August 6 - August 16, 2002
Friday 16th August, 2002
Making Money on the
Internet – A Christian Success Story
Keep it small…stay
focussed…avoid the temptation to grow too fast or too big. These seem to be
some of the lessons for turning an internet business into a success.
Sure, some big-name
sites have struck it rich. But they’re vastly out-numbered by the ambitious
dot-coms who burned cash with such scorching abandon that they ended up
self-incinerating. Even the Christian community has been shaken by some
Could it be that a little Australian
website start-up, operating out of a church basement, is showing the way?
LiturgyHelp.com, which is projecting annual cashflow of A$10 million
(about US$5.5 million) within three years.
LiturgyHelp.com has become the world’s
first company to secure the rights to publish online many of the official
texts of the Catholic Church, for use by church groups.
In its own words:
LiturgyHelp.com is an internet-based
subscription service providing quick and easy access to the official
liturgical resources of the Catholic Church. You can access these resources
from any computer with an internet connection, with no need to install any
software. The material is available to you 24 hours a day, seven days a
A subscription provides you with all the
prayers and readings for any particular day, including all the alternatives
and options, in one easy-to-use, online resource.
The service also includes additional
resources such as homily notes, music suggestions, bulletin masters and
liturgy planning guides.
LiturgyHelp.com is tiny. It was
established in Hobart, capital of the Australian island state of Tasmania,
by a team led by Father Michael Tate. In a former life, Father Tate was an
Australian senator and cabinet minister.
The team has overcome many obstacles,
including opposition from the US Bishops Conference, which did not want to
see the materials online. Support from the Vatican has been crucial to the
Just one problem. The site is growing.
Fast. The Vatican has given permission for the team to put online the
original Latin texts. LiturgyHelp.com is also moving into the publication of
music and of texts from other church organisations.
And…uh, oh…the team is very, very
ambitious. As Father Tate
told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation:
Well, I often say we
are going to be the Yahoo, certainly, of the Catholic publishing world,
perhaps of the religious houses of any denomination or even the great world
This is the beginning
of something quite extraordinary.
Let us hope that it is
the beginning, and not the end.
Tuesday 13th August, 2002
Christianity – Reflections on an Explosive Revival
A Korean friend says
she has been getting up at 5:30 every morning recently to drive to her
church – one of several Korean churches here in Melbourne – for the 6:00am
prayer meeting. They are looking for a new pastor, so for one month the
congregation are meeting daily to pray, for one hour, for God’s guidance and
provision. About 30 to 40 attend each morning, many driving 30 minutes or
more to be there.
By contrast, my own church has been
looking for a new pastor since last year. Most of our members live no more
than a five-minute drive away, yet we are lucky to get half a dozen to a
morning prayer meeting once a week.
Is it any wonder that one of the
phenomena of 20th-century religion was the explosive growth in Korea of
Christianity, at the same time as it was stagnating in the West? You can
read a little about the impact on Korean society in a
fascinating article (thanks to
Joyful Christian Jeffrey Collins for pointing me to it).
I have a Korean wife, and have many
experiences of the dynamic nature of Korean Christianity. I remember the
last time we were staying with her parents, at their tiny apartment then, in
the Seoul suburb of Banpo, south of the Han River. Their home was part of a
giant apartment complex, housing thousands. While I was there I was probably
the only Westerner.
One day I stepped outside with my wife to
walk to the shops, when two ladies stepped forward. “Please,” said one,
pushing a pamphlet into my hands, then they walked away. It was a Christian
evangelism tract, in English. Almost certainly those women had heard that a
Westerner was staying in one of the apartments and had been waiting outside
our building – perhaps for a couple of hours – just to hand me that leaflet.
In Seoul I attended services of the
Yoido Full Gospel Church, around the corner from the country’s
parliament. This church, established by the dynamic
David Yonggi Cho in 1958, is now the largest in the world, with,
incredibly, 700,000 members.
The church building itself holds 25,000
people in the main auditorium, with a further 15,000 watching on giant
closed-circuit television screens in overflow chapels (“overflow” being the
operative word; each of these chapels was jammed when I was there).
