Saturday, February 23, 2013

Missional Musings - Purpose or Person Driven?

"Don't reduce the work of Justice to projects. The work of Justice is about people." The quote is from Eugene Cho and posted by my friend Karl Mueller to Facebook this morning. It got me to musing and reflecting on this past the Leadership Network,  hearing from Brian Fikkert the author of  "When Helping Hurts," as well as some recent conservations, from what I am currently. reading, and how it gets expressed in the work we're doing. I do get the strong sense that the Lord is working on my own heart to refocus from project, I'm highly task oriented, to people. I'm thinking that repenting of my purpose-driven orientation is probably necessary as a result, and I'm thinking I'm probably not alone, Rick Warren's best selling book not withstanding.

With reference to Cho's quote, it seems to me that we can swap the word "Justice" for any number of other things we do as Christians. Insert your fave ministry focus in the blank: "Don't reduce the work of _____ to projects. The work of ______is about people" and see if it works. Some other words we might insert are: Evangelism, Apologetics, Community Transformation,  Church Planting, and even Prayer. What could you add to this list? Our western shaped response to need (be it physical or spiritual) is frequently projected-centered instead of people-centered. We want to fix what's wrong without considering the needs of people. This stems from a materialistic worldview entrenched in our thinking, according to Fikkert.

Projects serve our purpose especially in our accomplishment focused culture.Projects serve a purpose but often we can become focused on the purpose instead of the person.  When we are more "purpose-driven" than person-focused we can lose sight of people, and therefore God's redeeming mission of love is reduced and diminished. People should be our focus for they were Christ's for coming. We intuitively know this is true but our church and ministry models, as Fikkert points out, too often miss the person as we get consumed by the project, as good and noble as they may be.

Twice this week I had lunch with ministry leaders and our discussion came around to the need to refocus on people first. On Monday, I lunched with an Iranian-American friend who ministers to refugees, having been a refugee herself. She took umbrage with something that was shared at a recent meeting I led where one of our guests speakers talked about God's mission and focused on Revelations 7:9. She was offended that the speaker was so task oriented instead of people oriented, purpose driven instead of person-driven. It was a wake up call to me since I too have often spoken about the Great Commission as a task to be completed, as vital as that is, instead of people to be reached with God's reconciling love. "How can we guard against making people objects of our projects?"is a question I think needs much discussion.

The second lunch was with a senior pastor of a large successful church. In the missional world I move in we casually use terms like UPG (Unreached People Groups) and UUPG (Unengaged and Unreached People Group) as the focus of our efforts. We talk a lot about completing the "assignment" that Jesus gave us to do (Matthew 24:14, Matthew 28:19-20, Acts 1:8). We talk about "Finishing the Task." All are necessary, at least we think they are, and have shaped missiology since William Carey. During our lunch, my pastor friend made reference to a comment made by his daughter questioning if "we," meaning those who use such terms, are really interested in people or are people just a means to an end. Do we see just the "mission of God" or are we looking beyond at the people of God's mission?

There is missional distinctive becoming clearer this week between project and people, purpose and person. I do think that while different they are two sides of the same coin. But do we notice that the coin has two sides? Consider the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) as two sides.  On the one side, Jesus says, "Go therefore" which is purpose driven and also says, "make disciples" which is by all definitions person focused. Jesus says, "teach them" which is purpose focused and adds "obey everything commanded" which is person focused. Amazingly, Jesus concludes with these relational words, "I am with you always" which should tell us that Jesus is putting people before project.

Another big question, I am coming to learn, is does our project focus hurt or help our Gospel witness in the world? How do people look at what we're doing and does what we do erect barriers to Christ's global cause? One of the valuable lessons from this week is to consider well, at least as much as we can, the law of unintended consequences. Do we realize we can do a lot of damage, have done a lot of damage to the cause of Christ in the world, as a result of unintended consequences. The good we think we do might actually cause harm. We need to rethink our priorities.

