Feeds:
Posts
Comments

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!

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

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.”

Read Full Post »

Keep Calm you speak english

In terms of missions today there are many opportunities to reach people through the ministry of teaching English overseas.  Not to take away from this great opportunity, I think we must also be cautious to jump the gun and assume that “Any English speaker can teach English to speakers of other languages.”

First off, language is one of those things that we think we know it until we have to teach it–and then we discover that we might not really know it as we think we do.

Secondly, the state of our education today is that many English classes in our younger years and also in College do not emphasize much on Grammar anymore and I think this is a reason in of itself to be cautious in assuming that just being a mere English speaker means we can teach the English language.  I know this is a bit anecdotal, but I remember in Seminary many of those who grew up in the US and spoke English all the time might struggle more than those who were coming in from overseas concerning grammar, even things such as identifying the basics such as what is a preposition and participle, etc.

Thirdly, even those who teach English in the field already can further improve their skill of teaching English.

Fourthly, as in any area, I think teaching a skill require more than just being good in that skill; one must also be a good communicator in order to be an effective teacher.

Fifthly, related to the above, is the phenomenon that sometimes those who excel in something might not necessarily always be a good teacher of the very thing they are good at; personally, I feel this is especially true with those who are good at management but they are so good at it that they think it must be intuitive and struggle in passing on the skill to someone else.

Sixth, apparently the skill to teach English well is important enough that a major organization such as the Billy Graham Center has dedicated part of their mission to better equip those involved with teaching English as a mission.

Seventh, we must not forget that a missionary must not only be adept in language; he or she must also know the Gospel and know how to communicate it well.  This might be a good time to say that we must not forget the priority that the missionary or evangelist themselves must focus more on actually knowing the Gospel really well.

Given the above, I think we should be at a minimum be cautious with the thesis “Any English speaker can teach English to speakers of other languages.”

Read Full Post »

Jay Smith

Jay Smith, Christian apologist to Muslim, spoke in 2012 on the issue of the problem of the Insider Movement.  These two videos from Youtube are great resources given that Jay Smith has a master in Islamic Studies over at Fuller Seminary where many of the missiologists who were the forerunners and later leaders of the Insiders Movement taught at.

Here are the videos:

I am 42 minutes into the first video thus far and I found Jay Smith to be quite fair and knowledgeable of his description of the Insider Movement.  Jay Smith begins his 19 points of contention about 39 minutes into the video.

For those who might not have the time to read the PCA report against the Insider Movement and the essays I’ve written here thus far, these two talks might be helpful for you who are audio-visual learners.

Read Full Post »

identity

Can genuine followers of Christ (those Born Again) retain their previous “socio-religious identity”?  What are we to make of those who argue that a Born Again follower of Christ can retain their “socio-religious identity”?

The following is an interaction with an essay that was printed in Perspective on the World Christian Movement by Rebecca Lewis titled “Insider Movements: Retaining Identity and Preserving Community:”

My Thoughts

I can appreciate Lewis’ spirit of trying not to set our own obstacles against people coming to a salvific knowledge of Jesus Christ.  One thing I think that we can learn from her article is the fact that our church plant effort should take advantage of natural relations and association that already exist before our Gospel effort, rather than ignore them or worst, unnecessarily undermine them.

But I do have more problems with Lewis’ article and the Insider movement that overshadow what is helpful.

First is with Lewis’ talks about the difference between planting churches and implanting churches; the former she describe as bringing strangers together to become a new family of God in the church while the latter instead incorporates believers within their pre-existing family or community network that provide the spiritual fellowship for each other (Lewis, 674).  I have a hard time seeing that strong of a distinction between the two and don’t find as strong of a distinction between planting and implanting a church: I think Lewis here would be naïve to think that church plants are not trying to utilize pre-existing relationship for building a community of faith with those that are already part of one’s network such as family members, co-workers, friends, etc.  Moreover I believe she fail to take into account Jesus’ own teaching that the reality is that sometime those within one’s own family would reject the Gospel for Jesus Himself said “They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law” (Luke 12:53, NIV). It seems that when rubber meets the road even implanting a church would face the same difficulty as planting a church.

