Free Videos for “Long Story Short”

Hey friends, the video curriculum for Long Story Short is now available at Seedbed.com (here).

As a sample, they’ve even made the videos for Creation (Ch. 1) and Jesus (Ch. 4) available for free.

I’m hoping that the video curriculum–along with the discussion questions and Bible readings at the end of each chapter–will serve churches and small groups well as they dive into the book (and more importantly, the Bible) in fresh ways.

Enjoy my occasionally creepy eye-movements and the one polo shirt that I apparently wear for all such videos 😉

Chapter Four: Jesus: “Why Directors Should Wear Makeup”

Chapter One: Creation: “Why Sugar-Momma Had to Die”

 


Long Story Short: the Bible in Six Simple Movements is now available at Seedbed.com.

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Prophet or punk? (pt 2)

Prophet or punk? (pt 2)

“Cynics smirk, pundits rant, prophets weep.”

Thanks to The Wesleyan Church for posting part two of my series examining the difference between prophetic boldness and dogmatic shrillness.

This one examines the importance of receiving the language of “lament” over and above lambasting opponents.

Access here.


Check out my new book (Long Story Short: the Bible in Six Simple Movements), now available at Seedbed.com.

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Why teach the Bible as a story?

Why teach the Bible as a story?

“Daddy, can you tell me a rule?”

That’s a sentence that no child of mine has uttered.  Like, ever.

The fact is that human-beings are story-driven creatures—from our earliest memories to our final days. In the words of the novelist David Foster Wallace, “We need narrative as we need space-time.”

There’s a new post of mine up at Seedbed.com that talks about why it’s important to gain a basic grasp of the Biblical storyline. (Read here)

They’ve been releasing lots of resources this week for the official launch of Long Story Short: the Bible in Six Simple Movements.


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Why Sugar-Momma had to die

Why Sugar-Momma had to die

The folks at Seedbed have released a free excerpt from my book, Long Story Short: the Bible  in Six Simple Movements.

It’s about the biblical creation stories. But it bears the oddball subtitle of “Why Sugar-Momma had to die.”

Read here.


If you’ve read the book, please stop by either Amazon and Seedbed.com to leave a friendly review. It helps get the book in hands of folks who might not otherwise see it.

Firing into a Continent

Firing into a Continent

John Chau, Jim Elliot, and Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness

As it happened, when news broke that John Allen Chau had been killed while trying to evangelize an isolated tribe far off the coast of India, I had been re-reading one of my favorite works of fiction: Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.

The story, written around 1899, is among the most famous critiques of colonialism in its ignorant and damaging forays into tribal cultures.  Conrad wrote it from experience.  He had gone to the Congo in 1890 to serve as a river pilot.  Long before that, at the young age of nine, he had placed his finger on the blank space of a map that represented Africa, and proclaimed: “When I grow up I shall go there.

The reality did not live up to his hopes.

Near the beginning of Heart of Darkness, the narrator (Marlow) recalls a scene that functions as a kind of allegory:

Once, I remember, we came upon a man-of-war anchored off the coast. There wasn’t even a shed there, and she was shelling the bush. It appears the French had one of their wars going on thereabouts. Her ensign dropped limp like a rag; the muzzles of the long six-inch guns stuck out all over the low hull; the greasy, slimy swell swung her up lazily and let her down, swaying her thin masts. In the empty immensity of earth, sky, and water, there she was, incomprehensible, firing into a continent.

Blindly firing into a continent.

For Conrad, this was a metaphor for western meddling in tribal cultures.  It was a wasteful farce; a mix of ignorance and arrogance.  And it resulted in unnecessary death.

But what does this have to do with John Allen Chau?

MUST MISSIONS BE COLONIAL?

For many, Chau’s decision to evangelize an unreached tribe on North Sentinel Island bears a resemblance to Conrad’s vessel. In Chau’s defense, his aim was not to pillage, colonize, or do violence.  His goal was to minister or die trying.

captionpic

Yet he did so with a frightful ignorance of the harm that he could bring—and not merely to himself.  Even the slightest exposure to the germs Chau carried on his person or his gifts could wipe out the people that he sought to save.  Yet “there [he] was, incomprehensible,” firing himself into an island.

JUST FATAL, FUTILE THEATER?

While many have been critical of Chau (and rightly so at points), it is the incomprehensibility of his act that interests me.  That same word appeared in Conrad’s quote (above).

And in some ways, Chau’s thinking is as incomprehensible to the secular mind as is that of the islanders that killed him.

But it wasn’t always.

As Thomas S. Kidd notes, there is a striking difference in how journalists covered the death of Jim Elliot, the Christian missionary who was speared to death when he and others attempted to evangelize an unreached tribe of Ecuador in 1956.  At that time, Life Magazine offered almost fawning coverage of Elliot’s noble attempt to “civilize” the “Stone Age savages.”  (Yes, they used those words.)

Jim Elliot
Jim Elliot, missionary.

What changed?

Are Chau and Elliot so different?

In some ways they were.  It seems that Chau was more of a rogue actor.  He was more naïve; more careless with the health of those he sought to help.  And undoubtedly, there are differences between the Ecuadorian Huaorani and the tribe that Chau sought out.

