Are You Unruly?

515400-503292-rape-dna-image“We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14) NASB

I don’t know about you, but it bristles me to have the word ‘unruly’ tossed at me or others who are not ‘disorderly’ ‘unruleable’ ‘disruptive’ or ‘amenable to discipline or control.’ Granted, I may be that person who, based on the assumptions of others, who “doesn’t follow the rules,” but overall I think accusations like those come from the sort that like to be ‘ruled over’ or those in leadership ‘positions’ who feel they are entitled to the obedience of the ones they ‘rule’ over. I get it, I really do. There are personalities that thrive on order, repetition, and the like, and there’s nothing wrong with that per se, but I’m not one of those people.

I think the NASB translation of the Greek in this particular verse is unfortunate. (I know, of course I do) ‘Unruly’ (unruleable) is a heavily weighted word that, when combined with the urging to admonish those who are unruly, often results is harsh and uninformed judgment.

Let’s unpack the word a bit…

From HELPS Word Studies: ‘Unruly’ – 813 átaktos (an adjective derived from 1 /A “not” and 5021 /tássō, “draw up, arrange”) – properly, out-of-line (“without order,” M. Vincent); (figuratively) out of God’s appointed (proper) order; unruly, refusing to observe God’s guidelines (live in faith). Accordingly, faith (4102 /pístis) and 813 (átaktos) are directly associated (see 1 Tim 5:12-14).

I very much like and appreciate the words “refusing to observe God’s guidelines (live in faith).” in this summary of the definition. I also believe that if that’s being ‘unruly,’ then I would agree. If however, someone, particularly a believer, is not following the form or substance of rule by or from men, then we owe it to ourselves and others to further examine our own lives before any admonishment.

By the way, ‘admonishment’ is also too strong of a word here and it assumes that another has the right to warn, castigate, call to obedience, etc., when the very right itself has not been earned by example or scriptural precedent. Just because one follows the rules of men or a system does not, and I repeat DOES NOT mean that they should warn others who don’t appear to be.

Besides, that’s not what the word means anyway. To admonish another means to:

  1. place the mind, i.e. reasoning with someone by warning (admonishing) them.
  2. appeal to the mind by supplying spiritual content
  3. exert POSITIVE pressure on someone’s logic or reasoning
  4. urge others to choose God’s best.

This is not done via an erroneously crafted hierarchical system or through structured leadership which takes lordship over people. Jesus expressly forbade that kind of leadership. (Matthew 20:25) (Mark 10:42) (Luke 22:25) and via Peter (1 Peter 5:3) No, this is done by being a positive reasonable influence and example. I long to see more of that.

You’ve heard the old adage that Christianity is not about rules, it’s about relationship, but the cliche does little active good and is, unfortunately, often quoted by those who have more regard for the rules of people rather than God. If you’re like me, you’ve probably been on receiving end of the kind of admonishment, ridicule, and marginalization that comes with being a creative and different sort of Christian.

Now, I’ll also admit that my tendency is to write off most ‘church’ rules as religious fabrications of men, but Jesus did say to Make Disciples of all nations and to teach them to obey (not ‘how to obey’) all of his commandments. So, this is where those, like me, who take pleasure in bending and breaking rules need to pause and think about what or whom we are ‘rebelling’ against. Being a rebel is fashionable and often lauded by others. Being disobedient to God has no honor or glory.

Take a look at how many possible interpretations there are for the beginning of this verse.

I like the Aramaic version in Plain English which says “correct wrongdoers” (not admonish right doers who do things differently). Also, there is still quite a bit of ambiguity which needs a little fleshing out, but I’ll leave you to it.

What do you think is the best way to relay the import of the beginning of this verse today?

Lastly, let us not forget that there is a succession of events in this verse. Warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the faint-hearted, help the weak, and be patient with everyone in the process. I believe that if ‘admonishment’ is not followed, or better yet, enveloped by those other things, then it is not from God.

Are you unruly?

How would you deal with those who are?

How would you respond to those who say that you are unruly?

 

 

 

The Bad News of The Gospel

bad_newsLately, I’ve been initiating gospel conversations with Matthew 5:8 – “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”  When circumstances permit, and are prudent, I like to ‘field test’ different approaches to relay the gospel to see if perhaps one is more effective than then others.  By ‘effective,’ I mean resulting in the making of a disciple.  No, there are no sinner’s prayers, altar calls, manipulative conversion tactics, bait and switch schemes, or high pressure conviction ploys, just some good ole gospel preaching.  In fact, a longer, more loving, relationship based and robust gospel has been highly effective in bringing people to a knowledge of the truth.

