Resolving Pastoral Care and Missions (Conclusion)

Restating (a 3rd time). I am a missionary in the Philippines and teach missions courses. However, I also administrate a pastoral care and counseling center, and serve as a registrar for a pastoral counseling certification board here. For me, reconciling these roles is important.

In my two previous posts, I brought up two issues. The first issue (should we think of pastoral care as “Christian?”) is pretty straightforward, I think. Yes it is Christian, even if some non-Christian traditions my follow similar patterns and call it “pastoral care.” The second issue (can pastoral care be used for non-Christians?) takes a bit more thought, but seems to have a fairly straightforward answer. Yes. Absolutely. The third, I believe is a bit more difficult… at least from an evangelical perspective.

3.  Pastoral Care generally does not involve evangelism. Often, practitioners are advised to not evangelize (especially if not asked regarding their faith). Is that a violation of Christ’s teaching?

Some forms of pastoral care do focus very strongly on evangelism. In these cases that intense focus makes one wonder whether they are really practicing pastoral care or a form of didactic evangelism. But in mainstream pastoral care, evangelism is discouraged. There are a few points that need to be made to deal with this issue.

A.  In some cases, it is good NOT to evangelize. In disaster response, it is best not to evangelize. When people have gone through a trauma, their minds are “scrambled.” As such, they are ill-prepared for the added stress of a major change in life direction and in allegiance. If one is looking to “add another notch” to one’s evangelism gun by getting disoriented people to mumble a prayer after you, then evangelism in disaster response makes a lot of sense. However, if one is looking to truly effect change… a better plan is needed. Additionally, cold call evangelism of hospital patients is unethical, since they are trapped in bed. It is like that church group in Texas a few years ago that invited kids to a “fun event” at a school gymnasium, chained the doors shut, and began ‘evangelizing.’ Some may respond, but it is likely others have become hardened against your message. Of course, answer questions about one’s faith with gentleness and respect (I Peter 3:15) should always be a good method.

B.  Missions sometimes gets excessively narrowed. For some, missions is about UPGs (unreached people groups), and evangelism, churchplanting, discipleship). This is pretty narrow, especially when discipleship is limited by some to refer to Bible literacy and training to repeat the process (a la the Matthew version of the Great Commission). For Jesus, missions appears to be much more holistic. He called people to follow Him (radical conversion) but He also healed, demonstrated compassion, and trained broadly in how one should live. Further, He seemed to take seriously the issue of timing.

If one stopped there, there would still be a gap between pastoral care and missions… although not a wide one. The problem is that pastoral care has tended to be a bit too Rogerian in its methodology. Rogerian counseling is client-centered, meaning that the counselor does not impose his or her way of thinking on the client. The assumption is that the truth already exists in the client– having tools to heal himself or herself, with the facilitation of the counselor. While it is good, in many ways, for pastoral care to be client-focused, in that it is focused on the needs of the client, not the desires of the counselor, pastoral care comes from a faith tradition and that needs to be relevant in the counseling encounter.

Seward Hiltner, a 20th century proponent of pastoral care, supported, in many ways, Carl Roger’s methodology. However, he noted that IF YOU DON’T GUIDE THE SHEEP, THEY WILL BE EATEN BY THE WOLVES. Without guidance, a counselor is not a pastoral counselor.

But if Pastoral Care has often been to “Rogerian,” Evangelism has often been to… “Logocentric”– if one wants to use a big term. That is, Evangelism seen only in terms of prophetic word, and only in terms of getting someone to “say the Sinner’s Prayer.” The Bible, however, uses the term Euangelizo much more broadly then simply the “good message.” But David Barrett in his book on “Evangelize! A Historical Look at the Concept” has shown that in the Bible, as well as in the Early Church, the concept had both breadth (holistic not just cognition), and depth (broadly disciplemaking, not just conversion).

Evangelism, then, is not the key tool of pastoral care. However, if one is focused not just on the felt-need of the client, but the real need of the client, evangelism (sharing the truth of Divine transformation) cannot be discounted. It takes a wise pastoral care provider to know what tools are appropriate at the right time to evoke effective growth in the client.

Summing up this third point, Pastoral Care is right not to be simply focused on the cycle of evangelism, church membership, and discipleship. That is the work of the larger church body. (Missions has also unproductively limited its role in a similar fashion.)  However, pastoral care as a movement has often tended to be too quick avoid guiding clients. Pastoral Care is supposed to be linked to a faith tradition. As such, it is important that God’s work of redemption is not ignored. It takes discernment and timing. This is very much in line with Jesus. With this modest adjustment, it seems as if Pastoral Care and Missions can (and should) work hand-in-hand.