 

Secondly, she leaves the term “socio-religious identity” vague; and more importantly she does not define “religion.”  It is important for her to define her term especially when she says things such as the “insider movements affirm that people do not have to go through the religion of Christianity” while also saying “they only need to go through Jesus Christ to enter God’s family” (Lewis, 675).  Another example is her statement that “Paul warned that to add religious conversion to following Christ would nullify the Gospel” (Lewis, 675).  She believes “religion” is pit against the Gospel when she cited Ephesians 3:6 but the verse does not contrast Gospel with “religion.” (And remember since she didn’t define it, it’s kind of hard to pinpoint how exactly this verse is against “religion.”).

 

Thirdly, while she does try to give a theological argument to justify that we do not need to make people accept the “Christian religion,” I think her argument fail to account for unique instances of redemptive history.  Lewis raised the question “Does one have to go through Christianity to enter God’s family?  The New Testament addresses a nearly identifical question: ‘Do all believers in Jesus Christ have to go through Judaism in order to enter God’s family?’” (Lewis, 674).  But I think the parallel with whether one has to be a “Christian” and that of going through “Judaism” breaks down because biblically the Gospel message that we often describe with the term “Christianity” is God’s way of allowing people (specifically non-Jews, the Gentiles) to enter God’s family.  I also believe there is a leap in logic when she merely assumed that Christianity parallel Judaism as a religion that one can ignore as a passing relic of the pass because God is doing a new thing; I think it is question-begging.

 

Read Full Post »

religions and mission method

Introduction

This is the kickoff post for what Lord-willing will be a week long series on “Missions, Culture and Being Biblical.”  What prompted this series is the concern that while modern Christian missionary endeavor have encouragingly made progress with the Gospel among unreached people group at an unprecedented scale in the history of Christianity, nevertheless some of the leaders and intellectuals of today’s missionary movements have a weak theology and a problematic view of culture that hinders the effort of biblically faithful missions work .  One such serious theological problem among some missiologist is a defective understanding of a “theology of world religion” that is contrary to what the Bible teaches.  Here in this post I want to document that such a problem does exists among prominent missiologist and examples will be cited from several essays found in the important anthology on missions titled Perspectives on the World Christian Movement (4th Edition).

Are there examples of bad theology of false religion in Contemporary Evangelical Missionary Thought?

The book Perspectives on the World Christian Movement was edited by Ralph D. Winters and Steven C. Hawthorne.  The fourth edition of Perspectives on the World Christian Movement was published in 2009, the same year that Ralph Winters died.  Ralph Winters was an important figure in the missions world.  According to the book Winters was “the General Director of the Frontier Mission Fellowship (FMF) in Pasadena, CA” whom “after serving ten years as a missionary among Mayan Indians in the highland of Guatemala, he was called to be a Professor of Missions at the School of World Missions at the School of World Mission (Winter and Koch, 531).

Winter coauthored an essay titled Finishing the Task: The Unreached Peoples Challenge with Bruce Koch.  Koch himself at the time of publication was the International Facilitator of the Perspectives Global Network (Winter and Koch, 531).  In this essay, Winter and Koch in the end-note gave the following definition for “Practicing Christians:”

Practicing Christian refers to Christians of all types and associations, including Roman Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants, Anglicans, Independents and Marginals, who are not merely nominal (Winter and Koch, 546).

Based upon this definition of practicing Christians, Winter and Koch optimistically stated that “Today, there is one practicing Christian for every seven people worldwide who are either nominal or non-Christian” (Winter and Koch, 531).  One must be a bit more pessimistic about the numbers since both Winter and Koch believe without any qualification that Roman Catholics are Christians.  Since one of the driving motivation for missions is to declare the Good News so that sinners are reconciled to God by means of justification through faith, it is kind of hard to embrace the view of justification that Roman Catholics subscribe to as being the same thing as the Protestant view of justification.  They are antithetical to one another actually; and it’s as different as heaven and hell when it comes to matter of missions and eternity.

