|False Converts - "A volunteer missions Primer"|
When you go on a mission trip
Concerning spiritual Fruit in Africa
A snapshot for doing biblical evangelism as a volunteer ministering in a 3rd world country.
Introduction – NO shallow water here!
I have been told that western evangelical missionaries are the best equipped teachers and church planters in the history of the church. This statement is true as long as a qualifier is added. We are the best equipped teachers and church planters as long as we are working in the west. My volunteer service includes several trips to Russia, the Philippines, Costa Rica, and nearly 9 years of long term work in East Africa. I have interviewed many indigenous pastors and the consensus opinion is this: Western pastors, evangelists and mission volunteers need to go as learners before they attempt to become teachers. When we try to teach third world-ers how to do worship and church planting the way we do back home there is a breach in the effectiveness of our message. The wonderful writing and teaching of Rick Warren, Donald McGavern and other great churchmen must be adapted to fit the cultures we are working in. It is unrealistic and wrong to expect a third world culture to change to enable a tight fit with western methods. Many mission volunteers forget that we are the foreigners, not the people we are ministering to. The only conforming that God expects from any culture is to become like His son through the power of the Holy Spirit. Father God does not expect third world cultures to become like Deep South Baptists or New England Congregationalists as proof they finally got the Spirit. That kind of conformity expectation is anti-gospel and is over-all damaging to the cause of Christ. In fact, that kind of conformity is fueled by pride not passion.
How well equipped are we really to go? Do you really believe we are ready to do missions among unreached people groups in third world countries that are culturally far removed from the western evangelical mindset? I believe that saying we are naturally equipped to go into a third world cultures and take on the role of instructor is a misinformed and misguided position. It might interest you to know that I am not in the minority by taking this position.
In a lot of ways I am just like you. I have never been a career missionary. I have a lot of training that has worked very well for a very long time (36 years) on this side of the big pond. It would be easy to develop an attitude that I needed to go teach these third world-ers how they should do church. I have enough “on paper” credentials in full time vocational church service that some probably think I really do know something, even though I know the truth about how much of a novice I really am. Therefore, I would be amiss to speak with authority to you without some collaborative testimony from the African side that my positions were actually grounded in facts that could at least be discussed. Rather than taking another “volunteers” word about volunteer mission efforts, please listen to the comments of an upper level evangelical “African” church leader. This article came from a major mission’s publication last year.
Western Bible Teachers Hinder African Revival
A South African church leader has asked Western Bible teachers to stay home. He says they are hampering the spread of the gospel by exporting ideas that don't work. "Without offense, don't come," Danie Vermeulen appeals in "Dawn Report," the journal of the Dawn Ministries church planting movement. "Africa does not need your leadership style," he says. "We've always had leadership, even before the white man came. It is different, but it is not inferior to the rest of the world. It works in Africa." The co-director of DAWN Africa, which is promoting church planting initiatives across the continent, Vermeulen writes that he weeps every time rural African pastors are brought to the United States by one missionary he knows of to be trained "in a megachurch." "They come back trying to emulate the American pastor," he says. But "it's not the kind of church that will work in the black, rural areas of Africa. They have principles that they can learn from, which is wonderful, but they cannot duplicate the western model." Vermeulen tells of an African leader who "cringes" when some Western Bible teachers visit. "There is a depth of spirituality in the average African Christian that is missing in these well-meaning ministers," the man says. "Since we've grown up in poverty, we are not as hindered by the materialism of the Westerner. The African mind seems to have a greater consciousness for the spiritual realm and a more obedient desire and willingness to move in the supernatural of biblical experience with the Holy Spirit," he adds. "And with all due respect, I think that the Western mind is very scientific and wants to prove things whereas there is a greater emphasis on faith among Africans." Vermeulen reports that Africa could now well be "the most fertile whole continent" in the world. Since the turn of the last century, the number of evangelicals there has grown from 1.6 million to 116 million, he says. "There is a move of God in Africa; it's Africa's time...There is a hunger for the things of God that is unprecedented." Vermeulen says
That’s a pretty strong article isn’t it? Honestly I believe Brother Danie would state strongly that he was not making an indictment against missions, or mission trips. He certainly was not calling for a prohibition against helping third world pastors. Reaching Africa is going to take African pastors and African church planters with African methods that are fueled by African worshippers standing on the foundation of the Word of God. He was saying “stop taking them out of the gardens where God planted them to other gardens where God planted you.” Sometimes when people begin comparing gardens they get dis-satisfied with the one they are in. They need to see the promise land as Africa, not the America’s or Europe. We need to train them in Africa to do African ministry the African way. We need to help develop an African strategy based on African culture not Western culture. They must learn how to live better in Africa, and how to minister more efficiently in Africa.
Now for those of us that sense a call to go and work: All gardens, whether in Africa, Mexico, China, or Argentina have something in common. Any third world teacher must be a third world student first. Before we suggest change we must find out what’s already working. Avoid past mistakes by finding out the history of what’s been tried and did not succeed. Anytime we impose our culture, our dress, our worship style, our songs, and our value system on third world culture we are in danger of becoming an “ugly American” ministry. If we walk in religious supermen our arrogance will negate any real ministry we could have done.
I took Danie Vermeulen’s article as a plea to rethink and retool our methodology and our attitudes. Western evangelicals have access to top notch bible schools and seminaries which teach methods that work well in western settings. We have access to funding most of the rest of the Christian world does not have access to. Western evangelicals have God-sized burdens for the unreached people groups around the world. Western evangelicals are compassion and sacrificially generous. Most do what they do because of an incredible willingness to serve people and to serve the Lord. Every volunteer missionary as well as every career missionary must be committed to teaching Jesus not culture. The next article was written this week by a Pentecostal pastor from Kampala Uganda. Here is an article that appeared in a Ugandan newspaper yesterday. He has some amazing things to say. Africans write in a little different style so instead of editing the letter I felt you needed to read the whole letter in its original context.
THE FOURTH DIMENSION| Pastor Joshua Mugabi
If Jesus were to return today, some ‘holy’ people would be shamed
March 20 - 26, 2004 The Monitor News - The Palm Sunday story loses its power if we stick to a religious outlook. And it is possible to view it as one of those village dramas, with some guy posing as king by riding on a donkey in town and the idlers for fun's sake take their clothes and branches to praise their imaginary king.
After all, many had already been seeking for one who would emerge as king in their situation of bondage which they had resigned to as a changeless situation. But the procession surprisingly heads for the religious centre-the Temple courts instead of the Town Council building. For a man hailed as king to head for the temple seems to be a loss of direction. But as it is now, the temple courts wield power that needs to be recognized and many politicians seeking power in government go to the temples to try and woo voters to keep them in power. However the donkey rider was not seeking votes but a return to the fear of God.
So he overturned tables of those who had settled in the temple for business instead of worshipping God. This act has been indicated by some as a grave mistake that led to his crucifixion, a week later, but the Bible indicates this was deliberate because of the zeal for the house of God. Since He is the same Person who turned tables then, would He do the same this Palm Sunday in His zeal for the House of God?
If yes, what tables would He overturn today in His triumphant ride into town today? Considering His words against the business community in the temple and the rebuke of the religious leaders, I am inclined to believe this way:
I believe He would visit the lunch hour fellowships and turn over the pulpits that are used for fund raising instead of lifting up the name of Jesus. I suppose one of His quarrels would be; why promise people visas to Europe yet they have to tell lies in order for many of these prophecies to be fulfilled.
Why give the impression that the hope of the Ugandan Christian is in Europe? He would surely raise His voice against such teaching that comes from men's dreams other than the Bible. I suppose the teaching on deliverance would be questioned to account for its close similarity to witchcraft and African mysticism.
while some have been delivered from demons they need to be delivered from,
the preachers who have become a burden to the people they helped.
The Lord would turn tables in those synagogues where the leading Prophet has been esteemed to the position of god such that his words cannot be questioned and the followers have been deceived to think that this mortal man is everywhere; sees and hears everything that goes on earth.
The tables of holy water and oil that are esteemed like charms instead of faith in the living God would not be left standing. And I wonder how many counseling centres would be left standing in the light of the fact that many of the counsel seekers are looking for sin endorsement other than life change to holiness.
And the pastors, due to lack of counseling skills and the burden of many seekers, do not have time to give them godly biblical counsel. So they simply resort to ‘fix it quick’ methods in the name of words of knowledge or prophecies.
And not many albums would survive as the musicians ceased from worshipping God to worshipping money. Though these questions definitely annoy many people because they touch things that are commonly esteemed, I believe they must be brought to the light of God if we desire to remain in His favour.
Otherwise we might find the prophetic words in Revelation 2:16 overtaking us today. Jesus visited the Temple first because that's where the national life of Israel was determined. When the church is in order, the nation will come to divine order.