Resolving Pastoral Care and Missions (Continuation)

As I noted before, I am involved in missions in the Philippines. I teach missions, but I also am the administrator of a pastoral care and counseling center, and I am the registrar for a pastoral counseling certification organization. The goals of missions and pastoral care are often quite different so I have wrestled with this a bit. The first post noted the question on whether pastoral care is, in fact Christian. Pastoral care often utilizes “non-Christian” methodologies. Additionally, some people who are not Christians describe themselves as pastoral care providers. To me this was fairly easy to resolve. The next two are a bit tougher.

Resolution #2.  Can one actually do pastoral care for non-Christians? Some argue that pastoral care is meaningless unless the other person is already a Christian. I have, in fact, heard this one quite a bit.

It is built on a theological presumption that one’s spiritual journey starts from Salvation, continues through Sanctification, until ultimate Glorification. It takes a strong view of the Fall and Redemption. A different perspective takes a higher view of Creation. We are all created in the image of God and have some ability to respond to God’s call to change. As such the pastoral care roles of healing, sustaining, guiding, and reconciling are applicable when dealing with non-Christians.

This is ultimately a conflict of theological perspectives, both of which can find its Bible references. However, in missionary practice, the second viewpoint seems to be evident.

1.  Non-Christians do change. The lack of personal redemption and the Spirit of God in their lives certainly limits their ability for meaningful change, but that does not imply that all change is impossible. Jesus healed the body of many before He healed their hearts.

2.  Salvation is a process, even if Conversion is an event. As noted elsewhere with the Engel Scale and Gray Matrix, discipleship is a process that may start from a position of ignorance about and/or hostility with God, and continues towards steps of changes of attitude and understanding, through conversion towards growing as believer and follower of Christ. Since the process starts well before conversion, it seems foolish to presume that ministering to an unbeliever is useless.

3.  Many many many people go through a process of growth outside of what is commonly accepted in Evangelical churches. The Evangelical presumption is that an individual goes through three steps:  Salvation/Conversion, Joining a Faith Community, Discipleship. But for many (and even more for those from collectivist cultures) things often go in a different way. They start with joining a faith community, going through discipleship, and then at some point undergo conversion. This reality means that pastoral care occurs for such people prior to conversion.

4.  Related to the above points, many nonbelievers are ready for pastoral care before they are ready for conversion. They need to see change before willing to commit. Some people are willing to do a leap of faith prior to knowing where they will land, but most people need a taste of possibilities first.

I feel that pastoral care is applicable for unbelievers, and this is quite consistent with missions principles.

<The last question will be in the final post of this series.>

Resolving Pastoral Care and Missions

I am a Evangelical Christian Missionary serving in the Philippines. I also serve as an administrator of a pastoral care center ( and serve as the registrar for a certification program for clinical pastoral education. There are at least three big concerns that seem to come up in the realm of pastoral care that can cause conflict with Evangelical missions. I feel comfortable with where I have gotten to with regards to two of the issues. The third, I feel comfortable, for the most part, with the (creative) tension.

The three issues are:

  • Is Pastoral Care Christian? After all, many in the pastoral care movement utilize “non-Christian” methodologies. Some people who call themselves pastoral care providers are not even Christian.
  • Can one actually do pastoral care for non-Christians? Some argue that pastoral care is meaningless unless the other person is already a Christian.
  • (Bringing the two former points together) Pastoral Care generally does not involve evangelism. Often, practitioners are advised to not evangelize (especially if not asked regarding their faith). Is that a violation of Christ’s teaching?

Issue #1.  Is Pastoral Care Christian? The quick, and fairly obvious to most, answer is “YES.” But let’s take it further.   Pastoral Care has the classic image of shepherd and sheep, and its roots are as deeply embedded in the Bible as the concept of shepherding as a metaphor is similarly embedded. Pastoral Care has had the functional definition of “cure of souls.” The term soul here is not really as it is commonly used today. It is far more holistic. It could be translated at least as well as ‘cure of lives.” Its roots here are deeply embedded within church history. Clebsch and Jaeckle have described the basic functions of pastoral care as “healing, sustaining, guiding, and reconciling.” Others have added other functions such as nurturing, liberating, and empowering. All of these are well grounded in both the Bible and Christian history.

All this is good… but pastoral care has certainly broadened. In recent years, pastoral care has become more dependent of psychology. Psychology is seen by many Christians as a “godless” secular science. As such, it has no place for Christians.

The problem here is that there is an unnecessary and misleading dualism here.  As an Evangelical Christian, I take the following stand.

Christian Theology         interprets          the Bible             which is        God’s Creation

Psychology               interprets            the Human Mind         which is        God’s Creation

The problem is not God… who is integrated and consistent. The problem is not the objects of study of Christian Theology and Psychology. The Bible and the Human Mind, as God’s Creations, are consistent. At the same time neither is a substitute for the other. There are things about the human mind that are not mentioned in the Bible, and there are things in the human mind that are transcended in the Bible. As such, they are each valid objects for study.