Paul says in 2 Cor 5:14 that "For Christ's love compels us" or some translations use the word "constrain us." The Greek word translated "compels" also refers to the process of a cattle squeeze, the pushing in on each side to force the cattle into a position where it cannot move so the farmer can administer medication. The picture we should get is that the farmer is concerned with the health of his cattle, as Jesus is concerned with the health, emotionally, physically and spiritually, of his people. The farmer narrows his cattle's focus to such a point so that he might help them receive what he knows is best for them. It is Christ's love that should squeeze us into living in such a way that He administers the "medication" of the Gospel of love, through us, to everyone we come in contact with. Christ's love should constrain us to put people first above our projects, through life-on-life ministry.

Paul continues in 2 Cor 5:16, "so from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view," as mere objects of our projects. Rather our assignment is to reconcile people to God for he "has committed to us the message of reconciliation" which is person-driven, lived out in relationship with people. "We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God." Can we live compelled and constrained focused on other people for "Christ's behalf?"

This week the need to do so became so much clearer. Projects have a role but often miss the emphasis of reconciliation - people. I love the statement, which my home church and others use as a mission statement - "people helping people find and follow Christ." We just need to do a better job of living it out for Living Sent Today.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Mission of Gdo's People - Chapter 4 - Part 4.2

We are in the Chapter 4 entitled "People who are a Blessing to the Nations." As I said last time, this chapter title resonates with me. I have in fact dedicated my life to this very endeavor, Lord willing. Already the Lord has provided some amazing opportunities to be a "Blessings to the nations"  as I serve to help others to see the importance of doing so as well. If  you have not downloaded your free copy of "Ethnic Embrace USA - Blessing the Nations Among Us" I invite you to do so. Through this 40 day prayer guide we develop a theology of mission, from Genesis 1:28 to Revelation 7:9, and look at God's blessing plan for the nations, as well as some of the largest "nations" living in our own nation. 

I  confess however that until I read this chapter I didn't have much depth of understanding of what the concept of "blessing" is all about. I am guessing I'm not alone in that lack of understanding of one of the most profound biblical concepts we can appropriate. While we might equate the word "blessed" with a state of happiness, uttering common Christianese such as "I'm blessed," can we say we understand the Biblical depth of this word? How can we when it's not a subject well taught or understood in our affluent society where we think we have everything and saying "we are rich" (Revelation 3:14-18).  While we live in the most "Blessed" nation in history we really do need to evaluate that against God's mission.

We might know from the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-10) that Jesus gives us the pathway into a blessed life with some pretty challenging ideas. I mean, after all, who really wants to be "poor in spirit?"  The fact however that is where our blessings begin but digging into the Beatitudes is beyond our scope here. God's blessings plan actually begins not even with humans but with the very first created life (Genesis 1:22). God ties his blessings directly to his creation purposes. It is easy to think of blessings as what God will do for me but not so much what God is doing for Himself. in fulfilling his missions and requires for the mission of God's people. If it was otherwise we would no doubt see many  more living sent today.  

Fortunately, Dr. Wright informs our thinking with some depth of understanding. Wright takes us again back to the Creation account to begin to consider this incredible reality provided by our amazingly incredible God. Incredible might not be the right word because it implies something impossible to believe but by faith we can say, "with God all things are possible." Do you remember the scene in movie the "Incredibles" where the little boy on his trike is waiting for Mr. Incredible?  Mr. Incredible steps out of his undersized car, turns to the little lad asking incredulously, "so what are you waiting for?" The boy responds, "I don't know, something amazing, I guess!" The disheartened Mr. Incredible replies glumly, "me too kid."

Isn't that kind of how most Christians go through life, waiting for something amazing to happen, and miss the amazing blessing of God. Like Mr. Incredible many aren't finding the amazing. not realizing the blessings of God are ours as we live out his mission, not our own. God's blessings aren't tied to our 5 or 10 years plan. They are a direct response to his timeless mission. And, that truly is amazing!

