Subversion of the Symbol of the Cross Quote

The planting of the first cross on Philippine soil is depicted in a painting by Vicente Manansala. Here the artist clearly shows the link between “mission” and “imperialism.” A priest blesses a large cross which has just been planted by indigenous laborers while Spanish soldiers carrying spears bark orders at them.

We are forced to ask whether, then as well as later, the message of Jesus and therefore his image was not thus turned into its opposite: the cross as a sign of the execution of an innocent victim having been turned around to function as a sword that could be used against Jews (culminating in the Holocaust, Muslims (the Crusades) redskinned Indians (Indian wars), and blacks (slave trade and slavery).

Anton Wessels, Images of Jesus: How Jesus is Perceived in Non-European Cultures. English translation by John Vriend

Manansala’s painting “The Planting of the First Cross” doesn’t seem to fit the description in the quote. The one’s planting the cross are clearly not indigenous laborers. Perhaps there is a different version of this painting done by Manansala. However overall, the analysis is spot on. The symbols of Christianity (priest and cross) are clearly supported by symbols of war (soldiers, armor, and halberds).

Vincente Manansala’s “Planting of the First Cross” (1965)

I think this subversion is pretty easy to do. Missionaries were often seen as supporting colonial imperialism because they utilized the might of the colonizers (guns, soldiers, ships, etc.) to be able to work. The fact that many missionaries were highly discomforted by what the colonial governments and colonizing populations were doing does not negate the fact that they would be seen as part of the problem by many. After all, in the painting described above, the priest utilized the spears and the soldiers used against the Cebuanos (local people) regardless of whether they approved of the behavior.

When evangelical short-term mission teams headed to Iraq after the (latest) Iraq War was over, were they seen positively (sharing their love and concern for the people there), neutrally (another voice in the dialogue of faith), or negatively (an invasion supported by the first invasion from the West)? I recognize that all ministry work takes advantage of the political landscape. St. Paul used his Roman citizenship to allow him to minister at times. But there also seems to have been some reticence in this. Most of the places that Paul traveled were conquered lands. His citizenship opened some doors, but it could shut others as well since his legal protection came through the sword and great bloodshed.

I am able to minister in the Philippines because it is a nation whose government supports a high level of religious freedom. I am grateful for the freedom. We have even done some ministry projects in partnership with local government or government agencies. That is a blessing, but we have to be careful not to be pawns of the government (US or Philippines) or seen as too closely linked to them.

History of Missions Class at Faith Bible College

It is good to keep learning. I am taking a course, “Teaching in Oral Cultures,” the first full course of study I have taken since 2013. It is also good to keep teaching. That is true for at least two reasons— one is that teaching forces one to keep learning. The other is that it helps others to learn as well.

I have a course set up on Populi at Faith Bible College this Summer. It is titled “History of Missions.” It is fully online and asynchronous (“max-flex” That’s because I have to go back and forth between the Philippines and the US. That makes it hard to guarantee a set face-to-face time. However, unlike some course, I think this works for “History of Misions”

I teach a number of courses at Philippine Baptist Theological Seminary and Asia Baptist Graduate Theological Seminary. However, PBTS is focused on God-called, Church-affirmed ministers. As such, there are greater limitations on who can take courses there. This is even more true of ABGTS. On the other hand Faith Bible College trains a wide variety of people— both traditional and non-traditional Bible school students. Of course, I absolutely do recommend PBTS and ABGTS for those seeking to do ministry— especially in Asia.

For those interested, you are welcome to try out the course this Summer. This sort of training format is new to me. I would love to get feedback. I need to keep learning.

Book Review and Reflections: George Lisle: A Faith that Couldn’t be Denied

About 5 years ago, in 2017, I first learned about George Lisle. Before that I had taught Missions History and I “knew” that the Judsons were the first (major) American international missionaries, and that William Carey was the first Baptist international missionary. But then I found out that a decade before Carey, and before Adoniram Judson was even born, George Lisle left the thirteen colonies that were in the process of being formed into a confederation now known as the United States of America. We went to Jamaica as a missionary.

