When Another Missionary Comes to Town

14139438_289805561387976_800815856_oIf you’re a missionary who’s ‘staked out your claim,’ what do you do when another missionary comes to town? I’m being mostly sarcastic with that question. I say ‘mostly,’ but long-term missionaries can appreciate the seriousness of it. If you’re a missionary and have been working in a particular region or community for some time, you can appreciate the concerns that arise when other missionaries ‘invade your space.’

First off, I do not believe that missionary can, or should, ‘stake out claims on territories,’ and secondly, it’s not YOUR space. Finally, I’ve found that these sorts of issues tend to resolve themselves. That said, the reactions on ‘both sides of the fence,’ can cause unnecessary friction or a very beautiful cooperation of efforts.

If you’re a missionary who is looking to work where others are already working, or a missionary on the ground who has other missionaries looking to work where you are, it can be a potentially threatening situation.

What does the bible  have to say about this?

Paul the Apostle said; “It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation.” (Romans 15:20)

But he also said;

“According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it.” (1 Corinthians 3:10)

In the first case, Paul is expressing his personal preference and not some hard rule. In the second case, he is acknowledging that others will come and build on his foundation.

Before you assume that you are a ‘master builder’ and have control over how and when foundation building proceeds, you should check your motives. On the other hand, if another is coming to build on your foundation while you’re still building it, then care should be taken. It’s an incredibly sensitive situation.  From personal experience, there has only been a few times where I have been visited and consulted by other missionaries who wanted to work where I am working. The more prevalent scenario is people coming without care or concern about the bridges that I have built or am building in the local communities and cultures. There is little respect for an independent and denominationally unattached missionary. There is an assumption that regardless of whose already there, their agenda is better and their methods more effective. It’s painfully simple. It’s not that folks just aren’t doing their homework, it’s that they don’t care to. Again, that’s not everyone, but it sure seems to be a pervasive trend.

Short-term mission teams are notorious for unwinding years of missionary work in 7 to 10 days. Again, not all, and in my case only a few, but when teams from a hundred churches come to a town where there is only one resident missionary, it seems a bit odd that they wouldn’t at least try to understand his or her work and the challenges in the area. Sometimes folks come to do a ‘vision trip’ and completely disregard those who are already working on the ground or simply fail to do good due diligence. Sometimes it’s just prideful arrogance that says; “Well, there’s no one from our denomination working there, so it’s unreached,” or “this foundation is faulty,” and “we’re here to fix it.” By the way, doing ‘mission work’ without concern as to what’s already going on is not just carelessness, it’s cult-like.

Before it sounds as if I am complaining, I’m not. As a missionary, I have gone to ‘check out’ other regions etc., and have always looked to see who’s working there (if anyone), how they would feel if I came to work with them for a short time, how they would feel if I were to work in the same region/area as them, and so on. I seek to fellowship with them if possible, meet the people they are working with, and see if I can help. Many times it’s just not a good fit. Other times, after a mutually respectful conversation, it’s just not prudent.

Whether you like to admit it or not, when another missionary or missionaries come to town, there’s a hurdle to get over.

Much of the time, personal contentment and satisfaction reign over the corporate ‘one anothers,’ and community.

I believe there’s a better way.

I’ll develop some of those thoughts in part II of this article, but for now, let me just ask you:

If you are a missionary, short or long-term, what do you believe is the proper and biblical way to approach situations like these?

I’d greatly appreciate your input in the comment section.

Which of These 10 Types of Missionaries Are You?

Bowling-alley-clipart-3-bowling-clip-art-images-free-for-2-2There are lots of different kinds of missionaries.  The wonderfully diverse nature of God and His infinitely creative design move people to mission with Him in peculiar ways unto the reconciliation of all things.  (Colossians 1:20)

This is not hard science and is not for the purposes of peg holing people into a role, but to inspire thought and to ask yourself; “What kind of missionary am I?” Let’s proceed…

1.  The Paul-Type Missionary – The Paul-type Missionary is a modern-day missionary sent by the Lord with a passion to establish families of disciples which gather in a way that is indigenously suited to them, and where leadership emerges organically. He or She has a passion which burns within until that particular passion or segment of mission is thought to be fulfilled. (2 Timothy 4:7)  His overseer-ship is not captured by his own efforts, but confirmed by the church body at large(Galatians 1: 18-22). The Lord brings other gifted people alongside this missionary to fill in what is lacking in his gifts so the task can be fulfilled. Paul was called by God to make disciple making people among the Gentiles (1 Timothy 1: 1-4; Titus 1).

2.  The Peter-Type Missionary – The Peter-Type Missionary seems to be a modern-day missionary who is called to minister within existing institutions, systems, orthodoxies, denominations, and conventional structures expressed in varying degrees of liturgy and worship. Their focus, I think, is directed towards those who have not yet embraced the missionary call of all believers. These missionaries are often challenged and exhorted for propagating a disconnected form and artifact instead of genuine discipleship, but we must allow them, like Peter primarily dedicated to the Jews, to make course corrections from within. I also think that too many have placed themselves in this category for fear of ministering ‘outside of the box.’

3.  The Timothy-Type Missionary – The Timothy-Type Missionaries are apprentices of existing disciple makers who receives their commission from their mentors and from God.  He or she often works towards the visionary missionary goal of those who are already in motion.  This type of missionary often assumes a role ‘under’ the leadership of another.  The sphere of ministry is usually, but not always encapsulated within the larger sphere of missionary workers that have ‘gone before.’  These types of missionaries are often pastoral or working with pastors.

4.  The Titus-Type Missionary – The Titus type Missionary is a missionary whose scope is regional.  (Titus 1:5)  They often demonstrate ‘problem solving’ skills in a loosely connected but dynamic network of existing churches.  They don’t usurp authority, but are known for wisdom and are recognized and encouraged by the region in which they serve.

5.  The James-Type Missionary – The James-type Missionary is a missionary who has God-given spiritual authority in a city or a local area. Sometimes this type of missionary can look  like a mega-church pastor. James was appointed by God to serve the church in Jerusalem (Acts 15). He had missionary/apostolic authority in the city of Jerusalem. Whenever apostles or church leaders came to Jerusalem, they met with James and the elders (Acts 12: 17; 21: 18).

