Thursday, 29 April 2010

Jesus in Hollywood


Jesus in Hollywood from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

A short update from Hollywood on the US tour to promote the film "With God on our Side".

Tomorrow we are showing the film at Azusa Pacific University at the invitation of Dr Paul Alexander, Professor of Theology and Ethics. Paul is one amazing guy. We met at the Christ at the Checkpoint conference in Bethlehem last month. I can't wait to be there.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Mark & Megan in Seattle


Mark & Megan from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

This morning I had breakfast with Mark and Megan Teeter in Seattle. Mark and Megan used to be our youth pastors in Virginia Water. They gave this update really for folks at Christ Church who remember them.

Steve Ridgway: With God on our Side

Steve Ridgeway: With God on our Side from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

Steve Ridgway is CEO of North West Network Foundation based in Seattle. He is also a Board Member of Open Doors. In this short interview he gives his perspective on the new film With God on our Side

The Vine Band

The Vine Band from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

The Vine Band is a modern praise and worship band based in Hong Kong, China. Led by worship leader, Tom Read, The Vine Band has been pioneering a new sound of worship in Hong Kong, and throughout Asia.

The band’s mission is to equip the next generation of worshipers in Asia, to rise up and find their voice; to be released into a new freedom and passion in worship. Over the last decade, The Vine Band has had the privilege of leading people into worship all across Asia including: China, Taiwan, The Philippines, and Singapore.
 
They play each week at the Vine Church in Hong Kong. Yesterday they launched their new album 'The Ageless Melody'.



Visit the Vine Church here. Join the band on Facebook here.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Tram Riders Anonymous


Tram Rider 2 from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

Now you know what I did for a week while grounded in Hong Kong. For 2 HK $ a ride, the trams are totally addictive. I do however insist I only rode them for purely legitimate journeys to and from the Laundromatte which I used as an office each day. That I enjoyed them is incidental. That does not mean I was joy riding. This was ministry.

Joshua Wong sings Abandon


Abandon by Joshua Wong from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

The Vine Band is a modern praise and worship band based in Hong Kong, China. Led by worship leader, Tom Read, The Vine Band has been pioneering a new sound of worship in Hong Kong, and throughout Asia.

The band’s mission is to equip the next generation of worshipers in Asia, to rise up and find their voice; to be released into a new freedom and passion in worship. Over the last decade, The Vine Band has had the privilege of leading people into worship all across Asia including: China, Taiwan, The Philippines, and Singapore.

Here Joshua sings one of the songs he wrote called Abandon. Joshua is a member of the . They play each week at the Vine Church in Hong Kong. Yesterday they launched their new album 'The Ageless Melody'. Here Joshua sings one of the songs he wrote called Abandon.


Visit the Vine Church here. Join the band on Facebook here.

Night Rider

Night Rider 1 from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

During my enforced stopover in Hong Kong last week, due to the ash cloud smothering European airspace, I became addicted - addicted to riding trams late at night. Here are two videos taken on separate occasions. The street lights of Hong Kong are incredible. I wish you could have been there too.

Night Rider 2 from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

Dragon Boat Racing

Yesterday, my daughter Louise took me to meet her friends from the Institute for Vocational Training (VTC) in Hong Kong. Its Sunday and each week they get together to race dragon boats near Clear Water Bay. Here's a short video of them in action. Photos will be online here soon. Find out more about dragon boat racing here.


Dragon Boat Racing from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

The Three Self Patriotic Movement, Shanghai


Three Self Patriotic Movement 1 from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

These two presentations were made by the leaders of the Chinese Christian Council (CCC)/ Three Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) in Shanghai. They were recorded at an informal meeting with students of Bakke Graduate University undertaking Overture China II in April 2010. The Q&A time is very revealing, not least in the way questions are carefully avoided or sidestepped.


Three Self Patriotic Movement 2 from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

According to Wikipedia, the three principles of self-governance, self-support (i.e., financial independence from foreigners) and self-propagation (i.e., indigenous missionary work) were first articulated by Henry Venn, General Secretary of the Church Missionary Society from 1841–73, and Rufus Anderson, foreign secretary of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions[1][2]. The principles were drafted formally during an 1892 conference in Shanghai of Christian missions reflecting an almost unilateral agreement that the future of the Chinese church depended on the indigenization of the leadership, and the finding of sufficiently Chinese modes of worship[3]. Dixon Edward Hoste, head of the China Inland Mission was known for putting the same principles into practice in the effort of assisting the Chinese to establish their own indigenous churches during the early 20th Century.

In 1951, a Cantonese Christian named Y. T. Wu (吴耀宗, 1893–1979) initiated the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, which promoted a strategy of 'self-governance, self-support, and self-propagation' in order to removve foreign influences from the Chinese churches and to assure the communist government that the churches would be patriotic to the newly-established People's Republic of China. The 'Three-Self' is a characteristically Chinese way of abbreviating 'self-governance, self-support, self-propagation' (自治、自养、自传).

The movement began formally in 1954 and allowed the government to infiltrate, subvert, and control much of organized Christianity[4].

From 1966 to 1976 during the Cultural Revolution, the expression of religious life in China was effectively banned, including even the TSPM. The growth of the Chinese house church movement during this period was a result of all Chinese Christian worship being driven underground for fear of persecution. To counter this growing trend of "unregistered meetings", in 1979 the government officially restored the TSPM after thirteen years of non-existence[5], and in 1980 the CCC was formed.

In 1993 there were 7 million members of the TSPM with 11 million affiliated, as opposed to an estimated 18 million and 47 million "unregistered" Protestant Christians respectively.

The TSPM / China Christian Council see themselves as the scaffolding to help local churches come together. Their vision of the church is the one Jesus prayed for – “that they may be one”, except here it is under State control and segregates Chinese believers from expatriate Christians who are not allowed to worship together. While this is deeply concerning, I share their desire to avoid the return of free market denominationalism to China.

