Tuesday, June 23, 2015

We're not in Kentucky anymore

Travel Day Two.  Dubai.  After spending 3 weeks researching and writing about Wesleyan history theology at Asbury Theological Seminary, we took off for another three weeks on the road--in Uganda.  First stop: Dubai.  After tearing across the world's most opulent airport, I found myself thinking: "We're not in Kentucky anymore." 

Kampala.  After a 14 hour flight from D.C., we arrived this morning in Dubai in transit to Kampala.  After only one hour to change planes, we were on our way  off to Entebbe airport in Uganda.  Pastor Baamu Moses, Director of Shalom Uganda, Dr. Caroline Njuki, representing the United Methodist Church,  and Grace (our driver) met us at the airport and welcomed two tired pilgrims to Uganda. 

An hour or so later, we checked into an Anglican Church spored Guest House to stay the night.  
Tomorrow we will pick up Dennis and make our way to Jinja to meet the rest of the team, visit some of the flood victims we helped from afar, meet the new tailors in the vocational training program we started, and tour the Shalom Coffee Collective supplying organic, fair trade, coffee to Thanksgiving Coffee Co. in Northern California.

WorldHope Corps and its partners (Communities of Shalom, Healing Waters International, and Thanksgiving Coffee Company) have committed over $50,000 this year to fulfill six major projects in Uganda:
  1. ·      Relief for Flood Victims in Jinja
  2. ·      Motivation and Empowerment Conference for several hundred youth in Sesse/Jinja
  3. ·      Support and Empowerment Conference for 100+ women in Sesee/Jinja
  4. ·      Shalom Graduation and Commissioning ceremony for 140 coffee farmers in Mbale
  5. ·      Shalom Graduation and Commissioning ceremony for 130 coffee farmers in Hoima
  6. ·      Sustainable Action/WHC Water Purification Project in Kitikara Trading Centre for the benefit of 3,000 people



While most of these projects have sufficient sponsors, we are still seeking financial support for Projects 2 and 6.  If you can help in time of need, please email me at worldhopecorps@gmail.com and consider donating to the Uganda Mission online:  http://www.worldhopecorps.org     


Uganda Mission Begins

Travel Day One.  Washington/Dulles International to Dubai Airport.   Rebecca and I leave today to join and lead a team of ten "shalomers" (five Ugandans, four Americans, and one Malawian) on a 21-day mission in Uganda to raise hope and deepen community development projects in Jinja, Mbale and Hoima areas.

Every year since 2005 I’ve organized and led a service trip and mission to Malawi or Uganda, either for CitiHope International or WorldHope Corps.  This year’s international Mission is focused on Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) as taught by Communities of Shalom, based at Drew University, as well as on several WorldHope Corps sponsored projects.  

Our team will conduct the seventh and final session of ShalomTraining for 300 organized coffee farmers ready to step up from subsistence to sustainable livelihoods, and lead and participate in two support and empowerment conferences: one for youth at-risk for HIV/AIDS; and the other for women desiring greater economic independence and education.  We’ll also implement a water purification and community health project in a community lacking clean, safe, potable, drinking water.

I’ll try to post a picture or two each day and provide an update on FB.  I also invite your continued prayers and support for our mission at hand.  Here’s the link to my Worldhope Corps travel blog:

Feel free to pass it along to those who may be interested in our ongoing work in Uganda.


Thursday, April 30, 2015

A Plea to Help Flood Victims, from Pastor Moses of Uganda


Hello friends and Shalomers: 

Two nights ago we had heavy rains which turned to floods for six hours.  The disaster caused many people to lose their houses and gardens and their lives. Two of the people who died are a 67 year old woman and her grand daughter of 12 years.   When the water entered her home, it brought down the house and swept everything out. Their bodies were found in Lake Victoria at the source of the Nile.

In the spirit of shalom we are raising funds to help the affected families. We call upon Shalomers wherever you are to join us in this situation.Though these people were affected directly, we all are affected
 indirectly.

Pastor Baamu Moses
Director of Shalom Uganda ,Africa .

P.S.  Emergency funds for flood victims may be channeled through http://WorldHopeCorp.org  


Dear Baamu Moses,

We at Thanksgiving Coffee pray for the safety and health of those who are left to make the situation better.
I have informed Willington at Gumutindo Cooperative and Henry at the Coffee Board of Uganda of the troubles in your neighborhood.