The problem is our limitations. Our own perspective, finiteness, and basic ignorance mean that:

Christian Theology interprets correctly the Bible sometimes, and incorrectly at times.

Psychology interprets correctly the Human Mind sometimes, and incorrectly at times.

I believe that the Bible and the Human mind are both valid objects of study and are the work of God, but our interpretations of each through that study are potentially flawed. Therefore, we gain from healthy, and cautious, integration of these. Such integration can, sadly, lead people astray… but assuming one subject is completely correct and another is completely incorrect is hubristic, and is at least as likely to lead one astray. I do believe that many who are Christian pastoral counselors have fallen too much in love with psychological methods. They have at times, it seems to me, used psychology as an interpretive paradigm for the Biblical. This, I believe, is flawed. As Christians, our priority and specialty is God’s written revelation to us. But we are also souls (lives), God’s creation… and we cannot ignore the value in understanding this as well.

With this basic understanding, I think things become clearer.  Psychological methodologies are methods built (usually) off of empirical or theoretical underpinnings. As such, they can be useful or non-useful (or even destructive) to the extent that they correctly or incorrectly interpret the human mind… God’s creation. A pastoral care practitioner should be careful in any tool he or she uses. In fact, some methods that may be considered “Christian” may be based on a poor interpretation of the Bible as well. SOME in the Biblical Counseling movement and the Deliverance movement have done a poor job of Biblical interpretation by assuming that all problems come from far too limited number of sources (such as personal sin, or demon oppression). Such reductionism can be unhelpful, or even destructive, as well. A sound pastoral care provider must be cautious both theologically and psychologically.

Non-Christians sometimes describe themselves as pastoral care providers. That may annoy some Christians. However, there is no copyright on the term. Frankly, the use of the term by others is a bit complimentary since it suggests that the basic historical teachings and methods of pastoral care are seen a beneficial, even by non-Christians.

Summarizing the first point, I find as a missionary that pastoral care is a valid ministry, but must be dealt with intelligently, ethically, and cautiously, since it has tools from both the Christian and Psychology side that may have flaws due to improper interpretation of the Bible or the human mind.

<I will look at the other two questions in Part 2 and, I suppose, Part 3.>

The Benedict Option?

I have not heard the term… but I have seen the attitude. I was raised in a Separatist, fundamentalist tradition. I don’t really have a problem with fundamentalism (Note I make a marked distinction between small “f” for fundamentalism and Fundamentalism. For me, the former says that certain matters are essential/fundamental and the rest are not. Big “F” likes to compile bigger and bigger lists of things that are essential). But I do think the Separatist tradition is a generally failed program. It has worked for the Amish and for some Middle Eastern Christian enclaves, but it has done so in exchange for cultural impact.

The Monastic movement in the Catholic and Orthodox traditions was pretty vital in the strengthening of these faiths. However, these were small and voluntary communities. Since procreation was forbidden within them, they were forced to interact with the larger church with its deep connections to the broader culture.

It seems like the commentary of some Christians in the United States is becoming more angry and alarmist at the culture around them. A lot of the social media seems to done to try to make Christians more and more angry… an unworthy goal. In actuality, the culture of the US is probably no worse (maybe better?) than Roman culture in the time of Christ. It seems as if many American Christians had bought into the propaganda that America is (or was) a Christian nation. Truthfully, it has been a government of people (both godly and godless) since its beginning. For those that have created an AmeroChristian amalgam, it is understandable that there would be anger. But the anger is misdirected. The anger of Christians should be righteously redirected back at ourselves for creating a false idol… a false national identity and coveting the power associated with it.

If some seek to separate themselves into unique communities… that may not be wrong… but they need to stay connected to the church and the church needs to stay connected to the community. To completely separate is to disconnect from Christ’s teachings on His present reign and our responsibility as His followers.


I heard about the Benedict Option for the first time today, and it’s only 7:15 am, which means I heard about it very recently indeed. So why am I writing about it when I hardly know what it is?

I suppose I’m writing about it because it gives me a strong sense of Déjà vu, the feeling that I’ve been here before.

A friend, Irving Hexham, posted a link on Facebook with this comment, “This article is a critique of the latest American evangelical fad, or should I say madness”: Serious, Non-Sarcastic Questions About the Benedict Option | The American Conservative:

I have great respect and affection for my colleague, Rod Dreher. But I have to admit, I am very frustrated by his latest obsession, because I don’t understand what it means.

