From Minnesota to Kachinland

Okay. So I started out with the intent of discussing (complaining) about a well-known quote by John Piper. It goes like this:

Mission Exists Because Worship Doesn’t

The statement has a certain appeal to it from a position of pietism. However, it feels to me as if it does not really stand up to scrutiny. I don’t really want to go into this too far since my post is about to go off in a very random direction. However, when one looks in the Bible at ideal relationships between God and Man, one commonly does not find settings that seem all that worshipful. Genesis 1 -3 show the ideal as more of God and Man sharing paradise together in the cool of the morning. Enoch (although the language is wildly open to interpretation) seems to have a relationship that is more intimate with God than is suggestive by the term “worship.” Jesus seemed to promote intimate friendship over worship with His disciples. Jesus certainly is worthy of worship (as the P&W song goes) but it does not seem as if He craves it particularly. While some scenes in Heaven in Revelation fit the classic imagery of worship, others point more to something more akin to Genesis 1-3. Of course, the term ‘worship’ is a bit loaded. We often picture a very physical activity (prostrating, bowing, raising hands, folding hands, jumping, whatever), but worship is far more the activity of the heart than of activity. However, saying that mission exists because worship doesn’t… well… I guess it may in a sense be true… but it gives an image that seems to be outside what the Bible gives when calling for missions.

Yeah… I better stop going in that direction. I said that it veered off. Anyway, I am not really a student of John Piper. I haven’t really read much of anything that he has written, so I did not want to be taking this quote of his out of context… so I web-browsed, and found an article titled, “Missions Exists Because Worship Doesn’t.” You can click on the name to read the article.

What amazed me was a paragraph towards the beginning:

In 1890 (122 years ago) Bethlehem (a 29-year-old Swedish Baptist Church) sent Mini and Ola Hanson from our own membership to an unreached people group in Burma called the Kachin. They were known as vengeful, cruel, and treacherous. The King of Burma declared to Hanson when he got there, “So you are to teach the Kachins! Do you see my dogs over there? I tell you, it will be easier to convert and teach these dogs. You are wasting your life.”

-John Piper, at the link above

The section about the Hansons is longer. I would recommend reading it in the article I mentioned above. I have had MANY students in seminary who are Kachin. They look on Mini and Ola Hanson with such respect, even decades after their passing. They learned the Kachin Language. (Technically, they learned Jinpo, the largest language in the Kachin language group.) They developed an alphabet, and translated the Bible into Kachin (Jinpo). If I remember right, talking to my students, that Bible is still used.

The durability of their faith in (let’s just cautiously say) politically challenging times, is impressive and atestimony to the dedication of the Hansons. But dedication is not really enough. A lot of missionaries are dedicated.

Based on my conversations with Kachin, I think they truly felt the love of the Hansons for them… and in that love, believe that they saw the Love of Christ for them. Truthfully, in may ways, the traditional religion of the Kachin was not so greatly differently from Christianity. They believed in one god— the god of the heavens. They believed that they were separated from god by sin, and saw the need for sacrifice to make peace with god. What they needed was to know that the God of the Heavens loved them and sent Jesus for them… taking away the burden of sacrifice.

The Kachin responded to the love of God by loving Him back, based on what they saw through the love demonstrated by the Hansons.

I guess that brings things full circle to a modified quote:

Missions Exists because Love Doesn’t

Looking at Spiritual Abuse

Today, I gave a short lecture on Spiritual Abuse (one of my favorite topics). I was asked about other materials I have. Anyway, thought I would share the presentations I put together years ago. I am sure I need to update these… but they will do for now.

<I used to have these presentations on However, Scribd bought Slideshare and changed policies there like they did with their original website. The changes on Slideshare are annoying… but worse is probably coming. They broke their promises on so hoping will not get swallowed up. Time will tell.>

#1. Characteristics and Methods:

#2. “Bad Shepherds”

#3. Religious Addiction

#4. Structures of Spiritual Abuse

#5. Where do Abusive Churches Come From?

#6. Treatment for Spiritual Abuse

Does the Great Commission of John Imply We Must Do Social Ministry?

