Antiquarian Anabaptist

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

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Optimsm – Pessimism

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A pessimist fears that every silver cloud conceals a dark and foreboding lining, and says that he is just being a realist.
An optimist believes every dark cloud will have a silver lining and also says he is being realistic.
Who is right?

A pessimist looks at the increasing godlessness and wickedness of the world and sees only doom and gloom.
An optimist looks at the same things and sees a mission field.
Who is right?

A pessimist sees things that are wrong in the world and marches in the streets to get the government to do something.
An optimist sees little things to do to help others and does them.
Who is doing more to make this world a better place?

Optimism is not following our natural inclinations and impulses and trusting that everything will turn out right. But we won’t get better results if we fear that nothing will ever work out, so there is no point in even trying. We need to be doing, but we need wisdom to know what to do.

Our bodies are mature when we are 18, but our brains are not fully mature until we are 25. The last part of the brain to mature is the part that controls our impulses. We are apt to be naturally optimistic when we are young, but will have some painful encounters with reality as we mature. Perhaps that is what helps the brain mature. The ideal outcome is that we will become less impulsive, but remain optimistic.

We worry about the growth of Islam and fear that those people are immune to evangelism. Yet we hear that many Muslim people all over the world have seen a vision or had a dream of Jesus and become Christians. God is at work in every place where there are Muslims even if no missionaries can enter those lands.

The Bible tells us in different places to lift up our eyes. That implies that when we look only at circumstances at ground level we are not seeing things as God sees them. And we are not seeing God.

Solomon said “He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap.” Is there a farmer anywhere that wakes up on a September morning, sees clouds in the sky and decides to go fishing? When it comes to our spiritual lives, how often do we go fishing (or something else, anything else) to avoid facing difficult decisions?

Optimism is not a self-help plan, it is not the power of positive thinking. An optimist is one who is ready to do what needs to be done, even if there is no guarantee of a positive outcome.

Are you an optimist or a pessimist?

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What is an indigenous church?

An indigenous church is one that has been planted in a new environment, taken root and grows and thrives without outside support. People in the community do not see a cultural barrier between themselves and members of the church and conclude that any differences between them and the members of this church are due to their spiritual beliefs. The faith remains true to its roots, unmixed with local spiritual beliefs and practices, but lifestyle and culture have adapted to the new environment.

The three self principle
These principles of an indigenous church in another land or culture were first described 150 years ago by a Christian missionary. I was a little put off at first because Communist China has appropriated the three self label for what is essentially a state-controlled church. But I haven’t found a better way to describe the working of an indigenous church.

1) Self-governing. The faith has taken root in the new location and local leaders can be trusted to replace the missionaries. They are grounded in the faith and following the lead of the Holy Spirit. From now on the local church will make its own decisions with an understanding of the local culture that a missionary can never quite attain.

2) Self-supporting. Members are giving sacrificially to their church and it is able to meet its own needs. Outside financial support, except in cases of dire emergency, will undermine the local church and damage relations between them and the churches in other countries.

3) Self-propagating. This church will extend its ministry in its local area and beyond without outside help. If we wish to spread the gospel around the world we need to establish churches that will then start other churches.

Discipleship
The Great Commission says “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations” (Matthew 28:19). The Greek word that is here translated teach is the verb form of the noun that means disciple. Thus, Jesus is telling us to go and make disciples in all nations. It is not enough to baptize new converts, they need to be discipled: taught, mentored, and encouraged so that they are equipped to help disciple others. “. . . the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:16).

The key to success or failure in missions

This is from a book first published in the 1920’s.  I first posted this excerpt in 2013 and believe it deserves a repeat.

