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February 11, 2006



I read about this. Amazing isn't it? I never got past the first page of Purpose Driven Life and I've attempted plenty of times. I guess Ill save myself the trouble and chuck my copy
I enjoy your blog



Thanks. I haven't even tried to get through PDL. After Purpose Driven Church, I figured there was no point. And the first line--It's not about you--well, that's a bit of a lie. The whole book is about self.

As for Wilkinson, I don't even know what to say. The press release was incredible. He made is sound as if he'd actually accomplished his mission. Amazing. And of course God gets the blame for "directing" him to leave Africa. Silly God. He never can make up his mind.


you wonder if this guy did his homework before leaving for Africa. Evidently, he didn't. Too bad...because the resources used up to this point could have gone to better use.



Jesus, can't we just go serve these people? Why does it have to be about building some pantheon to ourselves? Wilkinson's Tower of Babel. Well, maybe he'll be re-thinking that Jabez crap since his territory didn't get enlarged here.


I don't think it was a good idea for me to read this before I am to preach in, oh, two hours.


What in the world made anyone anywhere think that a Christian version of Disneyland was a good idea no matter what continent it was on? Christianity as tourism... yikes.

It's clear that not enough Christians watch The Simpsons. We could all have learned from the theme-park related mistakes of Ned Flanders.

The end of the article was chilling. What's the proper response when one's mantra fails to work? Admit it and risk a few book sales, or have your marketing director sugar coat it?


Africa is still a continent that is in dire need of help... help that looks more like Christianity and less like imperialism.


Disney??? Oh hell yeah, thats exactly what Africa needs. That and more luxury hotels. And teaching orphaned kids to rodeo??? Well, maybe that would fly here in Oklahoma....ok, maybe not.

Mr. Wilkinson, forgive me but are you sure that was a word from God? Maybe you accidentily intercepted a comedy routine intended for Dennis Miller? Hey, but look at the bright side....at least you didn't get an Oral Roberts "I'll call you home" type message. But don't worry, sir. I'm sure that within a few days Pat Robertson will say something incredible that will divert our attention and you can quietly go back to selling books....


From close to the end of the article--

He says he ...is trying to come to grips with a miracle that didn't materialize despite his unceasing recitation of the Jabez prayer.

That's the problem right there. Faith in God is problematic enough, but faith in a collection of uttered syllables? I'm pretty sure that's diagnosable under DSM criteria.

By the way, this case is a perfect example of why "faith" has come to be a dirty word to most nonreligious folks--in this case, and so many others in public discourse, it doesn't mean seeking after wisdom or insight or discernment; it means trying to affirm a collection of prima facie implausible and unwise propositions by sheer force of will. That isn't admirable, it's madness.

Dallas Tim

God is still showing us that just when we think we have him figured out, we don't. Even when we belive that He has revealed his will for the next 10, 20, 100 years of our lives, He might, in fact, turn things upside down just to see if we still have a daily dependance on Him. We often see Him working and think "Thanks God, I get it. I'll take it from here." The truth is "His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts." Even Bruce Wilkinson must learn (and re-learn) that truth.

By the way, the cultural differences are always going to be there. You have to try and work around them. Maybe he went about it the wrong way, but to judge his motives seems a little hypocritical to me.


Interesting that when the monument to himself didn't materialize, God told him to leave Africa. Too bad more of these monuments don't get short-circuited this early on. Too bad investment in people's lives without any credit, plaque, or photo-op don't fit with so many "Christian" leaders' views of God's message for themselves



I'm not sure who was criticizing his motives. I always suspected he meant well, just as Warren does in Rwanda. It's the arrogance and level of ignorance I'm concerned about.

I'm pretty sure God had nothing to do with Wilkinson's plan, so I don't buy the God is showing us x stuff. God probably wasn't showing Wilkinson anything. The people of Swaziland and the circumstances showed him plenty: take piss-poor materialistic theology outside of an affluent nation and see how well it works. He's back home, and I'm sure Jabez will continue selling, just not in Swaziland or Rwanda or Sudan...

Dallas Tim

What is materialism? To Bill Gates it might be $100 billion instead of ONLY $50 billion. To me it might be a new mini-van. To others it might be a steak dinner every night. To others in third world areas it might be a new pair of shoes at least once every five years, or two meals a day on occasion instead of one (or none).

When we hear Jabez theology taught in those areas, it sounds silly and non-sensical. If, instead, we think that maybe it should be applied in the context of their situation, it might seem a little more plausible. I have never read the "Prayer of Jabez" and I know the idea of "God wants everyone driving a new cadillac" has gone way to far, but is it wrong to tell people that God doesn't want them to starve to death? Didn't Jesus say that our Heavenly Father would provide our daily needs (not neccesarily caviar and filet mignon)? Was Bruce saying "You orphans should be living in a million dollar mansion" or, considering their context, did he want them to believe that God might want to take them beyond the clutches of having no parents, food, clothing, shelter, etc...?

Telling people that God doesn't enjoy seeing people suffer and that He wants much more for them is a very Biblical theme. It's just that some have taken it way to far. God is not our genie, here to grant out every whim. On the other hand, He also wants us to live with joy and know that He not only wants to care for us, but CAN!

There is still suffering... for some more than others. Some bring it on themselves. I'd say a king who likes lots of women to dance topless while he watches and takes 17 year old wives into his harem when his country is being ravaged by A.I.D.S. (but who doesn't like the idea of someone "taking children's property" so that they might be taken care of by someone who is willing to do it) is either evil or stupid or both.