Many missionaries will say that the reason they do missions is because of the Great Commission. Personally, I would prefer to say that we do it because of the Great Commandment. To me, the Great Commission simply gives one specific example of how we carry out the Great Commandment.The Golden Rule would be another example. Much of the Sermon on the Mount is a clarification of the Great Commandment. Still, that hardly minimizes the importance of the Great Commission.

And yet, some have used the Great Commission to limit ministry. Taking Matthew 28 19-21, they suggest that Christian ministry is pretty much limited to proclamation, baptism (and presumably starting church congregations) and teaching. John Stott challenged this view by drawing attention to St. John’s shorter Great Commission in John 20:21… “As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” Stott noted the God the Father Sent Jesus to not only proclaim the Gospel message but to do Social ministry as well. In fact, just a few verses later, v. 30-31, John emphasizes the miraculous works of Jesus and makes it clear that this work was integral to His overall ministry of proclamation.

Many Evangelical missiologists of the late 1960s and early 1970s disagreed with Stott encouraging a more “spiritualistic” understanding of Christian missions and ministry. Personally, I think their reasoning was not based on good Biblical scholarship, but on reaction to conciliar mission trends, and the toxic nature of apocalypticism (leading to quick and sloppy ministry based on the baseless assumption that we need to try to ‘time’ Christ’s return and adjust our ministry based on our own sends of His return).

However, if the missiologists we’re practicing bad Biblical scholarship (it certainly was not the first time… nor the last) the question of Stott’s interpretation of John 20:21 is certainly open to challenge. The statement itself does not necessitate the understanding that it guides method. In fact, the passage sounds like a bit of Missio Dei theology ( The Father Sent Me. I now send you… and I am sending to you the Holy Spirit.)

I do have to agree that the passage does not necessarily imply method of ministry. However, one needs to read the statement within the story.

John told the story of the ministry of Jesus with great emphasis on the Passion week. Chapter 19 ends with Jesus dying and being buried. Chapter 20 starts with the Resurrection. John’s first recording of Jesus showing Himself to the Twelve (even though only 10 were there) has Him showing the evidence of His crucifixion, followed by the call to follow the example of Jesus. It is probably best to say that the passage is not primarily a theological statement of missions. It is also probably not primarily a statement of the methodology of missions. It probably is a statement of the extent of the calling of missions. It is a call of faithfulness to Christ to the death. This may be further supported in the next chapter where Jesus singled out Peter with letting him know that he must be faithful to his martyrdom.

But then one must still step back a bit. If John’s commission is one about faithfulness to death, clearly it aggressively calls the respondent back to the example of Christ. I don’t believe one can be true to the story as shared by John and still say that there is nothing there in terms of method. At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus called the Twelve to follow Him— follow His teachings and follow His practices. Now after His death, Jesus calls them to continue their following. Any interpretation that suggests that ministry greatly diverges from the ministry pattern established by Jesus must be viewed as highly suspect.

All of that being said, in encouraging missionaries to be holistic in ministry— carrying out so-called spiritual ministry and social ministry together— I probably would not choose John 20:21.

The Great Commandment is a much better foundation for holistic ministry. I would argue that the parable of the faithful servant (Matt. 24:42ff) is also important since the context is suggestive of how the disciples should behave. They should the good holistic stewards. Mire importantly, they should not be trying to “finish the task” with trying to time Christ’s return. Rather, they should be “Faithful to the task” until death… if Christ tarries.

A New Era of Philippine Missions?

National Missions Conference 2022 (Koronadal City, Philippines)

I don’t have my finger on the pulse of Philippine Missions. As an independent missionary, I don’t go to a lot of missions meetings— especially those involving mission agencies or mobilizers. Nevertheless, it seems like there have been some changes lately in Philippine Missions… for the good.

I am part of a denomination that sends missionaries to the Philippines through one primary organization, the IMB (with a few exceptions such as my wife and I). And the denomination has a daughter/partner denomination here in the Philippines that sends out missionaries through one primary organization, the OSB. It seems like things are really entering a new age.