“From what has already been said it is manifest that St. Paul did not go about as a missionary preacher merely to convert individuals: he went to establish churches from which the light might radiate throughout the whole country round. The secret of success in this work lies in beginning at the very beginning. It is the training of the first converts which sets the type for the future. If the first converts are taught to depend on the missionary, if all work, evangelistic, educational, social is concentrated in his hands, the infant community learns to rest passively upon the man from whom they receive their first insight into the gospel. Their faith having no sphere for its growth and development lies dormant. A tradition very rapidly grows up that nothing can be done without the authority and guidance of the missionary, the people wait for him to move, and, the longer they do so, the more incapable they become of any independent action. Thus the leader is confirmed in the habit of gathering all authority into his own hands, and of despising the powers of his people, until he makes their inactivity an excuse for denying their capacity. The fatal mistake has been made of teaching the converts to rely upon the wrong source of strength. Instead of seeking it in the working of the Holy Spirit in themselves, they seek it in the missionary. They put him in the place of Christ, they depend upon him.”

(Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours?  page 81.  Roland Allen, U.S. edition © 1962.)

Who let these people in?

There is a fine Christian lady doctor of our acquaintance who believes Canada is letting in way too many people from Asia and Africa. She is originally from South Africa, but left when black people were allowed to form the government. She fears for Canada’s future.

She’s wrong of course. The native people of Canada tell us the problem began when English-speaking people arrived over here. The first white people to arrive, those who spoke French, respected their elders and their women. The second white people, the ones who spoke English, respected neither their elders nor their women.

I am inclined to agree. Many French-speaking fur traders married Indian wives. Some of them brought their wives and children back to Montreal, which was the headquarters of the fur trade. Others settled down in the West with their wives and children. The English-speaking fur traders, mostly Scottish and fine upstanding Presbyterians, scorned such intermingling with non-white people.

Of course, many of them had summer wives in the West, as well as a Scottish wife in Montreal. What’s a man to do after all? Neither family was to know anything of the other. And when they retired, either back to Montreal or to Scotland, their western families were conveniently forgotten.

Other people of Scottish background came to Canada from Ulster, bringing with them their fierce Orange sympathies. The Orange men had a visceral hatred of anyone who was Roman Catholic, did not speak English, or did not have white skin. They did their utmost to make governments conform to their beliefs, leading to numerous riots, the burning of the parliament buildings and military action against the Métis in the West.

When the Canadian prairies were opened for settlement, many of the immigrants came from Eastern Europe and gradually the Orange sentiments became submerged in the new reality. Thousands of Chinese men came over to help build the Canadian Pacific Railway, then stayed to run Chines restaurants in every little prairie town. Eventually, Chinese women were allowed in too. Nowadays of course, Chinese immigrants have money and that makes them much more welcome.

A few years ago a small town in Scotland discovered that there was an Indian community in Saskatchewan whose people had the same last names as they did. After some investigation and a few visits it was found that they were indeed long lost cousins. Their ancestors never would have conceived that such a thing could be cause for celebration, but it was.

Some Christian denominations attempted to transform the Indians into Christians by forcing them into residential schools. That did not work out very well. Then they tried to force the government to make the whole country more Christian through prohibition. That didn’t work either. So now we content ourselves with sending missionaries to all the heathen lands and often express regrets that many countries won’t allow missionaries in.

In more recent years, people from all these countries begin to show up in our towns and cities. We worry about all these strangers in our midst and complain that we can hardly understand them when we encounter them as store and office clerks. We are afraid that they may bring with them much of the strife and animosity that exists in their home countries.

But they left their home countries because of that strife and animosity. We claim to have something better because we know the Prince of Peace. Why not share that acquaintanceship with these newcomers?

Cultural perspectives on youth and old age

Closely related to the North American orientation toward the future is the strong emphasis on youth. This can be seen in commercial advertising and entertainment — the old are rarely represented. At work the young are often thought to be more active and productive, and to hold more promise than do the elderly, despite their experience and sense of responsibility.

There are few attempts to involve the aged in the mainstream of the society. Once they retire, they are viewed as having little to contribute. And when they can no longer care for themselves, they are often placed in nursing homes, isolated from their offspring and cared for by non relatives.

