Spreading the gospel brings great joy.

Christianity explodes in China

In contradiction to my other post today about a decline in online searches for Christian terms (here), China seems to be one place where the public IS turning to Christ.  Since the Tianamen Square incident, a turning point in China’s history, the people are becoming increasingly bold, and the government increasingly tolerant in permitting Christianity.  Communism is becoming engulfed in the free-market society of today, led by the western world.

There was an article today in the Chicago Tribune entitled “Jesus in China“, covering the explosion of Christianity in the Mainland.

Christianity is illegal in most of China, and has been for more than half a century, but according to the article, some estimates are that there are as many as 70 million Christians now in mainland China (5% of the population and second only to Buddhism), and all through word-of-mouth evangelical efforts of its citizens.

“Please leave” was the appeal from the pulpit by Jin Mingri, a 39 year old pastor looking out at a standing room only crowd in a converted office space in Shanghai.  “We don’t have enough seats for others who want to come, so please, only stay for one service a day”.

If you’re more interested in the spread of Christianity in China, there will be a PBS special on it Tomorrow (Tuesday June 24th), on Frontline World (8 pm MST).  You can find more on their website here.

Rusty

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Christianity in China – PBS Special

As I explained in my post here, PBS Frontline World had a special on about Christianity in China last night. 

Apparently Christianity isn’t exactly illegal in China.  The government hasn’t taken the hard line they’ve taken in the past with Muslim separatists or the Falun Gong.  Instead, they’re being far more they’re being far more forgiving when it comes to Christianity, simply trying to control the religious teachings.

They’ve established their own version of a Christian church… essentially a government approved church, with doctrine that has been approved by the government and teachers who have been trained and certified by the government.  But while the approved party church hosts about 4,000 members across 6 services on Sunday, Chinese Christians in general far prefer what they call “house churches” (seeking purity and freedom, and not diluted doctrine).

These house churches are underground Christian churches that grew up in the aftermath of Chairman Mao’s revolution, and they’ve really been pushing the limits, becoming increasingly more open.  One church has even sued the local government to stay open.  Pastor Jang, interviewed on the program, said “I believe only Jesus, and not the communist party, can save the Chinese people”.

But the government has tried, unsuccessfully, to incent these house church leaders to discontinue their works by persecuting them.  One particular leader was unavailable for an interview because he had just been arrested, for the fourth time.  The first time he was sentenced to 7 years in prison, the next for 11 months, and the third time was forced to serve in a labor camp. 

They showed one particular underground church that was, literally, underground.  There were these recesses built into the hills in the forest where they’d convene and teach the gospel… until the government found out about it.  Now the place is entirely deserted.

Sometimes the government will demolish the very buildings they meet in.  But attempts have largely failed to diminish the faith of the people, and there are now thought to be as many Christians as there are party members.  All over, the Chinese Christians believe this is their time to come out of the shadows. 

It’s marvelous to watch Christianity surge into China, and I find the faith of these Chinese Christians inspiring.  They sacrifice so much, and persevere through threat and trial to pursue and preach their beliefs.

May I do likewise.

Rusty

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Ongofu in China – blogging in Chinese!

Several years ago I had the opportunity to serve two years as a full-time LDS (Mormon) missionary in Sydney Australia, speaking Mandarin Chinese.  It was the most amazing experience of my life.

During that time I developed a great love and appreciation for the Chinese people and their language., and I’ve always wished I could somehow go to China and teach the gospel.  Unfortunately, at this time, missionaries are not permitted into mainland China.  They can go to Hong Kong, but that’s it. 

Then over the last two weeks two important things happened.  The first, was that I decided to do a blog post about my inspiring friend Lin Hao (who we saw in the opening ceremony of the Olympics, leading the Chinese team – read his story here).  Shortly thereafter, my friend Linda (his godmother), and Lin Hao himself somehow found my blog, and offered their own comments.  I was, first and foremost, humbled that they’d even bother stopping buy, and secondly, amazed at the ability for a single blog post to reach all the way across the world, to readers all the way in the heart of mainland China.