Now the fact that my education had been deprived in this area was not necessarily a big thing at first glance. It seems like there is always a “first” before the first. Was George Washington the first President of the US? Yes, unless you count the presidents under the Articles of Confederation. Who was the first Christian missionary? Was it Philip the Evangelist? Perhaps it was some person whose name was not recorded for posterity? Maybe The Twelve? Perhaps it was Jesus. So the fact that George Lisle was not part of my missions training could be that he was a trivial figure… deserving of little more than a footnote in missions history.

But no, that was not true. George Lisle was a remarkably successful missionary despite great difficulties of ministering as an African man in a British colony built on the backs of slaves. Perhaps the fact that he was African, and was a slave in North America before being freed, or that he was an indentured servant for a time in Jamaica lowers him in the estimation of historians. I don’t know.

George Lisle: A Faith that Couldn’t be Denied. Jamaica 1783-1865 by Doreen Morrison serves as a corrective to this lack of historical recognition. Dr. Morrison is a Baptist minister and Clinical Chaplain in Jamaica. Her book covers the life of George Lisle as well as the turbulent times of Jamaica as a British colony centered on sugar plantations maintained by slave trade and labor. The period shows the slow transition from Jamaica being an active participant in the slave trade, to the period where trans-Atlantic slave trade was illegal but slavery was maintained, and through to the gradual process of abolition.

Central to the story of the book is the Ethiopian Baptist Society (EBS), established by Lisle in Jamaica. The book covers its formation, its battles with plantation owners and government leaders, and sometimes other denominational leaders (as well as its complicated relationship with the Baptist Missionary Society). The story is truly inspiring. The work of Lisle led directly and indirectly to thousands of converts to the Christian faith, mostly from among the enslaved. The EBS was a strongly contextualized church group, by Africans for Africans. That contextualization often led to fears from outsiders that the group was unhealthy and schismatic.

The EBS also had a strong role in the abolition movement, often seen as agitators for freedom of the enslaved. I find this rather comforting as Baptists where in my home country, on average, tend to steer clear of social justice, avoid addressing issues such as systemic racism, and may even pine for a (heavily rose-colored) view of the past. (I am speaking as a Baptist myself.) Complicating matters was the involvement of the (London-based) Baptist Missionary Society (BMS) in the EBS, especially after the first generation of EBS leaders had passed on. The missionaries from the BMS were a complicated lot, struggling with how to relate to the African churches as white missionaries. Some appeared much more attuned to this work than others. Their impact on the Ethiopian Baptist movement is hard to assess as they were a great help in some ways, but undermined the group in others. It is a good case study missionaries today when it comes to dealing with indigenous churches.

I found the book to be excellent in its research and its presentation. Much of the material shared is unknown to most, even among Jamaican Baptists today. Attention is given not only to what was going on in the churches, but how Jamaican society was structured, both before abolition and afterwards.As such, although I value it as a seminary professor who teaches missions history, I feel it would be valuable to a wide variety of readers, including secular researchers on colonialism and slavery.

I have no complaints about the book. However, I do need to point out something regarding the title of the book. The title is “George Lisle: A Faith that Couldn’t be Denied” with the subtitle “Jamaica, 1783-1865.” I think the average person would read that title and think something like this: “The book is a biography of a great man of faith, named George Lisle, who lived in Jamaica born in 1783 and died in 1865.” However, George Lisle was born in 1750 and died in 1828. He moved to Jamaica as a missionary in 1783 and served there for the rest of his life. The biographical material of the life of George Lisle is primarily in chapters 2 through 6. Much of the book covers after the death of Lisle.

1783 to 1865 covers the life of the Ethiopian Baptist movement in Jamaica. Lisle was instrumental in forming it upon his arrival in Kingston in 1783, and 1865 marks the end of the EBS as an identifiable movement separate from the Jamaican Baptist Union. Arguably a more accurate title for the book might be “The History of Ethiopian Baptists in Jamaica, 1783-1865.” That being said, the book is attempting to show George Lisle as an inspirational missionary, respected both by slaves and white religious and goverment officials, both in Jamaica and England. Much like a rock thrown into a pond with ripples radiating outward on the surface long after it is out of view, George Lisle’s impact in Jamaica, and among Baptists, cannot be understood properly if the book ends in 1828. The book provides considerable biographical information on other Baptist ministers and missionaries, both contemporaries of Lisle, and among those who served afterwards. Personally, I appreciated the more expansive look at what God was doing with great (and sometimes not so great) men and women in a truly hellish place and time.

