Sunday, April 29, 2012

Obedience

I'm reading Steve Smith's book about T4T--Training for Trainers and I very much like it.  In fact, I recomend that you read it.  But he says a couple things in there (so far) that I don't quite like.  One of them I mentioned in my last post about fads in missions.  The other one has to do with obedience.

The idea that if a Chrisitan is sharing the gospel with others (doing evangelism) he is obedient to God, and if he is not, then he is a disobedient believer.  Now, I agree with that, partially.  The problem is that Smith (and other missionaries I've met) seem to imply that doing evangelism is the ONLY way we are obedient to Christ. 

I certainly don't agree with that.  Obedience means obeying any and every command that God has given us--not just the one about evangelism. 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Fads in Missions

It's probably been going on for centuries.  It's likely to have been happening at least as long as Christians have made intentional efforts to reach the unreached with the gospel message.  Every now and then, someone figures out a new "key" to evangelism and it becomes a fad. 

Perhaps "fad" is not the right word.  A fad sounds like a whim--a trivial item of fashion or style.  But what I'm talking about are serious and important approaches to missions that do have lasting value.  It's just that the "fad" nature of it is that we tend to say this is THE key for success in missions.

I have seen a number of these come and go.  Here is my list:
  1. Incarnational Missions - The idea that if we "go native" by living and identifying as much as possible with the daily life of the people we're trying to reach--much like Jesus was incarnated to our world and empathizes with us--we will be effective in evangelism.
  2. Redemptive Analogies - Popularized by Don Richardson and his books "Peace Child" and "Eternity in their Hearts," the idea is that if we can just find the correct redemptive analogy that God has already place in the unreached's culture, we can unlock it and lead the lot of them to Christ.
  3. National Evangelists - Still pushed by Gospel For Asia and K.P. Yohannan, the idea is that Westerners shouldn't go to be missionaries, but just send your money to support native evangelists who already know the culture, speak the language and can do so much more with just a little bit of money.  Yohannan's book even claims this approach to be the "Coming Revolution" in world missions.
  4. Contextualization - The idea that if we dress Christian worship and practice up like the local culture as much as possible, large numbers of people will come to Christ because they aren't having to accept Western traditional religion.
  5. Tentmaking - The idea is that people with vocational training can get jobs in otherwise hard-to-access countries and be a witness for Christ. 
  6. Business As Mission (BAM) - Owning and managing businesses that provide access, can have a developmental impact and can provide funding for ministry.
  7. Church Planting Movements - The idea that God wants to have CPMs happen in all unreached people groups and we just need to "get out of the way" or do other things to facilitate them--then the world will be reached for Christ. 
  8. Training For Trainers (T4T) - This goes along with CPMs, but it is a process of evangelism/discipleship where people who hear the gospel are immediately trained to share it.  In Steve Smith's book he claims this is a "re-revolution" and is a discipleship model based on Acts, rather than Jesus' model which is "pre-pentecost" and therefore, not the model we should use. 
We Christians like to throw theological weight behind whatever good method, approach or process we are trying to promote.  If we can somehow make theologically loaded statements that prop up our pet approach, we feel we can get more people to do it--because if you don't, then  you're going against God!  Statements are made such as...

"God wants to see a CPM in every people group."
"The problem with Jesus' discipleship approach is that it was pre-pentecost."
"Paul, the most effective missionary ever, and his friends were tentmakers."
"God has placed a redemptive analogy in every culture and our job is to discover that and use it."

It's these dogmatic statements that get me.  We walk out on thin theological branches to make them.  And it almost unnecessarily ruins the value in whatever approach we're promoting.  An approach doesn't have to be THE key to be a valuable way of accomplishing the Great Commission. 

In CPM training I attended Church Planting Movements were compared to avalanches.  They even showed a couple videos of avalanches.  We described an avalanches properties and compared it to a CPM.  One of the main concepts is that an avalanche already has the potential energy built up into it.  When the guys shoots his gun, the snow breaks and then it starts building momentum until nothing can stop it.  The problem is... if the shooter went around and shot every single mountain peak with snow, there is NOT going to be an avalanche on every single slope.  Some slopes will produce them.  Others will not.  Some slopes will have dramatic avalanches, others not so much, and still others none at all.  How can we be so confident that CPMs are just waiting to happen in every single unreached people group around the world? 

Now, that is not to say I'm against praying for and working for CPMs--I am not.  I am very much in favor of doing ministry that will lead to movements.  I just don't see the need to be dogmatic about it. 

And to let you know--I'm very much in favor of all 8 of the approaches I listed above.  I just don't think that any one of them is the single key or "silver bullet" for accomplishing the Great Commission.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Accepting Criticism

Do you feel betrayed when someone offers you criticism?  Annoyed?  Irritated?  Offended?  Hurt? 

I think many of us do.  We have so much pride, that we can't take it.  We feel worse after receiving a word of criticism than Paul did after receiving a 100 stones being thrown at him.  Or, we find any and every reason possible to say that the criticism is unwarranted, illegitimate or hypocritical. 

So you know what happens?

