How pictures can shape our worldview

On Sunday, I was asked to give a brief illustration of one aspect of my team’s work, how the pictures we use shape our view of the world. I thought maybe I could share it with you.

In the following images, which characters would see as ‘good’ and which would we see as ‘bad’.

We have been conditioned to see those characters portrayed in white, or in the light, as good. While those in black, or kept in the dark, as bad.

This has carried across to film too. Luke Skywalker usually appears dressed in light coloured clothing, Darth Vader, in black.

The use of this kind of colour translated across into Christian literature too. Jesus is always portrayed in white, the devil in black. Even today, you’re more likely to find Jesus, wearing white robes and looking like he’s come from western Europe or North America, rather than dressed like a carpenter’s son from Galilee.

So when western Christians turned up in parts of the world where most people have a darker complexion, what did the images imply. That those with light skin were ‘good’ and those with dark skin were ‘bad’?

Even today we hear reports from people for whom these kinds of images have left scars.

But, I think this also questions the kinds of images we respond to today.

Most of our mental image of Africa are still formed by shocking pictures of famine and poverty. For me, I still can’t shake the images that led to Band Aid back in 1984, they still influence my perception of the world. And while famine still hits the continent, Africa’s a big place with a lot of other things going on. Our stereotypes that fit with those images from the 1980s are a stark contrast from the Addis Ababa light rail system or the urban sprawl of Lagos in Nigeria, Africa’s largest city.

Mission agencies have to take some of the blame for that. We haven’t always done a good job of representing the world we serve in. Mission today is as likely to require us to serve in urban or suburban areas around major cities, as to relocate to a rural community. While, today’s acts of service are much less likely to be as a sole evangelist in a cross-cultural setting and more as part of a strategic team, working alongside indigenous Christians and in partnership with the local church.

Of course, the images that represent these 21st Century mission roles are not the kinds of pictures that spur us to action. We are more ready to go and serve those that look different to us than to go to those that work in office blocks and have a daily commute. But, maybe this is where the church can do more to encourage us to see the world as it truly is, rather than as one presented to us in the pictures.

The book, The Future of the Global Church, puts it like this.

‘In 1800, only 3% of humankind lived in cities. It is estimated that in 2100 the figure will be nearly 90%. It was probably in 2007/08 that the world’s population first became predominantly urban’

The trinity in music

I was so pleased that a colleague shared an interview with Dr Jeremy Begbie, Duke Divinity School, talking about how music can help explain the trinity. This video briefly captures the point.

Reflections on global missional leadership in community: Intentionality

Personal Reflection

To give some background, like so many people in similar roles, I have never intentionally sought a leadership position. My dream was never to develop a team, take on challenges, or create a different world (I really wanted to be a radio DJ, that’s maybe another story), but over the years I’ve been allowed more experience and more opportunity to do just that. I’ve also discovered that I like this kind of thing and maybe I fit this much better than I would any radio studio.

In some ways, however, I feel like I’ve missed a step. In never intentionally seeking leadership roles I’ve not, until more recently, intentionally developed myself in this area.

Last week’s consultation helped me to reflect on my personal situation and reminded me that it would be helpful to get involved leadership conversations and intentionally take time to reflect and develop personally in the area of leadership. I should probably say that it’s not that I see myself as a bad or ill-equipped leader, but I know with more intentionality I can grow in this area.

Other intentional applications

The kinds of consultations we have in the Alliance don’t always result in fixed conclusions. We discuss ideas, develop some theories, raise new questions, but we don’t go away with a 5-point plan of how to apply what we’ve covered. I understand why some find that frustrating, but for me, it raises the question of what I can do within my sphere of influence to develop some of the themes with my team.

In my earlier post, I listed four areas that I was impacted by last week. Intentionality; millennials; globalisation, nationalism and polycentrism; and change and opportunity – in being intentional, it’s now down to my community to interpret these areas into our working practices. That’s me deciding to be intentional in what I do.

Singapore

One of the things that I appreciate about working for the Wycliffe Global Alliance, is the recognition that my family gets for the part that they play in me being able to do what I do. It’s tough for them, as they are the ones that get left behind when I get on a plane and fly off to meet people for different meetings.

To show love towards them and to recognise that, in enabling me to do what I do, they are a part of this team too, the Alliance has an annual Leadership Retreat. A time to refresh in the company of colleagues and their families.

Prior family in the Botanical Gardens, Singapore

Now, we are a little unique in this team. Most of the other families, in this context, comprise husband and wife. Where there are still children at home, they usually have to stay behind because of school. But our two are pre-school, so we got to take Amy and Sophie to Singapore for this year’s Retreat.

Prior family at the southernmost point of continental Asia, Sentosa Island, Singapore

We had three days of holiday before the main gathering. A chance to get over jet-lag and allow the family to acclimatise. We had a couple of early morning walks, made more bearable by the warmth of Singapore at 3 am, and the safety of the city. The kids spent part of every day in the hotel swimming pool, and we visited Sentosa Island, twice. Enjoying the beaches, waterparks, visiting a giant aquarium and riding on the cable car.

Then it was off to a different hotel, out of the city, to join my colleagues and get to know them a little better. We had some formal presentations, but mostly we had time to share, reflect, catch up and pray for one another.

Kirk Franklin, Executive Director, Wycliffe Global Alliance, presenting at the Alliance Leaders Retreat – February 2017

It was a little different doing this kind of thing with kids in tow. They did brilliantly at playing by themselves while we adults sat talking around tables. Tany and I, along with another parent, took turns at taking the kids swimming (the hotel didn’t have a proper pool, but the underused spa tub was big enough for them) for at least some of the day.

It was a wonderful week all round, and especially good for Amy. She now has an idea of what it’s like when I go away to work. My colleagues also have a better idea of the chaos we have at this stage of life, and how we are trying to balance work, raising the kids and functioning as a family.

One prayer, that I keep reflecting on, is that this journey God is taking us on with Wycliffe would inspire Amy and Sophie to grow up following God where ever it may lead them, rather than hating everything to do with faith.

The kids at the hotel window, Singapore

You can see more images from our trip in this Google album.

Twitter connections

Last week I was hanging out in London, meeting with mission leaders who face challenges in how to communicate about their work and using Twitter to pass comment on the local skyline.

My observations lead to the following conversation…

I was genuinely interested in visiting The Globe Church, having stumbled upon their website a few months back. I was curious to see what a church plant, close to the centre of London, was like. They’ve only been around for a year or so.

I wasn’t disappointed. The evening meeting was busy with a crowd of what looked like, young professional people from across the city. There was food, good conversation, and I was given a few minutes to share something about Bible translation, which was kind of them considering I was just a random visitor.

The most exciting thing, for me, aside from seeing a young church plant in action, were the conversations we had around the table. Praying for the places where people work and the small office Christian gatherings that were happening and for one person to have the opportunity to talk to her colleague about her faith, as they were both away from home on a training week. Honestly, the missional zeal for what was going on in the city was energising and I loved it.

Thanks, people of The Globe Church, that was a great evening.

A new blog

Time for a new blog.

Not out of choice exactly. The one I’ve been writing for the last 10+ years disappeared in the move from one host to another, and I wasn’t quick enough at rectifying the error. Oh well, it’s annoying but not the worst thing to happen.

Having to start again is a bit like getting a new school workbook. All the scrapes, tears and errors of the past have been erased and I get the chance to start making a new mess.