Carey’s Creed: The Eleven Laws of Missions

Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 1.45.52 PMMany know the famous Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards. But how about those of William Carey?

On October 7, 1805, nine missionaries of the Baptist Missionary Society, including the famous Serampore Trio of William Carey, William Ward, and Joshua Marshman, signed a covenant in Serampore, India. This declaration of missionary strategy would serve as a cornerstone document for future generations.

The missionaries lived together and essentially gave up personal property. In the covenant they wrote: “No private family ever enjoyed a greater portion of happiness, even in the most prosperous gale of worldly prosperity, than we have done since we resolved to have all things in common.” Continue reading

Did St. Paul the Missionary Contextualize?

In Galatians, the Judaizers were willing to accept only part of the message and in the end got full condemnation. They believed in justification by faith, only not by faith alone. In Islam, Muslims accept Jesus as Messiah, only not as the Messiah who is Creator of the universe and Savior of the world.

Insiders and C5 proponents believe that the way to bridge the gap is by blending in to the community and in doing so softening the vast differences between Christianity and Islam. Paul’s perspective from Galatians can help us here.

First, Paul’s gospel was not palatable to the unconverted. His goal was not to tickle the ears but teach the evangel. “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Gal. 1:10).

Apparently some were accusing Paul of being a flatterer, acting like a flag that flies in the direction of public opinion. Anathematizing to hell anyone who twists the gospel (Gal. 1:8-9) quickly put an end to this farce. Paul did not remove the rough edges or offense from the gospel. “But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed” (Gal. 5:11).

Second, the only times Paul “contextualized” with his hearers is when he made life more difficult for himself, not easier. Hence, the “all things to all men” passages in 1 Corinthians 9. Any definition of contextualization that made it easier to be a follower or proclaimer of Jesus was foreign to Paul. John MacArthur wrote:

[Paul] was not advocating a marketing plan. He was not making a plea for ‘contextualization.’ He was not suggesting that the message be made more acceptable….He was calling for self-denial and sacrifice for the sake of proclaiming the unadulterated truth to those who do not know Christ.

In conclusion, our recent analysis of the Insider and C5 Movements demonstrates they misappropriate contextualization to Muslims by softening the theological differences between Islam and Christianity and discouraging suffering for Christ.

All Nations Sing for Joy

This missions anthem may be sung to the tune of “Now Thank We All our God”

  1. All nations sing for joy, each tribe and tongue and kingdom.

Like clouds infused with rain, pour all thy praise upon Him.

The gospel now unfurled, glad servants He shall send.

To every land and realm, And then shall come the end.

  1. ­ All churches fast and pray, the Spirit bids thee sending

An army full of hope, a multitude unending.

Adorn the hills with praise, with feet arrayed in truth

Proclaim the Treasure hid and gates of hell subdued.

  1. All martyrs to be slain, your blood at Satan’s bidding

Lift high the victor’s hymn, for Jesus goes on winning.

God’s sheep held in contempt, the world intent to kill.

The same your Lord endured, now His afflictions fill.

  1. All choristers confess, Jesus the Lamb unblemished

Unsullied blood vast shed, for sinners that would perish.

This psalm of thanks a ray, His work of grace the sun

For now and evermore, the song has just begun.

Interacting With the Insiders

The C-Spectrum is a practical tool some missionaries use to describe six types of Christian communities found in Muslim contexts. It is a coded scheme devised to see how contextualized one can become within Islam, even to the point of being considered a Muslim.

On the far left is C1, a traditional church that uses outward elements foreign to Muslim culture and considered Christian by both Christians and Muslims. On the far right is C6, supposed secret followers of Jesus but still considered Muslim by the Islamic community. Think of a C5 believer as one that makes a Muslim pause and tilt his head.

John Travis (a pseudonym) has written assiduously on this matter and is among the greatest proponents of what missiologists call the Insider Movement, a method of evangelizing Muslims that allows them to remain as active participants of Islam. Below is a summary of some C5 ideology.

Insiders Believe Religious Affiliation Doesn’t Matter

In his article, “Must all Muslims Leave Islam to Follow Jesus”, Travis tells of a question his daughter brought to him: “Daddy, can a Muslim go to heaven?”

I responded with an Acts 15:11-type ‘yes’: If a Muslim has accepted Isa (Jesus) the Messiah as Savior and Lord, he or she is saved, just as we are. We affirmed that people are saved by faith in Christ, not by religious affiliation. Muslim followers of Christ (i.e., C5 believers) are our brothers and sisters in the Lord, even though they do not change religions.

