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Missions 101

We Don't Need Missionaries

Jul. 31, 2015By: Philemon YongAuthor Bio

On a recent trip to Brazil, I was confronted by a statement from a Brazilian pastor who said to me, “Americans do not need to send missionaries to Brazil to preach the gospel.” Now, my first inclination was to argue with him and give 100 reasons why he was wrong. Then, I thought, why not ask him why he believes such a ridiculous thing? So I did and by the end of the conversation, I was totally sold. I share here his perspective and ask that you (the reader) give it a chance. 

IMG_2785What did he mean? Notice he said that America should not be sending missionaries to Brazil to preach the gospel. He was specific. Here is his reasoning:

  1. Overall, Brazil has been reached with the gospel and the church in Brazil is growing. There is no shortage of people in Brazil to preach the gospel and to finish the Great Commission in Brazil.
  2. Often, when different groups come from America, they preach whatever they think is the gospel. As a result, when false doctrine is proclaimed, it spreads like wild fire leaving the people more confused and the church struggling to deal with the aftermath.
  3. There is a need for missionaries in Brazil, he argued, but the focus needs to be correct. Rather than sending missionaries to Brazil to meet a need that we Americans believe they have, we can ask what is the best way to come alongside of the church in Brazil to advance the gospel in that land.

He then suggested the following as a possible approach to the work of missions in Brazil:

  1. The need of the church in Brazil, as he sees it, is the strengthening of the existing church to reach Brazilians. What does he mean? He believes that America is gifted and one of those gifts is is a church with godly teachers and preachers. He sees the greatest need in the Brazilian church to be helping the existing church to be theologically grounded so as to be able to fight off every wind of doctrine that comes their way. America can greatly help the church by sending good teachers to train the existing pastors and equip them to finish the Great Commission in Brazil.
  2. Ongoing theological education of pastors in Brazil is critical. Some pastors, especially those in remote areas, often find themselves unprepared to deal with new teachings that come their way (most of which are from the US). If the American church focuses on strengthening these pastors theologically, their investment will go far in helping the Brazilian church.
  3. A good partnership with the Brazilian church is one in which the church in America asks the brothers in Brazil how they can help. This gives the Brazilian church the opportunity to identify helpful areas of ministry where they need help the most.

After listening to my pastor friend, I agreed with his perspective about how the American church can be most helpful in Brazil. We do need to learn to ask how we can be helpful to the church around the world rather than decide what people need and then tell them that we will offer it. The implications of this perspective are far reaching, and very helpful.  This is something to think about!

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Would You Pay People to Go to Church - Part 2

Jul. 29, 2015By: Jeff AtherstoneAuthor Bio

Yesterday, we asked the question “would you pay people to go to church?” After a few quick thoughts the answer was obvious “no way!”

Then we turned the tables and asked, “Would you pay pastors in Africa to attend the conference your STM team is hosting?”

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Here is why I  (as a missionary) would discourage you not to:

1) African’s are relational. They want to meet you, ask about your family, share about their family and get an individual picture with you. This doesn’t happen for them in a crowd of thousands. This type of experience might be satisfying for our western individualistic culture but for a relational society it leads the crowds feeling empty. Ultimately, the only national the STM teams connect with are their drivers – who are also there just to be paid!

2) As leaders go – so goes the church. If the leaders are only motivated to learn, study and worship because they are getting paid they will produce the same type of churches. Sadly, church growth in Africa has become “whoever gives out the most wins!” This means that churches are growing because they sponsor children, provide free medical care, and pass out free clothes and bibles not because the gospel is preached, discipleship is taking place and the body is functioning according to the gifts. This pulls many people away from Bible-teaching churches and into prosperity gospel churches simply because the prosperity church has money.

3) It harms the ministries that last longer than a STM trip! Passing out things for free while receiving high-fives, hugs, smiles, cheers, testimonies and praise for a week or two is an amazing rush which motivates tens of thousands of STM teams to come to Uganda and surrounding East African countries every year. It’s a rush that has become a yearly “must –do” for churches around the US. Then when the money runs out everyone feels great because it is time to board the plane.  But for the churches that meet every Sunday, Child Development centers that open every day and Bible Colleges that meet year round there just aren’t enough resources to pass out free gifts and provide transport every day – so when the visitors leave so do the crowds. This forces many ministries to host teams year round which leads to the same types of visitors, the same messages and the same activities year after year, which African's fully show appreciation for – because it’s their job – there are getting paid!

4) What would you do? Ultimately as a pastor in the US you don’t go to every conference. You pick conference(s) based on what you can afford and when you pay for that conference you know that your elders, deacons committee or whoever else paid for the conference are counting on you to use that time to get what you need most to satisfy your soul and prepare you to lead your church. Treat your brothers in Africa the same way – let them come because it is what they need most not because you are picking up the tab!

At our University we host 5-8 conferences a year and charge anywhere from $5 – 50 per participant and it works. The pastors that need it come and those who don’t are free to stay and faithfully serve in their churches. Our conferences are well attended and I have never heard from anyone that wanted to attend and couldn’t because of the money. We’ve yet to have 10,000 attendees but then again we never had to pay anyone to come…

There is a cost to discipleship – let’s make sure we aren’t changing the gospel call by making everything free!

Jeff Atherstone is the President of African Renewal University and has served as a missionary in Uganda since January 2006.

 

 

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Would You Pay People to go to Church?

Jul. 28, 2015By: Jeff AtherstoneAuthor Bio

With all the emphasis on church growth and attendance numbers I am sure that someone has considered this before:“ Why don’t we just pay people to go to church?”