On a separate occasion, late at night over a McDonald's hamburger, I met with one of the leaders of the unregistered house church movement. Based on the cell principle, they do not have church buildings or hold Sunday services. Instead they meet in one another's homes for fellowship and worship, and practice friendship evangelism. When they outgrow their 'meeting point' they appoint new leaders and plant another cell church. While autonomous they network with cell churches in other parts of the world.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Skyway Robbery

Don’t let them kid you. The airlines are making money out of Icelandic ash. Plenty of it. I’m in Tokyo between connecting flights from Hong Kong to Seattle on my way back to the UK. In six flights time I will have hip-hopped across America before arriving back in the UK on Saturday 8th May. That’s still two full days before British Airways said they could fly me home from Hong Kong following the ban on flights because of the cloud of ash from Iceland. But that was a week ago.

True, BA will reimburse the cost of the flight home that was cancelled last Monday but if I want a letter from BA verifying the cancellation, I have to write a letter to BA. A request in person after three hours queuing in BA's Hong Kong office isn't good enough. But that is only the beginning of my hassles. I was also due to be on a BA Seattle bound flight from London today. I couldn’t make it because they couldn’t fly me home to London last Monday. Not my fault, but not their problem either.  They shifted the responsibility on Expedia. Expedia said it was BA's decision. Will I get a refund? Of course not. The guy who paid for the flight tried. Two BA pilot friends tried. I tried. I emailed. I phoned. I requested in person. No luck.  They will sell my seat on to someone else and double their money. Easy money.

But it gets more seamy. I also have a BA flight from Newark to London to get me home from the States on 8th May. I can make that flight because I’ve got myself to the USA from Hong Kong on a single ticket flying east instead of west today. But will I be able to use the seat I’ve paid for on May 8th? Of course not. I requested BA tag my ticket with the note that I want to use it. By email and in person. I even tried a long distance phone call sveral times but could not get through. As I will be a ‘no show’ on the outward flight leaving today, I will also automatically lose the return segment as well. 'No show' once means no go twice. Unfair? You bet. Skyway robbery? Certainly.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Shanghai International Church

Shanghai International Church from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

This video recording was made during a visit to Shanghai International Church. There are separate services for expats and Chinese Christians. They are not allowed to mix. Expats must show their passports to attend the English speaking service. It is a beautiful building but stands as testament to the segregation of the Body of Christ within the registered church in China.

Shanghai International Church is part of the Three Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM), and China Christian Council

The Church in Macau


Ray Bakke on the Church in Macau from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

Ray Bakke, Chancellor of Bakke Graduate University, gave this overview of the Church in Macau, China, during China Overture on location in Macau.

Smaller than Hong Kong, Macau has nevertheless become the Las Vegas of China. The government benefits from a healthy 70% tax on the casinos. The port of Macau aspires to be the Monte Carlo of Asia, complete with a Le Man’s look-a-like race control tower. It comes close. The bridges that seem to span the horizon link Macau to Taipa.

There are also 12 universities here, including a tourism college, funded from gambling profits. Nobody complains. Chinese students are allowed to study here (unlike Hong Kong which is still kept at arms length for fear (rightly) of corrupting the youth). Macau is becoming a training centre for Chinese leaders. Campus Crusade for Christ has a strong presence here. Lunch is in the University of Macau student union and it brings back vivid (bad) memories of my own long forgotten student days.  We soon regret it.

In presentations later that afternoon, we learn a lot about life in China and the contrast between rural and urban life. China is now a mix of socialist constitutionalism and relatively free market capitalism. There are, for example, 50 different airlines in China competing with each other. With a population of over 1 billion, there are only 78 million Communist party members and most are government workers (who have to be members). There are a further 35 million members of the Communist Youth League. There are, however, estimated to be over 100 million religious believers which includes Buddhists and Islam, so China is hardly a secular state.

In the early evening we visit a casino – we are told - in order to observe and make notes on how business is conducted, who are the clientele and staff. The casino is one of several Disney castle-like structures that fight with each other for height, luminosity, gravity defying design and general gaudiness. The Venetian, the one we are dropped off at, is actually a giant multi-story shopping mall with various casinos thrown in. A map is essential. GPS would be nice. Apparently extra oxygen is pumped in to minimise tiredness to shoppers and gamblers. The whole place is bathed in artificial light to simulate daylight so that gamblers will lose any sense of the time. Even the ceilings are painted blue to look like the sky. I withstand the temptation to have a flutter but lose all track of time and nearly miss the bus home. I get some amazingly surreal  photos of mock Venetian canals and real gondoliers. This is the ultimate in virtual reality.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Kwok Nai-wang and the History of Hong Kong

Nai-wang Kwok on Hong Kong from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

Kwok Nai-wang introduces the history of Hong Kong to the China Overture class of Bakke Graduate University.

Kwok Nai-wang is an ordained minister of the Hong Kong Council of the Church of Christ in China (CCC) who has been interpreting political and socio-economic developments in Hong Kong for more than a decade through the publications of the Hong Kong Christina Institute (HKCI) of which he is currently the director. After graduating from Hong Kong University and Yale Divinity School, Kwok Nai-wang served as a local church pastor in a slum area of Hong Kong from 1966 to 1977 and as the general secretary of the Hong Kong Christian Council (HKCC) from 1978 to 1988 when he founded HKCI. He has written 20 books in English and Chinese and has edited five others. He is also the editor of Reflection, a bimonthly theological journal produced by HKCI, as well as the author of the organization's monthly English newsletter.

Kwok Nai-wang is the author of Hong Kong after 1997: The first 1000 days

Only himself to blame: Franklin Graham disinvited by US army

Evangelist Franklin Graham's invitation to speak at a Pentagon prayer service has been rescinded because his comments about Islam were inappropriate, the Army said Thursday.

Graham, the son of famed evangelist Billy Graham, in 2001 described Islam as evil. More recently, he has said he finds Islam offensive and wants Muslims to know that Jesus Christ died for their sins. Army spokesman Col. Tom Collins said Graham's remarks were "not appropriate."

