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Posts Tagged: Missions

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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The 14 Worst Types of Missionary Newsletters

Jul. 22, 2015By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio


From Amy Walters at SEND.

1.    The Banker. Nothing but support updates and requests for money. Oh, and maybe a story about visiting a church and asking for money. “It’s not too late to join our team.”

2.    The Paper Cut. Focused mainly on the long, paperwork-filled process of getting legal documents, like visas or residency permits. As boring and painful to read as the actual process of gathering the documents and waiting in line. “The officials did not accept our documents (which is very normal for the first attempt, although it was over very small mistakes). However, to get a second appointment would mean waiting the next day in a long line (this whole process has been full of long lines all over the city for different steps) to see if the quota is still open. So, the next day Leon* waited in line for 5 hours, only to find out that no, the quota is closed. This means that we cannot apply for the temporary residency until after the New Year.”

3.    The Cluster Bomb. No communication for months and then a sudden rush of updates. Often this happens when the missionary needs something, like more support or home service is coming. “At the risk of sounding like a broken record, we will give another report about how wonderful our time was on our recent trip!”

4.    The Itinerary. Basically, a long list of activities, locations and events in paragraph form. The audience feels tired after reading it and bouncing from one place to the next. “We were able to combine visits to see Kim’s* father in Pennsylvania, children and grandchildren in Lynchburg, Virginia and Buffalo, New York to meeting friends and attending a new career conference in Ocean City, New Jersey.”

5.    The Treasure Hunt. Mostly filled with cultural tidbits and mundane details. But buried somewhere deep inside, like in a sidebar or at the very end of a long letter, is a great ministry story. [After nine paragraphs about other things] “Praise God for a girl in my class who has now received assurance of salvation.”

6.    The Novel. Anything longer than three pages. This usually happens because the missionary hasn’t written in months. “And one more thing…”

7.    The Christmas Letter. Almost entirely made up of family updates, with little or nothing said about ministry. Added bonus: long description and pictures of a recent family vacation to an exotic location. “Another family invited us to join them at a nearby resort.”

8.    The Cliff Hanger. A desperate call for prayer or help that is not followed up and resolved in the next letter.“Ended up in hospital, trying to find what’s going on. Our life here is but a moment, so easy to take it for granted.”

9.    Generic. As boring as the title, either from lack of interesting details or mainly focusing on day to day stuff. So general that it could be cut and pasted into anyone’s newsletter and still apply. “While at home, I did a lot of cleaning, sorting, and washing windows.” 

10.    The Shock & Awe. Too much going on, from too many different styles of fonts, to too many colors and clip art and photos and graphs and sections. The eyes don’t know where to look first. “Above: My fourth great-nephew and I pose for a comical photo on Thanksgiving Day.”

11.    The Snooze & Blah. No pictures. No colors. No graphics. Just words.

12.    The Judge. A negative assessment of the host culture, either subtle or blatant. “Is it possible to be both different and wrong?”

13.    The Gory Details. Goes into great detail about something incredibly gross or personal, like a recent surgery or explosive illness. Also could include pictures. “We could admire the iron in our toilet bowl.”

14.    The Bait & Switch.  Teases you with the promise of a great story but instead gets sidetracked with related but unimportant details. “So we landed in [the city], got in a van and rode out to join the teen camp that was starting the next day. 10 days later we took part in the English camp. The time at the camp definitely got us back into life here quickly.”

She offers to helpful tips here.

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Raising Support: Should You Ask People To Pray But Not Financially Support You

Jul. 21, 2015By: 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

2967554597George 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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Adoniram Judson's Advice to His Sons

Jul. 20, 2015By: Evan Burns


Writing from Burma in a letter to his grown-up sons who were studying in Worcester, Massachusetts, the first sent American missionary, Adonriam Judson, called them to a relentless obedience to God’s Word.