I realized that the dream I’ve had teaching the gospel to the Chinese people in mainland China was within my grasp.  Not in the future, but today, right now.

But there is a problem.  While there are many in China that do speak English, I really would need to do posts in Chinese.  But because my mission was in Australia, while I learned to speak relatively well, I wasn’t fully immersed in Chinese writing, and never learned how to read and write (there are over 10,000 characters to memorize just to read the paper).

But watching Michael Phelps this last week, and doing my posts about his example of setting and achieving goals, made me realize that if it is within my grasp, and it’s something I’ve wanted to do for so long, I should simply do it.  I should make the effort to learn to write Chinese, so that I can make my dream come true and begin teaching the gospel in China.

As I mentioned in my post here about the COP model, I have the competency (need more though), I have the passion, and there’s definitely a demand.  As I covered in my post here, Christianity is now exploding in China, so at such a critical time in the country’s history, as the government is just beginning to open up more and more to this potential, why should I sit on the sidelines and watch it all happen? 

What’s more, teaching the gospel to those who have not grown up in Christianity, means that their minds are not held hostage by the comforts and confinements of tradition, and they don’t reject concepts and teachings just because they’re new.  To them, it’s all new, so they judge principles and doctrine on their own individual merit and worth.

In short, now is the time to teach the beautiful doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to those in mainland china, in their native tongue, through the internet.

As such, and by way of holding myself accountable, I’ve decided to set the goal that by February of next year I’m going to start the Chinese arm of this blog.  That gives me 6 months to brush up on communicating and thinking in Chinese, and to figure out how to read and write.  I’ll need all the assistance from the Lord that I can get, for my brain is getting a bit decrepit in my old age.  But I’ll put my faith and trust in him, convinced that as I throw myself at the work of the Lord, he’ll magnify my effort, sanctify my work, and make it all possible.

“If ye have desires to serve god, ye are called to the work” (D&C 4:3), and “…the tender mercies of the lord are unto all those whom he hath chosen…” (1 Nephi 1:20).  For the work of God shall roll forth, as a stone cut without hands, until it fills the whole earth (Daniel 2:31-45, D&C 65:2).

In answer to my own question – what role shall you play?  I’ll be a missionary.

Rusty

Emotional Supply Lines, they sustain us all

I’ve moved this post to my new Life-Engineering blog, dedicated to motivating people to achieve their goals and change their futures by taking control of their lives.

You can now find this post here:

http://life-engineering.com/emotional-supply-lines-they-sustain-us-all

President Monson’s Birthday Request

Two weeks ago today (Aug 21), Thomas S. Monson, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a prophet, seer, and revelator, celebrated his 81st birthday.

Reflecting a life lived in service, and his genuine love for mankind, when asked by a Church News editor what his ideal birthday gift would be, he gave this answer:

“Do something for someone else… to make his or her life better.  Find someone who is having a hard time, or is ill, or lonely, and do something for them.  That’s all I would ask.”

So, in commemoration of the birthday of a prophet of God, I encourage you to take his counsel to heart – today.  But then let the subtle spirit of his humble request imbue itself upon your soul, that your life may be lived as his, always anxiously engaged in an effort to ease another’s burden, and help them on their way.

“Do something for someone else…”

Rusty

P.S.  Please email this URL to someone else, that his request may be magnified accross the entirety of our own  personal networks.

Also, the image above is courtesy of Nathan Sharp (www.NathanSharpStudios.com).  I’ll have more about him and his work in a separate post shortly.  You can click the image for a larger view.

Jonah Peretti encourages the Mormon Strategy for Viral Media

This is cool.

Mormonism got a social media shout out last Friday from Jonah Peretti, cofounder of the Huffington Post and founder of BuzzFeed.

He was speaking at the inaugural “Viral Media Meetup”, covering his history of viral success, and key strategies for viral marketers.

He began by explaining the differences in the old media model (below), where the media giants determined what we consumed.

