Do Women Have An Elevated Standing Within The Christian Community?

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By James Choung

A few weekends ago, I spoke at a conference titled “Renewing Gender Relations.” It was an honor to be speaking alongside other plenary speakers such as Dr. Mimi Haddad, the president of Christians for Biblical Equality, and Rev. Dr. Grace May, president of Women of Wonder.

I spoke on the synergy of men and women in partnership, and was led to offer a history lesson.

My main question came from the subtitle of Rodney Stark’s The Rise of Christianity: how does the obscure, marginal Jesus movement become the dominant religious force in the Western world?

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A Stupid Prayer

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By James Choung

I prayed a stupid prayer a year ago.

As I was looking for a new role in campus ministry, I asked for something that would require me to exercise my faith muscles. And when we were starting our church, I asked God to build something that wouldn’t be credited to the talents of the people in the room. I wanted God to do something that could only be explained by his presence with us, that would be impossible to do without God.

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Mother’s Day Revisited (A Prophetic Look Back)

Anna M. Jarvis

Anna M. Jarvis

By James Choung

Mother’s Day often reminds me of sentimentalities like carnations, brunches, and heart-shaped chocolate. But did you know that the day is rooted in faith and justice?

This American holiday is a relatively new one. By 1861, Julia Ward Howe was already famous for her Civil War song, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” But during the twelve years after writing that song, she witnessed the horrible carnage of that war. And it got to her. She was already an activist who fought for a woman’s right to vote. So she took one more step: she called for a day that would honor peace and motherhood in her Mother’s Day Proclamation of 1870. Here’s an excerpt:

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The Power of Stories

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By James Choung

 

I just came back from Q Los Angeles, and my brain is full of ideas and thoughts and dreams — it’ll take a month to unpack it all. But I know already what I want to do first.

 

I want to learn how to tell a better story.

 

I know the idea of stories has been around the block a few times, even in evangelical neighborhoods. But still, stories have tremendous power. The best stories tell us what the world is like, and point to how the world could be. At Q, Bobette Buster, a creative consultant to some of the biggest names in Hollywood, said that if you tell your story, then it can lead to courage and healing. But if you bottle it up, then they’re liking ticking time bombs, ready to explode in destructive ways in the world around us. We need stories to make sense of our world, and to help us picture a better one. No wonder storytelling, especially in movies, is a multi-billion dollar industry.

God’s leading or our work?

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By James Choung

From Numbers 10.29-32, Moses is having an interesting conversation with his brother-in-law, Hobab. In the previous chapter, it was clear that God was leading the camp. When His cloud lifted, they would march. When it settled, they would stay. And they would follow the cloud.

What’s clear is that God is guiding them, right?

But when Hobab declares his intent to leave the Israelite community to head back to his family in Midian, Moses begs him to stay. His reason? “You know all the best places to camp in the wilderness. We need your eyes.”

Wasn’t God leading them?

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How Do You Know If God Is Speaking?

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I love our church. We’re small, and we meet in our home. And we’ll often just sit and listen to hear what God might be saying to us. Some will share visions. Others, dreams. Still others will share Bible verses that are apt for the moment. Through it all, it becomes clear that one word from God is worth a thousand sermons.

Isn’t that what prophets do? Figure out what God is saying for the moment? I haven’t seen anything else motivate a community more than a word that everyone knows is from God.

So how do you know if God is speaking?

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“Real Life” released!

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My new book, Real Life: A Christianity Worth Living Out, has just been published by InterVarsity Press!

As for practical takeaways from Real Life, it offers generational insights — particularly the differences between Generation Xers, Boomers and Millennials — and how it shapes our disciple-making. It also offers a disciple-making model that attempts to incorporate many values into one helpful flow.

“Real Life turns disciplemaking on its head, fusing together elements that have normally been separate — evangelism, spiritual formation, community and mission — into one great model that could easily be applied and multiplied. To make disciples today, this book is a valuable resource to get us started,” – Alan Hirsch

Others have given similar, positive remarks as well.

True Story

It’s been four and a half years since True Story: A Christianity Worth Believing In was released, and I’ve been humbled by the immense response to four hand-drawn circles. A huge thanks to everyone who helped to get that book out.

Here is a look at the four circle diagram if you haven’t seen it.

I know that I might risk sounding a bit brazen, but I hope that you hear only my excitement about what God is doing through the book so far. We, in San Diego InterVarsity, created the material to reach Southern California college students, and I’ve been surprised by its international appeal. It’s been used to introduce people to Jesus and His message on every inhabited continent. (I don’t know, nor think it probably, that anyone has taken it to Antarctica.) And so far, it has been translated into Korean, Mongolian, Polish, Thai, Mandarin, German and Spanish.