"We're an all-inclusive military," Collins said. "We honor all faiths. ... Our message to our service and civilian work force is about the need for diversity and appreciation of all faiths." The Military Religious Freedom Foundation had raised the objection to Graham's appearance, citing his past remarks about Islam.

Collins said earlier this week that the invitation to attend the National Day of Prayer event at the Pentagon wasn't from the military but from the Colorado-based National Day of Prayer Task Force, which works with the Pentagon chaplain's office on the prayer event.

As co-honorary chair of the task force, Graham was expected to be the lead speaker at the May 6 Pentagon service. Country singer Ricky Skaggs was expected to perform. Since Graham's invitation was rescinded, the task force has decided not to participate in the military prayer service, Collins said.

The decision suggests a growing sensitivity in recent years among senior Pentagon officials to the divide between the U.S. military and Muslims. Graham attended a Pentagon prayer service in 2003, despite objections by Muslim groups.

Read more here

Franklin only has himself to blame. On 16th Octobr, 2000, in the Charlotte Observer he said, "The Arabs will not be happy until every Jew is dead. They hate the State of Israel. They all hate the Jews. God gave the land to the Jews. The Arabs will never accept that."

Sorry Franklin - not true. Imagine if he had said “The Jews will not be happy until every Arab is dead.” You know its not true. So why such blatant racism, such hatred of people for whom Christ died? Franklin is a disgrace to the memory of his father. I applaud the stand the US army is taking.  

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Le French May

Laundromatte from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

Check out this lovely advert made by Joshua Wong and Louise Sizer of the Laundromatte for the French Consulate in Hong Kong to promote a month of French cultural events in May. The advert is currently showing on the Metro (MTR) and here in Times Square, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong Island. (the advert comes at the end!)

Live from Hong Kong

The Lost Shepherd from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

Hong Kong Panorama from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.


For a transcript see here

The Parable of the Lost Shepherd

I feel a little bit like Gavin Hewitt or Gavin Esler bringing you a news report on location from Hong Kong. Sounds exotic, except I’m a pastor feeling just a little guilty because I’ve lost my flock on the other side of the world. All because of some volcanic ash from Iceland? Sounds a rather lame excuse.

So what am I really doing here? I came to China two weeks ago to learn what God is doing in and through the Church in China. To find out how you do mission in a hostile environment. Not just in a sceptical marketplace, but under persecution. In competition with ancient and deeply rooted superstitions.

The 19th Century was the era of British mission. The 20th Century was the era of American mission. And if the Lord does not return, the 21st Century will be the era of Chinese mission. In the next decade or two, we are going to see the Chinese church send our millions of mission partners to reach the world for Christ. Do you realise there are more Christians in China than members of the Communist party?

Let me illustrate. Wednesday I spent the afternoon with Ching. He was one of our translators in China. He’s a young man gifted in languages and music. He has a passion to share Jesus Christ with Jews and Muslims. Does it sound strange that Chinese Christians have a burden to share the gospel in the Middle East? Think about it, if God can place that burden on the heart of Brits or Americans, why not the Chinese?

No, the 21st Century is going to become the era of global Chinese and Indian mission, just as we are seeing Nigeria become the powerhouse of Christian mission in and beyond Africa. It will not be long before European and American mission agencies become a minority in the global Church. When instead of being sending countries, we become receiving countries. Humbling isn’t it?

The question is not will they partner with us and with Western mission agencies, but rather will we partner with them? That is why I came to China. I made plenty of notes. I thought of a few ideas to try out on you when I got home. I made some good contacts for the future.

But then at the end of ten days in China, God gave me a test. There was no mention of an appraisal in the schedule. But that is typical with God. Full of surprises. My test was simple. He took away my flight home. He might as well have taken away my passport but the ticket was enough to make his point.

He took away my Tuesday morning with the staff team on the Mercedes Benz World skid pan that I had been looking forward to sooo much. He took away my week to recoup, be with the family, wash my clothes, prepare for today’s services and be rested and ready for my mission trip to the USA from tomorrow. He took it all away and left me here in a hot and humid and sticky Hong Kong for another week. Because he had some unfinished business for me.

Despite my best efforts to find another way home, the earliest date I could get a flight to the UK is 10th May – in three weeks time. God has a real sense of humour. He took me out of my comfort zone – my carefully organised schedule. He said, “loosen up Stephen, chill out, stick around, and see what I am doing here in Hong Kong a bit longer. Lets see if you can apply the theory. Follow me and I will make you...”

God is like that isn’t he? He is always testing us, stretching us, pruning us, refining us, because he has an ultimate purpose. What is his purpose? God has put us on this earth for at least five reasons,

1. You were planned for God’s pleasure - to know him and love him.

2. You were formed for God’s family - to find a home and family.

3. You were created to become like Christ - to be holy and blameless.

4. You were shaped for serving God - with a unique mix of talents, skills and passion. He has given us spiritual gifts to build up the Church. That is your assignment and mine.

5. You were made for a mission - to introduce other people to God’s 5 purposes.

As a pastor, when you are separated from your flock, from your family, from your community, your friends, your books, your diary, and dare I say it, from your computer, what are you left with? Your personal relationship with Jesus, the biblical values that shape your life, and your calling as a disciple of Jesus Christ.

You don’t stop fulfilling your assignment just because you’re not where you thought you would be today. You continue to glorify God where ever he sends you.

In the West church affiliation is often based on worship preferences, on music taste or preaching style. We’ve turned Church into another form of consumerism. Biblical discipleship, by contrast, is purposeful, intentional. It focuses on our becoming disciples, making disciples, who are themselves, making disciples. We were, as Dawson Trotman, the founder of the Navigators put it, “Born to Reproduce”.

The Church in China - through 60 years of adversity - has grown faster than the Church in the West. The blessing of democratic government and material prosperity have not necessarily made us fruitful.

