Friday, December 29, 2000

10 Ways to Avoid Becoming a Missionary

1. Ignore Jesus' request in John 4:35 that we take a long hard look at the fields. Seeing the needs can be depressing and very unsettling. It could lead to genuine missionary concern. (John 4:35 "Do you not say, `Four months more and then the harvest'? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.")
2. Focus your energy on a socially legitimate target. This could be a bigger salary, better qualifications, a job promotion, bigger home, better car, or providing for the future.
3. Get married as soon as possible, preferably to somebody who thinks the "Great Commission" is what your employer gives you after you make a big sale. After marriage, plunge right into the socially accepted norm of settling down, establishing a career and raising a family.
4. Stay away from missionaries. Their testimonies can be disturbing. The situations they describe will distract you from settling in comfortably with the materialistic living style of your home country.
5. If you happen to think about unreached peoples, immediately focus on those countries where it's impossible to openly do missionary work. Think only about North Korea, Saudi Arabia, China and other closed countries. Forget the vast areas of our globe open to missionaries. Never, never listen to talk about "creative access" countries.
6. Dwell on your own past failures. It is unreasonable to expect you will ever be any better. Don't study the lives of Abraham, Moses, David, Jonah, Peter or Mark (who were all drop-outs at one stage, but didn't stay that way).
7. Always think of missionaries as talented, super-spiritual people up on lofty pedestals. Maintaining this image of a missionary will heighten your own sense of inadequacy. Knowing that God does not use ordinary people as missionaries will smother any guilt you may feel about refusing to even listen for a call from God.
8. Agree with the people who tell you that you are indispensable where you are. Listen when they tell you that your local church can't do without you.
9. Worry incessantly about money.
10. If you still feel you must go, go out right away without any preparation or training. You'll soon be home again and no one can blame you for not trying!

There were 2 principles that I was taught as a missions major at Liberty. They pervade modern missions thought, and yet I saw and still see large inconsistencies. The first is that you are a missionary if, and only if, you go into a cross-cultural situation. The second is that once a place/culture/people group has been evangelized, it is "reached", and the missionary should move on to unreached people groups. The problem is that while these is believed and taught theologically, it generally isn't followed, or it is only followed partway. And I think both of them have some major problems when confronted with Scripture.

The first principle I found that there was really a lack of Biblical evidence to support it, though it is deeply believed in by many. I've heard the famous Acts 1 Great Commission passage to both support and refute it. Although not a biblical term, "missionary" simply means "one who carries a mission". I think you can feasibly stretch it in Christian terms to mean "one who carries the Great Commission". That would be all Christians. Since Christians are "followers of Christ", let's examine what Jesus' "life verse" is. We find this in Luke 4:16-21, which references Isaiah 61:1-2:

"He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: 'The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.' Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, 'Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.' "

Sounds vaguely like what a missionary would do, does it not? Of course it does. Jesus came to earth with a mission, and before He ascended to be with the Father, He passed that mission onto His followers. If we as Christians approached everything in life as a mission, the world would probably be radically transformed. Why? Because that's exactly what started the church in the first place.

But what is the mission of at least the American evangelical church in general? That's simple, most would say "to evangelize". That's fulfilling the mission, right? But once we get people saved, do most grow into mature, mission-minded Christians. Uh, oh. I think the answer to that is a clear "No". We've got millions of baby Christians who are stuck where they are, unable to go forward because they just don't know how. We get so focused on evangelism that we forget in our primary Great Commission passage, Matthew 28:18-20, that the focus is to "make disciples", not to "go". That is also why we view missions in terms of "reached" and "unreached", instead of in terms of making disciples and meeting needs. Jesus met spiritual needs, but many times it was through meeting physical and emotional needs. Look back at Luke 4:18-19 and you will see it there as well.

We Americans like numbers. We like to quantify everything. We love to compartmentalize everything into digits which we can store away in our heads for later. For some reason, numbers seem to motivate us more than human needs. If there isn't huge numbers of people saved, we think we must be doing something wrong. That carries over into supporting missionaries. We want visible, numerical results. And we want them fast. So we carry this over into or view of missions.

