This is a sermon presentation linking four major parenting types– (Authoritarian, Permissive, Neglectful, and Authoritative)– to four major views of God. Since “Father” is a metaphor for God, an understanding of what makes a good father, can help us understand what God is like. Conversely, knowing God, gives us insight in how a
<I do admit I barely know TGC. I suppose living in the Philippines, not being Calvinist, and having a more “mutual submission” view of marital relations means I am not in the same circles. However, beyond challenging some of the activities of this group… the article does point out a basic problem with cultural engagement. What John Merritt notes:
Constantly criticizing outsiders while only listening to insiders … is how not to engage culture.
Shutting out dissenters who challenge your beliefs, content, or ideas … is how not to engage culture.
Refusing to answer difficult questions about your organization’s practices … is how not to engage culture.
One engages with culture dialogically and counter-culturally. Dialogically, one engages with the culture with two-way respectful conversation— even open to the possibility that one may learn something valuable in the process. Counter-culturally, means that one challenges as an insider not as an outsider.>
The ministry blocks dissenters and ignores journalists who might ask difficult questions. This is not engaging culture, but evading culture.
I like quoting other people a lot. However, at risk of being a bit self-indulgent, here are some quotes that I have written in http://www.munsonmissions.org from April 2015 to today, that I feel are worth repeating. Feel free to agree, or disagree.
I am a Christian, not because of Christians. I am a Christian, not because of Christian leaders. Both of them fail— miserably and consistently. I am not even a Christian because of the Bible… despite the fact that I find it a great and inspiring documentation of God’s work in human history for our benefit. I am a Christian, and not some other faith or ideology, because of Christ.
In Acts, the Holy Spirit did not call Paul and Barnabas to be missionaries. He told the church to call/affirm them. God calls all Christians to ministry. Recognizing our divine call is not (or should not be) the problem. It is recognizing our ministerial identity. This is found in honest supportive dialogue in a (healthy) mutual faith/ministry community.
I have great freedom to do as I wish in Christ. However, I support and build up members of my church as they, likewise, support and build up me. So I exercise freedom as it is healthy for myself and others. And I limit the exercise of my freedom, not out of coercion, but out of love.
Missions is to be done: Where the Local Church Isn’t.Where the Local Church Hasn’t.Where the Local Church Can’t.’
A better question than “Why would God have allowed the Holocaust?” might be “What does the Holocaust (occurring in 20th century “civilized” culture) reveal about ourselves?” While the first question may lead one to doubt that there is a loving and powerful God out there, the answer to the second question points, I believe, to the conclusion that we truly NEED such a God to exist.
It has been said that “Necessity is the mother of invention,” … It might, however, be argued that “Protest is the mother of invention.” The scuba aqualung (developed by Jacques Yves Cousteau and Émile Gagnan) was not really a necessity…. It was a protest against the natural constraints of the human body underwater.
If leaders recognize themselves as responsible to God and mutually indebted to the people as fellow members, I think we may be able to embrace a healthier, more theologically sound understanding of vision in the church.
But another flavor of pessimism is hopeful. Such a person recognizes the failings, the flaws of the NOW, and anticipates these flaws, these ills, are pushing the world towards more misery and pain. Yet, as a Christian one is aware that God is committed to redemption of His children and His world. This commitment gives us hope and helps us to interpret the present from a less myopic perspective. That perspective does not eradicate pessimism… we still see the institutions and powers of this world that perpetuate sin and misery. In fact, a clear-eyed recognition of the NOW can better give us the heart that makes us all the more long for God, and to pray, “Thy Kingdom Come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.”
To support implies to hold accountable. Otherwise, one is not a supporter, only a fan.
Perhaps we can say that God is Ethically Immutable, but not Immutable overall. I think we should see God as Empathic rather than Impassible. And perhaps above all, God is Ineffable. Some day, prayerfully, we will truly know Him, for we will see Him as He truly is.
Don’t Pray for Power. Rather, Pray to Handle Rightly the Power One Already Has.
We still have reasons for concern for the future, but we have a better perspective on God’s faithfulness when we see it through the lens of adversity rather than through the lens of prosperity.
When Christ ceases to offend on some profound level… we are following the wrong Christ.
