Missions

Was John Chau A "Fool For Christ's Sake" or Merely A Fool?

If you have been watching the news, you have noticed the recent death of the Christian missionary John Chau. There has been much said about Chau and his mission, motives, and preparation. There have been several people who have written about him and my thoughts would do nothing to turn the tide nor add much to the discussion. What is unfortunate, in my opinion, is the amount of articles and responses that have come out so quickly before we have even looked into the entire story. Whether we would be justified in our opinions or not, our social media and immediacy age has warped how we critically think about events in the world. How often we develop our own theories and opinions based on hearing only a fraction of the story and background which can be blown out of context. There has even been one article that I have read recently from a very solid evangelical writer and ministry who wrote more scathingly about Chau and his mission. If one reads the article, you would come away thinking that we should never take any risks whatsoever in missions and that we should only do so if it makes total logical and logistical sense to us. I came away thinking, “This author doesn’t want me to leave the 99 sheep to go and find the 1.”

Yes, there are many things that need to be thought about and learned from this situation. Jesus Himself tells us to count the cost for following Him and certainly this should be our thoughts for the mission field as well. There is a grand difference between being a missionary for your own glory and truly desiring to serve Christ and His kingdom. Nevertheless, who are we to discern Chau’s motives from afar (from very far) especially when we have very little information nor have talked to people who knew him and helped him prepare. We need to see also the many positive lessons to be learned. If we are honest, some of our reactions against Chau might be because of our idolatry of comfort and only wanting Jesus to be apart of our resume and reputation rather than our Sovereign Lord and Infinitely Glorious King. What both “sides” (this article is certainly another example of our polarizing and side-taking culture that we have in America and in American evangelicalism) need is to learn from Chau. Through all this, let’s remember, this is a man who died. From all accounts of Chau’s walk with Christ, this is a man who we will delight to be with in heaven to come. This is not a lab rat for our Christian culture.

That brings in Ed Stetzer’s article at the Washington Post. Stetzer has written the best article by far, that I have come across in my very limited research, that gives us careful considerations and also challenges us. You might have your own reactions to the mission and death of Chau but I would encourage you to read Stetzer’s article before coming to your own conclusion. And when you do, and when you pass it on to others, ask yourself these questions:

  • What does it mean to be a wise “fool for Christ’s sake”?

  • How much do I idolize my comfort?

  • Do I seek to evangelize only on mission trips or am I doing so in my everyday life?

  • Was this a tragedy?

  • How has my own culture shaped my view of missions?

  • How has my own culture shaped my view of what it means to be a Christian?

  • How do we take this and use it to teach our children and grandchildren about missions (whether to learn from mistakes or to learn from good example or both)?

  • Are we remembering that this is a man (and a Christian on top of that!) that has died and not merely a missionary lab rat for us to talk about?

  • Do we think of heaven or are we consumed with this life?

  • How does this prepare us to live and raise children in our own culture that is beginning to persecute Christianity more and more?

  • What can I learn from the rest of Christian history and other biographies that might help me grow in wisdom and passion for missions?

The following is an excerpt from Stetzer’s article and the part that I think we need to hear most. For the full article, click here. Stetzer will challenge both “sides” and leave us thinking more humbly about John Chau.

There are certainly differences between [Jim] Elliot and Chau, but what has really changed is our culture. People are much more negative about missions, partly because of mistakes that missionaries have made, such as colonialism, a lack of cultural awareness and more. But, for many critics, it is the core goal of conversion itself they object to.

I grieve for John Chau and his family. He made his choices because he loved the North Sentinelese. You might see it as a waste. You might point out his mistakes, even after learning that he had worked hard to prepare for his mission.

But, as I write this, less than 100 feet away is a letter Jim Elliot wrote. As a Wheaton College graduate, he has a special place here. As Elliot wrote (and Chau experienced), “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Here at Elliot’s alma mater, we still believe and train missionaries. To some, that makes us the fools. But we pray our students will engage in their culture and others well and in appropriate ways, with care for the health and well-being of all, and with others in partnership.

If that makes us fools, we will be “fools for Christ” (1 Corinthians 4:10).