Most modern missiologists view cultures by "reached" and "unreached". I've seen maps which convey this idea. Then, they say, well if a people group has already been reached, then we don't need to go there again. But most of the time "reached" means evangelized. I strongly disagree with this definition. There is absolutely no Scriptural support. You know that all of north Africa was once "reached" with the gospel. Some of it was even by the apostles. But we would never consider north Africa "reached" now. It's 98-99% Muslim. This is exactly my point, that just because a people group has been witnessed to doesn't mean the Great Commission has been fulfilled for that people group. It comes when mature disciples are made, and growing churches are established.

Now I agree that we should focus on places that don't have any or much access to the gospel. Too much missionary work is going on in places where the church can do the job. Unfortunately, getting the church to be involved can be very difficult, and is another story entirely. The funny thing is, while most missiologists teach that "reached" means to evangelize, they do many times put the emphasis on the local church as the agent of ministry practically. There is no longer the attitude that the missionary is the primary means of making disciples. This I have yet to figure out...

Thursday, December 28, 2000

Philippians 1:9-11: "And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ--to the glory and praise of God."

There is something I have noticed. When Christians concentrate on "love", they seem to forget or not want to acknowledge that God still calls us to holiness. They accuse people who concentrate on holiness of being legalistic. One the other hand, those people who concentrate on holiness tend to do so at the expense of gentleness, humility, and evident love for others.

Paul emphasized both in context of one another. They can not only peacefully coexist, but neither is complete without the other. It surprises me in Philippians how much love Paul had for this church. It's not just a feeling he kept inside, but you can almost feel the love pouring out from the words. I have noticed a progression of affection in the epistles which follows the timeline of Paul's life. His later letters exude love and affection for those he writes to, and exhibit a much more apparent affection than his earlier letters. This is exactly what we are to ascribe to be like.

Later in Philippians, Paul asks them to follow his example. I wonder if they wrote back letters to him as full of devotion as he had for them. I wonder I could do more to show affection to other people. My family is very non-affectionate. A lot of times I feel uncomfortable when people hug me, or exclaim their affection to me, because I just don't know what to do. It has nothing to do with the way I feel, but it is something I can change. I can be more openly affectionate. There is no reason for me not to be.

I recently read "The Five Love Languages" by Gary Chapman. My top love language is "quality time". The score for that one pretty much blew the other ones away. People that have "words of affirmation" and "physical touch" as their love languages tend to frustrate me because they say something nice or hug me, and then go away, and it tends not to mean that much to me. But that doesn't mean they don't care, as much as I feel like it does. They just speak a different language than I do. I also tend to express love by giving gifts, which is traditional to my family, though I still would prefer someone to spend time with me over giving me a gift. But that doesn't mean I can't learn to speak their love languages, which was Chapman's main point.

I know I tend to hold up holiness above love, and I know that I need to be careful about how I champion holiness. People won't listen to me if they feel I don't love them. I can only pray that I grow in both love and holiness through God's power, and I learn to express what I feel for tose around me...

Wednesday, December 27, 2000

I can keep this up! I CAN keep this up!

I have never been able to keep a steady journal. I dunno how many Emglish teachers I have had who told me that I "wasn't really living" unless I kept a journal. I have maybe 15 blank journals that people have given me, and yet, I can't seem to write in any of them. I do feel more comfortable on a computer than anywhere else (except maybe my wonderfully soft sealy posturepedic:). I have been more disciplined in general lately, but this hasn't carried over to journaling. A lot of times, I guess I just feel dumb writing to myself and about myself, even if if does show up as the only recent content on my website. For some reason, though, I equate journaling with cleaning my bathroom. I guess if I can remember everything, what point is there to record any of it unless it becomes necessary? But why would anyone even want to know so much about me anyway? I don't even want to read what I ate for breakfast. Even if my Life cereal was lightly sweetened with just a touch of brown sugar...

Are my thoughts so strangely different from anyone elses?