I’ve had lots of discussions with with folks over the years about how they think evangelism is to be done, and have written about it extensively.  One idea keeps resurfacing.  It’s the idea that we’ve got to convince people of the ‘bad news’ before we get to the ‘good news.’  This is usually manifested if showing people that they’ve transgressed the Law of God, are guilty, and are in Jeopardy of spending eternity… well… in not such a good place.

A friend of mine who was a missionary in Uganda for over 20 years said;

“When an “evangelist” gives the audience the choice between the horror of hell or the bliss of heaven, and between a life of abundance and wealth or an existence of trouble and at best survival by show of hands or otherwise, it invariably and unanimously will opt for heaven and abundance. Such is the natural inclination of man.” [1]

He goes on to say that;

“Any evangelist whose expressed objective is to “get his audience to heaven” or who holds out the prospect of proverbial “pot of gold at the end of a Gospel rainbow,” in whatever terminology it is couched, must immediately be viewed with deep suspicion.” [1]

He’s one of the most Godly men I’ve met, and I took those things to heart.  Yes, there’s some pretty bad news out there for those who have rejected or rebelled against God.  No, I don’t want to minimize the gravity of their situation or sugar coat the problem.    But, I still see way too many conversion hunters and very few disciple makers.  In a book I’ve been reading lately, the author says:

“Some people like to start their presentation of the gospel with a happy thought, such as, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” This was not Paul’s method. When he preached to the Gentiles , he always started by teaching that God is the creator (e.g. Acts 14: 15 and 17: 24, Romans 1: 19,20). Next he talked about mankind’s rebellion against God, that is, instead of worshiping our Creator we worshiped the things that he created. Next Paul talked about the judgment of God against those who rebel against God. Only after this bad news did Paul begin to tell the good news of what God has done to reconcile us rebels to himself through a mediator , Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”[2]

Whether or not Paul “always” started in a particular way, I’ll leave up to you.  But there seems to be a pattern in the New Testament that approaches the author’s outline:

1.  God

2.  Man’s rebellion against God and it’s consequences. (Bad News)

3.  Jesus (Good News)

So, I suppose I’ll Just throw it out there.  Do we really have to start with the bad news of the gospel before we get to the good news?  

 

[1]  Prof. Dr. Henry Krabbendam Vorlesung am 15. Juni 2002 in Bonn, Sueffertstr. 7 (Christl. Gemeinschaft), 9.00-17.00 Uhr

[2] Crowley, JD (2014-02-23). Commentary on Romans for Cambodia and Asia (ASEAN Bible Commentary Series) (Kindle Locations 340-345). Fount of Wisdom Publishing House, Phnom Penh. Kindle Edition.

And When the Gentiles Heard The Gospel… WHAT GOSPEL???

rose-colored-glasses-dan-holmAnd when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.  And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region.” (Acts 13:48,49)

Before getting into the point of this blog, I think it’s important to unpack these 2 verses a bit.

I’d like to do that by making some statements and asking some questions:

  1.  The Gentiles had, most likely by word of mouth heard something different, something they had not heard before, and did not have a context for. Why was the ‘whole city’ gathered at the synagogue? I can only assume that they (the gentiles) had heard previous Sabbath gathering messages and encouraged other gentiles to come and listen. I am very curious to know what gentiles were doing at the synagogue anyway? (If you have an idea, leave it in the comment section)
  2. The gospel was understood by the Jews, but rejected. Makes me wonder how the gospel message changed when the audience switched from mixed crowds to those comprised mostly of gentiles.
  3. ‘Word’ or ‘Logos’ in this passage seems to be synonymous with ‘Gospel.’
  4. They ‘believed’ the message. How did those delivering the message know that ‘they believed?’

If you have a comment to any of these, please use the comment section below.

When we look at how the Gospel was presented to a specifically Jewish audience vs. how it was presented to mixed audiences or specifically gentile audiences, we see ‘different versions’ of it. Perhaps ‘different versions’ isn’t quite the most accurate way to say that. What I believe we see, as the gospel is communicated to various groups in various ways under various circumstances, is the ‘filling in’ of holes, the correction of false assumptions, and the outright rebuke of counter or false gospels.

