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Missions 101

Martin Lloyd-Jones and Our Love of Testimonies

Apr. 24, 2014By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

Two people are in your church and you need to choose which one will share how God saved them in your Sunday morning service.  Both are godly Christians.  The first is 40 years old.  He used to be the head of a gang, killed people, dealt drugs, went to jail, was able to manipulate the prison system and had food and women delivered to his cell.  One day he read a Bible and Christ radically saved him.

The other person is 40 years old and has been a Christian since he was five.  He prayed to receive Christ with his mother and has never looked back.  He has been faithful ever since.

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No drugs. No illicit relationships. No major moral failures.  Just faithful service and a daily battle with sin and temptation that he overcomes with his Savior's help.  He was radically saved by Christ as well.

Which one are you going to choose to speak? Which testimony is more compelling?

Iain Murray explaining MLJ's view on testimonies:

For one thing, he noticed that the giving of testimonies tended to reduce all conversions to a similar pattern, to standardise experience in a way that went beyond Scripture. And yet, at the same time, testimony-givers were prone to emphasise what made their story noteworthy. No doubt the motives were often well-intentioned, but the effect could easily be carnal and man-centered. Hearers readily became impressed with the dramatic and unique features of the story, instead of with the grace of God which is identical in every conversion. 

When you tell your testimony is it more about your sin or about God? Are you bored by the testimonies of people who committed to Christ at a young age? For those who did, do you feel like you need to interject sin into your testmony to make it noteworthy?

I once heard a teenage girl, upon hearing the testimony of a former leader of a drug cartel, asked if she had a testimony even though she had never done anything he had. His response to her was that people loved his testimony because they loved sin. The questions he would get were never about his conversion, but about the details of his past life.  

You and I both know that the person who has been to hell and back in their life seems to have a more compelling story. Let me offer three reflections.

1.  To be born again is a miracle of God. A child, whether born into a godly Christian family or not, is not born in communion with God, but is alienated from Him. Whether that child turns to Christ at 5 or 45, it is an act of the Holy Spirit to bring about such a transformation. 

2.  I think we might actually have our admiration backwards. IF (big IF) there is such a thing as a more compelling testimony, shouldn't it be that God has the power to save someone young and keep them faithful from such a young age?  Why is it a "more impressive" testament to God's grace that we chose our own path of destruction and suffered the consequences for years before He won our hearts? It seems more compelling to me and a greater testimony to the power of God that He can constrain a human being through the power of the new birth from destroying themselves by saving them young and keeping them faithful.

3.  As a parent of young children, I pray they will learn God's grace at an early age and that they will avoid a life of brokenness and despair that is found apart from Christ by receiving the gift of salvation.  I don't want them to have to play the prodigal.  Far better for them that they would honor Him, whatever life brings them, from a young age until He calls them home.

Next time you think about asking someone to share their testimony to your church, consider those who have been faithful from a young age.  Lift them up as testimonies of God’s grace.  These are not people who will have large ministries that are based on their dramatic conversion.  They will be the kind of people who have been made wise by the gospel from youth and are a special treasure in your church. 

When I became a Christian I marveled at the knowledge and wisdom many Christians my age had.  My testimony may have been more interesting for others to hear, but the Christians who had been saved at a young age knew the Savior in ways that have taken me years to understand. 

The miracle of new birth is a miracle, no matter when it happens. The gospel is about what God has done. Our testimonies should be as well.

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Religious Police Found in Nearly One-in-Ten Countries Worldwide

Apr. 22, 2014By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

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The Definition of a Christian

Apr. 21, 2014By: 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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The Changing Faces of Persecution

Apr. 17, 2014By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio
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Raising Support: Should You Ask People To Pray But Not Financially Support You

Apr. 16, 2014By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

There are roughly three different fundraising philosophies Christians follow when they raise support. They are:

  • No information, no solicitation approach
  • Full information, no solicitation approach
  • Full information, full solicitation approach

George Muller made the first approach famous. He claimed that he never asked anyone for any money, though he did spend four decades telling stories of God's provision to crowds around the world. One may question Muller's style here. If you had a world-wide audience, where at the end of every message you ended with telling them you never asked anyone for money, what do you think would happen? Muller had so much money he had to give it away - much of which was given to Hudson Taylor!

Hudson Taylor and CT Studd made the second approach well known, and it dominated the majority how missionaries viewed the solicitation of funds in the modern missions movement. It was later called the "faith principle." Missionaries would go out, share prayer requests, but never say how much they actually needed. They just prayed and asked God to meet their needs. Lillias Trotter, founder of Algers Missions Board also took this approach. Read this letter for example to see how this played out.

The third way is seen most clearly in DL Moody, who would write and personally ask people to invest money into the work of Christ's Church. Today most missionaries and those who operate on support take this approach, though I believe many wish approach two worked better!

I would say that most missionaries today fall between approaches two and three. Many do not enjoy asking people for money directly, so they send out support letters with reply cards, but will not ask someone face to face to support them financially.

Here is the crux of the issue - why is it ok for pastors to preach on giving and churches to challenge their people to be generous, but not ok for a missionary to ask directly for people to be generous? Muller's approach was passive agressive. I am asking but not asking. Hudson Taylor and CT Studd were the same - here are our needs, pray about them, but we are not going to ask you to meet them. We are asking God.

The Bible never says that asking people to pray is good, but asking to give is not. It feels manipulative asking people to just pray when everyone knows full well I need financial support. Joining your support team (for whatever you are doing) is a chance for someone to invest in something with eternal consequence. Do you believe in the mission enough to have someone else invest. What better return on investment would you need in order to ask people to invest?

 

 

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