Let me illustrate. Despite living in an authoritarian State that institutionalises atheism, that tries to regulate the activities of the Church, Christians still engage openly in evangelism. Their strategy is very simple but effective. In Beijing University, when a student opens the door, the believer says, “I am a Christian. Would you like to know why? It will only take 10 minutes.” Polite but direct isn’t it? Hardly rocket science. You don’t need to go on a course on evangelism. You just need to know who you believe in, what you believe and why. Guess what? On average, seven out of ten students invite the Christian into their room, and three out of ten pray to receive Christ. Does this excite you as much as it does me?

For the last 13 years our mission strategy at Christ Church has been very simple. “To know Jesus and make Jesus known”. We achieve that in three ways - evangelism, discipleship and mission. Our priorities can be summed up in three words – win, build and send – This is the core of my ministry and I expect it to be yours too.

Everything we do as a Church should accomplish one or more of these three, and preferably all three, at the same time. For me, the most important event last year was the launch of our 2020 Vision and Five Year Plan. It sets our agenda. It summarises our priorities. The Church Council have owned it. Now its your turn.

By the grace of God, we are dedicated to accomplishing great things for God. 2020 may seem a long way ahead. In all probability I will not be here in ten years time. You may not be either. So, if we are to fulfil our vision and realise our goals we are going to have to focus on our core priorities - winning, building and sending others – to reproduce ourselves. This will involve cooperating with the Holy Spirit and with one another, learning, innovating, experimenting, failing, reflecting, adapting, reappraising, refocusing, motivating, equipping, training, delegating, empowering, releasing, recruiting, and so reproduce ourselves. Our vision as a Church is really very simple. Our vision is to grow stronger through worship; warmer through fellowship; deeper through discipleship; broader through ministry and larger through evangelism. To God be the glory.

One thing is sure. If you are expecting our church to stay the same in 2010, you are going to be as frustrated as I was on Monday when I realised I was not coming home. Then I realised God had more work for me here.

That is why I am still in China. To know Jesus and make Jesus known. That’s why I will be flying to the USA tomorrow – to know Jesus and make Jesus known. And God willing, that is why I hope I will be returning home on Friday 7th May, to know Jesus and make Jesus known. So now you know what my earnest prayer for you is, today and everyday, whether with you in body or in spirit. I pray that you will share wholeheartedly in our 2020 Vision. I pledge myself unreservedly to fulfil my part in realising our 2020 Vision, with all the strength God gives me, for as long as he gives me on this earth.

Will you join me in re-dedicating yourself as a member of Christ’s Church in Virginia Water? Will you rededicate yourself to the mission of Christ Church? To the 2020 vision?

I was going to preach on Ephesians 1 this morning. I’m sure Francis did a better job than I could, so instead, let me use the passage as a prayer for you. Make it your prayer for those sitting around you and on the podium in front of you.

“For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all his people. I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that can be invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” (Eph 1:15-22)

To him be the glory, forever and ever and ever, Amen.

Lost in Transit


You are nearing the end of an arduous overseas journey, feeling very much a stranger, you are running low on clean clothes, cash and stamina. Then you find your flight home has been cancelled, and there are no empty seats for another three weeks. Imagine involuntarily joining a select club of 150,000 Britons stranded around the world, part of the 7.8 million people whose travel plans have been disrupted this week. Few will have made contingency plans last Wednesday as the impact of the cloud of Icelandic volcanic ash began to impact every international airport in the world.

The invisible, tiny, razor sharp shards of glass, thrown up by the molten lava and spreading across Europe are lethal to aircraft engines, cockpit windows and sensitive instrumentation. Pilots know the consequences. At 20,000 feet there is no safe level of volcanic ash.

As I sat for three hours waiting my turn in BA's plush downtown Hong Kong office on Monday, all sorts of imaginative ways to become an intrepid world explorer, befitting my National Geographic membership, came to mind. I could get home by train via Beijing and Moscow in just 8 days or take a berth on a container ship leaving from Shenzhen in only 22
days. Alternatively I could fly to Spain or Greece, outside the exclusion zone, and hitch a lift or hire a car through Europe. Any one of these would have fulfilled all my unrealised student dreams of travelling the world, but I decided to stay put with my daughter Louise in Hong Kong and enjoy some down time processing the recent China Overture.

China is the world’s most populous country and is also the most rapidly urbanizing nation in the world. Uniquely the Chinese GDP has grown a minimum of 8% every year for 30 years. But while typically Chinese people save 30% of their income, 150 million still live below the poverty line.

With 17 million residents, and growing at a million a year, Shanghai has become the largest economic centre in China and one of the most expensive cities in the world to live. It has pioneered a market economy in a Communist country, its GDP already outstrips that of Brazil. You can dine out for anything between 30p and £300. Shanghai’s Maglev train, using magnetic levitation, will get you to Pudong international airport in speeds of up to 300 miles an hour. The city’s Expo opening next month is planning to welcome and host 70 million additional visitors. And let’s not forget China owns $200 trillion in US government bonds and counting.

I remarked more than once that the stunning nightly light show, illuminating not just every high rise block, but towers, bridges, motorways, river boats and road side trees, would be regarded as brash and ostentatious were this a European city.

The China Overture, an educational course arranged by Bakke Graduate University, introduced our group of pastors and mission partners, drawn from 12 countries, to a China undergoing radical economic, political, social and religious changes, especially the reaction to the Cultural Revolution since Mao’s death in 1976. During visits to Hong Kong, Macau, Shenzhen and Shanghai, we were introduced to the leaders of registered and non-registered churches, seminaries and mission agencies working in China.

Hong Kong was a former British colony. Under British rule, Hong Kong has developed into a world class city. Since the change of sovereignty back to China, the churches are searching for signs of hope. Macau was a colony of Portugal, a Catholic colony where Robert Morrison first landed and then began the modern missionary era in China. How do the Protestants witness in a Catholic society with gambling as the main source of income for the city? Shanghai is also the power center of the Christian Church. How do the Protestants witness here?

Some of the questions we grappled with were:

1. How do you effectively engage the diverse development of cities within China, and the ministries arising from that development?

