Advice for Undertrained Missionaries like John Chau | by Jackson Wu

Please click on the link below to Jackson Wu’s blog.    (If you don’t want to read my comments…. then click here now  Advice for undertrained missionaries like John Chau | Jackson Wu).  It has a great article on the recent situation regarding John Chau, and his ill-fated contact with the North Sentinalese. Actually, it is the second of two articles he wrote on the subject. The first one points out that fallacy that many have that since the plan didn’t work, it was a bad idea. It also points out that passion is very different than competence. Bad ideas work… sometimes. and likewise good ideas can fail.

I would also argue that people’s initial “kneejerk” responses to situations like this are often wrong. Some label Chau a great martyr. I am not sure of this. The church in the early centuries modified its standards for the title “martyr” to require more than simply dying for one’s faith. One also had to be an example to others. This was because some in the early church would intentionally go into harm’s way and do something that could be anticipated to lead to death. But the Church Fathers felt that being a good example to the church was also needed to be considered a martyr. Therefore, a martyr avoided high risk confrontation, but when captured would be faithful unto death. On the other side, some consider Chau a fool. These people appear to be expressing a bit of snarky schadenfreude. Arguably most all of us are fools in one way or another. The fact that his actions happened to lead to his early death hardly makes him a greater fool than the rest of us.

Anyway here is the article  via Advice for undertrained missionaries like John Chau | Jackson Wu


Trust Fall

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Years ago we would do an activity that was called the Trust Fall. It was done at summer camp, at church sometimes, and in some Group Process courses in colleges and corporate team-buiding activities around the world. It is pretty simply. One person crosses their arms, and from a standing position leans backwards and allows him/herself to fall. This violates the person’s natural instincts. The goal is to override that self-protection by trusting that other members of the team will catch.

Occasionally, we would find someone who would struggle with this. They would hesitate and vacillate. Some would eventually do it, others would walk away, and still others would start to go to a sitting down position as instinct took over. In “Tuesdays with Morrie,” Mitch Ablom speaks of doing this in Sociology class and having most of the class unwilling or unable to do it… at least at first. I was never in a group where more than one or two had a problem with the exercise.

For those who would go through with it, the team would be there to save the day— usually. But not always. At Summer Camp we had a four-foot platform to stand on. One would stand on the platform and fall backward while the rest of us would be there to catch. We all took turns. My sister was on the camp staff along with myself. She got onto the platform, turned around and fell backwards. Unfortunately, we weren’t expecting her to be ready so quick so we were still goofing around as she fell. Some of us were able to react in time and slow her fall. Her head and shoulder hit the ground. We were very apologetic. She got up, climbed the ladder stood on the platform and when we were ready, fell backward again. We caught her that time.

I was always good at Trust Fall. I never had trouble with it, and in fact never really understood why some do. One might think that I am a very trusting person, but I don’t think that is the case. I have generally found that people are not particularly reliable. I find trustworthiness to be a rare quality.

So why wouldn’t I have trouble with this activity. If trust is not the reason, maybe it was invincibility. If I hit the ground, I can just bounce back up (like my sister did). In fact, in a different team activity, (Electric Fence), I summersaulted over the “electric fence” and my guys failed to catch me and I ht the ground pretty hard. But I survived. Still, I am not sure invincibility was the reason either. It certainly would not be the reason now. I guess, the reason was that I felt that the activity forced one to act like one trusts the team, so I acted as if I trusted them.  That sounds weak, but I suppose that is what faith is. Faith is know certainty. Saving faith is the recognition that I can’t do it alone, and I can’t trust others, I must trust God because I have no other choice. Most other religions are built around the idea of trust in self in one form or another. If I am good enough (heart lighter than a feather, less than 10% ‘bad,’ or something else), then I can earn eternity. Christianity gives no such position to hope in oneself. (And this makes sense to me personally, since I know that I am not particularly trustworthy either.) I trust God because I have no other choice. There is no other place worthy of my trust when it comes to eternity.

Now you may be thinking this to be a bad lesson. You may be saying, “The Trust Fall is meant to build trust in a team, NOT teach people to act as if they trust them (while not actually trusting them).” But I would like to disagree, and look at it from the standpoint of Christian Mission work.

Missions is a team sport.  It is not boxing (although boxers does have a team that stands by them in their corner). It is not running a sprint or a marathon (although runners also have trainers and supporters). Christian Mission work is most definitely a team sport, more like basketball, football, rugby, or a host of other such activities.

