by Greg Taylor
May – June, 2006
We thought we’d separate out the rabbit trails of our conversation. Miller and New Wineskins also talked sports, social responsibility, world issues, and missions.
NW: What do you want to talk about?
NW: (laughs) I’m saying that because that’s how you said John Murray started Bible studies … (if it worked for Bible studies, it really doesn’t work for the first interview question).
DM: (laughs) If you really want to know … we could talk about March Madness.
NW: Yeah, I know. Who do you like?
DM: I’ve got Duke winning it. I know that sounds cliché, but I’m more interested in having a good bracket than I am with going with my favorites. I’d love to see Gonzaga pull it off but you know, after yesterday they just didn’t look very strong.
NW: I tell you what—I’m the complete opposite. I picked who I wanted to see go through and it was Oklahoma … and they lost in the first round (laughs).
DM: (laughs) Well I heard this thing — it was on a sports radio show—there was a guy talking about … there were like two hundred people in his office and the same guy had won the office pool for three years straight and he said, “you can’t go with your emotions, you can’t go with your heart—just pick the seeds and you’ll win.” It’s so hard to do that. So I literally went through my bracket, and I couldn’t do it! There were times I would just—ah, ah—I would just go with my heart, and I know it’s going to cost me in the end.
After Miller mentioned children in Uganda, Greg Taylor mentioned he’d lived there …
DM: I’m going to talk today with the guys who made the Invisible Children documentary. Incredible guys, you know.
NW: They are—I was in awe of those guys going right up into the heart of a long conflict in Northern Uganda.
DM: Let me ask you, if you don’t mind me taking a rabbit trail …
NW: OK. Wineskins, take rabbit trails? Come on!
DM: I’m reading Gary Haugen’s book.
NW: He’s doing great work with International Justice Mission (IJM).
DM: I’m trying to figure out what my responsibility is just as an American, moderately wealthy, you know, have a house (with several roommates), and a car. It’s not that I feel God’s saying “give it all up” … but I do want to know, you having been over there and seen the crisis—I give money, and that’s not the issue—but what do you think the average American needs to do, you know?
NW: You’re breaking it down into a couple of different areas — you and the average American.
DM: I’m not saying what does the average American need to respond to — what does the average American need to do?
NW: The average American, yes, has a responsibility and can do much more travel than the average African. We have the luxury of being wealthy enough where we as Americans can take four million short-term missions trips a year. A recent book I co-authored, we say preparation for short-term missions needs to improve and these trips help if done right but can’t replace or satisfy the long-term impact of locally sustainable missions. When we constantly are fed a diet of “let’s get fifty percent of our church to go to Mexico or Africa short-term” and we forget there’s a long-term focus that’s needed, I think we’re doing some damage overseas.
DM: Really? So, you don’t even think the education of going over and seeing it first-hand is important enough to, sort of waste the money.
NW: I think that’s the most important part of short-term missions — the education. This is a great wave of short-term missions, but we need to think more wisely about how we’re doing it. Beyond Borders does something called “transformational travel” and they’ll have a week where the group will get to know, for instance, what it’s like as a mama with six children living in Haiti. It’s transformation for people there and people who go. It shares the fact that we’re a body of Christ across the world—different cultures and people but doesn’t seek to give quick answers. We’ve had interns who came to Uganda over the summer and they had polygamy figured out in a couple of days … and we’d say we’re trying to teach Africans to work through this themselves with solid biblical principles …
DM: What’s the name of that book?
NW: How to Get Ready for Short-Term Missions.
DM: Yeah. You know, you guys need to — I think the angle on that book, just from writer to writer. It feels like the angle on that book is “the new guide to short-term missions for a new world” or something like that, do you know what I mean? Because everybody thinks they’ve got short-term missions figured out, but if you come in and say, “the world has changed” and this is the new—I don’t know, but I think what you’re saying is really, really important. And as I think of the churches I’ve been involved with, the guys who are involved in missions would read that book. Hey, we’d love to — I do a magazine online called The Burnside Writer’s Collective — I’m involved with it — but if you ever have a first chapter or something from that book, we have a social justice section and I’d love to include that …
NW: Yeah, we’re trying to come at it from a different angle. We’re writing for high school and college students not missiologists, scholars. Hopefully it’ll make a dent in us not being ugly Americans. As far as you, Donald Miller, you have a lot of influence … you look around and say, “Wow, a lot of people are listening.”
DM: Isn’t that a crazy feeling? You don’t know whether to run from it or own it.
Back to the interview
Greg Taylor is the managing editor of New Wineskins, a former missionary in Uganda, and now an associate minister for spiritual formation, outreach and small groups at Garnett Road Church of Christ in Tulsa. He is the author of the novel High Places and co-author (with John Mark Hicks) of the baptismal study Down in the River to Pray”. He is married to Jill and they have three children. [Journey With Greg Taylor Blog]