March 8, 2014 Leave a comment
March 6, 2014 Leave a comment
Late one night, a ship carrying Mary Slessor and three of her children arrived in Calabar, West Africa.
After disembarking, Mary immediately began walking through the dark, thick jungle with her children toward the missions compound she had established miles inland.
“Weren’t you and the children afraid of being attacked by thieves or wild animals?” a friend inquired.
“No self-respecting lion would have dared attack us, the way we sang those hymns!” she replied.
- Mary Slessor, missionary to Calabar, Nigeria (1848 – 1915).
February 14, 2014 Leave a comment
The Lord said, “This is indeed a delightful room. Let us come here often. It is secluded and quiet, and we can fellowship together.” Well, naturally as a young Christian I was thrilled. I couldn’t think of anything I would rather do than have a few minutes with Christ in intimate companionship.
He promised, “I will be here early every morning. Meet me here, and we will start the day together.” So morning after morning, I would come downstairs to the living room and He would take a book of the Bible from the bookcase. He would open it and then we would read together. He would tell me of its riches and unfold to me its truths. He would make my heart warm as He revealed His love and His grace He had toward me. These were wonderful hours together. In fact, we called the living room the “withdrawing room.” It was a period when we had our quiet time together.
But, little by little, under the pressure of many responsibilities, this time began to be shortened. Why, I’m don’t know, but I thought I was just too busy to spend time with Christ. This was not intentional, you understand; it just happened that way. Finally, not only was the time shortened, but I began to miss a day now and then. It was examination time at the university. Then it was some other urgent emergency. I would miss it two days in a row and often more.
I remember one morning when I was in a hurry, rushing downstairs, eager to be on my way. As I passed the living room, the door was open. Looking in, I saw a fire in the fireplace and Jesus was sitting there. Suddenly in dismay I thought to myself, “He was my guest. I invited Him into my heart! He has come as Lord of my home. And yet here I am neglecting Him.” I turned and went in. With downcast glance, I said, “Blessed Master, forgive me. Have You been here all these mornings?”
“Yes,” He said, “I told you I would be here every morning to meet with you.” Then I was even more ashamed. He had been faithful in spite of my faithfulness. I asked His forgiveness and He readily forgave me as He does when we are truly repentant. “The trouble with you is this: you have been thinking of the quiet time, of the Bible study and prayer time, as a factor in your own spiritual progress, but you have forgotten that this hour means something to me also. Remember, I love you. I have redeemed you at great cost. I value your fellowship. Now,” He said, “do not neglect this hour if only for my sake. Whatever else may be your desire, remember I want your fellowship!”
From My Heart Christ’s Home by Robert Boyd Munger
As you might guess, talk is in the air about going into Afghanistan. People have taken survey trips there. Mission agencies are poised to go in with funds and short-term teams. More than 300 organizations have signed up with one umbrella organization expressing their plans to move into the country soon. Some have experience in the Muslim world and are planning with that experience in view. Others do not.
A few weeks ago, some visitors shared with our staff about working in the Muslim world. They have been in this part of the world since the mid-1970s. They shared one story about the time they took a team up into a remote mountain area to do medical work. Their plan: Serve the people – and keep your mouth shut!
(At best, that sounds like a waste of time and at worst, it sounds like heresy. We Americans are so forceful in our personality and style, and that spills over into the evangelical church. We’ve heard that “just living the witness” doesn’t work to bring people to Christ. So why would we get behind the idea of just serving people?
One reason we share the gospel the way we do is that our society is so “burned over” with—and sometimes by—the church. Beyond that, we have a certain style that has developed as the standard “acceptable” way to do it. But the gospel message was spread in different ways both in the Bible and historically. Why would we expect it to spread the same way in other places – especially in the Muslim world, today?)
Back to the “servants” in the Muslim culture
After they did their medical work one day in a remote mountain village, they saw a Muslim evangelist, climbing up the mountain with his little medical kit (he could help, too!) and his side pack full of Islamic literature to share a more aggressive form of Islam with this village of nominal—in his mind—Muslims. He told the outside medical team, “You should not be here!” After a heated confrontation, including weapons flashing, the village elder told this Muslim man to leave and subsequently invited this couple up to his home for dinner. That evening he asked all kinds of questions about a Bible he had gotten months before, and they had opportunity to share God’s love with this influential leader well into the night.
Our normal reaction to this would be to poke fun at the methods of the Muslim evangelist. But many a Christians uses a similar approach: do a little service or work in your “job” as a way to get into a country. We, too, use our little medical kits or candy or videos or whatever. But even effective tools like the JESUS film used without understanding the worldview of the people can do more damage than good – some people need to be prepared to understand a message well.
It would be like the small-town “evangelist” from the U.S. who has a crusade in India for a week and then claims to have “evangelized” that city! Of course all the people raise their hands to “receive” Jesus. They already have millions of gods; there is no problem adding another! In general, people in Asia don’t want to say no to a well-off Westerner who seems to be in charge! Then the evangelist returns home and talks of reaching a village or city with hundreds or thousands making “decisions.”