Unfortunately the motive, “a passion for souls,” has proven inadequate. One might surmise that passion for souls would necessitate love or concern for people. But that has not proven true. We find many who tirelessly share the word of God seeking conversion, who show little to no concern for the social, economic, psycho-emotional, plights of the people they share with. To ignore these other areas may be consistent with a passion for souls, but outrageously dissonant with genuine love or concern for people.
Sometimes we need to be available, even if grudgingly faithful, when God needs us. God used Jonah, a very grudging servant. Jesus called His disciples and pushed them to their limits and beyond with regards to their comfort zones as well. God can use us in these grudgingly faithful moments. God can still change others through us. And God can also change us.
The definition of ‘Theo-storying’: “The act of creative reflection on God, and our associated relationships with Him and each other, crafted artistically into the medium of the story, so as to allow the listener to join in the reflection through experiencing the story, being challenged by the story, and inspiring further questions.”
Do some desire God’s wrathful judgment? It seems like it. Let me give you a case study and then discuss a few possibilities.
Back in 2013, a devastating storm (Typhoon Yolanda— aka, Haiyan) struck the Visayas region of the Philippines, and across to Palawan. Thousands died. Shortly after, the “prophecies” of a Christian “prophet” (I apologize for the quotation marks… but I don’t like to use terms such as this for people who I feel don’t deserve them) were brought up as demonstration that:
This particular person, named Sadhu Sundar Selvaraj, had apparently predicted the storm as well as the Bohol earthquake, and thus must be a legitimate messenger of God’s revelation.
The typhoon was not simply a meteorological event, but an act of God’s wrath— and there is more to come against the Philippines, and the world in general.
Anyway, a whole industry sprang up here in the Philippines, attempting to promote the prophecy as being true, as well as trying to argue that the other prophecies of this man were also true and will occur.
I did a post before that attempted to come up with a Score for the accuracy of his predictions. You can Click on it Here. I gave him a score of about 35%. Truthfully, that was a bit generous, since I was giving him positive scores for predicting storms and earthquakes in the Philippines (you can hardly go wrong with that, especially since he gave no timeframe). Two years later, the prophecies appear to be no better than before.
But what I found strange, and still am challenged to accept, was the wild, and yes a bit gullible, acceptance of these prophecies by Filipinos, in particular. That is not to say that I expect Filipino Christians to be less than gullible than, say, American Christians (who certainly have a proven track record to be gullible at times). But since the prophecies were done to say that the Philippines is being uniquely judged by God, and then from there to the world, one might suspect that Filipinos, a great seemingly less deserving of God’s vengeance than many other groups worldwide, might be offended.
Point of fact, though, was that there were so many who really wanted it to be true. This desire for these prophecies to be true grew to where people were spreading false reports on the Internet of more fulfillment of this prophecy. This was especially seen in reports of fulfillment of a prophecy that a flesh eating disease would spring up in Pangasinan (a province in the Northern Philippines, just down the mountain from where I live) and then spread throughout the world. These false reports grew and grew until finally a major news carrier put out a short report on TV that the disease was, indeed, happening in Pangasinan.
Within minutes of the report, the Internet was swarming with people looking up this event. I got thousands of hits in one day from people trying to figure out what is going on (I consider myself blessed if I get dozens of hits in one day). The report was false. Even though flesh eating bacteria is a real thing, there was no epidemic in Pangasinan, and it hasn’t spread to the rest of the world. Presumably, the prediction that a disease will spring up in Cebu and turn people black, is likewise erroneous.
BUT WHY WOULD PEOPLE WANT TO BELIEVE A HATEFUL JUDGMENT FROM GOD?
I don’t really know— I have more interest in God’s mercy than His judgment myself— but I can try to make a few guesses. Perhaps some are true.
Evangelicals (and I am lumping most Pentecostals and Charismatics as well into this poorly defined conglomerate) are commonly taught to, almost desperately, desire the return of Christ. I cannot relate to this. I am in Mission work, and there is so much to do that I can hardly see the desire to have even less time to get things done. If your neighbor is not a follower of Christ, do you really desire that Christ come back before he has responded? Really? Some might say that it is simply a desire to be with God… but all of us are only a couple of heartbeats away from being with God… so why desperately seek for others to be before God before they are ready? Regardless, for many, this is taught as a doctrinal truth— “Christ is returning any day, and the sooner the better.” By the way, as an Evangelical, I do believe in the return of Christ, but I would prefer the statement— “Christ is returning any day, and may I be found faithful when He comes for me” regardless if He comes to me in life or in death.
