Today is the last day to get the ridiculously low rate of $50 for the 2012 SGI Conference (Jan 3-5)! In order to secure this rate, register by midnight tonight. Join the 70+ young people who have already signed up for an enriching, informative 3 days of missions emphasis.
The speaker for this afternoon’s general session is Dr. David Doran, president of Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary and pastor of Inter-City Baptist Church.
In the morning session, Dave Doran shared one of the reasons why we are holding this year’s conference. Too often, we are simply know for what we are against rather than what we are for. Church planting is certainly something that we should be for. He said he wanted to share more about that in the afternoon’s general session.
Text: Phil 1:5
- “The only God appointed Christian society is the church.”
- The primacy of the local assembly causes me to be concerned about the pervasive influence of parachurch ministries (where the marching orders come from outside of the church) and the focus on unity and fellowship outside of the local church. For example, many assume that Jn 17 is fulfilled by having some conference with a bunch of Christians there instead of the unity being fleshed out in local assemblies. Conferences are great, but they aren’t what Jesus was praying for. The church is the primary context in which the one another’s are lived out.
- It’s easy to get along with people for a couple of days at a conference or to sign a statement together. True fellowship and unity is lived out over time within genuine relationships within the local church.
- The best kind of cooperative effort is the kind that enables us to plant churches together. Sometimes, there is a call for something “bigger” than Jesus’s call in the Great Commission. Instead, we need to think through how we can partner in fulfilling the Great Commission.
- The opposite danger is the idea that says “we have to agree on everything to work together.” This idea also hinders the effort to partner in fulfilling the Great Commission.
- If the church has no obligation outside of itself, than its standards for cooperation can be high. But too often we allow things very low on the priority structure to keep us from gospel ministry partnerships.
Gospel Ministry Partnerships
- The Philippians became partners with Paul in his ministry at Thessalonica and, thereby, participated in a cooperative effort in church planting.
- This involved at least two churches working together: The church in Antioch who sent Paul and the church in Philippi were working together in Paul’s work in Thessalonica.
- The fulfillment of the Great Commission is going to require some level of partnership among churches.
- The gospel must control our approach to these partnerships, since it is a partnership in the gospel (Phil 1:5)
- Everyone who accepts the gospel must become a servant of the Gospel (1 Thess 1:4, 6)
- You can’t believe the gospel and not participate in the announcement of it.
- Every assembly of believers that comes into existence because of Christ’s mission should become an active participant in the fulfillment of that mission.
- A church who fails in this is an unhealthy church.
What does participation in church planting look like?
- Intercession (Phil 1:19-20; 2 Cor 1:11)
- We must intercede for those who are involved in church planting. It is a divinely appointed means by which God accomplishes His purposes.
- God saves people through the preaching of the Gospel (since it is the appointed means). He also accomplishes the things we pray for, in His will, through our prayers (since they are the appointed means). The asking is connected to the receiving.
- Involvement (Phil 2:25; 4:3)
- Not merely praying, but lending a hand in the work.
- “Sharing in the struggle” (4:3) points to working side-by-side in the gospel.
- If we want to see churches planted then we must be willing to help lift the load. We need to be willing to send people to minister with and to them.
- Investment (Phil 4:15)
- Their giving and receiving is intricately tied to the work of the gospel. It provides for needs (4:15). It produces fruit (4:17). It pleases God (4:18)
- We are called to invest in frontline work, and frontline work is wherever a church is being planted.
How is our participation connected to God’s glory?
- Multiplied prayer results in multiplied praise (2 Cor 1:11)
- This is why it is important to have multiple people praying.
- Spreading grace produces spreading gratitude (2 Cor 4:15)
- Why do we want to see the gospel advance and are willing to put our hand to the plow? Because we want to see more people giving God glory.
- Generous provision produces generous praise and prayer (2 Cor 9:14)
- As believers take of the resources that God has provided and send them to support gospel efforts, those who come to Christ through those efforts praise God and pray for those who sent the resources.
- I have always had a desire to see healthy churches started, and by God’s grace the Lord has allowed our church to be involved in several churches being started.
- My particular burden is for southeast Michigan and Detroit, since this is my home. (Though I recognize it is God’s job to burden men to plant churches in the areas they choose).
- In the remaining time of my ministry, I would really love to see churches network to produce a church-planting effort in our area of over 5 million people. There are enormous opportunities for the advance of the gospel. In particular, the city of Detroit has been abandoned by gospel preaching churches.
- Here’s the idea I want to toss out (I’m not trying to control or run anything, but simply to propose an idea). Grace Baptist Fellowship: a fellowship of Baptist pastor who share a desire to see God’s glorified through church planting efforts in southeast Michigan. This would be composed of those who share:
o A confidence in the sovereign grace of God which saves and sanctifies
o A commitment to spreading grace through the proclamation of the gospel and the establishment of churches.
o A willingness to show grace that allows room with some differences in regard to convictions in the application of these truths to the Christian life and local church ministry. Each individual sending church would show leadership in these areas.
- What would need to happen
o An expedited support process for church planting methods. This could be accomplished by an organized network of churches with a credible training process.
o A willingness to work together and not simply seek our own interests.
- · What should you do
o Pray for church planters, wisdom, and the gospel to go forth.
o Talk—talk through dynamics involved in this kind of partnership.
o Act—decide what the best course of action forward.
Text: Eph 6:10-20
- If you were to ask yourself what the single most important ingredient in church planting is, what would you say? In church renewal? In your marriage? The only thing that could be this significant is God’s grace. This is also the most important element in our spiritual lives. Our success does not depend on us, but on God’s grace.
- In our day, we tend to look at means and measures and believe we can accomplish the task through using the right tools. The tools may be effective, but they can never replace the power of God.
- Sometimes we can give people the impression that the church plant depends on the pastor instead of God. Sometimes we emphasize that a building will bring success. Then, when our preaching, personality, or building does not bring success we get discouraged.
- We must embrace the power of God in our ministries or we will fail.
- In Ephesians 6, Paul is calling people to be alert and aware because of the enemy they face.
- The primary battle is not finances or facilities. It is Satan and all his forces, who push against God’s plan to build His church.
How do we stand? We must stand in God’s power.
- Since the enemy is not flesh and blood, we cannot see their attacks or know when they are coming.
- One of Satan’s main tactics is to attack one’s thinking-to deceive us into thinking as he thinks.
- In the 1800’s, before we knew about germs, a doctor discovered that more women were dying in the birthing ward of his hospital than in their own homes with midwives. He discovered the reason is that the young doctors were moving from the mortuary to the birthing ward to check on the young mothers. He instructed the doctors to begin washing their hands before they worked on the young mothers and the deaths dropped. However, he was then fired from the hospital because he was thought to be strange-he believed that invisible things were harming the mothers. In modernity today, we often think the same way-If I can’t see it, it’s not real.
- Since there is no warning bell when Satan is at work, we must be continually embracing the truths of the gospel.
How do we stand in God’s power? By standing in the Gospel
- God’s strengthens us as we take on his armor.