Do you know what this African pastor is referring to? Here in America the TV prosperity guys promise Rolls Royce automobiles, Rolex watches and mansions in exchange for seed faith offerings. In Africa Rolls Royce autos don’t exist and Rolex watches have no practical value and mud hut mansions are impossible to build so the prosperity preachers in Africa promise plane tickets to go to Europe or the United States and healing from the HIV virus in exchange for seed faith offerings from people that may make 100 dollars US a year. This is prime example of men picking up a method or a doctrine that might preach well in the US but it just doesn’t work in Africa or the mountains of Chile! How do you preach healing is available to all that have enough faith to give a little money when 6 out of 10 people are HIV positive and 3 out of 10 are in the death those of full blown AIDS?
Practical responsibilities you need to be made aware of. Pray about all of them to prepare for your trip.
Your Responsibility if you are a team member:
Pray that any evangelism which is done will not deviate from the biblical model.
Your Responsibility if you are a family member staying home:
Pray for the go-ers – Pray for each the mission volunteer that is attempting to share Jesus across the world.
Pray for the hearers to be receivers -We are also responsible for praying that the spiritual soil will be prepared for planting, watering or cultivating the seed of the Gospel. Pray that Holy Spirit illuminates the heart of every lost person. Without the illumination of the Holy Spirit, no one can comprehend spiritual truth or even something as basic as being lost. Lost people without the illumination sense the emptiness of their hearts and will without spiritual direction attempt to fill the emptiness with any number of temporary things such as alcohol, drugs, sex, power, education, or material possessions.
Pray for a generous spirit - Be a sender – become a part of the financial cost each go-er incurs to take the message of Jesus around the world.
Your Responsibility if you are a mission volunteer:
Be a learner, and a teacher, preacher or evangelist second! This may sound harsh! - The best thing you could do is to declare yourself a clean sheet of paper. Third world missions are so different from ministry in the west. Attempting to bring a plethora of ministry ideas that worked at home can be frustrating when they don't work, but sometimes they can be dangerous if they do work. Implementing western methods into third world mission activity can be potentially dangerous theologically to the people you are trying to reach.
An Awareness of cultural information is more than important. It is an imperative of conscience, if you have any desire for converts that will last! I believe you are reading this because you DO want lasting fruit. I don't believe anyone wants to spend massive amounts of money and time for a mission trip that is a colossal ego trip. So, assuming pure motive in all of us, we must try to do it properly. We must try and insure that our efforts and investments will have lasting fruit. I have made 26 missions trips of over a month or more. I have nearly 9 years in Uganda. All my mission experience has brought me to the conclusion that I really don’t know much of anything. Would consider praying this little sentence commitment to the Lord right now?
Lord, I am a blank page for you to write on as you see fit!
If you will join me in this confession I believe the Spirit of God will write on our hearts the things which we will need to tell others about Him. When experiential arrogance is broken, Jesus can finally use us because He’s able to fill us.
Preaching the gospel from a western mindset is evidence of a lack of cultural understanding and will confuse nationals about what real salvation is.
Wrong cultural understanding will eventually produce evangelistic methods that are non- biblical.
Here is the problem!
Numerically exciting and astounding reports are coming from mission efforts across the world. The more exciting the report the more stateside support can be generated. There is tremendous temptation to do what ever is necessary to make sure the report takes your breath away because of it miraculous nature. Many going are untrained. Many actually demonstrate a resistance to training. Let me ask you something. Would you try to tell a heart surgeon how to make the incision in someone’s chest unless you had been to medical school? Wouldn’t that be like saying I am qualified for surgery just because I can read a medical book? How is someone qualified to teach that has never trained. How can a part-time mission volunteer know more than full-time missionaries that have served in a country for most of their adult lives?
True Worship – True Evangelism
Evangelists, pastors, and laypeople of all shapes, sizes and colors are answering the call to “Go!” They are surrendering to work as cross – cultural short-time missionaries. The “Going” is good! The harvesting methods are sadly missing the mark. John 4 says that true worship involves 2 things, worshipping in Spirit and worshipping in Truth. Right attitude and right doctrine! Evangelism is no different. Just being willing to go or having the right attitude is not enough. We need the right doctrine to plant, and cultivate spiritual soil. We need the right doctrine to properly harvest too! The story of Jesus is the right story. Telling people they can come to Jesus without renouncing their other gods or having any understanding of biblical repentance is wrong doctrine. Some are saying that salvation is just rehearsing a carefully worded prayer back to God. No commitment of life, no surrender to the control of Holy Spirit, and most importantly no change in their lives. In Africa men can not come to Jesus until they renounce the false gods of African ancestral and tribal religion. Africa is a polytheistic place. Add as many gods as you want. Mohammed? No problem! Jesus? No problem!
But the gospel of the Bible is plain. No other gods except Jesus. Period! No other position possible. If I tell an African to just pray a prayer he will. If I tell him to pray the salvation prayer without first teaching him nothing will happen unless he renounces all the other gods in his life I may cost him his soul.
In fact, this practice will cost thousands their eternal souls if we give them false assurance by preaching false doctrine. My eyebrows raise, and a small chill goes through my body each time I hear a report from a short-timer about a large number of souls that purportedly have been saved. Yes, sadly I have become cynical in this area after seeing so much abuse by western preachers I know personally.
Nothing is too hard for God!
I do not doubt that Father can save a million people. I do not doubt that he wants to save a million people. The issue is this! Many of the glowing reports of eternal decisions turn out to be about fruit which didn’t last as long as it took the mission volunteer to fly home. The message delivery system is either suspect or down right wrong if huge percentages of picked fruit go bad quickly.
This is a huge point - Accountability - Right here is a good time to broach a question perhaps you are considering. Who does he think he is, to get so involved in scrutinizing other ministries? The answer is . . . I am just a regular person, prone to error like anyone else. However, we are all to be involved in testing the fruit we are picking, and testing the harvest tools that has been used to pick the fruit. This is one of the reasons our methods must always have a clear verse behind the things we do and the things we preach.
Iron sharpens Iron! In local church life or on the mission field we must live accountable to one another in an "iron sharpens iron" relationship. Biblical accountability will allow us to stay away from habitual error and accountability is a natural enemy to blindness caused by arrogance. We need each other to help us stay on the path. We need each another to be "Jesus with skin on."
Ministry integrity should keep us mindful that we are not the only ones on the planet. God has not called any of us to be mavericks for His Kingdom. Jesus hasn't filled the seat on his right hand with anyone living or dead. Father God never intended us to walk through our lives without the checks and balances that could draw us back to Him when we stray. I look back at some of the bruises I have endured and realize I could have avoided lots of hurt if I had allowed people access to my heart when I was younger. We must get "fessed up" before we attempt to take the gospel to any street corner. Otherwise we will go powerless and become vulnerable to the attacks of the enemy in a way that Father never intended. Older does not necessarily mean wiser but age should mean we have learned something along the way. I want to be wiser tomorrow than I am today but I want to gain the wisdom from doing things right instead of learning through mistakes and failure. Now my ministry goal is to finish better than I started by getting the counsel of those that have already walked the path I am just beginning to walk. Does that make sense to your heart?
Methods are driven by Motives!
· Numbers must be accompanied by good biblical method.
· Sometimes good biblical method is ignored to accommodate the desire to give a good report to our church leadership and financial supporters back home.
Pastors and evangelists like me don’t typically spend large amounts of money just to travel on an exotic African vacation to look at animals. They genuinely want to rescue the perishing. However, sometimes we actually compound the problem by stepping into the fight prematurely, before we understand the rules of engagement. Many times we don’t have the proper weapons. Other times, we have the proper weapons, but have received no practical instruction of how to use them.
In the 1950’s Billy Graham put together an organization for doing "Crusade evangelism" that has no equal in the Evangelical world or in all of the past two thousand years for that matter. One of the priorities during a Graham crusade is the follow-up ministry. This ministry invests a tremendous amount of time in each person which made a public profession of faith during the Graham crusade. This is the greatest follow-up ministry in the history of the church. Even with all that effort the percentages of people actually assimilated into local churches are less desirable percentages than they should be. I consider Billy Graham to be the greatest evangelist in the last 100 years. His organization and the men and women that work for him have the highest level of personal and corporate integrity of any ministry known to mankind. The point is this. No matter what we do, more can always be done to help those making decisions to start brand-new lives, not just brand-new thoughts.
In Uganda getting a crowd is the easy part. Getting people to pray a prayer and raise a hand is pretty simple too. If an invitation is given to a crowd where the hearers are asked to pray a sinner’s prayer and then raise a hand indicating they have prayed to receive Christ the result will typically be about 7 out of 10 raising a hand. Here is a fact though. Most African nationals making "professions of faith" in western style crusades do not follow through and become mature participants in local churches. If 700 out a 1000 pray a prayer and raise a hand then getting 25 to come for baptism and church membership will be an above average day. Question! Are they saved and headed for heaven because they prayed a prayer? Dr Graham would say “no, they are not saved.” In fact he has said, “70 plus percent of those professing Christians have never really come to saving faith in Jesus." No matter how well we attempt to follow up there are still problems with the perception of what people are actually hearing when we preach. Secondarily it is a problem concerning what they actually do after they pray the sinner’s prayer.