I’m talking about the so-called “Benedict Option.” I know where the phrase comes from. It’s a…

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From Baguio to Baguionas and Back, Part 3

Most of the team did not stay up for the other films, but went to different houses to sleep. Five of us walked into the forest to a nice house on the hillside. There we slept on mats in the sweltering heat. Oh… did I mention the heat? Brutal! And it stayed hot into the night. One rooster had insomnia and attempted to give us insomnia as well. But we eventually fell asleep and woke up around 5AM to prepare for the next leg of our trip. Those of us riding with Darwin crossed the footbridge and crawled our way up the mountainside in his SUV, while the rest were to ride the jeepney out. We arrived in Baay around 7:30AM Baay is more developed than Baguionas. Any 4-wheel drive vehicle can reach Baay (in the dry season). More know Ilokano and Tagalog. A few know English. They have electricity, churches, stores, and a small medical clinic with nurse staff. We became disturbed as time passed and the jeepney did not arrive. Brother Darwin had to leave so we began setting up for the medical mission, with no team and no transportation. Our attempts to call the others failed since cell phones weren’t reaching Baguionas. We were stuck.

Around 9AM, it occurred to me that is was time to be a team leader. There was a large group of people ready to be treated. There were only four of us, but two were doctors and one was a dentist. We decided that if our team did not arrive by 10AM we would do the medical mission ourselves. We would get the nurses at the local clinic to do registration and blood pressure, Dr. Rene would do medical, Dr. Myla would do dentistry, Dr. Evita would run the pharmacy, and I would do crowd control. While we did not wish to skip sharing the gospel, we had a moral obligation to provide the medical care we promised them. Our hosts found someone who could go to Baguionas to fetch some of the team. I paid a lot (by Filipino standards) for him to do it, but to me, $15 for a two-hour drive was a bargain, so I did not haggle. baguionas 2

At 9:45 over half of our team crawled out of a jeepney full of brooms and stumbled into the medical mission site. The local people cut tiger grass and make very pretty brooms, known as “Baguio Brooms”. They are popular and functional, and provide a profitable cottage industry for the people. The jeepney driver we had reserved did not see the team immediately, so he drove off without them. In desperation a part of our team began hiking the long steep road out of Bagyonas. 1.5 hours into their hike, they were able to get a ride with the broom jeepney. The rest of the team who were left behind were picked up by the driver we sent out, so all were in Baay before lunch.

Despite the difficulties (adventures?) of the morning, it was a wonderful day. Baay is on a mountain and the weather was cooler. The people were friendly and took good care of us. At the end of the day, we all got together to praise God for the opportunity we had to help people in need. We gave medical and dental treatment and medicines and vitamins freely to 513 people between the two locations, and 364 people prayed to receive Christ (not counting those who did at the film showing). This trip had been prayed for and planned long before we got there. Jesus’ words in the book of John were so true: “I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.” Many lives changed in those two days, and many hearts have been prepared for the future.

Time to go. There was only one jeepney available to take us back to Naguilian. I remarked casually about the lack of space for everyone and everything. I said I would be happy to ride on top, and would almost pay for the opportunity. What was I thinking? Pastor Samuel replied that I could not do that since riding on top of jeepneys is illegal. This statement was, of course, not serious, and is akin to an American saying, “Why of course we can’t, speeding is illegal!”

We packed everyone and everything aboard. This same jeepney had repairs done that morning since the driver felt it was unsafe for passengers (an amazing admission in the Philippines). I thought the jeepney was full, but I was wrong. Several more jumped on along the way and disappeared on top somewhere.

Since, I told you much of the rest at the beginning of the story, I shan’t bore you with redundancy. I was blessed in being able to learn and be a blessing. Always pray for cities like Baguio, and towns like Naguilian. But don’t forget about the little places where the road or footpath widens, like Baay and Baguionas. The mapmakers may ignore them, but we are called to reach out to them all, with love.

<This all happened in 2005. I would like to think that I know a little more now than then.  Maybe not.>

From Baguio to Baguionas and Back, Part 2

I rode in Darwin’s SUV, which was built to handle some of the worst roads in the CAR. We arrived in Baguionas around 8AM. The jeepneys crossed the river, while we in the SUV parked on one side and took the suspended footbridge across. There is no Christian witness there. Most of the people are Spiritists. The people speak Kankanei, and a little Ilokano. Tagalog and English (the national languages of the Philippines) have little use there. The Kankanei are 100,000+ strong scarttered throughout the CAR.

After a breakfast with our host family, we began setting up at the elementary school. We had Dr. Rene, Dra. Evita, and Dr. Paul for medical/surgical, and Dra. Myla, Dra. Sandra, and Dra. Jennifer for dentistry. Additionally, we had nurses to take blood pressure and dispense medications, counselors to share the gospel in Kankanei, Ilokano, and Tagalog, and several others for crowd control. Then there was me. I was the supposed to be the team leader. Brother JR (a Filipino-American missionary and usual leader) was still in California. This was my first shot as leader. Happily, Pastor Jun and brother Roy did much to ensure things did not spiral out of control. On the first day, I felt more like a team follower than leader.

