He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" - Romans 8:32

Sunday, May 30, 2010 

Persecution in Mexico? It's Happening.

Mexico (MNN) ― What do you think of when you think of Mexico? Illegal immigration? A hot vacation spot? What you may not realize is how much persecution exists there and how widespread it is.

Greg Musselman of Voice of the Martyrs, Canada said much of this persecution stems from people who make a decision for Christ and then turn their backs on parts of their culture:

"What's happening are people that have been in traditionalist religion, which would be combining Catholicism with pagan rituals. And [as] people come to know Jesus Christ, they no longer want to participate in those rituals ... The evangelicals says this doesn't line up with the Bible, we don't want to do that, we want to follow Jesus. And as a result, they are pressured; sometimes they're kicked out of the community; sometimes churches are destroyed or people are beaten up; and there have even been some deaths of evangelicals."

As people come to Christ, they are excited to read the Bible, pray, and share their new-found faith with others. However, this makes them more vulnerable to persecution, as those in their community see they have changed and abandoned some of the traditions they used to hold.
While Mexico does have religious freedom laws, much of the persecution takes place in more rural areas where it is harder for the government to keep tabs on how Christians are being treated.

Plus, Musselman said the response to the Gospel has been tremendous throughout these villages: "One of the reasons there's been an increase in persecution is the indigenous people are really responsive to the Gospel."

As the church grows, Musselman said persecution increases, but then the church grows even more.

To shed light on everything taking place there, VOMC created a video, Mexican Voices: Testimonies of the Persecuted.

"The idea is to bring awareness of what's going on in Mexico. When we think of persecution of Christians, we think of the Muslim world," Musselman said. They hope it will not only raise awareness among evangelical believers and cause them to stand behind believers in Mexico, but they also hope the video will show the Mexican government everything taking place against the law.

Please pray that the video will serve the purpose VOMC hopes it will, and it will encourage Mexican Christians to see they are not suffering alone and without the support of the Church around the world.

Click here to get your copy of the video.

About Mexico

  • Population: 108,972,000

  • People Groups: 317

  • Unreached Groups:
    14 (4%)

  • Primary Language: Spanish

  • Primary Religion: Christianity

  • Evangelical: 6.7%

More News About Mexico

Info About Mexico

Data from the Joshua Project

Saturday, May 29, 2010 

How Can a Church Know When to Affirm an Individual's Desire to Do Oversea's Missions?

A church should be willing to affirm an individual’s desire to do overseas missions when they are confident that the person:

1. Agrees with the church’s theology.

2. Is theologically discerning. A missionary will face all kinds of new challenges and unorthodox beliefs. He or she will need to be able to confront unexpected challenges biblically.

3. Has a submissive spirit toward the church. Does the person happily submit to the church’s leadership and teaching?

4. Has a proven track record of fruitfulness. Hopefully the person will have been fruitful in the kind of work they will be doing. If someone wants to evangelize in China, are they already evangelizing Chinese people? If someone wants to be a Bible translator, are they already studying the biblical languages?

5. Has personal integrity.

6. Is financially responsible.

7. Has a pattern of good relationships, not broken relationships.

- 9Marks

Friday, May 28, 2010 

How Can Foreign Missionaries Best Serve Countries That Already Have an Established Christian Church?

1. Learn the local culture. The apostle Paul adapted his lifestyle to non-Jews (and Jews!) he evangelized (see 1 Cor. 9:21). This means that he paid enough attention to notice how their culture differed from his. So, rather than hopping off the airplane and beginning to correct everything, a missionary should ask questions about the worldview, presuppositions, and customs of the people to whom they are trying to minister.

2. Partner with the local church. If the pioneer stage of missions in a country is over, would-be missionaries should not do all their planning in isolation from the indigenous church. Rather, they should plan together with local church leaders. If they do, they will likely see that their primary focus should not be on bringing over even more foreign missionaries, but on equipping local Christians to be missionaries to their own people and region.

3. Join a local church. If foreign missionaries do not join a local church, they project to local Christians the spiritually disastrous message that it doesn’t matter whether or not a Christian is a member of a local church. Therefore, foreign missionaries should find some way to retain a partnership with their sending church while also joining, engaging in,and being accountable to a local church.

4. Pursue equity in Christ’s body. If missionaries come from a country that is rich compared to the country they are serving in, they should consider how they can leverage their resources to bless local Christians, particularly with sound biblical resources.

5. Pursue a pure church at home. A country can only export what it produces. If the church in your home country is churning out heresy, your efforts to build the church abroad may be torn down by your fellow countrymen. So missionaries should do what they can to promote pure doctrine and healthy churches in their home countries.

(Most of this material has been adapted from Conrad Mbewe’s article, “How American Christians can help Christians in Zambia”)

- 9Marks

Thursday, May 27, 2010 

Should Churches Equally Support All Members Who Desire to Do Foreign Missions?

Churches have limited resources. This means that churches will have to make tough decisions about who to support, and how much. To help think through those tough decisions, here are some factors to consider:

1. Does the congregation own this person’s ministry as their own?

2. Has the person sought pastoral counsel about their desire to do missions work or are they acting more like a lone ranger?

3. Is the work valuable and strategic? Or is it something that, while fine in its own right, is not a particularly high priority for the church’s mission strategy?

4. Is the person going to further work in a region the church already targets, or do his or her plans have little to do with the church’s existing missions strategy?

The point in asking these questions is not to discourage people from doing certain kinds of work or from going to certain regions simply because the church is not focusing on them. Rather, the point is to think about how to maximize the impact a church can make by focusing most of its efforts on a particular region.

- 9Marks

Wednesday, May 26, 2010 

What Are Some Relevant Factors in Thinking About a Church Missions Budget?

The Bible teaches that our love for the gospel is verified in part by our love for supporting gospel work beyond the sphere of our own church (see 3 John). Therefore, we should discipline ourselves to give faithfully to advance gospel work beyond our local church. With that in mind, here are a few ideas that might be worth considering.

1. Encourage your congregation to grow the missions budget if your church budget grows, not just in total dollars but as an increasing percentage of the whole.

2. Use your money to help build deeper relationships with a few workers by supporting fewer missionaries with more money.

3. Look for ways to cooperate with other churches, and not just do your own thing.

4. Try to make sure that the missionaries and organizations that you support in your budget are known to the congregation as a whole, and not just the leaders of the church.

5. Be disciplined. Find a few things you really understand and are committed to and support them in a big way. Resist the “missions creep” of continually adding more good things to your budget, which dilutes your commitments and relationships.

6. Consider setting aside money to help your supported missionaries visit and spend time with your congregation. This will benefit them and your members.

7. Consider using part of your budget to help send your own members on short-term trips with the goal of ultimately sending some of them out long-term.