In the verses above, the immediate context in verses 14-41 is critical.

14 Moving on from Perga, they arrived at Pisidian Antioch, and on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. 15 After the reading from the law and the prophets, the leaders of the synagogue sent them a message, saying, “Brothers, if you have any message of exhortation for the people, speak it.”

16 So Paul stood up, gestured with his hand and said, “Men of Israel, and you Gentiles who fear God, listen: 17 The God of this people Israel chose our ancestors and made the people great during their stay as foreigners in the country of Egypt, and with uplifted arm he led them out of it. 18 For a period of about forty years he put up with them in the wilderness. 19 After he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, (Deuteronomy 7:1) he gave his people their land as an inheritance. 20 All this took about four hundred fifty years. After this he gave them judges until the time of Samuel the prophet. 21 Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul son of Kish, a man from the tribe of Benjamin, who ruled forty years. 22 After removing him, God raised up David their king. He testified about him: ‘I have found David the son of Jesse to be a man after my heart, who will accomplish everything I want him to do.’ 23 From the descendants of this man God brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, just as he promised. 24 Before Jesus arrived, John had proclaimed a baptism for repentance to all the people of Israel. 25 But while John was completing his mission, he said repeatedly, ‘What do you think I am? I am not he. But look, one is coming after me. I am not worthy to untie the sandals on his feet!’

26 Brothers, descendants of Abraham’s family, and those Gentiles among you who fear God, the message of this salvation has been sent to us. 27 For the people who live in Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize him, and they fulfilled the sayings of the prophets that are read every Sabbath by condemning him. 28 Though they found no basis for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed. 29 When they had accomplished everything that was written about him, they took him down from the cross and placed him in a tomb. 30 But God raised him from the dead, 31 and for many days he appeared to those who had accompanied him from Galilee to Jerusalem. These are now his witnesses to the people. 32 And we proclaim to you the good news about the promise to our ancestors, 33 that this promise God has fulfilled to us, their children, by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second psalm, ‘You are my Son; today I have fathered you.’ (Psalm 2:7) 34 But regarding the fact that he has raised Jesus from the dead, never again to be in a state of decay, God has spoken in this way: ‘I will give you the holy and trustworthy promises made to David.’ (Isaiah 55:3) 35 Therefore he also says in another psalm, ‘You will not permit your Holy One to experience decay.’ (Psalm 16:10) 36 For David, after he had served God’s purpose in his own generation, died, was buried with his ancestors, and experienced decay, 37 but the one whom God raised up did not experience decay. 38 Therefore let it be known to you, brothers, that through this one forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, 39 and by this one everyone who believes is justified from everything from which the law of Moses could not justify you. 40 Watch out, then, that what is spoken about by the prophets does not happen to you: 41 ‘Look, you scoffers; be amazed and perish! For I am doing a work in your days, a work you would never believe, even if someone tells you.’” (Habakkuk 1:5)

One thing that has been tough to pin down is an example of a gospel communication event in the New Testament that was targeted towards a purely Gentile audience.  There are very few of us who know anything other than presenting the gospel to purely gentiles audiences.

But, is our gospel too Gentile-ish?

Much of the criticism of today’s evangelism centers around it being too salvation focused.  Scot McKnight calls those who have placed an overemphasis on the salvation aspect of the Gospel “Soterians.”  Scot’s basic premise is that the plan of salvation is not the principle message of the Gospel.  He says in his book The King Jesus Gospel,

“We have succumbed to the Plan of Salvation gospel, in a reduced soterian form, as the one and only gospel.”*

Exactly how much of the Gospel is needed for a person to receive Christ?

Scot also says;

The Plan of Salvation flows out of the Story of Israel/Bible and the Story of Jesus. The Bible’s Story from Israel to Jesus is the saving Story. Just as we dare not diminish the importance of this Story if we wish to grasp the gospel, so also with the saving effects of the story. But equating the Plan of Salvation with either the Story of Israel or the Story of Jesus distorts the gospel and at times even ruins the Story.**

I have seen hundreds, yes hundreds… of story ruiners. Likewise I have seen many instances where the shortest and most poignant Gospel presentations have had life changing results. I remember sharing the Gospel with a woman who knew nothing of the Gospel moments before her death. Her last words spoken with severe injuries and collapsed lung were “Jesus save me, Jesus save me, Jesus save me.”  I still think about it, and recognize that it was a unique situation. Does it justify the use of quick and dirty gospel delivery systems? No, but it doesn’t necessarily negate them either.