We need a description of the situation as it is now after all the damage has been assessed. Our prayers go out to those who grieve their losses.

Paul Katzeff, Founder

Dear Baamu,  my seminary, Pacific School of Religion, will be taking a love offering in Chapel in early May for your community that has suffered from flooding. I will send whatever funds are collected through Michael and WorldHope Corp. I pray you are surrounded with support through this difficult time. 

Shalom,
Michele Robbins

Yes, Pastor Moses, I have also seen the photos. I am so sorry to hear about this situation. I will join in with Dr. Christensen's love offering.  May our great and mighty God comfort and console you and your community at this very difficult time. 

Shalom,

Gaius Charles 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Uganda Mission Trip 2015

WorldHope Corps Mission Team and Friends 2014
Dear Friends of WorldHope Corps:

I  invite you to join us this year on a mission with Uganda in June, or support our mission there.  

Every year since 2005, I've led a service trip to Africa.  We go to communities to which we have been invited, to share in mutual ministry and joint projects; and we find that we gain so much more than what we give.  Henri Nouwen calls this "reverse mission" (See Gracias by Henri Nouwen).

This year we're returning to Uganda on June 22.  

Our ministry partners, Pastor Baaumu Moses (leader of Shalom Coffee Collective in Jinja) and Br. Julius Kasaija (leader of SARS Shalom near Hoima) invited members of WorldHope Corps and Communities of Shalom to come and see, enjoy and celebrate, the good things God is doing in Uganda in the lives of Christians, Muslim and Jews. 

Imam follows two Shalom leaders who lead the Shalom graduates of 2014

Together, we will participate in Five Great Community Events:

Shalom Tree where ShalomZone Training takes place near Jinja
Shalom Graduation Ceremony in Jinja:  Since 2010, a total of 470 coffee farmers, teachers, tailors and community workers, have gone through Shalom Training in Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) sponsored by Communities of Shalom.  This year the next class of 200 "shalomers" expect to receive a Certificate of Completion (on how to move from subsistence level survival to sustainable economic development and shared prosperity in the community).   We also hope to participate in the shalom coffee harvest to sell to Thanksgiving Coffee Company (their direct-trade boutique coffee roasting partner in California). Pastor Baamu Moses is our dear friend, faithful partner and splendid host in Jinja at the Source of the Nile. 

"Games for the Goal" Soccer Tournament:  Four years ago, Pastor Moses and actor Gaius Charles (Friday Night Lights, Grey's Anatomy) started a youth empowerment program connecting kids love for the game of soccer with their need to get tested for HIV/AIDS. Once or twice a year, a thousand kids play in the 2-day tournament for "Baamu's Goat" and learn how to stay healthy.  In the process, they get an HIV test, meet caring doctors, counselors and spiritual leaders, make friends for life, and hear motivational speakers and role models like Gaius Charles share how to "step up to the next level" of good success and spiritual growth.  This is the fourth annual Games for the Goal event sponsored by WorldHope Corps.  We are still seeking sponsors for this year's event. 

Shalom Graduation Ceremony and Cultural Exchange in Mbale:  We will visit the Delicious Peace Coffee Cooperative in the mountains of Mbale and meet Jewish, Muslim and Christian farmers who have found a way to work together.  Shalom Zone Training with 115 participants began in Mbale in January, and if they are ready to graduate, we will witness and celebrate this multicultural event.  As time allows, we plan to drive through beautiful Mt. Elgon National Park with its rugged slopes, spectacular waterfalls, hidden caves, hot springs, mountain vegetation, and an extinct volcano on the border with Kenya.    

Shalom Training in Hoima:   Since 2007, WorldHope Corps has supported St George Hope Health Centre and SARS Shalom Zone in Western Uganda. We celebrated with over 100 community leaders who completed Shalom Training in 2014. This year, we plan to celebrate with another 100+ "shalomers" who will have completed the training by the end of June.  Fr. Paul Bigirwa and Br. Julius Kasaija  are an impressive team of Catholic brothers who know how to fight the good fight against AIDS, lack of clean water, and extreme poverty; and develop a healthy and beloved community of Shalom.  