- 9Marks

Tuesday, May 25, 2010 

Muslims Have an Impotent god

My brother has always been smarter than me. He's a sharp thinker with critical thinking skills & can communicate his analysis of things very clearly & persuasively. Me, not so much. Growing up when we were just kids it was just the same. So when an argument erupted, after whatever came out of his mouth first, I was a dead man - I had lost the battle - I couldn't compete & even if I was "right," I couldn't hang with his ability to rationally & systematically destroy me by calm discourse.

So how would I respond? Usually by spewing a steady stream of curse words in a vile, red-faced rage that included fist throwing, tackling (attempting anyways), choking, & that one time I reached into my cup & threw a cube of ice with unfortunate precision striking his tooth in our kitchen. Against my brother in a dialogue or argument or debate of ideas or even just expressions of opinion, I was powerless to go against him mind to mind, idea to idea, principle to principle.

These days I read a lot about Muslims calling for continual killings of "infidels," particularly my kind - Western American Christians (notice we're WAC). Sometimes I'm tempted to worry about the continual growth of militant Islam & how it will most likely be stronger in the days ahead when my son (Lord-willing) will be raising a family of his own.

But then I remember my days of growing up & I see in the Muslims of our day a pitiful picture. They are simply adherents to a god, to a faith that is powerless, impotent, bondage-inducing & not life giving. Because they have no Holy Spirit, no loving Creator Father, no Redeemer Son, no real power, they find themselves like me, like a little inferior brother, that knows their message will not spread while they are sleeping with it's faithful proclamation like the Word of God. And so to convince the world that they are not impotent, that their god is not impotent, they clinch their guns & they detonate their bombs, & they play with their video cameras making amateur scary films, & they grit their teeth, & they spew curses against the West & Christians in a vile red-faced rage, because they can't "hang."

To serve their god, they must wield the sword. Since their god is weak, non-existent in fact, they themselves must create the facade of power. And while our Lord was on earth as a man he needed no sword in his defense because He had the power to call on His Father who would at once send 12 legions of angels (Matthew 26:51-54). That's power. He conquered death. That's power. And there is an end to His patience & mercy & when it's time to wield the sword again, our Lord is potent enough to do it Himself, thank you very much (Revelation 19:15, 21).

Because I didn't have the intellect or ability to hold a candle to my brother, nor did I even have the self-control to reflect on the possibility that he was right, I had to resort to violence, shouts, & threats, theatrics of real power, to try & convince myself & maybe even him that I wasn't impotent.

Islam offers no life, no power, no joy, no love, no Reconciler or Forgiver, & if you look closely, they are just like toddlers - powerless & frustrated by their impotent god & throwing a tantrum & shouting "I hate you!" Yes, their stomping feet give off live ammunition & have real explosions. But they just have a match & a bottle rocket. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is nuclear.

Monday, May 24, 2010 

Debt Crisis: In Japan, Greece is the Word

Perhaps a crash could provide a much needed tool to peel the scales off the Japanese eyes to see more beauty in the Messiah than in materialism.

New worries grip the world's second largest economy. Here's what you need to know.

By Gavin Blair — Special to GlobalPost
Published: May 21, 2010 06:28 ET

TOKYO, Japan — The ongoing crisis in Greece has focused global attention on sovereign debt, with many eyes inevitably drawn to Japan, the public finances of which — at least on paper — make those of Athens look almost healthy.

Sovereign debt now amounts to about 200 percent of Japan's GDP, while the figure for Greece is 115 percent. A report released by Switzerland's IMD business school on Wednesday estimates it will take Japan until 2084 to bring its debt down to a manageable 60 percent of GDP level; Greece will need until 2031, and the U.S. until 2033.

Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has once again urged Japan to take steps to tackle its sovereign debt problem, this time from fiscal 2011. All this of course assumes the country is willing and able to take meaningful action in that direction.

As of now, the signs aren’t hopeful.

Figures released this month by the Ministry of Finance show that total outstanding debt in the fiscal year to March was 883 trillion yen ($9.55 trillion). This amounts to $75,000 per person. In comparison, the level in Greece is less than half that at $32,500 per capita.

Last year, about a quarter of Japan's entire government budget was spent on just servicing existing debt. This year’s budget is the first where more than half of the money has been raised by issuing new debt — in the form of government bonds — to make up the shortfall in tax revenue.

Although there are differences from the Greek situation, the question of this becoming a crisis for Japan is one of when rather than if, according to a growing number of economists, investors and observers.

Professor Yukio Noguchi of Tokyo’s elite Waseda University is renowned as an expert on Japan's bubble economy, and one of the few Japanese economists to have predicted its bursting.

His current reading of the situation is equally bleak. He now believes that the current debt situation can only end with the Japanese economy spiraling into hyperinflation.

“Inflation is the only answer, the only question is when,” Noguchi said.

With Japan stuck in a long deflationary cycle, the danger of hyperinflation is a difficult one for the public and politicians alike to imagine.

Although Noguchi doesn’t believe it will happen anytime soon, when inflation does hit, “the situation will change very quickly.”

“Another sovereign debt crisis, in say, the U.K., the U.S. or an Asian country could be the trigger,” said Martin Schulz, senior economist at the Fujitsu Research Institute in Tokyo.

Almost 95 percent of Japanese government bonds are held domestically — by banks, pensions and other institutions — with yields being very low, in line with the near-zero interest rates and price deflation.

However, because of the huge size of the debt, even a small increase in interest rates could leave the government unable to meet its obligations.

“If interest rates hit 1.6 percent on 10-year benchmark bonds, people would start to get more cautious and the press would be full of stories asking if Japan was the next Greece,” Schulz said. The current rate on U.S. bonds is twice that.

If panic did take hold and the Japanese public lost confidence in the government’s ability to pay back the vast sums it owes them, capital flight from the country could ensue as people looked for stable homes for their savings.

The government would then have to look abroad for buyers for its bonds, who would demand far higher interest rates than it has been able to get away with paying domestically, leaving it unable even to service its debt, let alone meet spending commitments. With no European Union white knight to bail it out, printing vast amounts of money would be almost its only option.

The result: hyperinflation.

If this is anything more than a scare-mongering doomsday scenario, then it begs several questions: How is the yen currently regarded as a safe haven currency and why are Japanese government bonds (JGB) are not rated as junk?

A spokesperson for Moody’s in Tokyo confirmed the AA2 rating on JGBs and described the “outlook as stable, despite some concerns.” The other two agencies, Fitch and S&P, have lowered their ratings, and threatened to do so again, but both have maintained AA investment-grade levels. (Although it should be remembered that these are the same agencies who rated U.S. subprime mortgage bundles as AAA.)

There are though some huge reserves of money that give Japan at least the appearance of security and stability.

The vast pool of household assets, at 1.4 trillion yen ($15.88 trillion), is often said to be a kind of guarantee against the huge government debt. Noguchi described this argument as “nonsense,” pointing out that much of the money is already invested various ways, including much of it in the very same government bonds it is supposed to guarantee.