6.  The Apollos-Type Missionary – The Apollos Type Missionary is characteristically a teaching missionary. (Acts 18: 24-28; 1 Cor. 4: 6,9). Apollos had been given missionary authority for the ministry of teaching the Scriptures by other missionaries. There are diverse Apollos-type missionaries in the Body of Christ today just as there are many types of teaching.

7.  The Luke-Type Missionary – The Luke Type Missionary is a missionary to the ‘market place.’ Luke served on Paul’s team of missionaries.  The Luke-Type missionary is gifted to work in business, media, art, education, and dare I say, politics.  Not everyone is a Luke-Type Missionary and neither is everyone called to be. The bi-vocational designation is often insufficient. They thens towards multi-vocation.

8.  The Barnabas-Type Missionary – The Barnabas-type Missionary is a modern-day networker and one who enjoys being a spiritual parent and an encourager amongst siblings.  For example, when many in the early Church were afraid of Saul due to his background of persecuting believers in Christ, Barnabas saw potential in him. When Barnabas noticed a great need for an apostolic teacher in Antioch, he invited Saul to serve with the Antioch church. And it was here that Barnabas and Saul were sent out as apostles to start new churches in other regions. When the time was right (see Acts 13: 13), Barnabas was willing to allow Saul to lead the missionary team. He was a true spiritual father.

9.  The Silas-Type Missionary – The Silas-Type Missionary assists or serves ground breaking missionaries. For example, Silas seemed to be a key assistant to Paul. When Barnabas decided not to accompany Paul on his second missionary journey, Silas was chosen to go along with Paul as his assistant and companion (Acts 15: 40). Both Silas and Timothy served with Paul on his missionary team and are often mentioned in Scripture together (Acts 17: 14-15; 18: 5; 2 Cor. 1: 19). Yet, Silas is always mentioned first. In First Peter 5: 12 , Paul refers to Silas as a faithful brother who has helped him.

10.  The John-Type of Missionary – The John Type of Missionary is one who can be characterized as a missionary of love. The greatest emphasis in the life of the apostle John was love. This type of nurturing missionary has great influence in the Body of Christ, but may not fit into one of the other apostolic roles spelled out in this list. However, they are committed to unity in the Body of Christ and they have an ability to cross denominational lines due to their God-given apostolic gifting.

Not every missionary can be categorized into one of the types above.  I suppose, if we worked together, we could collectively come up with many more types of missionaries.  Also, these ‘types’ of missionaries cannot exist independently of each other, and it is crucial that we do not become judgmental or overly critical of other types of missionaries.  I’ll confess that I have done that more often than I should.

Jesus is the archetypal missionary, all other types are derived from Him. (John 20:21)

Through God’s manifold nature and the way He chooses people from every tribe, nation, and tongue to communicate His Gospel to creation, we become the unified threads in His purposeful and conciliatory tapestry.

What other kinds of missionaries are there?  

What type are you?

Use the comment section at your leisure.

*This bulk of this post is adapted from Pierce, Chuck; Kreider, Larry; Stearns, Robert (2011-07-28). Return to Authentic Christianity: An In-depth look at 12 Vital Issues Facing Today's Church (Chapter 11)

 

 

What’s So Wrong with Calling the Church to End its Temple-ish Behavior?

temple-veil


*This is an updated post from March 2015*

“The “temple model grants extraordinary power to sacred men in sacred places who determine the meaning of sacred texts.” (sarcasm) Andy Stanley

The megachurch pastor was passionate about taking the Church back to what he feels Jesus called it to be, or better yet forward to what it’s supposed to be, but wasn’t  ‘trouncing’ the temple of old, the covenant that made it a necessity, or the possibility of a future one. He was simply saying that temple-ish behavior is not what the church should be doing now. In fact, Stanley said, and rightly so, that like the Galatians, many are attempting to blend the “temple model” with Jesus’ teachings. That clearly did not work ‘back then,’ it is certainly not working now, and it’s future ‘working’ is highly dependent on some very specific eschatological (end times) interpretations.

Some believe that this blending is possible, and that the idea of having certain temple-ish (old covenant) behaviors AND certain new covenant actions or characteristics is a ‘both & and’ deal. Personally, I don’t think that’s possible.  The New covenant was an ‘end’ deal. The end of the old.  When has JESUS plus _________, ever resulted in any good fruit? What scenario could possibly exist when Jesus’ sacrifice becomes insufficient? What situation could ever take place that would necessitate the reactivation of the priesthood as a special mediatory class within God’s oikos? What events could possible reduce the infinite opening to the access to God that He initiated at the rending of the temple curtain?

Some would answer those questions by saying ‘because God said he would,’ and that ‘it is written in His word.’ I find those interpretations lacking, inconsistent, and at odds with other interpretations from other genuine believers.

It’s not the first time that Jewish Christians tried to hold on to their Old Testament thinking and assimilate Jesus into them even though Jesus, long ago, had initiated a movement that was a complete departure from the temple model and its old covenant Petri dish. This happened when some ‘messianic jews’ called on gentiles who became Jesus followers to get circumcised.

The Apostle Paul, who was always trying his best to ‘be all things to all people,’ who was capitulating, or acquiescing, to the Jews who had received Christ by participating in temple rituals, ‘sacrifices,’ and other templish behaviors, put his foot down and on this issue and ‘withstood Peter to his face’ over the hypocrisy and momentary lunacy towards any inkling of backtracking into the old covenant or its old container.  Just because Paul, or any other of those who accompanied him participated in the dying temple’s activities, doesn’t suggest that he was approving them.  Likewise, Jesus’ participation in temple activities shouldn’t be used as a permission slip to continue those activities post His death, burial, and resurrection.

Stanley said that “When you blend the old with the new, the result is usually 99 percent temple thinking and 1 percent Jesus.” I think he’s right. There is now, amongst God’s people, zero ‘space’ for templistic thinking. It kills mission momentum and replaces it with ‘monumentum,’ the idea that God still dwells in monuments made by human hands.