Let us keep our eye on the ball. No one is arguing against the opportunity that even the worst of sinners have for salvation. Those of any false religion will be granted eternal life based on the merits of Christ. But this girl’s question addressed the results of such a supposed conversion.

Suppose his daughter asked a similar question? “Daddy, if a Buddhist, atheist, or Satanist has accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord, can he be saved and not leave his religion?” If Travis answers yes, then he has no problem with Christians dabbling in the occult and denying God’s existence. If he answers no, then I wonder why a Satanist must leave his place of worship but a Muslim must not. This brings us to the crux of the issue.

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Contextualization and Missions

The C-Spectrum in Muslim missions, the Insider Movements and how this touches evangelism in the Islamic community has been a much debated issue for years.

My experience with Muslims through formal debates, family meals, and one-on-one discussions have led me to believe that they are all too happy—mostly in an effort to gain leverage— to couch their theology in ambiguous Christian terms.

They are glad to espouse their love for Jesus and their willingness to follow him, but less reluctant to explain exactly what this means. The result is that Christians who do not know any better have a much more cozy perspective of Islam. What is worse, authors of the Insider Movement who do know better continue to encourage this kind of talk.

Contextualization simply means to act in such a way that one’s context would approve. In some ways this is good. A missionary seeking to reach the Tsongas of Mozambique, for example, should speak Tsonga, eat Tsonga food, and learn Tsonga culture. But some take contextualization further.

Exactly how much further has spurred endless disagreement. Missionaries have created vast systems (which we shall see in tomorrow’s post) to determine exactly how far a missionary can contextualize. In tomorrow’s post, we will address these structures and determine if they are biblical.

Three Theses on Poverty

With so much talk these days about social ministry, my thoughts turned there again after reading chapter seven in Theology and Practice in Mission entitled “The Gospel and Social Responsibility” by Sean Cordell. I walked away from the book with at least three conclusions about poverty.

1. Christians should know that the causes of poverty are vast and often moral.

Many who speak of poverty issues today are only concerned that someone is poor, rarely wondering why they are that way. At least Cordell tries on page 95, but he could have given more. He lists natural disasters, laziness, and oppression as causes but understates how much Scripture talks about sin as the source of poverty. Does this chapter and other popular evangelical books like When Helping Hurts just not know about these other passages? Are they naïve to the world’s depravity? Or are they unknowingly parroting today’s party line that poverty is always the result of something outside of us and not from within?

This grieves me because after living within a poor rural African village for eight years my conclusion is that most of the poverty stems from an unbiblical worldview. If my subjective conclusion did not jive with objective Scripture, I would reconsider. Such is not the case. Cordell briefly mentions laziness as a cause of poverty but includes no Scripture references. But the sheer number of passages warning us that laziness is the cause of poverty (Pr. 10:4; 20:4, 13; 24:30-34; Ecc. 4:5), hunger (Prov. 13:4; 19:15; 20:4; 21:25; 2 Thess. 3:10), ruin (Ecc. 10:18), and misery (Ecc. 4:5) should help us conclude that this is a major cause of poverty, not just one of several. Cordell implies this by listing laziness alongside crop failure, a cause of which Scripture rarely speaks.

Scripture in fact tells us that it is a sin to feed the lazy (2 Thess. 3:10). “But what if they starve?” Scripture has already thought of that and warns us not to be duped. “A worker’s appetite works for him; his mouth urges him on” (Pr. 16:26). Today’s corrupt government systems (and dare I say corrupt church practices) want to rescue lazy people from their poverty by giving them foreign aid, child grants, and handouts and by doing this they dull the pain that God uses to motivate them toward escape. Scripture says the shiftless man goes hungry (Pr. 19:15). The West says the shiftless man goes on welfare.

But laziness is just one of many poverty inducing sins; there is much that could be said of stubborn (Ps. 106:13-15) and prideful hearts (Pr. 13:18). How shocked would you be if an evangelical book said that many people are poor because of self-indulgence? “Whoever loves pleasure will be a poor man” (Pr. 21:17).

2. Be careful not to define the poor to broadly.

Cordell may have done this in Matthew 25. He overreached when he says “Jesus made it clear that those who are followers of Christ must preach the good news and meet the needs of the poor as well.” (97) His first proof text is Matthew 25, where those who feed and clothe the poor actually do this to Christ (vv. 35-40) and those who neglect this neglect Christ (vv. 41-42). But are the poor in this passage the world’s poor or poor Christians?