It’s simple – offer people $20 / $50 or $100 a Sunday to come to church.  $10,000 and you could have a thousand member church over night. Mega-church here we come!

Obviously, I’m not the first pastor to think of this so let’s examine the reasons we don’t do this (I reasons why I hope you’re not doing this).

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1)   It gives people the wrong motivation to come. They aren’t coming to learn, worship, service or give – they are coming to receive, profit and do their time.

2)   It gives people the wrong view of the gospel. Didn’t Jesus tell people to count the cost of discipleship rather than tell them to count on the profits that come from following?

3)   It harms the people who do want to come. How would you feel if you came to worship and the guy next to you keeps asking “when’s this over” and “what’s the time?” How would you feel if you came to learn and as the pastor comes to preach the whole crowd around you pulls out their iphones and ipads to start playing games?

4)   It gives the pastor a false sense of his influence, impact and following. Bigger isn’t always better (just ask your friend who failed their summer diet). Your ego might feel better having a big crowd but ultimately you are attracting a crowd that cares more about the coffee and doughnuts than they do about the gospel.

5)   It is a waste of the churches resources. If I need to explain – stop reading here because you’re not going to like me at all as I’m about to turn the tables.

Here is where I am going:

As a missionary I am shocked at how many short-term missions teams pay the nationals to attend their conferences, trainings and seminars.

Not only do they pay for the conference, food, lodging, gifts (bibles, books, etc) but many of the conferences in East Africa now as part of the registration pay the transport of the pastor to and from their conferences.

Now imagine if we do this in the US. Catalyst, Desiring God National Conference, Gospel Coalition and every other conference dropped their conference fee, paid for your hotel, meals, and gifts at the bookstore and then reimbursed your plane ticket or fuel. Pastors would become professional conference attendees and the churches would suffer without their leaders.

This is exactly what I see happening in Uganda and hear from other missionaries in surrounding countries. Pastors are turning into professional conference attendees and the church is hurting.

The argument against this is “the church in the west is rich and the church in Africa is poor why can’t we help them”

There are plenty of answers – let me tackle that in part 2 tomorrow…

Jeff Atherstone is the President of African Renewal University and has served as a missionary in Uganda since January 2006.

 

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Honor and Shame in Judgment

Jul. 24, 2015By: Jackson WuAuthor Bio

If you emphasize honor and shame, does this mean that you need to minimize the theme of “judgment” in the Bible? Absolutely not.

Unfortunately, some people have that impression. They seem to think that judgment is a legal idea and so unrelated to honor and shame. In this post, I will show you a number of passages that show how the Bible describes judgment in terms of honor-shame.

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The Shame of Judgment 

Everything a person can say about judgment from a traditional perspective can be communicated by using honor-shame.

Daniel 12:2 is quite direct:

And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.

Likewise, Daniel 9:8 adds,

To us, O Lord, belongs open shame, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against you.

The psalmist pleads for God to judge his enemies. It is especially interesting to observe the purpose for God’s judgment. Psalm 83:16–18 says,

Fill their faces with shame, that they may seek your name, O LORD. Let them be put to shame and dismayed forever; let them perish in disgrace, that they may know that you alone, whose name is the LORD, are the Most High over all the earth.

God gets glory when he puts his enemies to shame (cf. Exod 7:4–5; Eze 32:9–15)

Biblically speaking, “judgment” referred to more than the punishment of bad people. It routinely speaks about how God sets a situation right and rescues His people. We see this two-fold emphasis in Psalm 75:7, which says:

...it is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another.

Through judgment, God honors one side and shames another.

Saved from what?

Consider how the Scripture describes salvation. Biblical writers announce that God’s people will be saved from shame. In Zeph 3:11, we read

On that day you shall not be put to shame because of the deeds by which you have rebelled against me; for then I will remove from your midst your proudly exultant ones, and you shall no longer be haughty in my holy mountain.

In Romans 10:11 (and in Rom 9:33), Paul draws from Isa 28:16 saying, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame” (cf. Rom 5:5).

The Shame of Death

What about passages like Rom 6:23, which say that the “wages of sin is death”?

     Death is the ultimate shame.

Death exposes our vulnerabilities, our weakness and limitation. We are not sovereign over ourselves. None but Jesus are able to resurrect ourselves.

Consider Jeremiah 51:47–51. Notice how death and destruction are described in terms of shame.

Therefore, behold, the days are coming when I will punish the images of Babylon; her whole land shall be put to shame, and all her slain shall fall in the midst of her. Then the heavens and the earth, and all that is in them, shall sing for joy over Babylon, for the destroyers shall come against them out of the north, declares the Lord. Babylon must fall for the slain of Israel, just as for Babylon have fallen the slain of all the earth. “You who have escaped from the sword, go, do not stand still! Remember the Lord from far away, and let Jerusalem come into your mind: “We are put to shame, for we have heard reproach; dishonor has covered our face, for foreigners have come into the holy places of the Lord’s house.” 

No one wants to “lose face.” The fear of shame drives people’s behavior as does the desire for honor. Both in the Bible and in world cultures, people use honor and shame to discuss the most significant issues in life and theology, including judgment and reward.

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The Definition of a Christian

Jul. 23, 2015By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

Martin Lloyd-Jones:

If you were to ask me to give a definition of a Christian I should say that he is one who, since believing in Christ, feels himself to be the happiest man in the world and longs for everyone else to be equally happy.

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