Thursday, May 28

The Passing of a World Changer

Dr. Ralph Winter passed away a few days ago at the age of 84. Most people, even most who are deeply committed to Christ and his work in our world, won't recognize his name - even though Time named him as one of the 25 most influential Christians in the US just five years ago.

Dr. Winter spent his life as a missionary, a missions professor, and a "mission engineer." His wisdom and insights literally changed the way much of Christendom engaged in the work of cross-cultural ministry. In 1974, he introduced the concept of "unreached people groups" that changed the way people looked at the world. Throughout his ministry, he encouraged collaboration and cooperation among Christian groups to accomplish greater things for the glory of God. This is best seen in the US Center for World Mission, the organization that he established in Pasadena, CA as a hub of mission activity, research, strategy, and sending. Dr. Winter also developed Perspectives on the World Christian Movement - a college-level course on missions that has been taught to thousands of Christians in hundreds of locations across the US.

As with many Christian leaders today, I have been influenced by Dr. Winter's vision and insight and efforts. I have taken the Perspectives course and was stretched and encouraged by it. But I also had a couple of occasions to meet Dr. Winter and spend some time with him - listening to him teach, asking him questions, sitting at his feet. In both instances, his insights into Scripture and into our world changed the way I looked at our God, our mission, and my life and ministry.

Though we will mourn Ralph Winter's passing, the Kingdom of God is larger and more diverse because of his ministry and vision. In my mind, he was one of a handful of the most influential and important Christian leaders of the last fifty years.

You can read Dr. Winter's obituary here and John Piper's tribute to him (with a four minute video of Dr. Winter) here.

Monday, May 4

Communicating with Restraint

"A man of knowledge uses words with restraint ..."
Proverbs 17:27

Those of us who are called to ministry are in the "communication business" in one form or another. I speak in front of large and small groups a few times every week, plus spend a few hours talking with folks one-on-one. And being in the "communication business", I find myself observing communicators. What makes them effective? What are the obstacles to effective communication?

Though I could write a long time on this, I just wanted to mention some things that I have noticed in others (and in me):

1. It is easy for those who speak to groups on a regular basis to think that they always have to say something, ignoring James' admonition to be "quick to hear, slow to speak."

2. The more comfortable one becomes in speaking to groups, the easier it is to talk more. A beginning preacher may struggle to put together a 15 minute talk. But before long, he will be struggling to keep a talk under 40 minutes.

3. Often a longer talk masks imprecision of thought. We exchange precision of thought and clarity of speech for more words. Saying more doesn't always mean that someone knows more. It just may mean that they don't know what they want to say or what they are talking about!

In light of those things, here are a couple of websites that I've come to enjoy because their purpose is to encourage clarity of expression in a minimum of words. Both are exercises in clarity of thought and expression. The first is One Sentence. (I learned about this site from a tweet posted by @mrskutcher.) The other is Six Sentences.

Another form of creative communication is poetry. I have never been disciplined enough to be a poet and I marvel at those who are gifted and committed to the art form. Here is a poem recently posted by a campus ministry friend of mine - Jim Schmotzer of Bellingham, WA. We also share a common love for baseball.