Ralph Winter’s lack of discernment between biblical and unbiblical groups that claim to be Christian can be further seen in his essay titled Finishing the Task: The Unreached Peoples Challenge.  Here he addresses directly the question of what are we to think about “cultic” religious movements and the answer is concerning:

The growing edge may more and more be the kind of thing we would call cultic or a least anomalous in this country.  Does our attitude towards ‘home grown’ aberrant forms of basically biblical faith in this country match what is needed in the rest of the world?  Can we trust the Bible to eventually balance out these thousands of new, ‘out of control’ movements?  Can we digest the the plain fact that the entire Islamic tradition is, like Roman Catholicism, full of ‘non-Christian elements which we despise, yet is clearly the product of the impact of the Bible (unlike Hindu culture)?  What do we do with such forms of qusai-biblical faith?  Rather than look at the bewildering varities of forms of religious faith–at the different ‘earthern vessels’ in which the faith is contained–let’s look at the extent that the will of God has taken hold.  That is the kingdom of God” (Winter, 394).

Sadly in the quote above and also in the rest of the essay Winter never address the issue of what does the Bible itself have to say about “anomalous” “qusai-biblical faith.”  This omission is inexcusable considering how much the Bible does talk about false teaching and false beliefs.  One might try to read the above charitably and try to say that Winters is referring to those in the West who can be uptight cherry pickers on secondary issues but then Winters’ discussion about Islam does not permit this interpretation.  It is sad to see that Winters confuses the fact that just because something has been “the product of the impact of the Bible” it must therefore mean it must be thoroughly biblical (one must not forget the possibility that a religious system can be the product of the impact of the Bible on the one hand concerning certain religious tenets while the system also pervert what the Bible teaches with other tenets).  Winter challenges the reader with the question “What do we do with such forms of qusai-biblical faith?” with the specific example of Islam and gives his answer that Christians must “look at the extent that the will of God has taken hold.  That is the kingdom of God.”  I think the reader must not let Ralph Winter get away with his naked assertion that we peer into a religion such as Islam and say that is the kingdom of God; Ralph Winter has the burden of proof to demonstrate that God is working through a non-Christian religion and that seeing something like Islam being used by God is the kingdom of God.  Winter’s attempt to suggest we accept Islam theologically by way of arguing from the analogy of Roman Catholicism also commit the complex question fallacy since Winter assumes that Roman Catholicism is going to be accepted by the audience despite it having flaws doctrinally–but that’s not a given, especially in light of Roman Catholicism’s inadequacy with soteriological matters.

Finally another such essay we want to look at is titled From Western Christendom to Global Christianity.  The authors of this essay are also important leaders in the missionary world.  Todd Johnson is the director of the Center for the study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell theological seminary and his co-author Sandra S.K. Leeis is a research assistant for the same center; Lee has also served as a research assistant to the Executive Chair of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization.  In their essay they talk about how God was breaking the mold of Christianity that was based upon conceptions of the West (the essay calls the West the “Northern hemisphere”).  Notice what they have to say in their essay:

Perhaps surprisingly for many Northerners (and perhaps for some Southerners as well), there are encouraging signs that people from these great religious systems may not have to entirely leave their tradition to become followers of Christ” (Johnson and Lee, 392).

Followers of Christ need not entirely leave their “traditions”?

Later this week I will be scrutinizing the arguments for the view that people can become followers of Christ without leaving their identity in their non-Christian religious system.

Conclusion

It is not enough for missiologist to know other religions (the academic study of which we may call Religious Studies).  Nor is it enough to know the superficial similarities between Christianity and other religions (Comparative religion).  Christian missiologist who desire to be faithful to God must also search the Scripture and also have their missional method be informed and shaped by a biblical theology of religion.  Space does not permit to give a fully developed exposition of what that looks like but I highly recommend the book that I have reviewed titled A God of Many Understandings? by Todd Miles.

Bibliography

Johnson, Todd and Sandi S. K. Lee. 2009. From Western Christendom to Global Christianity. Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne, eds., 387-389, 392.

Read Full Post »

world map missions

Beginning next week on Tuesday September 16th we will have a series of posts on the topic of Missions, Culture and being Biblical.  There seems to be a lot of bad theology today that is driving a lot of the discussion on missionary method and we want to tackle this head on.