Some Christians are addicted to Signs and Wonders. I believe that God can do and does miracles, and may still at times do them as a sign (particularly, I believe, in places that first gain access to the gospel). However, miracles have always been rare. Even Jesus often did not do miracles. Luke 5 notes that for Jesus on a certain day the power of the Lord was upon Him to heal, suggesting that on some days it was not. That suggestion was reinforced by the extent certain men went to to bring a paralytic man to Jesus on that particular day despite the fact that other days would probably be less difficult. Later in the Gospels, Jesus refused to do any more miraculous signs to convince the skeptics. But some have an addiction to signs and wonders. Some, like Charles Kraft, even try to argue that the challenge to follow Christ should (must?) start with an encounter of God’s power (typically miraculously). Others seem to have no interest in what God normally does (in Nature), or can do through his faithful servants acting according to God’s will to act with faithful compassion. For some, the interest is in miraculous acts. Sadly, this has tended to create an industry of chicanery with a Christian label slapped on. It has also devolved into people going away from praying worshipfully to God asking for His mercy, to people “declaring” to God what He must do and thanking Him that he “already” has done it.
Some are More Comfortable with God’s Judgment than His Mercy. It has become a cliche’ to say that “Christians are mean-spirited, judgmental, hypocrites” But sometimes it is true. It doesn’t take much looking around social media to discover a lot of really man, nasty, judgmental Christians. They may mouth “the Love of Christ” but they find more resonance in a envisioning “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” Some of the responses to Typhoon Yolanda from self-styled “prophets of God” was that the typhoon came because of homosexuality in the Philippines. Apparently, if Christians (over 90% of Filipinos would describe themselves as Christian) mistreated LGBTQ folk more, than God would be pleased and not have dumped all that wind and rain on the Philippines. Is that possible? I suppose it is— but I really suspect that pronouncements such as this dig deeper into the psyche of these “prophets” than into the mind of God. Schadenfreude (feeling good about the misfortunes of others) can affect Christians as much as anyone else.
For some, perhaps bad news is better than no news. We live life walking backwards. We can see the past, and the present, but we can’t see the future. Curiously, We can’t change the past, but can only (potentially at least) change the future. Only perceiving the past but only being able to affect the future, not surprisingly, gives us a fair amount of angst. No wonder people spend so much money on books about the future, horoscopes, personal readings from various types of fortunetellers. Christians are not immune from this— books, radio and TV programming, and sermons are filled with end-time prophecies. When I was young, the Antichrist headed the European Common Market, and the Kingdom of the North was the Soviet Union. Since bother of these have gone, these “prophets” of today, change their stories. Today, the mark of the beast is a blacklight tatoo identifer, or perhaps an RFID. Next year? Who knows? Some Christian groups even put apocalyptic language into their names. What does this mean? I am not sure, but I wonder if for some the fear of the unknown is greater than the fear of a bad things ahead. In the movie White Noise, the three mysterious beings in the movie became less scary, to me at least, once we discovered what they really were— even though what they really were was pretty nasty. Of course, many Christians believe in the Rapture (I am holding to a “wait and see” position on that doctrine) so perhaps the bad news becomes interpreted as good news for themselves and a bit of schadenfreude (as I noted before) regarding others.
For me, at least, I would rather focus on hope and God’s mercy. I am not advocating a “pollyanna” denial of hurt and suffering, but there is certainly enough bad things in this world, without hoping and praying for more. I also feel that God has given us enough information to live by without knowing very much about the future.
Reason for ultimate hope
Warning to endure
Call to faithful service— regardless of what happens.
We have no control over God’s wrath since we have no control over God. But we can pray for His mercy— for all.
My wife and I serve independent of a formal mission agency. We have generally found this good… but not all of the time. There are down-sides as well. I feel this link below does a fantastic job of looking at the pros and cons of this. The primary writer is an independent missionary, so it is more “pro” than “con” but still seems fair.