The church organises seven fervent,
packed services each Sunday, two on Saturdays and several more during the
week, as well as all-night prayer meetings every Friday. Members are also
placed in small cell groups, which meet weekly for prayer and Bible study,
with each member of a group asked to pray daily for each other group member.
The church has become something of a
tourist attraction for visiting Christians. A special section of seating
offers headphones with simultaneous translation of the service. On one of my
visits the pastor began praying in tongues. The interpreter got carried
away. She started speaking in tongues too.
The Koreans are deeply spiritual. When
discussing religion there are none of the frustrations you face when
debating matters of faith with cynical, post-Christian Westerners. Rather,
you are back in first-century Athens with Paul, arguing the merits of the
My wife’s brother-in-law is a graduate of
one of Seoul’s top universities. He speaks excellent English. Several years
ago his son – my nephew – was punched to the ground in an argument with a
soldier, and spent several weeks in a coma, before making a slow and only
Christian groups sometimes visited my
wife’s brother-in-law in hospital and offered to pray for the family. He
told me he tried prayer himself. “But I didn’t once have any feeling of God
being there.” He complained that most of the prayer groups seemed to want
He and his wife went several times to
church, but he complained that as soon as they stopped attending the pastor
and elders would be on the phone pestering them to return, offering to send
a bus round each Sunday to pick them up. I suggested he try the Yoido Full
Gospel Church. “They’re all fanatics,” he said.
He has found great consolation through
weekly visits to an elderly Buddhist priest, who has taught him some simple
prayers and passes on traditional Buddhist wisdom for dealing with the pain
he suffers over his son’s condition. “Why is your god better than mine?” he
once asked me. “Why is your heaven better than mine?” (How would you
The Yoido Full Gospel Church runs a
retreat, known as Prayer Mountain, near the North Korean border, and I spent
a night there. Here is how I described the experience, in Chapter 11 of my
Living Water to Light the Journey:
At any time, thousands of people are
gathered for community prayer and worship that lasts for days, or even
weeks. Many are fasting. At night, most sleep - if they are not in prayer -
on mats spread out on the floor of the large central worship sanctuary.
Hundreds of tiny grottoes have been dug
into the mountain, and individuals occupy these, praying for hours at a
time, sitting or kneeling on the hard floor, a flickering candle the only
illumination after dark. I walked around the compound late at night. It was
snowing and bitterly cold, but many people were in the grottoes, crying out
or singing, in piercing voices, in prayer and worship.
Some even forsook the relative comfort of
the spartan grottoes and knelt outside, among trees and bushes on the
mountain. When I walked around once more, early the next morning, many of
the same worshippers were still at prayer.
During the 20th century Christianity in
Korea went from virtually zero to about a third of the population. We now
see Korean-style revival occurring in China. What can we expect if during
the 21st century a third of all Chinese turn to Jesus? Is the world ready?
Friday 9th August, 2002
Cry Indonesia – The
Tunnel of Despair Continue
In our media-drenched world most of us
have developed tunnel vision. And unfortunately it’s too often a tunnel that
stretches between our brain and the television set (or for some us, the
computer screen). We let the media dictate our priorities.
Right now the media are dominated by talk
of war with Iraq. So that’s what we talk about, and if we have a weblog
that’s likely what we’re writing about, and if we surf the net it’s probably
what we read about.
That might be good news for Indonesia,
where Christians have been under attack from militant Islamic groups in
various parts of the country. But more likely it is bad news.
The good? With people in Indonesia
distracted by the Mideast debate (tunnel vision isn’t restricted to those of
us in the West) the Indonesian government can quietly have its armed forces
move in and clamp down on the militants.
Unfortunately, given the fact that the
Indonesian military has not been brought to account for one of last
century’s worst genocides – against the Christians of East Timor – the
prospects are not good.
Indeed, reports are that the onslaught
against Indonesian Christians
I have just received the latest email
Cry Indonesia. The details aren’t up on their website yet, so, to try to
give them wider circulation, here are some excerpts:
In the last four weeks there have been serious and concerning developments
in East Indonesia. Even in the last 24 hours the situation in some areas is
being described as a crisis and Christian leaders are appealing for prayers
and international assistance!
The Jakarta Post reports that on
Saturday morning 27 July, a large homemade bomb exploded in a crowded market
in a Christian neighbourhood of Ambon close to Pattimura University.