- Our ethic and behavior must be patterned and guided by truth. We must live in light of God’s truth
- How do we fail in this? For example, when we complain, we are undermining the character of God. We act as if God is not really in control. Our complaint suggests that He either made a mistake or is incompetent.
- It is not the righteousness that God gives us but the one He works in us. It is a call to live righteously
- These are things that we do. As we embrace God’s power and live it out God strengthens us (cf. Phil 2:13)
- Gospel of Peace
- The victory has been accomplished because God reigns. Jesus brokered peace through his own life.
- This is then a call for us to live out peace in our lives. Much of Ephesians is focused on relational issues (cf. Eph 4:4, 16, 25-32; 5:16-6:9)
- Satan attacks the veracity and character of God, beginning with Eve.
- How many times has God watched in grief as His shepherds doubted God’s Word-as they doubted His goodness and His truthfulness as they looked for satisfaction in some other place?
- When Jesus was tempted by Satan, He responded with a believing commitment to do everything in God’s Word.
- Salvation; Word of God
- Rather than a more passive “having” we are to “take” these. We are to possess them and take ownership.
- These enable us to embrace the power of God. We don’t simply get it by wanting it more or by simply praying (though that is important). We must take action.
- Prayer and Watchfulness
- This is also governed by the command to stand.
- When did you think this last week that Satan might be trying to deceive you? When did you consider that Satan is seeking to get you to think about issues wrongly? If you are alert, then you should be considering this reality.
- Satan is subtle and pernicious, and if we do not embrace God’s Word we are simply waiting for disaster.
- Notice the repetition of “all” in the passage. It shows that our prayer life should be constant, repetitive, and encompassing things both big and small.
- Paul, the one person we would think would have boldness and right content naturally, recognizes his need for God’s power to give boldness and the right words.
- God did not give us this passage so that we would hunker down in fear. We are to have confidence in the ultimate safety we have in Christ.
- Christ has already conquered the very things we wrestle against (cf. Eph 1:21). God offers us access to that same strength.
- God protects us from Satan as we embrace the means of his grace-the gospel and prayer.
This year’s MACP Conference is focused on Church Planting and Renewal. The Conference started today, and goes through tomorrow afternoon.
I’ll be providing a somewhat fleshed out outline of some the sessions to try to give an idea of what was said.
Title of the Message: God’s Heart for Worship
Text: 1 Samuel 15
- Worship is a hot topic today. It’s very personal and emotional for many people. Much of what we see today in worship is equivalent to what happened in Judges: Everyone does what is right in their own eyes.
- Why would you see worship as the topic of this passage? Isn’t it about obedience?
- Worship in the Scripture is tied to sacrifice.
- Bowing before the Lord (OT concept) is sacrificing your independence.
- All three Greek words for worship include the idea of sacrifice
- Worship in the Scripture is tied to sacrifice.
- Minister/service is the idea of two words (e.g., Rom 12:1: sacrifice is worship)
- Bowing down (sacrificing yourself) is the other word
- 1 Sam 15:22 shows that the passage is centering around sacrifice and offering
- 15:23 ties disobedience to false or pagan worship
- 15:25, 30, 31 reiterates that the focus of the issue is on worship. Saul understood that he had violated worship
Two timeless principles for our worship
Worship is for God’s pleasure
- 15:22-Samuel asks if God has as much delight in what Saul did as in what He asked Saul to do.
- “It’s not worship if it doesn’t please God.”
- 15:11: God regrets making Saul king. It’s not that God made a mistake nor was He surprised by what happened (cf. 15:29). The word points to the fact that God was touched in His being by Saul’s disobedience. His disposition toward Saul changed so that Saul was going to be removed as king. This was a result of Saul’s wrong act of worship that grieved God.
- How do we know if our worship pleases God? It must be God-centered
- 15:15, 21, 24. Saul’s primary excuse was that he was giving the people what they wanted. This is how they wanted to worship/sacrifice to the Lord. This worship is not God-centered and, therefore, is not true worship.
- Many of the worship songs today do not glory in the truth of the cross but in the benefit it brings to us. It enables those who are far from God to feel close to Him (even though they are not).
- Music is not the only aspect of worship. Preaching, another element of worship (along with giving, praying,), is another area where we are tempted to give people what they want.
- Worship should not be spectator-based or entertainment oriented. That is worship that is designed for you, not God.
- True worship should be good for our heart, but it must ultimately be for God’s pleasure.
Worship is from God’s Word
- 15:22, 23. Saul had rejected God’s Word and failed to obey it.
- Jn 4:4-worshippers must worship in truth (cf. Jn 17:17). The regulative principle is biblical-our worship must be based on the Bible.
- Before starting LifePoint, we visited different churches to get a sense for what was there, and some churches were doing strange things:
- People rolling on the floor, running around with flags, worshipping through interpretive dance, painting an impression of the service at the front of the church
- One church advertises a service where they will bless pets.
- Recently, I did a series on worship. In preparation, I tried to think through questions that I’ve heard and passages that address it. I was amazed at how much the Bible has to say about worship. We need to know what the Bible says on worship.
- Too often today, the discussion on worship is controlled by musicians. This is not a problem if they know the Word of God, but too often it becomes focused on musicology. We wouldn’t simply bring a banker in to instruct us about giving, unless he knows the Word of God.
- Our worship is corrupted when we forsake the Word of God. When we leave the Word of God, all we are left with is our own ideas.
- We need to not only know the Word, but to obey it.
- 15:13. Saul rejoiced at his obedience, even though he had not truly obeyed. Perhaps he was self-deceived, or perhaps he was simply trying to put on a good front.
- Today, we can easily deceive ourselves into thinking we have worshipped by obeying God’s Word when we have not (2 Cor 11:12-15).
- Satan is interested in people thinking they have brought to delight to God in their worship when they have not. When we are deceived, we don’t know it. Therefore we need to examine our worship by God’s Word.
- Many of these churches design their music to appeal to unbelievers with the goal of sharing the gospel. However, they often fail to actually preach the gospel to them. There is a mega-church in our area that was recently voted as having the best worship band in America. I recently had a chance to share the gospel with a lady who had attended this church for three years, but had never heard the gospel before. She made a profession of faith in Christ and attended our church once. She was shocked, since she’d never seen a church worship like this, and never returned. She’d developed an appetite for their kind of worship for three years, even though she never heard the gospel at that church.
- Samuel tells Saul that disobedient worship is like idolatry. We would never set up an idol in our church, but we might allow unbiblical worship.
- God not only rejects unbiblical worship, but also unbiblical worshippers.
Do you have God’s heart for worship? Do you want to know what He desires and follow what He desires? Are we willing to discipline our desires to create an appetite for true worship? Worship is for God’s pleasure, and is from God’s Word.
In the midst of a young generation that rejects the concepts of absolute truth, accountability to a divine Creator, and a single guide for all peoples of all cultures, we need to be reminded of the implications of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We must not be ashamed of the gospel! Rather, we must boldly embrace its message and share it to all the nations.