Installation of Water Filtration System:  Our big project this year is to organize the community to install a complete water sanitation system and community water store in the remote Katikara Trading Centre.  In partnership with Healing Waters International, we plan to deliver cutting-edge technology, purification equipment, and training for the SARS Shalom team.  The goal is for SARS to sustain its community health projects by running a community-based Water Store to provide clean, safe water at an affordable price for 3,000+ villagers.  The scope and scale of this project in Uganda goes beyond the 60+ individual village wells we've drilled in Malawi since 2006, and we need to raise another $15,000 to complete this project.   

I hope you will consider joining us on this mission of hope, and/or support our collaborative work with a generous donation.    WorldHope Corps 

We leave on June 22 for one, two or three weeks depending on individual schedules.   

For more information, please contact me at WorldHopeCorps@gmail.com 

Prayerfully count the cost and consider joining us.

It will change your life and make a difference in the world!


Here's a link to make a donation online:  WorldHope Corps

or send a gift to the address below.





Again, thank you for being a friend and supporter of this mission!


Michael J. Christensen, Ph.D.
Founder and CEO
PO Box 7688
San Diego, CA 92167

Monday, March 02, 2015

Shalom Church--Time Has Come

What's happening to Church?


I’m certain that God is in the future, but wonder if the church has a future.”--Leonard Sweet

"The future of the Church is Shalom for All--the people of God, seeking the shalom of the community to where they have been sent into exile (Jeremiah 29:7)."--Michael J. Christensen




Three Questions:

  • What do we mean by ‘church’?   
  • What is the future of the Church in North America in light of declining church attendance, increasing secularism, growth of the NONES (no religious affiliation), rise of the DONES (I’m done with church), and closing of churches?
  • How can we “do church” differently to help us love God and our neighbor (and even our enemy) as we love ourselves?
Disequilibrium

Decline in Attendance[i]

  • What researchers forecast for decades now is undeniably true: traditional church attendance continues to decline (Gallup, Pew, Barna)
  • Although more than 40 percent of people “say” they go to church every week, statistics show that fewer than 20 percent actually attend regularly. 
  • In other words, more than 80 percent of Americans are finding more fulfilling things to do on Sundays.
Growth of the Nones[ii]

  • People claiming no religious affiliation rose from 15% in 2007 to 20% in 2012, pointing to the growth of the “Nones” (None of the Above)—who may believe in God, may be spiritual, but not religious (Pew Research 2012). 
  • Nearly two-fifths of the nation’s adult population (38%) now qualifies as post-Christian (as measured by 15 different variables related to people’s identity, beliefs and behaviors) (Barna).[iii]
  • If current trends continue, Christians will become minority in a post-Christian secular culture.
Rise of the “Dones”[iv]

Newly reported Rise of the “Dones” (Done with Church). [Who often are key lay leaders in local churches and national Christian leaders (who are not pastoring churches).  E.g. Barbara Brown Taylor, Episcopal priest, wrote about Why I left Church.  Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz, confessed on his blog:  “I don’t go to church very often…and most of the influential Christian leaders I know (who are not pastors) do not attend church…I also believe the church is all around us, not to be confined by a specific tribe.”

Christians leaving traditional churches say they’re still spiritual, but church no longer meets their needs. They become unaffiliated believers who may sometimes go to church, but they’re done with church commitments, congregational conflict, and cultural Christianity.[v]
If less than 20 percent actually attend church regularly, where do they go to church?

About 70% attend traditional churches and 30% participate in alternative forms of church today, according to Graham Cooke, author of Permission Granted to Do Church Differently in the 21st Century.  But these percentages will reverse themselves within the next 10-15 years.

“Followers of Jesus in the US who do not attend a local traditional church will grow from 30% to approximately 70%,” says Cooke. One third will still attend traditional churches, one third will meet to worship God in alternative structures (homes, schools, restaurants, pubs, parks, theaters, hotels and shopping malls. “And one third will live out their faith in the fields of media, arts, and culture.”

In other words, increasing numbers of those who follow Jesus are not following him into a classic church building.  And the remaining remnant can’t afford a pastor or sustain an annual church budget.

Close of Classic Churches

So what will happen to classic church buildings in the next 20 years?

Classic church buildings will close their doors. 