We started around 10AM, with one patient waiting– NOT a successful start. But slowly others trickled in, pausing a few meters from the school grounds for several minutes before proceeding. They would register and have their blood pressure checked. Then they had the gospel shared with them in the language of their choice. We shared some Kankanei Bibles and songbooks. Next, they went to the dentists for check-up or tooth extractions, the surgeon for cyst removal or circumcision, or the medical doctors for other concerns. Finally, they went to the pharmacy for free medicines and vitamins.

That day, we treated 160 people. Close to 75% prayed to receive Christ into their hearts. Filipinos are very friendly and agreeable as a group, and can agree to things that they don’t really accept. However, it would be a mistake to downplay the momentous nature of this day. Jesus told us to preach the good news to all peoples. It took Christians almost 2000 years to obey in reaching this community. Many of the decisions made were serious and even the polite responses are still open doors for further outreach.

After an evening swim in the river, we joined people from the settlement who were invited over to our host family’s house for a film-showing. Between 150 to 250 people arrived around sunset. Darwin Bayani works for Vernacular Video Ministries, which produces and shows evangelistic movies in local languages. He set up his generator and equipment, while we sat in a dry rice paddy to watch movies on a sheet hung on the side of the house. The first movie was titled (in Kankanei) “The Answer”. It was built around a theme near to the hearts of the Kankenei– a family that left the mountains to go to the lowlands, where they became assimilated into the culture and vices of the lowlanders. The story did have a happy ending, of course, and a good evangelistic message. Pastor Samuel, gave a short testimony and call to receive Christ. Many more responded. After this, they were invited to have some dinner. Few did this since they wanted to watch another movie. VVM has produced 6 movies in Kankanei so far, and has produced many other movies in other languages in the CAR. In semi-remote places like Baguionas and others accessible only by long mountain foot trails, movie showing is immensely popular and effective.

From Baguio to Baguionas and Back, Part 1

From Baguio to Baguionas and Back

A Virginia Baptist in the Cordillera Mountains of the Philippines

By Bob Munson

(This was written in 2005… 10 years ago. Reminds me of how little I knew back then,… but still a good read.)

The rickety old jeepney drove along a deeply rutted dirt road, working along the side of a mountain. Every jolt caused the vehicle to give off disquieting popping and cracking sounds and sway disturbingly. I was packed in like a proverbial sardine with 18 others (and some chickens). Further, an unknown number were on the back fender, on top with all of the luggage and medical supplies, and on the front hood. When the cliff was on my side, I felt panic when the jeepney lurched toward it. When the cliff was on the other side, I felt somehow safer when the jeepney lurched that way. It occurred to me that that did not make sense since, either way, we would tumble hundreds of feet to our deaths. I sensed there was a good spiritual truth in it, but I could not settle my mind to think it through. I kept wondering if the driver had computed the change in the center of gravity of the vehicle due to the big load on top. To add to the concern, I was the team leader– I was responsible for everyone being there.

baguionasCelia, myself, and our three children left Virginia in 2004, supported from Spring Hill Baptist of Ruckersville, to study at Philippine Baptist Theological Seminary in Baguio, and involve ourselves in outreach mission work. Soon we were involved in medical evangelistic missions. Celia, myself, and our 10-year-old son Joel, have done several trips, but this one I was by myself. This trip was a joint effort of Spring Hill and two Philippine churches: Calvary Baptist, Baguio City, and Blessed Hope Christian, Cavite. We left Baguio around 4AM. Baguio is THE city in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR). With over a quarter of a million residents living at 1-mile elevation, it has several universities and hospitals. Most in Baguio speaks English, along with Ilokano and Tagalog. And it has the surest sign of prosperity in the Philippines—an SM Mall.

Baguionas is maybe 30 miles away “as the crow flies”, 3 hours away (minimum) in driving, and a lifetime away in style and pace. It is tucked into a mountain valley that is ALMOST inaccessible. During rainy season, it can only be reached on foot (and helicopter?). A few dozen families live as subsistence farmers and broommakers in simple houses, without electricity, surrounded by terraced rice paddies. There is a small school with lodging for the teachers (commuting is not an option). There is one “sari-sari” store. Food and lodging can be had from individual families.

We left in a bus and two cars toward Naguilian. The road twists and turns as it descends 1 mile in elevation. I had to ask to stop when my motion sickness pill failed to do its job. Naguilian is a provincial town. The open market provides a place for people in the surrounding region to buy and sell. Adjacent to the open market are the videokes (video karaoke bars) for people to spend their money. Most of the team transferred to two jeepneys. Jeepneys (somewhere between a bus and taxi) are everywhere in the Philippines. The back is enclosed with two long benches. They are amazingly versatile and many are ornately decorated beautifying the Philippine landscape. However, our jeepneys were not pretty. These were the Baguionas jeepneys– beat-up survivors, with high wheel clearance, four-wheel drive, and an engine with gearing to go wherever roads run.

