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Missions 101

Getting PhDs to the Mission Field

Dec. 9, 2016By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

Seminaries and graduate schools around the world are asking for PhD holders to come as missionaries and teach Bible and theology.  I know of one major seminary in Europe who posted their openings in a major evangelical magazine, only to find no takers.  Why is this and how can we help?

Why They Are Hard to Find

1.  God has not called them.  This is simple enough.  To go to another culture with your spouse and kids usually requires God to uproot you in some way that is so clear that you believe God is leading you to the field.   

2.  Some think raising money is below their degree.  I only write this because I have heard it so often.  Raising support is for the M.Div. students, so I have been told.  It is for the staff of some campus ministry or for helping orphans and those on the margins of society. I know of many that would rather work at Starbucks or UPS than ask people for their support to go overseas. 

3.  It is a career killer, or maybe better an inhibitor.  You can't participate at ETS/SBL. Your library (if you have one) is more limited.  The education level of the students (in some cases) is at a much lower level then what you find in the US (though that seems to be changing for the worse here).  Their colleagues might not be as educated and able to provide them helpful feedback or sharpening of ones own skills.

4.  It may involve learning ANOTHER language.  Most PhD students have learned Greek, Hebrew, German and French and now we are asking them to potentially teach it all in another language.  This is a real challenge.  Who wants to spend 2-3 years trying to master Japanese in order to teach Greek when your mother tongue in English after having spent years toiling with participles?

5.  You don't have very many friends who can support you.  One reality that faces graduates is that in the last six years you have probably lived in three different locations, and in each locations you probably did not make a lot of friends.  You have spent a lot of time in libraries or have probably only gotten to know your fellow classmates.

6.  You can still teach modular classes overseas without leaving your job in the US. 

7.  Debt.  Plain and simple, going to school costs a lot of money.  Very few escape with a PhD and less than $45K of school loans from the various institutions they have attended (at least in my experience).

How The Church Can Help

1.  Pray God calls them (or me or you).  There is such a great need for well-trained, godly, pastoral cross-cultural teachers.  

2.  Challenge the belief that fundraising is not for them.  Have them read Steve Shadrach's Viewpoints.  It could be that one of the reasons people have a hard time asking for support is because they do not think the people around them are generous.  That is fair.  That means we should be even more open in our generosity and encourage them to go by pledging our support.  

3. Seminaries in the west must talk to students about the global Church and do so often.  It is not enough to talk about it in the Missions 101 class.  It should permeate all of our classes.  Maybe seminaries should offer some full rides to students interested in teaching in developing countries.

4.  Churches should talk about being missional not just in their community, but around the world.  They should also disciple these students and get them into small groups with people in the church who are not theology students, but serving the Lord in different career paths.   

5.  Create a way to get rid of the debt.  I have prayed that some donor would come to TLI or set up on their own a fund that would pay off the debt of PhD's if they committed to 5 years of service overseas. Medical doctors have a program like this.  I believe this incentive would unleash many into service. I am thankful for places like Bethlehem College and Seminary that are focused on keeping the costs low.

I am sure there are many reasons people do not go and many more ways we can help them.  This is just a starting point.

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Why is Half the Planet Stuck in Poverty?

Dec. 7, 2016By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio
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Missions and Poverty

Dec. 5, 2016By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

An interesting article by Steve Saint on some of the complications of money and missions. His concluding thoughts are worth pondering:

Giving handouts creates more problems than it solves. It is like casting out demons with long leases. Break the lease or they will come back and bring more roommates (Lk 11:24-26). Where the Church is being established among people that perceive themselves as powerless, there is a great need for deep discipleship, wrestling with the roots of poverty at the community level rather than concentrating on the individual.

Financial help that does not develop sustainable, local, financial self-sufficiency is much more likely to create poverty than it is to meet real needs. Until we realize that we can’t overcome poverty with handouts, we will never be much help in completing Christ’s Great Commission.

As followers of Christ we must fight poverty through discipleship rather than covering it with spiritual frosting. Either we do God’s will God’s way or we aren’t doing His will at all. Discipleship means teaching others what we have learned so they can teach others to care for their community’s physical, economic, emotional and spiritual needs on a sustainable basis! (2 Tim 2:2,Mt 28:19-20)

 

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Christianity is Not Exploding in Africa

Nov. 18, 2016By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

I have read, heard and said many times that “Christianity is exploding in Africa.” I now believe I am wrong. In 2010, The Pew Forum released on interesting report titled: Tolerance and Tension: Islam and Christianity in Sub-Saharan Africa.

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One part of the study was to look at the current rate of conversions to Christianity and Islam. What you find on the chart above is that there are very few conversions in the countries where data was collected. Part of the reason there is no conversion might be because there is no one left to convert (see Zambia and Rwanda). But - it still calls into question our frequent saying that Christianity is exploding in Africa.

I think it would be helpful to qualify Africa’s growth by noting three things:

1. Christian faith did explode in Africa, especially between 1900-1970. There was also growth up until 2000, but at that point it seems to have flatlined.

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2. Very few try to qualify the kind of Christianity that is being converted to. Would you consider a person who claims to be Christian and sacrifices animals a believer? What about someone who denies the Trinity, or Jesus as the Son of God? What about the prosperity gospel? These type of unqualified statistics, which also appear in the US on a regular basis, don’t really tell the whole story. I once read a book on the history of missions in a West Africa country and not one time did the author address the kind of gospel that was being preached. Notice on the chart that it seems that the majority of people who converted to Christianity were converting from Traditional African Religions. One wonders whether Christianity was just tacked on.

 3. This is just speculation, but I wonder how much growth can be attested to family size. It seems that little conversion from Islam is currently happening, so why is Christianity still growing numerically so quickly. Could it be the size of families have something to do with it? This would not necessarily have an impact on the % of the population if it could be shown that everyone is having large families, but it certainly impacts the overall numbers.

So - let’s be careful. Let’s rejoice in what the Lord is doing and the fact that we can actually know what He is doing around the world. Let’s rejoice that people are turning to Christ. But, let’s also be careful and not exaggerate what the Lord is doing and in so doing undermine the very report we can rejoice over.

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Advice Given to J. Hudson Taylor From His Parents

Nov. 16, 2016By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

From The Call to Service as he considered leaving for China:

My beloved parents neither discouraged nor encouraged my desire to engage in missionary work. They advised me, with such convictions, to use all the means in my power to develop the resources of body, mind, heart and soul, and to await prayerfully upon God, quite willing should He show me that I was mistaken, to follow His guidance, or to go forward if in due time He should hope the way to missionary service. The importance of his advice I have often since had occasion to prove. I began to take more exercise in the open air in strengthen my physique. My father bed I had taken away, and sought to dispense with as many other home comforts as I could in order to prepare myself for rougher lines of life. I began also to do what Christian work was in my power, in the way of tract distribution, Sunday-school teaching, and visiting the poor and sick, as opportunity afforded.

 
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