The old covenant, to include ten commandments, no longer apply ‘as law’ because in the doctrine of Christ they are completely superseded. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus demands much more of us than the ten commandments. He not only forbids murder and adultery, but also the causes, hate and lust (Matthew 5:21, 22, 27, 28). I know, some of you are about to blow your stack right now, but hear me out.

Paul wrote that the ten commandments have been replaced by something much better:

“But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away, how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious? For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory. For even what was made glorious had no glory in this respect, because of the glory that excels. For if what is passing away was glorious, what remains is much more glorious” (2 Corinthians 3:7-11).

What was ‘passing away’ has now passed. What was becoming obsolete is now obsolete;

‘By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.’ (Hebrews 8:13)

What was ‘disappearing,’ is likely STILL disappearing because the church is still clutching onto it. “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.” (John 20:17) The old law and the commandments engraved on stones, were a ministry of death that had to disappear. Christ brought something better.

Some of you will get all wonky when I say that Christ ‘replaced’ the old covenant with the new. But, and I was told, I need to own it because it’s what I think. You’re free to call me on it in the comment section. Although we can learn much from the Old Testament and its structures (Ebenezers, Tabernacles, and Temples, etc), because the old helps us to understand the new, we now live under the New Testament, a covenant of grace.

The law necessitated the temple. Now that that law is obsolete, so is the need for the temple.”

We are not under the law of Moses, This is stated many times in the New Testament. “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not!” (Romans 6:14, 15). “Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another – to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God” (Romans 7:4). “But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter” (Romans 7:6). “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2).

“For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4).

“Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor” (Galatians 3:24, 25). “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” (Galatians 5:18). “For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace” (Ephesians 2:14, 15).

Likewise, temple-ish behavior, or containing the church within coordinates, is no longer necessary and works ferociously against living and moving and having our being in Christ. It kills mission.

Is there another temple coming? I can honestly say, “I’m not sure.” Will Christ reign from a physical temple for a literal 1000 years? I don’t think so. Will the temple be rebuilt just so the ‘antichrist’ can come and be the abomination of desolation? I can’t get there hermeneutically or eschatologically. But, what does it matter? I am a believer living under grace in the new covenant. Christ is my mediator (priest) whose sacrifice will never become anything less than it is now to be once again propped up by the blood of bulls and rams (Hebrews 10:4) The Spirit of God does not dwell in temples made by human hands, never did, and never will. Yes, his presence was there in the tabernacle and in the temples, but he was not confined to it, included in it, or circumscribed by it. Any action the church takes to do any of those things is temple-ish behavior. Andy, in his comments, just scratched the surface of this issue. I am glad his voice was heard.

Where are the Forensic Pneumatologists?

male-with-blood-samplesFirst things first. Let’s define our terms.

What is Forensics? At its root, it simply means an argumentative exercise. The plural ‘forensics’ is the art or study of argumentative discourse. Don’t be put off by the negative connotation of the word ‘argumentative,’ because in forensics the outcome is usually for the better. The examination of evidence, the solving of a crime, or the exposing of a false claim, can bring reconciliation, peace, and hold people accountable for their actions. The discourse in forensics is not one based on emotions like anger or envy, but focused on a conversation with the evidence, and it’s usually corporate; meaning that there are numbers of people involved in the process who perform different functions and are committed as a unit to finding out the truth.

What is pneumatology? Well, for people of faith, it is the study of the Holy Spirit, His attributes, nature, character, and actions.

If we were to bring them together, ‘Forensic Pneumatology’ would be the art of healthy discourse that examines the teachings about, and the manifestations of the Holy Spirit to determine if they are indeed from God. Before you think that examining the evidence with regard the things Holy Spirit is preposterous or prideful, you must ask if a biblical precedent has been set.

I think that there can be little doubt that Christian believers must ‘test the spirits.’

“Beloved, do not believe all spirits, but be distinguishing between the spirits whether they are from God, because many false Prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1) Aramaic Bible in Plain English

We are to ‘try’ (put on trial) the spirits or supposed movements and actions of the Holy Spirit. We are to forensically, mutually, and corporately determine whether or not manifestations or movements are of God or not. We are to use the parameters revealed in the Scriptures. Whether you like it or not, the Holy Spirit will never act in a manner which contradicts His divinely breathed revelation about himself.

There are forensic pathologists, those who work with evidence to determine causes of death, there are forensic criminologists, folks who can identify and predict psychological, sociological, and economic characteristics that may lead people to commit crimes, there are forensic scientists that work with ‘trace evidences’ left behind after a variety of physical events, and myriad of other forensic specialists. So why not forensic pneumatologists or those that faithfully examine ‘trace evidences’ of spiritual events?

There’s so much BS in supposed moves and manifestations of the Spirit today that it is impossible to keep up with them all, but that doesn’t mean that we can sit idly by in our own spheres of influence and not challenge the crap. Contrary to popular belief, the Spirit doesn’t need a spectacle or show to ‘show up.’ He doesn’t need a little ‘fudging of the evidence’ to get people worked up so that He can manifest His glory. The list could go on…

Isn’t it past time that those who call themselves the church systematically examine, prove, question, doubt, call to account, and examine spiritual trace evidence (fruit) with more intensity and honesty?

Isn’t it time to call BS on the majority of things that people claim to be moves of the Spirit where there is no lasting fruit and NO DISCIPLES MADE?

Where are the Forensic Pneumatologists of our day?

Mission, Selfies, Raising Support, Murder, and Some Other Stuff

13936785_276276702740862_890626598_nA number of years ago, some short-term missionaries and I went to visit a remote unreached community in the Cloud Forest Region of Ecuador. Our reception, and that of the Gospel, was astounding. We had laid some groundwork in the area previously, but it was quiet and very much ‘under the radar. ’Having asked for their permission to return with some more people later (something I always ask for), we did exactly that. Things actually went quite well. In that situation, there were pictures taken of those ministering with those being ministered to etc., and no one had problems with it. I know the value of a good ministry/mission pic. In fact, those pictures can often mean the difference between life and death of a missionary’’s support and the mission work itself.