Stay with me on this! Western minds are difficult enough to reach where communication is not a problem. How much more difficult is the task of presenting the story with clarity in a country with 58 languages like Uganda, or in the Muslim world where Christianities proof documents are in question, or in the Orient where polytheistic philosophy and mysticism is second only to government mandated atheism. How difficult is it to generate reverence and authority for containing the Words of God in countries that cannot read? How difficult is the task of understanding the need for a savior in a country with no concept of sin. How difficult is it to present a message which fills the heart, but not necessarily the stomach, in a country where physical needs take precedent over spiritual needs. Uganda alone has 1.5 MILLION kids living on the street out of a total population of 27 million. This cultural fact alone produces an environment of deceit. Third world people from across the world prepare to be compliant when a westerner is around. They have learned to say anything a white skinned visitor asks them to say as long as there is the possibility of food. They will pray anything as long they don't have to give anything up that they already have. Even Muslims will pray a "sinner's" prayer if there is a remote chance they might be fed, or be given a Bible that might be bartered for medicine or be given a bicycle that could bring a good price in the market place.
We know these things to be true. We know the potential cultural and spiritual problems which come from just asking them to say some words. My question is this! If we know, then how can we intentionally go ahead and lead them in a catechistic prayer, tell them they are headed for heaven and then leave 10 days later to brag on our efforts, when there is "no fruit meet unto repentance" like Jesus talked about?
A common scenario for a volunteer’s call, and preparation for a mission trip to Africa might happen this way. It’s Sunday. Your church is having a world mission’s conference. A picture of people, which look totally different from you, catches your eye on the mission exhibit table in the hall, as you walk into the sanctuary. God touches your heart through the message of the visiting missionary preaching that morning in the pulpit of your church. The missionary, now retired, is still pleading with ordinary folks like you, to consider mission work as your reasonable service. That spiritual seed, which was planted in a junior Sunday school class, or in a missions auxiliary chapter when you were young, receives water and begins to grow. Somehow in your heart of hearts the Holy Spirit whispers “Go!” with a spiritual voice straight from the mouth and heart of God.
And . . . you say, “I will go Lord!” The church begins to pray for you. A saving plan is put in place to have the funds available when it’s time to go. Nickels, dimes, quarters, and a check or two shows that God is faithful when he calls. Passports, visa’s, shots for yellow fever, cholera, typhoid, and a dozen others are finally completed projects. Your team is packing, or perhaps you are going alone. You hope to be met at the airport by a familiar face, or at least someone who knows your name. Boxes of old glasses, clothing, donated medicines, Velveeta cheese and double-stuffed Oreo’s for the missionaries, and “oh yeah!” “I almost forgot my Bible!” Airport security, check-in, security at the gate, airline food, jet lag, customs, layovers, new faces, new smells, and maybe even Pepto Bismol!
Have Mercy, have mercy!!! This ain’t Kansas, Toto! Excitement, fear, peace, and nervousness are all wrapped up in one box. You have arrived! More travel. The traffic is on the wrong side of the road. Cars, motorcycles, cattle, bicycles, buses, and large trucks are belching more oil smoke than you thought mechanically possible. They are ALL headed for that one little opening in the press, the massive mess of mechanical madness. The largest pileup in third world history must be about to happen with you in the middle. Then, miraculously the disaster never transpires! No crash, no screams, no blood, not even a scrape. Everyone is on his or her way and you are thinking that you’ve already seen the appearance of God’s protective (probably a 1000 of them) angels. Bicycle men are using their machines as beasts of burden. They push huge loads of produce down the road on wheels that you thought had been invented to have fun. Banana’s, bricks, grass, charcoal, sugar cane, wood, cans of milk are all common loads on the two wheelers of Africa.
Climate The climate is repressive, but you remind yourself that you get to go home in two weeks. You finally get to where you are sleeping a little bit. It’s hot and a strange, deep tired is on you. What sleep you get is restless.
Food Breakfast is tea or coffee, toast, pineapple, boiled eggs, and maybe porridge (oatmeal). Dinner is fish, or chicken that tastes like wild game, or goat (intestines and all).
Ministry The day begins! Bible Schools are started. The drums beat and hundreds of pitifully dressed children come, with the widest smiles you’ve seen in your life. Later in the afternoon it is time for the evangelistic crusade. Loudspeakers are put out, and a generator is started to run the sound system. The people begin to arrive with a phrase of broken English “you are welcome!” as they shake your hand in 3 different ways before letting go. You notice the odor and are reminded that many of these people don’t have enough water to bathe everyday (actually every month), and so you try to ignore what would be so offensive in the West.
Music Drums, instead of a pipe organ begin to play again. The crusade begins with singing, and “Oh no!” Dancing! “How un-Baptist!” You have no idea what the songs are saying, but the power is amazing, and you think, “Why can’t our people at home, sing with this kind of joy and participation.” The preacher preaches sentence by sentence with a pause in between for an interpreter to repeat sentence by sentence in Luganda, or Swahili, or Teso.
Invitation An invitation is offered for the listener’s to give their lives to Jesus. They are asked to pray a prayer to receive Jesus. Those that prayed with the preacher are instructed to raise their hand. A raised hand is to indicate they have received Jesus into their hearts. An amazing thing happens! Hundreds of raised hands shoot into the air, like a drowning man reaching for a lifeline. Your tired body quickens and rejuvenates. Your heart leaps in your chest. The joy you feel is almost indescribable. All the time, effort, and money invested in this trip has just become the best investment you ever made. You can’t wait to call home or send an email. Hallelujah! So many saved! So many snatched from the jaws of Hell!
Or were they . . .?
After the crusades are over and the volunteers have gone home to share glowing reports of great victories . . . career missionaries go back into the villages and city neighborhoods to follow-up the recorded decisions. Do you know what they usually find? They usually find very little evidence that the gospel has been there!
1. In many cases, less than one percent of the new converts can be found continuing in the faith within 2 weeks of their supposed conversions.
2. Career personnel also report that very few baptisms result from large numbers of crusade decisions.
3. Very few churches that are started through crusade evangelism are still operating within one year of their supposed plant.
4. One of the exceptions to all of these statements is when nationals rather than visitors preach the crusades.
1. The best method is to use men that look and talk like the people you are trying to reach.
2. Combining national preachers in crusade preaching and with house-to-house, one on one visitation causes the percentages of lasting converts to skyrocket.
So . . . what is happening? During the last few weeks, I have visited with some real heroes of the faith. I interviewed nearly 20 full-time missionaries. These people are a cross-denominational group of missionaries that dearly love the African people. They have spent their lives trying to reach Africa for Christ. The shortest tenured missionary is 3.5 years. The longest tenure is over 35 years. Each missionary has an established, long-term evangelistic/teaching ministry in Uganda. They are imminently qualified to comment on this subject. A collaboration of the actual events of their ministry lives could produce an academy awarding winning screenplay, and probably an academy award for best picture. They and their families have been shot at with AK47 automatic rifles. Some have had their vehicles stoned. They have been lied about and mistreated. Some were exiled to other countries by bloodthirsty dictators. All have been threatened with demons and curses sent by witchdoctors, because they preach Jesus as Kabaka (Swahili for King) in opposition to the African tribal religions which practice idol worship, including human sacrifice. They can all sit and talk for hours about dramatic deliverances in the face of trouble. They have all experienced the appearance of angels and the miracles of God. These situations would have been deadly without miraculous intervention. They endure strange diseases, bugs, reptiles, food, accommodations and climate with very little complaint. They have chosen to live where as American Christians; they are a spiritual minority (Christian vs. Muslim) and a social minority (white vs. black or even West vs. East). They live on salaries that are adequate for Africa, but would put them in a poverty bracket at home. Loved ones get married, grandchildren are born, parents and precious family get sick and die while they are still on the field, 15,000 miles away. They usually are unable to attend the life events most of us take for granted. During the last 3 weeks, 2 missionaries have lost immediate family members. The funerals went on without them. Why? It’s all about their intense love for Him, the Lord Jesus. They came here knowing they could not go home, and quite possibly would pay great prices to stay.
This group of missionaries has planted or been involved in over 100 church starts. They have built two of the finest theological seminaries in Africa. They are doing hunger relief/evangelism for nearly 500,000 people a year. They have generally proven their mettle by going through the fire of persecution and danger more times than they can count! Some have been in Africa most of their adult lives. Many couples have brought their own children into the world with African midwives and natural childbirth. These children were either born in their homes, or in hospitals that are more like cattle barns than sanitary birthing stations. These stories are like a re-enactment of the Hebrews 11 chapter in scripture, which is lovingly called “God’s Honor Roll.” They deserve our attention when they speak. Most of the information on the following pages was written after listening to them talk about this subject!
