person to offer a way for Protestant churches to begin resolving these three problems. The solution has been “out of reach,” Winter writes, because of a strong bias against organizing small, voluntary organizations of Protestants who pledge themselves to these three very causes. This unfortunate bias began at the start of the Reformation, which the men we look to as the fathers of the Protestant renewal. For it is a fact that Martin Luther and John Calvin and John Knox dissolved the Catholic monasteries, the means of mission, unity and renewal in the Catholic tradition. With only the Protestant congregation and its administrative structure to do the entire work of the Holy Spirit, the Reformed Churches have emphasized what they are good at: teaching and worship (especially on Sunday morning) and maintaining the doctrines of the Protestant traditions. That leaves three problems to stump the elders and pastors. But we are interested in getting “beyond stumped.” These three problems were meant to be addressed by smaller, focused, associations whose members pledge themselves to address the biblical values of unity, mission, and renewal. These associations are sometimes called parachurch groups. Ralph Winter wrote,

Protestantism has made no serious attempt to recover the voluntary tradition of the Catholic orders. By cutting off the orders the Protestant body gave up arms and legs and virtually put unity, renewal and missions out of reach.

Is there “a more excellent way?” The writer [Ralph D. Winter] is convinced that the Roman Catholic tradition embodies in its much longer experience with the phenomenon of the “order” a superior structural approach to both renewal and mission. Fortunately, Protestants do now possess in various parachurch structures functional analogues, if they could somehow see them in a new light and develop a new relationship to them that will be beneficial, symbiotic and accountable.[1]

The Warp and the Woof

Ralph D. Winter theorized that there are two kinds of Christian organizations—churches (which are biologically dependent for their existence after the first generation of members has aged) and parachurch agencies (not biologically dependent), whose members make a pledge to make their lives count for a mission they believe God has given them. Winter writes:

These two structures working together as the warp and the woof of the fabric, the fabric being the Christian movement—the people of God, the ecclesia of the New Testament, the church of Jesus Christ. Therefore, to make either of the two structures central and the other secondary, as the term parachurch seems to do, is probably unwise. The two are indeed interdependent and the evidences of history do not allow us to understand either of them as complete without the other. As in the Roman tradition, their relationship is at least potentially a beneficial symbiosis. The problem is that within Protestantism today the tension between the two is as great as or greater than ever before, [2]

Dear reader, how do you feel about Ralph D. Winter’s “two structures” theory?

[1] Winter, “Protestant Mission Societies and the ‘Other Protestant Schism’.”

[2] Ibid.

Guardian Bank in Bangalore, India

Guardian Bank of India is unlike any other bank, because it is owned by its 30,000 low income loan recipients. Its mission: lending start-up capital to low-income people who would not qualify for a loan from a commercial bank. And ending the ruinous practice of loan sharks who charge exorbitant interest rates. With more than 30,000 loans successfully repaid, Guardian bank is one of the most successful micro-loan enterprises in the world.

Guarding Bank: Its Beginning.

It is now more than two decades since Guardian Bank[1] was established in Bangalore, India. “Looking back,” writes Collin Timms, the founder of Guardian Bank, “it still amazes us that so much has been accomplished. With faith and determination, I went about convincing others to share the same faith, starting with family, friends, and those closest to me; for such a task cannot be accomplished single-handed.”

The story of Guardian Bank was featured in a recent Seattle Pacific University alumni magazine. From that article we learn:

Timms is the son of a factory worker. His family lived in factory quarters on a campus with 1500 people. The Timms family was one of the few Christian families on the property. Collin Timms went on to earn an engineering degree and became a highly successful entrepreneur. “I began to feel that I’m blessed and I don’t deserve all these blessings,” Timms said. He was interested in making microbusiness loans to poor families. He went from church to church to gather the funds to establish the Guardian Bank. Unlike commercial banks, Guardian is a cooperative bank, owned by its members and not established to focus solely on maximizing its profits.[2]

The poor would not have qualified for a loan from a commercial bank. Timms created a bank where low-income customers would qualify for a loan. “We want to take a more humane view and see how we can help them,” Timms said.

