New Article on Medical Missions

<div style=”margin-bottom:5px”> <strong> <a href=”; title=”Healthy medical missions article” target=”_blank”>Healthy medical missions article</a> </strong> from <strong><a href=”; target=”_blank”>Bob Munson</a></strong> </div>

Relevant Book: Healthy Christian Medical Missions

Honk If You Love Jesus????

I have lived outside of the US for many years so I am not sure if this is still “a thing,” but back in the 1980s and 1990s one would see them a lot. A car would go by with a bumper sticker that said, “HONK IF YOU LOVE JESUS.” honk-jesus-honk-love-jesus-jesu-132-love-jesu-jesus-25932714

I would never honk… honking the car horn is almost always considered offensive in the US.  Why would anyone create such a bumper sticker? Why stop there?






There were stories about people honking their horns in support of the HONK IF YOU LOVE JESUS bumper sticker, only to have the owner of that bumper sticker “flip off” (give ‘the finger’ to) the honker. Are these stories true? I don’t know, but I saw lots of horrible, aggressive drivers with “Inspirational” messages on their back bumper. The sticker might quote a Bible verse. Or it might might have a pithy statement like “Let Go and Let God” (almost completely useless advice, but it least it sounds catchy). Or perhaps it might say something like “Jesus Loves You.”  I used to have a bumper sticker with the message “Jesus Loves You” spelled out in International Signal Flags… it’s a Navy thing. In some cases the “inspirational message” may be more insulting than inspirational… such as “In case of Rapture, this vehicle will be unoccupied.”

I find that bumper stickers typify a couple of problems in missions.

1. A focus on Input-Based Missions rather than Outcome-Based Missions. Input-based missions means the focus is placed on “spreading the good news” rather than transforming lives. Input-based missions is often justified by the idea that it is “just our job to share the truth and the Spirit’s job to convict the individual.” This may be true, but the argument only has merit if one assumes that every time and every way that we share the message of God is either positive or neutral. However, the message CAN be shared in a manner that drives a wedge between man and God. We cannot transform people, but we can build bridges and break down barriers to said transformation. Outcome-Based Missions means that a methodology needs to be chosen that is effective in bringing about positive change (removing barriers and building bridges). Can this become “the end justifies the means?” Absolutely, which is why one needs to balance it out with sharing what is true and good with what is effective. A poor choice of Christian bumper sticker is as likely to drive a wedge as shine a light.

2.  Missions Without Integrity. Integrity Missions says that your message is more powerful if it is consistent with your life. Or one could say that your life is more powerful if it is consistent with your message. Bad drivers with a Cross or Ichthus proudly displayed can push people away from God, not towards Him.

3.  Demonstrate in your Presentation something that is Enticing. Titus 2:10 says that we are to adorn or decorate the gospel. Paul is saying that our life should make the gospel look beautiful, not ugly. I recall seeing a house in Chesapeake, VA. That house had gospel messages all over it. They were written with blood red paint. Even the tree trunks were painted white so that they could be hand-painted with the messages using blood red paint. If one did not actually read the messages and only looked at the aesthetics, one might assume that this house was decorating for Halloween with macabre messages. Reading the messages did not totally change one’s mind about the owners of the house. They presentation made me wonder about their mental state. Perhaps the image above of the car with the Jesus labels all over it would have a similar effect on people. I don’t know. You decide.

4.  Don’t Mix Your Message. If your message is bethel churchChrist, don’t mix it with other messages that confuse who you really worship and what your priority actually is. I hope this image of a church makes this point clear.

To me, Missions needs to balance both input (truth) and outcome (effective spiritual transformation), and be done with wholistic integrity to be effective.

Job and the Storm

So…I have been listening to a lot of Christian radio recently. It has rekindled a long-time thought I have had concerning the nature of Christian worship. It seems, based on my experience in worship ministry and the popular Christian songs I hear, that we are missing an important voice in our worship: the “Lament.”