We hope that in the week long series or so to have some original pieces written and also point to other resources that are available.

Stay tune!

 

Read Full Post »

In the Presence of my Enemies Gracia Burnham

 Available on Amazon

As we see the increase of Islamic terrorism worldwide, this story needs to be heard more than ever. It is a powerful story of forgiveness and of God’s grace and mercy. The book is an account of Martin and Gracia Burnham, who were missionaries in the Philippines that were captured by Muslim radicals in 2001 and held as hostages in the jungle for over a year. The story is told by Gracia, who survived the ordeal. Her husband was killed during the raid by the Armed Forces of the Philippines that finally freed (and for some, killed) the hostages. Between the time of her capture and the final liberation by the military, the Burnham has gone through seventeen firefights and countless other artillery shelling and terrible ordeals with the jungle. I was drawn by Gracia’s honesty of her shortcomings and struggle during her journey. She was honest in the book of how she felt, including her feeling that God has betrayed her and how she finally coped with the kidnapping. She was also honest about how she felt about the terrorist, and quite understandably. But perhaps most disturbing was her honest portrayal of what drove Abu Sayyaf, the terrorist group that kidnapped her and her husband. It is a frightening ideology of hate and readers but this will come at no surprise for those familiar with the ideology of Al Qaeda and jihad. Although the topic is sobering, the book is by no means hopeless, for as the book progresses you will see the faith of Martin and Gracia grow and being lived out of what it means to bless your enemies. The book also manages to have some funny moments with Gracia’s sense of humor coming out in the book and at times her sarcasm towards the irony around her. You will laugh—and you will cry. Readers will likely be tearful of the moment in the book when her husband is killed—and her final rescue. The book also has a lengthy account of her time after the hostage situation, and how the Lord has worked through this event. An excellent book that I totally recommend, a beautiful testimony of the Gospel applied and a moving account of what it means to be a Christian—even in the presence of one’s enemy.

Read Full Post »