Student Global Impact exists for that purpose. On January 3-5, 2012, hundreds of college students and young adults will gather at Inter-City Baptist Church in the metro Detroit area for the SGI National Conference under the theme “Not Ashamed of the Gospel.” Join us as we focus on the Word through preaching, corporate singing, practical and academic workshops on missions issues, and fellowship with other young adults who love Jesus and the cause of His gospel.
Not in college or seminary? Young at heart, but not on your drivers license? Encourage your young friends at church, young relatives, and others to come. And pray for us that the Word would be exalted and godly affections would be flamed.
Hope to see you there!
Director, Missions Mandate & SGI
Register Now! Early rate ends December 1.
More conference details.
Give a shout out for the SGI Conference:
-Join our SGI 2012 Facebook Event
-Follow @stdntglblmpct on Twitter
-Send out some tweets with the 2012 SGI Conference hashtag: #sgi12
-Order a 2012 SGI Conference poster (email the Director your name, address, and how many poster you want)
-Check the SGI page on Missions Mandate for more updates
Pastor Doran wrapped up the conference this afternoon with a session entitled, “The Church and the Mission.” It was a shorter session than the others since the panel discussion went long earlier in the afternoon.
This session was almost entirely devoted to a positive description of what the church should be doing and was drawn from several texts in 1 Corinthians. Starting with 1 Corinthians 3:5-10, Pastor Doran argued that the mission of the church is not merely to make individual converts but rather to make disciples who are organized into local churches. He argued that there is no textual basis for saying that the church is responsible to to go beyond this and engage in the missio dei.
From there he transitioned to a discussion of what constitutes the local church. He noted that the missional movement has placed a heavy emphasis on going out and has distanced itself from the concept that the church is a distinct group of people. However, he noted that 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 teachers that the local church is intended to be a recognizable group with insiders and outsiders. As a result, to negate the idea that the church is a distinct body of people is to compromise what the church is. He added that 1 Corinthians 11:17 teaches that the church is an assembled body. The members can scatter, but we only function as a church when assembled. As such the church needs to go out and make converts, but italso must remain an assembled body.
Pastor Doran concluded the conference with a challenge that we must look at the missional movement with discernment, but we also must ask ourselves what we are doing to advance the Great Commission. It is hypocritical to be critical while failing to obey the commands of God ourselves.
It’s day two at the MACP. We had an excellent service last night with our church family. Our pastoral assistant for urban ministry, Ben Edwards, did a presentation challenging us to be involved in urban church planting. He provided some great statistical and biblical arguments for why the modern church must emphasize urban church planting.
This morning, Pastor Doran did his third general session which was entitled, “The Gospel and Mission.” As his starting point, he began in 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 and argued that the gospel has very specific content which is outlined in Scripture. One cannot say that the gospel is our subjective view of what Christ is; rather, Scripture tells us its content. And he noted that the Bible is clear that we are not allowed to add to or take away from this content.
From this foundation, he transitioned to discuss how the missional movement has at least in some contexts compromised this content. He noted as he did yesterday that the missional movement is built on the idea that the church is commanded to be involved in the missio dei (mission of God) which is God’s purpose to restore and redeem all of creation. From this it is argued that the church must follow the example from Christ’s ministry of preaching the Kingdom. Specifically, Christ both preached and performed miracles. And it is argued that in performing miracles, Christ was working to restore creation. As a result, the church must also be involved in similar works such as working toward social justice.
Pastor Doran argued that the missional movement has misunderstood both the Kingdom which Christ preached and the purpose for which he performed miracles. First, he argued that the Gospel of the Kingdom was rejected by the Jews and has been delayed as a result (for the future Millennial Kingdom). He argued that while the apostles did preach at times about the Kingdom, the NT never says that it was present or that Christ is the “King” of the church. Rather, they preached that people must be ready for the future kingdom.
Pastor Doran also argued that the missional movement has misunderstood the purpose for which Christ performed miracles. The purpose of his miracles was not to restore creation; rather, their purpose was to validate Christ as the messenger and the message which he preached. From there, Pastor presented several quotes from the missional movement which demonstrate how they believe social work is an essential aspect of evangelization. And he concluded that we must be seriously concerned about how this movement has mixed social work with the gospel.
The last session of the conference at 2:50 pm. Lord willing, I’ll provide a summary of that session later in the day.
Pastor Doran did a longer session this afternoon. The quote of the day so far was definitely Pastor’s statement, “I was born incarnate.”
In this session, Pastor attempted to confront how the missional movement interprets a key statement in John 17:18 where Jesus states, “As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.” Pastor noted that the missional movement uses this verse to argue that the church’s job is to find out what God’s overall mission is and to participate in that mission. It is argued rightly that God’s mission is larger than the church. For example, Colossians 1 teaches that God is reconciling all things to himself through Christ. Based on this fact the movement concludes that since Christ’s mission was broader than the establishment of local churches, we must not restrict ourselves to the church either. We must involve ourselves in God’s broader mission. As such, the missional movement places a heavy emphasis on the need for the church to solve social ills.
In response, Pastor noted that Christ’s point was not that we have the same mission as Christ. This is because in John 17:4, Jesus states that he had finished the mission which the Father had given him. Furthermore, there are aspects of God’s mission which we clearly are not a part of. For example, no one claims that the church’s mission involves the punishment of evil or that we need to aid the process of destroying this world in preparation for the new heavens and new earth. He noted the logical inconsistency of saying that we need to participate in all of God’s mission and then only embracing sections of that mission. Rather, he argued that the point of comparison in John 17:18 is not the content of our mission but the fact that God has given us one to fulfill. And he argued that this mission is defined for us in clearer commissioning texts such as Matthew 28:18-20.
In sum, Pastor Doran sought to prove that the mission of the church and the mission of God are not one and the same. We must responsibly study the Scriptures to see what God has called the church to do.
Pastor David Doran will be doing all of the general sessions during the conference with the exception of the Thursday evening service with our church family. Pastor Doran introduced the first session by looking at 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22. From this passage he noted that believers are required to practice discernment anytime someone claims to be speaking on behalf of God. Based on what we perceive, Paul calls us to “hold fast to that which is good” and to “abstain from every form of evil.” As such, he challenged us all to look at the missional movement with a discerning eye while also avoiding the tendency to arrogantly think there is nothing to be learned from the movement.
From there, he spent the remainder of the session attempting to define the motivation for and content of the missional movement. He noted that the term “missional” is frequently used in different ways, and so one must be careful to discern what someone means when they use the term. Pastor Doran noted that the missional movement has grown out of the cultural shifts which have taken place in the West. Proponents of the movement have noted that we now live in a post-Christian culture where the church no longer holds the privileged and dominant position it once held. They argue that in this context, the church has become ineffective in accomplishing its purpose. They believe the church has become ingrown and focused on buildings, budgets, and programs rather than on being a community which reaches people where they are at. As such the missional movement argues that the church needs to reevaluate how it will reach the culture. Pastor Doran noted three questions which have come out of this movement. 1. How do we respond to a post-modern, post-Christian culture? 2. How do we contextualize the gospel in this culture? 3. How does the church break out of its institutionalism and become missional? He also noted some key concepts regarding the movement. 1. While missional can mean a variety of things, the primary meaning with which he is concerned is the idea that the church must fulfill the “mission of God” (more will be said about this in the next post). 2. The movement emphasizes incarnational rather than attractional ministry. In other words, rather than trying to attract the world to the church, the church must go out into the world. 3. The movment emphasizes the idea that the church is an eschatological community. The “Kingdom of God” over which Christ is currently reigning is a key concept within the movement. 4. The movement emphasizes holistic spirituality. It makes no distinction between the secular and spiritual, and argues that the church must advance God’s reign over all of his creation.