Wright begins to define blessing for us:
" the very beginning of our Bible, is constituted by fruitfulness, abundance, and fullness on the one hand, and by enjoying rest within creation in holy and harmonious relationship with our Creator God on the other."
"Fruitfulness, abundance, and fullness...enjoying rest? " Doesn't that sound amazing!? But there is a caveat...
"...Blessings are set within relationships that are both vertical and horizontal. That is, blessing is dependent on relationship with God, and blessing is something to be shared in relationship with other human beings."
All blessings flow from a right relationship with God to us and through us they are to flow to others - to the nations. In the last post we looked at the Abrahamic covenant in Genesis 12:1-4. There God directly ties his blessings to how his covenant people bless the nations among them. God will do his part in blessing for it is his purpose to bless the nations but we need to do ours otherwise our blessings get short-circuited.Then we go through life, filled with incredulity toward others that negates being a blessing, just like Mr. Incredible in this scene.We were made for a purpose and our blessings come as we live that purpose out.

Wright quotes Richard Bauckman here to bring some further definition to the concept of biblical blessings.
"Blessing is the way God enables his creation to be fertile and fruitful, to grow and to flourish. It is in the most comprehensive senses God's purpose for his creation. Whenever human life enjoys the good things of creation and produces the good fruit of human activity, God is pouring out his blessings. Wherever people bless God for his blessings, to the extent God is known as the good Creator who provides for human flourishing, God's blessing is universal. But it is not the case that blessing is God's goodness as distinct from his goodness in salvation, as has sometimes been proposed."
This leads us into a holistic perspective of God blessings, material and spiritual, united together in God's cosmic plan of the ages. Bauckman tells us that God blessings are two-fold - human flourishing and spiritual flourishing. Two sides of the same coin. The Lausanne Theology Working Group warns that "we must not dichotomize the material and spiritual in unbiblical dualism." (I discuss that here). That is why we must understand of the whole Gospel I have been blogging about. 

To experience the true blessings of God requires obedience to the whole Gospel that seeks to bless the nations. Wright states however that while " the means of living within the sphere of blessings and enjoying it; obedience is never the means of earning or deserving the blessings." We praise God from whom all blessings flow because God freely gives us all things (Roman 8:32) - that he knows we need. And, that truly is amazing!

Next time we'll look more at how blessings intersect with the mission of God's people, and further at the Abrahamic covenant, for living sent today.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Living Right Side Up in an Upside Down World - #1

In Acts 17:6 we read "And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also." (EVS). Jason and "some of the brothers" were proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ in an upside down world. Obviously they were living in a counter-culture fashion that was having much effect and getting noticed.

The response of the city authorities tells us that Jason and his coworkers were bucking the trend, proclaiming a message that would in all truth set the world right-side up. Only the Gospel has the power to do that. All too commonly however people resist Jesus' counter-cultural paradigm shift (John 15:18) or even outright oppose it. We shouldn't be surprised. They just don't get it (Mark 4:12) so instead approach life in ways where good is spoken of as evil and evil spoke of as good (Isaiah 5:20). We think that's a modern day issue but as this account in Acts shows us there is nothing new under the sun.But such Upside down thinking is all too prevalent today which is the point of this new section of the Living Sent Today blog.

"Living Right Side Up in Our Upside Down World" will be a new regular feature of this blog.I'm adding these blog posts to look at the news stories that scream::"we live in an upside down world!" Each post we'll feature one or two glaringly examples, among many, of a story that clearly shows us that people are living like the guy in this picture (above) but are clueless about it. This week to start I offer two fine examples.

First, there's the story of the Rubio water bottle. Perhaps you know Senator Marco Rubio gave the Republican response to the SOTU this week. It was the first time an Hispanic gave the SOTU response so the event had an historic element and should have received coverage based on that fact.  While on camera Senator Rubio, apparently nervous or just thirsty, grabbed a bottle of water and took a swig. Of course, it's not the first time a politician took s sip on camera. But the media and blogishere went nuts. Just Google "Marco Rubio water" and you get 196 million hits! CNN opined if this was the end of Rubio's political aspiration. Really? Sipping water can do that?

My response was to echo Hillary Clinton's comments when she gave testimony before Congress about Benghazi, "what difference does it make?" Does it even need to be asked, "where was the media coverage of Benghazi?" In our Upside Down world drinking water gets more attention than 4 dead Americans and an Administration that covered-up their involvement or lack thereof?  However, you got to love Rubio's response.for a Right-side Up approach to the media onslaught. Laughing at yourself quiets the critics. Well played, Senator.

