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Archive for the ‘Missionary’ Category

It’s the start of the Olympics at Brazil.

In light of that I thought I share with you “The Story of Eric Liddell.

Enjoy!

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I saw this excerpt clip from a larger sermon by Paul Washer about a month ago and for some reason I’ve been thinking about this.

I hope you watch it, it’s short enough (6 minutes).

 

It made me think a lot about the incredible need for good biblical resources for pastors and church leaders overseas in the missions field.  There is a serious need for resources, serious need for translations and serious need for materials being affordable.  There is also the need for more teachers who are capable to go overseas and not just stay in cozy seminary settings in the West waiting for the rest of the world to come to us for theological education.

It has made me pray more for God to equip God’s people overseas.  I think Paul Washer’s ministry is a wonderful ministry to support.

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a-man-praying

 

Note: This is part 1 of 2 posts that will address the issue of Hindus that have been on Twitter attacking evangelistic minded Christian as being self-centered.

Christians who are praying and helping with evangelistic Relief effort with the Earthquake in Nepal have been accused of being arrogant for wanting to share the Gospel.  For example one of the Hindus who have been constantly harassing us and many prayerful Christians just tweeted this an hour or so ago against the Bible League in Australia:

#SoulVultures should shed their ego that their self certified poisonous&venomous abhrahamik religions are the best ones

On our blog an interlocutor has also charged that we

have arrogance to think that “pagans” are backward and need redeeming.”

What do we say to that charge?

First off, followers of Christ can be arrogant. That’s because Christians still have a sinful nature.  Just like everybody else.  This confirms the Bible in Romans 3:23 that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  To deny that Christians cannot possibly be arrogant at all is arrogance–better to acknowledge it.  This observation however does not excuse the sin.  Instead a Christian who is arrogant needs to repent from their sins.  Lower yourself and be humbled before God.

Secondly, the need for redemption isn’t only for what our interlocutor called “pagans” (using his own words).  Non-“pagans” need redemption too.

Thirdly, I myself a sinner am also in need of God’s saving grace because of my sins.   I hope that every Hindu who have been harassing Christians would know that I don’t think of myself as any better in my own merit than what someone (in this case the interlocutor) might call “backwards.”

Fourthly, I don’t think believing people need to be redeemed by Christ on the cross is arrogant.  Instead the message of the Cross kills arrogance and instead makes us foster humility.  The Gospel says that we ALL are sinners (Romans 3:10, 3:23) who are ALL spiritually dead if it’s up to ourselves (Ephesians 2:1-3). “For ALL of us have become like one who is unclean, And ALL our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment” (Isaiah 64:6a).  Even when we do outwardly what others might identify as our good deeds, still we can do it with ulterior motive, or it is fueled or done to promote our self-righteousness.  “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).  The believer of the Gospel knows he’s a begger in need of grace.  He knows that because of his lack of righteousness, God has to provide His Son to die on the Cross for his legal righteousness before God.  And any practical righteousness afterwards in a Christian life, if it is true righteousness is the work of God in his life and an outworking of the truth of God’s saving love is the motivation for his obedience.

Fifthly, a Christian that truly understands the Gospel will share this to others as another dying sinner to another dying sinner.  Ironically, if a Christian who understands and believes in the Gospel will not share this to others, he would be committing a high-handed sin of selfishness to genuinely believe the truth that there is a way of salvation and yet not share that to others.  Such a fool is arrogant, only caring for his own life and not think of others but only himself.  #HindusandcitizensofNepalslivesmatter.

Sixtly, if you have been misrepresenting praying Christians and Christian missionaries and relief workers as being arrogant and have read this explanation and still want to accuse Christians of being arrogant in their internal motivation even though you now know better, then God help you.  Continual misrepresentation even when one knows better is arrogance: You want to still keep on saying this, and you have made your desire to slander Christians as being more important than the truth.  Whenever an agenda is advanced with half-truths and lying sound bites, it is wickedness.  Repent to God for mercy for your sins.

Lastly, from some of our interaction this past week some of you have said you are without sin.  That’s ironic that you can still keep a straight face and charge Christians for arrogance don’t you think?  The most arrogant thing you can ever say or think is to think you are without sin.  It means you are perfect.  It means you can do no wrong; it means you have become a functional god.  Oh the arrogance of presuming you are a perfect god!  But your deeds reveal otherwise.  Now if you confess your sins to God, repent of it and turn to the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, He is faithful to forgive you, to change you, to cleanse you.

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world map missions

I thought I post an update of our posts dealing with Missions, Culture and being Biblical.  Many of the posts dealt with the Insider Movement although we also touch on different things.  The reason I posted this update is because I wrote a significant amount of more posts after our series was completed.