2. What are the essential differences between a missiology for the city, and a theology of the city?

3. How do we celebrate the “whole church of Jesus Christ” when congregations and leaders are so incredibly different?

4. What does it mean for urban churches in China to be signs of and agents for a Kingdom agenda?

5. How do churches ministering in the context of poverty work without falling into the “charity trap,” or are they?

6. How do leaders sustain themselves as Christians when the culture is not so favorable?

7. Is the incarnation our model as well as our message? What is the difference?

8. How are churches handling pluralism in worship, leadership or other aspects of community life?

9. How are you preparing yourself for globalization? How are you accommodating to the fact that more than 80% of the world’s Christians are non-white, non-western and non-northern? How is Christianity being re-defined in China?

10. What are the real issues facing pastors in these cities?

Long before it dawned on me that I was not flying home to the UK on Monday, this had already become the most challenging and faith stretching mission trip of my life. I am processing what God is teaching me through it and look forward to sharing more on my return.

I had so very much looked forward to being home this week, preaching at Sunday’s services, and participating in the Annual Church Meeting that will follow our monthly church family lunch. I will be with you in spirit and in prayer.

On Monday, I am due to continue flying East to Seattle via Tokyo for the multi-city launch of our film With God on our Side. If the Lord wills, I plan to be in Seattle, then Los Angeles, Austin, Colorado, Washington and finally Newark. You can view the schedule and venue addresses here

One small consolation is I get to circumnavigate the world in 33 days, and to see Tokyo and the Pacific, which will also be a first. Ironically, I should eventually get home on 7th May, three days ahead of the earliest empty seat I could have got from Hong Kong and just four days ahead of that container ship leaving Shenzhen for Tilbury on Sunday.

See BBC Report: Passengers may be stranded in Hong Kong for weeks

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Volcanic ash clogs Hong Kong

Volcanic ash clogs Hong Kong from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

Want to see how easy it is to get home when your flight has been cancelled and you find yourself grounded in Hong Kong? This was my experience yesterday.

The BA staff I met were coping amazingly well given the hundreds of other stranded passengers. Not surprisingly, they cancelled my flight.

The earliest BA can get me a seat to London from Hong Kong is now on the 10th May or 21 days time. I could get home by train via Beijing and Moscow in just 8 days or take a berth on a container ship and be home in 22
 days. I suspect these are all booked by now though. 



Instead, I plan to fly East to Seattle via Tokyo or Vancouver on Sunday 
to be there in time for the launch of our film With God on our Side 
next Tuesday. View 
the schedule and venue addresses here http://www.withgodonourside.com/screenings.htm

Ironically, I should eventually get home via Newark on 7th May, three days ahead of the earliest direct flight I can get from Hong Kong and just four days ahead of the container ships also leaving on Sunday.



According to the BBC, after 4 days, the plume of ash from Iceland has paralysed 313 airports, caused the cancellation of 63,000 flights and affected 6.799.999 other travellers.

See BBC Report: Passengers may be stranded in Hong Kong for weeks

The Water and Wine Church

The Chinese Water and Wine Church from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

Ray Bakke, Chancellor of Bakke Graduate University shares about an amazing church he has visited several times in China. Its called the Water and Wine Church becaue it is based in a factory producing bottled water and also wine. The name was inspired by the first recorded miracle of Jesus found in the Gospel of John, chapter 2.

Sushi Spy


Sushi Spy from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

What does it feel like to be a dish on a Sushi bar conveyor belt?

No sushi dishes were harmed in the making of this film.

Filmed entirely on location at Genki Sushi, Hong Kong, but without permission and using an unmodified Flip Mino HD

Andrew and The Vine

Andrew and the Vine from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

Last night I met Andrew Gardener, the Discipleship Pastor of The Vine Christian Fellowship in Hong Kong. Here is his story in brief - brief because we were eating sushi at the time.

For more information visit their cool website

My daughter Louise attends so it must be a cool place...

Do also check out the 'Sushi Spy' video we made during the meal...

Tram Rider in Hong Kong

Tram Rider from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

Enjoying riding the trams around Hong Kong during my enforced stay this week. My favourite seat is on the top deck, front row, right hand side, closest to the oncoming trams. well, I like to live dangerously...

Serenade in Shanghai

Serenade in Shanghai from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

Listen to some beautiful music being performed by the musicians of East Shanghai Church. We visited this registered church to find out how Christians in this major city of 17 million people (growing by another million every year) express their faith in the rapidly changing world of modern China.

In 1968, in the Cultural Revoluution, denominations were banned and chuches were forced to come together in what became the Three Self Patriotic Movement

East Shanghai Church has 13,000 members, one senior pastor and five staff. They have 1,500 attending each of the three main Sunday services. They also have two satellite churches of 1,000 membes each called 'meeting points'. They have 400 teenagers in their youth programme.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Trains, Boats and Planes

Want to see how easy it is to get home when your flight has been cancelled and you find yourself grounded in Hong Kong? This was my experience yesterday.

The BA staff I met were coping amazingly well given the hundreds of other stranded passengers. Not surprisingly, they cancelled my flight.

The earliest BA can get me a seat to London from Hong Kong is now on the 10th May or 21 days time. I could get home by train via Beijing and Moscow in just 8 days or take a berth on a container ship and be home in 22
 days. I suspect these are all booked by now though. 



Instead, I plan to fly East to Seattle via Tokyo or Vancouver on Sunday 
to be there in time for the launch of our film With God on our Side 
next Tuesday. View 
the schedule and venue addresses here

Ironically, I should eventually get home via Newark on 7th May, three days ahead of the earliest direct flight I can get from Hong Kong and just four days ahead of the container ships also leaving on Sunday.



According to the BBC, after 4 days, the plume of ash from Iceland has paralysed 313 airports, caused the cancellation of 63,000 flights and affected 6.799.999 other travellers.

See BBC Report: Passengers may be stranded in Hong Kong for weeks

Monday, 12 April 2010

Christian Zheng Sheng: New Hope for Teenage Addicts in Asia

Miracles Among Hong Kong's Teenage Drug Addicts from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

Christian Zheng Sheng College, Hong Kong from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

Pupils of Christian Zheng Sheng College, Hong Kong from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

This week I visited a group of former teenage drug smugglers and addicts on Lan Tau Island, Hong Kong.