The government holds more than a trillion dollars in reserves, mostly in U.S. government bonds, and the country's overseas assets total 225.5 trillion yen ($2.46 trillion), the largest amount in the world.

It may be that these huge reserves, most of which the government does not have access to, are the cause of the complacency that seems to have gripped Japan’s political class on the issue.

However, if Japan’s borrowing costs were to reach even half of what Greece’s did before the recent crisis, the reserves simply wouldn’t be enough.

Sunday, May 23, 2010 

Ugly in Uzbekistan

The oppression facing evangelical churches in Uzbekistan continues to grow, and according to one mission leader, it doesn't appear to be easing any. Reports indicate the pressure is mounting. However, this may be the fuel needed to see church growth explode, says Sergey Rakhuba, Vice President of Russian Ministries.

According to Forum 18 News, Uzbekistan handed down 15-day sentences for three Protestant Christians from a registered church earlier this week. Forum 18 also learned three others, arrested after a raid on the Tashkent church, were each fined 80 times the minimum monthly wage. Two other Protestants were fined five times the minimum monthly wage. Six computers seized during the raid were ordered to be given to the state, and orders were given to destroy seized Christian literature.

Rakhuba describes the raid: "Police, National Security Service (NSS) secret police, tax inspectors, fire brigade, and sanitary-epidemiological service raided a Russian Protestant Church in Tashkent that has been there for years and years."

Open Doors USA ranks Uzbekistan 10th on their World Watch List of countries where persecution of Christians is most prevalent.

Rakhuba doesn't believe it will get any better. "They're creating more and more pressure to push out all religious influence, especially evangelical Christians and all missionaries that had a chance to work there for the last decade and a half. They were all kicked out."

Many western organizations were forced to close their ministries. However, Russian Ministries continues working there because nationals do all the work.

Rakhuba describes the charges. "They are charged with the 'unlawful act' of having a service in a registered building, in a registered church, and having Christian literature. Apparently, a Bible isn't allowed any more. It's a prohibited book all of a sudden."

Russian Ministries is providing training in this area of the world because the need is so great. Rakhuba says church growth is happening because of the persecution, just like it did during his time in the Soviet Union. "Small home churches are starting everywhere. These young people want to continue to spread the Gospel. Despite pressure, they continue carrying the torch and faithfully expanding God's kingdom."

Funding is needed to help train the next generation church leaders who are growing in number. Rukhuba says, "It takes about $360 for one person to get through our training program there, led by experienced pastors under very serious risk of spending a few years in prison for that activity."

Funding is also needed to replace literature -- Bibles, books and other resources -- to help these new leaders grow in their faith and have the tools they need to lead more people to Christ.
If you'd like to support Russian Ministries work in the region, please click here.


Saturday, May 22, 2010 

Dr. J.D. Payne: Diaspora Missiology – Immigration & N. America

I am doing something different in this post today. Rather than rewrite something I have already written, I want to direct you to an article I published with Lausanne World Pulse in March 2009. The article is titled: “Immigration and North America: Who in the World Is My Neighbor Anyway?” I’ll provide you with the highlights below, so you can determine if you want to read it:
  • There are many of the world’s unreached peoples, including some of the highest priority groups, living in the thirty-six countries and territories representing North America.

  • Many of the world’s unreached people groups are removed from the global database when they reside in a North American country or territory.

  • There are large discrepancies between the numbers being reported in our two best people group databases.

  • There is a great amount of ignorance when it comes to knowing the evangelical percentages of the world’s unreached peoples living in North America.

  • It is ironic, ridiculous, and a shame, that we have better data on a people group on the backside of the Himalaya Mountains, than we do regarding those same people living in our backyards in the United States and Canada.

Check out the article. After you read it, what are your thoughts?

For those of you who want more details and charts reflecting the data, I will direct you to a paper I presented at an Evangelical Missiological Society meeting in 2008. Here is a link to “In Through the Back Door: Reaching the Majority World in North America.”

- Dr. J.D. Payne

Friday, May 21, 2010 

Dr. J.D. Payne: Diaspora Missiology – Reaching Refugees

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is the leading source for information on the constantly changing world’s refugee population (including Internally Displaced Persons, Stateless Peoples, and Asylum-Seekers). According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, as of 2009, the number of refugees of concern to the UNHCR listed at 10.5 million people. Such refugees are spread across the world. Over half are in Asia and 22% in Africa. Of all of the refugess of concern to the UNHCR, over half are living in urban areas.

Today, we turn our attention to Refugees, particularly those in the United States. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, a refugee is someone “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.”

In the Annual Flow Report (March 2009), Randall Monger and Nancy Rytina, wrote an entry titled, “U.S. Legal Permanent Residents: 2008.” According to them, in 2008, 60,108 people were admitted to the United States as refugees. This number represented a 25% increase from the previous year. The following table displays the arrival by country of nationality.

Burma 18,139
Iraq 13,823
Bhutan 5,320
Iran 5,270
Cuba 4,177
Burundi 2,889
Somalia 2,523
Vietnam 1,112
Ukraine 1,022
Liberia 992
Other 4841

While these numbers in the U.S. represent a small percentage of the global refugee population, it is one more reminder that the peoples of this world are on the move–with millions migrating against their wills.

Such tables are also a reminder that some of the world’s least reached peoples (as refugees) are relocating to the United States (and other western nations). Such peoples are like fish out of water. They are scared, deeply troubled, uprooted, and now have to survive in a strange land. Many have children. Some have lost husbands because of war and persecution. Many do not know English. While refugee services are helpful to these peoples, the physical, emotional, spiritual, and social needs are enormous.

How will you and your church offer the refugees (some representing the world’s least reached peoples) living in your backyard a cup of cold water and the good news of the hope that only Jesus can provide?

- Dr. J.D. Payne

Thursday, May 20, 2010 

Contextualization - What Are We Really After?

Contextualization is perhaps one of the most controversial things that all of us do in our churches every day. At its most basic level whether we will contextualize our church is not really an option – anyone here speak fluent Aramaic or Greek, for example? But will we do it wisely, biblically, in the fear of God or will we let our fear of man become the controlling principle?

A friend of mine once gave me some great advice regarding contextualization, whether in my home culture or abroad. Rather than starting with specific practices to analyze, he advised that I start by looking at my own heart and particularly at my motivation as I approach the conversation. Was I attracted to a contextualizing idea because I thought it would help make both the glory and the offense of the gospel in the church more clear to my community…or was I motivated by a desire to mitigate the offense of the gospel and to try to make my listener more comfortable with my message and less put-off by a biblically counter-cultural church. Clarity vs. comfort? Time and again I’ve found that to be a helpful and painfully convicting metric.