Finally, he noted four contributions of the movement for which we can be thankful. 1. It confronts our common tendency toward a monastic and Pharasaical Christianity which cuts itself off from the world. 2. It rightly recognizes that our culture is changing and that the church must respond to these changes by evaluating how it is trying to do ministry. 3. It justifiably rejects the tendency of the modern church to become institutional and built upon buildings, budgets, and programs. 4. It is to be commended for being zealous to reach the neo-pagans of our day who claim no connection to any church.
Well, that was a long post. But as you can tell, Pastor Doran said a lot in a short amount of time.
Today and tomorrow Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary is hosting its annual Mid-America Conference on Preaching. The theme this year is “Church, Kingdom, Mission: Understanding and Assessing the Missional Church Movement.” As I have opportunity, I will be writing a few posts regarding what is being discussed in the various sessions. My name is Kit Johnson, and I am on the staff of Inter-City Baptist Church. My primary responsibility is to direct our teen ministry. In addition to those responsibilities I help with a variety of tasks within our church. I am also a graduate of DBTS and a current student. I finished my M.Div., in 2008, and Lord willing, will finish my Th.M., this spring. This is also the 8th MACP I have attended. The first time I attended was during my junior year of college in the fall of 2001. The theme that year concerned fundamentalism, and I thank the Lord for how he used the conference that year to clarify a number of important issues in my mind. I’m thankful for the opportunity to be a part of the conference again this year.
Another shameless plug for Operation World, 7th Edition: if you don’t own it, buy it. If you own an old edition, the new one looks good enough to justify buying a 2nd copy.
Buy the book here.
Previous MM posts referencing “Operation World.”
The much anticipated 2010 version of Operation World will officially be released tomorrow! I am looking forward to getting my pre-ordered copy in the mail soon.
Buy the book here.
Previous MM posts referencing “Operation World.”
Ryan Kelly, the pastor of Desert Springs Baptist Church in Albuquerque, NM, wrote an insightful post on the missional movement and the mission of the church. In it, he gives three suggestions for the ongoing discussion of the mission of the church.
- Insisting on a definition of missional or asking for specifics of one’s view of the mission is not curmudgeon fundamentalism—it’s still needed.
- Especially we younger evangelicals have to give a more sober and careful hearing to our fathers in ministry when they warn us with historical examples of when the church’s deeds eclipsed, or became, her gospel.
- Partly influenced by the need to protect the gospel (see #2 above), but mostly based on the Bible itself, it seems to me that there is warrant for prioritizing gospel proclamation over other important commands Jesus gives his followers.
Under the discussion of the third point, he does an excellent job of pointing to the centrality of gospel proclamation for the mission of the church:
- “While Jesus healed and fed, the gospel accounts culminate with the disciples’ commission to proclaim and make disciples. This doesn’t mean that this is all they are to do, but “famous last words” do seem particularly noteworthy, especially when they are quadruply given.
- The book of Acts not only begins with another such commission (1:8), but continues with dozens of preaching/conversion stories to makeup a rather overwhelmingly consistent theme.
- Paul insists that the facts of the gospel weekend—Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection—are of “first importance” (1 Cor. 15:3). Those who want to have social and cultural issues right alongside the gospel have to provide a satisfying explanation of what Paul meant here if he didn’t see any priority. I, personally, haven’t heard one yet.
- The word “gospel” implies that there’s a message—a message which must be proclaimed. As Carson recently wrote: “…the very nature of announcing or proclaiming (good) news—whether ευαγγελιζω or kηρύσσω—is that words are the primary medium. What we might call the logocentrism of Scripture is massively reinforced by the nature of the gospel itself: it is news, good news, to be proclaimed.”
- There are some very good NT scholars who have written on the mission of the church and have rather consistently put the emphasis of the church’s mission on its proclamation (e.g., Kostenberger, O’Brien, Plummer). As I’ve already noted, this seems to be a growing consensus among some of the most prominent missional leaders as well.
- Most agree that good deeds are, in part, validation of the gospel message to unbelievers. But by nature this sets up some kind of priority: the validation of a thing cannot be greater than or completely on par with the thing itself.
I’ll close with an illustration. I can’t help but think of the relationship between word and deeds and their place in the world as something like marriage. My unmarried and romantically inexperienced neighbor might watch my wife and I sharing affection, laughter, touch, food, children—really just life—over several evenings. And he might conclude from that that marriage is beautiful and desirable. But he may not necessarily know anything about the process of courtship culminating in thoughtful, theological wedding vows. Watching my marriage over several evenings has validated or even beautified marriage in his eyes, but that does not necessarily help him understand how we got there and what undergirds it all. The gospel undergirds everything we do as Christians. We can and should demonstrate that to unbelievers in hundreds of ways. But they have to be told how we got there. We have to tell them the gospel or they will not be saved.”
His recognition of the narrative of Acts focusing on the proclamation of the gospel is often overlooked in the discussions of the church’s mission. The question of the mission of the church is an important topic, and I’m looking forward to considering this issue in more detail at the upcoming MACP Conference.
(NOTE: I think he overlooks some of the issues of conservative evangelicals in his discussion of his second point by warning against missteps of fundamentalists and left-wing evangelicals but not the missteps of conservative evangelicals, but I don’t think that hurts his overall argument.)
Update: Read the post here.
Dr. Mark Snoeberger offers a brief, but helpful look at the exegetical, practical, and historical issues with using the “as…so” construction in John 20:21 (”As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” ESV) as a foundational text for the missional movement.
The post is a preview of his 2010 Mid-American Conference on Preaching workshop, Oct 21-22. The theme for the conference focuses on the missional church movement (See previous MM post promoting the conference).
The precise nuances of some definitions are not worth debating over; the definition of the Church’s mission is. (Obviously we think so, with a ministry title like Missions Mandate!)
The theme for the Oct 21, 22 conference is “Church, Kingdom, Mission: Understanding and Assessing the Missional Church Movement.”
General Sessions will cover:
- What is the relationship between the Church and the Kingdom?
- What is the mission of the Church?
- What is the relationship between the great commandment and the great commission?
- What is the Church’s role in the transformation of society?
- Does the church exist to serve the world?
List of workshop topics:
- The ‘Kingdom of Heaven/God’ and the Church: A Case Study of Hermeneutics and Theology
- Kingdom: Present Reality, Future Reality or Both?: Toward an Answer
- History, Ecclesiology, and Mission, Or, Are We Neglecting Some Options Here?