Sharon Joseph, CEO and Collin Timms, founder

Timms remembers feeling God’ presence throughout the process of founding Guardian Bank. “You feel that you’re being led. Every circumstance, every meeting, every person you talk to,” he said. “ had no idea how it would pan out, but I felt that I was being led.

Sharon Joseph, a Bible study leader and an active member of her local church, has been CEO of Guardian Bank since 2000. She remembers a young man who took out a loan in 1999 for $180 to start a small business selling noodles and other items on a street corner. “Today he is completely debt-free,” she said. This man bought a house and is renting out other houses for additional income.”

You can read the entire Guardian Bank article here.


[2] You can read the entire article here.

Studying the Bible, Making a Tremendous Discovery. The Ephesus Church in 62 AD, and in 92 AD and 132 AD.

Paul established a church in the great city of Ephesus and taught there for two years. (It was a coastal city back then, not abandoned until the fourth century when its port silted over.) Paul wrote a letter to the Ephesians in about 62 AD, when he was in prison. All of Paul’s letters are written to “churches of the Gentiles,” a phrase he writes in Romans 16:3-4. The churches in Galatia, Ephesus, Colossae, Philippi, Corinth, and Thessaly were Gentile churches established by Paul in his obedience to the Great Commission given to him by Jesus Himself on the road to Damascus. “I write to you as Gentiles. I am the apostle to the Gentiles,” he wrote to the church in Rome (11:13). Gentiles is the word ethne in the Bible; it means unreached peoples, the entire population of the world that is not Jewish. We can translate ethne as unreached peoples. This makes clear that God gave Paul a mission to unreached peoples. The phrase “a light to the Gentiles” occurs several times in the Bible; it is made clear if we translate it like this:

The Lord has commanded us, saying, ‘I have set you to be a light for the unreached peoples, so that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”[1] When the unreached peoples heard this, they were glad and praised the word of the Lord; and as many as had been destined for eternal life became believers (Acts 13:47-48).

The Ephesus congregation was a Gentile church. We know this because Paul writes, “For this reason I, Paul, am a prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles (you ethne). For surely you have heard of the commission of God’s grace that was given to me for you” (Ephesians 3:1-2). Then Paul explains “the mystery that was hidden for long ages past”:

In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: that is, the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God’s grace that was given me by the working of his power. Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the unreached peoples the news of the fathomless riches of Christ, and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things. (Ephesians 3:5-9).

This is a missionary text. The mystery was the Great Commission to bring the unreached peoples to God. But after the close of the New Testament, the missionary texts disappear from the writings of the early church fathers. Here is what I mean.

Paul wrote to the Ephesians in 62 AD. He filled chapters two and three with mission references. But thirty years later, when John wrote the book of Revelation, John had stern words for the Ephesus: “You have lost your first love,” John wrote. The Ephesians had become nominal and worldly. In Paul’s time they were saints (Ephesians 1:1). But in 92 AD John writes:

I have this against you, that you have abandoned your first love. Remember then from what you have fallen; repent and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent (Revelation 1:4-6).

Dear reader, we must admit that most churches in the history of the world have started out with zeal and good works like the Ephesus congregation. But within three generations, the zeal seems to quiet down, even in the Protestant era. Ralph D. Winter writes,

Maintaining vitality over, say, three generations, is not assured in any tradition. It seems almost a rule that every Christian tradition, whether Protestant, Mennonite or Roman, insofar as it depends heavily upon a family inheritance—or, shall we say, a biological mechanism for its perpetuation over a period of time, will gradually lose the spiritual vitality with which they may have begun. [2]

Blincoe: The drift toward nominalism and worldliness is a nearly unsolvable problem. It caused Protestant churches to divide as evangelicals form new congregations. But the cycle repeated itself. Ralph Winter proposes a way to retain the oneness of the church (and a way to heed the teaching of our Lord that the time to separate is at the end of the age), as we wrote about here and here and here.