Often I’ve realized I’m more tempted than I want to admit to contextualize the church with the primary aim of making others comfortable. It’s less natural for me to work carefully to remove cultural accretions with the aim to make the pure (often offensive) gospel message of the church more clear. How about you? What’s your real aim in your contextualization – a church and gospel that look more like your culture or establishing a foreign embassy from heaven that judges every earthly culture?

How this plays out in day-to-day examples is something I’d love to see some of the cross-cultural guys on the blog speak to. So what say you? How have you tried to navigate the “comfort vs. clarity” tug-o-war in contextualization in a missions setting?

- Andy Johnson

Wednesday, May 19, 2010 

Diaspora Missiology: Students - Dr. J.D. Payne

While I could spend a great deal of time addressing the topic of students studying in any given country of the world, I will briefly describe what is happening in the United States.

Between 2007-2008 the following nations of the world were the top “senders” of students to study in the United States. The corresponding percentages note the proportion of the overall international student population of that year in the country.

  • India (15.2%)

  • China (13%)

  • South Korea (11.1%)

  • Japan (5.4%)

  • Canada (4.7%)

These five countries represented 49% of all the international students sent to the United States that year.

Now I wish to direct your attention to the following table showing the top 20 places of origin of international students coming to the United States. This table is comprised of data from the Institute of International Education.

RankPlace of Origin2006/072007/082007/08% of Total% Change
WORLD TOTAL582,984623,805100.07.0
1.India83,83394, 56315.212.8
3.South Korea62,39269,12411.110.8
9.Saudi Arabia7,8869,8731.625.2
14.United Kingdom8,4388,3671.3-0.8
15.Hong Kong7,7228,2861.37.3

From this table, we not only observe the top nations, but also the precent increases from the 2006-2007 academic year to 2007-2008 academic year. I want to draw your attention to the following increases:

  • India (12.8%)

  • China (19.8%)

  • South Korea (10.8%)

  • Saudi Arabia (25.2%)

  • Nepal (15.2%)

  • Vietnam (45.3%) (If you are interested in more information on the growth of Vietnamese students, you can download my podcast HERE.)

Before concluding this post, I need to challenge you and your missiological thinking. HERE is the link to the Joshua Project’s search engine. Let me encourage you to check out this amazing blessing, and search the unreached people group data sets by the countries represented in the tables above.

Do you believe that maybe, just maybe, one or two of all of the international students studying in the United States represent at least one of the world’s unreached people groups…or maybe, just maybe know someone in their homeland who does?

What do you think the Church’s response should be to this wonderful reality? How should Evangelicals in the United States, in particular, serve and love the world’s peoples who cross the globe to study in our neighborhoods? What are the missiological implications?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010 

Time Magazine & Great Commission Influencers

Time editor Rick Stengel rightly points out, “The Time 100 is not about the influence of power but the power of influence”;in that sense, what influence these leaders might have if following Jesus were their passion!

I understand, of course, that some may already follow Christ, and many would have no desire to do so. Just imagine what might happen, however . . .

- American military personnel sharing Christ in live or die situations

- the salvation of a Japanese leader opening the door to revival in that hard-soil nation

- converted French leaders/influencers calling Western Europe back to God

- Hollywood moguls using their publicity machines to tell stories of their lives changed through Christ

- Indian believers illustrating Christian unity and strength for a fractured nation

- global philanthropists committing their resources toward the spread of the gospel

- Iranian and Iraqi believers living for the one and only true God

...and on and on the stories could go.

How might such conversions happen, though? There is only one way: somebody must tell the influencers about Jesus (Rom. 10:14).

This is where this edition of Time most captures my thinking. In many ways, this list of “influencers” is a list of unknowns. Even the editor admits such: “You might not have heard their names before.” He continues, though: “but their innovations and efforts will help change the world for years to come.” We may not recognize or remember long the names of some of the world’s most influential people, but the fruit of their labor may well outlast them.

Somehow, that just seems right in God’s economy. Think about the Great Commission believers who daily proclaim Christ around the world. They are salt and light to a lost world (Matt. 5:13-16), telling the Good News without concern for worldly recognition. Sometimes only their immediate family and friends recognize their names. In some cases, only a few others know where they are serving geographically. These believers will likely never be featured in a national magazine. For some, to paint their portrait across the cover of Time magazine might, in fact, be dangerous. But, these “unknowns” are willing to remain unknown, giving their lives so that Jesus alone might be known. We might not know their names, but “their efforts will help change the world for years to come.”

Their efforts will, in fact, change eternity – and that’s the kind of influence that really matters.

That’s Great Commission influence.

- read whole article at chucklawless.com

Monday, May 17, 2010 

Clarity from the Congo

Friend & missionary Tyler Eiland with some helpful, godly perspective:



Many people come to Africa as missionaries expecting to do God's work and then instead God ends up doing his work in them through Africa. Today was one of those days. God is teaching me things continually as we live and minister in this African megacity of Kinshasa. I'm continually stretched as I try to think through a comprehensive strategy to plant churches and make disciples in this city. It seems that around every corner there is some challenge that seems too great to overcome. Around every corner, there is a task that seems too great for me to accomplish. Today, I prayer-walked in a small area of the city called Yolo. As I walked and prayed, I was overwhelmed at the poverty. I was overwhelmed by the masses of people. I was overwhelmed by the smell of open sewage. I was overwhelmed by the poor sanitation and the huge amount of trash piled up everywhere. I was overwhelmed by the Kimbanquist who preached at me that Jesus was a Savior for white people and that Nzambe (God) did not raise him from the dead. I told them Jesus is Savior and King. They called me a liar. Overwhelmed? I think so!

This afternoon I have been in a state of shell shock as I've been thinking through this occurrence. As I've thought about it, I've come to realize that this feeling of being overwhelmed is God's grace toward me. Why? Because this feeling of being overwhelmed strips me of any self-confidence I have and it sends me fleeing to the all-sufficiency of my Savior and King. I can't do it, but he can! I can't open the eyes of the Kimbanguist, but he can! He is sufficient to help me in every task and in every overwhelming moment. One of the first things I ever heard in seminary was to begin to pray for God to make me weak so that I would be stripped of reliance on self and be turned toward reliance upon God. I was also taught that in the Bible there is no self-esteem ever mentioned, there is only Christ-esteem. Who is sufficient to start a Gospel movement among Kinshasa urbanites? Not me! Does this cause me despair? No. It does however send me fleeing to Christ for his help. My faith is not in my ability but in his. My faith is in his promise that there will be one from every tribe, tongue, and nation that will bow before his throne. He will receive glory from the nations of the earth. Rev. 7:9

Sunday, May 16, 2010 

Prodigal Me: How I Went from Fool to Found

This is one of those anthem songs in my life. To listen to it is to knock off the tarnish that builds up from too many thick coats of "the world" spread over the beautiful, shining silver of the Gospel. It is a powerful reminder & re-call to return to my first Love. Listen & rejoice:

Here are the lyrics:

You held out Your arms, I walked away
Insolent I spurned Your face
Squandering the gifts You gave to me
Holding close forbidden things
Destitute a rebel still, a fool in all my pride
The world I once enjoyed is death to me
No joy, no hope, no life

Where now are the friends, that I had bought
Gone with every penny lost
What hope could there be for such as I
Sold out to a world of lies
Oh, to see Your face again, it seems so distant now
Could it be that You would take me back
A servant in Your house

You held out Your arms, I see them still
You never left, You never will
Running to embrace me, now I know
Your cords of love will always hold
Mercy’s robe, a ring of grace
Such favor undeserved
You sing over me and celebrate
The rebel now Your child
© 2009 Sovereign Grace Worship (ASCAP).