This emphasis on youth is the exception rather than the rule around the world. In most societies old people are viewed positively as wise and experienced. They are shown respect, given places of honour and consulted about family and community decisions. There is no retirement from public life. In fact, retirement as we conceive of it now is a twentieth-century phenomenon found mainly in the west.

Paul G Hiebert, Anthropological Insights for Missionaries © 1985 by Baker Books.

Books about Haïti

I have never been to Haiti, but we were members of the St Marys, Ontario congregation for 15 years. Several families there have an ongoing connection with Haiti and made us all feel connected to the church in Haiti.  I just obtained my copy of this book today and thought I would copy the Dec. 10 post from John Luke Toews blog: Operation Noah’s Arkhttp://operationnoah-jt.blogspot.ca/

Across the Mountains—Haiti Book is finally available!

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We finally finished the task we set out to do five years ago! Actually I have been working on putting out  a book on Haiti for seven years. A lot of the Haiti articles you have read about on this blog was material I used in this book. Parts of the project go back thirty years ago as missionaries started compiling material together. Across the Mountains is a record of the various programs the COGICM have been involved with in Haiti. Humanitarian work, CSI, 1-W service, history of the congregations, the sinking of the Neptune and Conversion (New Birth) and Earthquake testimonies. It covers a span from 1966-2014.
575 pgs. 70 Illus.
You can order the book from Gospel Publishers or
Prairie View Press
A few months ago I read Haiti, The Aftershocks of History, by Laurent Dubois. © 2012 by Laurent Dubois and published by Metropolitan Books. This is a history of Haiti from the beginning until now. The writer is from the USA, and white, yet does not attempt to paper over the overwhelmingly negative effects of US influence on Haiti, or the racism behind it. A good book to read to understand how Haiti came to be the way it is today and the strengths of the rural society. Dubois is a secular writer and considers voodoo to be a benign and positive force. Apart from that, an excellent book for anyone wishing to understand the country.

The challenge of Islam

[This post is my translation of a portion of Robert Dubarry’s commentary on the book of Revelation. I bought this book many years ago from a Montréal bookstore. It is undated, but I believe it was written about sixty years ago. M. Dubarry was a French Baptist pastor; I can find next to nothing about him on the internet, but I did come across one mention of an article on the history of the Baptists in France that he wrote in 1912. The following passage is part of his commentary on Revelation 9:1-12.]

The monstrous union of secular power with fallen Christianity since the time of Constantine had assured the domination of paganism disguised as the gospel. Savage doctrinal battles, the domineering and dissolute spirit of the clergy, absurd notions and idolatrous practices, all these things had transformed the holy and blessed piety brought by Jesus into a scandalous religion. Mohammed, faced with such a spectacle and priding himself on never having wanted to learn to read and write, was incapable of making contact with the revelation of true Christianity. Many who have studied his life are persuaded that if he had first known Jesus Christ by other means than these degenerate representatives, he would not have gone further in seeking an ideal alternative to the lamentable state of his epoch and his milieu.

He was born in 571 at Mecca in the desert of Arabia and experienced the harshness of life, yet was endowed with remarkable intelligence despite a mental imbalance probably due to epilepsy. Having an iron will and aware that there must exist a moral ideal superior to that of his time, yet devoid of scruples, he developed the ambition to reform the thinking of his people, which was at that time half pagan, half Christian.

He offered more than paganism by getting rid of the notion of many gods, he brought more than degenerate Christianity by reviving certain elementary principles of order, wisdom, morality, righteousness and piety, sadly lost from the view of the false disciples of Jesus Christ.

But he gave infinitely less than apostolic Christianity, by denying the Trinity, in ignoring redemption, in putting aside true spirituality and opening new avenues for the carnal nature of man through earthly advantages and by heavenly promises entirely contrary to the spirit of the gospel.