One of the most powerful forms of poetry/song in the Old Testament is that which we define as the “lament.” There are many different forms of this kind of speech. David uses it to express his anguish over the death of Saul and Jonathan. The author of Lamentations uses it (of course) to grapple with the intensity of the destruction of Jerusalem. Unfortunately, the depth of emotion that this form of speech utlizes is rarely matched in contemporary Christian worship.

Numerous praise songs talk about the travails of life– the trials and tribulations. But it seems…

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Love Your Friends

Christians like to express the concept “Love your enemies.”  This is drawn from Jesus call in Matthew 5 (in the Sermon on the Mount) that states that the traditional interpretation of Leviticus “Love your neighbors, and hate your enemies” was wrong. One must also love one’s enemies. This is somewhat in conflict with the charge of Joab to King David that David was guilty of “Hating his friends, and loving his enemies.”
But Joab brings up a point. Is it possible that our focus to love our enemies make us fail to love our friends? I recall years ago when I was still in the US where I noticed that banks did a great amount of effort to show love and concern and favoritism to potential new clients, while ignoring (or worse) long-term clients.

Can the church be the same way? Cultic groups often are charged with image control where they are warm and friendly to outsiders and then are cold and demanding to members. But the church often has this problem as well at times.

Consider the situation where a person in the church has gone through problems. How do members of the church respond?  Here are four common options: (it spells out the word “GABI.” This may mean nothing to you, but is the name of a vegetable (taro) here in the Philippines.

G     Gossip. When a person has problems in the church, the members gossip, the suffering an opportunity for entertainment and ridicule.

A     Anger.  A person who has had a failing in the church often becomes a source of anger. The others feel hurt by the failing and vent on the person or their family and friends.

B    Blame.  When a problem occurs, the first thing many do is find out who is at fault and then be the “voice of God” judging and condemning.

I   Ignore.  Another option is that others decide that the best way to deal with a person who is struggling is to stay out of it… it’s not our problem.

There is a lot we do wrong in church.

  • We rip passages of Scripture out of their context and throw them at people as if misusing scripture is somehow helpful.
  • We give bumper sticker advice like “You need more faith” or “You need to pray more” which are forms of blame.
  • We tell people that we will pray for them. Nothing wrong with praying… but if God wants us to do something to be part of the restoration process, then offering to pray may be simply a form of ignoring the problem.
  • Sometimes we go a different way, expressing “tolerance,” which is still a form of ignoring. Tolerance has nothing to do with love.

My suggestion is that we will be better at loving our enemies if we first learn how to love our friends.

Is this a missional post? Maybe not. However, the Old Testament law states that the people of Israel are to express active care for strangers and aliens among them. Since I am a stranger/alien of sorts in the Philippines, I can see how important this can be. But we don’t always know how to do this. One time I was attending a church in the US that a Filipino family started attending. I noticed that after church, everyone except my family completely ignored them. I brought this up at a men’s meeting… the fact that we should make a better effort to make them feel welcome. The response I got was both positive and confusing. The pastor said that maybe I and my wife Celia (who is from the Philippines) could help the church know how to talk to this Filipino family. While this was positive in a sense, I was struck by how weird the request was. You talk to the Filipino family like you would talk to an American family. There is no need to by a book on “How to be friendly to Filipinos.” Just Be Friendly.

In the US, I see so many who are angry at foreigners, strangers, aliens. There is anger that they are “taking away our jobs,” “sneaking into our country,” and in other ways being a nuisance. Not only do I not see the church immune to this, I see many churches being a greenhouse– nurturing such anger.

In Baguio, there is animosity from many Christians here that many Muslims are moving here from Southern Philippines (trying to get away from the violence, poverty, and corruption there). Yet what an opportunity to express God’s love to strangers and aliens.

What is the summation of this rambling post?  I would suggest that part of the problem the church has with expressing love to enemies, strangers, aliens (those outside of the church), is that we haven’t really learned to love our own friends in the church. All of the clever evangelistic strategies developed cannot overcome such a problem. Maybe we need to learn how to “Love our Friends” and “Love our Neighbors” so that we can learn to “Love our Enemies,” and “Love Strangers and Aliens.” If we did this, I believe we wouldn’t need gimmicks to lure people into church.