(HT: Bob Kauflin)
(HT: Together For Adoption)

Saturday, May 15, 2010 

How Should Churches Get Involved With & Think About Short-term Mission Trips?

  1. Churches should view short-term mission trips as an opportunity to serve workers they support. This means that churches should begin by asking whether or not the missionaries want them to come on a short-term trip. Next, churches should ask the missionaries how they can best serve them, and then be willing to do whatever they ask, even if it’s a week of childcare so that the workers can train or plan together.

  2. Churches should view short-term mission trips as an opportunity to encourage workers they support. Churches should use short-term trips as an opportunity to encourage missionaries through fellowship, spiritual conversation, and blessing them in whatever ways they can think of.

  3. Churches should view short-term mission trips as an opportunity to serve and encourage workers they support. Short-term mission trips will have the most impact if they are carried out with workers the church has a long-term relationship with. This will help sustain those relationships, will enable the short-term trips to be more strategically useful, and will give aspiring missionaries first-hand training in what could be their future mission field.

- 9Marks

Friday, May 14, 2010 

What Are Some Common Mistakes Some Christians Make When Thinking About Missions Strategy?

  1. They evaluate “results” while ignoring faithfulness to Scripture. When Christians consider different approaches to missions, they often jump straight to the results: “How many people has this brought to Christ?” But there are two problems with this approach. First, God calls Christians to be faithful to his Word and to trust him to bring about fruit, which only he can do (1 Cor. 3:6). Second, the initial decisions often prove hugely deceptive as indicators of lasting fruit (Matt. 13:1-23). A far wiser course is to primarily weigh a method’s faithfulness to the teaching and example of Scripture.

  2. They assume the Bible is silent about the “how” of missions. They think the Bible has nothing to say about how we should preach the gospel and plant churches in other parts of the world, and so they ignore Scripture when they promote or evaluate different ministry methods. But the more we study Scripture, the more we see that it provides principles, instructions, and commands about how we are to evangelize the lost and establish churches in unreached areas.

(This material has been adapted from Andy Johnson’s article, “Pragmatism, Pragmatism Everywhere!”)

- 9Marks

Thursday, May 13, 2010 

How Should Christians Evaluate Different Missionary Methods?

  1. A popular but misguided method of evaluation: evaluate short-term results, such as the number of people making professions of faith in Christ. What’s wrong about this? Jesus teaches that, when we faithfully sow the seed of the word, many will make professions, but not all professions will endure (see Matt. 13:1-23). So why evaluate a method’s “success” by something as ultimately unreliable as professions of faith?

  2. The only truly reliable method of evaluation: evaluate a method according to its conformity to God’s Word. Ask questions like:

  3. Does this method faithfully convey the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27), or does it round off the sharp edges?

  4. Does it present the cost of discipleship, or does it rush people into choosing Christ without calling them to take up their cross and follow him?

  5. Does it aim to establish local churches that practice the ordinances and have biblical leadership, or does it ignore the Bible’s teaching about the church?

  6. Does it clearly differentiate between the gospel and every other religion and worldview, or does it minimize those differences in order to appeal to common ground?

- 9Marks

Wednesday, May 12, 2010 

What is Success in Missions & How Do You Measure It?

  1. Results in missions come from God, not from the human instrument. “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth” (1 Cor. 3:6-7).

  2. Our role is to faithfully proclaim the gospel and trust God for the results. “And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:25-27).

  3. Consequently true success in missions is measured by faithfulness to the task, not by immediate, visible results. “So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful” (1 Cor. 4:1-2, NIV).

  4. The very nature of Christian missions depends on faith. “We live by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). The attempt to measure results is often an attempt to live by sight. Defining success as “faithfulness” is hard to embrace because it requires total dependence on God.

- 9Marks

Tuesday, May 11, 2010 

Who Is Responsible to Fulfill the Great Commission?

  1. All Christians. In John 20:21, Jesus says to all his disciples, “As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” Jesus was sent into the world to become the savior of those who would believe. We are sent into the world to proclaim what Christ has done and call people to faith in him. Therefore, every Christian should evangelize locally and, if possible, support the work of bringing the gospel to the ends of the earth.

  2. Local churches. The Great Commission is to be fulfilled not merely through individual Christians, but through local churches sending people to preach the gospel with the goal of establishing local churches wherever they go. In the New Testament, the church at Antioch commissioned Paul and Barnabas to preach the gospel throughout the region, and Paul and Barnabas established local churches wherever they went (Acts 14:21-23). This means that local churches are responsible to raise up, send out, and support missionaries whose goal is not merely to see individuals come to Christ, but to see local churches established in regions where there are none.

- 9Marks

Monday, May 10, 2010 

Social Media Revolution

My dad sent me this fire-hose of social media information video - pretty amazing stats:


A Ravenhill Regret

If I had spent more time alone with God rather than preaching and planning how I was going to change the world, I would be a very different man.

-- Leonard Ravenhill

HT: Thoughts on the Way by way of Mack T

Sunday, May 09, 2010 

Misguided Political Involvement

How should Christians relate to politics? Wayne Grudem explains five wrong views of political involvement:

1. Government compelling religion
2. Religion excluded from the public square
3. Christians abandoning government altogether
4. Christians doing evangelism and not politics
5. Christians doing politics and not evangelism

- Desert Springs Church

Saturday, May 08, 2010 

Heroes: George Martin

In the self-promoting twitterverse we find ourselves living in today, it's hard to find worthy heroes behind the deafening shouts of, "look at me," "look what I can do," or "my poop is gold," so forth & so on. If you're like me, some of the heroes you did have got their capes blown off by the gusts from their flailing arms, swinging the hammer away as they build up their own pedestal. Or they put on their kryptonite façade to move up from the "D List" to the "C List" of celebrity in whatever particular group's attention they're fishing for.

Of course, I have to be careful. Many folks use twitter for fun, for redeemable purposes, or just use it wise & balanced & enjoy it without sinning. One of my favorite things in the world to do is encourage others. In my spare time I'm always writing someone who's on my heart, who's invested in me, loved me, someone the Lord reminds me is hurting or I just haven't told in a while how grateful I am for them. Perhaps that could be easily seen as brown-nosing or fanny-kissing in the same way that I can misinterpret the hearts of others who live such public lives in the iWorld.

