I’ve been very, very impressed by a series of blog posts entitled “A Plea for Sanity in Missions – From East to West” by Aubrey Sequeira at Training Leaders International.
In this series of blog posts, I hope to address in turn some of the major problems in missions in India—problems arising from certain emphases in the West. These problems are perpetuated and exacerbated both by Western missionaries who go to India, and Western churches who support indigenous Indian ministries. My desire is not to be pessimistic and critical, but to call us all to be faithful and obedient to the biblical commands to “make disciples” and proclaim the “whole counsel of God.” Consider this series of posts a plea from East to West for gospel-centered sanity in missions.
The first post looks at the way in which Western donors are duped into handing over money to ministries in India through inflated reports of missionary success:
A large crowd of people is assembled in a field and someone on a podium asks them how many ate “puri-bhaji” (a staple in North India) for breakfast. Hands go up, a picture is taken, and a picture report is published, reporting “decisions for Christ.” In other cases, people are asked if they want to receive a financial blessing or healing. Those who desire it raise their hands, pictures are taken and more “decisions for Christ” are reported.
The second post looks at the power of dramatic testimonies and the lure of the prosperity Gospel.
He claimed to have been raised as a religious Hindu, and his family owned a snake that they worshipped daily. As an adult, he was gripped with religious fervor and zeal for Hinduism. He was on his way to attack and kill Christians when he saw a vision of Christ that halted him, and brought him to tears. He then became a Christian, resolving to proclaim the faith he once persecuted, and despite being rejected by his family and friends, he is following Christ and serving him as an evangelist.
Several churches and ministries supported this “man of God,” only to later learn that the entire story was made up! This man actually grew up as the son of a pastor in a “Christian home,” and fabricated this testimony because he learned that it is only testimonies like this that generate support from the West. And let me assure you that this story is not an isolated case! There are many, many others like this one… and in every case, my Western brothers and sisters are quick to be amazed—and sadly—deceived.
The third post is the weakest of the three published so far (there is still a lot of good stuff in it) and concerns contextualisation:
The close link between culture and religion in the Indian mind is the reason that most Indians have a negative impression of Christianity, for they assume that all Western cultures are “Christian cultures.” However, Christianity is not a product of “Western” culture. Rather, the Christian message is a worldview that transforms all cultures, both East and West. The Gospel demands a renunciation of secular thinking, immorality, and profligate living in the West, just as it demands a renunciation of idolatry and superstition in the East. We must proclaim the transcultural lordship and glory of Jesus, rather than hyper-orienting our message and praxis around specific cultural groups.
It is well worth reading these three posts in detail, and bookmarking the site so as not to miss any future ones that are published.
I love this comment about the translation wars:
I had a conversation with a gentleman this week who was adamant that people should not use the NIV. “It’s dangerous,” he said. I asked, “Why is it dangerous?” He replied, “Because it does not literally translate what’s in the original.” I’m not a champion for the NIV, folks. But the truth is I’m not a champion for any translation. And I’m definitely not going to walk around telling people to steer clear of a translation of the Bible. Let me give you my number one reason why. The hardest thing there is in ministry is getting people to just open up their Bibles. Be a champion for getting people into the Word of God; don’t be a champion for getting people away from a translation.
Thanks to Antony for pointing us to resources from the latest Cinnamon network symposium on social action. Summary films by the speakers are here, and the ebook containing their talks is available as a pdf here. Actually, Antony’s blog is always worth perusing as he links to a vast array of books, talks, free papers and articles. I don’t know how he manages to stay abreast of so much good stuff.
Ed Stetzer has a free eb00k on the Mission of God available, which looks excellent, though I can’t claim to have read it yet.
The mission of God is one of the great themes throughout the Scriptures. As God reveals Himself throughout history, it is He who reaches out to us. God’s mission among us is to glorify Himself through the work of redeeming people and restoring creation. By God’s mission and God’s mission alone can we come back into fellowship with Him. Our desire is that you will be a part of God’s great plan so that men, women, and children from every tongue, tribe, and nation will believe the message of the gospel as it comes to them through the proclamation and life of the church.