<Continued in Part 2>

Missionaries to 3 Churches and the “Can Do” Church

Four ChurchesThere has been a growing trend to raise up the importance of short-term missionaries. Nothing wrong with that, except that it has often been tied to a de-emphasis of long-term missionaries. Related to short-term missionaries has been the church’s move toward short-term thinking. This has seen itself in the increase of “project missions.” In this, churches do not send or support missionaries, but support individual short-term projects.

There are problems with overemphasis on short-term missionaries and projects. Some are, I would like to think, fairly obvious. Problems include

  1. the breakdown of relationality between churches in different parts of the world,
  2. need for people to coordinate short-term projects and personnel for long-term transformation,
  3. the necessity of a bicultural bridge.
  4. a dual role (emic and etic) viewpoint of needs in the mission field, tied to understanding what outsiders can and cannot help with.

But there is more.. Consider where missionaries, on some level are needed. See the above Figure. Think of each hexagon as a type of church.

  • The first church is the Church that Is Not. This church does not exist in the real world, only in the mind of God. Missionaries are needed to evangelize, churchplant, disciple, establish leadership (and move on). This Missionary Role is shown by Arrow “A” moving people to the second church. One could call this PIONEERING.
  • The second church is the Church that Is but Has Not. This church exists, but some aspects of its God-ordained ministry it has not embraced… yet. Some of these may may be pastoral care, theological education, community development, social justice, evangelism, ministering to sub-cultures and missionary outreach. There are many more. Missionaries can inspire, train and provide “tooling” for the church to embrace its role (moving from has not to has). This is shown by Arrow “B” moving people to the third church. One could call this PARENTING.
  • The third church is Church that Has but Cannot. This church can take care of its own people, as well as do a wide variety of ministries in its community. There are, however, some ministries that it doesn’t do, because it cannot. It lacks specific materials, as well as financial and skilled human resources. Some of these might include radio ministries, orphanages, livelihood centers and hospitals. In these cases, missionaries may need a longer presence, but with the intentional plan towards gradual transfer of resources and skills to this church to move it to the fourth church. This is shown by Arrow “C”, and could be described as PARTNERING.
  • The fourth church is the Can Do Church. The church has moved to the point that it has no real NEED to receive missionaries. That does not mean that there cannot be missionaries helping in some way with some aspects of the work. In this case the missionary is not doing classic missions but is assisting or PARTICIPATING in what this church is doing. This is shown by the broken line Arrow “D”.

Where can short-term missionaries come in? All four arrows, all four “churches.” However, how many of these can a short-term missionary (or STM team) serve without long-term missionaries supporting and bridging their activities? Really only Arrow D. Arrow D is where the STM team participates with the work of a Can Do Church. There may be some very specific ways in which short-termers can do Arrow B (parenting) without long-term missionaries, but for the most part, Arrows A, B, and C really need long-term missionaries working with both STM and the associated “churches.”

Where can project mentality really work? Again, Arrow D is the most obvious one. Mission projects can be linked to the Can Do church to participate in their broader and longer-term vision and mission. To a lesser extent, projects may be able to effectively Parenting in some ways under Arrow B with the Has Not church. However, projects are not appropriate for Arrows A (Pioneering) and C (Partnering).

NOTE: I am using the four Ps (Pioneering, Parenting, Partnering, and Participating) a bit different that in used by others. They link it strictly to church planting and building. I am tying to the broader church cycle. As such the terms are a wee bit awkward. Especially awkward is “parenting” when it pertains to projects and short-term missionaries. However, when connected to longer-term missionary programs, this one also makes sense… sort of.

Three Metaphors for Living

I had to write a Theological Integration paper for my Clinically Trained Minister certification for CPSP a couple of years ago. Looking back at it, I thought I would grab a section of it that spoke of metaphors for life and ministry. It is here below:

Three metaphors for theology are important to me at this time. One is abstract, One is practical. One is personal.

The abstract metaphor is a Bridge. To me, theology bridges the gap between unchanging revelation and the changeable now. Part of the changeable now is me. Sound and effective theology, then, depends on understanding myself well. Since I change and culture changes, theology changes as well… but limited by revelation (like a strange attractor in Chaos Theory). Additionally, Christ provides a bridge from the holiness of God to the imperfections that are part of me in the now.

The practical metaphor is a Path. To me, life is a path… a path of walking with God. Adam and Eve, Enoch were described to walk with God, and writers such as Micah (Micah 6:8) and other passages describe life’s journey as walking with God. Jesus, additionally, described choices in terms of a narrow or wide path. To me this describes several things in a powerful way. Relationship with God is relational (Amos 3:3). It also suggests that life finds meaning in the journey more than the destination. Further, the Christian life finds relevance, in part, in the diverse terrains, diverse challenges, the diverse relationships that come along the way. Finally, change is good. One should change and grow… the Christian life is not a place, a position, but a path.