He then explained the new media model (below), where what we consume is instead determined by our peers.
This proliferation is exacerbated by what he calls the BWN, or the “Bored at Work Network”.
He goes on to describe key strategies in creating viral media, including
  1. Viral Media Strategy
  2. The Mullet Strategy
  3. Big Seed Marketing Strategy
  4. The Maniac Strategy
  5. The Mormon Strategy

For this last one, he throws up this slide:

Then points out that while Judaism seems far more well known (or more generally liked), Mormonism is crushing it, whereas Judaism is showing flat growth (his chart only shows up till 2007, which is too bad, ’cause we were just taking off).

That’s right, Jonah Peretti’s strategy #5 for viral growth… Learn from the Mormons

His recap:
I’m happy that we’re so widely well known for our missionary work.  Evangelism, sharing the gospel, and bringing others unto Christ are core elements of the Lords true church.
It’s kinda funny that here is this social media pundit, at the first ever viral media meetup event, talking about Mormonism as one of 5 key growth strategies.
Still, he missed one critical element.  His talk (and his strategies), were on how to get a message to go viral (get people to talk about it).  But the growth of the Mormon church (check this out), requires far more than people just perpetuating a message.  It requires real commitment.
You don’t get people to give up drinking and smoking, commit them to pay 10% of their gross income in tithing, commit people to living the law of chastity, etc. by just passing along a message.  That message has to be true, it has to ring home to their very spirits.  The growth of the church speaks more about the truth of the message, then the mechanism for sharing it.
Still, our missionary work is inspirational, even to industry pundits who specialize in spreading messages.
To me, that’s cool.
Rusty

Missionary work on an iPhone!

I’m always looking for ways to leverage new technology to spread the gospel, and the iPhone is creating some unique ways to do just that.

There’s an application you can download on the iTunes App Store called Graffitio.  Much like the name would suggest, Graffitio allows you create “graffiti” on “virtual walls” all around the world.

Here’s how it works. 

When you launch Graffitio on your iPhone, it uses the phones location awareness (GPS) to see exactly where you are, and then shows you all the virtual “walls” in your vicinity.  A wall is simply a location that someone has decided to make a comment about.  Usually these are restaurants, stores, parks, etc.  You can click on one of these “walls” and see what others have said about it.  For instance, if you particularly like a given restaurant, you may decide to add a small note describing your experience.  Then others in the area will be able to see your comments on that particular restaurant.  If a wall doesn’t exist for that restaurant, you simply click a button, the iPhone sees where you are, you create a name for the wall (the name of the restaurant), and add your comments.  Now others in the area will see there’s a social “wall” for that restaurant, and can add their comments to yours.

Now, here’s where the missionary work comes in.

There are countless LDS locations around the world.  Some of them are historical, while others (such as temples) are unique or significant in some other way.

My challenge is for iPhone users around the world to visit these locations, and create “walls” for them.  Then share your testimony, or brief context about that location.  Now others in the area will be able to see your walls, read your testimony or thoughts, and know why that area is significant.

It can be as simple as taking your iPhone to church (I know, don’t say it), and creating a wall for your chapel, listing meeting times, and a personal invitation to come to sacrament meeting.

By doing this, we’ll be exposing important LDS locations around the world, and adding our voice to an all new social medium.

So, go out there, and start writing your own graffiti! 

When you do create a wall, come back here and let us know about it, so that we can all watch this virtual “structure” expand across the globe!

Oh, and make sure to forward this to all iPhone wielding Mormons.

Rusty

 

P.S.  I’ll be going to Temple Square to do my part as well, we’ll see if someone beats me to it, if so, that’s great, I’ll add my comments to yours!

P.P.S.  The image above was a quick mock-up I did, Grafffitio doesn’t yet support images, but I’m sure they will soon.

To launch iTunes and download Graffitio, click here.

Video – The standard of truth has been erected

Yesterday I posted a video presentation “The spirit of god”, presenting in fast-form-fashion the story of the prophet Joseph Smith and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon.

Reflecting on the humble beginnings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) never ceases to amaze me.  Here was this simple boy, claiming a divine visitation and the command to translate an ancient scriptural record.  Who roughly 10 years later in a meager farm-house first organized this new church with just a handful of people.  Faced on all sides with bitter persecution, mobs, and even armies.