Still, note how a recent column in The Wall Street Journal spoke of Chau’s death, and then contrast that with Life Magazine, 1956:

there will be those who ascribe nobility to Chau, and courage. . . But go easy on the romance of Chau and his messy, martyred end.

He broke Indian law by entering the country on a tourist visa while pursuing an evangelical mission. Chau’s application would have been refused if it so much as mentioned the words “North Sentinel Island.” . . . What we had in the end, was one man’s futile—and fatal—theater.

An adventure tourist.  A theatrical fame-seeker who broke the law.  Don’t cry for him.

But is that fair?

THREE TAKEAWAYS

Enough context. Now for my own imperfect takeaways from this odd mashup of

  • Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1899)
  • Life Magazine (1956)
  • The Wall Street Journal (2018)

First, it seems quite clear to me that not all missionary efforts are praiseworthy.  Despite good intentions, Chau was terribly naïve about the dangers that he brought to North Sentinel.  When a couple of the islanders were kidnapped by a 19th c. British naval officer (Not Conrad), they died almost immediately for lack of an immune resistance.  This matters; and especially given that far more indigenous people (in North America) were killed by germs from white conquerors, settlers, and missionaries than by anything else.

Would you go evangelize your neighbors and their children if you knew you carried the equivalent of Ebola?

If the apostle Paul was right that “Love does no harm to a neighbor” (Rom 13:10), then Chau was either terribly ignorant or terribly cavalier about the result of “firing” himself like a human bomb into a very vulnerable culture.

Second, thank God that many westerners are now more sensitive in the way they think of what Life Magazine called uncivilized “savages.”  Not even Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is immune from these stereotypes (see Achebe’s famous, if overdone critique).

But neither Elliot nor Chau would have thought of indigenous communities in this way.  Whatever other flaws they might have had, Chau and Elliot would have thought of such tribespersons as fellow image-bearers who deserve the gospel as much as anyone else.  That’s not colonialism; it’s Christianity — even if Chau was wrong to go about it as he did.

Third, a final lesson from this whole sad tale is just how inscrutable it is for modern folks (e.g., the fairly conservative Wall Street Journal) to understand the historic Christian idea that neither “law” nor threat of “death” should stop one from sharing Jesus.  Yes, this can be done badly (as it likely was in Chau’s case).  But it can also be done with great care and bravery.

MY NEXT DOOR NEIGHBOR

Allow a final example: Right next-door to my office sits a PhD in Linguistics and Cultural Anthropology: “Dr. Mike.”  He is a legend around campus for his open door, open ears, and oft-imitated-but-never-duplicated laugh. Students love him.

He also lived in the jungles of New Guinea for ten years as a missionary with a VERY isolated tribal culture.  He learned their language, customs, and their names.  He was sensitive to many things that white missionaries often take for granted, and he teaches this to students.

It was quite possible, of course, that Mike too could have been killed as were Chau and Elliot in a tribal region prone to violence.

Why then did he go? And why especially with a wife and two small children born during his decade in the jungles?

Was it all “futile, [nearly] fatal theater”?

I don’t think so.

But I don’t doubt that it seems incomprehensible – to all except the tribal people that he came to know and love.

 


UPDATE: The always-thoughtful Ed Stetzer has a piece out now at The Washington Post that debunks some of the early news reports on Chau (see here for that). While Chau may well have posed grave dangers to the tribe he sought to reach, it also appears that initial news reports were not working (or caring) with all the facts.


 

Check out my new book (Long Story Short: the Bible in Six Simple Movements), now available at Seedbed.com.

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Why I wrote Long Story Short

Why I wrote Long Story Short

Thanks to Seedbed.com for posting this piece about my new book: Long Story Short: the Bible in Six Simple Movements.

You can read it here.

While the book has been available for a couple months now, this week marks the official launch of the project, along with all the video content we shot to help church small groups use the material in practical ways.

I’ve been blown away by the response so far and can’t wait to share new resources as they come out.

If your church is interested in the book and would like to have me come speak or preach on the content, you can reach me at Joshua.mark.mcnall@gmail.com

I’ve got several dates on the calendar already, but would love to add more.

Lastly, if you’ve read the book, please consider leaving a review on either Amazon or Seedbed.com. They really help with the digital voodoo (read: algorithms) that determine who sees the book online.


Order here: (Long Story Short: the Bible in Six Simple Movements).

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Prophet or punk? (pt. 1)

Prophet or punk? (pt. 1)

Separating boldness from shrillness in the age of outrage.

Thanks to The Wesleyan Church for asking me to be part of their new “Voices” blog.

Here is the first installment in a multi-part series I’ll be doing on how to differentiate “prophetic boldness” from “dogmatic shrillness” in the age of outrage.

Read here.

Part two to come!


Check out my new book (Long Story Short: the Bible in Six Simple Movements), now available at Seedbed.com.

Signup here to receive bonus content through my email Newsletter (“Serpents and Doves”).

I will not clog your inbox, and I will not share your email address.