- Different Paradigms and Diverse Practices: Do we avoid the more popular practices of “missional ministry” because we are just behind the times, or is our difference in practice a result of biblical commitments?
- 1 Corinthians 11:3 and the Role of Women in the Church
- How Does the Prophetic Ethic of Micah 6:8 Relate to the New Testament Church?
- An Interaction with Russell D. Moore, The Kingdom of Christ. Chapter entitled - “Toward A Kingdom Ecclesiology: The Church as Kingdom Community”
- The Gospel and the Poor: Towards an Understanding of How Christians Relate to Poverty
The early registration rate of $50 ends Oct 13. College students attend free; prospective students may receive financial assistance for travel, pending confirmation through DBTS (email email@example.com). Also, Dr. Rolland McCune’s third, and final, Systematic Theology volume will be available for purchase at the conference. Complete conference details. Questions can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Come and join the propositional, semantical conversation.
Missions Mandate and Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary are ministries of Inter-City Baptist Church. While there is no formal relationship between the two, Missions Mandate thoroughly endorses this conference and the ministry of DBTS.
A recent post on “The Yanomamö Controversy” (a battle ground case in the field of anthropology) raised the question “Who is right: the anthropologist desiring to preserve their ‘native instincts’ from the West or the Western, evangelical missionary who seeks to rescue them from their ‘heart of darkness’ against God by telling them about the Son of God who seeks to make them the “new creatures” He created them to be?”
The short answer is the latter, but a qualification is necessary. The problem with the secular anthropologist is not a desire to study and analyze culture. All human beings, made in the image of God, have cultural elements unique to their community.
Many of these cultural elements are morally neutral: a preference of raw fish vs. the cooked variety; clothes with a vivid display of colors vs. a neutral, toned-down style; greeting with a kiss on the cheek vs. a handshake (or no touching at all); loud, boisterous conversation style vs. reserved, formal style. All of these are examples of cultural identity markers that are neither repudiated by nor endorsed in the Bible. They can be rightly termed “morally neutral.”
Isaac asking Jacob to “come here…and kiss me” (Gen 27:26) and Paul’s command for the Roman church to “greet one another with a holy kiss” (Romans 16:16) is not conclusive evidence that the biblical way for believers today to greet one another is with a peck on the cheek. Rather, it was the normal, “morally neutral” manner of greeting for both of those cultural contexts.
Readers of the Bible would do well to employ the guidelines from cultural anthropology in such case studies (although hermeneutical principles existed long before the formalized practice of “cultural anthropology.”) This is a legitimate use of cultural analysis.
This might sound contradictory to the statement presented in the previous article regarding anthropology and the gospel: “The study of human behavior is not a neutral process. Everyone from academic anthropologists to junior high students makes assessments of human behavior based on one’s moral framework.”
The problem with secular anthropology is that it does not, indeed it cannot, deal merely with “morally neutral” matters, because the goal of such studies is to get beyond the basic practices of the subjects to their underlying motivations or world view. And herein lies the rub.
A secular anthropologist, despite his alleged pursuit of “pure science,” cannot analyze a culture’s world view without making assumptions and judgments of that world view based on his own presuppositions. In that sense there are no “neutral observers” of culture. In order to produce a report based on his observations, the anthropologist must run those observations through a necessarily subjective grid.
He can say “these people prefer raw fish over cooked fish” based on general observation, but to report on the world view which drives them to perform a religious ceremony prior to consuming the fish is to go beyond the realm of science to the sphere of metaphysics (the “nature of reality”).
The secular anthropologist who views collective opinion as the determining factor of a group’s morality would view the “good news” from the Bible (brought by non-native people) as an intrusion and pollutant to that group’s identity. Telling the Yanomamö, from a “foreign book,” that they are sinners (Rom 3:23) and in need of divine intervention (Rom 5:6) from a monotheistic (Deut 6:4), super-God (Psalm 86:8) who sent his son to take their due payment of wrath from the super-God (Is 53:6) is tantamount to feeding the group poison, to many anthropologists.
To distinguish the differences between a kiss in Jacob and Paul’s time and ours is a noteworthy pursuit of anthropology. To speak of the gospel of Jesus as a myth, at best, and poison, at worst, is damnable.
Part 3 of this series will discuss the role of the foreigner who seeks to communicate the gospel of Jesus in a culturally relevant, yet biblically faithful manner to a people group such as the Yanomamö.
After compiling some info for the recent post on “Growing Up Yanomamö” (on the topic of a book written by Mike Dawson about the conversion of a tribe to the gospel of Jesus), I discovered an ongoing anthropological battle regarding this people group.
It turns out that not everyone is excited about Yanomamö believing in Jesus. An article written by Maximilian Forte offers an intriguing window into the subjective, controversial world of anthropology: “The Yanomamö Controversy.”
Forte, a professor of anthropology by trade, discusses studies conducted on the Yanomamö by a secular geneticist and a secular anthropologist, and the accusations from a freelance investigative journalist that the two not only distorted the analysis from their field studies, but that they actually caused greater harm to the tribe through their actions and subsequent reports.
The conflicting cultural reports are a hot-button issue in anthropological circles, especially because the research done by the aforementioned anthropologist has made the Yanomamö famous as an example of “the world’s last remaining prototypically primitive groups” (quote from Forte’s blog post). The added element of Yanomamös turning to Jesus due to Western ministers of the gospel adds fuel to the already intense discussion.
The study of human behavior is not a neutral process. Everyone from academic anthropologists to junior high students makes assessments of human behavior based on one’s moral framework. Secular anthropologists act as if they can analyze, digitize, and systematize their field study with complete objectivity. This approach necessarily places them in conflict with those who attempt to share the gospel of Jesus that promises to radically alter a person’s thinking, beliefs, and behavior - in essence his or her entire cultural identity.
So who is right? The Western anthropologist who attempts to forever preserve the “native instincts” of the people group from the taint of Western industrialization? Or the Western evangelical missionary who strives to rescue the Yanomamö from their “heart of darkness” (sin against a holy God) by telling them about the Son of God who seeks to make them the “new creatures” He created them to be?
Look for the conclusion in “The Yanomamö Controversy: Anthropology and the Gospel” Part 2.
Each year, millions of Muslims perform the fifth of the pillars of Islam-Hajj, or the pilgrimage to Mecca. Mecca Diaries is a short documentary sharing an insiders’ perspective on this religious practice. It provides a helpful look at what Hajj entails.
The Hajj includes several rituals that must be completed within the 5 days of the Hajj. The rituals include:
- Walking seven times counter-clockwise around the Ka’aba (large black stone), kissing the stone each time (though because of the large crowds people are also allowed to simply point at the stone with their right hand)
- Travelling to Mina and spending an afternoon facing Mt. Arafat in contemplation and prayer.
- Gathering stones from Muzdalifah (area near Mina) for the stoning of the Devil.
- Taking these stones and throwing them at pillars representing the Devil (though these pillars have been replaced by large walls with basins to collect the stones because of the large crowds). They throw seven pebbles each time, and the ritual is performed 3 times over the course of 5 days.
- Again walking around the Ka’aba seven times.