(Of course, sometimes the wrong people go into the wrong missions for the wrong reason. Independence is their way to circumvent a beneficial selection process. The advice to join with an “open” agency that takes seriously training seems like a good idea— although I have seen things that make me doubt the efficacy of YWAM’s training.)
Collection of answers from experienced missionaries to the question: Why do some missionaries serve independent from an agency?.
It has been a slow process. People keep asking when it will be done.
Principles of Clinical Pastoral Care in the Hospital and the Community. Vol. 1by Robert H. Munson and Celia P. Munson. 2016.
I serve as the administrator of a counseling center in the Philippines, and my wife Celia is a Clinical Chaplain and Pastoral Counselor. But I find writing on missions or anthropological subjects much easier. After about four years it is finally done. Just final proofing and then it will go up for publishing. It is more for the Philippine context but can be of use elsewhere. The primary focus is for Bible Schools in classes such as “Intro to Pastoral Care and Counseling” or “Clinical Pastoral Orientation.”
Volume 2 is less than half done… but prayerfully it will take less than 4 more years.
The primary purpose of this book is to provide an introduction to pastoral care, so that it can be practiced both in the community and the clinical settings. The intended reader is one involved in religious ministry (either professional or lay ministry) with limited background in pastoral care and counseling. Volume 2 continues what is covered in Volume 1 but more specifically to prepare the individual for Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE). This book may be used in conjunction with an “Introduction to Pastoral Care and Counseling” or a “Clinical Pastoral Orientation (CPO)” class. The latter is a more basic class in pastoral care than CPE but utilizes the training methodology of CPE. It is hoped that the book would be found beneficial to a wide variety of readers, regardless of their ministerial or educational situations.
Since pastoral care was founded within the Christian church, it is hardly surprising that Christian doctrine is interwoven into the guiding principles. That being said, it is hoped that the book will be of benefit to a wide variety of people of diverse faith traditions. There are a couple of reasons for this.
Pastoral Care, despite its Christian roots, is today commonly viewed as Interfaith. Individuals from many different religions, and even those who may not be part of what is commonly thought of as a religion, may be involved in ministry utilizing many of the tools of pastoral care.
Christian pastoral care workers will certainly be dealing with clients from a wide variety of faiths (including non-faith). The pastoral care provider will regularly be dealing with, and providing care for, clients outside of his/her own faith community. As such, it is useful to learn language, principles, and methods that cross religious lines.
Nevertheless, a pastoral care provider does draw strength and perspective from her own beliefs and faith perspective. In line with that, the writers of this book do, at times, utilize their own perspectives as well. This will be most evident in the theological section where certain aspects of Christian theology are emphasized as they relate to pastoral care.
It is further presumed that the pastoral care provider is finite and flawed. He (this book will go back and forth between “he,” “she,” and gender neutral pronouns) is finite because he has limited knowledge, skill, time, and understanding. He is flawed in that he is likely dealing with personal problems similar or even greater than those he is caring for. The fact that the care provider is finite and flawed is not bad – it means he is human. As a human, he has insights and shared experience that can be beneficial to the healing process. It is comforting to most people to know that all people have struggles. The pastoral care provider should not pretend to have no problems. The problems, if properly acknowledged, can assist. In fact, the care provider may find healing in working with help-seekers.
On mission, or on short-term mission trips, what is the ethics of picture-taking? At its best, it serves as a capturing of key memories of God’s work and important relationships in the field. It also may inspire others , drawing people into the experience through pictures.
On the other hand, pictures can be:
Humiliating/denigrating to the recipients of ministry
The dangers, however, do not necessarily outweigh the benefits. When I was in the Navy, I was told, “If you didn’t write it down, it didn’t happen.” This was emphasized to instill in us the importance of writing events down. However, the effect was at best mixed, as some decided that an embarrassing problem “did not happen” if one does not log it in. In missions, to some extent, if there is no picture, it did not happen. And more to the point, if the picture is not put up on social media, it did not happen. Some ministry must be done in secrecy, but some should be shared to inspire others.
As an example, for my wife and I, we have a counseling and chaplain training center. It is unethical to photograph counseling sessions. It is also unethical to photograph chaplains meeting patients in the hospital or inmates in jail. There are a lot of things we do that can be shared via pictures, but a major part of our work cannot be shared. But that is as it should be. (Some groups violate such ethics… but that is for a different post).