The context points to the latter; Jesus speaks of his “brothers” (v.40). This fits in nicely with Galatians 6:10 where we learn that our first priority is toward other believes.

3. It is not unchristian for believing donors to vet those in need of donations.

While wealthy Christians today are made to feel cold and harsh if they set up criteria for those receiving aid, this is exactly what Paul told the early church to do. Needy widows did not get financial help carte blanche. According to 1 Timothy 5, a widow had to be a believer, a church member, and at least sixty years of age.

Martin Meredith in The Fate of Africa entitled one of his chapters “The Lost Decade” because of Africa’s steep economic decline in the 1980’s. In fact, in the 80’s and 90’s alone, Africa received more than $200 billion in foreign aid but was none the richer in the end. Part of the reason was due to corruption, as foreign money slid easily from the rich West into the coffers of unvetted, unrighteous scoundrels. The level of corruption was so noticeable, one Kenyan observed:

We hoped [corruption] would not be rammed in our faces. But it has: evidently the practitioners now in government have the arrogance, greed and perhaps a sense of panic to lead them to eat like gluttons. They may expect we shall not see, or will forgive them, a bit of gluttony because they profess to like Oxfam lunches. But they can hardly expect us not to care when their glutton causes them to vomit all over our shoes.

 

If a secular author like Meredith can see this, why not the Christians? Why is so little said about the unrighteous causes of poverty and the steps Christians must take in finding the root of physical paucity?

Answering Some African Ethical Dilemmas

A few weeks back I sent out an update letter regarding ten ethical dilemmas we are facing.  Here’s how I would answer them.

  1. On adulterous church members living as neighbors – Though I strongly encouraged Sally to find living quarters elsewhere, her deep poverty would not allow this. She lives with her two small children in a 8’ x 12’ room on about $100 a month. I then implored her to break off all forms of communication with Ruth’s husband, not enter Ruth’s yard, and follow the biblical rules of seeking forgiveness. Its been difficult, but she has followed this advice and comes faithfully to church every Sunday.
  2. On providing for your family v. your church – No pastor wants to leave his flock, but the situation of Pastor Lawrence in Zimbabwe was getting desperate. He should find another piece of property and forget about the government’s promise for reimbursement of his home that was demolished. Soon after, the police forced all men, women and children in the camp to sit outside in the sun from morning till night. Day after day they sat. His wife was beaten severely. Thanks to generous donors, Lawrence is building a new homestead.
  3. On US funds for a building – Third-world believers have difficulty learning hard work, frugality, and planning when foreigners buy them a new church building. To the charge that says such people don’t have a building to meet in, I say, neither did the NT church. To the charge that it will take them years, perhaps decades, to save enough for a adequate building, I say it is valid to give only enough so that their legs don’t buckle, not so they can relax.
  4. On watered-down forms of marriage – In order for Kojo to marry his girlfriend according to Genesis 2:24, he needs to declare before others his commitment to her according to Genesis 2:23. Whether surrounded by bowties and baroque or cattle and clansmen, he must make a public commitment. If not, Kojo must not touch her.
  5. On partaking of stolen items – St. Paul actually talked about this, but the item under discussion was idol food not Coke Zero. Unless I know for sure that the soda was stolen, I should enjoy it to the last drop (1 Cor. 10:27-28).
  6. On exorbitant mission trips – I would strongly discourage foolish use of funds such as mission trips that spend more on plane tickets that double the structure they are building. If the goal is to help financially, just send the money. This would make the money go farther and encourage the people to do the labor on their own. If the goal is to “experience” the field yourself, rather spend the day studying the language, being in people’s homes, and evangelizing.
  7. On attending risqué cultural events – When they give me the opportunity to preach, I attend such affairs but use the time when men are gawking to shake hands and meet with the community. The event is such that my character would not be in jeopardy simply for attending.
  8. On HIV testing – I believe the Gospels and 1 Corinthians 7 makes divorce and remarriage a valid option for Maria. But there is also value in striving to make the marriage work. In the meantime, the Golden Rule demands—for the sake of her children and others—that she get tested for HIV. Maria did so and was negative.
  9. On single moms – I’ve previously posted on this.
  10. On dealing with bandits – The villagers don’t respect those who are soft with thieves. “The prudent sees danger and hides himself” (Pr. 27:12), and that might mean in the bushes with a baseball bat. Protecting hearth and home is a good thing (1 Tim. 5:3-5).