The personal metaphor is a Tapestry. My life is made up of stories. One can view each story as a thread. There is the story of “Bob the successful” and there is the story of “Bob the failure.” There is “Bob the Hero” and “Bob the Coward.” These different stories all interrelate to each other and to the stories of others. Additionally, all these different story threads interrelate with the grand narrative of God. This interweaving creates a tapestry. As any tapestry has a pattern to it… so does the tapestry of my life. However, because I am too close to it, I am unable to see that pattern. However, I know that there are threads that are important… story threads that must be strengthened, and thickened. There are other story threads and interconnections that should be thinned or even removed.

So where is God in all of this? In the bridge metaphor… God is my foundation… my stability… the one who can be relied upon as everything else changes. In the path metaphor… God is the trailblazer… my guide… the one who knows the way I should go. In the tapestry metaphor… God is the master weaver… the one who brings everything together… making all things beautiful in His time… even if that beauty is obscured by my own perspective.

Looking at these three metaphors… there is a common theme to all of them. The theme is “Connectedness.” A bridge connects two things that are separated. A path connects a starting place with a finishing place. A tapestry is the interweaving or interconnectedness of different discrete elements, creating something new and, often, beautiful. Sin, in its essence, is disconnected… selfishness that causes not only separation with God… but with others… and even within ourselves. The fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace… etc.) are characteristics that typically lead to relationship… to connectedness.

Three Rocky Marriages


Marriage of Religion and State

Karl Marx did not invent the metaphor that religion is the opiate of the people, but he did popularize it. His view seemed to be that religion was a creation of the state to ensure compliance of the populace. I have not studied Marx enough to know fully how he saw this, but one can certain imagine two aspects.

  1. Religion, dealing with, in part, eternal issues and destinies, can encourage those who are suffering and exploited to fail to rise up in opposition to oppressors. They may accept mistreatment, even seeing such abuse as part of being tested by god, God, or gods, prior to glory— or perhaps such submission to evildoers may be seen to be a virtue.
  2. Governments have often gleefully linked themselves to the popular religion. The marriage of State and Religion can be powerful. One controls the body and the now. The other controls the spirit and eternity. If the two work together– they provide a full blanket of control. Such a blanket can be both comforting and stifling.

There are still “Islamic” republics, who intentionally link their religion and government. Most other countries have recognized the stifling nature of such a marriage and have cut formal ties. Of course, informal ties may remain… and in some cases a secularized dis-organized religion (idealogy if you prefer) may be actively supported by the government…. North Korea is a classic case… but most countries utilize the tools of religion even if they claim not to support (or reject) any particular religion. Watch political rallies in the US, and you will see a crazy marriage of American folk Christianity and political symbols into a very uncomfortable, to me at least, state religion of sorts.

There is no good solution, I believe. Humans are religious beings, and they are social beings. I believe we have several millennia of recorded history to support these two points. As such, government (establish of formalized rules for large group social interaction) and religion (organized or disorganized) can never be fully divorced.

But if they are married, it should be a very unhappy marriage. In a previous post I noted that David Tracy mentioned in “Plurality and Ambiguity” that religion is not really a religion unless it challenges the status quo. That is because each religion claims to see something of Ultimate Reality, and that vision compels adherents to reject, at least in part, the flawed cultural setting they are in. When a religion supports the status quo, it is saying that it has nothing more to do than to maintain the existing power structure in society and principles that that same power structure teaches.

When religion supports the status quo (happy in its marriage to the government) rather than challenges it, Marx has a point.

Marriage of Religious and Civil Marriage.

Illustrating the challenge of church/state interaction— Many are familiar with the so-called “gay marriage” issue in the United States. Here in the Philippines we are a bit sheltered from it, although there are some who are seeking it here as well. Strangely, the Philippines appears to be more willing to tolerate homosexuality than the United States, but less willing to affirm it.

Marriage is a strange anomaly, at least at first glance. It is where even very secularized societies tend to bring together government and religion. Pretty much all cultures have marriage in one form or another. Even though people are talking that marriage is disappearing in modern (and post-modern) societies, it is probably more accurate to say that marriage is transforming. There seems to be a pretty universal recognition that sex and procreation are important enough for cultures to have a say in it. Even cultures that seem pretty libertine in many ways, often have surprisingly complex and nuanced mores and taboos. Of course, these may not be as evident, especially during transitional periods.

