No greater joy
It is such an encouragement to see the tribal people with whom my mission works
continuing in the faith, walking in the truth of God’s Word well after the missionary leaves. This makes all our years of service on the foreign field worth the hardships and separation we face. It is obvious by the changes to their lifestyles that they own the truth of God’s Word and his promises to them. I have 50 pages of documented instances of how the tribal believers across this country have whole heartedly owned the Gospel of Jesus Christ and translated it and applied it into their own cultural practices. The Gospel is not white man’s religion; His Church is made up of people from every nation, tribe and tongue. So by its very nature, the church is comprised of all races and nationalities with all their individual cultural flavors. Like I said, it is not a “white” church. Paul even says that there are no longer any male or female, bond or free, or “Jew or Gentile” (that is, to be made up of all races). Just as the beginning of the church started with the presence of the Holy Spirit descending on the disciples allowing them to speak in various tongues on the day of Pentecost, indicating that the church belongs to all of us, so too, every hidden tribe must hear of the good news and no government should try to stop it.
Walking in truth
3 John 1 The elder, to my dear friend Gaius, whom I love in the truth. 2 Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. 3 It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth. 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. 5 Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers, even though they are strangers to you. 6 They have told the church about your love. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. 7 It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. 8 We ought therefore to show hospitality to such men so that we may work together for the truth.
9 I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us. 10 So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us. Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church. 11 Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God. 12 Demetrius is well spoken of by everyone—and even by the truth itself. We also speak well of him, and you know that our testimony is true. 13 I have much to write you, but I do not want to do so with pen and ink. 14 I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face. Peace to you. The friends here send their greetings. Greet the friends there by name.
As we ponder God’s character from the above passage, I wonder if God would answer our trademark question below in the following way…
Who are you Lord?
I AM the God of Integrity in truth. I AM the God who wants to use my people to meet the needs of those around them. I want you to walk in a manner worthy of me. Express your integrity in helping those around you in reality. Does the truth of God’s abiding love give testimony to or typify the actions of your life? Do people say of you that you love in truth, or just in word?
I AM the God who wants my message taken around the globe. Are you a part of my rescuing the nations around you? Are you helping my workmen to reach the nations in practicality or just in principle? People cannot live off of your good will feelings, emotions, well wishes, and principle. People cannot be saved unless you participate in sending believers out to tell the lost. “How shall they hear without a preacher and how shall they preach unless they are sent”. Who are you sending to the lost? And who are you personally preaching to? Noah could have just worked on his boat until it was finished and left everyone to wonder what was going to happen. But he was a preacher of righteousness; for 120 years Noah preached to the people while he built it. Jonah wanted Nineveh to be destroyed even though they did not know their right hand from their left. But I told him to walk through that great city preaching repentance to his enemies in order for me to spare them. I could have left you out in the darkness of your ignorance, but I sent someone to tell you. So share the light.
Historical Christian missions
Recently I ran into someone who had a real problem with the way Christian missions “forced their way” on the American Indians. On the one hand she was accurate in her estimation regarding the methodology, but on the other hand she doesn’t realize that the great commission necessitates working cross culturally. Heathen peoples (meaning anyone who is not a Jew), including our American Indians need the Gospel. We are to love people as they are created by God even though their cultures are corrupted by sin. However, a love which withholds telling God’s truth of that people group’s lost state from them is not love at all. You must tell the heathen that they are lost and that Christ died for them. There are effective ways and ineffective ways. You have to know how to do it properly and that takes special training to be considerate of their culture.
God created the different cultures on purpose
Since the inception of the church, God’s command was to spread the Good news of the Gospel of God’s grace to every corner of the globe. It was God’s idea to make all the cultures of the world in the first place. And each culture must hear God’s good news. Unfortunately cultural biases can mix up the message of the Gospel. Just because we think we have an advanced western cultural understanding does not mean that it can be given straight across to other cultures. It is a shame that early missionaries tried to make small western churches in the tribal locations all around the globe. They imposed western ideals, interpretations, rules, conditions and formalities that have given missions over this last century a black eye. However, just as bad are the church groups that syncretize (the process of mixing traditional tribal religious beliefs with the gospel creating a hybrid religion so as to cover all the bases) the Gospel which is not the Gospel at all. Paul even says that “if anyone brings a gospel other than the one he gave, let him be damned.” Where I live and teach, I have had to deal with the mess that syncretism creates in believer’s lives trying to filter out the error and confusion from the genuine doctrine of the Word.
The Gospel is to be the agent of change for cultures not the missionary
The Gospel is pure and simple, faith regarding who Christ is and what he did in our stead because of our sin. There is nothing that we can do to add to it unlike what syncretism teaches. Once a person agrees and owns the message by faith, God places his Holy Spirit in the new believer who then convicts the believer of their cultural thinking and practices which differ from what God’s Word says regarding the gospel, truth, God’s person and character or how to act as a believer. Any changing of cultural practices is a result of the Spirit’s enlightening such as what occurred with the Ephesians who burned their books of sorcery. Syncretism is not a new problem to the church. Even the council of Jerusalem dealt with Jewish infiltrates trying to make the Gentile Christians to also follow Jewish customs. And even Peter was rebuked by Paul for not living up to the Gospel of grace in front of his Jewish legalists. Anytime we mix and add beliefs from different religions with the gospel of grace, we syncretize Christianity and pollute it.
Some Modern Missions get it right
Fortunately there are mission agencies out there which are made up of individuals from multiple cultures that are careful to study the heart languages and cultures of the people adequately before they attempt to communicate the gospel or translate the Bible into those languages. They spend years studying those cultures so as to be sensitive and careful not to impose westernisms into their teaching. When churches are started with this kind of care, they quickly advance to self sufficient, supporting, replicating bodies of believers who don’t suffer from western parentalism (the need for the white missionary to do everything for them). This is quite the change from previous centuries of missions work around the globe and with much improved results as well.
If I had time to include those 50 pages of stories, I know that you would agree with me that it is a joy to see our spiritual children live and walk in the truth.
All for 3 John,