How Porn Affects Missions

As a church that sends, supports, and prays for several missionaries, it is worth asking the following: Does pornography affect the mission field? Is the widespread use of pornography “sidelining” potential missionaries (and even local missions in our neighborhood)? Greg Handley, church planter and writer for the International Mission Board, seeks to address this question in his article. The following is an excerpt:

I know the statistics point to how pornography isn’t merely a male problem. I understand, but I also have worked among young men enough to know this problem has reached epidemic proportions. Years ago, John Piper coined that paradigm-shifting statement about missions in Let the Nations Be Glad: “Missions exists because worship doesn’t.” Among young, Christian men who don’t show concern for the nations, I’ve come to wonder if it could be said that porn lurks where missions doesn’t.

Here is my plea to porn-strugglers: not merely for your sake, for their sake—for the unreached nations of the world—get help. Pornography sidelines you when the nations need you. I want to help you realize the soul-conditioning effect of pornography in a way you may not have seen it before, particularly as it relates to missions. My aim is for this brief article to be a healing wound that sets a new trajectory in your pursuit of purity.

For the rest of the short article, click here.

THE GREAT PURPOSE OF THE CHURCH – THE REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN MISSIONS TO THE FIRST GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE SOUTHERN PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH (1861)

We are deeply impressed with a sense of the obligation laid upon the church by her great Head to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature,” and the consequent claims which the various Pagan, Mohommedan [Muslim], Jewish and Papal nations of the earth have upon the church for the blessings of a pure gospel; feeling too that one of the great ends of the institution of the church was that she might in her collective organized strength, impart the knowledge of salvation to all the kindreds and peoples and tongues among men, and that so far as it has been revealed to men that there can be no salvation for the heathen without such knowledge; remembering also the many tokens of divine favor bestowed upon the efforts of Southern Christians while laboring in connection with the Presbyterian Church of the United States, and that an important portion of that work in the Providence of God had been laid upon their shoulders even before they had a distinct ecclesiastical organization of their own; and in view of the further fact that God by his providence has for some years been removing the obstacles that have heretofore prevented the introduction of the gospel among the great heathen nations of the earth, and has at the same time bestowed upon the Southern Church all the means and agents necessary for taking a large and distinguished share in the great work of evangelizing the nations…

The General Assembly desires distinctly and deliberately to inscribe on our church’s banner as she now first unfurls it to the world, in immediate connection with the Headship of her Lord, His last command: “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature;” regarding this as the great end of her organization, and obedience to it as the indispensable condition of her Lord’s promised presence, and as one great comprehensive object a proper conception of whose vast magnitude and grandeur is the only thing which in connection with the love of Christ can ever sufficiently arouse her energies and develop her resources, so as to cause her to carry on with the vigor and efficiency which true fealty to her Lord demands, whose other agencies necessary to her internal growth and home prosperity. The claims of this cause ought therefore to be kept constantly before the minds of our people and pressed upon their consciences – and every minister owes it to his people and to a perishing world to give such instruction on this subject as he is able; and to this end the monthly concert [of prayer] ought to be devoutly observed by every church on the first Sabbath of each month for the purpose of missionary instruction as well as prayer, and it would be well to accompany their prayers with their offerings. To the same end the Assembly earnest enjoins upon all our ministers and ruling elders and deacons and Sabbath school teachers, and especially upon parents, particular attention to our precious youth in training them to feel a deep interest in this work, and not only to form habits of systematic benevolence, but to feel and respond to the claims of Jesus upon them for personal service in the field. 

HOW TO PRAY FOR YOUR MISSIONARIES

1. Pray for Open Doors – “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word…” (Colossians 4:2-3)

  • Pray that God will open doors of ministry, blessing partnerships and friendship
  • Pray that those who serve will be led by the Holy Spirit and recognize open-door opportunities
  • Pray that God will lead His people past barriers to hearts ready to receive His word

2. Pray for Boldness in Witness – “And pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel…” (Ephesians 6:19)

  • Pray that missionaries will have boldness to overcome the fear of embarrassment or failure
  • Pray that the Spirit will provide them with words that communicate effectively in other cultures and languages
  • Pray against evil forces that would seek to hinder the spread of the gospel

3. Pray that God’s Word Will Spread – “Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified…” (II Thessalonians 3:1)

  • Pray for strength and stamina as missionaries encounter antagonistic spiritual forces (Ephesians 6:10-18)
  • Pray that people will resist Satan’s plans to obstruct the spread of the gospel (James 4:7)
  • Pray that God’s word will indeed spread rapidly and be honored where it goes

4. Pray for Protection – “…and pray that we will be rescued from perverse and evil men; for not all have faith.” (II Thessalonians 3:2)

  • Pray that God will keep Christian workers safe from those who seek to hurt them
  • Pray that God will change the hearts of those who are resistant to His Word