I also remember ‘canvasing’ a community with the Gospel where 6 of the people spoken to were killed the next day in a bus accident. Situations like these tend to redefine ‘urgency’ as commonly understood amongst those who go on mission trips, street ministers, and the like.  Ultimately, and while ‘the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation’ (Romans 1:16), these methods can be arrogant, insincere, and shoddy attempts at self-glory. Further, it tends to make you want to be the one who harvests, seals the deal, or ;beings it home.’

What ever happened to just planting seeds?

In almost every case where the Gospel is presented in the NT, we find either Jews, Non-Jewish Gentile proselytes, or those gentiles that have at least a basic understanding, ‘an open door context’ if you will, by which they can begin to understand the Gospel message.  In my years on the mission field, I have encountered numerous people who have had no prior knowledge of God, Jesus, or His Gospel.  In dealing with those folks I have learned that overarching concepts of grace and peace, the character and nature of God, and inner convictions are much more effective than recounting the entire story of Israel and her development as ‘The people of God.’

I’d like to propose that in most of our contexts today, in dealing with people who have never really heard the Gospel, the story of Israel, Old Testament history lessons, doctrinal development, or other complex historical backdrops are unnecessary.  I know I have seen people come to faith with no mention of Israel or anything that predated Christ’s coming, living, dying, and resurrection.

Does it mean that providing that context is always unnecessary? No. I’d be overstepping and end up contradicting the point I’d like to make after all of this. Namely, that the Gospel is fluid and expansive.  The message doesn’t change, it envelops. The gospel consistently and persistently presented over time prevails. (Acts 6:7, Acts 12:24, Acts 13:12, Acts 19:10, Acts 19:20, Isaiah 55:11)

Our task as ones who would seek to share the good news with others is to be well lived in it; but even an inexperienced and choppy relaying of it, as long as it holds true to God’s revelation, is effective because “it is the power of God unto salvation.” Yes, even a bumbling idiot can communicate the gospel and get results because it is not our power that brings others to faith. It’s God’s. That doesn’t, however, excuse us to be ill-prepared or over reliant on form. Methodology never saved anyone. The messenger and His message do.

If you want to learn a method, learn 20.  Never allow yourself to be driven by your script as opposed to being moved by the Spirit. Don’t insist that others listen until you’re done talking, or think that life interruptions are ‘attacks of the devil.’ Be disposed to say “I don’t know,” and return again to eat together and talk further.  If you’re on a mission trip, realize and embrace the idea that God doesn’t have to work within your itinerary to bring someone to Himself.

Can’t we just get them the rest of the story after they get saved?

There might be some merit to that idea, but when ‘getting them saved’ as opposed to making them disciples becomes the primary goal, you get all sorts of weirdness and very little steadfastness.

I suppose there are two extremes here. The first is to so shorten the Gospel message that it inoculates people against further openness, breeds error, or creates false converts, and the second is that it is made so complex that it requires a bible degree to share it, postpones a soul in need, and might well jeopardize someone’s eternal state. (Another blog post)

I’d appreciate your thoughts on any of the questions I asked in this post or related matters in the comment section.

*McKnight, Scot (2011-09-06). The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited (p. 145). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

**McKnight, Scot (2011-09-06). The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited (p. 37). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

The Final Word on Whether or not All Christians are Missionaries

Judge-GavelI’ve seen this thought make it’s rounds on social media and the like again recently. It’s hip to say that “Every Christian is a Missionary,” or “Every Christian ‘ought to be’ a missionary,” or even, when addressing our own audiences, “We are all missionaries.”

but look at the following proposition;

 

“If God is a missionary God, and we are created in His image, then the people of God should be a missionary people.” ~ Me

Seems somewhat reasonable, doesn’t it?

The problem is one of language. Should God’s people be missionary-ish? I believe they should. Should all God’s people be ‘missionaries’ in the most common understanding of the word? Let’s consider these before answering;

  • “Every Christian is either a missionary or an impostor.”

This is a quote from the famous 19th Century British pastor and theologian, Charles Haddon Spurgeon. He was a megachurch Pastor in his day. He was called ‘The Prince of Preachers,’ and it is estimated that he presented the gospel to over 10 million people in his life. That’s Astounding!  If only .01% went on to be earnest followers of Christ, then he could well have made 1000 disciples!