IMB. When I came to the Philippines in 2004, the IMB was, to a large extent, closing up shop in the Philippines. At the time, the IMB decided that the Philippines generally was a “Reached Country.” Many Evangelical mission strategists would make decisions apparently based on the belief that every person who calls himself (or herself) an Evangelical must be a “real” Christian, and every person who does not, must NOT be a “real” Christian. If a region is less than 2% Evangelical, it is treated as unreached and missionaries should be out evangelizing, discipling, and planting churches (actually, trying to establish church planting movements— CPMs). If a region is over 2% Evangelical, it is treated as reached, and the local churches should be doing pretty much all of that. It seemed like leader development, theological education, urban ministry, holistic ministry and so forth was shoved aside. Things, however, have really seemed to change in the Philippines. While there is still a strong emphasis on unreached people groups, leader development, theological education, and more has opened back up. And yet, this doesn’t seem to be a step backwards toward treating the Philippines like it is a missionary-receiving country. There are missionaries coming to the Philippines, but now in more of an activity of cross-pollination of the universal church. They are also moving away from “our way or the highway” and toward collaborative partnerships.

OSB. Perhaps the change here is even bigger. When we came to the Philippines in 2004, our denomination hardly had anything to do with sending Filipino missionaries out of the country. Yes, there were Overseas Foreign Workers who were “released” (far less than “sent”) by local churches with no support (they should be sending money home after all), or perhaps some pastors leaving to go to already established churches, or perhaps diaspora ministries in other countries. However, churches supporting Filipino missionaries (“holding the rope”) to go overseas was extremely rare. One of my friends did in 2007 but was supported by a different denomination. In the 2010s, my wife and I gave a training seminar on missionary member care that was described as “controversial” to churches in the Philippines. But it is different now. OSB was set up in the early 2000s and has grown. It now is involved in supporting and sending dozens of Filipino missionaries to many countries. They are focused on making sure support is adequate and is working to establish a better foundation for medical care and retirement. They have partnerships with many different organizations (including Bukal Life Care, Celia and my organization) to increase effectiveness through mission member care and counseling.

Back in the early 2000s many Filipino churches believed that the “ends of the earth” meant reaching out to people in their province. Today, they see the “ends of the earth” as Asia… and beyond.

Are there still changes that must happen? I am sure there are. The mission conference I attended still threw around the old rhetoric of the early Lausanne Movement (and in some things before), like UPGs, UUPGs and “finishing the task” (we are called to be faithful to the task, until God says it is finished). But I am excited to see how things are changing… for the better.


I have been reading the book “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman. He came up with this awkward acronym (he freely admits this awkwardness). It stands for:

What You See Is All There Is

Kahneman speaks of two Systems of Thinking— System 1 and System 2. System 1 is intuitive and unconscious (Fast). System 2 is thought-laden and conscious (Slow). Both processes are lazy (or efficient if you prefer). Both like to operate heuristically, utilizing mental short-cuts or thumb rules— especially System 1.

One of those mental short-cuts is WYSIATI. Often this is a bad short-cut. An example of this is in magic tricks. I remember watching a show on TV where a magician with assistants put up a screen in the middle of a big field. The narrator talks for a bit and then when the screen was removed there was a tank (as in very large military vehicle). It did seem quite amazing until they showed things from a different angle. From a camera angle from higher up where the screen was not blocking the view, we see that as soon the screen is in place, at the very far end of the long field an object begins to move. It is the tank. It slowly lumbers across the field until it is quite close to the screen. Then the screen is removed and there it is. Once one sees how it is done, one is struck by, “Why in the world did I find this amazing?” The answer is that, unless we make a conscious effort otherwise, we make the mental short-cut, WYSIATI. Before the screen is in place we see a vacant field. When the screen is in place, the camera doesn’t change its position, and the sound is muted except for the voice-over from the narrator. The mind just assumes things are as they were— what we saw is all there is.

As Christians we are sometimes quick to complain about scientists who seem to follow this perspective Many embrace a form of Empiricism or Naturalism that at its worst boils down to WYSIATI.

But we can fall into the same trap. Perhaps in Evangelical circles this can be especially true. It does seem like in Evangelical theology we don’t like to honor the idea of Mystery. Far too often rather than accepting there is much out there that we know nothing about, we try to make up answers based on our own ignorance. It is like a Jehovah’s Witness lady who was a friend of a friend many years ago. She claimed to understand fully everything in the Bible. It is a great way to preserve one’s beliefs and biases. I know everything— there is nothing more to learn. Sometimes the catchphrase used by some, “Sufficiency of Scripture” is a mental shortcut for assuming that there is nothing more out there.