It’s the kind of thing that tweaks everyone’s conscience, but we convince ourselves that taking pictures is for the greater good and that it will only help to more effectively reach people for Christ.

Having spent over 10 years in the field, I have made many such concessions in order to make sure that the work goes on. I have posted a lot of pics. A LOT! Recently, someone told me that seeing pictures, for them, was ‘inspirational.’ I can understand that, and for the most part I’d agree. But photo ops, if we’re honest, happen best when ministry is superficial. There’s always a degree of staging or posing which contributes to disingenuousness.

Something tragic happened in the community I mentioned above, although I can not say for sure that it was our fault. There was a man in the community who was very glad to see us. He approached us and was happy that Christians had come to his small neighborhood so far ‘away from ‘civilization.’’ We had great discussions with him and made commitments to come back and see him again. He was not from this community, but had moved there to start fresh… to simply get another chance at life.

We left the community that day proud of ourselves for having ‘’planted a new church.’’ Many ‘‘accepted Christ into their hearts,’ (unfortunate phrase)* etc. Reports could be sent back to the sending church, pictures could be relayed, and we could feel content with having started a new work. The short-term mission team left, and a small group of us continued to visit, talk about matters of faith, and have genuine fellowship with people there.

Only a short time after the initial visit, we heard of the brutal murder of that man. People went to that community to find him and kill him, and had succeeded in shooting him there, but he escaped and went to a nearby town for medical attention. After he left the clinic, he was trying to get back to his home in that remote community and was met once again by the same people. They shot him again and killed him.

As I said, I can’t say that it was our fault for taking pictures, posting them on social media etc., but it seemed too coincidental. Additionally, I was unsure of his faith and his commitment to Christ. The man who might have been looking for salvation, might have found death and lostness because of our felt need to ‘publish’ our efforts.

It makes me sad still when I think about it, but it did teach me a valuable lesson.

I want to be clear. This article is not about Mission Selfies or the potential dangers, it’s about a much deeper issue.

I just got back from working in the Earthquake torn Ecuadorian Coast and doing some very effective ministry there with others who sacrificed much to do the same. I saw and heard some heart wrenching things. I was in situations where people wanted to get their pictures taken and some where taking photos was absolutely prohibited. I personally had contact with a gang leader, some very rough folks, and a lot of hurting and displaced people.

Truth is, I couldn’t’ take many pictures while in the throws of that grunt mission/ministry work because:

  1. It might have put both me and the people I was ministering to in danger.
  2. It might have been disruptive to the spiritual work going on. (Which is much more common)
  3. It might have communicated that our differences were vast and that I was more concerned with taking pictures ‘of them’ than identifying ‘with them’ in their needs.

There were very few opportunities to collect data, i.e. photos, to send back to folks who supported and might continue to support this work or others like it.

I can assure you though, there was some very serious work going on. So much so in fact, that I saw the need to raise more support for a continuing work along the 5-700 kilometers of the coast that suffered, and continues to suffer, from the earthquake.

To be honest, it shocked me that folks weren’t’ ‘‘jumping all over the opportunity’’ to help. But I get it, I really do. Both you and I have been conditioned to ‘missionary work as usual.’ There’’s a protocol, if you will. You build vision, you do your homework (hopefully), you send forward observers, and then send a team to work short-term. You take a bunch of pictures, write up a report, give a mission-success presentation at your church, and then try to go back or throw your support behind a person who has committed to follow-up. At each step in the process, support is needed and sought after.

How else can a missionary raise support for the work?

It struck me then. What about those who work with underground churches in China? What about those who work in countries or zones where conversion to Christianity is a death sentence? Where are the mission-selfies from those works? Preposterous question right?

I know some folks who are in situations like those. They never ‘check-in’ to a location on Facebook, they never take pictures, and they never mention anything that could put their lives or the lives of others in jeopardy. They dress like the culture they’re imbedded into, talk like them, eat like them, and participate in their activities. They take every step to not be ‘noticeable’ in their respective tasks. But, they are supported. People who understand that paradigm also understand that there is no glory in giving to those causes. They understand that in order for real work to happen, it must be quiet and somewhat obscured.

For the past year or more I have found myself working with a people who are nomadic, estranged, ‘on the run,’ political refugees, displaced, and unique. They are also conscientious and contributing members of their respective communities. In many respects they live a more sanctified life than many believers I know. But, they are also without Christ. Some, because they simply chose to run away from hypocrisy, others because the gospel has not been communicated to them in a way that they can understand.They haven’t met folks who are willing to befriend them because of the stigma that comes along with hanging out with folks like them. Truth be told, there’’s very little return on investment in working with these kinds of folks in mission because taking pictures and giving reports is not going to be understood BY THEM. In other words, they may feel used by you in getting what you want at the the cost of their need. It’s a different language. Your very presence amongst them communicates. How that presence is interpreted by those you’re taking pictures of can vary. Not to mention that the device you’re using to take photos often represents months of meals for them and their families. In any case, I can assure you, there’’s some very real and good work going on.

Old-James-Hudson-TaylorWhen Hudson Taylor dressed like the people he ministered to and acted a preservative to that culture instead of one trying to change it, his actions were celebrated. I’m sure that some believers had thought he’d ‘gone native,’ but they were few. He also never solicited funds for his mission, but the support did come. His faith and manner of mission was only challenged by the most ardent of the religious community from where he came from in the West.

My appearance, style of dress, and activities have changed greatly over the past year and a half, but unlike Taylor, the bulk of my fellow believers who are looking in from the outside think that I have ‘gone native’ and left God behind. This is far from the truth. Because I am posting fewer pictures of myself doing classical missionary stuff in classical missionary ways, my faith and my calling has been called into question. All I can say, is walk with me for a while and make your own decision.

I suppose it all comes down to trust. Do you trust the missionary that you are supporting? Do you trust that the work you are supporting is being done? Have you talked to him or her personally or asked questions about things that might give you pause? Are you confident that even in the absence of normal mission shots or detailed reports that Christ is being represented?  Can you accept the fact that mission work can be as diverse as the nations we’re called to reach?