I don’t think that Spurgeon was inferring that every believer had to pack their stuff and head to some secret and dangerous location in the 10/40 window. I believe he was saying that every believer should embrace their sent-hood and adopt attitudes and actions that reflect God’s ‘on the move’ nature.

Jesus was the archetypal missionary. 40 times in the Gospel of John, Jesus refers to himself as “sent” on a mission. He left his home and glory in heaven, left his family, and left his culture to come to the earth as a missionary to reach a people, who without that sent-hood, would have never been reconciled with the Father.

Jesus also, it seems, inferred that every believer is sent. “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world (John 17:18).” There is the question of scope. Was Jesus truly referring to EVERY BELIEVER in John 17? If He was, then is there really such a thing as a subset of believers that are called missionaries? Let’s see what others have to say on the subject:

  • Tim Keller communicates a similar concept in Center Church. He says, “Not only the apostles but every Christian did evangelism — and they did so endlessly. Numerous passages indicate that every Christian was expected to evangelize, follow-up, nurture, and teach people the Word. This happened relationally — one person bringing the gospel to another within the context of a relationship.”
  • Winkie Pratney, New Zealand evangelist and author, says, “Every Christian a missionary; every non-Christian a mission-field.”
  • Allen Turner says that, “The ‘going’ that God commands of His people is not limited to an elite group of super-Christians, even as it was not limited to the apostles to whom it was first given.” Further, it is not limited to far away places that inevitably involve the crossing of large bodies of salt water. On the contrary, the Lord calls every Christian to be a missionary. In doing so, He commands all of us to “Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). Yes, I realize that the Lord first directed this to His apostles, but most interpreters have understood that this wasn’t limited to them alone. In fact, and this by way of extension, it is every Christian’s “call” to the mission field—a field made up not only of exotic sounding places and far away locations, but one that includes our houses, our neighborhoods, and our communities. It includes the factories and offices where we work and the schools we attend. In reality, the mission field may be as unromantic and unexotic as that area just over our backyard fences. In other words, although we Christians are no longer “of the world,” through the precious blood of Jesus Christ, we are still “in the world” (John 17:6-19), and it is to this world—the one in which we live every day—that the Lord has called us to be missionaries.
  • Eddie Arthur says that, “Some think that only ‘some people GO’ – the rest of us can stay behind and pray and give. But, this just isn’t what the Bible story is getting at. God is on a mission and we are called to be followers of this mission-oriented God. Mission isn’t something we are to do, it is what we are. To ask whether All Christians are called to be missionaries is a bit like asking whether all dogs should have four legs.
  • Ernest Goodman says that, “The new paradigm is simple: all Christians are missionaries. They must be, because none of us are at “home.” Even if your ministry is to a group of people that you grew up with- a group that looks, talks, and acts just like you- you must recognize that your transformation in Christ necessarily makes you an outsider- a foreigner- to even your own culture. You can’t afford to assume that you are ministering in your own context. You don’t have a context in the world anymore.”

I have heard variations on this theme, namely that “Simply living in the spirit of Jesus Christ is a powerful witness to those around us and marks us out as a missionaries in the modern world,” but in my view, it lacks intentionality and the seemingly imperative sent-hood.

All of those examples, and many more, would seem to confirm that yes, indeed, all Christians should be considered missionaries.

Whose Job is missions anyway? 

Now let’s look at some opposing views.

  • Charles Ryrie has pointed out that we must distinguish between a general practice in the church and a special gift which God gives to some in that area.
  • Herbert Kane has suggested that although it is not possible to give a flawless, scientific definition of a missionary, the following one should suffice: In the traditional sense the term missionary has been reserved for those who have been called by God to a full-time ministry of the Word and prayer (Acts 6:4), and who have crossed geographical and/or cultural boundaries (Acts 22:21) to preach the gospel in those areas of the world where Jesus Christ is largely, if not entirely unknown (Rom. 15:20). Not everyone, I think, fits THAT description of a missionary.
  • Guy Muse, a fellow laborer and missionary here in Ecuador says that; “One of the common misconceptions about missions is that all believers are missionaries. It continues to be stated so often that few question the validity of this oft quoted misconception making the rounds from our pulpits and missions conferences. I truly wish it were true, but frequent repetition does not make it so. I believe we need to correct the language we are using and stop calling all believers missionaries.
  • Gordon Olson says it well when he states: “If every Christian is already considered a missionary, then all can stay put where they are, and nobody needs to get up and go anywhere to preach the gospel. But if our only concern is to witness where we are, how will people in unevangelized areas ever hear the gospel?”