5. Pray for Their Ministry – “Pray…that my service for Jerusalem may prove acceptable to the saints…” (Romans 15:31)

  • Pray that the missionary’s ministry and attitude will be worthy of acceptance
  • Pray that colleagues and fellow believers will be supportive

6. Pray for God’s Guidance – “Pray…so that I may come to you in joy by the will of God…” (Romans 15:32)

  • Pray for clear guidance from God regarding travel decisions
  • Pray for necessary permissions to travel
  • Pray for protection and provision during their travels

7. Pray for Refreshment – “Pray that I may… find refreshing rest in your company.” (Romans 15:32)

  • Pray that God will provide opportunities for missionaries in lonely areas to spend time with other believers
  • Pray that God will provide times of peace and relaxation to refresh His workers
  • Pray that God will encourage missionaries with the knowledge that people back home care about their emotional well-being

Longing for Diversity? Reach Your Disability Community

If you looked out from the pulpit in our church sanctuary on any given Sunday morning, what would you see?  Hopefully, faces of people who love Jesus and are joyful worshipers of the God!  Yet, if you focused primarily on skin color, you would see about 96% Caucasian, and the rest a smattering of Africans-Americans, Hispanics, and Indians.  To put it bluntly, our church is, and has been for a long time, a very white congregation.

Now, if you are like many of us in our congregation, this is not a desirable situation.  Why not? For one thing, it doesn’t reflect heaven.  We know heaven will be filled with worshipers from every nation, tribe, tongue, and ethnicity.  But just as important, it doesn’t reflect our neighborhood either.  Go out our sanctuary doors into our metro area and you will find an entirely different mixture of color and ethnicity.  So, with those two reasons in mind, our elders formed a Neighborhood Diversity Committee (NDC) a couple of years ago.  It reflects the leadership’s deep longing to see our local church be transformed into a multiethnic congregation, by God’s grace.

But here’s something very interesting.  For nearly twelve years we our church has had a growing and thriving disability ministry to our member families as well as the surrounding community.  If you would drop by and peek through the windows of our multipurpose building on a Friday night Sonbeams Night Out (our respite care event), what would you see?  Hopefully, faces of people who love Jesus and are being joyfully ministered to by people who love them and love Jesus.  But if you looked at the 75-80 faces of those with disabilities, you would see about 50% white, 40% African-American, and 10% other ethnicities.  I don’t know about heaven, but this is much closer to the breakdown of our surrounding neighborhoods!

So, why is there a much more robust ethnic diversity in our disability ministry than in our actual church membership?  It’s certainly easy to understand the first part of that question.  Disability does not impact just one ethnicity or one color of the human race.  It also doesn’t just strike a certain socio-economic segment of our society and leave the others untouched.  Because it moves across each and every boundary and barricade that separates us, it often becomes quite a strong unifying force.  In pretty much any city, town, neighborhood in which you live, people touched by disability already have a community of their own.  And the reality is that this “neighborhood” is most often a very unchurched group of people.  This community not only needs the gospel of Jesus Christ, but local churches that will welcome them into the family of God.

How, then, do we answer the second part of the question?  If the disability community is already a multiethnic group (and that’s what we long for our church to be), why aren’t they also becoming worshipers in our church?  Certainly, a few families check out the church after a respite care event, because they feel loved and welcomed.  But why don’t more desire to join with us, and the few that come actually stick around?  That’s the question that needs to be addressed in an honest and thoughtful way.  Are we still putting up barriers that keep us from the diversity we desire?  Are we not as welcoming and warm as we think we are?  Do we send the message that we want to stay a fairly homogeneous group of Christians?

Every local church that longs to be more diverse needs to ask and answer these sorts of questions.  But don’t lose the main point here:  A fundamental way to work towards the Biblical, yet challenging goal of a multiethnic church is to reach our disability community.  This group is already ethnically diverse.  This group is already connected by their brokenness.  This group needs the gospel of Jesus Christ as well as concentrated and regular mercy ministry.  This group will gladly come around when we become churches that reach out and serve the most marginalized of all.

But there is even a better reason for reaching out to the disability community in our neighborhoods, if we long for diversity in our local churches.  Disability itself brings diversity to our churches, even if the faces are all the same color!  The diversity inherent in disability may not be cultural or ethnic or language-based; yet, it creates the same distance in our society.  In other words, the coming together of the sick, the lame, the blind, and the deaf, with those who are physically healthy, is a beautiful example of differences that must be overcome in order to worship Jesus together.  And, it is also a picture of heaven, where our spiritual brokenness will be ultimately healed as we enjoy our glorified bodies in heaves. 