  • Hartford Institute estimates there are approximately 350,000 religious congregations in the United States.
  • Only 2,000 or so show signs of steady growth (mostly mega churches)
  • As many as 200,000 will close in the next 20 years, currently at a rate of 4,000-7,000 per year (c.f. approximately 1,000 new church plants annually)
Some classic churches, of course, will remain open, survive and thrive, thank God!

Others will become legacy churches as long as their endowments last.

Sadly, most will close and the property sold to the highest bidder; they will be torn down or converted to condos, community centers, museums, restaurants and even night clubs.

 
Examples: 
  • Former Roman Catholic Church in Newark is now a Jazz club and restaurant called The Sanctuary.
  • Washington Square United Methodist Church in NYC is now luxury condos
  • Berkeley Church of Nazarene is now a Buddhist Monastery

The Good News

Change is blowing in the wind, creating new opportunities for church redevelopment and fresh expressions of ecclesia. It’s time to ‘do church differently.’

We can watch with cynicism, resist the changing tide…
OR, we can do church differently in the Third Millennium of Christianity. 

Once unsustainable churches close,
new ecclesial life can emerge.

Falling church attendance does not mean a decline in the practice of Christian faith. Rather, the Church is morphing as believers look for alternative ways to worship God and love their neighbor as oneself.

Congregational life is migrating to small groups for intentional community, simple worship and vital mission in the world.

The structures of the local church and perceived boundaries of the traditional parish are shifting and transforming into a more fluid organism and inclusive community of faith.

Church is manifesting in communities, organically, and missionally.

Emerging Alternative Church Structures

Jesus said: “you cannot pour new wine into old wineskins…” (Luke 5:37-38), but you can create new wineskins for new wine. A new old story of “God so loved the world…” has been emerging and the people of God are learning how to tell the old story in new ways.

Essential Elements of Ecclesia

Ecclesia=called out ones.  Out of the world and into community, to worship God and to participate in God’s mission in the world.

  • Acts 2:42-47  ecclesia (gathered), koinonia (fellowship), didache (teaching), eucharist (thanksgiving), diaconia (service)--expressed in mutual dependency, generosity, sharing and numerical growth
  • “Wherever two or more are gathered in my name, there I am, right there, among them.” (Matthew 18:20)
  • “Do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together…” (Hebrews 10:25)
  • Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” (James 5:16)
  • “Bear one another’s burdens….” (Galatians 6:2) 
What are some fresh expressions of ecclesia?

       Church Online                                                                                    Missional Church                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Emergent/Emerging
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Organic Church  
                                                                                                        
                
Border Church at the California/Mexico Border, San Diego
       House Church                                                                                        Shalom Church



Permission Granted to Do Church Differently
  
  • Re-think Church. 
  • Re-imagine Faith.  
  • Envision ecclesia as community centers
  • Adapt Shalom strategies of Asset Based Community to re-purposing church buildings for the common good 

Conclusion

Eccesia is essential; structures change.

The Church has a future…if we re-purpose church buildings and re-form eccesia 
  • Time for church as the people of God to leave the temple and be the tabernacle in the world.
  • Time to get out of the church building and into the community.
  • Time to start Shalom Churches.
“Be the Church you want to see in the world.” 

mjc




[i] Hartford Institute of Religion Research (2012). Hartford Institute estimates there are roughly 350,000 religious congregations in the United States, mostly Protestant.  Average attendance: 186 (factoring in mega church attendance)
[iii] Barna Group conducted a major study on the U.S. unchurched population in 2014.
[v] Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore by Thom Schultz and Joani Schutz
[vi]Permission Granted to Do Church Differently in the 21st Century by Graham Cooke and Gary Goodell (2010)
[vii] http://hirr.hartsem.edu/research/fastfacts/fast_facts.html  This estimate relies on the RCMS 2010 religious congregation’s census. Of those, about 314,000 are Protestant and other Christian churches, and 24,000 are Catholic and Orthodox churches.  Non-Christian religious congregations are estimated at about 12,000.
[viii] Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore by Thom Schultz and Joani Schutz
[ix] Mega Churches will continue to increase, absorb smaller churches, start or take over seminaries and replace denominational structures. http://thomrainer.com/2014/01/04/fourteen-predictions-for-american-churches-for-2014-part-two/