This is rather strange. After all, we often look with great fondness, even with applause, those scientists and great thinkers in history who saw exploration of the created world as a way of studying God (if the universe is a creation of God, it is then a revelation of God).

This greatly contrasts with Charles Hodge, 19th century theologian, who (if his own words accurately describe himself) decided that early Reformed theologians got it all right, and so his job was to pass along that body of knowledge to the next generation without any corrections or improvements. In essence, he was to be an indoctrinater rather than an educator– or a theologian.

This is a mental short-cut of the same form. Whatever they found is all there is. No mystery, no exploration, no uncertainty.

I think we can do better. Kahneman notes that we can consciously avoid WYSIATI. The key point is that it is conscious— with intent. Centuries ago, may thought that the universe was small and simple. Lights shining through holes in the dark sky and a few roving lights above a flat or curved land. But eventually we were able to see further out, and further in, to discover that the world of God’s making is vastly greater and more magnificent than we could ever have imagined. But as incomprehensible is this universe we are in and the One who created it, it is no less incomprehensible than those Christians who seek to make the Universe small—- closing their minds off to the possibility that there is more than their eyes behold.

Are There Concerns With Linking the Sinner’s Prayer with Salvation?

Today, I was in a Bible Study. It was an evangelistic bible study. It was rather interesting. For one thing, the facilitator used Ecclesiastes. He focused on our need for purpose in life— about what truly gives life meaning. That was, I believe a far superior strategy to, for example, the ones that try to scare the person into a guided response.

After the presentation, the facilitator led those who wished to join in saying what has been called “The Sinner’s Prayer.” After the prayer, the facilitator said something to the effect that, “If you have said this prayer with me, I believe that God working in your life to draw you closer to Him.” I like that statement. I fully agree with that statement. Sadly, however, the Sinner’s Prayer often has a pretty sketchy theology supporting it. However, I fully support the way the facilitator used it.

Far too many use the Sinner’s Prayer in ways that I consider problematic. Here are a few of my concerns:

#1. It is often used to define who ARE NOT saved. If a person is deeply committed to God, and faith in Jesus Christ, but comes from a denomination or church that does not use the Sinner’s Prayer, the presumption is that certainly this person is not saved. I have seen statistics that between 5 and 10 of Filipinos are Christian. Of course, over 90% of Filipinos describe themselves as Christians. Why the discrepancy? The 5-10% essentially describes the percentage of Filipinos who are associated with Evangelical churches… or churches that embrace Historical Christianity and the use of the Sinner’s Prayer. Apparently 100% of those involved with Evangelical churches are Christian and 0% of those involved with other churches are Christian. I doubt this is a good assumption. I believe eternity will have a lot more, and a lot less, people than we are tempted to assume.

#2. It is often used to define who ARE saved. There is a tendency to declare that when people say, pray, or think the Sinner’s Prayer, they are now saved. Sometimes I wonder if Christians find the simplicity of the Shahada as appealing. In Islam, if some confesses the Shahada, the core statement of faith of Islam, AND MEANS IT, that person is now recognized as a Muslim. Christianity is more muddy. We are supposed to believe certain things certainly, but salvation is firmly linked to following Jesus, and yet grounded in grace rather than works. That muddiness makes it difficult to determine who really is a “Real Christian.” The book of I John addresses this very issue, but the focus is on how a person can self-examine to determine if he or she is a child of God, but it does not give firm guidance for others. The end of the matter is that God judges the heart and we do not. And that would be great except for two things. First, we want to have good statistics. Doing evangelistic medical missions, we wanted to have good numbers to share with others to show how successful we are. Murkiness is not as inspirational as clear numbers. The same goes for revivals. We want numbers that seem unambiguous. Measuring how many people walked forward at an altar call is easy to measure compared to how many are being molded in to the image of Christ over a period of time. Second, we want to treat Real Christians very different from those who are not-so-Real. More on that later.