The drug problem among Hong Kong's young has been growing at an alarming rate. Social workers and academics speak of encountering addicts as young as 9 and point out that there were 8,306 reported psychotropic drug users in Hong Kong. The most popular drug among the young is ketamine, an animal tranquilizer produced illegally on the Chinese mainland and in Hong Kong.

The Christian Zheng Sheng Association (基督教正生會有限公司) ‬was founded to help drug addicts in 1985. The Chinese characters “Zheng Sheng” ‭(‬正生‭) ‬mean, “repent to live”. And independent surveys show that 90% of the teenagers who spend up to three years in the school do indeed repent and break free of their addiction. In the world of drug rehabilitation this is unheard of.

What makes this work unique however is that it is the only project for child addicts in the whole of Asia and costs half the amount of money spent on equivelent projects among adults.

Children as young as 11 who have been charged with possession, smuggling or use of drugs are sent to the school by Hong Kong Social Services or assigned by the Juvenile Court. Zheng Sheng also take children from other Asian countries as far away as Thailand and Indonesia. Christian Zheng Sheng College bases its drug rehabilitation therapy on creating a climate of mutual respect and self-reliance. No pharmaceutical products are used in the treatment.

There are presently 115 pupils cared for by 35 full time staff who share the same facilities as the children just like an extended family. The facilities are very basic because most of the investment is made in the future of the teenagers who learn to excel in sports, technical skills and further education. Most have little problem finding jobs when they graduate.


Alman Chan Siu-cheuk, is Principal of Christian Zheng Sheng College. He is one amazing guy.

Not without its critics, Christian Zheng Sheng is an amazing testimony to the transforming power of God's love found in Jesus Christ. For more information see Wikipedia and also this article from the People's Daily.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Overture China

Ray Bakke on BGU in China from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

Professor Ray Bakke of Bakke Graduate University, Seattle introduces Overture II to China.

A Stranger in Macau


"I was a stranger and you invited me in... What ever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." (Matthew 25:35, 40)

On my first day in Macau, I can identify with the stranger Jesus describes here. Although I am here with an international group of post-graduate students from Bakke Graduate University in Seattle, I am the only English person in the group and its my first time in China.

When you do not understand a word of the language and everything looks, smells and tastes different, its hard not to feel stressed or get tired easily. When everything about you, from your height, your facial features, your hair colour, skin complexion and clothing, screams out that you are a stranger, it is hard not to feel self conscious.

How reassuring to be in a Chinese church today. Even though I did not understand a word of what was said or sung, the language of love and acceptance transended the racial and cultural barriers.

Kneeling in worship before our heavenly Father, we are all equal in his sight as brothers and sisters, a truely international community that God intends for our world, and a foretaste of heaven.

Through his death in our place, Christ Jesus has broken down the wall of division that separates people of different nations. (Ephesians 2:14)

The challenge is to resist the temptation to rebuild the barriers or adopt those the world still hides behind - nationalism, racism, xenaphobia, apartheid and colonialism.

Being here in China I am acutely aware of the devastating impact British colonialism has had on this ancient civilisation, not least the shame of the Opium Wars. Forcing Chinese people to take heroin in trade was just  another form of slavery by extension. The annexation of Hong Kong and the New Territories as war reparation was a double injustice.

Satan exploits the insecurities our human divisions cause that invariably elevates one people group above others and so perpetutes the evil of war.

Lord help me to empathise more compassionately with strangers to our church in future, knowing I am ultimately doing it to you.

Defending Israeli War Crimes in America

Philip Weiss has written a powerful blog article today exposing the agenda of a broad coalition of Jewishoups from J Street to the David Project defending the illegal Jewish Colonies in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

A coalition of nearly 20 Jewish groups, ranging from the right-wing David Project and the Jewish National Fund to the liberal J Street, is distributing a misleading statement condemning a Student Senate bill at UC Berkeley. The ground-breaking bill calls for divestment from companies that profit from the perpetuation of the Israeli military occupation in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza. They refer to the bill as "dishonest" and "misleading" and "based on contested allegations."

Yet it is their letter that is both dishonest and misleading.

The bill, available here, is based on extensive, footnoted research.

Yet this coalition of Jewish groups does not contest any of the facts. Without offering any evidence, they dismiss findings by reputable organizations like the Red Cross, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International. Instead of condemning these human rights violations, they prefer to misinform the public by suggesting that it is somehow wrong to “take sides” against universally recognized injustice. In so doing, they effectively defend illegal Israeli settlements and the Israeli military occupation that continues to disrupt everyday features of Palestinian life: education, health care, economic life, and art and culture.

Read more here

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Miracles with Hong Kong's Teenage Drug Addicts

Yesterday I visited a group of former teenage drug smugglers and addicts on Lan Tau Island, Hong Kong.

The drug problem among Hong Kong's young has been growing at an alarming rate. Social workers and academics speak of encountering addicts as young as 9 and point out that there were 8,306 reported psychotropic drug users in Hong Kong. The most popular drug among the young is ketamine, an animal tranquilizer produced illegally on the Chinese mainland and in Hong Kong.

The Christian Zheng Sheng Association (基督教正生會有限公司) ‬was founded to help drug addicts in 1985. The Chinese characters “Zheng Sheng” ‭(‬正生‭) ‬mean, “repent to live”. And independent surveys show that 90% of the teenagers who spend up to three years in the school do indeed repent and break free of their addiction. In the world of drug rehabilitation this is unheard of.

What makes this work unique however is that it is the only project for child addicts in the whole of Asia and costs half the amount of money spent on equivelent projects among adults.

Children as young as 11 who have been charged with possession, smuggling or use of drugs are sent to the school by Hong Kong Social Services or assigned by the Juvenile Court. Zheng Sheng also take children from other Asian countries as far away as Thailand and Indonesia. Christian Zheng Sheng College bases its drug rehabilitation therapy on creating a climate of mutual respect and self-reliance. No pharmaceutical products are used in the treatment.