Is it possible that I have letters from you at last?  I had waited so long that I began to think it would never be.  And I am so glad to hear of your welfare, and especially that you have both been under religious impressions, and that Elnathan begins to entertain a hope in Christ!  O, this is the most blessed news.  Go on, my dear boys, and not rest until you have made your calling and election sure.  I believe that you both and Abby Ann will become true Christians, and meet me in heaven; for I never pray without praying for your conversion, and I think I pray in faith.  Go to school, attend to your studies, be good scholars, try to get a good education; but, O, heaven is all.  Life, life, eternal life!  Without this, without an interest in the Lord of life, you are lost, lost forever.  Dear Adoniram, give your heart at once to the Saviour.  Don’t go to sleep without doing it.  Try, try for your life. Don’t mind what anybody may say to the contrary, nor how much foolish boys may laugh at you.  Love the dear Saviour, who has loved you unto death.  Dear sons, so soon as you have a good hope in Christ that your sins are pardoned, and that Christ loves you, urge your pastor and the church to baptize and receive you into communion.  They will hold back, thinking you are too young, and must give more evidence.  But don’t be discouraged.  Push on.  Determine to do it.  Determine to stand by Christ, come what will.  That is the way to get to heaven. . . .  Will Elnathan tell me what little book it was that was so much blessed to him?  I have forgotten what I sent him.  I have sent you copies of your mother’s Memoir.  You will be delighted to read it, so beautifully and so truthfully is it written.  Ever love to cherish the memory of your own dear mother-—how much she loved you to the last gasp—-and prepare to follow her to heaven. Your fond father, A. JUDSON.[1]


[1]Eward Judson, The Life of Adoniram Judson, 523.  Also quoted in Francis Wayland, A Memoir of Adoniram Judsonvol. 2:307-308.

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The Role of International Students in the Preparation of Missionaries

Jul. 14, 2015By: Philemon YongAuthor Bio

When students leave their various countries to pursue studies in America, they arrive with certain beliefs. If they are Christians, more likely than not, they had experienced life with missionaries in their country, and come to America thinking (falsely so) that the church in America will be filled with people with the same mindset as the missionaries they had met. Those missionaries they had met are, for the most part, interested in the lives of the nationals, curious about their culture, wanting to understand why they do what they do, and welcome them into their homes. When they arrive in America, they quickly learn that this is not generally true of Americans, and there begins a confusing journey for them as they seek to fit into the body of Christ here. Several years ago my wife and I had some international students over to our home for a meal and they told us that was their first visit in an American home in their two years of stay in the US. I was shocked but that is the fact. I have heard the same from many more international students. My aim here is to suggest a helpful role for the international students in the preparation of our missionaries as we send them to serve in those various countries.

International_studentsGod has brought many nations to the US and into the church in this land. What an opportunity that brings to the American church as we seek to impact the church globally. Yet, many international students are shocked when they come across people preparing to go and serve as missionaries in their countries, but they never take a minute to get to know them or even ask what life is like back home.  A common comment among international students is that if future missionaries are not able to relate to them here in their own homeland, how in the world do they expect to fit in and relate to people in their mission context? The presence of international students in our congregations is a gift from God, and can be used to better equip our global missionaries.

In last week’s post, I made the proposal that we should be purposeful in our training of missionaries for cross-cultural ministries. One of the ways to do this is to be culture-specific in our missionary training. If we engage the many international students present here, that culture-specific training will be obtainable. It won’t take much to have international students come to our training centers or to our churches and share with our missionaries as a way of equipping them for more effective service.

How can this be done in practice? Several possibilities:

Through the local church, have international students play a key role in the training of your missionaries. A local church, through the missionary training program, can require their missionaries to make contact with international students from the country to which they are planning to go. They can spend time with them over a period of 8-12 months, learning about their future host culture. These students normally have contacts back home and can chase down information that will be helpful for the missionary as he or she goes.

Mission agencies, as part of their cross-cultural training, can bring in students from other countries (chosen according to the locations of the missionaries in training) to come and take part in the orientation of their missionaries. Who would you want orienting you to the culture of your ministry? An American who has read books about the culture and maybe spent some years there, or a national from that particular culture? Often, these students have so much to share, but lack the opportunity to do so.

There are benefits to this approach in missionary orientation. This kind of ministry shows that we do appreciate those who have come to us from other countries and believe that there are things they can teach us about their own contexts. It helps international students fit into the church better when they cease from being visitors during their time of studies, and to actually being part of helping prepare missionaries for their home countries.

They give us an honest picture of how our labors in their homeland are going. They have grown up seeing missionaries work, and they know the growth of the church. They know how the church is struggling and what can be done to help. They have alternate views about how the gospel is progressing in their own country. Putting together how they see things and what we know of our own mission work in the area will help us keep from making the same mistakes over and over.

Again, let us not neglect the presence of the nations in our churches as we prepare missionaries to serve the nations.

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