But since we live in a public world of tell-all, I want to tell a story of a hero of mine, because, if intimate things like date-nights with wives are to be broadcast to the world, then consider this some public push-back to brag on someone & give honor to someone who would never toot their own horn.

I just concluded posting a series on missions from a lecture called "Jesus is the Message of Missions" by George Martin. I had Dr. Martin for 5 classes while a student at SBTS, far more than I had with any other professor. That was no mistake. If for every class I had under Dr. Martin I had to describe a characteristic of his, I would say:

1) His deep love for Jesus
2) His enviable & contagious joy
3) His love for his family
4) His love for missions (& Southeast Asia)
5) His selflessness & kindness that made everyone around him believe they were his best friend

I came to SBTS equating seriousness & studiousness with holiness. Therefore, my goal was to uphold the law & get good enough grades so that I could get to heaven. I'm exaggerating a bit, but maybe it was because my beloved pastor who led me to the Lord had been pushed out of my home church for teaching the Bible in addition to the fact that I was a new recruit in Calvinazism. Maybe it was because I felt I had to be the next Adoniram Judson or Hudson Taylor if I was going to be a missionary in the future. Whatever it was, it took a bunch of goof balls in Auburn & some hands on experience on the mission field & a lot of learning how ugly ministry is while working at a local church to knock me off my high horse & to help me understand that loving the Triune God & loving people, not defending a system & being it's megaphone (Calvinism - which I still believe, but that would be another post), is what glorifies God & brings me joy.

But long before I came to this realization, Dr. Martin lived it out before me. Very committed to the doctrines of grace (again, Calvinism) & God's sovereignty in all things, all you ever got from Dr. Martin was his love for Jesus. I'll never forget fighting tears (I mean literally not being able to see because my eyes were full of water until I "blinked," not cried, them out) when he painted the most mercy-filled, grace-filled, love brushed image of the Gospel of Jesus from the OT book of Hosea. I'll never forget the genuine prayers that started each class full mainly of thanksgiving & praise from a heart full of gratitude for a Savior who died for him. This list could go on & on, but for the sake of brevity...

Not only was I in 5 of Martin's classes, but we went to the same church, traveled to Southeast Asia together, & he was my mentor in the mentor-groups on campus. When I transferred to an Alabama extension center, he continued to come there to teach. Here I got to watch my 9 other co-horts meet & get to know him & see the way they all felt connected to him & comfortable with him, like he was their long lost friend. Other pastors & secretaries in the front of our church (where we met for class) loved the days when Dr. Martin came by. I bet he didn't know half their names because they were never formally introduced, but everyone felt loved & befriended when he was around. When we came (our extension cohort) to Louisville for classes, we always got to crash at Dr. Martin's pad & you felt like a nephew for the week. I know that while some of it is natural personality, the man really is dead to self & alive in Christ & that joy he has from initimacy with Jesus spills out blessings on all those around him. I wish I loved life & Jesus like he does.

Watching him at church & at the house with his family was an example to me before I ever had Luke. You could see from his illustrations & stories about his family in class that he treasured them. He interacted with his children & wife in a genuine way & they responded in such genuine love for him that you knew it couldn't be an act. He has 2 daughters & a son, & while his son was an older teenager I remember seeing Dr. Martin from a distance still being affectionate with him. He cherishes his family as a gift.

Finally, the man has a passion for missions that's unmatched. I came to SBTS ready to be a missionary to Southeast Asia. Before coming to SBTS, Dr. Martin was a missionary in a Muslim country. There's a joke on campus that "God loves you & Dr. Martin has a wonderful plan for you life - to be a missionary!" My initial reason for taking his intro to missions class was because I knew he had lived & labored in what I thought would be my future home. After a major disaster in '04, SBTS took a small team of 3 professors & 7 students to the hardest hit area in Asia. My wife & I interviewed with Dr. Martin to go on the trip. You had to have 1 of 3 possible qualifications to go since we were doing disaster relief. 1) Military experience 2) Missions experience 3) Disaster relief experience. My wife & I were both 0-3. We were so eager to go to to this area to help the people God had given us a love for, that we left dejected. 7 students could go - Mindy (not even a student mind you) & I both were chosen to go. That was Dr. Martin, giving a Holy Spirit sensitive opportunity for a family to go & serve his people. He threw everything out the window & provided an opportunity of a lifetime.

I'll never forget the highlight of the trip for me. We were cleaning out a well that had been trashed by all the debris from the wave coming in & going back out when Dr. Martin came around the corner. He called for me to come there. I left the other guys & followed Dr. Martin to a mosque where a group of about 6 or 7 Muslim men were gathered in the front. They looked hardcore. One of them wore the white head-cover that signifies that you have made the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, especially a big deal in the 3rd world country we were in (many could never afford to go). Dr. Martin began to make small talk with them & they begin to make fun of me because I was not manly because though I was married, I had no children & didn't smoke. After a time of laughing & introductions, Dr. Martin began, not in a 5 steps to peace with God way, but in genuine conversation, he began to testify about the Jesus of the Bible. There was a small debate that Jesus the prophet was not the whore Jesus of the West. Dr. Martin was telling them about the biblical Jesus when the call to prayer came over the speaker & they conveniently had to excuse themselves. It was my first time in a mosque & my first time to experience a Muslim hearing the Gospel. I was hooked. Had Dr. Martin not been so thoughtful, come to find me, allow me - though I knew nothing & had no language, to be a part of that, I would have missed out on one of the most powerful experiences of my life. He modeled so much in those minutes. I had to be a missionary.

From the time that beloved country came into view from the airplane, to touch down in the capitol city, to the next flight to our main destination, & during our entire 2 week plus stay, I never felt so comfortable & at home in such a foreign place. If I have to be 100% honest, I know Indonesia would come with a whole set of different challenges & that if we were going to adopt we'd have to leave there too, but I lament we lost the opportunity to live there, even if it were going to be just three years. But I know this: as long as George Martin is around he'll be telling folks how God loves them & has a wonderful plan for their life, & people will keep going & serving in our adopted country.

Heroes are hard to come by these days. I'm so grateful to God that there are men in my life who I can imitate as they imitate Christ. Humility is a virtue all my heroes share, so I just wanted to take the time to publicly praise a family man, a servant of God, a giant of the faith, a missionary mobilizer, a man who loves Jesus & has died to self, giving off the aroma of Christ as a blessing to all those around him, to the ends of the earth.

Friday, May 07, 2010 

Jesus is the Message of Missions

I was once in a ministry context in which several colleagues attempted to introduce into the work the strategy of “power evangelism.” Power evangelism proponents argue that the preaching of the gospel, particularly in certain cultures, must be preceded by “power encounters.” These encounters between the God of the Bible and the people’s supposed gods will demonstrate that our God is supremely powerful. Furthermore, these demonstrations of power are used in an attempt to validate the gospel message.