#3. It lessens the Christian faith. Christians are no longer those who are following Christ, living according to the Great Commandment, and led by God’s Spirit to live holy lives, and bless those around them. Instead, it is people who can recite an event where they said something at some point in time. Those who are followers of Christ and walking in the Spirit demonstrate this in exhibiting the Fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, gentleness, goodness…. ). That should be a pretty good (but not absolute) test… but with so many Christians not demonstrating this, Christianity can slip into what the revivalists (originally) wanted to stop. The revivalists saw lukewarmness in the church and in so-called Christian communities, and so wanted to get people fired up for God. The altar call was a way to quantify it. But in placing so much emphasis on the altar call and saying the Sinner’s Prayer, people could fall back to lukewarmness and carnality with the comforting assurance that they are Real Christians.

#4. We want to treat Real Christians different from not-so-Real. In evangelical circles we like to clearly separate between evangelism (leading people to Christ) and discipleship (guiding those already saved to grow in their faith). However, this division breaks down if we don’t really know who is saved and who is not. Paul Hiebert addressed this issue by suggesting that we should look at Christianity in terms of a centered set with an uncertain boundary. We don’t necessarily know who is redeemed by God, but we know that our task is to guide people closer to Christ. Therefore, evangelism should not really be seen as a separate activity. We disciple all bringing them closer to Christ without knowing exactly where they are in this process. I recall being hired by Founder’s Inn, a resort that was owned by Pat Robertson and CBN. As a secular business they were not supposed to ask about our faith, but they did anyway. However, they did not ask about how I sought to live out a holy life, obeying the Great Commandment, expressing love to all people, and encouraging fellow Christians to great Christlikeness. They asked me to describe my “conversion experience”— that is, when I said the Sinner’s Prayer. Not a very useful question for a job interview.

#5. The focus on the Sinner’s Prayer sometimes leads to even more shortcuts. Some try to scare people to follow Jesus. I never saw much value in that one… but it was the method we used in doing medical missions. I have used it before. One method I was taught, the Dunamis Method, seems to be nothing more than guilt-tripping Christians (who already believe in Jesus, the Trinity, salvation through faith, and the grace of God) to say the Sinner’s Prayer. Since the method does nothing to change people’s minds or hearts, I see it as nothing more than a trick to get Christians to be identified as Christian by Evangelicals.

There are other issues. That being said, I am not anti-Evangelical. In fact, doctrinely, I fit pretty comfortably in the Evangelical camp (despite the growing toxic culture forming in much of American Evangelicalism). I think there is need for slight adjustments.

One can still be convinced that God at some point in time, transitions a person’s status to that of being adopted into the family of God. One can firmly believe this without necessarily knowing at what exact point in time that occurs. In other words, embrace Paul Hiebert’s set theory of centered set Christianity with uncertain boundaries.

If we can embrace the call to follow Christ faithfully and encourage every Christian to be a blessing to all people in message and in action, discipling all who seek it, I believe the Sinner’s Prayer has a role in identifying through confession the intentions of a person… and recognition that God is indeed doing a work in his or her life.

However, for what it’s worth, I think I would rather see a new believer recite the Lord’s (or Disciple’s) Prayer rather than the Sinner’s Prayer. It expresses faith better than the Sinner’s Prayer, and is typically tied to community— an act of the church with the individual, rather than simply the act of the individual alone. But that is just my opinion. That view may change over time.

Contemporary Issues in Missions— Part Two

Continuation of Part One. I am speaking of issues to deal with in a class I will be teaching in a couple of weeks.

So what are very relevant issues that are contemporary and worth focusing on? This is only an eight-week course, and the final two weeks are for students to share a contemporary issue they choose to research and share. That means that I choose six topics.

#1. The Challenges to “4-F Missionaries.” This is a term that I use for “Foreign, Full-time, Fully funded, Forever” missionaries. The challenges on each of these descriptors have been around for awhile. The challenges make us rethink who is a missionary and who is not. They challenge our traditional view of ‘missionary calling.’ But with the pandemic, the challenges have grown. Because of some recent changes, I am only spending half of my time in the Philippines instead of full-time. Despite that I am teaching in the Philippines full-time, through online teaching. Now suppose I spent all of my time outside of the Philippines, could I be thought of as a full-time missionary to the Philippines if I am ministering online to those in the Philippines?