I strongly recommend this book, with an especially high recommendation for Chapter One. This chapter gives an important overview of life and times in a British slave colony. It is an important chapter even for those not interested in the Baptist mission work in Jamaica.

Lessons in Missions History

I will be teaching a max-flex course in History of Christian Missions at Faith Bible College ( this Summer. Here are a few of the lesson presentations:

Lesson One: Mission Movements Overview (

Lesson Two: Missions of the Primitive Church. (

Lesson Three: Missions History During the Roman Empire. (

Lesson Four: Missions of the First Millennium (

Types of “Great Missionaries”

What does it take to be a great missionary? I think there are different types of missionaries and there are different ways they can be seen as good.

  1. Innovator. Barnabas. Some missionaries do something that is highly innovative and as such establish patterns that guide missionaries long after them. Barnabas appears to be a great example of this with the strategy that he used for mentoring and then entering strategic locations for missions. Other could include Zeigenbald, and John Nevius.
  2. Theologian Paul. Some missionaries develop and (often) write theological works. Such works can be theology of mission, or missional theology. Paul, while certainly a very good missionary as shown in his 3 mission trips. However, what made him great was his writings— 13 letters to various churches. These letters were practical, pastoral, and personal. However, they were very much theological. Other missionaries also embraced theological writing might include Roland Allen and Leslie Newbigin.
  3. Promoter. David Livingstone. This is a bit more dubious. Many ask the question of whether David Livingstone was a great missionary. And in his work in Africa they may have a point. At the same time, Livingstone was great in inspiring people to support missions or give more to missions. An even more extreme case may be Henry Stanley, who perhaps could be described as a bad missionary (but a great promoter of missions). Other missionaries may be clearly be good missionaries but are still more recognized in their role of promoting missions. Some examples might include Lottie Moon, Albert Schweitzer, Luther Rice, and Amy Carmichael.
  4. Contextualizers. Ulfilas. Some successfully brought the Christian faith successfully into a new culture. Often this is most clearly visible in terms of translation of Bible and liturgy. There are some that are uncertain of Ulfilas because of his theology. No one, however, could fail to recognize his accomplishment in translating the Bible into Gothic language. Others might include Methodius, Cyril, and Ola Hanson.
  5. Trailblazers. Adoniram and Ann Judson. Some missionaries may not be innovators in the strictest sense, but trailblaze a new place of ministry— opening the door wide for follow-on missionaries to follow. The Judsons were the first to work in Burma, and their challenging work opened the door for others after. Sometimes they gain the title of “Apostle of _______.” Samuel Zwerner and Nicholas Kassachin are a couple of examples.
  6. Organizer. Ludwig Von Zinzendorf. Some may have not done much personally in terms of missions, but they created structures that were highly effective in missions. Von Zinzendorf wasn’t really a missionary, although he did some visits to missionaries in the field. However, he brought structure to the United Brethren (Moravians) creating the first major mission movement in Protestantism. Another would be Hudson Taylor.
  7. Faithful. Justinian Von Welz. In most vocations there are superstars. Nothing wrong with that. However, it would be ill-advised to assume that the greatest missionaries were necessarily the ones identified as great in our eyes. Von Welz was an innovator, but too ahead of his time to be recognized as such by most. By almost every measure he was a failure. However, he was faithful even to death. By pretty much every measure William Borden was a failure— rejecting family fortune only to die before reaching his final mission destination. But he was faithful to the call and faithful to the end. These were the Faithful Servant of the parable of Jesus.

There are other categories of greatness. However, I hope you see from the #7 that list in general is a bit dubious. I think it is good as a reminder that there is more than one way to be seen as great or effective. However, our ideas of greatness may NOT coincide with what is God’s view of greatness.

Nicholas Kassatkin

I am putting together notes and presentations and video for a Missions History class I was asked to teach.

One of the values of doing this is that one gets the opportunity to relearn how little one knows. I keep learning how little I know.

Going through “Encountering the History of Missions” (by John Mark Terry and Robert L. Gallagher), there were a couple of missionaries who were brought up as being truly excellent missionaries who really were not on my radar screen as individuals I might go to for inspiration.