But then there is this story: CNN Panelists Compare Christopher Dorner to ‘Real-Life Superhero,’ Say His Actions Were Like a ‘Denzel Washington Movie’

So some demented nutbag who kills 4 people in LA is a "real life superhero," at least if you're Prof Marc Lamont Hill? Can anyone see any rational in the good professor's thinking or is he the clear winner of this week's "Upside-Down" award? Only in an upside down world does Hill's response even begin to make sense. Perhaps Hill has some competition from the other guest on CNN, Jack Moore, who said the story "in some ways resembles a Denzel Washington movie where someone is wronged and he stands up for himself and he goes down in a blaze of glory." Huh?

I have to wonder on what basis any sane person justifies murder with thoughtless analogies like Hill and Moore foisted upon Americans this week.But then I remember we live in an Upside World. We need to be Jason's, no not the Jason of Friday the 13th, but the Biblical Jason, who sets the world Rights Side Up. We must live juxtaposed to our Upside Down world for Living Sent Today.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Mission of God's People - Chapter 4 - Part 4.1

Fits and starts. That seems to be the way my 2013 is going so far. Flu in January, hospitalized in February. My goal is to blog through the "Mission of God's People" but something keeps cropping up that sidelines me from this task. Please pray that my health remains strong so that I can focus on this blogging weekly, not weakly, in addition to all the other things the Lord has before me. I take solace from the life of Paul who dealt with far more for the sake of Christ but could say, "For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Cor 12:10). Thank you in advance for your prayers. 

We are at the start of Chapter 4 entitled "People Who are a Blessing to the Nations." This chapter title resonates with me because of my own personal ministry focus. My work with Perspectives is to mobilize Christ-followers to reach the nations wherever the Lord calls them and to equip them with the understanding of God's global plan. My work with the Mission America Coalition is to mobilize the Church nationally and here in DFW to reach to, with and beyond the nations the Lord has brought from the ""Unreached and "Unengaged" places of his world. We use the tag line "Blessings the Nations Among Us" to communicate our mission so this chapter title is one I firmly believe needs to be understood for the depth of God's mission and for living sent today. Let's make no mistake, it is God's intention that all the nations of the world come to the knowledge of his glory which is Christ Jesus our Lord. (For further reading, I unpack this story in Ethnic Embrace USA - Blessing the Nations Among Us). And, it is our assignment to bless them.

To begin, Wright asks who was the greatest missionary in the Bible? Other than Jesus Christ who left his eternal home to enter this world for the mission the Father had sent him on, the answer accordingly is the Apostle Paul.Wrights next asks three important questions to open this chapter:
How did Paul understand his own missionary life and work?

What was he trying to accomplish?

What kept Paul going through all the battering and bruising (literally) of his missionary career?

Thankful we don't need to guess at the answers but we do need to learn from them and make them our own. What motivated Paul to suffer beyond our understanding, especially given our often too comfortable lives? What kept him on the task in pursuit of the higher calling? When we understand the answer to these question it will motivate us to live on that same mission. Paul tells us  Romans 1:5 that his mission was, "to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his [Christ's] name among the nations" (ESV). Obedience to what? Not only to God but also to God's mission? Many get the first right but neglect the second because they don't understand the story we are in. Paul understood the story he was living in, the story that flows through all of Scripture, the story that takes shape in the life of Abraham. Paul's missional life was shaped by this story.

What are you living for? Everyone want to find meaning in life but the 50-60 hour work week has many worn out and frustrated. The American Dream has turned into the American Nightmare for others. Americans are looking for "hope and change" from the weariness of life. Finding purpose is more and more becoming a fleeting reality for more and more Americans. We're told to "live OUR best life now" but we need to be reminded of the meaninglessness of pursuing what this world values (Eccl 12:8,13) ). When we don't understand the story we are living in, the grand narrative we're part of, the transcendent purpose for which we are created, we will live at less then optimal, less than God's best for us. Let's hear Paul say again, "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." (1 Cor 11:1).