I am entering into a phase of missionary work with a unique people group that requires an extreme amount of subtlety. It is risky, and sometimes dangerous, work. It is a challenge to get folks behind the effort in the absence of traditional mission marketing.

I am not alone out here in my efforts even though it might feel like that at times. There are very traditional people and churches that know what I am up to and whom I remain accountable to.There are also some very untraditional and anonymous ones that have a deep-seated desire not to be known for which works/missionaries they support. But they are the exception rather than the rule. For me, things are very different than I would have imagined over 10 years ago when I left for the ‘mission field.’ I’m looking for people who are willing to risk with me. Take a risk on me. I’ am looking for people who will come and work with me in ways which might not make any sense to them but are willing to learn. I am looking for folks who will support my current trajectory, and who trust that the Lord has me right where he wants me. I am a different sort of missionary than I was just a couple of years ago. I wait in faith for those who are a different sort of missionary/mission supporter than they were a few years ago.

I need your support

If you’d like to support the work here in Ecuador, then use this link.

If you have questions, you can email me here. 

If you have any comments, feel free to use the comment section below


* "Accepting Christ into one's heart," is not biblical language and is at
best confusing. Revelation 3:20, a verse commonly used to substantiate this
idea mentions nothing of the heart nor requires a believer to 'ask' anything.
In this case, Jesus is asking the Laodiceans (a church) to be restored
to a right relationship with Him. John 1:12,13 may be helpful as well.
The word 'receive'  is commonly used in the NT but not with the idea of
'into one's heart' as a sign of salvation.

Is The ‘Cross in the Crack’ Gospel Sufficient? Was it Ever?

bridge-diagramThe Wycliffe Bible Encyclopedia summarizes the gospel message this way:

The central truth of the gospel is that God has provided a way of salvation for men through the gift of His son to the world. He suffered as a sacrifice for sin, overcame death, and now offers a share in His triumph to all who will accept it. The gospel is good news because it is a gift of God, not something that must be earned by penance or by self-improvement (John 3:16; Romans 5:8–11; 2 Corinthians 5:14–19; Titus 2:11–14).

If God has indeed “provided a way” for humanity to be saved, then we can reasonably make the following assumptions from God’s revelation (scripture).

1. God exists.
2. Humans were created by God.
3. God established a relationship with humans.
4. Something caused a separation, gap, or crack in that relationship.
5. There’s a solution.

Much of today’s Gospel conversations contain these premises. 

British theologian, Jeremy Begbie, says;

“At the heart of the Christian message there is something being declared.”

gospel-diagram-jpg-english-015That may sound too simple, but much gospel declaration today is reduced to mere social work or doing nice things for nice people. The gospel is both God-Man and God-Message. The sentiment of Preach the gospel always and when necessary use words,” *rolling eyes* is just plain wrong. Of course the gospel must be enfleshed, but it must also be expressed. In the past, it was more likely that the above premises were assumed, or at least understood and therefore didn’t need lengthy ground laying sessions for defining terms or creating a gospel ‘space’ where good dialogue could happen. 

lifestyle_booka_03-4Today, it’s less likely that these premises will be agreed on from the outset of a conversation.  Agendas, rejection, ignorance (willful and unwitting), fear, shame, pressure, and doubt being sensed by would be gospel hearers often serve to widen the gap we’re trying to close.  So, where in the past a 5 minute “gospel presentation” followed by a 1 minute prayer might… emphasis on “might” have been sufficient, it is unlikely that evangelicalism’s core crack gospel message still is.

I’m not convinced that a rote or rhetorical bundle of lines about doctrine or morality,  were EVER sufficient, but likewise, I’ll not limit the power of the gospel message, even if it’s doled out in smaller chunks.  The gospel message is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes it. (Romans 1:16, 1 Corinthians 1:18) The who (Jesus) and the what (message) of the gospel is what creates and restores relationship. Together they create community. They create community with people and likewise between God and people. 

I believe the gospel, or portions of it, can be tweeted, written on a napkin, sent in an email, shared between floors on an elevator, or even expressed, at times, in a hug or handshake. But I’ll also admit that there are many times when a Genesis to Malachi foundation is necessary. The goal, I suppose, is not to share the whole story in every encounter, but to appropriate the opportunities to share THE STORY with others, and how you’ve become part of it. The Gospel is multi-faceted, but I think the “cross in the crack” gospel only represents a couple of those facets. 

Regardless, the question: “Is the Cross in the Crack Gospel Sufficient?” remains…

What do you think? 

Elders, Pastors, and Deacons are Not ‘Officers,’ Nor Do They to Hold an ‘Office.’

ev3pa11b1I think the word “office,” when used to describe the function of Elders, Pastors, and Deacons is unfortunate. I believe it’s an institutional imposition on scripture, and a word that has been chosen with ulterior motives.

Let’s get to it then.  The Culprit, not Paul, but the translators of the King James Bible in 1 Timothy 3:1 translate the verse in this way…  “This is a true saying, If a man desires the office of a bishop, he desires a good work.”  The King James Version is not the only culprit.  The English Standard Version (©2001), New American Standard Bible (©1995), NET Bible (©2006), and even the Webster’s Bible Translation all use the word “office.”

Some translations, like the Weymouth New Testament, further complicate the matter with translations like this: “Faithful is the saying, “If any one is eager to have the oversight of a Church, he desires a noble work.”  Adding the word “church” here demonstrates both the translator’s agenda and assumptions.

The New International Version (©2011) does not use the word “office,” but translates the passage in this way: “Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task.”  I am not a fan of the NIV (Non-Inspired-Version) (jokingly), because of its dynamic equivalent translation manner (idea for idea, instead of word for word) but in this case they seem to have it correct.  

Finally, the New Living Translation (©2007), while not using the word office, translates the passage this way: “This is a trustworthy saying: “If someone aspires to be an elder, he desires an honorable position.”  What I find problematic here is the word “position.”