In missions, one must know when to photograph, and when (and where) not to photograph. One also needs to understand the story one tells in the composition of images.
Here are a few stories of pictures from least problematic to most problematic.
1. Trivial. We were having a going-away celebration for a ministry partner who was leaving the Philippines to serve God in a distant country. At this celebration an acquaintance of mine asked to borrow my camera to take some pictures. Sure… why not. Later, when I got the camera back, I had very few usable images. More than half were close-up selfies of the herself alone, or with her boyfriend. This is trivial, because (a) there were still other pictures taken by others that adequately covered the event, (b) the pictures were not shared on social media, and (c) I know how to use the delete button on my camera.
But it does bring up the issue of motive. Some photograph on mission because they love to look at themselves, not on what God is doing. The pictures may simply be about themselves, or it may be more general but centers on themselves. This may happen once in awhile…but making the pictures always about oneself should not be the addiction. Frankly, however, it is an addiction that we all fall into at times. (I admit that our blogsite has an AWFUL lot of photos of our family, often in ministry situations. I may have to reflect on this.)
Note: I describe this issue as trivial because in my story, the photos were not put on social media. However, too many selfies put up on social media in missions can become more than trivial. A very funny blog that looks at this phenomena of unhealthy selfies (with unhealthy motives) on mission, go to Barbie Savior or the associated Instagram Page (or the article in Huffington Post.
2. Less Trvial. Years ago, my wife and I worked with a team of others doing medical missions throughout the Philippines. It was fun, tiring, and sometime beneficial (and probably sometimes not). Often my wife or I would serve as the team leader. But not always. A friend of ours led about half of them. Early on, one time, our partner who was serving as team leader, said to me, “Bob, come over here and help with the dental work.” They were doing tooth extractions. He wanted me to hold the head of the patient while the dentist was working to extract the tooth. I suppose there is nothing wrong with that. However, after one patient and a couple of photos taken, I was done. Our friend just wanted to take a photo of me helping the dentist in a way that I never do. I also have a photo or two from a medical mission of me sharing the gospel with patients, although due to language inadequacies I very rarely shared the gospel at medical missions.
This is less trivial since there is open deception here. On medical missions, I would often organize the team, order supplies, work out transportation, coordinate with the local host and the like. On site, I would help get things organized, periodically check the stations, collect registration forms, take a few pictures, and make balloon animals. These pictures taken gave a very deceptive picture of what I do.
This can be harmless… but not always. Some “missionaries” have embraced the role of patron– giving money to local workers to do the actual ministry. They then have photo ops to give the suggestion to their supporters that they are, in fact, the ones doing ministry. In a related case, I have heard of missionaries taking pictures of people raising hands, for whatever reason, and then sending off those photos explicitly or implicitly suggesting that the photos show people responding to the gospel message of the missionary. This type of deception is getting more serious.
3. Moderate Problem. I have known missionaries who take so many photos of events that it makes local people nervous. I have heard of this particularly with missionaries from a specific country (since it is not my country, I won’t mention which one). Missionaries take so many many pictures that people wondered what was being done with the pictures.
If you are like me, you have seen some missions websites that appear to be primarily fund-raising sites… and they are filled with pictures that are supposed to pull on the heartstrings of those visiting the site. Whether this is good or bad is debatable (some go too far, in my opinion while others provide a genuine service in helping people be inspired and connect with needs).
The TOO MUCH photo thing varies. I had a friend who was a semiprofessional photographer who would join us on medical missions at times. He took LOTS of pictures. On one trip, he took over 700 photos. However, I never heard anyone complain about him. Perhaps it was because he was a fellow Filipino, so ministry recipients did not think that the photos would be used for inappropriate purposes (a good assumption in this particular case, but potentially a bad assumption in others). Or maybe as a semiprofessional photographer, he was good at getting permission and setting people at ease. Not sure in this case.