I fear, though, that such an approach betrays a lack of confidence in the message of the gospel itself. In fact, many in this world will never accept the truth of the gospel, no matter how many miracles or signs and wonders they witness. The cross will always seem foolish to the world, “but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor 1:18). We must never be ashamed of the gospel, “for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Rom 1:16).

Let me quickly summarize and make application. As ministers of the gospel, we are given the essential task of testifying to the person and work of Jesus Christ. That testimony, though given in different languages and illustrated in many different manners across cultures, must be consistent. We must talk about Jesus’ incarnation, his life and ministry, his death and resurrection, his ascension and his eventual return. We testify of these things and promote these truths, not simply in an impassioned, dutiful manner (what I would call a “Joe Friday” manner, i.e., “Just the facts, mam, just the facts.”), or merely from a sense of obligation. Rather, we do so because we understand that these truths offer hope, the only hope, for people in every place and in every generation.

- Dr. George Martin (this concludes the series from Dr. George H. Martin's "Jesus is the Message of Missions")

- Full lecture transcription with references can be found in pdf format here. Or you can listen to Dr. Martin give this lecture here. All posts were with permission of Dr. George Martin.

Thursday, May 06, 2010 

Missions: Is the Cross the Center of Your Ministry?

Priscilla Pope-Levison and her husband, John, have written Jesus in Global Contexts in which they present portraits of Jesus, or “contextual Christologies," from different cultural perspectives. From Latin America, Jesus is the one who brings political and economic liberation. From Asia, Jesus is presented as the cosmic Christ who is present in and who can be found in nature and in non-Christian religions. In Africa, Jesus is seen as the ancestor who liberates people from oppressive societal structures. The North American Jesus breaks down the forces of domination, with particular reference to male/female and black/white paradigms.

A common theme emerges. All the Christologies presented by the Levisons “emerge from contexts that are defined by suffering.” These sufferings are present in today’s world. But, as we have seen, Jesus has come to deliver his people from a much more dangerous predicament than mere political oppression or physical want.

The book Mission as ‘Transformation’: A Theology of the Whole Gospel—a collection of reflections from missionaries working with the poor around the world—purports to describe “the whole church taking the whole gospel to the whole world.” A quick perusal of the table of contents, however, leaves one wondering, “Is the whole gospel really presented here?” Consider the following representative list of issues taken from the chapter headings: Social concern, Eschatology and ethics, Transformation, The poor, Human need, Modernity, Economics, Environment, Relief and development, Children at risk, Disability, Politics, Church and state, and Freedom and justice. Even in the lone chapter on evangelism, though a call to faith in Christ is issued, the reader is left wishing for a fuller explication of the gospel.

I would like to insert a personal comment at this point. I believe, along with the Levisons and Samuel and Sugden, that our God is deeply concerned about human suffering in all its forms and manifestations. Furthermore, I believe that our God is actively involved in his creation as the one who comes to the rescue of the poor and the needy. I believe that Jesus offers, not only eternal life, but also abundant life in the present. I believe that the missionary should announce these truths to all he encounters. But, I also believe that the heart of the gospel lies elsewhere. With Donald Carson, I will always ask, “Is the cross the center of your ministry?”

God, always has been, and always will be Father, Son and Spirit. To those who live their entire lives in the context of persecution, poverty and suffering, here is the assurance that Jesus continues to care. And, not only does he continue to care, but one day he will return victoriously to gather to himself for all eternity those who are his.

- Dr. George Martin (still more coming tomorrow!)

Wednesday, May 05, 2010 

Missions: Jesus as Savior to Sinners

To the animist, who constantly fears the malevolent powers inhabiting the physical universe, the life and ministry of Jesus can be presented, how he went about doing good and delivering people from evil spirits and bondage. As I have heard somewhere, to those who fear the spirits, “Jesus must be presented as Lord of life, able to free us from fear and bondage to all other spiritual forces and able to empower us to live a life pleasing to him.”

A number of years ago, I was involved in a meeting in which missionaries were asking the question, “What is the most effective strategy for evangelizing animists?” Some answered that Jesus should not be offered to the animist as the savior of sinners. These pointed out that the animist does not perceive God in the same way that the Christian does, nor does he seek the forgiveness of sin. Rather, the animist primarily perceives that he needs to be protected from the malevolent spirits that inhabit the physical world. Thus, it was argued, we should not present Jesus to animists as the savior of sinners, but as the one who can protect them from the evil spirits.

The question naturally arises, “Can we be confident that the animist who comes to Jesus solely for the purpose of being delivered from the evil spirits is in a saving relationship through Jesus Christ?” We must think carefully about this matter. Remember that Jesus had a lot to say about meeting perceived needs, which often are real needs. We can even step away for a moment from our animistic setting and pose the following questions about our own context.

Can Jesus meet a financial need? Yes! In fact, some here this morning could testify concerning his faithfulness in meeting those needs in their families. Can Jesus patch up a broken marriage? Yes! In fact, as a pastor, I never hesitated to direct married couples to Jesus. The marriage that is falling apart, if it is to be all that it can and should be, must be centered upon Jesus Christ. Can Jesus heal? Of course! The physicians have done all they can do. They have called the family to the bedside in order to await the end. Even in those moments, though, we often will find ourselves praying that the Lord will heal the loved one. We do so because we know that he is able to heal, and that he delights to show himself strong on behalf of his people.

Can Jesus protect the animist from the malevolent spirits and demons? We must answer this question in the affirmative, also. We can explain to the animist that, whatever is out there, this Jesus has created it, he rules over it, and he is able to protect his people from it. In the final analysis, Jesus can meet every need of his people. No need is too small or too great. He is concerned about all of life, and he would have us direct others to rest in his sufficiency. But all these things, as I have sometimes explained to my students, fall into the category of what I call “all those other things.”

Jesus has come to save his people from their sins. And having addressed other needs, the missionary will find himself ultimately coming back to this need. We must never forget this message or relegate it to a place of secondary importance. I once heard a missionary testify that he had grown up in a conservative evangelical church where the doctrine of justification was emphasized. He explained that, during his first years on the international field, though his preaching focused on the need for sinners to be justified before a holy God, he never saw many come to Christ. When he learned that people in the host culture were more concerned about abundant life in the present, he began to preach about the abundant life that Jesus offers. With that change in strategy came a huge turn-around with many “decisions” being made.

The strategy employed in the illustration seems to be that of discovering the felt needs of a particular people or culture, then announcing that Jesus came to deliver the people from those needs. This strategy sounds suspiciously like that taken in the evangelistic tract, How to Have a Good Life, published, by the way, by our own Southern Baptist Home Mission Board in the 80s. Apparently, the tract was written to address the issues of personal worth and happiness in a “personal happiness” culture. And though the tract references texts such as Romans 3:23 and 6:23, it leaves the discerning reader wondering if Jesus came only to save us from personal burdens and disappointments. But, again, if Tom Schreiner is correct, i.e., that penal substitution is the heart of the atonement, we do not have the option of addressing only culturally conditioned concerns.