Mohamed has sometimes been considered as being in many ways an extremist of oriental Christianity. However that may be, over an immense territory and for more than a thousand years, Islam has become the most insurmountable obstacle ever encountered by the gospel. The simplicity of its doctrine and practices has gained the allegiance of many hearts. Instinctively moulded to man’s natural tendencies, it requires an insignificant minimum of sacrifice for a maximum of privileges. As a substitute for evangelical Christianity, the Enemy could not have done better. The religion of the least effort, Islam has immobilised the thinking, morality and spiritual aspirations of its followers to such an extent that those that it has gained from paganism are too satisfied by this easy gain to imagine that greater spiritual progress might be possible, or even desirable.

It would be inconceivable that in a prophecy of “things which must soon come to pass” there would be no mention of such a great upheaval, involving not only the province of the seven churches of Asia but the whole Orient and even our own nation. For we must not forget that in the eighth century all the south of France was ruled by the Crescent of Mohamed, as was all of Spain until the eleventh century. The charred stones at Nîmes remind us that after seventeen years of Saracen occupation this improvised fortress was liberated by Charles Martel in 737. Islam remains in our day the most difficult missionary problem of all, and for civilized nations the most troubling foreign problem in the political, social, cultural and moral areas.

Unreached peoples

Unreached peoples! How can it be that there are still people groups in our modern world who have never heard about the Saviour, who do not have even a portion of the Bible in their language? Mission and Bible translation and distribution agencies tell us with considerable urgency that many such groups still remain on planet Earth.

I do not wish to detract anything from the urgency of that concern. Nor do I wish to distract us from the worthy goal of reaching all those groups with the gospel. But while we are doing that, I wish that we could all take a look at the people around us, right here in our own land. One hundred years ago, most everyone in Canada would have had some grasp of the tenets of Christianity. The majority of homes would have had a Bible somewhere in the house, often in plain view, though perhaps seldom read.

None of that is true anymore. One has only to read newspaper reports of controversies about Christian activities to realize that we are living in a different era. The incomprehension of the reporters about what motivates Christians is strikingly evident to Christians; judging by the responses, or the lack of response, to these articles most readers are no better informed than the reporters.

I am going to suggest that most segments of Canadian society have become unreached people groups. I recently quoted a statistic that said 50% of Canadians have never read anything in the Bible. I would be surprised if even 25% of Canadian homes contained a Bible today. So I will lump all Canadians into four unreached people groups.

First are the aboriginal peoples: Indians, Métis and Inuit. At one time, many of these peoples would have professed some form of Christianity, but now the great majority have openly returned to their native spirituality or shamanism. Some try to mix Christianity and shamanism, but Christianity plus something else is no longer Christianity. There are some bright lights here and there, but the overall picture is of great darkness.

The second group is the recent immigrants. Those who come from first world countries tend to be mostly agnostics or atheists. From third world countries we have many people of Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and other Eastern religions. Here is our opportunity to reach out to these people with the gospel of Jesus Christ. There are a few reports of successful missions to these people, but in reality very little is being done. Among the recent immigrants from Africa there are many Christians. They could add some vitality to the Canadian religious scene, but often they establish congregations of their own.

The third group would be the French-Canadians, who at one time were solidly Roman Catholic. Unfortunately, during the time when the Roman Catholic Church controlled the schools and so many other facets of French-Canadian society, they did their best to keep people from reading the Bible. Now that most French-Canadians have abandoned the church; there is no lingering reservoir of Bible knowledge. There are many evangelical congregations established among the French-Canadian people, but their impact still touches a very small minority of the people.

The last group would be the Anglo-Canadians – English-speaking Canadians of various ethnic backgrounds. (It should be noted that Québec is also a melting pot – many French-Canadians are not of French ethnic heritage.) Anglo-Canadians were resolutely Christian at one time, at least in name. But society has changed, and many of the once dominant denominations tried to change with the times, watering down the gospel in the process. People have abandoned those denominations in droves. Anglo-Canadians still represent the largest concentration of evangelical Christians in Canada, both in percentage and actual numbers. But their influence on the mores and values of our society has greatly diminished. The great majority of young people today know nothing about the Bible or about the real meaning of Christian faith.