There are presently 115 pupils cared for by 35 full time staff who share the same facilities as the children just like an extended family. The facilities are very basic because most of the investment is made in the future of the teenagers who learn to excel in sports, technical skills and further education. Most have little problem finding jobs when they graduate.

Alman Chan Siu-cheuk, is Principal of Christian Zheng Sheng College. He is one amazing guy.

Not without its critics, Christian Zheng Sheng is an amazing testimony to the transforming power of God's love found in Jesus Christ. For more information see Wikipedia and also this article from the People's Daily.

Helping Hong Kong's Urban Poor

This week I visited some of the poorest people in Hong Kong. They live on the Po Tin Estate, Tuen Mun, in the New Territories. The estate is built on reclaimed land. Around 30,000 people live in 8,000 housing units squeezed into a dozen or so massive high rise tower blocks. With the low cloud and pollution on the day we visited, the top floors periodically disappeared from view. Despite the relatively high density of the estate, what is most striking about Po Tin, like other estates in Hong Kong, is how clean and orderly the community is.

Social care is provided by agencies like the Urban Peacemaker Evangelistic Fellowship. Six staff support around 1,500 of the poorest families providing food and other assistance in cooperation with the Hong Kong government. A hostel for homeless men keeps them off the street and provides a measure of dignity and security as they try and reintegrate into society.

We visited a lady living on her own in a shoe box flat. It comprised a bedroom large enough for a single bed and chest of drawers, a toilet and kitchen big enough for a sink and small stove. It was clean and spacious because she had few other possessions. On the back of her door was a small home made cross. She was pleased that we came to visit and pray with her.

Although only 6% of Hong Kong residents are practising Christians they are held in high regard. This may be because 60% of social welfare provision, 50% of schools and 20% of hospitals are run by Christian charities.

On the way out a man shouted "Are you the Christians who have come to talk to us?" Would that people in our own community were as keen to hear the good news of Jesus Christ.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Living in Noah's Ark

I am writing this from my room in Noah’s Ark on Ma Wan Island in Hong Kong. I’ll explain the venue on another occasion but the reason I am here is to learn from the Church in China. In our party there are also pastors from France, Holland, Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia, Ghana, Myanma, the Philippines and the USA.

Hong Kong has, like Britain, in the last ten years not only had to adapt to the global recession but also to a radical change in government - from British democracy to Chinese communism. While the Christian community represents just 6% of the population in Hong Kong, it is estimated that 90% of its citizens have heard the good news of Jesus Christ at least once. This is because in just 150 years of a Christian witness, the Church in Hong Kong has become responsible for 60% of social welfare provision, 40% of schools and 20% of the hospitals. Most citizens in Hong Kong meet a Christian on a weekly if not daily basis.

While the implications of full political integration within China are still being worked through, the opportunities for reaching over a billion Chinese citizens with the gospel presents incredible challenges to the Church in Hong Kong. The expression everyone is talking about is ‘missional discipleship’. In contrast to Western Christian consumerism where church affiliation is based on worship preference, music taste or preaching style, missional discipleship focuses on making disciples who are actively engaged in mission. We have separated the two, when biblically, they are synonymous.

For example, I heard of Christians witnessing on the campus of Beijing University. Despite an authoritarian political system that has institutionalised atheism and regulates the activities of the Church, Christians nevertheless engage in door to door evangelism in the student dorms. Their strategy is very simple but effective. When a student opens the door, the believer says, “I am a Christian. Would you like to know why? It will only take 10 minutes.” Polite but direct isn’t it? Hardly rocket science. But guess what? On average seven out of ten invite the Christian into their room and three out of ten pray to receive Christ. Does this excite you as much as it does me?

More tomorrow night....

Monday, 5 April 2010

With God on our Side: Thanks Frontpagemag.com for the Publicity

Peter Tooley is President of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. (when ever I see the word 'democracy' in an organisation's title I wonder...). He is also a real hoot.

Please, please, please read his rave review of With God on our Side for Frontpagemag.com here. Go to the toilet first though, in case you wet yourself reading it.  It looks like he's really 'ticked off' which, for a fan of David Horowitz, and critic of Barak Obama, is a real compliment. The film has clearly raised his blood pressure. I take this as a healthy sign - his conscience is working even if he is still resisting it. As conservative evangelicals, who care for both Jews and Palestinians as equals, we are tired of seeing the Bible twisted to justify racism, apartheid and ethnic cleansing.

To check the accuracy of his 'review', you really need to see the film for yourself and make up your own mind. You can order a copy from Amazon or wait for the world tour bringing the film to a city near you soon.

The premier's last month in Vancouver, London, Bethlehem, Jerusalem and Hong Kong brought rave reviews, standing ovations and people on to the streets cheering through the night. The All China tour begins tomorrow (I leave in a couple of hours) and the US tour kicks off in a week or so. Check out the website for more details.

Racist. Humiliating. Inhumane. Savage.


Jonathan Ben-Artzi is a nephew of Benjamin Netanyahu. Writing in the Christian Science Monitor he warns that the US must act on moral outrage over Israel’s discriminatory policies before it’s too late. 
More than 20 years ago, many Americans decided they could no longer watch as racial segregation divided South Africa. Compelled by an injustice thousands of miles away, they demanded that their communities, their colleges, their municipalities, and their government take a stand.

As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Today, a similar discussion is taking place on campuses across the United States. Increasingly, students are questioning the morality of the ties US institutions have with the unjust practices being carried out in Israel and in the occupied Palestinian territories. Students are seeing that these practices are often more than merely “unjust.” They are racist. Humiliating. Inhumane. Savage.

Sometimes it takes a good friend to tell you when enough is enough. As they did with South Africa two decades ago, concerned citizens across the US can make a difference by encouraging Washington to get the message to Israel that this cannot continue.

A legitimate question is, Why should I care? Americans are heavily involved in the conflict: from funding (the US provides Israel with roughly $3 billion annually in military aid) to corporate investments (Microsoft has one of its major facilities in Israel) to diplomatic support (the US has vetoed 32 United Nations Security Council resolutions unsavory to Israel between 1982 and 2006).

