Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

So what are Christians for?

This is a topic that I’ve wanted to blog about for some time now and didn’t, mainly because I’ve felt that I had more important things to say, such as the orphan problem in Swaziland.
Last week I was sitting in a Swaziland mission meeting where someone mentioned that Christians seem to be more focused on things which they oppose than things which they support. I wholeheartedly agree. Then, driving back to my home I was listening to a CD on which Bill Hybels and Dave Workman were both engaged in an interview about the “Outward Focused Life.”
The interviewer asked the two gentleman a question: What do the people on the street think of Christians? Dave Workman (if I remember correctly) responded by telling how he had asked a number of people that question, one being a waitress at a restaurant not far from their church. She responded that, in her opinion, Christians are cheap, very demanding and they don’t tip well. Bill Hybels answered the question by saying, amongst others, that Christians are better known for the things which they are against than the things they are for.
Last night my wife and I attended a cell group in which the same topic came under discussion, this time with the theme: What does it mean to be an obedient Christian?
As a young Christian, I was probably also more focused on the things which I opposed than the things which I felt strongly about to support. But as I grew older and hopefully became more mature both as a human being and also as a Christian, I realized that I would not be influencing many people through the things I oppose. But if I am willing to stand up for a certain issue, I might just be able to get a few others to stand up with me and together we can make a difference.
As I read blogs and other Christian material, I think that Bill Hybels is correct in his analysis. Christians are against evolutionism, against creationism, against liberalism, against fundamentalism and a whole bunch of other -isms (including Calvinism!) But what are we for?
If someone should step up to us and ask: “What do you believe?”, would we be able to give a clear answer (not necessarily a final answer), or have we possibly become so focused on the things that we are against that we no longer know what it is that we stand for?
I know a number of people who will be able to tell me in no uncertain terms what things they oppose. When asked what they believe, they will be able to give me a well-formulated textbook answer. But the question should rather be what people feel so strongly about that they will stand up for it and, by doing so, make a difference in the world.

Monday, June 15, 2009 - Posted by | Alternative Society, Bill Hybels, Church, Meetings, Mission, Swaziland, Theology

12 Comments »

  1. Christians don’t tip??? Why on earth not!?

    Comment by Sophia Marsden | Monday, June 15, 2009 | Reply

  2. Well they do tip, but not well. And that is a problem of how non-Christians see Christians.

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Monday, June 15, 2009 | Reply

  3. Just seems odd, if Christians are against things… is miserlyness not one of those things they are against?

    Comment by Sophia Marsden | Monday, June 15, 2009 | Reply

  4. Sophia, exactly the point I’m trying to make. When we always against big issues, we miss out on living a life in which God is truly glorified.

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Monday, June 15, 2009 | Reply

  5. Here’s a perspective. Please take it as where I am on these issues today. I may change in a few months.

    As individuals mature, the intent of the Father Source is for an increasing reliance on behaviors to flow from inner psychological/spiritual health. A negative focus on other’s, behaviors and ideologies is an indication of inner spiritual poverty. The cure however, is not to adopt a positive mental attitude and be for the right ideals and behaviors, rather, the individual must to begin to discover a life of continual prayer, the key to oneness or union (as the Mystics called it) that Jesus mentioned in John 17.

    The challenge of the church is that we are trying to live psychologically/spirituality out of a theoretical truth and behavioral model. Whether we are against things or for things ideologically, doctrinally and behavorially is not the main issue. We must follow the Way Jeus did spirituality (continual prayer-connection with the Source), out of that live Truth and experience Life–Oneness with the Father. John 14:6 has been watered down tremendously. Say the right words and you’ve got your ticket to the better place in the afterlife.

    Our liturgies largely reinforce a cognitive-behavioral model. Postive or negative it misses the systemic issue of integration–oneness–union, leading to a life of surrendered obedience.

    In order for this oneness to develop, we must simultaneously rid our system of the blockages. This occurs through regular confession, to others, of where we have missed the mark.

    God produces the positive thoughts, words and behaviors out of who He is within us. We must cooperate by looking in the soul mirror, see those things hidden, expose them to others, and connect with God, through prayer, in ever increasing dimensions.

    Comment by Roger Perkins | Monday, June 15, 2009 | Reply

    • I’ll reply to myself.

      Jesus said he only spoke the words the Father gave to him. Jesus only spoke and acted out of the Source. We must do the same. The Source determines what we are for and what we are against. What we do and what we avoid. It is not our call.