- Shaving their heads (male pilgrims).
- Performing animal sacrifices in celebration of Eid al-Adha: a commemoration of Abraham killing a ram instead of his son.
A few things struck me while watching the video.
- I was surprised at how much modern technology has affected the pilgrimage: e.g., planes and buses are used for transportation, tour guides are available, huge lights illuminate the area, stoning Satan has become more convenient with the addition of large walls instead of pillars, etc.
- The ritual is supposed to be a “demonstration of the solidarity of the Muslim people, and their submission to God. It is designed to promote the bonds of Islamic brotherhood and sisterhood, by showing that everyone is equal in the eyes of Allah. It strips away all markers of social status, wealth, and pride, making Muslims feel the real importance of life here on earth, and the afterlife. In the Hajj all are truly equal.”[i] And though the narrator of the documentary claims that he got the sense that everyone was equal, he also points out at least twice how issues of wealth and poverty affect the pilgrimage. He mentions that wealthy people use world-class hotels for prayer instead of praying outside, and that poor people are left to sleep alongside the road. There are some who are able to travel by planes and buses, while others walk. It seems that the only things that really show that everyone is equal is that they are all supposed to wear similar clothes and do similar things.
- People are willing to do a lot to try to earn their salvation. These people are willing to face incredibly long lines, sleep outside, do seemingly mundane religious acts, and spend time, money, and energy for the prospect of having their sins forgiven. And we have the glorious news that none of those things are necessary for salvation. We can let these people know that God offers them salvation freely. He gives Christ’s righteousness solely by grace through faith, and this is a message they need to hear. Let’s be just as willing to do difficult things to see the gospel spread to those who are seeking to earn their own salvation.
Andrew Comings posted a book review of Growing Up Yanomamö (Green Acres Press, 2009), Mike Dawson’s depiction of his life in the Venezuelan jungle among the Yanomanö people, on the Sharper Iron website.
Comings sums up an excellent review as follows:
I can imagine this book being the perfect antidote for the teen or young adult who has spent all his or her life singing the astonishingly depressing hymn So Send I You and listening to missionaries piously intone “Don’t tell God you’ll never go to Africa, because that’s exactly where He’ll send you.” Michael Dawson, in sharing his own personal stories of action, adversity, and adventure, can give them an entirely more realistic picture of what missions is all about.
In writing Growing Up Yanomamö Michael Dawson has done missions endeavors everywhere-and the Kingdom of God as a whole-a tremendous service.
Summary from the back cover:
Imagine living in a stone-age culture. That is how the Yanomamö have been described.
Three generations of the same family working with this Venezuelan tribe and now a new film coming out from the tribal leaders themselves to refute the secular anthropologists by showing how walking with Christ has transformed their culture. Mike’s growing up years will take you through adventures with animals, nature, and people.
Purchase Growing Up Yanomamö at Amazon.
Dawson has since written a sequel entitled I Can See the Shore (Green Acres Press, 2010), which “brings to life a little known world of shaman, rituals, and secret initiations of the stone-aged culture of the Yanomamö tribe.” Read a brief review of the sequel.
Recently Steve Davis posted an article on Sharper Iron dealing with the lack of fundamentalists involved in (urban) church planting. In it, he points out that in the midst of broader evangelicalism’s church planting movements “in cities which, with some notable exceptions, have been long abandoned by solid, Bible-believing churches,” fundamentalists appear to be absent. He suggests that one of the main reasons is that fundamentalist churches are not able to effectively reproduce themselves in cities because of how they hold to their traditions. He then lists a series of questions to consider in planting urban churches.
Though I might not agree with Dr. Davis on what falls into the category of cultural tradition and what is in the category of biblical principle, I do think it is important to think through issues of cultural inflexibility when considering urban church planting. As I stated in this post:
“Churches are beginning to recognize the need to legitimately contextualize ministry in foreign settings. They realize that there are elements of traditional worship and organization in North American churches that are culturally determined rather than biblically absolute.
However, churches have been slow to consider that the culture of white suburbs is different from the culture of other ethnicities within the cities. Simply because people have immigrated to America does not mean they have abandoned their own cultures.
Therefore, churches planted within cities may also need to adapt certain elements of their worship and service to the cultures of the city while still remaining faithful to the message of the Gospel.”
Dave Doran wrote a post on his blog interacting with the questions Dr. Davis provided. He ends with this helpful challenge:
“In my mind, we can’t emphasize the need to plant churches too much, so I am glad that Steve has raised this subject. And the need in urban areas is great, so I am grateful for that part of it as well. I don’t think we do much good if we pit urban against suburban, and highlighting the needs in urban areas doesn’t inherently do that. It should be both/and, not either/or. Strategically, though, I think it is fair to say that the tendency has been to focus on new growth areas more than urban areas. Steve is right to sound the note about that need and some of the challenges involved in addressing it. We definitely need to think carefully about the task, but it is even more important, I think, that we get more aggressive in doing it. So, let me extend an invitation to those who have a burden for the cities to come to Detroit. We’re already working on it and would love the help and to help you!“
For those ministering in the Spanish speaking world (US or abroad), you can purchase Operation World in Espanol (Operacion Mundo).
A 1-volume resource that reveals what God is doing around the world, country by country, Operation World is an essential book for every believer’s library.
And don’t forget that the 2010 edition of Operation World in English (Biblical Publishing) is set to be released on October 15!
UPDATE: A team of translators has just begun translating the upcoming 2010 edition of Operation World into Spanish. It will be available in late 2011, according to Brigada Today. You can order Operacion Mundo 2005 in bulk at the rate of $4 a piece (20 minimum; shipping included in the continental US) from the US Center for World Mission store.
Pastor Terry Jones cancelled his plans to burn the Koran last Saturday at his Gainesville, FL church. Though this saga will soon be out of the news (hopefully), it may be helpful to consider a few issues surrounding this situation that touch on missions.
Christians burning religious books
Is it right for Christians to do a Koran burning? In asking this question, I’m not referring to the legal right to burn books, but whether or not this is the wisest course of action for Christians to take. There is no clear command of Scripture either demanding or forbidding the burning of religious literature. I think there are only 2 mentions of literature being burned in Scripture: Jeremiah 36, where Jeremiah’s scroll is burned by Jehoiakim (obviously, a negative account); and Acts 19, where converts in Ephesus burned their books of magic arts (apparently, a positive account). So, it’s difficult to say Christians would be sinning to burn the Koran since there is no clear condemnation of it.
However, that doesn’t mean that it would be wise for Christians to burn the Koran. It would be one thing for former Muslims, as a sign of their repudiation of its teachings, to burn a book that had bound them in darkness (similar to Acts 19); but it’s a different issue for people to gather books they did not previously own and/or have never read simply to burn them.
Where would the Korans come from? If they are being purchased, then it would definitely seem foolish: You are basically throwing away money/resources that could be used more productively in other venues, and you are likely providing finances for the very thing you are trying to oppose. Merely burning religious books as a demonstration seems unwise at best.