Read more here  

Jonathan Ben-Artzi was one of the spokespeople for the Hadash party in the Israeli general elections in 2006. His parents are professors in Israel, and his extended family includes uncle Benjamin Netanyahu. Mr. Ben-Artzi is a PhD student at Brown University in Providence, R.I.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Death by a Thousand Cuts


For more see Richard Silverstein

Helen Thomas on her one question for Obama


DC's most experienced journalist says Obama lost credibility when he dodged question on Israeli nukes.

In part one of his interview with Helen Thomas, longest-serving member of the White House Press Corps, Paul Jay asks her about her first question for President Obama. The question, asking President Obama to name all the countries in the Middle-East that have nuclear weapons, was avoided by the President, who claimed to not want to "speculate". Thomas claims that knowledge of Israeli nukes is very public in DC and Obama's answer shows a lack of credibility. She explains the importance of this question for U.S. policy in the region. Finally, she confides that she has not been called on by the President since that day, but that if she does, she will ask him whether or not he has found any more information about nukes in the Middle-East since their last encounter.

Bio

Helen Thomas is an American news reporter, member of the White House Press Corps and author She was the first female officer of the National Press Club and the first female member and president of the White House Correspondents Association. Her latest book, co-authored with Craig Crawford is Listen Up, Mr President: Everything you Always Wanted Your President To Know and Do.

See a larger video of the interview here

War Games: Imagining an Israeli Strike on Iran

David Sanger in the New York Times reports on various war game simulations concerning the likely consequences of an Israeli or US-Israeli military strike against Iran.
"In 1981, Israel destroyed Iraq’s nuclear reactor at Osirak, declaring it could not live with the chance the country would get a nuclear weapons capability. In 2007, it wiped out a North Korean-built reactor in Syria. And the next year, the Israelis secretly asked the Bush administration for the equipment and overflight rights they might need some day to strike Iran’s much better-hidden, better-defended nuclear sites.

They were turned down, but the request added urgency to the question: Would Israel take the risk of a strike? And if so, what would follow?

Now that parlor game question has turned into more formal war games simulations. The government’s own simulations are classified, but the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution created its own in December. The results were provocative enough that a summary of them has circulated among top American government and military officials and in many foreign capitals"
Read more here

See also Richard Silverstein of Tikkun Olam on Israel-Iran War Game Scenario Predicts Disaster and also a video interview with Bill Alford Iran War Game Scenario

And have the Saudi's already given Israel permission to use their airspace? The Times thinks so:

The head of Mossad, Israel’s overseas intelligence service, has assured Benjamin Netanyahu, its prime minister, that Saudi Arabia would turn a blind eye to Israeli jets flying over the kingdom during any future raid on Iran’s nuclear sites.

AIPAC: We make sure that pro-Israel candidates ‘take over’ government


Philip Weiss reports on Ben Harris of JTA has a good video on the student outreach effort by AIPAC.

He quotes Jonathan Kessler, longtime AIPAC operative and now leadership development director, on how and why AIPAC cultivates young people:

"How are we going to beat back the anti-Israel divestment resolution at Berkeley? We’re going to make sure that pro-Israel students take over the student government and reverse the vote. This is how AIPAC operates in our nation’s capital. This is how AIPAC must operate on our nation’s campuses."

Read more here

Easter Apartheid: Israel Denies Freedom of Religion

Dozens of Christian organizations and churches have signed a letter sent to the Old City police chief, protesting what they say is the police's policy of preventing worshippers from reaching the Church of the Holy Sepulcher on Easter, even though they permit tens of thousands of Jews to go to the Old City on Passover.

The signatories say that for two years the police have prevented Christians from exercising their religious rights during Easter week. This includes strict controls on the number of people allowed to take part in prayers at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

According to their attorney, Mazen Qupty, the police set up roadblocks and issue special entry permits to select the people they want to reach the church.

"Christians are denied their fundamental right to exercise their religion freely because of roadblocks in the Old City, the presence of police with machine guns, as well as rude and hostile attitudes from police and Army officers," the signatories said in their letter sent to the ministers of public security and religious services, as well as the police commissioner and attorney general.

"The curfews and forced closures make these movements almost impossible. In sharp contrast, Israel allows Jews free access to their synagogues."

The authors warn that they will take legal measures at international institutions to redress the situation and "end the illegal occupation of East Jerusalem and, in this particular case, to stop limiting Holy Land Christians from exercising their basic religious rights."

Police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby rejected the claims and said that "the police make special efforts to ensure the security of the faithful and prevent excessive congestion at the church, which may endanger people's lives."

Source: Haaretz by Nir Hasson and Akiva Eldar

Israel to Give You $19.19 on Tax Day


Sorry--we just couldn't resist pulling your leg a little bit on April Fools' Day! Of course, the opposite is true: It's you as an individual tax payer who will be giving Israel an average of $19.19 when you file your taxes this year.

This screen shot from last week's episode of The Simpsons shows that pop culture is catching on to our campaign to challenge military aid to Israel. Help us to continue building the momentum by making your tax-deductible contribution to "offset" your taxes to Israel

The United States will then take your hard-earned tax dollars to provide Israel with U.S. weapons, totaling $3 billion in this year's budget. Israel will in turn misuse these weapons in violation of U.S. and international law to colonize Palestinian land, maintain its illegal military occupation of Palestinian territory, and commit human rights abuses and war crimes against Palestinians.

This year, we're giving you an opportunity to make a statement that you don't want your taxes supporting Israeli occupation and apartheid. Make a tax-deductible contribution to the US Campaign in increments of $19.19 to "offset" the tax contributions of you and others to U.S. military aid to Israel . The more tax-deductible money you donate to us this year, the less money you'll owe Uncle Sam on future tax returns.



PS: Don't forget to check out new website http://www.aidtoisrael.org to learn more about how much money your community provides in military aid to Israel and what that money could be used for instead.
Read more here