      Comment by Roger Perkins | Monday, June 15, 2009 | Reply

  6. Thanks for your remarks, Roger. I think there is a lot of truth in what you are saying. But I also think that, the more we get at ease with our own understanding of things, the less we feel threatened by people differing from us. I can almost compare it to people who gossip. Gossiping is often a sign of low self-esteem. Because I feel unsure about myself, I try to get the focus away from me and put it on the bad things others are doing. And the more I feel insecure about my own beliefs, the more I focus on people that differ from me.

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Monday, June 15, 2009 | Reply

    • Agreed. But the reson for this is a lack of the contemplative life, the meditative life and the confessional life. In these disciplines personal views are confronted and shaped by God, the word and rigorously examined in front of others. Unfortunately, traditional Bible study tends to reinforce my view whereas lectio divina cuts away at my prejudices. Confession in a small group where mutual confession occurs, gradually exposes my views for what they are.

      Self-examination, intense pursuit of truth and ruthless honesty are valued–not opinions, traditions or comfort zones. Narcissism wilts is such an envirionment.

      Comment by Roger Perkins | Monday, June 15, 2009 | Reply

  7. It’s about 3:00am in SA. Don’t get up. This is a great topic to discuss at some length–perhaps Skype. Conference call on Skype would be interesting.

    I’d like a little clarification on your thoughts regarding “feeling less threatened” and the negative/positive thoughts. I think I get what your saying.

    I also want to learn about your discoveries regarding missions and where you put the emphasis of your research.

    Finish the nights rest. I’ll try myself in 30 minutes.

    Do you have any ministry going on in prisons in your area?

    Comment by Roger Perkins | Tuesday, June 16, 2009 | Reply

  8. Roger, I’m up, but I’m getting ready to leave. We’re busy with a training session with our group of coordinators. Vince and his wife will also be involved today.
    But just to answer shortly, I think that many Christians are indeed threatened by other viewpoints with which they may disagree and they then see it as their task to do all that is possible to prove that the others are wrong, but in the process they do very little to have a positive influence in the world. The louder they shout against people with whom they disagree, the stronger their own arguments become. As an example: I know of many people who would speak out against evolutionism. Likewise, many others have an equally strong opinion against creationism. Whoever shouts the loudest, wins the argument.
    How much different would it be if I can demonstrate how my opinion about creation influences my daily life, how I take care of God’s creation (regardless of how long it took Him to finish the process and regardless of which methods He chose to do this), how I care about the earth, especially ho I care about the people that populate the earth with me?
    I guess what I’m trying to say is that many people will die and will be known as fighters against some kind of false doctrine. But when you speak to the people who knew them, you will find that they did very little to make the world a better place to be in, or, to put in Biblical perspective, to participate in the process of the coming of the Kingdom of God on earth.
    I’ve had many people attack me because of my viewpoint that God calls us to disciple, not only those closest to us, but even going to the ends of the earth. The argument is usually something like: We cannot go to the ends of the earth before the task in our area is not finished. In my time I have not found a single person who is against worldwide mission who is doing anything to disciple the people close at hand.
    That’s just a few random thoughts.
    When you refer to my research, are you referring to my doctorate?
    The area where I’m working at in Swaziland does not have prisons, so we ourselves do not have a prison ministry.

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Tuesday, June 16, 2009 | Reply

    • Here in America there seems to be two categories that Christians become boldly and loudly “against”: heretics within the church and terrible sinners outside the faith who are ruining our society.

      In regard to the latter, I tend to defer to 1 Cor 5:12. In my opinion, American evangelicals are far too worried about the behavior of “outsiders,” (what we are against) and have become obsessed with using our system of laws to control the behavior of those who do not have the advantage of Holy Spirit conviction, and in so doing have gotten way off mission.

      In regard to the former. I think we should use follow the pattern of scripture in confronting what we believe is heresy. Discern first whether the thing we are against is truly something that belongs in the circle of orthodoxy (we’d better be sure our circle isn’t too big). If not, then showing grace in non-essentials is the best course of action.

      The problem is that whenever we bolding and publicly condemning “outsides” or fellow Christians, non-Christians watch. Jesus makes it clear that the world will identify us (and Him) by the love they see us demonstrating to one another. This alone should be impetus for getting along with each other and avoiding circumstances where we publicly call people we’ve never met (and who probably have never met Jesus) out on their sin.

      Wendi

      Comment by Wendi | Wednesday, June 17, 2009 | Reply


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