Enjoy!

Essays by SlimJim

Quick Thoughts on Question of those who never Heard

A Bad Theology of False Religions in Contemporary Evangelical Missionary Thought?

Missionary Contextualization understood in light of the relationship between Culture and the Bible

Messianic Mosques and Messianic Muslims? Taking on Shah Ali’s South Asia Report  NEW

Faulty Ecclesiology in two Insider Movement Case Studies NEW

Insider Movement’s John Travis view of Apologetics and Islam  NEW

Concerns for C. Peter Wagner on the Cutting Edge of Missions Strategy  NEW

  NEW

Is it True Anyone Can be a Missionary if they Speak English?

Missions: Distinguishing between Relief and Transformational Development

Reviews

Book Review: The Road to Reality

Review: Conquer Your Fear, Share Your Faith by Kirk Cameron, Ray Comfort

  NEW

Other Online Resources

Reformed Forum Critique of the Insider Movement and resources recommended

PCA General Assembly Report on the Insider Movement

David B.

Garner’s 5 Part Series on Insider Movement over at Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals

Video: Piper Responds to the Insider Movement | The Domain for Truth

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Note: Originally I wanted to add more essays to our series on “Missions, Culture and Being Biblical” but this turns out not to be the Lord’s will because of things with pastoral ministry and my trip last week through some states in the Mid-West .  Here’s a post I didn’t get to finish until now. cfysf Can there be such thing a thing as “Messianic Muslims”?  Apparently some missiologists who are associated with the Insider Movement thinks its possible.  My contention is that this is problematic. In what follows I am interacting with the following essay by Shah Ali and J. Dudley Woodberry that was provided as “case studies” in the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement:

Ali, Shah and J. Dudley Woodberry. 2009. “South Asia: Vegetables, Fish and Messianic Mosques.” Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne, eds., 715-717.

Shad Ali is a pseudonym for a worker among Muslims in a South Asian country that is currently persecuting Christians while Dr. Woodberry is Dean Emeritus and Senior Professor of Islamic Studies over at Fuller Seminary’s school of Intercultural Studies (formerly called the School of World Missions).  Woodberry has been a leader of the Insider Movement. To play on the title of their essay, I think the concept of Messianic Muslims and Messianic Mosques is somewhat “fishy.” In their essay Ali and Woodberry gives the rationale for why they would call themselves “Muslims” rather than “Christians:”

Our Muslim neighbors defined ‘Christianity’ as a ‘foreign religion of infidels,’ so we often referred to ourselves as ‘Muslims’ (literally, ‘submitters to God’).  The necessity of submitting to God is certainly Christian (see James 4:7), and Jesus’ disciples called themselves ‘Muslims’ according to the Qur’an (5:111).  When villagers have decided to follow Christ, the people continued to use the mosque for worship of God–but now through Christ” (Ali, 716).

Response: Several problems are evident in this paragraph.  First off, while Ali’s neighboring Muslims precieve Christianity as a foreign infidel’s religion, it does not logically follow therefore that missionaries and their followers should call themselves “Muslims.”  I think it is possible for missionaries and converts to say they are Christians and explain what Christianity really means to their neighboring Muslims which involves correcting preconceptions, whether real or imagined; it is also a logical possibility to use a different term to describe their new relationship to Christ than terms used by current Muslim paradigm.  Again, just because Muslims (or anyone else for that matter) have a bad preception of Christians and Christianity does not mean we now use the same label they give of themselves to identify ourselves.  This is an issue of integrity.

Secondly, Ali and Woodberry further argue that the reason why they referred to themselves as ‘Muslims’ is because in Arabic the term “Muslims” literally means ‘submitters to God’ and this term is a legitimate designation for Christian missionaries and their convert since “submitting to God is certainly Christian.”  But this is a word-study fallacy; while it is true that etymologically the term means “submitters to God,” in the actual context of 21st Century missionary outreach the term Muslims have a deeper connotation than a mere generic “submitters to God.”  Which God?  Is it the God of the Bible or the God of the Qur’an?  A follower of Islam is using the term Muslim to refer to those who submit to the teaching of Islam (including their scripture, the Qur’an) and believe Muhammad is Allah’s prophet. The term Muslims would also be understood by followers of Islam to be distinguished from those who believe Jesus Christ is God, who believe Jesus came to die as the Savior of the sins of those who would repent.  With this understanding of the term “Muslim” within Muslims’ own community, these missionaries (and their converts) are not Muslims.