In the United States, despite being the, perhaps, first secular nation on earth, marriage was always seen as a joint effort between state and religion. Religion establishes the moral/ethical parameters for a culture (or sub-culture) while government establishes civil/legal parameters. In practice these overlap with each other a great deal, and are, in fact, quite dependent on each other. With regards to marriage, religion defined marriage for the state, and took care of most of the rites of marriage. The state provided legal teeth for the rite, and dealt with tracking the paperwork.

What happened in the United States in recent years is the breakdown of that generally unspoken agreement. While some argue that this breakdown is due to the secularization of the US, that is not strictly true. The United States has always been officially secular, although with strong informal ties to its Christian worldview and heritage. What happened was plurality. Multiple religions (major religions, minor religions, organized religions, informal religions, secular “religions” and idealogies) added their voices to the mix due to modernity. They were then given respect through post-modernity. When one talks about the term “marriage” there are many voices now saying what marriage should be. Should it be monogamous heterosexual, polygynous heterosexual, polyandrous heterosexual, conjoint, various versions of homosexual? What about non-sexual relationships… can these be defined under marital laws? Can an animal be viewed, legally, as a person? Can a human “marry” an animal (whether defining a sexual or non-sexual relationship)? Can, for example, dog marriages, an odd little practice of some pet owners, be seen as a marriage in the same sense as marriage between human persons? One can go on and on. If the term “marriage” is disconnected from its cultural and historical anchors, its meaning is defined by those that use it. (Note that this blogpost is, in fact, using the term “marriage” in more than one way.)

As soon as you say YES to one and NO to another, you are saying one group is authoritative and one is not. But each group wants to be authoritative. As David Tracy, again, noted. Modernity leads to plurality of perspectives, and this same plurality leads to ambiguity.

So what is going on right now in the US? I would argue that the issue of what (and who) defines a marriage is quite important. However, the over-the-top reaction of many (on both sides, frankly) comes, in part, from “buyer’s regret” or “marital strife.”

The church has “religious marriage.” The state has “civil marriage.” The church was seduced by the ability to guide the state and get legal support, equating religious marriages with civil marriages. Now the state is no longer going to the church for its definition of marriage. “Religious/Civil marriage” is no longer being guided from the religious side, but the civil side… but the church doesn’t really want to let go of this relationship (“marriage” so to speak). This is not the first time. The state (or in the case of the US… various states) years ago began redefining who can get divorced, and thus get remarried, commonly without much consideration of the church The church generally went along with it.

There are those in the church who seem quite happy to adjust their own definition of marriage to that of the state. In this case, this part of the church may be accepting a subservient role to the state (or societal norms). Is this always wrong? No, it is not always bad. Many churches refused to accept divorce, believing that morality and legality must go hand in hand even when the marital vow has already been viciously violated. The church needed a bit of adjustment in this area. Some religious groups also had issues with interracial marriage, for some odd reason… a little push from the outside was helpful.

The hyper-reaction of some within the church to the “gay marriage” issue is built from after-the-fact regrets. They linked (“married”) religious and civil marriages, and now regret it. But are they willing to divorce them? For those on the other side, is the church willing to challenge the society it is in, or simply bless the cultural mores?

Here in the Philippines we have a different problem but springing from a similar problem. The Catholic Church has considerable sway in some aspects of Philippine governance. Most notably this is true in marriage. Divorce is theoretically not permitted here. They do have something called “annulment” (which really isn’t annulment in the strictest sense, but an expensive and inconvenient divorce), but the vast majority of separations are common-law. This also means that an awful lot of the sexual relationships, even long-term committed relationship, are common-law— because of an ill-advised legal marriage to a faithless or abusive person in the, commonly distant, past. Since the government cannot affirm their relationship in marriage, can the church? Some feel they can, and some feel they cannot.

The church need to work towards having a rocky marriage with the government.

Marriage of Missions and Power

Missions can be linked to the State. Historically, it has gone hand-in-hand with colonizers or imperialists. Is that bad? Maybe. Maybe not. One cannot totally disconnect religion and state because they have overlapping domains. But, drawing from the metaphor in the first part, such a “marriage” should be an unhappy one. Missions in the colonial period was always at its best, when it sided with the local peoples and challenged the colonizers.

Today, the connection between Christian missions and state is (thankfully) much weaker. But there are other marriages with power.

Missions and Denomination. Missions is also at its best when its connection to denomination is “complicated.” Even though many missionaries and mission agencies are described as non-denominational… they commonly work within a religio-cultural structure that has many aspects of denominationalism. Denominations, or at least religious sub-cultures, have their place and form organically, whether or not they are formally organized. But missions is to be, first of all, God’s mission. As such, that takes primacy over supporting the wants and wishes of the denomination. There is a marriage between missions and church or denomination, but it should be a rocky or conflicted marriage.

Another power is money. Missions utilizes money… some forms require a fair bit of money. But missions and missionaries must follow God first, not the money. The marriage of missions and money is necessary, but it should not be a happy marriage.