My hope is that when we talk about unreached people groups we wouldn’t only think of people in countries somewhere across the sea. There is a great need in those countries. There is also a great need right here on our doorstep where we might be able to have an impact on the lives of people without major organization or expenditure. If all true Christians would be alert to the little opportunities to speak a word for Jesus, the results might amaze us.

What is wrong with this picture?

We send missionaries all over the world from our North American congregations. We rejoice when reports come back of the faith taking root in countries where the prevailing belief is animism, Hinduism, Buddhism or Islam.

Then we go into Tim Horton’s and the person behind the counter is a recent immigrant from one of those countries and we complain about her accent. What is wrong with this picture?

I’ll venture a guess or two. First, in our minds we have separated mission work from normal Christian life. People from (almost) every country in the world are showing up virtually on our doorstep and it doesn’t click that here is a mission field right in front of us. You have to leave home and cross an ocean to do mission work, don’t you?

Secondly, we too easily assume that people around us aren’t interested in the gospel. If they were they would come to church wouldn’t they? Let’s be really honest here: who is it that isn’t interested? Is it them or us?

Thirdly, we like living in our little bubble where nothing much happens to disturb our accustomed cycle of work, leisure and church activities. It’s hard for us to conceive of how it would be if some of these people entered into our circle. They’re not like us, everything would change if too many of them became part of our congreagation.

Here we are then. Christianity has fallen into disrepute in our land; only ten to fifteen percent of the population attend a church, and many of those churches are more based on tradition or intellectualism than on the Bible. And we are helpless to do anything about it.

Or are we? If we are born-again believers, readers of the Bible, led of the Holy Spirit, don’t we have the tools to reach out to people around us? Perhaps we are just too unaccustomed to using those tools.

Let’s take an interest in other people, get to know them, ask questions about their lives, their aspirations, what is important to them. Then tell them in a simple way about the things that are most important to us. And I don’t mean our material possessions or the accomplishments of our children. Share the things that are of eternal value. Many people will never have heard such things before.

 

A simple question

The following paragraphs are quoted from By My Spirit, written by Jonathan Goforth.  I would like to add a simple question to what Mr. Goforth has written: In this age of leisure, why do so many of us struggle to find time for reading the Bible? 

During my student days in Toronto my one weapon, in the jails and slums, was the Bible. In China I have often given from thirty-five to forty addresses in a week, practically all of them being simply Bible rehearsals. In fact, I think I can safely say that, during the forty-one years that I have been on the foreign field, I have never once addressed a Chinese audience without an open Bible in my hand, from which I could say, “Thus saith the Lord!” I have always taken it for granted that the simple preaching of the Word would bring men to Christ. It has never failed me yet. My Chinese pastor, one of the most consecrated men I have ever met, was saved from a life of shame and vice by the first Gospel address which he ever heard me give.

My deepest regret, on reaching threescore years and ten, is that I have not devoted more time to the study of the Bible. Still, in less than nineteen years I have gone through the New Testament in Chinese fifty-five times. That prince of Bible teachers, Dr. Campbell Morgan, has declared that he would not attempt to teach any book in the Bible unless he had first read it over at least fifty times. Some years ago, I understand, a gentleman attended the English Keswick and was so fired with a zeal for the Bible that in three years he read it through twelve times. One would imagine, of course, that he belonged to the leisured class. On the contrary, however, he began his day’s work at the Motherwell steel plant at 5:30 a. m.

The Bible was not so neglected a Book when the great revivals of 1857-59 swept over the United States and Great Britain. Neither was it so neglected in Moody’s time. During the late Manchu dynasty, scholars were expected to know the classics of their sages off by heart. How do the scholars of so-called Christian lands measure up to that standard as regards the “World’s Great Classic”? It is nothing short of pathetic how so many, who come professedly to represent the Lord Jesus Christ in China, know so little of His Word. Thirty years ago the missionary ideal was to know the Bible so well that one would not have to carry around a concordance. Is the indifference to the Bible today on the part of so many missionaries due to the fact, perhaps, that they have discovered some better means with which to meet the needs of a sin sick world?

 

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