We learn not to criticise others... to their faces.  Because if we do, they'll be offended, irritated and hurt.  No, we should just "love" them.  And by "love" we mean tolerate them.  (To their faces, that is--we are pretty good at criticising them to others in the name of "venting.")  Tolerance has become such a value in our society it means that we are, for the most part, cowards about directly telling people in our lives things we know they don't want to hear. 

Yes, cowards.

But let me ask you... Which would you rather have:
  1. People thinking about you in a negative way and not brave enough to offer any criticism.  Instead, they discuss your short-comings with others at length and only hint in a general way about "people out there" who have problems, when they really mean you.  They grumble and display an uncooperative and bad attitude around you. 
  2. People telling you directly what their criticism is, in private, and couched in statements of love and respect for other good qualities along with a disclaimer that perhaps they could be reading things wrong and allowing you the ability to accept or explain.
If you ever get the latter, be very happy!  You are blessed!  If someone shares criticisms of you like that go to great lengths to explore the depths of their thoughts and probe them for as much insight as they can offer.  Thank them for giving you their criticism.  They are gold! 

They are gold because there are so few of them.  Few people will really tell you what they're thinking.  Instead, they will take the former approach in the name of "love" and "tolerance."  But only the latter can be truly helpful to you.  You may disagree with them, and that is okay, but be thankful to God that they loved you enough to truly try to help you.  They will become the people you respect the most.

Don't be offended or hurt by their criticism because, c'mon--you already know you're far from perfect and so do others.  Don't expect others to think you are perfect, or to effectively worship you, in order for you to trust them.  Don't just accept criticism... be thankful to the person who is brave enough to offer it to you in a loving way.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Adopting Babies and New Ideas

What do you make of this? 

Yesterday I told you about the couple whose children died from heart complications.  After they first inquired about God, which was months ago, they went to the hospital in the city and were able to adopt two twin baby boys from a family (not of the same tribe) who were not able to raise them. 

Not too long after they adopted these boys they found out the wife was pregnant.  So, they felt like twins and a newborn would be too much.  They decided they needed to give one of the twins back to the birth mother.  However, they didn't know who the birth mother was--they had only dealt with hospital officials.  All they knew is that the birth family was from a particular district.

So this husband and wife took the baby with the whiter skin (the "better-looking" one) and went to that district and asked around everywhere until they found the birth mother.  The reason they brought the one with whiter skin was so that they birth mother would more readily take him back and not feel like they were dumping the less-desirable baby on her.  This lady accepted her son back and now this husband and wife only have the one to raise. 

Now, before you begin to think that the valuing of "whiter skin" has anything to do with foreigners or foreign influence, let me assure you that it does not.  It is just how the people here think.

But this story reveals a lot of different values and perspectives from our western way of thinking.  It is easy for us to judge them as a result.  I'm not going to try to defend or promote those values.  But I wanted to share them with you just to make you think. 

Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments...

Friday, March 30, 2012

Feeding Steaks to Babies

Well, with a nod to full disclosure...

A week or so ago I talked about wanting to plant a house church in the home of a lady we had recently led to the Lord.  The next time we visited here we found out that it would take time as she just has a very basic understanding of things and is very young. 

We visited her again a couple days ago.  When we walked in the door she and her mom announced that she wants to "leave Jesus."  Yowser!  Why??

The time before last when we visited we brought her a cd of worship songs in her language, along with a print-out of all the words.  We also printed out a very simple plan for having house worship.  Well, I guess it wasn't so simple.

This young lady felt overwhelmed.  Her comprehension of her own language is limited and her literacy is not too high.  She was afraid she couldn't learn it all and that when we visited her we would be disappointed in her and reprimand her.

Wow!  That was not what we intended!  What we thought was so simple was very intimidating to her and put pressure on her.  I felt guitly of trying to get a newborn baby to eat a steak.

I apologized to her.  And of course we told her that she has not to worry--that she can take "baby steps."  There is no need to try to learn all of that stuff over night.  She was encouraged by that, I think, and has decided not to "leave Jesus" just yet.

But there is more to the story...

I told her husband (who is much more capable and a leader in the family) that it would be best if he believed, too.  That way they can seek and worship the Lord together as husband and wife.  He agreed, but he said he has to fulfill a commitment first.  A commitment to what?  A commitment to the spirits.

This couple previously had two children. They were not babies, but in the 5-8 year old range.  Last year they both died from heart complications.  That is why they were first interested in Jesus.  It is also why the husband "borrowed" from the spirits in a ceremony--asking for the spirit's protection and that after a year's time, he would "pay back" the spirits with a huge sacrifice.  The time for that ceremony has not yet come.  But he says after he does that, then he will become a Christian.  He also assured me that he prays along with his wife before they eat dinner. 

So... I am not yet convinced that this family is "out of the woods" just yet.  There is a lot of spiritual darkness there.  The fight for their salvation is a spiritual battle.  I told them that God is higher than any spiritual being and that if we believe in him we must obey him.  But right now the wife is pregnant with another baby.  They don't want to mess things up.  But we must pray for them.  Pray that God reveals to them exactly what he wants them to do and that they obey him. 

Thank you for praying.