Fifty-three people were injured, many critically. This follows on from other
incidents in April where 17 Christians were killed and 58 injured in
marketplace bombings and attacks on villages in and around Ambon.
From June 29 until now there has been a
renewed outbreak of violence in this area [Tobelo, North Maluku]. Jihad
terrorists, together with men dressed in ninja outfits, have been
responsible for terrorising the Christian community raising grave concerns
for security in the area. Even refugees that have been housed in barracks in
so called 'safe areas' have been intimidated by the sounds of bombs and gun
battles nearby. In all there have been no less than 24 critical incidents
between June 29 and August 7th, the latest incident being the most serious.
After several days of
small-scale attacks since last Saturday, August 5, this morning there was an
escalation in the terrorist attacks against the Christian community. On
Saturday evening (4th) between the villages of Luari and Ruko,
the Loba area was rocked by the explosion of bombs. On Sunday morning (5th)
in the village of Mede, the church building of the Evangelical Church of
Halmahera, the manse and several homes of Christians who are currently
seeking refuge in Tobelo were destroyed. The destruction took place near the
Brawijaya military post.
Today, Wednesday, at 6.30 am
(7th) 220 Marines arrived in Galela to replace the Brawijaya troops who are
being transferred to the island of Morotai. While the transfer of power
ceremony was underway at 9.30 am news arrived of attacks underway in the
villages of Wari and Gorua. The attacks had begun at 9.00 am. The ceremony
was immediately cancelled and the troops were deployed to repel the attacks.
Jihad forces from the
village of Gorua, fully equipped with military standard weapons, began their
attack at 9.00 am attacking the village of Wari, even though there were
Brawijaya troops stationed there. The Center for Community Research,
Training and Development (PPLPP) run by the Evangelical Church of Halmahera
was burned down. Three offices and the Technical College were burned, with
all the students’ documentation and office equipment and computers.
Across the road from the
PPLPP complex three refugee barracks, for refugees from the village of Weda
and 14 homes of Christians were also burned. At the same time in the village
of Gorua 4 homes and 2 kiosks belonging to Christians were also burned. In
the course of the attack school children were taken hostage but were later
freed by the military. One Christian was shot and is currently being treated
in the Bethesda Hospital in Tobelo.
After the gun battle had
been going on for about 30 minutes, the jihad forces were repelled and
pushed back to the village of Popilo. The defensive operation was still in
progress when this report was filed.
Christian Aid Mission
reports that on Monday, July 22, three Christians were shot while working in
their rice fields near Pendolo, 20 miles south of Tentena, Central Sulawesi.
Pendolo is a city populated mainly by trans-migrant Muslims from Lombok
Island. While traveling by motorcycle to visit the wounded, several family
members were confronted by a large unruly mob that took two of them captive.
The victims were stabbed and stoned and suffered machete cuts and cigarette
On Sunday, August 4, at 3:30
a.m. a force of about 100 Islamic radicals wearing black ninja outfits
crying "Allahu Akbar!" attacked the Christian village of Matako, about 20
miles east of Poso in "a blaze of fire, bullets and bombs," according to one
report. One pastor watched from hiding as his church building was bombed and
set on fire and members of his congregation shot at. One man was shot in the
back as he fled.
During the attack many
people escaped to the local military post-but their presence prevented
members of the military from pursuing the attackers. A second church was
attacked and damaged, and at least a half-dozen homes were destroyed.
Then today Aug 8 we received
a report from the Crisis Centre in Sulawesi that Christians in Tentena are
in a high state of alert after Jihad forces were said to be advancing toward
their town in which 65,000 Christian residents reside. At Ranononcu bridge
(5 km from Poso direction to Tentena), since 4 pm, people can hear gunshots
and bomb blasts repeatedly coming from Poso area near to the bridge. (This
is the place where Christians managed to stop the Laskar Jihad attempt to
attack Tentena in November 18, 2001). The military have advised local
Christian groups that there is nothing they can do except wait for orders
from their superiors!!
Mona from the crisis centre
"Please keep praying for
these people for not to have another battle. While typing this, a call just
coming saying that the attackers are shootings their guns all the time and
bomb repeating explosions could be heard very near to the village. The
Christians have not done anything but just keep watching and alert for any
situation might come!! O God, please hear our prayers."