4. More Serious Problem. We did a medical mission in the city, ministering primarily to children that work in the public market. We had medical services and dental services. We also did circumcisions. In the Philippines, circumcision is not mandatory, but expected at around 10-13 years old for boys (female circumcision is, thankfully, not practiced here). As such it is a bit of a rite of passage. Early on, we even got in trouble where one or two boys came in to get circumcision without permission from the parent. The desire to reach a new step in manhood overcame their trepidation of the procedure. At this event, we had several tables put together and we had 7 or 8 boys being circumcised simultaneously, with a line of other boys waiting their turn. As this was going on… some other missionaries were taking lots and lots of pictures… even holding the camera up over the table to get birds-eye view of the proceedings.
Despite the impression one might get from perusing the Internet, MOST people don’t really want their genitals photographed and distributed via social media. It is disrespectful. Despite this, although the mission I just mentioned was the worse, case, I regularly had to filter out photos taken by others of medical mission trips in which pictures were taken of patients who were over-exposed.
Frankly, in this day and age, making such pictures available to the public could possibly constitute child pornography.
A few years back we were working with a group that was doing recovery work in a landslide zone after a major typhoon (Typhoon Pepeng). We were doing crisis care for the response workers. The workers were able to give us some photos of the recovery. One of the pictures included workers digging up a tribal weave blanket that had been covered by a mountain of dirt. That picture seemed appropriate and poignant in what they were doing. There was another picture and at first it took me a bit to figure out what I was seeing. It was a picture of workers digging up a human being that had died in the landslide. One leg had been freed from the dirt when the picture was taken. I did not share that picture. To me to share it would be dishonoring to the dead and his family, as well as exploitive.
5. Serious Problem. A fellow missionary here was doing a mission outreach in a remote location and so took some ladies and youth from the home church to help in the outreach. Along the way, the missionary decided to stop to take a break, and while on break decided to take a few photos for “local color.” They were stopped by some rice paddies, so the missionary asked some of the ladies and youth to go into the paddy and look as if they are working there. Nothing really wrong with working in the paddies, but these individuals lived in the city, and worked various jobs in the city. Anyway, after everyone got back, concerns were expressed by the ladies about the photos done. Although none of the photos were deeply troubling in and of themselves, the view was that the missionary wanted them to look poor and messy because it “made a better missions photo.”
Earlier I spoke of deception, denigration, and exploitation. In the end, however, the judges are the locals being photographed. If they feel denigrated, then they are denigrated. That should never be the goal. Some people get worried about white middle income kids going to other countries to do STM with people of other nationalities and races. There is the fear that there is denigration going on. Sometimes there is, but not always. Often, everyone loves the opportunity for a photo op, and the thought that they would be on the Web is exciting. The judge of denigration or exploitation is generally the local people… not those who are dealing with personal issues of post-imperialist white guilt. A Nigerian missionary doing mission work among the urban poor in Moldova is just as at risk of exploiting as a White American in Tanzania (and just as likely to be doing good as well).
6. Big Problem With Great Solution. One day, many years ago, when we lived in the US, my 7 year old son came out of the living room and found his mom and said to her, “I don’t want to be brown.” His mom, my wife, is Filipina, so would generally be thought of as “brown.” My son and two daughters would be described as Mestizo or Mestiza (racially mixed). My wife asked him what this was about. He had been watching some commercials for agencies that were raising money to help starving children in other countries. Almost invariably, the commercials involved well-known white Americans who visiting places full of undernourished poor “brown” children. My son, was pretty sure from those commercials that he certainly did not want to be brown. For our son and daughters, we eventually moved to the Philippines, and they saw that those commercials gave a very one-sided view of the world.
Happily in more recent years, many of these organizations changed things. After, beyond the seeming racism and paternalism, the images showed the problem as too great for a single person to do anything about. So they changed. More recent commercials would often be more like this:
A young girl, wearing a nice clean, simple dress, hair taken care of, carrying school books with a big smile on her face greets the viewer. The narrator says, “This is Concessa, she comes from a poor family in a village where there are so few opportunities to better herself. But because she has a sponsor, just 3 dollars a day, Concessa is healthy, happy, has access to healthy food, safe water, and a good education. Because someone cared, Concessa has a bright future.”
This commercial does not denigrate. It shows that there is hope. Some, of course, could argue that it is still paternalistic. I can’t argue with that. However, pretty much any act of kindness can be viewed as paternalistic. It is a concern, but should never be used to justify selfishness.