Thirdly, the writers note “Jesus’ disciples called themselves ‘Muslims’ according to the Qur’an (5:111)” but while it is true that Islamic theology sees the early followers of Jesus as Muslims, that does not mean they would designate that term today to describe current followers of Jesus since they believe Christians today have strayed from the actual teaching of Jesus (which they believe is similar to the teaching of Muhammad).

Fourthly, in the last sentence the writers mentioned about followers of Christ still continuing worshiping God in their mosque “but now through Christ;” but is it really possible to worship God in Muslim Mosque through Christ?  Remaining in a Muslim Mosque means remaining in a worship service that denies Jesus Christ as the Son.  Don’t forget the words of 1 John 2:23: “Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.”  You cannot worship and have the Father if you deny the Son (which a Mosque does deny)! Biblically, going to a Muslim Mosque to worship is to worship with nonbelievers.  Heed the words of 2 Corinthians 6:14-15=

14 Do not be [j]bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 Or what harmony has Christ with [k]Belial, or [l]what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?


There is also dangerous implication of the fruit of the Insider movement towards ecclessiology and specifically with the church’s ordinance of baptism; few paragraphs after the above quote the two writers goes on to say:

People have only been baptized if the head of the family was baptized” (Ali, 716)

Response: I have addressed this elsewhere in this series in particular with my essay “Closer Look at Donald McGavran’s People Movement Missionary Approach versus Conglomerate Church Approach.” We must ask the question whether this is biblical: Do we see in Scripture the command that we SHOULD ONLY baptize people if the head of the family are baptized first?  Do we see any Biblical data that its okay for believers not to be baptized if one’s head of the family is not baptized?


Finally we find another theological argument for the concept of “Messianic Muslims” (and “Messianic Mosques”) towards the end of the essay:

The concept of Messianic mosques and completed Muslims (following the model of Messianic synagogues and completed Jews) still causes considerable misunderstanding among other Christians” (Ali, 717).

Response: First off, the burden of proof is upon both Shah Ali and J. Dudley Woodberry to demonstrate that Islam parallel Judaism in order for the concept of “Messianic mosques” and “completed Muslims” to work.  Secondly, don’t forget that unlike Judaism, Islam came after Christianity 600 years later and twisted the truth of Christianity so it cannot be seen as something needing Christian theological “completion” but historically it is the rejection of Christianity.  Thirdly, whereas the Bible does teach the special redemptive role of Israel and her faith in the history of redemptive history, the Bible does not give Islam the same role; and to talk about Messianic Mosques is to make a theological move that fail to take into account the unique role of Biblical Judaism.  Here Ali and Woodberry is making an analogy that doesn’t work.  Fourthly, the idea of Messianic mosques and Messianic Muslims is not something that other Christians merely misunderstood; I believe in this essay I have demonstrated there are real legitimate problem with their arguments and their position.  Fifthly, this alleged “misunderstanding” about Messianic Mosques turns out that its not coming from Christians alone but also Muslims.  Apparently from within their own essay Ali and Woodberry acknowledges that other Muslims “misunderstood” that these “Messianic Muslims” are not Muslims at all (thought they try to play off as Muslims) when the report gives account of their persecutions from Muslims.  There is the irony from the essay’s own description of the author Shah Ali: “His identity is being concealed (There is currently persecution of Christisn in his country” (Ali, 715).

Again, I think the whole idea of Messianic Mosques and Messianic Muslim is fishy.

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world map missions Our Marathon Series on “Missions, Culture and Being Biblical” was launched on September 17th, 2014. While there were other issues being addressed there was a lot of focus in our series on the Insider Movement and the problem of faulty theology driving one’s missiology and one’s contextualization of the Gospel.  I felt that Solid Christians addressing the problem with the Insider Movement and their approach towards Mission was long overdue and I am glad to see the last two years an increases of Christian theologians addressing this problem. Below is an “index” to the posts in our series.

Essays by SlimJim

Quick Thoughts on Question of those who never Heard

A Bad Theology of False Religions in Contemporary Evangelical Missionary Thought?

Missionary Contextualization understood in light of the relationship between Culture and the Bible

Messianic Mosques and Messianic Muslims? Taking on Shah Ali’s South Asia Report  NEW

Faulty Ecclesiology in two Insider Movement Case Studies NEW

Insider Movement’s John Travis view of Apologetics and Islam  NEW

Concerns for C. Peter Wagner on the Cutting Edge of Missions Strategy  NEW

Is it True Anyone Can be a Missionary if they Speak English?