Standing up against Islam
The Koran burning was being promoted as a statement against Islam. Since the government and many others seem afraid of Islam, the church decided to take a stand and show that they would not back down. So, would a book burning really communicate that message? I doubt it. I highly doubt that this church had faced much pressure from Muslims prior to planning this event, and while burning the Koran may see bold, it doesn’t take much courage to burn a Koran in Gainesville.
I think a much better way of taking a stand against Islam would be taking a stand for the gospel. Burning a religious book does not usually remove its influence (and history often points to a growth of influence when this type of censorship is practiced.) If you really want to show that you will not back down from Muslims, preach the gospel to them. That would be far more courageous, and productive.
The nature of true persecution
Some might consider the reactions against this church to be a form of religious persecution. In the midst of taking a stand for truth, they are maligned on all sides (even from fellow Christians.) Yet, they are willing to fight on in spite of the opposition. But, is that really true persecution?
Persecution for Christians comes as a result of practicing righteousness and serving Christ (Matt 5:10-12; Acts 5:41). Suffering as a result of poor choices is not true persecution (1 Pet 2:20). This church would learn the nature of true persecution much better by interacting with Christians in Muslim countries than by seeking national attention for an unwise action.
The call for religious peace and unity
The response from many highlights one of the greatest danger to biblical Christianity today-religious pluralism and inclusivity. Christians are being asked to lay aside their differences with Muslims in support of unity and peace. The problem is that this approach ignores what these religions teach.
It ignores what Islam teaches, or it at least appears to. It is ironic that people are urging others to accept Islam as a religion of peace while simultaneously warning of violent responses to burning Korans. A crazy Christian threatens to burn the Koran and crazy Muslims respond by killing Americans-which of these acts is less peaceful? (It seems completely absurd to compare the acts of terrorism on 9/11 and the resulting bloodshed to the cancelled plans of a pastor in Florida to hold a Koran burning and the resulting bloodshed, yet that is exactly what some of have done.)
The reality is that Islam is a dangerous religion. (Of course, not all Muslims are dangerous people. Many Muslims are far more peaceful than Christians). But our society seems to have forgotten the importance of beliefs and ideas and the consequences they have. To try to argue that Christianity and Islam are more or less equal and should therefore work together for unity is to ignore what Islam teaches.
It also ignores what Christianity teaches. Christianity is not merely about doing good and loving others-it is about God and His glory. Man’s problem is not ultimately that he struggles in his relationship with others, but that he is in rebellion against his maker, God. And the only solution is not to reform yourself or try harder but to repent and submit to Jesus Christ as Lord. Islam provides no solution to man’s true problem, while Christianity does. Christians cannot lay aside this truth and remain Christian.
As Christians, we should not seek to incite others to acts of violence, but we should be clear in our witness to the gospel. At times, that witness may incite violence, because the message is offensive. When that happens, we must be willing to suffer persecution just as our Savior did. But we shouldn’t try to create a stir with foolish stunts and offend others for no reason. Take a stand against false religion, not by burning a book, but by bringing forth the book-God’s Word.
David Hosaflook, missionary in Albania and a favorite on the MM Blog, shares an encouraging report of the advance of the gospel in the Tropoja mountains of northern Albania in a special article for Frontline Missions International.
“Come to Tropoja,” he said, “my family must hear the Gospel. Do you like mountains?” I was young and fit (at sea level), but Arben was a Sherpa! Seven hours into the trek, he reached the peak of Betoshë, looked down at me, and shouted, “Take heart! Almost there!”
When I finally summited, wheezing like an emphysemic, he pointed out a dot below, allegedly his house. I squinted incredulously, discovering the relativity of the word “almost.”
Now rested and dying to arrive home with the Good News, Arben sprang to his hooves and launched our downward zigzag. My quadriceps burned like lava, but every step paid off in the joy of watching Arben preach Christ to his family.
Read the entire post.
For an in-depth look into gospel ministry in Albania, order a copy of the documentary “Dispatches from the Front Episode 2: A Bold Advance” by Frontline Missions International. The video covers David’s ministry in Albania and surrounding regions.
Related MM post: Dispatches 2: A Bold Advance.
The Missions Mandate experienced some web host issues over the past week and was out of commission for a few days. We apologize for the inconvenience. We are working hard to permanently correct the error. Thank you for your patience.
Director, Missions Mandate
A couple of nights ago I was driving home and thought I’d see if I could listen to any post-game talk regarding the Cincinnati Reds (my favorite baseball team, currently on pace to make the playoffs for the first time since 1995). Instead, I caught a little bit of a conversation from a conservative talk show host regarding the issue of immigration. He was interviewing someone who mentioned a particular immigrant as the picture of the American dream. This immigrant had “pulled herself up by her boot straps” to become a financial success. The commentator was comparing this immigrant to many today who, in his opinion, were looking to others for help rather than bettering themselves by hard work.
Though I didn’t listen for much longer, the bit I did hear would probably resonate with many conservative Christians in America. We have a tendency to look down on those who appear unable to improve their condition on their own, while applauding those who achieve “success” through their hard work. We love to hear stories of those who rise above their difficult circumstances to gain financial stability and physical comforts-the picture of the self-made man.
In relation to salvation, that is the exact opposite of biblical teaching. Salvation does not come to those who earn it through their own efforts, but to those who recognize their weakness and in humility call out to their only hope-Jesus Christ. There are no self-made Christians, which is one of the reasons the gospel is so offensive to many. Americans don’t like to admit their insufficiency, but only those who realize they are sick go to the physician for healing.
Though we sometimes forget it, true Christians recognize that salvation is only of the Lord. We agree that no one deserves salvation, so everyone is dependent on God’s grace. But too often we seem to think that the other areas of our life are different. “Sure, I’m only saved because of what God did. But my business has grown because I worked harder than everyone else.” “I know I won’t get to heaven because of what I did, but my education wasn’t a gift. I earned every bit of it.” “Salvation is from the Lord, but earthly success is in my hands.” “The reason I have eternal security is because of Christ, but the reason I have financial security is because of me.”
Those are not actual quotations, but I think they accurately communicate the attitude of many Christians. They may admit they are helpless spiritually but cling to the idea that they are self-made physically. So, we look at those who are not as “successful” as us and think it’s a result of their lack of effort, while we quietly pat ourselves on the back for giving ourselves (and our families) a better life. And, if Paul were to write a letter to the church in America, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this reminder:
“For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” (1 Cor 4:7 NASB)
Christians in America too easily buy into the illusion of the self-made man and, unwittingly, deny the reality of the Gospel which teaches that there are no self-made men. Everything we are and have is a gift from God. Any earthly “success” we have is not ultimately the result of our own efforts, but is the result of God’s grace at work in our lives. Yes we work hard, but not because we think that our ability or effort are the key to our success. We work because we know God is at work in us and calls us to serve Him with our might. And we recognize that everything we attain (wealth, position, influence, etc.) has been bestowed on us from God to be used for His glory, not for our own agenda and/or ease.
As Christians, we need to replace the values of America with the values of the gospel. We need to reject the myth of the self-made man and embrace the reality of the God-made man. And as we allow the gospel to transform our values, we may find that our perspective on those who we previously considered undeserving moochers is transformed as well. Those who realize they live by grace are much more ready to extend grace to others.