These concerns have been around from the beginning even if we did not always focus on them. Many people consider Paul to be the greatest missionary of all time (I feel like we are would need a God’s-eye view to make such a judgment). Paul was not fully-funded. Paul was not foreign… most of those he ministered to were Hellenized people of a fairly similar culture to himself. He arguable was not even full-time. He ministered full-time, but he spent considerable time in Antioch between mission trips, and spent several years in Ephesus as well. And frankly, he was a good churchplanter, but the thing that makes him ‘great’ in terms of missions was the influence he exerted on the history of the church through his writings. In other words, his greatest influence in terms of missions on church history was in ministry work that was away from where he was actually resided. It may be an old issue… but it is more relevant than ever.

#2. Honor and Shame Missions. This has been a big issue for some years now. However, it seems to be going mainstream and sneaking into theological development. I have also been wondering whether we need to look at other paradigms of missions and theology as well. For example, Robert Strauss has spoken of Justice cultures, Honor cultures, Reciprocity cultures, and Harmony cultures. Is there a place for all four to provide paradigms for theological and missiological development? Anyway, in the Philippines, there still is a tendency to define “good theology” is what comes from America. Rethinking theology and missions in a new setting needs to be driven home.

#3. Localization of Theology. Bosch and Hiebert and others have spoken of Self-theologizing of the local church. This is still thought of as controversial by many (most?) but it is starting to go mainstream. But that has led to several concerns: What is GOOD local theology? How does one DO local theology? How does one identify FLAWED or heterodox theology?

#4. Missionary Member Care. Okay, I have to explain this one. Missionary Member Care is NOT NEW. But in New Sending Countries such as the Philippines it is still pretty new. I remember a few years ago leading a training in missionary member care where my host warned the audience here in the Philippines that what I would be sharing was “controversial.” I did not consider this as remotely controversial. However, I have heard some missionaries and church leaders speaking of mission work as suffering. There is suffering in missions, but some seemed to think that missions real if there is suffering, and missionaries who struggle are “Weak” and perhaps “not truly called to serve God.” In the US, MMC is old news, but it is still being developed here in Asia.

#5. Shift to Great Urban Centers. For a long time it was cutting edge to talk about UPG (unreached people groups) or UUPGs (unreached and unengaged people groups). There are still those who think of it as cutting edge. However, missions is changing fast, and urban ministry is becoming central in missions. This urban ministry shows itself in dealing with multi-lingual, multi-ethnic, multicultural, multi-racial settings and people where UPG just doesn’t make a lot of sense. And with the huge growth of certain cities (Great Urban Centers, GUCs). If one likes Ralph Winter’s Three Wave model for Protestant Missions, it could be argued that the GUCs define a fourth wave.

#6. Orality Movement. Bible Storying from New Tribes, and other systems, have been with us for some time, acknowledging that there are groups that cannot read. However, in more recent times, the movement has grown and transformed. Orality is also about how we learn, dealing with cultures and sub-cultures that CAN read but DON’T or WON’T, or who learn better through oral processes. It has also moved into things such as Bible translation and theological education. In other words, Orality is not simply a tool, but but from hermeneutics, to pedagogy, to visual and performance arts, it is becoming a major field with the potential for great impact in all parts of the world.

Obviously these are only a few… and perhaps not the best. Hopefully, my students will then choose even better issues for their own presentations.

Contemporary Issues in Missions– Part One

I will be teaching a class called “Contemporary Issues in Missions” at Asia Graduate Theological Seminary (ABGTS). Although I teach a lot of missions, and have been involved in a few types of missions, that doesn’t mean that I am on the cutting edge of the missions movement. For a number of years I had relied (at least on the undergraduate level) upon two books that spoke of trends and issues of recent years in missions:

Stan Guthrie Missions in the Third Millenium: 21 Key Trends for the 21st Century, Cumbria, UK: Paternoster Press, 2000.

James Engel and William Dyrness, Changing the Mind of Missions: Where Have We Gone Wrong? Downer’s Grove, IL:

InterVarsity Press, 2000.