Here is a list of subjects you are about to see discussed.
1. A lack of cultural education among volunteers.
2. Poly-theism – the worship of many gods
3. Money corrupts!
A part of the problem is a lack of cultural education for stateside volunteers (particularly the ones actually doing the evangelism). Most International Mission Board (IMB) volunteers are given a cultural orientation more extensive than most independent missions sending groups. However, the IMB cultural education is still not enough, according to their own missions professionals on the field of the world. Fulltime missionaries are more likely to have some cultural training before arriving on the field. The main problem is the vast amount of volunteer labor that arrive with little or no cultural training at all. IMB and independent short-term volunteers may or may not even have access to the kind of cultural information they need.
Cultural understanding is necessary to do biblical evangelism in a third world country.
1. Why is culture a necessary consideration? The answer is that it is not enough for the preacher to understand the call of Christ, the hearer must understand the length and breathe of the call too. In other words, we have to get them lost, before we can get them saved. Muslims believe they are saved and we are lost. Eastern mystics believe we are all in a process that will eventually lead to salvation for all. Atheists believe that belief is folly. Religionists believe in the morality of man and ignore the fact the lostness of his spirit. Christianity is presupposed by positional truth that the resurrection of Jesus was more than just a nice story. We do what we do, because we believe the resurrection is an exclusive doorway which opens the path to real relationship with the creator God of the Universe. If there is another way to God then we are the biggest fools of human history, then we have needlessly wasted our resources and our blood for 2 thousand years.
OR NOT! If the resurrection is true then knowing Jesus takes on the most significant event a man can attempt to experience. Culture can be a place in which a man can hide from the knowledge of the true God of heaven. If you are to be an apologist then you must know the questions before you can offer the answers.
2. Isn't the Gospel transcultural in it's scope and directive? Yes, it is transcultural in application, but not necessarily in reception.
1. Languages, family custom, local religions, economics, local politics and even weather can impair the ability for the meaning of scripture in the west to translate "apples to apples" in places outside the US and Great Britain.
2. The gospel must be applied in the missiological setting in which it is preached!
3. This is basic hermeneutical principal taught in the introductory preaching classes of the first year seminary student.
4. A preacher that exposits a scripture text properly must consider the author of the book, it’s historical background, the date it was written, and the intended recipients of a particular passage.
5. If proper background research is not done then the present day application may be completely off base. That is a cultural issue from beginning to end.
Evangelistic preaching on mission field must be transcultural as well as scriptural to be powerful and righteous.
· Preaching without cultural understanding may not reach the heart.
· Preaching without cultural understanding may only reach the head.
1. Preaching without cultural understanding will give the hearers false hope.
1. (Just pray these words and you can go to heaven!) Wrong! Jesus said, "We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart! Not Jesus plus Mohammed, plus Buddha, plus whatever.
2. A definition for heresy. Jesus plus anything (church membership in certain denomination, tongues, personal religious works, baptism, certain skin color,) or minus anything (Jesus not totally man or not totally God) is heretical and will not produce saving faith.
2. Preaching without cultural understanding will make evangelism MORE difficult the next time the sinner is confronted with the gospel.
1. If we give people religion instead of presenting the biblical call of salvation, there will be a tendency for them to say something like this, "I have already tried that and it didn't work." Satan tries very hard to give people a taste of religion to substitute for a real relationship with Jesus.
3. Preaching without cultural understanding can make it nearly impossible to bring the sinner to a point of real conversion at a later time.
The overall consensus of the missionary interviews was pretty clear. An absence of cultural understanding of the African mind has made evangelism difficult. Lacking a simple understanding of Africa’s history and people has produced less than biblical evangelism and less than hoped for results in the long term.
Now forgetting the opinions of men, including mine, , let’s consider what God says in his Word. The final authority on any subject is always the Word of our Father. Our opinions about the Word of God are not nearly so important as the Word of God itself. So . . . I challenge you to ask the Holy Spirit if he is speaking. Listen to these things with your heart. Pray over them before you take your seat on the plane. Seek the discernment of the Spirit so that you can declare your passion about HIM in power and truth of his Word. More responsibility awaits you when your trip is over. Pray over the results. Reflect on the methods in light of the scriptures. It might be wise to hide the glowing reports about how many were saved on your trip in a safe place in your heart for a short time. Perhaps we should be patient and observe to see if the fruit we have harvested lasts at least as long as it takes for us to get home and recover from our jet lag.
Giving glory to God for the work of His Spirit is not wrong. Many times we don’t thank the Lord for what he does for us on a daily basis. We are usually lax at giving glory and praise to the Lord, as we should. However, there’s another side to the coin. We should make sure the work of the Spirit has been done before we give the glory to anyone! Consider this? What can we say about a person that raises a hand at an African, or East Indian crusade and the next day is still praying at the Muslim mosque or at his Hindu Temple? Or what can we say about a person that raises a hand and refuses to be baptized, or come fellowship with other believers, or even exhibit some little change in their life to indicate the presence of Jesus? One of the indications of true salvation is written in great detail in 1 John.
1 John 3:23 And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name
of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.24 And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit, which he hath given us.
Baptism is really important! It has nothing to do with saving us, but it is a tremendous indicator that we are saved. A person that prays a prayer and raises a hand, but refuses to be baptized in OBEDIENCE to the command of Jesus is not a Christian. Am I saying baptism is necessary to be saved? NO! However, if you are saved you will want to be baptized because Jesus demands it as an act of testimony that you belong to Him! Africans are perfectly willing to ADD a god, but they are reluctant to be baptized because they understand they are leaving their other religions. The Muslim that is baptized a Christian loses their family, sometimes their property, or job, and sometimes even their lives. They understand they are renouncing all other gods and making Jesus the God of their heart . Tough stuff! Yet, that is what it takes to become a true believer. When we allow people through our methods or our ambition to "come to Jesus" in a way that is not biblical then we do them more harm than good.
Fellowship – How can you say you LOVE someone and refuse to spend time in their presence? One of the indicators of biblical salvation is the desire to fellowship with other members of the family. Loving your brother is not referring to the demonic secular humanistic doctrine called “the Fatherhood of God - Brotherhood of Man.” “The Unconverted” are not part of the “Family of the Born Again.” If a man is not a believer, his father is the Devil. If a man is a Christian, his father is the Creator God of the Universe the Lord Jesus Christ. I John is not referring to loving the human race. It is referring to loving your new spiritual brothers and sisters that now abide in the Body of Christ the Church. A person that raises a hand and prays a prayer and yet refuses to fellowship with his new family is still lost. Is church attendance necessary to be saved? NO! But a refusal to fellowship in a church body with other believers is an indication of a lack of a real relationship with the Lord Jesus. When you love him, you will also love his family.
1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. 8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. 9 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. 10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. 12 No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.
1 John 4:20 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? 21 And this commandment have we from him, that he who loveth God love his brother also.
These verses are talking about our relationship to those in a church fellowship . The "Fatherhood of God/Brother hood of man" idea is not only humanistic, but totally heretical. God is NOT the father of those that are not believers. The Word plainly says our father is the Devil until we are saved and experience the new birth of Jesus. Therefore the person that says they are rightly related to the Lord but they are unwilling to spend time with their brothers and sisters in family meetings called worship are without a doubt probably false converts. 1 John 4:7 and 4:20 are not talking about some idea of us just "lovin' everybody. "Ivory and Ebony" or "We Are the World" or "Give Peace a Chance" are talking about the commonality of the human species not the specifics of being a part of the "Family of God"! If you don't the kids in the family then you are probably lost.
We know a person can be lost one minute and saved the next. But the question is this! Can a person be saved one minute, and be lost the next? I think not, and I base my words on the Word of God
One of the reasons I am a Baptist is because of what Baptist’s believe the Word of God teaches concerning salvation. We believe the scripture teaches that we are birthed into God's family for eternity. We do not believe a person can genuinely be saved and fall away to some place where we are no longer a part of God's family. Baptist's are virtually the only denomination that teach this doctrine. Those who teach you can be saved and lost again, also teach that you can move back and forth from death to life, and life to death. If you use any kind of consistent hermeneutical rules to interpret the scripture, then this doctrine of being saved and lost and getting saved again, is absolute heresy. If you look at Hebrews 6 fairly, even if it is possible to be saved and somehow get lost again, you cannot be saved a second time. According to the Word it is impossible to be saved more than once. Let’s see it!
Heb 6:4-6 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, 5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, 6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
Declaring someone saved is dangerous business.