Pastors/Elders and or Deacons are not offices or positions in the church.  Unless you can define a position or an office in such a way as to not contradict Jesus’ command; “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles dominate them, and their men of high positions exercise power over them.  But it must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.”  Jesus forever busted positional and hierarchical structures for the church. 

Peter, often thought of as the leader of the church, had this to say to all of God’s chosen people (the church) who were dispersed and living as foreigners in the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia the following:

“Therefore, as a fellow elder and witness to the sufferings of the Messiah and also a participant in the glory about to be revealed, I exhort the elders among you: Shepherd God’s flock among you, not overseeing out of compulsion but freely, according to God’s will; not for the money but eagerly; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.”

Peter uses the words “Elder” and “Pastor” (In verb form) here and specifically echoes the words and sentiment of Jesus regarding positional or ‘official’ leadership.  There are no “offices.”  Leadership in the church is functional not positional or ‘official’ in the sense of some exercising authority over others in hierarchical structures.  If there is “position,” it’s always amongst the people. See (1 Thessalonians 5:12) and (1 Peter 5:2)

One problem ~ In Acts 1:20, Peter says, regarding Judas: “For it is written in the book of Psalms, ‘LET HIS HOMESTEAD BE MADE DESOLATE, AND LET NO ONE DWELL IN IT’; and, ‘LET ANOTHER MAN TAKE HIS OFFICE.’ ~ Ouch!

We have a couple of choices here.  We can accept that Apostleship was indeed an office and by logical consequence apply it to Pastors and Elders in which my proposition dies, or we can consider the use of another word in this passage.  The NIV again, in my opinion, does a good job with this passage when it translates this verse in this way: “For,” said Peter, “it is written in the Book of Psalms: “‘May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it,’ and, may another take his place of leadership” (properly, an oversight that naturally goes on to provide the care and attention appropriate to the body.)

The latter causes no contradiction with Jesus’ and Peter’s words above but does go against the grain of nearly ever other translation.  Also, we must remember that the quote from Psalms refers to the enemies of the Messiah in general, but is applied by the apostle to Judas in particular. In the Hebrew text, Psalm 69:25 uses words that are in the plural number, “let their habitation be desolate, and let none dwell in their tents”; and refers to all the enemies of Christ, the chief priests, elders of the people, Scribes and Pharisees, who covenanted with Judas to give him so much money to betray Christ into their hands.

In essence, the “office” being replaced here may apply to something much broader than a position of a single man. I also find it interesting that the word ‘officer,’ describing someone within the religious system disappears after the resurrection. The very idea of an officer within the church only becomes plausible when one reaches back into the Old Covenant and drags it into the present. 

Final thought:  The word “office” is too heavy laden with modern unbelieving (gentile) hierarchical leadership concepts.  It is imprudent and often controlling to impose it on biblical texts.”  Chances are, if you’re adamant about protecting the term, you might be one of those who is disobeying Jesus by “Lording” over people. 

Lance Ford, in his book UnLeader: Reimagining Leadership …and Why We Must, says:

“The New Testament places the emphasis on the unction of the Holy Spirit in the lives of men and women who are servants of God and his kingdom initiative rather than on titles and offices. Men and women have dug titles and offices out of the trash heap where Jesus tossed them, shined them up, and hung them on church buildings, office doors, and business cards.”*

So, isn’t it time to jettison the words “office” and “officer” and come up with something better?

*UnLeader: Reimagining Leadership…and Why We Must (Kindle Locations 2097-2100). Nazarene Publishing House. Kindle Edition.  

 

 

What an Insect Eating Street Dog Taught Me about Discipleship.

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I noticed two things when I passed her on the street. First, she was crunching on a katydid, and then there were those eyes! They’re white and penetrating. There are a lot of street dogs here in Mindo. Some of them you see consistently, others don’t make it more than a few days. These strays are often skinny, sick, and sad. I’ve had to train myself to ignore these dogs because I can’t afford to help them, and… well… they tend to die. And I have had my fill of death recently. At the same time, the attitude of ‘that’s just the way things are here,’ seems cruelly insufficient.  Every once and a while someone will take it upon themselves to poison as many of them as possible to cull the population. That weighs on me. 

13267902_236843603350839_4380499397809424777_nA day or so later, I saw her again and she started following me around town. Then, she followed me home. After doing some investigation to ensure she didn’t have an owner, I decided to adopt her. I gave her a bath, bought her a harness and a leash, fed her, and let her have the run of the house. All was well.

She quickly chewed through her harness, made a mess, and showed me just how mischievous she could be. She was wild. She was a free spirit. She had learned how to survive in this environment eating mostly bugs and begging from tourists. I would take her out and let her poop in the yard, but she always looked at the gate like it was her ‘ticket to freedom.’ I knew she wanted to go back into the wild and live the life she was accustomed to.

I was torn between letting her go and keeping her restricted, and thought of the tired old saying: “If you love something set it free. If it comes back it’s yours. If not, it was never meant to be.” Could I let myself fall in love with her and then have her make her own decision as to whether or not she wanted to stay? “She would be safer, healthier, and better loved with me than out on the street” I said to myself. “She’d be better off.”

There was a hitch though. The dog, now named “Chuspi” (Quichua for Mosquito), reminded me of a troubled teen that we took into our home for some time. She too was a wild street kid. She too was difficult at times. She too was constantly distracted and yearning for a self-perceived freedom. She could have left at anytime she wanted. Nonetheless, we took care of her, loved her, got her some medical attention, and treated her as a member of our family. She had every opportunity for growth afforded to her that we could provide.

That teen also left because the wild called to her, and the carefree environment where she came from was more appealing than being taken care of and provided for.  I get it, I really do.  The wild has been calling to me from a very young age.  She remains my ‘kid’ and she calls me ‘Papa’ still. I love her very much.  We stay in contact and I see her from time to time, but it’s difficult for me to know she’s out there ‘alone’ deciding what she wants in life while simultaneously navigating her faith.