One of those was Bartholomaus Ziegenbalg. He was a Moravian missionary to India. I was familiar with him, but as I read more on him, there is much to be admired. Still, I generally knew about him.

The other was one who I had heard of briefly before, but I had learned so little that I did not remember his name when I came upon it.

This was Nicholas Kassatkin. Some put his name as Nicholas Kassathin. (I don’t know Cyrillic enough to know which spelling is closer to the original.)

Nicholas Kassatkin died in 1912 after serving in Japan for approximately 50 years. He was a Russian Orthodox monk her served in Japan. He was part of the Russian Orthodox mission movement that was especially active from the 1700s until the early 1900s. Kassatkin was different from most other Russian Orthodox missionaries during this period, and different from most other Christian missionaries during the “Great Century” in that he served in a place that was neither conquered lands nor colonized lands. He was a Russian Christian serving in Japan… neither conquered land nor colonized land of Russia or any other “Christian nation.”

I will quote from Richard Durmmond who was quoted by Terry and Gallagher:

The life and life fruits of Nicholas compel us to recognize him as one of the greatest missionaries of the modern era. In accordance with Orthodox tradition, he respected highly the language and cultural traditions of the people among whom he served. He respected the epeople and loved them as persons. He went beyond the common traditions of Orthodoxy in freeing his work to an extraordinary extent from the political aims and interests of his homeland. His apostleship was remarkably non-polemical for the day; he was in singular fashion an aposlte of peace among men. His method of evangelization was concentrated upon the family, and he stressed above all the raising up of national workers and the indigenization of the Church, even as he urged it to remember its distinctive association with the kingdom of God.

-Richard H. Drummond. “A History of Christianity in Japan (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1971), 354. Quoted by Terry and Gallagher on page 80.

He came to Japan shortly after the opening of the doors to outsiders, even though there still was considerable hostility to foreigners. He also came from a country that has had conflict with Japan. In fact, during his time in Japan, a war occurred between his country and Japan (in 1905). During that time, he struggled with his role as a foreigner. Japanese converts to Christ and Russian Orthodoxy were told by Kassatkin that they should be good Christians AND good Japanese citizens even if he himself could not go against his own country— Russia.

In his lifetime, he baptized approximately 20,000 converts. That is amazing in a country that has, generally, been very standoff-ish to Christianity. Actually, today, there are a little less than 10,000 Japanese who identify as Russian Orthodox. The church has not grown in the last century but considering wars and social upheavals in Japan and even more so the Russian Orthodox church, the endurance of the church in Japan shows the strength of the work of Kassatkin.

As Protestants, we may be tempted not to give proper due to Catholic missionaries, and even less to the Eastern Churches. But that is a mistake. There is much we can learn. I am glad I have had this chance.

Book Review: “Encountering the History of Missions”

The book, “Encountering the History of Mission: From the Early Church to Today” by John Mark Terry and Robert L. Gallagher, is part of the Encountering Missions series of books. It was published in 2017 by Baker Academic.

I strongly recommend it for anyone interested in Christian missions— especially Evangelical Christian missions. I don’t have major problems with it— most of points are either positive or of a more neutral nature. Therefore I will list my points together.