Yet we are
constantly coming home to give reports that time has not confirmed. I have
done this and stand as guilty as the rest of you that read this article. I
think we need to be more careful before we report on the harvest. Certainly
we need to refrain from doing the Holy Spirit's job of assurance in people's
lives. If someone is really a part of the family of God, the Holy Spirit
himself tells them, because God wants his kids to know they belong to him.
We need to let Holy Spirit do his job or we will end up telling someone they
have something they may not have. Rom 8:16 The Spirit itself beareth
witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: I would say
that is pretty plain spoken, wouldn't you?
We may say a person is saved, but the only confirmation of real authority is the internal confirmation by the Holy Spirit. Again I say be careful. Even here in the states I see pastors and parents that seem to think the job of assuring someone that they have life is their responsibility. When someone has life they will know it! When someone is vacillating back and forth as to whether they are really saved "BE CAREFUL!" Don't be guilty of assuring them of possessing something that only God can verify!
“Luke 6:43-45 "No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. 44 Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. 45 The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.”
There are 2 possibilities, when fruit has apparently been picked and doesn’t last.
1. Option One - You must be prepared to say a person can be saved more than once. I can't scripturally say this because of Hebrews 6th chapter.
2. Option Two is that they were never saved to begin with.
3. If you choose the 2nd option the Word of God makes a complex problem very simple. When the fruit doesn’t last, it wasn’t a real work of God.
4. Once a person is genuinely saved, our Father never loses a real sheep. He sees to it that the work he does in us continues to the end”
The greatest follow-up program in the world in the keeping power of the Holy Spirit!
How clear is Phil 1:6 on this subject? If they don’t last, they weren’t of HIM !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Phil 1:6 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:
I had a man rebuke me years ago when he heard me preach on this subject. He grew up in a Southern Baptist missionary’s family in India & Africa. He had 6 brothers. They all made professions of faith at a young age. They lived their whole adolescent lives in India. One of his brothers met a young East Indian girl as an adult. They fell in love and were married. The new groom, to please his wife, converted to Hinduism, and renounced his Christian faith in Jesus. The man said that his brother had prayed the sinners prayer when he was young and therefore was saved. He told me that even though his dear brother serves the poly-theist gods of the Hindu faith, he is still saved and going to heaven on the coat-tails of the words he spoke as a child. I agree with one thing he said. If he was ever saved then he is still saved. I think the problem is that the young brother was never saved or he would have been able to renounce Jesus!
Look at this phrase “For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.” The overflow or what is inside the heart is what will come out through the mouth. If there is still emptiness then nothing will come out. No confession. No testimony. In other words a refusal to declare Jesus openly is a virtual high percentage declaration that a person has not been born again yet, and is not a Christian.
Compare the phrase above from Luke 6:45 to what Romans says about salvation.
“Rom 10:8-13 But what does it say? "The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart," that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: 9 That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. 11 As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame." 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile-the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
Is this a confession to God? He already knows your heart. Why would he need to hear the words? God does not need to hear the words. Our confession is not to him. Our confession is about him. Our confession is to be made in the presence of those that already know him, as well as in the presence of those that still need him in their hearts too! The next verse proves that our confession is for those unable to see our hearts.
Matt 10:32-39 "Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever refuses to acknowledge me before men, I will refuse to acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. 34 "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn "'a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law- 36 a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.' 37 "Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
Here are some reports we have received recently.
A mini-crusade in Kampala, Uganda of over a 1000 people making a profession of faith in 2 nights of preaching.
One weeks preaching in another Africa country resulting in over 1.1 million souls saved.
Tanzania – 10 days preaching – 33,000 souls saved
And the list goes on and on.
I have heard national “pastors” give instruction to visiting preachers and soul winners on the subject of giving an invitation in Africa. They said, “Have the people pray a prayer, and raise a hand to indicate they are trusting Jesus. We will count the hands and that will determine how many were saved. Then we will leave and come back in 2 weeks for a bible study. Whoever shows up are the genuine converts and the rest were tares.”
Can you believe this? It is not the prayer that saves a soul! It is the power of the Holy Spirit that births a man into the kingdom of God.
The only way to know what Jesus did and how he did it is to check the book! Our Father has written a book that gives a way to check the fruit. Evaluation or fruit inspection is a biblical mandate on every level from looking at our personal lives to a making global ministry accountable for what it does with it’s money. According to God’s Word, (the fruit inspection book) the victories weren’t as complete as we once thought.
The problem is this. There are some cultural things in African missions that many visitors seem to either ignore, or simply don’t know.
1. African people are incredibly tuned in to compliance. They want to please you! They want visitors to be happy with them. Therefore, if they are told to bow a head, raise a hand, repeat a prayer … then they do it because no one has asked them to “give up anything” to perform these aforementioned tasks. However, if they hear an invitation to denounce publicly their African tribal religions, denounce worshipping the animistic- ancestor tribal traditions, and to come and publicly declare Jesus Christ the (Kabaka, Kurios) Lord of their lives, then the numbers go way down of those responding to our invitations. Even the less committed Muslims are willing to bow a head, raise a hand, or repeat a prayer! But when we ask them to come and publicly denounce Mohammed and Islam so that they might publicly declare Jesus as the God of their life, most of them walk away. There are many witch doctors in the villages, which will come and listen to the gospel being preached. They also, will sometimes bow a head, raise a hand, and even repeat a prayer. But until they are willing to bring all of their idols, and the implements which they used to practice magic and incantations they are not considered to be Christians. Are they doing something so that they might be saved? No! They are doing something to prove that they are saved!
2. Africans don’t mind ADDING a god. It’s when the preacher biblically insists the sinner place his or her faith and trust completely in Jesus alone that they balk at making a decision public. We are meeting hundreds of people who have made decisions in crusades over the last 25 years who tell us this. We ask these questions out in the villages and in the streets. “Have you been told the good news of Jesus?” “Have you been saved from your sins?” “Have you been born again?” “Do you know what it means to be born again?” Their answers are fairly uniform, “I have been saved many times, but I have not been born again yet!” or "I have prayed a prayer like that, but I am still a Muslim or I am still a Catholic or an Anglican.
3. Even the lost Africans KNOW there is a difference between repeating words in prayer led by a Musungoo (white man), set being miraculously snatched from the jaws of Hell by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit of God. Here are some considerations for Rom 10:13. The next paragraph comes from Barnes notes, a respected commentary set among evangelical preacher's. “To call upon him is to acknowledge him as our Sovereign, our Father, and our Friend; and it is right that we render him our homage. It is implied in this, that we call upon him with right feelings; that is, with a humble sense of our sinfulness and our need of pardon, and with a willingness to receive eternal life as it is offered us in the gospel. And if this be done, this passage teaches us that all may be saved who will do it. He will cast none away who come in this manner. The invitation and the assurance extend to all nations and to people of all times. This paragraph is from Jamison, Faucet, & Brown New Testament commentary. Rom 10:13 [For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.] Nor shall any one who hears this doctrine of salvation, and credits it as he is commanded, be permitted to pray or supplicate the throne of grace in vain: for the Prophet Joel hath declared, Joel 2:32: Whosoever shall call upon, invoke, the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior of sinners, shall be saved, shall have his guilt pardoned, his heart purified; and if he abide in the faith, rooted and grounded in him, showing forth the virtues of him who has called him out of darkness into his marvelous light, he shall be saved with all the power of an eternal life. "Believing in Christ, or God, Rom 10:11, and calling upon God, Rom 10:12-14, are in effect the same thing; as calling upon God necessarily connects and supposes faith in him: and he who duly believes in Christ has such a sense of his dependence upon divine grace, that he looks unto God and trusts in his power and goodness alone for happiness: which is the true religion of the Gospel." It is evident that Paul understood the text of Joel as relating to our blessed Lord; and therefore his word “Kurios” must answer to the prophet's word Yahweh, which is no mean proof of the Godhead of Jesus Christ. If the text be translated, Whosoever shall invoke in the name of the Lord, which translation Yahweh will certainly bear, yet still the term Yahweh the incommunicable name, is given to Christ; because invoking in the name signifies soliciting one in the name or on the account of another. He who is invoked is GOD; he, in whose name he is invoked, is JESUS CHRIST, who is here called Yahweh. He who asks mercy from GOD, in the name and for the sake of JESUS CHRIST, shall get his soul saved. When this is understood, a prayer and a raised hand is not enough for the one who realizes how lost he is and how desperate he is to find a Savior. When a desperate sinner calls on the name of the undisputed, heavyweight champion of Grace, a miracle of creation, equal to the creation of whole organic matter in existence, takes place. For that which was dead, LIVES! When life comes, declaration, confession, testimony all become natural expressions of the work which Jesus has done in the life and in the heart! The Word of God declares “God is no respecter of persons.” That means his love is the same for all. His expectations are the same for all. The doctrine he expects us to live by is the same for all. There are no stepchildren in the kingdom of God. We must all come to Jesus in the same way, through the same door, and by the same Spirit!