We move ahead another 30 or 40 or so years. Bishop Ignatius was residing in Antioch when he was arrested and sent to Rome, where he was to be martyred. The journey to Rome took some months, and during the journey he wrote seven letters:

  • To the church in the city of Ephesus
  • To the church in the city of Magnesia
  • To the church in the city of Tralles (now Aydin, in Turkey)
  • To the church in the city of Rome
  • To the church in the city of Philadelphia
  • To the church in the city of Smyrna
  • To Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna

Ignatius wrote to encourage believers to stay true to the faith. But especially he writes that they should obey their bishop. Ignatius advised the Ephesians that they should revere and obey their bishop as if he were Christ himself:

For we ought to receive everyone whom the Master of the house sends to be over His household, as we would do Him that sent him. It is manifest, therefore, that we should look upon the bishop even as we would upon the Lord Himself.[3]

Loyalty to a bishop becomes a theme in Ignatius’ other letters. To the Church in Magnesia Ignatius writes:

Take care to do all things in harmony with God, with the bishop presiding in the place of God, and with the presbyters in the place of the council of the apostles, and with the deacons, who are most dear to me, entrusted with the business of Jesus Christ, who was with the Father from the beginning and is at last made manifest.— Letter to the Magnesians 2, 6:1

The congregation in Smyrna is also enjoined to obey the bishop:

Wherever the bishop appears, there let the people be; as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful to baptize or give communion without the consent of the bishop. On the other hand, whatever has his approval is pleasing to God. Thus, whatever is done will be safe and valid.— Letter to the Smyrnaeans 8

I make two comments. First, the bishop’s prominence is rising, and will continue to rise as the Roman Catholic church centralizes its authority in a hierarchy of priests, bishops, archbishops and pope.

“The Context of an Emergency.” Second, while Ignatius has treasured Paul’s doctrines, Ignatius has not furthered Paul’s zeal for “the regions beyond.” In this disregard, Ignatius’ writings are like a seminary education today. We study the Bible to glorify God, yet fail to hear the Holy Spirit call us to go to “the regions beyond.” David Bosch writes,

Theology is ‘there in the New Testament, but second in important to the apostles who are writing it. They were not scholars who had the leisure to research the evidence before they put pen to paper. Rather, they wrote in the context of an ’emergency situation,’ of a church which, because of its missionary encounter with the world, was forced to theologize.[4]

Paul wrote, “I am the apostle to the Gentiles . . . We have received grace and apostleship in order to bring about the obedience of faith among the Gentiles . . . I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to win obedience from Gentiles by word and deed, by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit.

In Romans 15:8-12 Paul quotes a great number of Scriptures, to persuade the reader that a golden thread is wending its way through the entire Bible, “so that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.” Sadly, that missionary determination seems to have vanished early in the second century, by the time of Ignatius. He offers not a thought of sending missionaries to the Berbers in Africa, or the Goths north of the Rhine, or to Arab caravans converging in Mecca. The business of translating the Bible into other languages is out of the question. Paul’s idea, “I become all things to all men that I might win some,” has vanished without a trace from the church in Antioch in just a few decades.

[1] This is a quote from Isaiah 49:6.

[2] Ralph D. Winter, “Protestant Mission Societies: The American Experience,” Missiology 7, no. 2 (1979).

[3] Greg Gordon, Ignatius of Antioch, Early Church Fathers Series (Greg Gordon at Smashwords, 2019).

[4] Bosch, Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission. 15

Studying the Bible, Making a Further Discovery from Matthew 23:15

Eckhard J. Schnabel, professor of New Testament at Gordon-Conwell Seminary, meticulously describes Ralph D. Winter’s “two structures” theory (which we are promoting in this blog). Schnabel writes:

Eckhard J. Schnabel

Ralph Winter argues that the church always has two structures that are legitimate and that contribute to the fulfillment of the Great Commission: the church or local congregation, which uses the model of the Jewish synagogue, and the mission society, which uses the model of Jewish and early Christian teams of missionaries.