God doesn't want his children starving to death, or dying from A.I.D.S, or living on the streets. It's not materialism to think otherwise... at least Jesus didn't think so.

ohio alex

here is a man who was utterly convinced of his own self success. yes, he was arogant, ignorant, and slightly misguided, but those, like many other problems in today's church, are just the scabs on the top of a staff-infection. Africa is a continant where even the strongest willed die easy. there is a tradition amongest Ethiopian tribes, when someone is leaving the village, they take another person, preferably stronger than themselves. the weaker guides the stronger, and the stronger protects. entering Africa Bruce bruce, and now Warren, should have looked at all the other organizations and asked "how can i join you in your work?" i think our dear wilkenson has learned some incredibly valuble lessons, such as hearing God's voice. it's sad to see this, because so many other people are seeing it to. and now there is one more aid organization flooding the plains, and culture of sub-suharan Africa with evangelical fundamentalism, trying it's harddest to (as Heart For Africas' website put it) "do God's Divine will".



The problem with Jabez theology isn't that it was taken too far; it's that it's simply wrong. Wilkinson entered an area about which he knew nothing; he showed a great disdain for their culture and their ways; and then he had the arrogance to assume that God would provide a miracle because he prayed a prayer over and over again. Throughout history we've called that magic or shamanism, but hey, in Evangelical America they call that Jabez theology. Whatever. As for the disdain, there's a word for that too: colonialism. We talked about this a bit in Sunday School this morning and someone used the phrase "great White hope." That's been the problem with doing things in Africa all along--we spent centuries trashing the place and now we think we can fix everything without respecting the people that live there.


I particularly liked this statement:

"The idea, Mr. Wilkinson said, was to 'try to bring experiences to the kids they could only get at Walt Disney or a dude ranch.' "

In what alternate universe do kids dream of going to Disneyland to put on a Grumpy costume and work for strangers all day long? Or to visit a dude ranch and be made to jump in front of a raging bull for the entertainment of the crowd? The whole thing sounds like it was meant to placate the conscience of white America (combining charity with an African vacation) far more than to serve indiginous orphans.


This is a very interesting development. Again arrogance is humbled by over confidence(sp). Africa is one of those places so rich with game, history, and a mystical culture. I personally don't have a problem with people going over to Africa to help. My issue is that we need to stop going over to fix stuff and just go over to love and care for them. I think Wilky forgot he can't fix everything. But I think I am just saying what others have said.

Oh, Greg, I am glad typepad is making everyone type a verification code. Equal treatment on the internet.


Right after I type that it doesn't make me do it! Crazy typepaders!

Tim Sean

Praying a prayer over and over again is not covenant relationship, it's witchcraft.

Scott Jones

oh, I LOVED that article. The final paragraphs were priceless.


Two additional thoughts come to mind. First, cheap labor. Sounds like orphans were going to be a great overhead reducer for the new business. Secondly, your "great white hope" comment strikes home strongly with me. I have seen it permeate throughout many "Christian" efforts internationally. My experience with it is on a smaller scale when compared with Wilkerson's budget but on a pretty large scale in terms of numbers of people involved. The "save the world in a week" mentality seen in many "mission trips" CAN carry some of the same arogance, cultural insensitivy, and overall lack of professionalism shown in this article. (I'm not including everyone in this, but there are plenty) People moved to act on the behalf of those who have less than them is frequently translated into a project somewhere either domestically or abroad. This passion and sense of wanting to act on conviction is good. Too often, however, the "missionary", i.e. the volunteer, is the focus of the "mission trip". The "unfortunate recipient" is seen as the lucky beneficiary of a group's week off. The assumption is that because they are Americans, they have the answers for those who are down and out (in the eyes of the Americans). Having received a few of these "volunteer teams" during my tenure I have been amazed at the attitude that we, as Americans, can show up for a week in a culture about which we know little or nothing, have a significant positive impact, and then head back to our lifestyle that may even be contributing to the hardships faced by those we just "helped". There are thousands of people who could have advised and informed Wilkerson how best to direct his efforts in SA- people with the same concerns and passion but also aware of the cultural and world view issues that would have made his funds and passion productive and beneficial to people who could have really benefitted. Of course, he wasn't interested in local knowledge and expertise of any kind and the admonition to "do no harm" was ignored.

Bob Smietana

Unfortunately, it appears that just when Wilkinson had been humbled and God could use him, he quit.


Seems like if Wilkinson had read "The Poisonwood Bible" instead of writing "The Prayer of Jabez" we all might be better off.


Scott in Houston

Two comments

First, I think Wilkins is suffering from an acute case of Americanitus. A disease where he thinks that the American way works everywhere and everyone wants and needs to be just like us.

Second, men like Mr. Wilkins, Pat Robertson, Benny Hinn or Rick Warren see so much success that they begin to actually think that they can and should do and say any damn thing that they want to do...and that it should and will succeed. I don't know if it's having faith or possessing balls of solid rock, but these guys have two things common; I think they actually have good intentions and they are all plagued with a 'god complex'. Meaning, any idea they have can be rationalized and deified in their minds and their followers take those ideas as gospel. It's scary but a real sign that power truly does corrupt.

Bev in Australia

I am intrigued ... can someone send me the article - I cannot seem to access it ... very frustrating as it sounds good



They appear to have put it behind the registration page. You just need to follow the link and register.

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