Back to Chuspi…  Well, I decided to let her go and see if she would come back to me. We had developed a routine of play, feeding times, and some training. She seemed happy. When I opened the gate, however, she looked up at me as if to say “thanks,” and bolted. I didn’t see her for some time. I have to admit that my heart was broken. She’s a very cool dog, and so smart.

After about a week, I saw her on the street again. She followed me, wagging her tail the entire time. She followed me home again, so I had to decide whether to ‘let her in’ again or just give her some food and send her on her way.  At this point she was more than just a street dog to me. She was symbol of those that I have entered into relationships with. More than that, she was a personal test for me. Could I put up with her making a decision to leave? Could I, after much loss this past year, do it again?

13239029_237693493265850_1001143777268288599_nAgain she decided to stick around for a while, during which time she destroyed a few more things, made my other dogs jealous, went into heat, and brought fleas into my home. There were many more baths, a lot more food, a bit more training, and I even taught her to accompany me on my mountain bike while I hit the trails. #TrailDog 🙂

She’s really quite intuitive, and she learns quickly. I was vesting my time, energy, money, and love in her. Then she left again.

“How many times?” I asked myself.  “How many times could I love her and let her go?” How many little heartbreaks could I suffer before that began to take its toll?

She was gone for a long time. It was just yesterday that she came back. She was skinny, sick, and full of fleas. I immediately gave her a bath, fed her, loved on her for a while, and kept her close.She fell back into the routine pretty quickly, and then it dawned on me… This was like many of the discipling relationships I have had. Yes, she’s ‘just a dog,’ but she people-challenges me. This repetitive heart tugging and departure is in her nature. It’s not necessarily wrong, it’s just different.

How many people have I had relationships with that were just like her?How many have I taken in, lived and talked the gospel with, only to have them decide that they love their previous lives more than what I was offering? Or, should I say, what God was offering them through my feeble attempts in representing Him?

If I can’t commit to caring for a dog in spite of the inconveniences, could I ever really commit to a person in a discipling relationship? Could I let my heart be broken over and over again, and yet still influence in a positive way with what I believe to be a powerful and transformational message? Do I have the patience to deal with her idiosyncrasies over the long haul to her benefit, without expecting love or commitment in return? Is it right to ’take it personally’ if she, or anyone else, decides to choose another path? How long can I keep doing this to myself?

st-francis-of-assisi-on-isabela-in-the-galapagos-al-bourassaThis is a statue of St. Francis of Assisi that is quite common here. Simply clad, bird in hand, and what appears to be a stray. I like how the dog appears to be ‘at his side’ yet paying attention to other things. It’s both intriguing and convicting. I’m no St. Francis, but this remains inspirational to me.

I think that there’s still a lot to learn in this analogous relationship with “Chuspi,” the insect eating street dog, but for now I’ll offer the following:

Discipleship cannot be contained. – “At best, it happens as lives intersect over time, and in the overlap of each one’s ‘freedom.’

Discipleship is more than just messy. – There are sicknesses and fleas, dirt and baggage.  Other people have different ways of doing things that may seem counter-intuitive or even morally questionable. We’ve got to go beyond ‘getting our hands dirty,” and accept that sometimes it requires getting our whole lives dirty.

Discipleship is risky. – Every time we ‘lay it out there,’ our faith in particular, we risk rejection. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve shared my beliefs with someone, have had them discount it, and felt like it was a personal dismissal. It’s risky to consistently reassess one’s worldview, recognize where it needs to change, and revise our lives accordingly. Heartbreak will happen over and over again.

Discipleship costs. – If we’re going to commit to discipling others, sure, we must count the cost, but we have to be willing to accept that some of those costs lie just beyond the horizon of our perception. There’s no amount of due diligence that will prepare us for those unexpected  costs. There will always be a ‘no matter what’ component in the Making of Disciples.

Discipleship is a kaleidoscope. – Take a bunch of shards of different colors, each one capable of causing pain by itself, and let them reflect off of their surroundings and each other, and you get beauty. Discipleship happens in colorful collision and reflection.

Discipleship is mutually beneficial. – In the making of disciples, we become better disciples ourselves.

There are many more things I could share about what I have learned these past months in caring for an insect eating street dog, but that will suffice for now.  Maybe you could add a thought or two in the comment section.  For now, Chuspi is sitting on my balcony looking out into the community, wagging her tail when some of her friends pass by, and waiting for her next meal.

I have decided to get her vaccinated and spayed and keep her close for a while. I will impose some limits for a time because I believe it’s the best course of action.  I do believe however, that she may decide to run off once again, and I’ll have to prepare my heart accordingly.

I am reminded of what B.M. Palmer once said, “We have been given dominion over the works of God’s hands and are, in that sense, priests of nature.”

When it comes to acts of justice, the making of disciples, caring for our environment, evangelism, or loving our neighbors, maybe it’s just about seizing God-given opportunities to be priestly.

How Exactly, is One Supposed to ‘Obey the Gospel?’

 

i_dont_know_woman_1209x800The gospel, simply stated, is the ‘good news’ that God has sent his son Jesus Christ into the world in order to reconcile Creator to creation. It is a powerful message (Romans 1:16), that brings salvation.  It is a communiqué that regenerates people’s hearts through the Holy Spirit and renews all of God’s creation as He establishes His Kingdom through King Jesus. It is the truth that Jesus Christ was sent from the God the Father, empowered by God the Spirit, lived a sinless life, died on the cross for the atonement of sinners, and rose from the dead triumphing over satan, sin, and death in accordance with the Scriptures. It is a narrative about the God who looked with compassion on people and entered into history to change it and the future.

Since the gospel is both story and news, it is somewhat distinct from the commandments given to Moses for Israel and even, apparently, different from all that Christ commanded. It is easy, at least intellectually, to understand how one must obey commands. It’s a bit more difficult to understand how to obey a story or news. None the less, the scriptures call us to ‘obey the gospel.’ Here are some examples:

But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” (Romans 10:16 ESV)

As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ. (2 Corinthians 9:13 NLT)

He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. (2 Thessalonians 1:8 NIV)

For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? (1 Peter 4:17) NASB

“Obey” is one of those words which makes people cringe. Properly, it is to obey what is heard… literally, “under hearing,” or listening to the one giving the command (order). It suggests attentively listening, i.e. a fully compliant (response). It can also be considered an “intensification” of the simple verb “to listen.”