  1. The book is very readable in terms of content, style, and format. I found that I wanted to continue reading to finish a chapter, and then move to the next chapter to see “what happens next.” That in itself is strongly in its favor.
  2. It balances well between events, organizations, movements, and individuals. Missions history is primarily the work of God. Secondarily, it is the work of various religious, sociological, political movements. Third is the people involved. Missionaries did not MAKE missions happen, but responded positively to the work of God and their place in history. That is my view at least. Terry and Gallagher’s book balances things well.
  3. The book embraces what I might describe as a “Generous Orthodoxy” (drawing the term from Brian McLaren). The book is quite respectful of missions from a variety of Christian groups including Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Celtic, “Nestorian,” Russian Orthodox, and many faith traditions among Protestant groups. Some negative portrayals are reserved for the Roman Catholic church (especially in ways it worked against Christian missions and Protestant missions), but the work of RC missionaries is portrayed more positively. The only “historically” Christian group involved in missions that seems to never be described positively (as far as I noticed) was the World Council of Churches, and it missions (“conciliar missions”). More on that later.
  4. The target audience for the book is Protestant Evangelical. A little over half the book is focused on Protestant missions. As the book nears the present, the focus moved more to Evangelical missions. That being said, non-Protestant, non-Evangelical missions is given its place of prominence, especially in past centuries.
  5. I struggled to get a grasp of what the authors’ definition of missions was. Perhaps a reread of the book would clarify this. However, in a couple of places, I found the issue of definition problematic. In Chapters 7 and 11, Christian missions seemed to include what I might call, “Getting people to leave their church to start attending my church.” Chapter 7 attempted to support the notion that the early reformers (most notably Martin Luther and John Calvin) were indeed missional— despite anything that I would consider good support of this. Their argument that Luther and Calvin were missional was based on the fact that and their followers worked hard to get people to leave their own churches and join their churches. Chapter 11 is supposed to be about Methodist Missions, with focus on the Wesleys. However, the great majority of the chapter spoke of their ministry to people who are already Christians. Perhaps the desire to include the Methodist movement, with its link to the Moravians, and to the later ‘Holiness Movement’ made the inclusion feel necessarily. Missions has often included denominational efforts to get people to change churches. I am an Evangelical missionary in the Philippines. Ministry work to get Catholics to become Evangelical is commonly seen as a valid form of Christian missions. However, in other parts of the book, it seems like missions about reaching those who don’t identify as Christian. Thus, I am a bit confused.
  6. Generally, the book did a pretty good job of separating between missions history and church history. To me at least, Church history tends to focus on Creeds, Councils, Controversies, and Conflicts. Generally, the book avoided these. Perhaps it would have been of benefit to integrate more of these in since missions history is in many ways an outworking of church history. For me, however, I feel like keeping the focus on missions was probably the correct choice.
  7. Towards the end of the book, in the chapter on Specialized Missions, a lot was ignored. There was little to nothing on Social Justice, Community Development, Missionary Member Care, Theological education, Interreligious Dialogue, and more. Not everything can be covered in one chapter of course. Still, I feel like some more important specializations in Christian missions should have been included.
  8. I feel like the absence of (positive) representation of conciliar missions was a bit of a failure in the book. I have worked with missionaries who could be described as part of conciliar missions, and often found them to be very faithful to God and capable in their work. While some of the concerns regarding conciliar missions in the book are all too valid, very often the authors had been willing to take the positive view of other missions movement rather than focusing on its worst. The book took a very generous view of the theology of Ulfilas, completely avoided the negative aspects of the work of St. Boniface, and the list goes on. Arguably, the Evangelical missions has benefited from conciliar missions as well. It was the Anglican component of the Evangelicals (such as Neill, Stott, and Newbigin) with one foot squarely in conciliar missions, that kept Evangelical missions from simply be subsumed by the theology (or lack of theology) of the Church Growth Movement. Additionally, conciliar missions has often been better in certain forms of missions than Evangelicals (social justice and interreligious dialogue being among them). I certainly see no reason to give conciliar missions an equal place in the book. I just suggest the overall generosity of the book could have been supplied here as well.
  9. Despite the tendency towards “generosity” to various people and movements, the book did not idealize. The authors were willing to provide kind critique, and occasionally harsh critique. The summary of the good and bad of Christian missions in the last chapter (drawn from Herbert Kane) was not only valuable, but was generally supported in the text of the book.
  10. The authors did not spend much time on theology of missions. I can understand why this was seen as generally outside the scope of the book. However, I was glad that the book did list down strategies and practices of many missionaries and mission movements. I found this quite helpful to understand them better, and to learn more about what I should and should not focus on as a missionary.

I am planning to use this work as the textbook for my upcoming class on missions history. With very few (and limited) reservations, I strongly recommend it to others.

First Protestant Missionary Hymn

Awake, Thou Spirit, who didst fire
The watchmen of the Church’s youth,
Who faced the Foe’s envenomed ire,
Who witnessed day and night Thy truth,
Whose voices loud are ringing still
And bringing hosts to know Thy will.

And let Thy Word have speedy course,
Thro’ every land be glorified,
Till all the heathen know its force
And fill Thy churches far and wide.
Oh, spread the conquest of Thy Word
And let Thy kingdom come, dear Lord!