Every now and then, one finds a Lone Ranger missionary, a Lone Wolf missionary. This person works without a team, without accountability. Some were kicked out of a team because of lack of reliability. Some have been burned before by those who can’t be trusted and decide that they will never be burned again. Some simply “don’t play well together in the same sandbox.” I struggle what to say about that. Jesus worked as part of a team. Even when He sent his disciples out, He sent them out in twos– in temas. Paul and Barnabas worked as part of a team, and even when they broke company, they brought in others to go out as teams.

History is full of mission teams. Occasionally, a missionary will go out completely by himself or herself. I am not sure what to say about that. Bruce Olson seemed to go out on his own and serve God effectively. But that seems rare… especially rare as a successful venture.  Most recently, John Chau, went to North Sentinel Island as a Lone Ranger missionary and died there. Was this good or bad? I am still processing all of this. Maybe I will have a better answer in a few weeks. But I have to question a calling that led him to act disconnected from a supportive team. (Maybe I misunderstand the situation. As I said, I have to think about this a bit more.)

In general, however, those who treat mission work as an individual support are hardly doing Christian missions. They are doing something… maybe even something good… but hardly Christian missions. Jethro warned his son-in-law, Moses, that he needs to serve God with a team, not by himself. Elijah served as a lone prophet and burnt himself out. Finally, going before God to complain, God told him that he needed to train up someone to serve with him and replace him. That person, Elisha, appeared to have learned the lesson of Elijah, working with others (servants) and working with the school of prophets.

My wife and I have worked with many people in ministry. Working with some has been a pure joy. Working with some others in Christian missions has been highly fulfilling. In some cases, working with others was a disappointment. Some have, please excuse the dramatic language, stabbed us in the back (not many, thankfully).

This is the lesson of Trust Fall. The lesson is not that one’s team is always trustworthy and will always “catch you when you fall.” Sometimes they don’t. The lesson is that to do Trust Fall, one must act as if one trusts the others. The same is true in Christian Missions. One trusts others not based on the Pollyanna view that people will always be trustworthy. Rather, to do Christian Missions, one must work with other people. There is always a risk in this. When I was young we sang the Gospel chorus, “Christ is All I Need.” It is a nice chorus, and soteriologically true. However, not true for Christian Missions. God has called us to work together. We need each other.

To do Christian Missions, we must accept the fact that some people will fail us. And, if we are really honest with ourselves, we are not fully trustworthy to others either. We trust others because to serve God, we must.  




Rejecting Christ in a Rejected Land

Jesus was traveling with his core Image result for fire from heavendisciples to Jerusalem for the final time. As was his practice, he traveled through Samaria rather than avoiding it. Having to stay overnight in that region, he sent a couple of His disciples ahead to prepare a place for them to stay. As these two arrived at the village gates, a group of elders stopped them and began to question them. They wanted to know where they were going. They wanted to know why Galileans would be traveling in this part of Samaria. They wanted to know why they should show hospitality to these Jewish travelers.

The elders said, “Why should we show hospitality to you? You are traveling to your beautiful temple in Jerusalem, walking right by the mountain on which the ruins of our temple resides— destroyed by YOUR people generations ago. You treat us as unclean… worse than the Greeks that bring their sinful practices into your land, and the Romans that bring heavy taxes and all sorts of misery.  Would you welcome us into your own village? …Into your own house? Ridiculous! Push off.”

The two disciples were shocked. They have been treated with disrespect before. But these were Samaritans! It was like these Samaritans were considering themselves superior to them! Ridiculous indeed.

Returning to the group, they passed on to Jesus and the disciples what happened. James and John, the fiery and protective brothers, reacted the strongest.

James said, “Samaritans! Treating us like dogs?”

John chimed in. “Yes. And such a miserable village. Rejecting the Lord’s anointed… something should be done.”

Putting their heads together for a moment, they strode over to Jesus with determination and fire in their eyes.

“Lord,” they said. “Do you want us to call down fire to destroy this village?”

Amusement and anger danced across the face of Jesus. But He knew that His time was short and so this learning moment could not be lost.

Jesus called the others over and said to them, “James and John here want to bring down fire on this village. What do you think about this idea?”

The disciples looked at each other awkwardly. Some nodded but then stopped uncertain what was the appropriate response. Not waiting for a response, Jesus pushed forward.

“We have been rejected. Do they deserve death because of this? Should we hate them because they hate us?”

More uncertain looks but the disciples were starting to see where this was going.

Jesus continued. “But do they hate us? They don’t even know us. And we don’t know them. All they know is that our ancestors fought with their ancestors. I can assure you that our ancestors and their ancestors are done fighting. And we should stop fighting as well. So I have a better plan. Let’s go to a different village.”