Yet in spite of it all, he made the claim:  “The standard of truth has been erected.  No unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing.  Persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame.  But the truth of god will go forth, boldly, nobly and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the great Jehovah shall say “the work is done”.

And here is a video today, dramatically illustrating the literal fulfillment of that very prophecy.  As a stone cut without hands rolls forth throughout the earth.

Note:  For the full resolutioned source video, click here (it’s large).

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kn5zG9xr7IQ&feature=related

 

To learn more about Joseph Smith, see “www.josephsmith.com“, or to learn more about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, go to “www.Mormon.org“.

Rusty

What if Mormons are right?

There’s an interesting article that I would recommend:  “What if Mormons are right, and Catholics and Protestants are wrong?”

The full article (and well worth the read) can be found here.

The author asks the important question “Why are the Catholic bishops so concerned about Mormons baptizing dead parishioners?”

His article is referring, in case you weren’t ware, to a recent and ongoing controversy over use of records of the Catholic Church by Mormons in their ongoing genealogical endeavors, to discover and trace back ancestors and create complete genealogical trees, which are also used to perform ordinances for those that have died.

He suggests that the practice of baptism for the dead makes more sense than the practice of baptizing babies, since throughout Christendom it’s agreed that the soul lives on after death and maintains “understanding and consciousness of self”, which is more than can be said of babies, who have no understanding at all.

What’s more, the practice of baptism for the dead, he points out, wasn’t invented by Mormons, but rather was a common practice of early Christians for more than 300 years after the Crucifixion, and was only abandoned after a close-run, highly heated debate, which he describes as an effort to hamper growth of competing sects.

He concludes that if we (Mormons) are wrong, then who cares, what does it matter?  But if we’re right, then there’ll be a lot of people in the hereafter that are awfully grateful the Mormons had the inspired guidance to restore a practice that dates back to Christ’s original church.

His argument is much similar to one in the Bible where the apostles were brought before the court, and the argument was given that they should be allowed to preach, for either they are right, in which case what they teach is good, or they’re wrong, in which case it doesn’t matter.

For those who might be less familiar, baptism for the dead refers to the practice of allowing the saints to be baptized by proxy, for those who have already died.  It’s a doctrine and practice that is sublime, a clear manifestation of God’s mercy, and a key element in his eternal plan of the salvation of man. 

For baptism is a required step unto salvation (“Except a man be born of the water and of the spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” John 3:5), but what of those who have died without a knowledge of Christ, or an opportunity to hear and accept his Gospel?

Either they are eternally damned for something over which they had no control, or there must be a way provided for them.

Most Christian religions today subscribe to the former view, believing that they were somehow simply “not selected” for salvation, and as such, are eternally damned. 

But such an argument contradicts the notion of a just, fair, and merciful God.  For if Christ’s mercy is sufficient for all, why not for them?  This is the “sufficiency paradox” which I describe in detail here

But the doctrine and practice of baptism for the dead is a key element in understanding the real meaning of the atonement, and the concept of “sufficiency”.  Indeed, and it is my solemn testimony, that for those that have died before, without an opportunity to hear and accept the gospel, a way has been provided.

Hence, why in the original church of Christ, and why as a part of the restored church of Christ, we have the practice of baptism for the dead (see also 1 Corinthians 15:9).  That those who have passed before, might have the opportunity yet in the life beyond death, and before judgment, to accept the gospel, and have the work of baptism done for them, by proxy.

The doctrine and practice of baptism for the dead is yet another instance of the loss of purity of the gospel of Christ over time, as saving doctrines and practices such as this, have been slowly eroded and even removed.  But this apostasy was not to be forever, for in 1820 the lord appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith in a grand vision that would change the world forever, and would initiate a complete restoration of the fullness of the gospel to the earth today.

To learn more about the prophet Joseph Smith, see www.JosephSmith.com

Realizing the reality of that grand vision is the quintessential question of our time, for as I explain here – if Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, then the fullness of the restored Gospel is available today, in a church led by living prophets, with ordinances performed by the power and authority of God, the one and only path to perfection.