–Karl Heinrich von Bogatsky (1750). This English version is from The Story of Lutheran Missions by Elsie Singmaster (1917), Chapter One. Available on Project Gutenberg– adds two more verses, and notes that the English translation was by Catherine Winkworth. it shows the verses above as 1 and 4. Verses 2 and 3 are as follows:

Lord, let our earnest prayer be heard,
The prayer Thy Son hath bid us pray;
For, lo, Thy children’s hearts are stirred
In ev’ry land in this our day
To cry with fervent soul to Thee,
Oh, help us, Lord! So let it be!

3 Oh, haste to help ere we are lost!
Send preachers forth, in spirit strong,
Armed with Thy Word, a dauntless host,
Bold to attack the rule of wrong;
Let them the earth for Thee reclaim,
Thy heritage, to know Thy name.

For the orginal German, “Wach auf, du Geist der ersten Zeugen” here is what I found at least:

Wach auf, du Geist der ersten Zeugen,

die auf der Mau’r als treue Wächter stehn,

die Tag und Nächte nimmer schweigen

und die getrost dem Feind entgegengehn,

ja deren Schall die ganze Welt durchdringt

und aller Völker Scharen zu dir bringt.

O dass dein Feuer bald entbrennte,

o möcht es doch in alle Lande gehn!

Ach Herr, gib doch in deine Ernte

viel Knechte, die in treuer Arbeit stehn.

O Herr der Ernte, siehe doch darein:

die Ernt ist groß, die Zahl der Knechte klein.

Dein Sohn hat ja mit klaren Worten

uns diese Bitt in unsern Mund gelegt.

O siehe, wie an allen Orten

sich deiner Kinder Herz und Sinn bewegt,

dich herzinbrünstig hierum anzuflehn;

drum hör, o Herr, und sprich: »Es soll geschehn.«

So gib dein Wort mit großen Scharen,

die in der Kraft Evangelisten sein;

lass eilend Hilf uns widerfahren

und brich in Satans Reich mit Macht hinein.

O breite Herr, auf weitem Erdenkreis

dein Reich bald aus zu deines Namens Preis!

Personally, I don’t know if this is the oldest Protestant Missionary Hymn, although this is what is suggested by Elsie Singmaster . The fact that the hymn came out of the Pietist missionary movement from the University of Halle in the mid-1700s certainly places it at a key place in the History of Missions.

, Herr, auf weitem Erdenkreis

dein Reich bald aus zu deines Namens Preis!

If I Try to Get You to Leave Your Church to Go to My Church, Is That Missions?

I was reading “Encountering the History of Missions” by John Mark Terry and Robert Gallagher. In the Reformers, particularly Martin Luther and John Calvin, they try to make the (what I consider to be) controversial argument that they were quite missional. Their argument, however, seems to boil down to, “See how much they tried to get people to leave other churches and join their own?”

In most cases, this church piracy involved trying to get people to leave the Roman Catholic church to join their own group. This is a big question for me since I serve in a missions role in the Philippines. Philippines is over 80% Roman Catholic, and over 90% Christian. Many Evangelical missionaries in the Philippines focus very intentionally on getting Catholics to “be born again.” However, since the Bible is pretty clear that only God knows the heart and we are only competent to examine our own selves not others, in practice it tends to devolve into getting people to switch churches.

Is that valid? As a ministry, I suppose it is. While I don’t really have a high opinion of those who try to harvest out of other people’s gardens, I don’t necessarily believe that all churches are equal and their membership roles sacrosanct. However, I feel like church fathers would not see see this as missions. If the Hellenistic house church groups in house church network in Antioch tried to draw away members from the Hebraic or Latin house church groups, I don’t think Paul or Barnabas would be seeing it as missions. In the case of Terry and Gallagher, they were at least consistent. In a later chapter on Jesuit missions, they saw Jesuit attempts to get Protestants to rejoin the Catholic church as a mission strategy. Again, however, I am not sure I would.

Arguments for seeking Roman Catholics to become Evangelicals as mission work seem to be either because of (1) “nominality” of RC believers, (2) dubious theological views of the Catholic church, or (3) rejecting them altogether as Christian.