Those who can support, or
who wish more information, can contact Cry Indonesia at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tuesday 6th August, 2002
Attack on Iraq – Just War or Just
The decibel level – not to mention the
stridency level – is rising fast in America and
here in Australia, as politicians lay the groundwork for an attack on
Iraq. Once again, Christians will be called to take a stand.
The traditional Christian position seems
to be either
pacifism or support of the “just
war” theory. We saw many Christians espousing one or other after
Yet is life – and war - nowadays so
clear-cut? In an era when a government and its armed forces can inflict
genocide on their own people – as happened in East Timor, against a
Christian population – how many Christians can truly endorse pacifism? But
equally, is the just war theory really relevant in the face of such
Dr Tom Frame is Anglican Bishop to the Australian Defence Forces. In
what I believe to be
an important speech, he has bluntly called for Christians to overhaul
their doctrines about war:
it is…my contention that traditional
Christian deliberation on the ethics of resorting to force and the conduct
of warfare – the stark choice between pacifism and just war – has become
largely obsolete and almost irrelevant because both the reasons for which
physical force is used and the nature of its delivery have changed
dramatically since the end of the Cold War in 1989.
The speech is important not just because
of the ideas it contains, but also because Dr Frame is particularly
qualified in such matters. He became a lieutenant in the Royal Australian
Navy before quitting to pursue studies in theology and to train for the
priesthood. His book “War and Christian Ethics” is to be published by
Cambridge University Press.
He notes that international peace-keeping
forces are increasingly becoming involved in domestic conflicts:
proliferation of intra-state conflicts – or what we previously referred to
as civil wars – there has been a most significant shift in attitudes towards
the claims and pretensions of the modern political state and the relative
value we accord national sovereignty….Whereas previously, national
sovereignty was an impenetrable barrier to intervention, it is no longer
considered a ground for inactivity….
The story of the Good
Samaritan in Luke 10 and Jesus’ own intervention to protect the woman taken
in adultery in John 8 oblige the Christian casual observer to become an
active participant and give no grounds for indecision or indifference in the
face of violence. The dominical command is clear; the ethical imperative is
On this basis, I believe there was a
right – if not a responsibility – on the international community and on we
Anglicans (as citizens of a politically stable and materially affluent
nation) to insist on intervention to stop the slaughter in Rwanda, Somalia,
Cambodia, Sierra Leone, and East Timor. By contrast, I am yet to be
convinced that there was (or is) any obvious right or duty to intervene in
Afghanistan (when, for instance, no such right was even considered in
relation to the Russian army’s campaign in Chechnya) while I am not at all
persuaded by the present arguments being advanced in favour of a new
campaign against Iraq.
I don’t entirely agree. Saddam Hussein is
guilty of large-scale genocide against some of his own people, and in my
opinion should have been taken out by the international community years ago.
(On the prospects of an attack on Iraq, Dr Frame commented in an email to
me: “There are some reservations within the Australian Defence Forces about
a new campaign against Iraq, quite apart from the ADF being stretched
practically on a number of fronts at the moment.”)
That the West is probably never going to
stop Russian atrocities in Chechnya is not in my view a reason for allowing
Taliban atrocities in Afghanistan. Some, like me, might have wished that,
after liberating Kuwait, US-led forces had gone on to liberate Tibet as
well. But we live in an imperfect and sometimes hypocritical world, and the
appeasement of Chinese thugs does not mean we must equally appease every
Dr Frame also says:
I have great sympathy
for the Eastern Orthodox position that stresses the necessity but not the
justice of war because, among other attractions, it tends to eliminate the
element of self-righteousness that just war theory appears to prompt in its
And he calls on Christians to focus on
the words of Jesus, “Blessed are the peacemakers”, to the extent even of
enlisting in the military. He worries that too many Christians do not engage
with the world (my view exactly, and one of the reasons for starting this
Andrew Sullivan, a hawk on the prospects of a new war with Iraq, last
Friday called for a debate on the issue:
Let's get the
anti-war left out in the open, on record, and accountable.
Christians should debate too. We should get our views out in the open and
show how they can promote peace. Dr Frame’s speech presents an excellent
basis for such a debate