Guy also says that; “The Great Commission is taking the Gospel to our Jerusalem. This is where we live. It is where most of our time, efforts and ministry are centered. But Holy Spirit empowered believers are likewise charged to be His witnesses to their Judea, Samaria, and, yes: the ends of the earth–the nations. When we begin to move beyond our Jerusalem and seek to engage our Judea, Samaria, and the nations–then, we become misionaries–the sent ones that we are meant to be.” (You can read his blog post in full here.

Guy concludes by saying that;

“Everyone may indeed NOT be a missionary, but it is my belief that we should deliberately seek to do everything in our power to make sure we ARE missionaries.”

Some personal thoughts; playing ‘devil’s advocate in my head…

  • As I stated before, it’s a problem of language. The concept of a missionary can be traced to Acts 13:2-3. During a revival, God told the church to send out Paul and Barnabas.  While every believer within the nascent church was a witness, it was the Spirit who separated Paul and Barnabas to be missionaries. It was the Holy Spirit communicate directly to the prophets and teachers in Antioch and told them to send out Paul and Barnabas. Antioch DID NOT commission Paul and Barnabas, they just obeyed the Spirit and sent them.
  • The elements of the missionary call were these: God called specific individuals, the church either came alongside that call or not, they covenanted with them to be supportive, and sent them. The missionaries would relay information and sometimes report back.
  • This description does not necessarily fit every Christian, and to say that every believer is a missionary will only make a useful term meaningless. One has said. “If mission is everything, then nothing is mission.”  We could just as easily say, “If everyone is a missionary, then no one is a missionary.”
  • Further, there are ‘other’ works and words to consider. All believers may be ‘witnesses,’ (Acts 1:8) but not missionaries. We may all be ambassadors of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-20), or the gospel message (Christians are God’s ambassadors in that they have been “approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel” (1 Thessalonians 2:4), but not ‘missionaries.’ We may all, though there is some debate, be commissioned to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 20:18-20) but again, not be missionaries.

I can’t remember where I read or heard this idea, but it goes something like this;

“If everyone is a missionary and everything we do is missions, then everyone that is unreached will remain unreached.”

This statement seems to overreach, pun intended, but I understand it’s point. While not every believer may properly be called a “missionary” by the traditional definition (e.g. someone who is sent by The Church for the purpose of growing The Church in a new and different place among unreached or under-reached people groups,) missionary-ish living should characterize the life of every believer.

Robert C. Shannon said,

“Never pity missionaries; envy them. They are where the real action is — where life and death, sin and grace, Heaven and Hell converge.”

Some final thoughts: What’s the point of getting everyone to ‘buy into’ the thought that ALL ARE MISSIONARIES? If it’s to change hearts and minds and have people embrace there sent-hood, then it doesn’t appear to be working. There are still less than 1% of believers, when asked if they had made a disciple in the past year that answer in the affirmative.  There’s a good chance that if disciples are not being made by whatever ‘missionary’ endeavor the church finds itself in, then it’s not mission, and they are not missionaries anyway.

As Guy stated above, incessantly repeating the mantra will not make any more true.  Also, I happen to agree that we should start in our own Jerusalems, but it’s not a hard rule. Further, with the globalization of our own communities and the multi-cultural opportunities right next door, it’s cool to say that we CAN all be missionaries, but there are 2 things to consider;

First, there will always be those that God calls to the fringes, the marginalized, and the dispersed ones (diaspora). It’s no more cutting edge to minister within a multi-cultural community than on the fringes of a multi-cultural community.

Second, the bulk of multi-cultural or globalized communities exist in the world’s cities where there is free and easy access to the gospel. There would seem to be less need for ‘missionaries’ in that kind of environment. I say ‘seem,’ because I will not make that a hard rule either.

 Is that helpful or does it propagate a myth? 

By the way, this is really not ‘the final word,’ as I’m sure, on this topic. And just in case you were wondering, ‘sent-hood’ is a play on ‘sainthood.’ This post was updated from a post on April 13th of 2015.

Are all Christians Missionaries? 

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?