4. This fact is difficult to talk about. Third World believers, especially African Christians (even the good ones) see the western visitors as a way to obtain support. Western visitors have hearts of compassion and minds filled with missiological zeal. Africa's incredible abyss of human lack is usually a mirror that reminds us that we have been gloriously blessed to live in America. Most of us struggle month after month to pay bills, feed our kids, and maybe eventually send them to college. Still when confronted with the incredible lack in a third world country, we have a desire to make sacrifices to help these poor, sick, struggling new friends. Over the last 40 years, we have built their churches. We have bought their medicines and food. We have brought their gifted young people to the west to study. We have paid to train them to become preacher's, doctors and lawyers. This generosity has inadvertently resulted in focusing their search for support on us, rather than on the Lord. In essence, we have made beggars out of the best, and thieves out of the worst. I want to interject this note. About the worst thing we can do for a gifted African is to bring them to the states or Great Britain. They never want to go back, and Africa suffers because her gifted ones are living the western dream instead of helping to bring deliverance to their own people.
Most 3rd worlder's that handle money dishonestly are trying to survive, not prosper.
Most westerner’s that handle money dishonestly are trying to increase their position. The story is usually different in Africa. Does 4 dollars for medicine seem to be a large sum of money to you? 4 dollars might as well be 4000 to most village dwelling Africans. If 4 dollars of malaria treatment were the difference between your son or daughter living or dying, would you steal to change their fate?. If you are honest then your answer is the same as mine. Yes! What would you do to save your child? In America, we call situations like that an EMERGENCY! In Uganda, a story like that is daily life. I am not excusing these things. However, we need to take them into consideration if we are to understand the mind set of the wonderful people we trying to reach.
Lying and deception is righteous in their culture.
They come from a culture where it is a positive character quality to deceive those that have something you need. It means you are wise, not dishonest. Every Musungoo (white man) is looked upon as an opportunity. White skin = green money.
Here are some practical statements to help you guard yourself from deceit.
· Don't hand your money over to a national in a lump sum. Demand an itemized accounting for what you are spending and then pay as you go.
· Find out if the price for anything includes a percentage for the person providing the service or organizing the event.
o Rent for a room, get a price ahead of time.
o Personal food for the day, does the African expect you to feed him?
o Ask questions when you need use of a rental vehicle - does the price include a driver, and fuel?,
o What is the itemized costs for pastor's conferences per person
§ Necessary costs
§ building rentals,
§ food cost for crowd attending (2 meals a day is enough) ,
§ transport both ways or one way to the conference?
§ sometimes we pay one way and they pay one way
§ Make sure only one person can pay transport or they will play both sides to get more money.
§ Un-Necessary costs - mats for sleeping, pay for musicians, ect;
o Make sure when you pay a bill that you get a signed receipt!
o If you are doing a construction project - pay the workers your self and get receipts after the work is done, or the goods are delivered.
o If you buy Bibles, distribute them yourself. Make them sign their name inside both covers so they can't sell the book as a new one at the market.
o Never work alone.
o Ask about nationals from other nationals and from other missionaries before hiring someone.
o Make sure you have the proper licenses to do medical work.
o Make sure you have the proper authority to feed orphan children. There is a process that if violate could put you in an African prison, where you will probably not survive.
o If you run over someone, or have a car accident, do not stop. Go to the police station and let them sort things out. Mobs can form very quickly in Africa.
o Make sure you know your food sources. Poisons are used in third world countries that are toxic. These are not legal in the west anymore.
o Be very careful about vegetables, and fruit. Most bacteria and parasites come from eating unclean organic stuff.
· At the time I am writing this article, the man responsible for bringing my wife and I to Uganda, is beginning to serve a federal prison sentence for fraud. He used “ministry”, as a tool to pad his own bank account. In my opinion, he has done nothing more, than the prosperity preaching, Rolex wearing, Mercedes driving, heresy spouting western ministers that teach such theological ignorance such as Jesus was actually a rich man!
· Part of the solution involves not putting an African in a position where corruption is possible. You must be aware that if they can, they will turn you into their source.
· Emotions are dangerous in missions areas. Giving should be based on the revelation of the Holy Spirit. This is a good analogy. Do you give your children every thing they want? If you do there’s trouble in your home isn’t there? Most parents train their children about truth telling and loyalty. We teach God’s law about lying and stealing from when they are small. However, we never expect children to act like adults. We protect our kids through restricted responsibility, and through education. Our precious African brother and sisters need biblical instruction.
· We have done the evangelism, but have failed at making disciples. Our African friends need time to practice their new biblical training in order to be able to function honorably in the area of finance and dealing with western visitors. Some have proven trustworthy and merit more responsibility. Some have become GREAT men and women of God. Hear this! They did not become GREAT overnight! They had to have the pruning and shaping which came from spending time with the Lord.
Coming to Jesus in Uganda means a change in destiny, a change of heart, but it also means a change in sociological culture.
The line between giving too much and giving too little is difficult to discern. I guess if I must err on one side or the other, I would choose the side of generosity and grace. However, it is a consideration, which you should keep in mind as you serve in a place like Uganda. The April 2001 issue of EMQ (Evangelical Missions Quarterly) carries an article called Africa: “The Hopeless Continent.” The writer, W. Harold Fuller quotes African guest speaker General Secretary Adeyemo at the Mission Africa 2000 conference. Adeyemo said “I’ve come with a heavy heart for Africa. I cry when I see pictures of starving people. But we have a proverb: If you want a helping hand, there is one at the end of your arm.” Teach your people to give. Our churches and ministries need to be self-supporting.”
Integrity is spelled differently in Africa - African culture has no concept of a "Ten Commandments” brand of right and wrong. As I have said before. In some places, deception is actually considered a positive character quality. They teach and believe if one is able to deceive another, it means the deceiver is better at business, or is wiser, than the one he took advantage of. This kind of thinking exists even among believers. It is very difficult when you do not speak the language, and you're not accustomed to reading African eyes and African faces, to pick up on potential scams. There are many that will pray a prayer, bow a head, and raise a hand, if they believe they will be given something, like food, money, Bibles, bicycles, and in some cases to our shame, even church buildings.
Our ministry provides matching scholarship funds for students to get a biblical education at the Baptist Seminary, outside of Jinja. Something interesting was happening on our last trip which involved one of our scholarship students. He is pastor of a non-Baptist church. Some of the other students suggested to our young pastoral scholarship recipient that he should lead his church to change alignment from its current denomination. They suggested that he lead his church to be re-aligned as a Baptist church. Had they convinced him that his doctrine was incorrect? Were they suggesting he was change denominations because of biblical convictions? Had he now realized he was a Baptist? No! The students told him that if he changed the name of his church that the seminary founder would pay for the new building which he had been struggling for 5 years to get built. Their motivation was not theological but material. Thank God the young pastor responded by stating his church would be a Baptist church when he and his people believed as Baptists believe. By the way, that day is coming. As he continues to study the scriptures I have seen a strong changing wind in his soul. I believe they will be a strong Biblical congregation some day through the power of the Word, not because of the price of a few bricks.
The founder of the seminary is a wonderful man. He has a vision of planting 50 churches across Uganda. He is working and implementing an interesting plan to build and pay for all of these Baptist churches with stateside money. Seminary students that demonstrate ministry proficiency and find favor with him are placed as pastors of these new churches. African men are very intelligent. It did not take long before we began to see a cancer develop among new students. Do you see the temptation as it begins to develop? Let me use this story as illustration. I sponsored an already seasoned non-Baptist pastor as a new student After a few weeks of class the current students told my young preacher to become a Baptist and the head of the seminary would build his church, pay off his debts, and take care of his family. My young preacher told them that if he became Baptist it would be because of doctrinal conviction, not for what he could get out of it. He did well! You see, many of these younger students started to school with a plan where they determined to say and do whatever was necessary to get a church building and a house. The ulterior motives are beginning to produce sheep abusers and con men instead of men ready to die for the cross.
· The church blueprint shows that each building has room for 350 people in the worship area, and a (very uncommon) indoor baptistry. Just a note, without running water this baptistry must be filled manually with nearly 100 gallons of water. A 15 by 20 apartment is attached to the back of the building for the pastor and his family. The land purchase allows for enough space to plant a garden which will produce enough vegetables to feed a small family while leaving enough leftover to generate a small cash income by selling the surplus at market. This blueprint has created a lottery atmosphere at the school among many of the students. Many now have undesirable motives for graduation. Getting a job and to gaining control of a piece of property have taken over the desire to prepare for ministry.