Everyone nodded, even James and John. It was a much better plan.

<A somewhat speculative reflection on Luke 9:51-56>


Therapeutic Use of Self

I have been reading “The Therapeutic Use of Self: Counseling Practice, Research and Supervision” by Val Wosket. So far it has been an interesting read. It is more for psychotherapy, but I felt that it was useful also for chaplaincy and pastoral counseling. Therefore, I wrote an article that was posted on the CPSP-Philippines website. (

You are certainly welcome to read it if you think it is valuable for your ministry. From a different angle, however, the research is suggestive of something more. The focus on methods is flawed. That flaw in psychotherapy may apply to missions as well.

  • Does it even make sense to ask the question “What is the best evangelistic method?”
  • Can one realistically argue what is the best churchplanting or church growth method?
  • Is it possible to say a mission strategy is consistently?

Taking a quote from my other article (which in turn came from Wosket),

Perhaps as well as considering ‘what approach is most effective and what can we learn from it?’ it might have been profitable for more researchers in the last few decades to have asked ‘which therapists are more effective and what can we learn from them?’

Carrying it over to missions, are we focusing on the wrong things? Roland Allen asked the question of whether we should use St. Paul’s methods (or principles) or our own?  I think a lot of what Allen said over a century ago was and is quite valid. But perhaps a better question would be “What quality traits did Paul (or Barnabas or Peter or John OR CHRIST) have that led them to be successful in ministry when others seemingly did not?”

Businesses are learning that a good resume’ does not make a good employee. Character isses such as EQ and morals/virtues and work ethic, and more are more important. What about in Missions?


More Rules of Dialogue

I had asked my students to create their own rules of interreligious dialogue (IRD). They were allowed to research and borrow from others, but the end result and explanation should be their own. I was quite pleased with the results.  Here are a few of the lists (minus the explanations):

1.  Converse Despite the Differences

2.  Converse with Knowledge of One’s Own Identity

3.  Converse to Seek Understanding (of the other’s perspective)

4.  Converse with Open Mind and Heart

5.  Converse with Silence (focus on listening)

6. Converse to Strengthen One’s Faith

7.  Converse to Build Relationship with the Other

8.  Converse as an Act of Glorifying God


D-I-A-L-O-G-U-E   (Acronym)

Don’t Lie (be sincere)

Involve the Church

Assume Not (what the other believes)

Learn and Grow (be open to change)

Observe Self-reflection (be open to challenge in the process)

Go with Respect (demonstrate courtesy)

Understand Your Own Belief

Equal Your Footing   (demonstrate fairness and mutuality)


  1.  Preparation and Prayer (God is part of the conversation)
  2. Demonstrate courtesy to the other
  3. Build confidence and trust in the conversation
  4. Draw the net slowly. Don’t just pull the conversation quickly to your own favorite topics.
  5. Exchange belief. Listen and Share
  6. Be respectful of individual differences
  7. Interpret one’s belies in a manner that would be understandable or “make sense” to the other
  8. Have a good conclusion.  Highlight good and true points and show appreciation for them.


I will give just the above three lists. However, from others in the group were some good rules to remember as well. Here are some.

  • Choose dress and behavior that will not offend or harm the relationship
  • Start conversation with areas of commonality before addressing differences
  • Bridge the language gap speaking to their language and language level.
  • Demonstrate gratitude for their time and their sharing and listening
  • Have a good introduction… words and behavior that help the person want to have a dialogue with you rather than want to leave.
  • Have a limited time frame. Conversation should not be forced into a small timeslot… but there should be limits so it doesn’t just wander aimlessly.





A Holy and Wholly Translatable Bible

I have written a bit on whether the Bible is translatable. This is important to me being involved in missions where I teach people whose heart languages are quite diverse. Few have English as their heart language, and none have 6th century BC Hebrew, 3rd century BC Aramaic, or 1st century AD Koine Greek. We live in a multilingual, multicultural world. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? To me Revelation 7:9 (along with the Babel narrative, Pentecost event, and Jerusalem Council) point to God viewing diversity of culture and language as a good thing, NOT simply a problem to overcome. But if that is so, how then should we view the Bible?

With that in mind, There are four posts to consider:

Is the Bible Translatable? Part 1  (Considers the Options)

Is the Bible Translatable? Part 2  (Ramifications of saying YES)

Is the Bible Translatable? Part 3  (Reasons for saying YES)

What Makes the Holy Bible Holy?