- Dr. George Martin

Tuesday, May 04, 2010 

Missions: Trust in a Loving, Heavenly Father

Any accurate biography of Jesus will relate how Jesus lived in complete obedience to his father, thus establishing himself as a lamb without sin or blemish, an acceptable sacrifice (Heb 9:14). That same biography will also picture Jesus as a shepherd who cares for and ministers to his sheep. He fed the hungry. He gave drink to the thirsty. He went about Galilee and Judea healing those who were sick. He raised the dead to life. He delivered from demon possession those who were in bondage. He wept over Jerusalem.

Here is the servant of the Lord, who is gentle, who will not break a bruised reed (Is 42:2). He will establish justice in the earth (Is 42:3,4). He shepherds his people (Matt 2:6). He says to the hurting, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light" (Matt 1:28-30).

To those who live their lives out of animistic worldviews that cause them to tremble because of the spirits, here is comfort and safety. Eugene Nida and William Smalley have noted the fear that so dominates the lives of many animists. Furthermore, they have observed that folk religions, with their magical practices (spells, fetishes, etc.) and special religious functionaries (shamans, witch doctors, dukuns), “do tend to help men adjust to the universe by giving them some sense of control, thus eliminating certain elements of fear, [however] they do not actually solve this problem of meeting life’s crises.” Ultimately, the fear of spirits and powers so strong in animistic contexts “is no competition to trust in a loving, heavenly Father.”

- Dr. George Martin

Monday, May 03, 2010 

Missions: We Offer Christ Himself!

Though she and I approach these matters from different theological viewpoints, and though we would undoubtedly make different applications from the statement, I can agree with Mother Teresa’s observation: “If you give to the people a broken Christ, a lame Christ, a crooked Christ—deformed by you, that is all they will have.” We do not offer to the nations of the world a Christ in our image. Nor do we offer ourselves. Rather, we offer Christ himself!

Yes, “we have this treasure in earthen vessels” (2 Cor 4:7), but we do have this treasure, whatever the container might be! And we have the responsibility to share this treasure with others. But we must never forget that, ultimately, it is the treasure that we share, not ourselves.

Samuel Ruiz Garcia’s statement – “The Church's mission is to perpetuate Christ's incarnation - to be ‘made flesh’ in terms of human life and culture, leading to the full humanization of men within a pluralism of persons and cultures.” – though made in the context of a seemingly sincere and legitimate attempt to discover how to contextualize the gospel, can be terribly and dangerously applied.

Christ’s incarnation is unique. [Pope John Paul II said,] “It is precisely this uniqueness of Christ which gives him an absolute and universal significance.” Though a great theological gulf stands between the Roman Catholic Pope and me, I find his affirmation regarding Christ, rightly applied, to be eloquent and clear. We can no more perpetuate Christ’s incarnation, i.e., preserve and continue in the world the physical presence of God the Son, than we can turn Brad Waggoner and Mary Mohler into Oklahoma Sooners fans, or myself into a Florida Gators fan! But we can say to the nations that God has come in the flesh!

- Dr. George Martin

Sunday, May 02, 2010 

Missions: You as Jesus? How Dreadfully Awful!

I will argue that the heart of the gospel is the doctrine of justification, which answers the question, “How can a sinful human being be made right in the sight of holy God?” In speaking about the atonement, the missionary announces a number of truths (Christ as victor over the forces of evil, the eventual redemption of the whole creation, etc.). Ultimately, however, he will address this question, and the answer given will be essentially a judicial answer. If Tom Schreiner is correct, and I believe he is, the penal aspect of Jesus’ work is primary for understanding the gospel. Believers are made right before God because their sins – “not in part, but the whole” – have been laid on Christ, nailed to the cross, and they bear them no more. In turn, Christ’s righteousness has been given to those same believers, an imputed righteousness that is full and complete, so that as believers we stand before the Judge of heaven with no charge laid against us.

The doctrine of the incarnation tells us that Jesus came in the flesh. This biblical teaching, however, signifies much more, i.e., we understand that Jesus was God come in the flesh. In it’s own way, the incarnation addresses the uniqueness of Jesus. Of course, not all who claim the name of Jesus affirm the reality or the necessity of the incarnation.

However, in thinking about missions, a number of problematic understandings about Jesus’ birth and incarnation come to mind (my list is by no means exhaustive): Jesus is merely human. Jesus is one manifestation of God among many. Edward Schroeder explains the pluralistic position: “Jesus is one way up the mountain; there are many other ways going up there, and they get you to the top, too.”

Some will emphasize “incarnational missions.” We often hear that, as his disciples, we are “Jesus’ hands and feet.” Indeed, we are his ambassadors, his messengers, his preachers, his witnesses, and yes, in a certain sense, his hands and feet. But, we must proceed cautiously here. In the April 1988 World Council of Churches consultation at Neapolis, Greece, Bishop Anastasios stated, “The most crucial point in mission is not what one announces, but what one lives, what one is.”

Actually, we need to think a bit about this statement. We can lose the real significance of the incarnation if, with extreme subjectivity, we so personalize it simply to refer to the fact that we represent another, or that we demonstrate the love of another, or that we carry out the ministry of another.

“The only Jesus someone might see is you. . . .” How dreadfully awful! Imagine that the only Jesus people see is George Martin with all his flaws, faults, and sins! How hopeless they will be because they do not see Jesus as he truly is in all his perfections. In him alone “all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (Col 2:9).

- Dr. George Martin (still more tomorrow)

Saturday, May 01, 2010 

Missions: Concerned with Doctrine / Truth

I remember seeing Christopher Reeve, after suffering near-total paralysis, in a public service announcement on television. The camera zoomed in on his face as he talked to parents about raising children. After acknowledging the role of faith in his life, he encouraged parents to talk to their children about faith. I must say that I have nothing but admiration for Christopher and Dana Reeve. The message of that ad, though, was a bit troubling to me. As I perceived the message, it was almost as if we were being encouraged simply to have faith in faith, or to exercise the power of positive thinking in order to make our way through life.

Such a message is consistent with the shift, even among many evangelicals I fear, from talking about the necessity of faith in Jesus, to talking about faith in God, to talking about simply having faith, whatever or whomever the object of that faith might be.

I am also aware that, often, we have but a short window of opportunity in which to share the gospel. In those moments, we should be ready to provide a quick and accurate message. But, always, whether in a few short minutes or over the period of a lengthy relationship, our goal should be to share as much about Jesus as we can.

I acknowledge that this [post] has much to do with theology. But, then, missions at its foundation is theological and concerned with doctrine, or truth.

- Dr. George Martin

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