· The point is, the temptation was there, because the opportunity was there. Am I saying our seminary visionary is doing the wrong thing? Not necessarily! I do believe a little tweaking of the program would guard against the abuses we are now seeing. At this time the program is so much "HIS" that he is not willing to even talk about changing it. That is unfortunate, because I know his heart is right, and his motive is right. It is the method that needs some help. Sometimes a right heart and a right motive are not enough. Having a right heart still does not equal a workable long-term mission plan that is actually going to help the nationals to be self sufficient or close to it! We must do what we can to get third world churches off of theological welfare.
· Missions’ history in Uganda shouts caution about this plan. This particular methodology was tried over 50 years ago in this same country. It was a proven failure at that time. Already 13 churches have been completed. Already serious problems have surfaced with the first five churches that have been completed and dedicated less than 5 years ago.
o Major financial issues have surfaced in the area of integrity.
o Many of the new pastors have demonstrated slothfulness and a lack of initiative toward shepherding tasks. Most of them of lack people skills and seasoning due to inexperience.
o Even as I write new churches are being dedicated under the same plan while those less than 2 years old are starting to crumble within the ranks! Should we immediately abandon this project? I don’t think so!
o May God raise up some Ugandan men with integrity! But men filled with integrity will be men that step outside 5000 years of culture that rewards deception. This kind of change will take time. If we get in a hurry to plant buildings before Father raises up shepherds the sheep will be in danger. May repentance come to those that are struggling with God's standard and become men and women filled with God's Spirit before it’s too late.
The main weaknesses in the plan are the pastors. The weakest link in any heavenly plan will always be the heart of a man. The Word says, “The heart is desperately wicked.” We place the African people and ourselves in “harms way” if we ignore this. If the new pastors are men are filled with biblical integrity, the plan might succeed. Chinks in the pastoral armor will produce a bunch of wonderful buildings that are either empty or they will become centers of contention due to greed. The Word of God says, “It’s impossible to know the heart of a man.” I would “amen” that especially in a culture like Uganda. Since the first posting of this article on the web page, 5 more pastors have fallen into terrible integrity traps. This plan is simply not working. A man's call need to be based on the supernatural leading of the Holy Spirit, not his desire for real-estate. I am sure the seminary founder/church planter felt he had a mandate from God to attempt this new try at an old plan. He is a man committed to prayer. He would not have begun this project without a Word from the Lord. I am praying for the success of this very ambitious mission. I want it to succeed for the sake of the Kingdom, and also for the sake of Uganda.
I still feel in my heart that we should be cautious before we take more steps than we can retrace. It’s possible that consideration should be given to a pause in construction projects, until time can be given to see how the existing churches will fare. I can’t remember reading about any time that Jesus was in a hurry. I heard a man say the only time Jesus was impatient was while he was confined for 9 months in Mary's womb waiting to get on with the project of saving the hopeless sinners of this world.
I adamantly believe getting in a hurry in a third-world culture can be a devastating mistake. We need to remember we are the aliens! Perhaps, studying our missiological history would produce a better model and method? Or, perhaps studying the way that Jesus did it would produce a better model and method? Jesus didn’t really spend much time building buildings. Jesus built men! That fact screams at me from scripture. Jesus built men! I want to quote what General Secretary Adeyemo said in a later portion of his address to the 2000 Mission Africa conference. “I need to repent,” he confessed, “because I've been evangelizing, but the great Commission also says to make disciples." “We all need to repent,” he challenged as he preached on the seven churches of the Revelation. "We - Africans, and expatriates - persuade non-Christians, we baptize them, we give them Christian names. But we have not taught them to be disciples. Out of 100 pastors, I doubt that five teach their members to be true disciples of Jesus.” I am a mission’s novice so paying attention to a man like General Secretary Adeyemo is very important to my well being as a missions volunteer. I can’t afford to be dogmatic about anything except Jesus and him crucified, buried, and resurrected. As a learner, I must consider the words of a man like General Secretary Adeyemo as strong admonition indeed! We need to ask questions without taking it as a personal affront or insult. I know that there is a need for more cooperation on the main things. We must keep the main thing, the main thing. Points of contention are capable of hiding the Message. It is interesting though how questions and opinions are usually ignored unless you are a 30 year veteran of the field. Than appears to be unhealthy.
The further we get from the Cross, the more obscure the message becomes. It’s easy to be Pharisaical and argumentative about things we really don’t know for sure. When we get to heaven most of what we argue about won’t matter a hill of beans. It appears to be a daily temptation for all the laborers to get bogged down on things that are not as important.
I have seen an argument between one that takes John Calvin’s position that grace is irresistible, and another that took Arminius’ position that man has a free will to say yes or no when God calls. They went out together to talk to a man about his need for Jesus and he was gloriously saved. They argued later about how he became a Christian. They missed the point. It wasn't important how he was saved. The important fact is this man was no longer headed for hell. God’s Grace pointed another lost sheep toward heaven! We must do all that we can to preach biblically, using sound doctrine, and giving solid, distinct, and clear instructions about the claims of the gospel. If we do this, the Lord will add to the church daily, according to his will. The numbers, perhaps, will be smaller, than if we use the manipulative methods that have become so common in western preaching. Sound biblical approach will produce fruit that will be sweet, and strong. It will have a staying power that will have lasting effect on every generation till the Lord Jesus returns! Now concerning our bragging. Let's brag on Jesus! Let's give him all the glory for everything, which effects someone in a positive way. If Jesus is lifted up and the glory is given to Him then his beneficent grace will always be upon us. My prayer is that the writer of this article and that all readers of this article are teachable and pliable in hand of the Holy Spirit!
I have a dear evangelist friend from Texas. He has done it right. He preaches right. He lives right. He gives right. His ministry has been an honor to the Lord. He and his volunteers have been working extensively in the Philippines for nearly 20 years. He has invested hundreds of thousands of ministry and personal dollars in this period of time. Nearly 30 churches have been planted. His evangelistic organization has funded all the crusades and pastors conferences. These churches have been birthed out of love, spoken into existence through fire of the Holy Spirit. The pastors are faithful men. They are continuing to reach new people every week. They are studying and teaching their people the Word of God. Many of the churches are experiencing a form of prosperity and growth. They have a godly Philippine administrative director to oversee of all the churches, their pastors, and the funds for salaries, teaching materials and Bibles, conference fees, building rentals, publicity materials and all other expenditures. There is no way of estimating the money that has been spent for volunteers to accompany him on the trips. He has made as many as 4 trips a year for an extended period of time. In spite of all the good this ministry has done, a fly in the ointment has surfaced.
He feels the leading of the Lord to move the bulk of his ministry emphasis to other areas of the world such as India and Africa. Here is the problem. The Filipino pastors have become too dependent on his support. It is difficult to tell them the time has come to provide their own funding. He loves these men with all of his heart. He led many of them to Christ. He trained them. He has invested his life for 13 years in them. Even so, they feel abandoned. This new direction is not something any of them ever considered a possibility. Obviously, they assumed stateside support would always be available. He is scripturally asking them to take the oversight of their churches. A proper example of generosity and compassionate motive for 13 years has inadvertently turned their support focus toward his organization, instead of the Lord.
He and I have talked about this and honestly there seems no good solution for the problem. Now, I mention this to point out that even the best laid plans will sometimes bring problems that were never anticipated. Money and support are incredibly difficult issues in third world mission work. Some say we should just pay for all of it. Some say we shouldn’t pay for any of it. The most important word is probably balance. I imagine the place we should seek is somewhere in the middle. I would hate to think of all those wonderful Philippine people that would still be lost if the volunteers had stayed home, and the money had not been spent. The message had to be preached. The message always costs money and time to deliver. The hard part is that there comes a time when those that have existed on milk, must graduate to meat, if their ministries are going to thrive. Tough stuff isn’t it?
Two weeks before he died, our dear respected evangelist, Brother Manley Beasley was in Lubbock, Texas with his wife, Marthe’. Brother Manley had been preaching what was to be his last sermon, at First Baptist Church of Lubbock, Texas, USA. I had been preaching at Redbud Baptist Church. We were all scheduled to return to Fort Worth on the same flight. Brother Manley was in a wheelchair. Most of his fingers had been amputated due to circulatory problems related to kidney dialysis. He had lesions in his throat that kept him from drinking water. All he could do for thirst was suck on ice chips and let the water trickle down his throat. His hands would burn when they got cold from holding the ice cup and someone would have to rub them and thaw them out. The stewardess on the plane graciously allowed him and Marthe’ to move to a larger seat in first-class since the medical equipment he was wearing cramped his ability to sit comfortably in the smaller coach seats. The stewardess told me “It’s a small way of saying thank you to Brother Manley." She had been saved in a meeting he preached twenty years ago. Later, she came and invited me to come up to the first-class section where I could visit with Brother Manley. I draped myself over the back of the seat in front of him. I planned on talking to him about how difficult my ministry had become. I figured no one would better understand my pain than him. I was going through a discouraging time and I knew he was too. Manley was dying, and unbeknownst to us would be with Jesus in less than 2 weeks.