Purchase: Amazon

I’ve enjoyed this at several different level so I will review this book from different perspective: Chinese history, historiography, lessons for the US current military involvement overseas and spiritually as a Christian.
In terms of Chinese history, this book is on a time period and events that few Americans know about let alone understand. Way before America was attacked on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941, Japan has already been waging war and spreading its imperialism for decades. This book is about events of Japan’s invasion of China during the 1930s from the Shanghai area to Nanking, and it explores what mainstream history have not focus much on: the subject of the book being Chinese collaborators with the Japanese. If the saying is true that “history is written by those who win,” then the implication from this must also be true: mainstream’s popular historical narrative will often leave out details it would rather forget. It’s easy to see in pop cultural memory that the population of China “resisted” the Japanese throughout the Japanese occupation of China during World War Two, but that’s not always the case as this book accurately portray. In order to survive in an occupied China one has to acknowledge the political realities of Japanese control. Currently the history of the Japanese invasion of China is overshadowed by the great work, “The Rape of Nanking,” which documents extensively the incredible atrocity of the Japanese Army against Chinese civilians, and it’s easy to have the framework of the victimization of China overshadow the reality of what was happening on the ground during occupation that some was trying to survive by cooperating with the Japanese (that is not to deny the realities of victims and the heinous crimes that occurred). No doubt the book does not deny that reality of the Japanese atrocities and even provide more further details paralleling Iris Chang’s famous work. However, here in this work the author of “Collobration” advance the thesis that there were some elites in China that did cooperated with the Japanese during occupation and that they can’t be demonized into a one dimensional cardboard wicked “traitors.” It can get more complicated than that.
What I thoroughly enjoyed about this book is the consciousness of the author’s historiography. As I began reading the book, I wondered how the author was going about to write as objectively as possible a historical work concerning a subject that would not enjoy a lot of surviving data: Collaborators would have been seen as traitors after the Japanese left, and no doubt it would not help for the accurate preservation of any written record of their experiences not to mention the collaborators’ survival! This work was truly amazing in terms of the author’s fortune of working with primary sources of Japanese Imperial army’s record, the memoirs of Japanese pacification agents and Western observers in Shanghai. The author Timothy Brook does a good job of handling the primary sources with care while also bringing the readers into the conversation of how he weighed the evidences, acknowledging the biases of each source as he weaved the data to produce his narrative. Brook admit the data is far from complete and there are limitations to historical research of collaborators yet it’s amazing how much he can carefully extrapolate. I’ve enjoyed Brook’s discussion of collaboration in the greater context of collaboration studies of the European front in World War Two, noting how historiography of collaboration is so different from that of say occupied France with that of China under Japan, and also situational differences between the European front with that of China.
The consciousness upon the author to use the European occupation and collobration under Nazi control in World War 2 as a foil for the situation in occupied China lead me to think about collaboration and military occupation beyond just France and China. I can’t help it but to think about what lessons this book brings to the greater geo-political affairs of today, specifically with Iraq and Afghanistan. As I read this book I can’t help but to recall memories walking a patrol with a Civil Affairs Marine officer in Iraq in 2003 and hearing this young officer’s heavy burden as he explained that afternoon of the difficulties of geo-political realities, local politics, war craft and “nation-building.” As much as I do not like the term “occupation” to describe our military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, and though I think the Japanese control over China is qualitatively and morally different than the US efforts in the Middle East, nevertheless I think there are some lessons one can learn here from collaboration concerning contemporary doctrine of counter-insurgency and the “hearts and minds” component of military occupation today. I think this book is worth being put under the Marine Corps Commandant’s reading list. Timothy Brooks notes the difficult realities of how difficult it was for the Japanese to find quality collaborators (which he encouraged the readers not to load that term with negative moral connotation right away in the book, but reserving it to the end of the work). When the nationalists government in Nanking retreated as the Japanese army advance, the elites with the technical and beaucratic know-how of operating governments and infrastructures fled with the Nationalists army as well. There was no incentive for them to be the puppet of a Japanese regime. The Japanese attempt to establish “peace committees” were frustrating, with the difficulties of sorting out people the right people with legitimate political and community capital from those who were just opportunists. As always, distrust on the part of the Japanese military and not empowering the local Chinese government ended up hindering the Japanese instead. There’s a lesson here with the fact that any occupation if it’s going to successfully transfer to new indigenous civilian management won’t be easy and the occupying Army can easily make numerous mistakes with such a fragile mission. It is a worthy study and reflection with lessons applicable to the difficulty in Afghanistan.
The dimension of the book that I most appreciate however is the chapter that focuses on Westerners who were in Nanking that got involved to protect the Chinese as much as possible from the cruelty of the Japanese. These were heroic men and women who had the liberty to leave and not get involved and yet they remained on the scene to make a difference for the lives of the Chinese. As I read this chapter I can’t help but to wonder what it was that drove them to do what they do knowing the risks involved. Many of them were Christian missionaries. As a Christian myself, I appreciated the book’s documentation from missionary’s diaries, letters and records. Though I know it’s not the intention or direction of the book, I can’t help to see the connection that true Christian spirituality means that there is the Lordship of Christ in every sphere of life including the political. These men and women saw the travesty of what the Japanese can do to their fellow man and women, and they responded. From orphanage, women shelter, rice distribution center, writing to the Embassy and the military to see aide is provided and even the audacity and affront to the Japanese of establishing a safe zone that was to be free of Japanese soldiers, these men and women can be forgotten for what they have done. However, if there is a God and the theology of these men and women are true, then it follows that their action are not totally forgotten—they lived and did what they did knowing that there is a God who remember and will call men into account one day. The implication of that is not just the preaching of the Gospel (that Jesus died for sinners and raised on the Third Day as proof) but also doing what they can to help fellow man who is made in the image of God.

Read Full Post »

Have you ever wondered what it was like for the first Christian missionary to go reach out to the Muslims?  Who was that first missionary anyways?

You can read about this first missionary name Raymund Lull online for free if you click HERE.

The author himself, Samuel M. Zwemer, was also a missionary to the Muslim people.

Read Full Post »