Missions: Distinguishing between Relief and Transformational Development

Reviews

Book Review: The Road to Reality

Review: Conquer Your Fear, Share Your Faith by Kirk Cameron, Ray Comfort

Other Online Resources

Reformed Forum Critique of the Insider Movement and resources recommended

PCA General Assembly Report on the Insider Movement

David B.

Garner’s 5 Part Series on Insider Movement over at Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals

Video: Piper Responds to the Insider Movement | The Domain for Truth

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Donald McGavan

A big name in missiology is Donald McGavran.  According to Wikipedia Dr. McGavran was

a missiologist who was the founding Dean (1965) and Professor of Mission, Church Growth, and South Asian Studies at the School of World Mission at Fuller Theological Seminary.

(Source)

He was also someone important because of his People Movement Approach towards Missions.  While McGavran did not live long enough to see the Insider Movement, I do think the Insider Movement would not be what it is without McGavran’s People Movement Approach.  I also think that some of the things he has to say about his approach in contrast to what he calls the conglomerate church approach is not fully biblical and at times I don’t see how his model necessarily avoid the very problems that McGavran fault with the conglomerate model.  I think his approach shouldn’t be altogether dismissed but instead can benefit from the following criticisms being offered.  In what follows I am interacting with the following essay by McGavran in the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement:

McGavran, Donald. 2009. “A Church In Every People: Plain Talk about a Difficult Subject.” Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne, eds., 627-632.

The purpose of his essay is not to argue that the conglomerate church approach is thoroughly wrong and his approach is the only one that’s right; rather the purpose of his essay is a little more modest as he himself said: “Let us make sure that we do it by the most effective methods” (McGavran, 632).  Essentially McGavran believes that the People Movement Approach would be more effective.  A Christian however should not just evaluate a method because it is “effective” but also how an approach align with Scripture; that is, we must evaluate any method with the question of whether it is being faithful to God’s Word.

What is Conglomerate Church Approach versus People Movement Approach?

Before we can go any further it is important to define and describe what is the conglomerate church approach and what is the People Movement Approach.  Several times McGavran describe the conglomerate church as the “one on one” convert approach.  He also described it in the following manner:

The missionary arrived.  He and his family worship on Sunday.  They are the first members of that congregation.  He learns the language and preaches the gospel.  He lives like a Christians.  He tells people about Christ and helps them in their troubles.  He sells tracts and gospels or gives them away.  Through the years a few individuals converts are won from this group and that.  Sometimes they come from a very sound and spiritual reasons; sometimes from mixed motives.  But here and there a woman, a man, a boy, a girl do decide to follow Jesus.

One single congregation arising in the way just described is almost always a conglomerate church–made up of members of several different segments of society.

(McGavran, 627).

On the other hand, in McGavran’s perspective a People Movement Approach is one in which “the goal must be a cluster of growing, indigenous congregations, every member of which remains in close contact with his kindred” (McGavran, 629).  McGavran gives us an example of what this approach looks like:

For example, if you were evangelizing the taxi drivers of Taiperi, then your goal would not be to win some taxi drivers, some university professors, some farmers and some fishermen, but rather to establish churches made up largely of taxi drivers, their wives and children, and their assistants and mechanics.  As you win converts of that particular community, the congregation has a natural, built-in social cohesion.  Everybody feels at home.  Yes, the goal must be clear”

(McGavran, 629).

McGavran’s Objection to the Conglomerate Church Approach

McGavran’s chief concern with the conglomerate church approach is that it is a group that is too mixed and ends up being ineffective for outreach.  This kind of church which is a collection of various odd groups of individuals in McGavran’s opinion ends up being seen as outsiders by the community which as a result make members become ostracized.  The concern that Conglomerate Church leads members being sealed off from the community is repeated again and again in McGavran’s essay:

Once,

It is sealed off from all the people groups of that region.  No segment of the population says, ‘That group of worshippers is us” (McGavran, 627-28).

Twice,

A church which result from this process looks to the people of the region like an assemblage of traitors.  It is a conglomerate congregation.  It is made up of individuals, who, one-by-one, have come out of several different societies, cast or tribes” (McGavran, 628).

Third time,

‘You are not of us,’ they say to him; ‘You have abandoned us; you like them more than you like us.  You now ownership their gods not our gods.’  As a result, conglomerate congregations, made up of converts won in this fashion, grow very slowly” (McGavran, 628).

Fourth time,

We must not allow new converts to become seal off.  We must continue to make sure that a constant stream of new converts comes into the ever-growing cluster of congregations” (McGavran, 631).

And finally:

But is a slow way.  And it is a way which frequently seals off the converts’ own people from any further hearing of the gospel” (McGavran, 632).

McGavran’s concern faces two criticism.