My hope is that awareness of the sublime doctrine, along with the ancient and restored practice of baptism for the dead will lead many to discover the many other restored truths that can be found in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (The Mormons).

Rusty


Marketing without a message

A while ago I posted “Every member a marketer“, wherein I describe that every member of the church, or any organization for that matter, is in a constant state of marketing their organization – especially when it comes to religion.  Wherever you go, whatever you do, you’re marketing.  People will judge your organization based on your words and actions, and often, that’s the only message they’ll get, and usually the strongest one at that (actions speak louder than words).

The point is to always be aware of who we are and what we stand for.  But we do have to be careful of marketing without a message.  When you market without a message, you’re basically passing along a communication without leaving a real message.

Let me provide a recent (ongoing) example.

Much of the traffic to my blog comes from search engines, and I peruse the phrases people use to find my site regularly (they’re often very interesting).  A couple months ago I began to find a lot of people searching for “why can’t Mormon’s swim”, or some similar phrase.  I did a post on it here – answering the question.

But just now as I was browsing through search phrases for the past few days I found:  “Why can’t Mormon’s swim on Sundays”, “Mormonism swimming”, “Do Mormons swim”, “Can Mormons have recreation on Sundays”, “Why can’t Mormons swim on the Sabbath”, “Why Mormons cannot swim on Sunday”, “Why Mormons don’t swim on Sundays”, “Can Mormons wear bathing suits”, “Why don’t Mormon Missionaries swim”, “Mormon Swimming”, and “Mormons and water, no swimming on Sunday”.

This is marketing without a message.  It’s very clear that we’re communicating something about swimming, and possibly about Sundays, but really the only thing that is standing out in their minds is that we don’t swim, which isn’t true.

The MESSAGE, that should follow the marketing is that we do swim, we love to swim (at least I do), but we don’t swim on Sundays, because we feel that Sunday is a holy day, a day of rest, a day for families, a day for emotional, spiritual, and physical recuperation.  That Missionaries don’t swim because they are required to work full time in teaching the gospel of Christ.  They do get one day a week to prepare for the rest of the week by cleaning, doing laundry, and even recreation, but that even then, swimming is not permitted for several reasons, not the least of which is modesty and the need to keep their minds single to their ministry.

But all too often when asked if we want to go swim, we simply reply no, rather than taking advantage of the opportunity to send a message.  Certainly sometimes it’s not appropriate, or the right setting, etc. for such communication, but whenever possible, we should actively seek the opportunity to explain WHY we do or don’t do certain things.  That’s marketing with a message.

So the next time someone invites you to swim on Sunday.  Don’t just say “Sorry, I can’t”, instead say “Sorry, I believe that Sunday’s are special, and don’t swim on Sunday”, or even go the extra mile and invite that person to do something more suitable to your belief.  Then you’re sending the message that you would like to be with them, but just shouldn’t spend that time swimming.

Either way, as you go about your life marketing, think about the message.

Rusty

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Every member a marketer

First let me point out that there’s a big difference between marketing and advertising.  Advertising is paid, public, intentional messages that you produce.  But marketing encompasses much, much more.  Marketing entails all the unintentional messages you send as well.

For a company that could be how you answer the phones, what your building looks like, they way in which you communicate to your customers, how you dress (Steve Job’s famous black shirt), etc.

Frequent flyers know that they get lots of expensive brochures, cards, and mailers from their chosen airline – that’s advertising.  But when you go to the gate and get a grumpy gate agent, or get on the plane and find it a mess, or have delays, etc. – that’s marketing.

Marketing is how you build a reputation; advertising is the “call to action”.  Marketing is cultivation whereas advertising is harvesting.

We’ve all heard the phrase “every member a missionary”.  Equally important is the concept of “every member a marketer”.

Everywhere you go, everything you do as a member of the church, you leave an impression – you send a message.  The cumulative messages sent by over 13 million Mormon members through their daily behavior -that’s marketing, and it’s tapped into every time a missionary presents a call to action.

We should always ask ourselves the important question… what impression am I making?  What message am I sending? 

Rusty

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