Schnabel correctly explains Winter’s pair of terms, modality and sodality: “The church is a modality,” the entire population of believers, “while the missionary team is a sodality, in which membership is determined by a second decision.”[1]

However, Schnabel believes that Ralph Winter is wrong. In Schnabel’s opinion there were no Jewish teams of missionaries in the first century. Schnabel writes, “The early Christian missionary teams did not adopt the form of similar Jewish “teams” of missionaries, as there is no evidence for a missionary movement in Second Temple Judaism.”[2]

Support for Ralph Winter’s theory comes from the words of Jesus to the Pharisees in Matthew 23:15, where Jesus said, Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you traverse sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes so, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.” Sadly, Schnabel does not take the words of Jesus at face value. Schnabel writes:

The polemical tone of Mt 23 and the hyperbolic formulation­ scribes and Pharisees travel across “sea and land” to win “a single convert” ­suggest that Mt 23:15 cannot be easily or directly evaluated in terms of the extent or the intensity of a Pharisaic proselytizing propaganda.[3] Nothing in this com­ment forces us to interpret in terms of a “burning zeal of the Pharisaic mis­sion,”[4] since no Jewish, Greek or Roman texts unambiguously prove the exis­tence of Jewish missionary work among Gentiles. Assertions such as that of Walter Grundmann, who states that Jewish missionary activity “reached its cli­max at the time of Jesus and the apostles,”[5] are sheer inventions.[6]

Dear Reader, this is a textbook example of how one’s point of view could have been changed by listening to Jewish experts. I take this opportunity to re-introduce the reader to Jonathan Brumberg-Kraus, professor of Jewish studies at Wheaton College in Massachusetts (“the other Wheaton”), he wrote me. Brumberg-Kraus wrote an article, “Were the Pharisees a Conversionary Sect?[7] It is likely that Brumberg-Kraus was familiar with Schnabel’s opinion, as seems evident by placing their writings side by side:

The polemical tone of Mt 23 and the hyperbolic formulation—scribes and Pharisees travel across “sea and land” to win “a single convert”—suggest that Mt 23:15 cannot be easily or directly evaluated in terms of the extent or the intensity of a Pharisaic proselytizing propaganda.[8] Eckhard J. SchnabelThough early Christian literature represents the Pharisees as perhaps their greatest religious rival—in the conflict stories and other anti-Pharisee polemic in the Gospels, in Paul’s dramatic disavowal of his former life as a Pharisee—most have dismissed Matthew’s claim, that Pharisees ‘traversed sea and land to make a single proselyte’ (Mt 23:15) as polemical hyperbole.[9] Jonathan Brumberg-Kraus

I draw the readers’ attention to Schnabel’s phrase, “The polemical tone of Matthew 23 and the hyperbolic formation . . .” Compare this to Brumberg-Kraus’s similar phrase, when he expresses his awareness that most experts in early Christian literature “have dismissed Matthew’s claim” in 23:15 “as polemical hyperbole.” Brumberg-Kraus, I am glad to say, accepts what Matthew wrote. That is, Pharisees actually sent missionaries who actively sought “converts,” though not Gentile converts. Brumberg-Kraus writes:

The terms “proselyte” and “proselytism” usually refer to a conversion from one ethnic community to another. That is, proselytes to Judaism have “converted” from being Gentiles to being members of the Jewish ethnic group. Likewise in Pauline Christianity, one “converts” from being a Gentile or a Jew into a new kind of community in which “there is neither Jew nor Gentile.” The Pharisees however seemed to have confined their active efforts to win new followers from among ethnic Jews [emphasis added].[10]

Brumberg-Kraus continues:

Jonathan Brumberg-Kraus

Therefore, if one takes seriously the cumulative testimony of the historian Josephus, Paul, the Synoptic Gospels and their prior Christian traditions, one would have to agree that the Pharisees’ near contemporaries perceived them as a popular religious-philosophical movement in 1st century Judaism, whose “mission” seemed to consist of getting other Jews to participate in their distinctive practices of table fellowship, tithing, and ritual purity.[11]