The weakest of these is #3. I have seen websites describe Philippines as about 10% Christian. To come up with that number, one has to assume that (a) 0% of Catholics are Christian, and (b) 100% of everyone who calls themselves Christian who is not Catholic is indeed a Christian. I have, however, met many very devout Catholics who (as far as I can judge) devout in their behavior, and true in their faith. I have also met a large share of Evangelical Christians who are immoral and seemingly faithless. For me argument #3 is insulting at best to non-Evangelicals, and at worst, playing God.

In the middle is #2. is in the middle for me. Yes, there are a lot of problems (in my view) with Roman Catholic beliefs and practices. Some of the more egregious ones were fixed in Vatican II, but others still very much remain. One may make the argument then that these views are so bad that it is better for Christians to grow in their faith outside of the Catholic church. I think that argument can be made. My problem is that almost always, ministry work to Roman Catholics starts with trying to get them to say “The Sinner’s Prayer.” The first part reinforces the assumption that all Catholics are non-Christian, and supports the most dubious assumption that the Sinner’s Prayer is the same as salvation experience. Further, there seems to be the assumption that evanglizing fails if one is not able to get the person to leave the Catholic congregation for one’s own.

I have experienced a version of this second issue. I have had Evangelical Christians (or more commonly Pentecostals) attempt to share the gospel with me. Once, I tell them that I share a common faith with them, they immediately continue into the second part of their presentation which is why I need to leave my faith tradition and my church and join their faith tradition and their church. I find this rather insulting and built on a very shaky understanding of Christ’s church. I feel like we can do better in training our memberships to recognize and appreciated the Unity and Diversity of the Body of Christ.

The best argument is #1. There is a LOT of nominality in the Roman Catholic church. This tends to happen when culture and faith tend to mix. With the prominence of the RC in Philippines, it is not surprising that their are many many cultural Catholics who have little to know discernible faith. However, the same could be said in many other settings. I am a Southern Baptist missionary serving in Asia. However, in the Southern United States, there are many places where community culture is very Southern Baptist. Not surprisingly, there can be an awful lot of nominality in the memberships of SB churches. BUT… then I ask myself a question— If a Christian denomination began targeting nominal SB members for evangelism and as part of that process intentionally seek to pull them out of the SB churches and into their own, would I consider that to be Missions?

The answer is NO. So although I still struggle with coming up with a satisfying definition of “Christian Mission,” I think that a good definition would NOT include intentional targeting of respondents from other Christian denominations with the intention of drawing them into one’s own denomination. <That being said, I don’t want to judge people in this matter. I teach missions classes overseas, and oversee a counseling center. Neither of these things hit the bullseye on traditional Christian missions either.>

Missions History versus Church History

I am working on teaching a course on Missions History. I have taught it before, but this version is for MaxFlex online learning which means I need to put more work in up front.

As I was developing it, I began thinking about Missions History in how it is different from Church History. Obviously the two are related, but there are stark differences. Any course on Church History would spend a lot of time talking about the Council of Nicea (325 AD). Another major event would be the “Great Schism” of 1054AD. I barely am mentioning the Council of Nicea, and I don’t think I will mention the Great Schism at all except obliquely.

Why is that? On first reflection, the obvious answer is that Missions History is a subset of Church History. This subset involves how the Christian church reaches out beyond itself to interact with and impact the broader world.

But as I thought more I realized that Church History is also a subset of something bigger. The History of the Church is very broad because the character, beliefs, activities, organizations, and participants associated with the Church over about two millennia is vast.

Obviously history cannot cover everything that happens. History is not reality, nor is it even a recording of reality. It is a artificial human construct to draw attention to patterns and meanings in the past.

Still, Church History is commonly much more narrow than it should be for having a name that sounds so broad. Typically, Church History is built around “Four C’s”:





This list is not all encompassing. I suppose that one could argue others as well (like Movements). However, many aspects of the church are not emphasized in Church History (at least as I have seen it presented). These include History of Local Church Ministry (member care and community ministry), History of Theology (thus having its own course, “Historical Theology.”), History of Liturgy, and more.

Missions History is definitely a subset of the History of the Church, but it is not really a subset of Church History as it is generally presented. This is fine— I have nothing wrong with that. However, I guess I wish that Church History was either a bit broader in its foci, or just call it what it is— “Conflicts and Movements in the History of the Church.”