It’s also spread to the evangelism curricula for denominations and national campus ministries, and has been reported on by Christian media outlets such as Christianity Today, Leadership Journal and JCTV. It’s been shared with seminary students in New England, lakeside villagers in Malawi, college students in Texas, house churches in China, youth in Australia, megachurches in Orange County, inmates in Fresno, slum dwellers in Thailand, and gang-bangers in Boston — one even tattooed the fourth circle on his bicep! One chaplain of a county jail thought it would help reduce the recidivism rate, giving inmates not only a vision of what they’re forgiven from, but what they’re forgiven for.

I’m thankful to God. It’s been His doing.

Now, four and a half years later, Real Life is finally out. From this vantage point, I see that both books are about disciple-making: if True Story communicated a vision of faith for people who don’t yet follow Jesus, then Real Life does the same with those who have already started. Real Life seeks to help people become like Jesus, as I learned from folks at 3DM,

“to do the things he did for the reasons he did them.”

True Story and Real Life actually share a common lineage: they are popularized versions of first and second halves of my dissertation on postmodern leadership development. True Story gave the theological ground for Real Life’s disciple-making model. So Real Life is a true follow-up, and I’m glad it’s finally in print!

It’s available for pre-order at Amazon — both in paperback and Kindle formats — but you can get it shipped to you immediately from InterVarsity Press if you can’t wait. And if you liked it, please consider offering a short review at Amazon. It might not seem like much, but every review was is enormously helpful in persuading others to see what this book is all about.

I hope that you enjoy reading Real Life, and that it gives you the tools necessary to help empower others to do what Jesus did for the reasons he did them.

When Preaching Fails

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I’ve been thinking again about John Wesley lately.

That might normally be weird. But I find myself going back to this European believer from the 18th century. For one, he was a premier evangelist, and would take his message to the mines to make sure the miners, who wouldn’t normally step into a church, would hear about the message of Jesus. In a time when it was often considered wrong to preach outside of a church building, it was a courageous step.

At the same time, and perhaps more importantly, he thought preaching alone wasn’t enough. Here’s a quote that I took from James Bryan Smith’s The Good and Beautiful God:

In one stark entry in Wesley’s journal, he commented on a time when he failed to establish societies and classes in a region where he had preached. He returned twenty years after a great revival in a region called Pembrokeshire and was grieved to see that no evidence of their evangelistic success remained. He concluded:

“I was more convinced than ever that the preaching like an apostle, without joining together those that are awakened and training them up in the ways of God, is only begetting children for the murderer. How much preaching has there been for these twenty years all over Pembrokeshire! But no regular societies, no discipline, no order or connection. And the consequence is that nine in ten of those once awakened are now faster asleep than ever.”

It’s clearly a cautionary tale. But it’s also amazing that he learned from it, and became unwilling to preach unless structures were put in place to help the new believers continue to mature. It wasn’t either/or for him:

he called people to make decisions for faith, and still wanted to create the structures that would encourage relationships and a growing faith within the community.

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Coming to terms … James Choung’s story

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[This is a series designed to bring you into the the unique A.P.E stories of each writer on this blog. We hope each one of you can find a little of your A.P.E story inside of one of us. Read the other stories]

I’m supposed to tell a coming-of-age story. Not about becoming a man, though. (There’s actually not too much to tell there, anyway.) Or even about becoming an apprentice of Jesus. (I do have a little more to tell on that one.) But instead, I’m supposed to write about when I knew I was an Apostle, Prophet or Evangelist.

It’s not an easy assignment.

First of all, any story I might write will sound self-congratulatory. Imagine me in an ornate robe, curved pipe in hand, slinking back into a velvet armchair, and I start to speak in a slow, cultivated accent: “In a time when boys sought to be men, and men dared to dream, I looked down at my already gnarled hands, pondering the futility of life. That is, until a voice from heaven cracked through my thoughts like a thunderclap: ‘James, from this day forward, you shall be called … Apostle!’” It assails against my Korean upbringing to crown myself like that. Even Lebron received much derision for tattooing “Chosen1” on his back, even though, whether you like him or not, he can play ball. How much less have I accomplished?

Plus, these titles represent a new language to me. I’m still not comfortable with any of them. Perhaps my Gen X sensibilities doesn’t want to get labeled. Or sometimes people who carry labels like these are, well, freaky. I imagine people in white suits, cock-strutting on stage, wiping the sweat off their brow with a handkerchief, screaming into their microphones. Or I envision people who wear sandwich boards picturing silhouettes of bodies falling into flames, proclaiming that the end is near. If these titles don’t feel antiquated, they seem to be, at least, on the fringe of religious excess.

So why am I writing for this blog, again?

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