Wright put Paul's mission in focus with this insight: "Paul is indicating...that his lifetimes service of the gospel was all about producing communities of Abraham look a-likes in all the nations, not just in the nation physically descended from Abraham." Wright says this is "an ambition goal, for sure, but profoundly rooted in his reading of God's mission as expressed in his promise to Abraham. If we are to understand the mission of God and the mission God has us on we need to understand this promise to Abraham. It is what motivated Paul, and the mission of God throughout history. It should motivate us to follow Paul as he followed Christ.

We find the promise of God to bless the nations in Genesis 12:1-4:
"The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
This passage is one of the great mission motivating scriptures in the Bible. The depth of what God says here needs to be grasped. Often these verses are  taken to refer to one nation as God's chosen people, Israel. While it is certainly true that God has a special place in his heart for Israel (Zech 2:8), what we need to understand is that God has a special place in his heart for "all peoples on earth." Wright goes even further when he says...
"But it goes deeper than that....God's promise to Abraham was not merely a random illustration of something else. It was the thing itself - God's own agenda for saving the world. God's promise to Abraham was, in short, the gospel."
Hold the phone. Didn't Jesus in the New Testament announce the Gospel for the first time? It took until Jesus came with the Gospels for people to begin to understand the Good News, didn't it? Not according to Paul: 
"Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” (Gal 3:8)
This is one of the reason we must understand the whole story of God, as the Lord gives it to us in the whole Bible, so that we can grasp the expansion of the whole Gospel. Wright shares that, "...the gospel, the good news, from God's own mouth, is that God intends to bless all nations, and to do so through Abraham and his descendants." By faith, we are Abraham descendants, as Paul puts it...
"There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise." (Gal 3:28-29)
But what does this mean for the mission of God;s people, for our mission? We'll explore this more next time. But one thing is certain, we must embrace our rightful place as "heirs according to the promise.". Then we will be empowered, like Paul in spite of his hardships, for living sent today.

Q - What do you prioritize in your life and how does that reflect the fact that you are an "heir according to the promise?"


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

At the Intersection of Faith and Politics: Maybe we should lead with love?

What I often find at the intersection of faith and politics is becoming more disturbing all the time. No. not the gay agenda, same-sex marriage, Obamacare, the gun control debate, or pick your favorite"political agenda" here. I can deal with those things because my trust is not in our government, our people, any political system but squarely and solely in the Lord, I pray. No, what I find must disturbing is the fear so many Christians live with of other people who are different than they are. They probably wouldn't call it fear but that's exactly what it is.

The cross cultural insensitivity, which is where I want to focus this post, of too many Christians demonstrates a level of fear of the other that is alarming. It's not only unBiblical but wrong-headed lacking reason. Such behavior clearly demonstrates that many American Christians do not know who they are in Christ. They have a faith in their salvation but lack a true and abiding faith in the Savior in whom "we live, and move and have our being." (Acts 17:28) And that is disturbing since we have all we will ever need in the forgiveness, redemption and restorative supremacy of Christ. But is it believed? Is it understood? The clear evidence is not by many. While many American Christians believe they are "saved," something is terribly wrong with their understanding of what it means to be a Christ-follower.

Here's what I am talking about. Recently in the news, a school principle in Colorado was under fire for allowing a student group the liberty to say the Pledge of Allegiance in Arabic. The students of this cultural club changed the words "under God" to "under Allah" in this reciting. Who is attacking this school principal for not interfering in the rights of students to assemble and the exercise of their free speech? It isn't those who speak Arabic and use the word Allah to refer to the deity but rather those who believe in God. I have to assume that the majority of those who believe in God in this country are Christians although some may be Jewish or another faith tradition. For those who consider themselves Christians, they need to ask themselves on what Biblical basis would they attack this principal over his decision to allow students to exercise their Constitutional rights in THEIR cultural club?

Here are a couple of issues. First, if you know your Bible, you know it was written in either Hebrew or Greek and translated in its entirety into English by John Wycliffe in the 1380's AD (although portions existed in English before that.) Prior to the Wycliffe translation the Latin Vulgate was in use and in Latin the word for God used is Deus. Of course, if you know your Bible you know that the original Hebrew uses the word  El, YHWH,Yĕhovah , or Yahweh to refer to the deity and the Greek is θεός or Theos. The word God is from the Proto-Germanic "Guat" which originated with the Germanic tribe of Northern Europe. The word Gaut, which was later transliterated to God, was redeemed by early missionaries as a way to build a bridge for the Gospel to go forward.