He was famous for teaching people how to “count it all joy,” in the midst of difficult times. I was rubbing his hands to warm them up and started crying over his condition and mine. As I looked at this great man of God, now a pathetic shell of what he once was physically, I asked him if he was able to “count it all joy?” He smiled at me and said, "Not yet son, but I'm getting there!” What a great servant of God! Then something else popped into my mind. A year earlier Brother Manley had been at death's door because of kidney failure and other conjunctive problems. Hanging between life and death, the Lord allowed him to see heaven. I wanted to hear what he had seen.
In my depressed state, I decided I needed the encouragement of hearing Brother Manley describe what the Father had shown him. I said to him, "Brother Manley, last year when your life was hanging in the balance, we heard that the Lord allowed you to see heaven. "Was that true?" He said with a smile, “That’s true Son!” With tears streaming down my face I said, “Would you bless me, and tell me what you saw?”
I was not prepared for the abruptness of his answer, or for that matter, the answer that he gave. He nearly shouted, "NO!” I was hurt, and even a little angry. I asked him to explain why he would keep something like that to himself. This time in a softer tone, he said "because I love you, and I want God's best for you. Our father in heaven has given you his word that you can pick up and read and be encouraged by anytime that you choose. He intends on you living by his word, not by mine. If I told you what I saw, you might be tempted to depend more on what I say, the what he has already said.” I heard a definition years ago that has spoken volumes to me in many situations. Real love is giving people what they need not always what they want.
· This is the lesson I learned from Brother Manley. I can teach it to you but dear heart I can't learn it for you. You must ask the Holy Ghost to lay all this is a safe place in your heart. If all it does is reach your head then it will soon be replaced by something else more logical or someone else's opinion far more eloquent. God's call is not logical. He tells us what to do, and then tells us when, and seems to always neglect telling us HOW! Walking in obedient faith doesn't mean praying "Lord show me your will . . . so I can consider it! We must be willing to go, but we must also be willing to learn the things that will enable us to "go well." Understanding culture as much as possible will help us avoid making mistakes out of ignorance. We will make enough of the innocent mistakes without compounding the problem by making ones that could have been avoided by just asking a few questions and learning from someone else's mistakes and experiences.
People will ask us for help. They are going to ask us for something we have, which they feel we can provide. In some cases the Lord will direct us to meet their need. However, there are times that we might do them harm by fulfilling their need instead of turning them toward the Lord. We must teach them to look to him as their source and not to us. He may be trying to get their attention through the circumstances of their life. If we meet the need then the pressure is off, and the Lord has to begin the process of instruction all over again, if he was the originator of the pressure.
A few more practical things (little unrelated snippets of advice)
· Find a good travel agent - they become your advocate if something goes wrong.
· Buy travel medical insurance. This is not an option. You may not know this but your medical coverage here in the States does not follow you to Africa. Your life insurance does but not your medical. An airlift home for serious medical problems will start at about 30 thousand and escalate from there. DO NOT come to Africa without quality travel insurance. I recommend Adams and Assoc from Georgia. They have a web site. www.aaintl.com If you are a team leader hear this. You are liable for anything that happens to your group members. Buy the insurance. If you can get an IMB missionary to put in a request for you to come, the IMB will assign you a number that will allow you to buy the insurance at about half the rate you will receive than if you go directly to Adams without a relationship with the IMB. The coverage limits are nearly double when you go through the mission board than when you buy the insurance directly from Adams. Either way, don't come to Africa or any third world country without travel medical coverage.
o Here is my story: I had really considered just "trusting the Lord" and saving the money, until I realized God wanted me to trust him to provide the money to buy the insurance. I was ready to go to Africa without the policy coverage. Thank God that I didn't make that a permanent decision. It would have been my ruin. I changed my mind and bought the insurance because Sandra had been sick almost unto death on one of our previous trips. I couldn't figure out how I would get her out of Africa if something else happened. Hear me, real bad things happen all the time to people out serving Jesus all over the world. Sure enough, it turned out that something did happen . . . to me. My back went out and put me on the concrete floor for over a month. AIG insurance had to pay over 38,000 dollars to get me out of Uganda and get us home this past March If I had not had the insurance, my family would have had to try and come up with the money to get us back.
· Most stateside medical insurance does not follow you to third world area's. Getting home in a med-evac situation will cost between 20 and 40 thousand dollars out of someone's pocket. Travel insurance with medical and evac coverage is not cheap ( 8 - 10 bucks a day) unless you have to use it! Then you will be glad you did have it.
· Take enough antibiotic, and prescription anti-diarrhea to use in an emergency.
· Use traveler's checks, and cash. Take new bills. If money is torn or worn, not even the banks will change them to local currency. They are really afraid of counterfeiting! Cash money will be given a higher exchange rate than traveler's checks. That's just how it is.
· Don't change money, except in small sums, at the airport. Their rates are always low.
· In Uganda, a cell phone can be bought for a reasonable amount. Minutes are purchased on cards so you can have the emergency access a phone afford, but at a manageable rate. When you leave a missionary or national will almost always be glad to buy your phone which makes it even more financially feasible.
· Do your emailing at a cyber cafe. Even local calls have a toll on them. Don't leave a phone bill for the missionaries to deal with. That just ain't cool!
· Don't go sight-seeing alone. Stay in groups.
· Leave expensive jewelry at home, particularly in 3rd world settings. When people steal to live, they are going to target you as an outsider and because they perceive that all Americans are rich.
· We recommend you use bottled water to drink. Your system will be in enough shock even with bottled water.
· Sign up for your air miles. They can be transferred even if you don't plan to use them or don't fly enough to accumulate an award. Missions tickets can be purchased for free if miles are put together.
· Don't take a trip without your wife if other women are going along, without their husbands. Ministers have gotten in trouble because some wicked person decided to suggest something was not kosher, even though there was innocence on both sides. 1 Thess says to "abstain from even the APPEARANCE of evil!
· "Hotels" are always going to cost more than "Bed and Breakfast" places. Hostels are basic roof over your head and bed under your back joints and are the cheapest way to go. Check with your missionaries that are full time. There could be a mission house available if someone is on furlough.
· If you stay in a missionary residence, or in a missions guest house, you should pay at least 10 dollars a day per person, even if the missionary doesn't say anything. They are living on limited funds. Don't make them spend God's money on you and your group.
· If you break something replace it without the missionary to ask you about it.
· Village food is always cooked fresh, so it is safer most of the time. 3rd world countries do not have a lot of refrigeration so be careful in restaurants with meat dishes!
· In Africa, when you say "I will try", they HEAR the words "I promise"!
· Don't bargain too much. You can afford to pay a little extra. It's actually not much to you, but it provides food for them. I bargained once for some things where my price vs. the vendor's price ended up being separated by about a nickel per piece. It makes no sense to go to Africa and live greedy. I had to repent of that bargaining experience by the way. Some things you need to bargain with the vendor. House rent, cars, large sums of food, clothing, bibles - get your best price. Give away stuff demands being frugal so you can give more to those who need it. But the small things from village folks that barely have food themselves are different. The small things need to be approached with a generous heart, not financial tightness.
· Take tracks in the local languages. The world home bible league has bucket loads of material that is cheap. Buy Bibles there. Costs more to ship them in the long run than to buy them in Africa. Share your faith. A mission trip is not a vacation even if you took vacation time to go.
· Don't whine.
· Be adaptable. It's not about you, it's about HIM!
· If you don't like the food don't eat, but don't complain! You could fast a few days anyway without ill effects. Some people say eat anything given to you. I don't agree with that, but you have to do what Father puts in your heart.
· If you are out in a village and choose not to eat what you are offered, DO NOT pull out your cereal bars or beef jerky and eat your food in front of the nationals. WAIT until you are away in the car or back where you are staying to eat your stuff.
· Get people at home committed to pray for you while you are gone.
o Use email to send reports home if it is available.
o Learn to upload a report page to a web site so you can send a text message home informing people a new report is on the web.
o Download speeds in third world countries are too slow to send graphics to everyone on your list.
· Ask the missionaries what you should do if there is a question about something. Don't rely on any word that has not been tested in the hearts of several that actually live there full time.
· Ask the nationals what you should do. Don't assume you know more than they do. Your arrogance will absolutely stop any real ministry from happening.
· Things have a funny way of appearing one way and really being another in 3rd world countries. Save yourself a potential mis-step by being a team player not a maverick!
· Pray, Pray, Pray, and let God show you his heart as you share his love with people all over the world.
· Be prepared for crazy stuff to happen. TIA! This is Africa?!!!
May the Lord of the harvest guide all of you. It's all about HIM, the Lord Jesus
|Copyright © 2005 [JKD Evangelism, Inc]. All rights reserved|