Blincoe. I wrote Dr. Ralph Winter to ask his opinion on Brumberg-Kraus’ main point, that is, “The Pharisee mission was not to the Gentiles; it was a renewal mission to the Jewish nation.” Winter replied:

I think I fully agree with the man. Jesus clearly was talking about [In Matthew 23:15] making devout persons into proselytes. There is no need, as you say, to say they were going to raw pagans. Who has said they did? I didn’t. That is not my point. His words are no problem for me at all. It seems to me that they are very confirming. RDW[12]

Thus Ralph D. Winter is in agreement with Brumberg-Kraus: the mission of the Pharisees was their attempt to persuade fellow Jews to more earnestly follow the way of the Lord as commanded in the Torah.

Did the Pharisees traverse land and sea to make converts? Schnabel says “no.” Brumberg-Kraus seems to be aware of Schnabels’ opinion and repeats Schnabel’s phrase “polemical hyperbole.” Did the Pharisees traverse land and see to make converts? Brumberg-Kraus says “yes.” Other Jewish writers agree. Alfred Edersheim, a 19th century Jewish convert to Christianity, explains that “the Pharisees were avowedly a ‘Chabura’ [sic].” If we do not see them explained as such in the New Testament, Edersheim writes, “it is because the New Testament simply transports us among contemporary scenes and actors, taking the existent state of things, so to speak, for granted.”[14]. Brumberg-Kraus makes this same point:

Scholars suppose that both the Gospels and Josephus reflect their own Tendenzen (their own familiar customs) rather than the real “historical Pharisees.” Hence, other critics, especially Christians, cannot imagine a proselytizing campaign on the part of Pharisees that targets only ethnic Jews.

Blincoe: Therefore, the Pharisees were a brotherhood of Jewish men–a hevrah. They made a sacred vow to bring about a change in society, a change that was important to them. Their membership as Pharisees was probably more important to them than their attendance in the synagogue. By listening to Jewish scholars we have uncovered something that is “really there” in the New Testament: two kinds of Jewish organizations, the synagogue and the mobile missionary bands. Ralph D. Winter said:

Very few Christians, casually reading the New Testament (and with only the New Testament available to them), would surmise the degree to which there had been Jewish evangelists who went before Paul all over the Roman Empire—a movement that began 100 years before Christ. Some of these were the people whom Jesus himself described as “traversing land and sea to make a single proselyte.” Saul (Paul) followed their path; Paul built on their efforts and went beyond them with the new gospel he preached among non-Jews. [15]

A great change will take place in our understanding of Christian mission after more people understand the Biblical basis of Christian mission agencies. It has been said that they are not found in the New Testament. It has been said that “if only the church was organized as it was in the New Testament, we would not need parachurch agencies.” I hope to brighten the future for many of my readers by helping them discover what is “really there” in the Bible.

[1] Eckhard J. Schnabel, Early Christian Mission, 2 vols. (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2004). 1578

[2] Ibid. 1578

[3] Thus H. Kuhli, “proselutos”who believes that “this passage presupposes the Pharisaic movement’s generally positive posture regarding missionary activity.”

[4] Thus Schlatter, Mt, 674. For a critique of this traditional interpretation see Will and Orrieux1992, 115-36; M. Goodman 1994, 69-72; McKnight 1991.

[5] Grundmann, Mt, 490.

[6] Schnabel, Early Christian Mission. 163-164


[8] Schnabel, Early Christian Mission. 163

[9] Brumberg-Kraus, “Were the Pharisees a Conversionist Sect? Table Fellowship as a Strategy of Conversion”.  1. Brumberg-Kraus cites Gal 1:11-24, Phil 3:4-9, Acts 9:1-19, 22:1-21, 26:12-23 (Paul’s conversion); I Thessalonians 1:4-10, Acts 2 (success of the conversion mission). See also Alan F. Segal, Paul the Convert: The Apostolate and Apostasy of Saul the Pharisee (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990), 6.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Personal correspondence of 5/6/05 7:57:59 AM

[13] Brumberg-Kraus, “Were the Pharisees a Conversionist Sect? Table Fellowship as a Strategy of Conversion”.