First off, biblically speaking, we must not forget the Words of Jesus concerning the reality that believers of Jesus Christ will face persecution including being ostracized by one’s community for the sake of following Christ.  Note Luke 10:16, “The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and he who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me.”  Note also Jesus’ words in John 15:20-21= “20 Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me,they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. 21 But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me.”  McGavran’s essay does not deal with these verses which is unfortunate since these verse do speak on the topic of being sealed off from one’s community and facing rejection.  In fact, the entire essay lacks any acknowledgement of a biblical understanding of the role of people’s sin in rejecting Jesus Christ and the reason why people persecute genuine Christians.

Secondly, it seems doubtful that the People Movement Approach would do any better than the Conglomerate Church model in avoiding being ostracism.  We must also remember that believers cannot control nonbelievers from rejecting us–ultimately, it is up to them and not us.  Moreover in the essay McGavran himself acknowledge the possibility that the People Movement Approach faces the exact same difficulties as the Conglomerate Church Approach when he writes of the People Movement Approach that “all converts should be encouraged to bear cheerfully the exclusion, the oppression and the persecution that they are likely to encounter from their people” (McGavran, 629).  He adds “Encourage converts to remain thoroughly one with their people in most matters.  Please note that word ‘most.'” (McGavran, 629).  I don’t see how Mcgavran’s exhortation for the People Movement Approach is unique or any different than the exhortation of those practicing the Conglomerate Church model.

Evaluating Mcgavran’s People Movement Approach

When we look at the essay’s description of the People Movement Approach more closely, two problems stand out.

The first problem is with what McGavran has to say about baptism: 

If only one person decides to follow Jesus, do not baptize him immediately.  Say to him, ‘You and I will work together to lead another five, or ten, or God willing, 50 of your people to accept Jesus Christ as Saviour so that when you are baptized, you will be baptized with them.’  Ostracism is very effective against one lone person.  But ostracism is weak indeed when exercised against a group of a dozen.  And when exercised against 200 it has practically no force at all” (McGavran, 630).

It is biblical to baptize an individual believer without having multiple converts with him or her as Acts 7 demonstrate with the case of Philip baptizing the Etophian eunuch.  Now I will grant that there might be some wisdom in wanting to see more people getting baptized at the same time but I think we must be careful to avoid conveying the idea that we must baptize only when many people come to faith.  I think this practice is also presumptuous.  If it turns out that conversion is taking place slower than one expected, do we then put off baptism of new believers for years until an arbitrary quota is fulfilled?  I also think the discussion of baptism also bring out the reality that the people movement approach still faces the same problem that McGavran has for the Conglomerate Church model in that the People Movement Approach (or any other approach for that manner) is still doing evangelism “one by one,” that is one individual at a time.  But even if there are sudden rush of people coming to be baptized, I also think McGavran’s reason for multiple baptism so as avoid being ostracized would also fail since we see the early church have moments when many come to faith yet believers can still face rejection from their community as in the instance of Acts 2.

The second problem has to do with what McGavran has to say about teaching versus reaching out:

One of the common mistake made by missionaries, eastern as well as western, all around the world is that when a few become Christians, perhaps 100, 200, or even 1,000, the missionaries spend all their time teaching them.  They want to make them good Christians and they say to themselves, ‘If these people become good Christians, then the gospel will spread.’  So for years they concentrate on a few congregations.

Between the two evils of giving them too little Christian teaching or allowing them to become a sealed-off community that cannot reach its own people, the latter is much the greater danger. (McGavran, 631).

I think we can easily have a false dilemma here, where MCGavran commits the fallacy of either/or when we can have a “both/and.”  Biblically we must not forget that the Great Commission is what drives Christian Missionary activities.  We must remember what Jesus said in Matthew 28:19-20:

19 [a]Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you [b]always, even to the end of the age.”

Note how the Great Commission involves “ teaching them to observe all that I commanded you;” if we don’t teach everything as one of our aim, then we are failing the Great Commission.

The Apostle Paul is a great exemplar of the Biblical model of a missionary who never lost the focus of evangelism to nonbelievers while also making sure new believers and churches continue to grow in the teachings of Christianity through face to face ministry and his epistles, some of which contain deep truths of God (think of the Epistles to Romans).

I also think McGavran falsely assume that the more teaching a believer has, the more likely he will be sealed off from their own people.  I don’t think logically that necessarily follow.  However, it is true that the more teachinga new believer recieves and applies the more that believer will become holy, which essentially mean “set-apart” for God.   Here I think McGavran commits an equivocation fallacy, in which he equivocate holiness with being “sealed-off.”

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