What is the right stuff?
It is a bit ironic that the couple I mention above, who have been faithful to serve the people there and live with them throughout a range of governments and transitions, started out serving hippies who used to travel through the area. When the hippies couldn’t stay in the country, this couple felt led to stay longer, and they ended up raising their family and reaching out in love to their Muslim hosts. We may never know how many lives they have touched, but we do know that God seems to honor servanthood.
On the other hand, there has been so little fruit in this part of the world – that is, the Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist worlds (other than Korea and a few other pockets) – that we must ask the question if service is enough. Servanthood must be at the foundation of our work, but we also desire to pursue all of what God wants. What we really need are people who go with the servant’s heart and with a learner’s attitude – especially when it comes to how we share the core message about Christ that seems so clear to us in the Western world.
The worldview of nomadic societies, especially those which depend on pastoralism, is usually extremely focused on God. Nomads often have a high view of God, usually seeing him as a monotheistic Sky God who sends the rain on which their survival depends if the people pray to him and act properly according to their customs. Their view of God is usually less animistic than that of rural farmers, for nomads do not usually worship objects on earth such as rocks, trees, or rivers. Most pastoral nomads have ceremonies, or certain individuals whose primary purpose is to pray to the God in the heavens, in order to win his blessings of rain, grass, milk and health for them and their animals. Many have a belief in a good God who sends these blessings, but he is often thought to be remote. So there is usually some bad god (or gods) who needs to be appeased to keep evil away.
If it is appreciated that, almost without exception, nomadic peoples have this strong belief in a powerful, benign God in the heavens, then presentation of Christianity becomes much easier. You can begin with the worldview of that society and look for the keys within that culture that God has built into it to make himself relevant.
To be relevant to nomads the church must also extricate itself from the usual sedentary model of a building. This is the greatest obstacle to overcome in countries where Protestant and Catholic missionaries have competed to build the biggest churches. The best commentary on this misguided model comes from a Somali camel herder who said, “When you can put your church on the back of a camel, then I will think that Christianity is meant for us Somalis. I am a Muslim because we can pray anywhere, five times a day, everyday. We only see you Christians praying once a week, inside a special building, when one man stands in front and talks to God while everybody else hangs their heads and looks to be falling asleep.” Such is a nomad Muslim’s view of Christianity.
The church is also most relevant to nomadic societies where relationships are more important than real estate. Whatever else nomadic people may lack, they are usually socially rich, with strong family and clan ties. Abandoned or abused children are rarely seen and old people are respected and cared for within their families. Unless other influences have been introduced, such as Islamic practices, women can have a relatively high social position, as many nomadic societies are quite egalitarian. The question arises: Whose society is primitive?
The Nomadic Church by Malcolm Hunter
February 6, 2014 Leave a comment
I appreciated Ed Rommen’s honest reflection on his pilgrimage. Personally I am always interested in the way people make decisions on which spiritual path to follow. I think there is a lot to learn from his journey.
Any journey away from a tradition usually starts with some disappointment or lack of fulfillment. That is an evangelistic tool that all of us use when we try to present the Christian faith to those who do not know Jesus. It is also the reason many switch churches within the Protestant traditions. In part, what differentiates Ed’s decision is that he has left the Reformation Tradition for an older expression of Christianity. I respect the difficulty of his pilgrimage because I made the pilgrimage the other way. I was raised an Orthodox, served as an altar boy, and was sincere in my devotion. It meant something to me, but I can say everything that Ed is saying the other way. There were forms, but they were devoid of meaning, there were homilies in our Orthodox parish, but they did not speak of the mysteries of the faith but of the necessity to support the activities of the parish, my fellow parishioners were more interested in social conversation than divine communion.
It was when I was introduced to an evangelical presentation of the gospel that communion with God through Christ became a reality to me, when worship became something I could participate in with my whole heart and mind and especially when prayer became real and meaningful instead of a repetition of words.
It is true that the gospel is contained in the Orthodox Church. I have argued that in print. It is also true that there are good and spiritual priests who care for the “souls” of their flock and take great pains to prepare them for spiritual realities. I count some of these men as friends and recognize in them the devotion to Jesus Christ that marks my evangelical friends. There are theological differences between western Christianity as represented by both the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant Traditions and the different theological framework of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Again I have discussed these differences in my book, Eastern Orthodox Mission Theology Today.
Many if not all of us in Missions could echo the disappointments that Ed Rommen found in Protestant churches. I cannot criticize Ed for his decision. The churches in traditional areas of Christian influence: Europe, Russia, and North America all need renewal in worship and expression of the reality of gospel faith. Some will find that renewal in charismatic churches, some will find new forms within their own protestant traditions, and some like Ed, will find that needed renewal in looking at a different form.
It should be the prayer of all of us that the Church in her many forms will be renewed and presented spotless to the Bridegroom when He comes.