The problem of each is that they were published 22 years ago (and researched and written before that). As such, some of the issues are not really issues anymore.

For example, one of the issues was “The Southern Shift of the Church.” Christianity has been growing strongly in Africa, Asia, South America and more. The “Old Sending Countries” of North America and Europe are sending out less missionaries, and the church in these places are seen as a bit stagnant (or worse). “New Sending Countries” have been taking up the slack and are gaining more influence worldwide. When I came to the Philippines in 2004, some of the wonder of this transition was still felt. American missionaries still had a strong presence but many were in the process of leaving. Many Philippine Christians were wondering what the future would hold. Although there were Filipinos who were going out to do missions— it was a great novelty.

But things have changed. I used to use Charles Kraft’s book on Cultural Anthropology for ABGTS. I felt pretty good about that until one year when my class (made up of students from Samoa, Myanmar, and the Philippines) started asking me why the book would say this and that. I found myself repeating myself. I would end up saying something like this… “Well, Kraft was writing this back decades ago for students in the United States who pretty much don’t understand Christianity in terms of other cultures.” The more I was explaining this, I began to realize that I should have let the textbook go (we use textbooks longer in the Philippines than in some countries). Even though Kraft was trying to break down biases that needed to be broken down, But these students don’t have these biases. And today, Filipinos that I talk to feel nothing strange about missionaries being Filipino, Asian, African or anything else. While there still is a lingering tendency to think that foreign religious leaders are a bit more experts than local leaders (a deeply flawed assumption— I stifle a scream every time someone I talk to express a theological opinion and then ‘prooftext’ their belief by quoting John MacArthur or some other self-styled expert). But even that is SLOWLY fading.

This doesn’t make the book by Guthrie useless, or the book by Engel and Dyrness. It is a snapshot of issues. It is like looking back at the missionary conferences of the IMC, WCC, and Lausanne movements. They identify the concerns and values of the time. I have the book “Understanding Christian Missions” by J. Herbert Kane from the late 70s. It deals with issues of the “Three Worlds” (first, second, and third world countries), the Cold War, and the independence movements that were removing the shackles of colonial powers. There is value in studying these… but the issues of the these different times disappear, are replaced, or morph.

Part 2 will look at the topics I am going to have in the class.

Good “Missional Grumpiness”?

As one who has been a missionary for closing in on 20 years, I can get grumpy on things for various reasons. For example, I feel the temptation to say, “THE JOSHUA PROJECT IS A WASTE OF TIME!!”

That may not be totally true. Focusing on people groups is not necessarily the most valuable thing today… and maybe it never was. But perhaps it inspires some churches and Christians to think more multi-culturally and and pray beyond themselves. (Or maybe it is simply a waste of time. Not sure.)

I can get grumpy in missions for a couple of reasons.

#1. I can get grumpy because I am set in my ways. I was trained in a certain way, and I practiced missions in a certain way, and I have a certain theology that I don’t want to question. So encouragement to change makes me grumpy.

#2. I can get grumpy because certain things in missions is taught as dogma (like UPGs and UUPGs) that seem to either not be true or at least isn’t helpful in may situations (or may have been useful before, but the time is passing.).

“Grumpiness” is not necessarily a bad thing. It is a SYMPTOM. But what happens when one has a symptom? A symptom is not a problem. A symptom points to a problem… or one of several problems. For example, a cough is not a problem. It is a symptom that points to one of several problems. It lets us know that there is something wrong and needs to be dealt with. Missional grumpiness is a symptom… but it can have more causes. I must take that symptom and reflect. Is there something in missions that needs to change? Is there something in me that needs to change? Either way, it points towards the need of positive change. So, I think that all grumpiness is… good— unless it is not addressed. Then it is bad.

I guess that is why I enjoyed a podcast recently, because it dealt (positively) with a lot of issues— challenging some missions dogma that truly needs to be challenged. The title of the podcast episode is ‘Glurbanization,’ Church Planting, and Why Our Definition of ‘People Group’ Is Outdated: Dr. Michael Crane. It addressed several ‘sacred cows’ in missions that I was already really conflicted about— and even brought up an issue or two that I hadn’t really thought through very much (like whether house churches are good, or bad, or ‘it depends’).