A recent MM post provided some guidelines for writing missionaries in restricted access nations. A related issue that Restricted Access Nation (RAN) missionaries face involves their identity. As they minister the gospel of Christ, these individuals must employ creative means of access and stability in their given RAN. With this creative type of ministry (see previous post on an Intro to Tentmaking) comes heightened levels of risk.
Two of the risks related to identity are that the workers: 1) feel that they are being disingenuous with the host government and people by “saying I do one thing while really doing another” and/or 2) raise suspicion from government or other local leaders and endanger their lives as well as the lives of the national believers.
The issue of a worker’s identity in a RAN is a complex issue. These matters ought to be prayerfully considered and analyzed by the worker, his/her family, their sending church, supporting churches, mission board, etc. While an element of risk is inherent to gospel ministry in difficult settings, the gospel worker would do well to minimize the level of risk he/she incurs while still fulfilling ministry purposes.
The outside aid of organizations such as CRICON (Crisis Consulting International) is valuable in preparing workers for identity issues. CRICON conducted a 3-day Field Security Seminar in May of 2010 for the current and prospective missionaries of our church (about 20 individuals). This training is highly recommended for those preparing to minister in dangerous settings, as they offer training in Hostage Survival, High-Risk Conflict Management, Target Hardening, Surveillance Management, Operations in Conflict/War Zones, Landmines, UXO and IEDs.
During the Surveillance Management tract, concern for minimizing risk seemed to narrow down to online presence and physical surveillance.
Regarding online presence, a good rule of thumb is “if you put it online assume that it is accessible to anyone, anywhere, at anytime.” The safest move is to remove all references to the gospel worker from the internet. If that is not possible or desired, intermediate steps can be taken such as limiting the sites on which their name appears.
Several options exist to boost the security of the worker’s email correspondence. One is to install GPG software (also known as GnuPG), a free version of Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) software, which effectively, though not perfectly, safeguards your emails. GPG functions as an encryption service whereby both parties use personal keys to unlock an email, protecting it from unintended eyes.
Here are two tutorials on using GPG with Gmail. Be sure to read the comments below the articles for other helpful information. Also, if you use Gmail, ensure that you access the service using the URL https://mail.google.com (the “s” is the important element.) Gmail is set up to use the “https” by default but you can ensure that it does by following these instructions.
Regarding Skype, it is a fairly secure option and to conveniently communicate internationally via voice and video. Simon Garfinkel, an Associate Professor at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, and an associate of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard University (I don’t think he sings), prepared a thorough review of Skype from a security standpoint. Read Garfinkel’s review (esp. pp. 4-7) for a detailed analysis of Skype’s security.
His conclusion about Skype privacy:
While the actual communications between Skype clients appears to be encrypted, searches conducted on behalf of Skype users — including searches necessary to initiate Skype calls — are observable by the Skype network. This means that it should be possible for even unprivileged participants of the network to perform traffic analysis and determine when one user calls another user. It is unknown if the design of the Skype network makes it possible for some nodes to monitor all searches and call set-up traffic, or if instead each node would only see a portion of the overall traffic. [p. 5]
Read the complete review for a thorough perspective of the privacy issues involved in using Skype (and similar VoIP programs). You can also read Sype’s security page for their take on how secure their program is (including FAQs).
Another method of safeguarding one’s online presence is to develop a system of pseudonyms that you, your immediate family, and other RAN workers will utilize when corresponding with friends, family, and churches in the States, and vice versa. The “vice versa” is the tricky part; it is much easier to protect your own vocabulary that it is to educate dozens or hundreds of others. Look at the “Guidelines for Writing to Workers in RAN” document that MM produced for ideas on creating your own pseudonym vocabulary.
The most valuable tip regarding physical surveillance in a RAN is to be aware. This sounds simplistic, but most instances of surveillance can be detected and/or avoided by taking precautionary measures and keeping your “eyes peeled.” (The CRICON Field Security Seminar is excellent for training you to detect and/or avoid surveillance. See links above.)
For those who can’t attend a CRICON training event, availing yourself to other security resources is key. An example is STRATFOR (Strategic Forecasting), an international intelligence company that releases daily briefings regarding political, economic, and military developments. (Much info is free to the public; the paid subscriptions offer more detailed briefings.) Their article “Watching for Watchers” provides an overview of surveillance and simple steps to detect it and react effectively. Their “Primer on Situational Awareness” reveals what awareness is and isn’t, levels of awareness, and how to find that appropriate level of awareness.
Speaking the full truth of the gospel of Jesus is necessarily confrontational; it is either a stumbling block or foolishness to those who are perishing (1 Cor 1:23). Ministering this gospel in a RAN context entails extra levels of risk. But prayerfully using identity tools that God has made available can ensure that you minister wisely and effectively as you seek to minimize unnecessary risk.
Okay, he’s not really on YouTube (he died in 1905), but you can watch a video of Doug Whitley reenact Hudson Taylor as he might have appeared:
Whitley reenacts other preachers such as George Meuller, the apostle John, Simeon, Andrew Murray, E. M. Bounds, Moses, Augustine, C. H. Spurgeon, and a list of others. View his YouTube channel or his website for a complete listing.
HT: Jonathan Bolin (view other missions videos on Jonathan’s site)
I have several friends that are or will be ministering the gospel of Christ in a location identified as a Restricted Access Nation (RAN). (For a thorough list of RANs, see the Voice of the Martyrs’ interactive map.) One of the issues that they face is the tension between wanting to correspond with family, friends, and supporting churches and the desire to not unnecessarily expose themselves to the government or others who are opposed to the gospel.
With the plethora of media options available today, we have multiple venues through which we can contact our gospel ministers. But, as my dad used to say, with this added privilege comes added responsibility. We need to be “wise as serpents and harmless of doves” as we seek to edify and support our missionaries.
Recently I came across a document that provides instructions for writing to missionaries who minister in RANs. It was written from the vantage point of a particular RAN, so I edited the document to make it applicable to those who minister in all RANs.
View “Guidelines for Writing to Workers in RAN” document.
Follow these guidelines when corresponding with a RAN worker, and pass them on to your pastor/church as a helpful resource as you strive to serve your missionaries well.
HT: Original document created by Turkish World Outreach
Attention Pastors: “Gospel of John” booklets have been used for years as helpful introductions to the life and death of Jesus to neighbors and community residents. The Light Project makes it easier and more cost-effective than ever to distribute the good news.
The Light Project (TLP) straightforward website directs you through the entire process. It does not get much simpler than this:
- Enter your church information
- Order the amount of booklets you desire to send (minimum of 500)
- TLP identifies the appropriate homes to the number of booklets you order
- TLP adds your church’s contact info to the booklets
- TLP ships the booklets to the homes (you can also have the “Story of Jesus” booklets delivered to your church address)
- Recipients can contact your church via the contact info on the cover or the reply card
Cost: $1 per book!
Available versions: NASB, ESV, KJV, NKJV, and NCV.