We should be all for any effort to reach our neighbors for Jesus who live in the houses near us and near our church. Yet, as we seek to become churches on earth that are truly diverse, we should also prioritize and emphasize our pursuit of people and neighborhoods touched by disability!   

Sent as Priests

This past weekend I had the privilege of preaching the Missions Conference at Bay Street Presbyterian Church in Hattiesburg, MS. It was a delight to be with these saints and to open up God's word with them. We meditated upon the glorious reality that our election is for the purpose of mission - our identity is also our calling. We saw from John 17 that Christians are in the world, though not of the world - because we have been given to the Son by the Father out of the world - and the Son sends us into the world, even as He was sent by the Father into the world (17:18), so that we might speak the truth of the gospel in love. We are sent into the world as a kingdom of priests (I Peter 2:9ff.; Exodus 19:4-6), to represent God to man and man to God. We are the Lord's special treasure, His chief delight, a people for His own possession, for the purpose of declaring His excellencies - His holy character and mighty deeds - among the nations. He has called us out of darkness and into His marvelous light, He has taken us who were not a people and has made us His people, He has showered us with mercy - and now He calls us to go into the world, living holy lives and being always ready to give an answer for the hope that is in us. We go into the world as fishers of men, seeking the lost, taking the initiative with them even as God took the initiative with us. And as we go, we have the confidence that the Lord will draw His elect to Himself through His word. He has His people across the world, and it is our privilege to be used as instruments in bringing them to a knowledge of His grace. 

Some think the doctrines of grace - the five points of Calvinism - are a hindrance to evangelism. Unfortunately, those who embrace the doctrines of grace are often practical hyper-Calvinists, living as if we don't need to speak the gospel to the lost for them to be saved. But if we really believed our theology, we would have the strong conviction that the gospel must be spoken. For the God who has ordained the end has also ordained the means, and it is through the means of His word that the lost are found, the dead are raised to newness of life, the guilty are forgiven. The more strongly we embrace the sovereignty of grace, the more fervently we should desire to speak the gospel to those around us. 

Reflections of an Adult MK

Mr. Daniel Borden is a third year student in the counseling program at RTS. His parents were MTW missionaries in Zimbabwe and South Africa from 1993-2011, and from that time they have worked with MINTS (Miami International Theological Seminary) in the United States. Daniel graduated from high school in 2004, and from the Bible Institute of South Africa in 2007. He is married to Melissa, and they have one daughter, Charis.

Home is everywhere and nowhere

Home is a word that encapsulates a sense of familiarity, safety, and memories. Yet when I ponder this word, I wonder where to fully lay my restless feet. My mind begins to reflect on the many places where my feet have rested in the past history of my life. I think back to the summer of 1992 in Detroit, Michigan, when my parents underwent missionary training. I have memories there of the children programs that I participated in before my family made the big move to Zimbabwe in 1993. From that time onwards, the places I’ve called “home” have spread into a plethora of localities. I reflect on living on the campus of a Bible College in Harare, the capital city of Zimbabwe. My mind drifts next to the rural, mountainous, lush countryside of Zimbabwe where my father taught at African Bible College on the border between Zimbabwe and Mozambique. This place was home for only two and a half years, but I remember so much from those days. Thankfully, many of those experiences have been saved on my parents’ old camcorder and the collection of home videos at my parents’ house. I continue on and remember home later being in St. Petersburg, Florida, where my parents attended a chiropractor center while on medical leave for a time. I remember home being near colonial Williamsburg in 1996, and then changing suddenly in the fall of 1997 to the tip of South Africa, in a small, southern suburb of Cape Town called Fish Hoek. I could list other “homes” as well, including Harrisonburg, Virginia, Virginia Beach, Virginia, Lynchburg, Virginia, and various places around Atlanta, Georgia. Together, these places hold a kaleidoscope of memories, conversations, friends, cultures, and various forms of other things left behind. My list of “homes” currently numbers around twenty-two.