In the second passage above (2 Corinthians 9:13 NLT), some versions use the word “obey” and others do not. What is clear in that passage is the idea of “obeying the confession of the gospel while in the service of others.”

The last passage (1 Peter 4:17 NASB) doesn’t actually use the word “obey,” but “disobey” apeithéō – literally, refuse to be persuaded (by the Lord) and it’s where we get our word “apathy.”

I can ‘work’ towards obeying commands, but ‘obeying’ the gospel? Sure, the gospel is a message of Grace and of Hope and of Kingdom and of Peace and of Reconciliation. It exemplifies both messenger and message, and is the power of God unto salvation for those that believe (Romans 1:16). 

Last thought; We don’t obey a command of God and say we’re finished. Likewise I don’t believe that we can say we’ve obeyed the gospel by responding, ‘accepting Christ into our hearts,’ or believing the message once. Whatever it means to ‘obey the gospel,’ it is certainly an ongoing process.

But, how do you suppose the Gospel is to be “obeyed?” How does one obey ‘news’ or a story? 

“The Institution of Church,” according to religion anthropologist Miguel Labrador, “has outlived its usefulness.”

128961-simple-red-square-icon-culture-religion-church1-sc31“The institution of church,” according to Religion Anthropologist Miguel Labrador, “has outlived its usefulness.”

He makes that forceful claim in his new book, “I love discipleship, I hate church”: A Cultural Analysis, which offers a comprehensive indictment of the institutional church model of today. Many of us who do research and write about discipleship and institutional church (present company included) believe fundamentally in the endeavor but see room for improvement. But Labrador sees a fatally flawed system and thinks incremental changes won’t cut it.

We can’t fix the institutional church of today completely, he writes, “because its foundation is flawed. And we can’t fix it piecemeal because it is a system. As with fundamental changes to conceptual systems in the history of the church, the only solution is a radical transformation.”

Labrador rests his case on a broad, learned, and interesting range of sources, including his 11 years of experience as a missionary serving in one of the culturally diverse regions on the planet. He has read deeply on the gospel, the history of church, discipleship, and evangelism, as well on traditional and alternative church models, and on theories of human religion.

He draws, finally, upon the results of his own research. His team interviewed hundreds of adherents about their church experiences and their attitudes toward discipling, and surveyed another 200 anonymously on those topics via social media. The interviews included one mega-church pastor who uttered the phrase that became the book’s title: “I love Discipleship; I hate Church.” The pastor was a very successful bi-vocational leader whose Etsy Store income rivals his church salary, and Labrador notes that when the clergymen/entrepreneur uttered that phrase, one of his groupies, — another missional leader — exclaimed that she, too, hated church.

What, Labrador wondered, could explain the disconnect between a love of discipleship and a hatred of church?  Good discipleship takes time and effort, which is why we are reluctant to abandon our current approaches unless we are convinced that we will see a major payoff.

The book answers that question by contrasting how people learn in churches (of all sorts) with how they learn on their own. The vocabulary he uses to illustrate that contrast is telling: He refers to discipleship outside of church as “discipleship in the wild,” and learning within church as “discipleship in the cage.” Humans were born to learn in the wild, he suggests; church members are forced to learn in the cage.

The first two parts of his book recount the myriad problems that plague the institutional church, some ancient and some recent. He points to the way in which membership requirements distort the disciple-making process, the cultures of social media and hook-ups, the frequent mismatch between the goals and interests of clergy and laity and congregants, the dry and arid nature of many churches. He also draws upon some of the arguments of his previous book “14 Shifts in Disciple Making.”

After a long and painstaking analysis of the ekklesia’s multiple failures, he steps into the role of a religious anthropologist of human discipleship in the third section of the book. I especially appreciated that section, in which he ranges comfortably between anthropology, missiology, and cognitive ecclesiology to explore how we learn in non-church contexts. He cites many forms of discipleship “in the wild” — “learning by doing, learning through play, observation, imitation, trial and error, guided participation, and apprenticeships, in which young people or novices are assigned to an expert to learn a craft or a trade.”

What he does not find in these forms is anything like what we ask members to do in the church. In the cage of church we require students to learn by sitting still in chairs or pews, listening quietly (or distracting themselves with their devices), being told what to learn and why it matters, spurred by status and competition, with little after-church engagement. Those practices have created a fundamental mismatch between natural discipleship and classroom discipleship — a mismatch that explains the book’s title.

Labrador closes the book with a call for a revolution to draw learning in the church closer to learning in the wild. The details of his revolutionary vision don’t appear in very sharp relief, as he himself acknowledges. He offers some examples of how he has worked to transform his own processes, but leaves readers to envision their own paths forward. “Mine is a dream,” He says in one of 15 disclaimers “new ideas have to come from the concept of the future, from Jesus’ words “greater things than these.”

Labrador’s dream deserves the consideration of all of us who believe in the promise of church. I have little doubt that much of what we have been asking members to do in church for the last few hundred years doesn’t fit very well with the ways in which we evolved to learn about and thrive in our environments. We are kidding ourselves if we believe students of the word are learning deeply from sitting in 300+ seat lecture halls, watching cloaked pastors read from PowerPoint slides, and taking a few breaks to join in on songs and sing about stuff we’ll never actually do.

We should take very seriously the critique of church offered by Miguel Labrador; the book is excellent, and I highly recommend it. Labrador does the ecclesia a service by drawing our attention to the ways in which traditional church structures put barriers in the way of disciples and their learning. He has a powerful command of ecclesiastical history and theory, and his insights and anecdotes rang true to me throughout the book.

 

**Disclaimer** ~ This post is somewhat satirical and shamelessly draws
 from a completely unrelated, but poignant article on learning
 and the modern form of schools. It's worth reading. I thought it an
interesting exercise to switch out the concepts of school and church
and see if the point carries through. Please feel free to leave your comments
below.