Linguistically, there is nothing special about the word God in and of itself. If you want to split hairs, it is not even Biblical but only a later adaptation, so why make an issue out of it. Yes, it is commonly accept as the name of the deity by American Christians because of its common usage in English. But as the Gospel spreads around the world the word for the deity referred to in the Bible is translated into the local language so that people can embrace the Good News. Paul instructs us to "put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited." (2 Cor 6:3). The important thing then is not the word used for God but the understanding of character, nature and person of God. We must not give credence to any ideas that discredit our ministry.

Is it a Biblical response that drives these parents or ethnocentrism? It's one thing to be a patriot but another to be so prejudiced as to infringe on other's God given rights, which is the basis of our Constitution.As a patriot, we may feel that our liberty is under attack by such instances as this cultural clubs use of Arabic but as Christ-followers we need to ask "what are we fighting for?" If the answer doesn't have a solid Biblical basis we need to reconsider our position. In a recent article by Dr. Paul Louis Metzger he writes:  
"According to a recent Barna study, a strong percentage of Evangelical Christians believe their religious freedom is under threat. But is our religious freedom under threat, or simply our dominance? In view of the study, David Kinnaman, Barna’s president argues, 'Evangelicals have to be careful of embracing a double standard: to call for religious freedoms, but then desire the dominant religious influence to be Judeo-Christian. They cannot have it both ways. This does not mean putting Judeo-Christian values aside, but it will require a renegotiation of those values in the public square, as America increasingly becomes a multi-faith nation.'”
The question we need to ask is, "is our goal culture dominance or the Gospel of Jesus Christ for all peoples?" If our response is ethnocentric, as was that of these parents, our witness is not going to be effective or our light is going to be dim at best.

Second, the word Allah is Arabic, not Islamic. Muslims, in fact, speak many different languages - from Urdu speakers of Pakistan, to Persian speakers of Iran, to Malaysian to English. The word Allah, predates Islam  and was used by Meccans as a reference to the creator-god, possibly the supreme deity. The word Allah is also used by Arabic Christians, Maltese Christians, Mizrahi Jews and by Bahá'ís, so it is not even exclusive to Islam. Allah simply means "the God." These facts obviously escaped those attacking this school principal who thought this student led cultural club was propagating Islam. There is no evidence of that in this account.

For far too many uninformed American Christians, their understanding of the word Allah is tinged with prejudice or worse xenophobia. They believe they have a basis for denigrating what others hold near and dear in their faith. For instance, a recent World Net Daily article ran under the title, "Is Allah the Anti-Christ?" Based on some spurious apologetic of "Former PLO operative turned Christian Arabic-language researcher Walid Shoebat" Shoebat believes, "there’s evidence that the name of Allah in Arabic is what the apostle John saw in his vision of the Antichrist’s name in the book of Revelation." Whether Shoebat understand this properly or not is not the point. Such thinking does nothing but set up stumbling blocks that alienate Muslims peoples from the Good News that Jesus is for Muslims too. We need to dismantle this kind of thinking that Shoebat fosters in the Church and embrace the "more excellent way."

Since students must be learners, obviously, experiencing other languages and cultures only makes sense, especially in our increasingly pluralistic society. That doesn't mean that students are converting but rather they are gaining an understanding of the world around them. The fact is that the U.S.A. is changing and many immigrants are coming from new places with all kinds of cultures and languages. They come for the American Dream, for a better way of life, for the freedoms we say we believe in. They often come to escape persecution, poverty or war in their homelands. They come to make a life for themselves here, and for the most part to acclimate into America culture while keeping some of their own heritage. Do we recognize the opportunities for the Gospel to go forward to, through and beyond these New American? 

These students were seeking to understand their changing world, not necessarily be converted by it but accepting of it for the sake of peace. Shouldn't their parents should do likewise? What message do we send to these impressionable young minds by attacking their principal? Intolerance of those who are different? Maybe Christian parents should teach their children to love by example and for the sake of Christ all for whom Jesus died? We cannot live sent today by putting stumbling blocks before other people. Maybe we should lead with love?