Saturday, January 19, 2008
Well-articulated and inspiring vision from our friend Ron Choong, at Academy of Christian Thought: As we begin the New Year, allow me to take a moment to reintroduce you to the ministry and goals of the Academy for Christian Thought (ACT). We take seriously Jesus' call to make disciples of all nations. To this end, we cultivate a "discipleship of the mind," to equip Christians to speak more confidently and knowledgeably about what we claim to be the most important factor of our existence, i.e., our relationship with God.
Our ministries provide theological safe spaces in which probing questions that may be uncomfortable to raise in polite company are welcomed. We ask that everyone be generous of each other's prejudices, knowledge level and excesses as together we work out the kinks in our beliefs. Our ministries allow Christians to challenge what they think they believe, and non-Christians to eavesdrop on believers dealing honestly with their understanding of God.
This radical concept is a departure from the traditional church dichotomy of insiders vs. outsiders, hearkening back to Jesus' own actions as he openly engaged both Jews and Gentiles. Since every believer was once an unbeliever, it behooves us to empathize with the concerns of our friends, especially those from other faiths. Evangelism asks them to abandon much of what they know from their respective communities. At the very least, we as Christians should try to understand their worldview, which is the impetus for the "What Every Christian Should Know About..." series of lectures covering Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism and Islam.
ACT seeks the renewal of minds with humility and intellectual integrity. Our ministry model of discipleship centers on three components--to learn, renew and share. Unless we commit to learn, we can not renew and transform our prejudiced minds. The renewed mind desires to share what it has learned, and seeks to apply it in real world situations. These three components represent what it means for us to know God and, by making disciples of all nations, to make God known to others.
Learn: ACT lectures and seminars are public ministries designed to introduce Christian thought and engage the disciplines of science, history, art, philosophy and ethics, the fields that SHAPE the way we think and act.
Renew: Project Timothy is an in-depth Bible study that erases the artificial boundary between scholarly inquiry and devotional reading. PT teaches the art and science of exegesis and hermeneutics. These help us to refrain from spouting unhelpful abstractions, which we sometimes use to mask our ignorance.
In a world where the growth of believers has outpaced the training of ministers, we seek to empower the congregation by narrowing the knowledge gap between pulpit and pew. Pastors anguish over the lack of successors in the midst of unprecedented church attendance globally. PT seeks to equip emerging leaders and provide a fresh pool of resources to draw from. At a modest level, it is a seminary without walls.
Share: Evangelism and missions have become synonymous in the global village, where sharing the gospel with locals and foreigners has taken on new meaning.
The traditional evangelism / mission dichotomy has been upended in the new global secular culture, where the Intel manager in Bombay has more in common with the Apple engineer in Cupertino than with his fellow Indians who farm in Kerala. Cultural, linguistic, national, racial and religious identification no longer matter: Anyone for whom Christ is not Lord and savior is part of the global secular culture. The apostle Paul calls us to contend for the faith, to make a case for it in a global culture of unbelief.
Rev. Ron Choong
Director, Academy for Christian Thought