The hardships

Not everything about my cross-cultural adventures has lent itself to epic tales of excitement and adventure. Sadly, there has been the “darker side” as well, which has created in my soul a kind of wrestling with how I grew up. I’m a sinner, just like the rest of the body of Christ, and my particular sin has often morphed and shifted along the line of contentment. When I came of college age, I began to realize more fully that my history was so very different from many of my peers. This led to a very compulsive-like desire to “fit in” with all those around me. When my efforts did not achieve the desired results, I found myself trapped in a whirlpool of feelings including depression, anger, anxiety, loneliness, and a deep sadness that would not dissipate. I was angry that my life had not been a normal (who knows what that is) upbringing. I was upset that I was different. I envied those who lived in the same location for long periods of time and appeared to be culturally savvy. I remember once the all too real longing of desiring to be in the same place for Christmas two years in a row just so that I could say to those around me, “Remember what we did last Christmas?”

God’s mission is the scene behind all scenes and the end of time.

We are all human and have pasts to wrestle with as we grow in our relationship with the Lord. My past has been unique, yet my heart is not unique. One of my biggest longings has been for God to transform my imagination. Paul Tripp, in his book Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, makes the point that as Christians, we need a vivid imagination that fixes on what is real, but unseen (p. 7). The apostle Paul, right after mentioning momentary afflictions, elaborates on this in 2 Corinthians 4:18, “…we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” I need a sanctified imagination. I need to set my mind on things above, not on earthly things (Colossians 3:2). When I was a child, I had a vivid imagination. When I was about 8 years old, I used to sit on my “thinking rock” in the Zimbabwean countryside and try to figure out eternity in my head after hearing that word in Sunday school. Of course, I never quite figured it out, but I miss those long afternoons of pondering! As an adult TCK (third culture kid), I long to have such an imagination. Even more, however, I long to have a picture of the behind-the-scenes reality of God’s work in the midst of deep heartache.

Yet I pause and realize that my emotional experiences of pain were very real. The culture shock that I experienced in college was almost unbearable at times. The loneliness ate at me like a sinister virus, and remnants of that virus remain even now. The longings for days past sometimes still take hold of my heart, and I begin to believe that the “if onlys” would fix me (for example - if only I lived in one place for years at a time…if only I had not been an MK….the list goes on). Yes, I’ve been angry at the “aftermath” of growing up a missionary kid. There was a time when I was tired of not knowing the rules of football, and sitting during the Super Bowl and feeling as though I was hearing a foreign language. I was tired of sitting in awkward silence because I missed the “normal” jokes and humor that surrounded me when I moved to new places. I was tired of feeling a lack of identity, and tired of trying to figure out the question “Who am I?” Of course, as a Christian, I know my identity is in Christ, but it is still 3 sometimes hard to experience that due to life circumstances that seem to clash against that reality. I desire to rest fully in my identity in Christ, yet I long to be heard when I battle against such things as cultural identity and the very real thoughts, feelings, and emotions that wage war inside my soul.

While there is an inward struggle, another story must take center-stage. It is not that my struggles have not been real, but I pray that another story behind the scenes will continue to grip my heart. I think to the early days in Zimbabwe when my mom used to run the “Good News Bible Club” on Fridays. Fast-forward twenty years, and a letter comes of how one of those boys is now a pastor in the land of Zimbabwe. I also think of a South African pastor who came to get trained in a night class that my dad was teaching, so that rural pastors could further their education. This pastor used to be a fervent preacher of the prosperity gospel. He became friends with my father, was equipped, and is now pastor and principal of a small Bible College that happens to be next door to the witch doctor’s residence in one of the townships of Cape Town. I could go on and on with the many students equipped and families served through the ministry of my parents. I think of Revelation 7 and the wonderful picture of people from all tribes and nations, worshipping and praising God, for salvation belongs to Him. It is not our mission, but His mission. He chooses to use the church, despite the weaknesses, sins, and shortcomings of her members. I’m thankful for my experiences, because though I don’t always feel it, I know that God will use my background in a unique way for the glory of His name. However, it is such a beautiful thing to be heard and validated in the uniqueness and difficulty of my story. It has meant so much in the past to see the arms of the church reach out to my family in my growing up years and even now to my new family as a married man. During my youth it meant so much to have the church pray for us, send Christmas gifts, read the newsletters, and join with us in pain. That was a beautiful picture of weeping with those who weep and rejoicing with those who rejoice (I Corinthians 12). I have received grace from others, and out of that grace I hope to be the “hands and feet of Christ” in the lives of others as well.

God’s mission is to bring His elect from all generations into His kingdom, saving them through the death of His Son, and working out that salvation in the lives of His children through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. Let us rejoice that He uses broken vessels to accomplish His overarching plan for humanity, and that the church can comfort her members in the continued journey to this reality.