[14] Edersheim, Sketches of Jewish Social Life in the Days of Christ.

[15] Winter, Ralph D. “The Two Structures of God’s Redemptive Mission.” Missiology 2, no. 1 (January 1974): 121-39.

Studying the Bible; Making a Tremendous Discovery. Galatians 3:8-14.

In Galatians chapter 3 Paul assures the reader that Abraham was the first man to hear the gospel and the first to realize that the gospel is a missionary calling to bless the nations. Here is what Paul writes:

The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the unreached peoples by faith, and preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham: “All unreached peoples will be blessed through you.” 9 So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

10 For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the things written in the book of the law.” 11 Now it is evident that no one is reckoned as righteous before God by the law, for “the one who is righteous will live by faith.” 12 But the law does not rest on faith; on the contrary, “Whoever does the works of the law will live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the unreached peoples, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

This passage is from the book of Galatians chapter 3, and in verse 8 Paul gives answers to three questions:

  1. To whom did God preach the gospel?
  2. When did God preach the gospel?
  3. What is the gospel?

Background. As the reader knows, in chapter 1 Paul has expressed his great concern that the Galatian congregation may have turned away from the true gospel. He writes:

Not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are confusing you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what we proclaimed to you, let that one be accursed! (1:7-8)

Someone has arrived in Galatia after Paul left, persuading the Christians there to doubt what Paul has taught them. Paul knows that everything is lost if the Christians in Galatia turn away from the truth of the gospel, so he repeats his warning: “I repeat, if anyone proclaims to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let that one be accursed!” (1:9)

In chapter 2 Paul stays with the topic, assuring his readers that he is certified by the leaders of the Jerusalem church, and therefore they can rely on Paul to teach the true gospel. Paul recounting his visit to the church leaders in Jerusalem:

Then I laid before them (though only in a private meeting with the acknowledged leaders) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure that I was not running, or had not run, in vain. [“I am glad to say,” Paul is saying] that not even Titus, who was with me, was not compelled to be circumcised, though he was a Greek (2:2-3).

Paul is assuring the doubters in Galatia, then, that they must stop going the wrong way and return to the true gospel.

In chapter 3 Paul answers three questions, “What is the gospel?” “When was it first explained?” and “To whom was it first preached?” Dear reader, I do not hear church leaders today giving Paul’s answer to these questions. We know there is no gospel apart from the crucifixion of Christ. We are glad beyond words that Christ died for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3). Christ is the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29). The gospel is Jesus Christ (Mark 1:1). Here in Galatians chapter 3, Paul gives answer to the question, “What is the gospel?” setting his answer in Abraham’s call to bless the nations. The gospel is not a doctrine only, though most theologians whittled it down to that. The gospel, in Galatians is this: “All nations shall be blessed through you.” Paul is quoting Genesis 12:3. Walter C. Kaiser of Gordon-Conwell Seminary calls Genesis 12:3 “the gospel encapsulated.”[1]
We must read the Bible to understand it, even when we see something that we never saw before. What is the gospel? It is God’s mission to the unreached peoples. They shall live by faith (by faithfulness!), the same as Abraham lived. Therefore, the teaching of the gospel is not true to the Bible except as Paul made clear to the Galatians. How much Paul wants to persuade his readers of missionary purpose of the gospel is evident by what Paul writes next to the Galatians: “Christ has redeemed us so that the blessings given to Abraham might also come to the unreached peoples” (3:13a-14). This is the answer to the question, “Why has Christ redeemed us?” He redeemed us so we can feel the weight of the Great Commission, the same as Abraham felt it. “And Abram did what God told him.” (Genesis 12:4).

Dear reader, how do you feel about this? And thank you for reading.

[1] Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., “Israel’s Missionary Call,” in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, ed. Ralph D. Winter and Steve Hawthorne (Pasadena: William Carey Library, 1999), 16.