Stop Sending [uneducated, unordained] Missionaries: Continued

 Moravian Missionary

I recently stumbled upon an article provocatively entitled, “Stop Sending Missionaries.” The author argues that in our haste to fulfil the Great Commission we’re sending too many unqualified people who are doing more harm than good. In the words of Jesus’ parable, they are producing weeds, not wheat.

By unqualified he means without formal theological education and ordination.

We’ve already looked at the mistaken belief that the apostle Paul spent 3-10 years in theological reflection and preparation before setting out on his first missionary journey. Let’s take a look at this statement:

If you speak to an older generation of missionaries, you’ll find that in by-gone days Bible college was a requirement. If you read the biographies of guys like Adoniram Judson, you’ll find that ordination was required.

In Movements that Change the World I take a look at the formation of the evangelical missionary movement. 150 years after the Protestant Reformation there was still no concerted effort to take the gospel to the nations. So two young men decided to act. One was a potter and the other a carpenter.

When Leonard Dober and David Nitschmann set out to take the gospel to the West Indies in 1732, William Carey, the “father of Protestant missions,” had not yet been born. Hudson Taylor, missionary pioneer, would not arrive in China for another 150 years. Dober and Nitschmann were the first missionaries sent out by the Moravian Brethren; within twenty years Moravian missionaries were in the Arctic among the Eskimos, in southern Africa, among the Indians of North America, and in Suriname, Ceylon, China, India and Persia.

Dober and Nitschmann had little understanding of what life would be like in the West Indies. They had no mission agency to support them. They had no example to follow. As they walked toward the port, they had no idea that they were clearing the way for the birth of the Protestant missionary movement.

These two young men became the founders of the Christian movement among the slaves of the West Indies. By the time other Christian missionaries arrived, fifty years later, the Moravians had baptized 13,000 converts and planted churches on the islands of St. Thomas, St. Croix, Jamaica, Antigua, Barbados and St. Kitts. The Moravians were the first Protestants to treat world missions as the responsibility of the whole church. Under Zinzendorf, the Moravians became an intense and highly mobile missionary movement. Within two decades the Moravians sent out more missionaries than all Protestants had sent out in the previous two hundred years. The rapid deployment of so many young missionaries around the world was remarkable.

The outreach was made possible by a relative lack of concern with training, finances or structure. All of these missionaries were laypeople, mostly peasant farmers and tradesmen. They were trained as evangelists, not academic theologians. They received enough money to get to the port. The missionaries then worked for their passage across the ocean. On the mission field, they took up whatever work would provide enough food and clothing. They had no formal theological education, and they received scant training in language acquisition and crosscultural ministry.

Once they set sail, they had no financial support and no organization to look after them; there was no guarantee of health care, only the likelihood that they would never see their homeland again.

Over the next 150 years, 2,158 Moravians volunteered to serve overseas in the most remote, unfavorable and neglected areas. This was something new in the expansion of Christianity: an entire Christian community—families as well as singles—devoted to world missions.

The impact of the Moravians did not end with their own achievements. They profoundly influenced both William Carey, known as the “father of Protestant missions,” and John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement. The Moravians prepared the way for the great Protestant missionary expansion of the nineteenth century in which Adoniram Judson made an important contribution.

It seems in bygone days the Moravians knew their Bible too well to be fooled into requiring formal theological education and ordination for their missionaries.

Stop Sending [uneducated, unordained] Missionaries

Paul in Arabia  What Jesus Started p117

I recently stumbled upon an article provocatively entitled, “Stop Sending Missionaries.” The author argues that in our haste to fulfil the Great Commission we’re sending too many unqualified people who are doing more harm than good. In the words of Jesus’ parable, they are producing weeds, not wheat.

By unqualified he means without formal theological education and ordination.

Here’s the recommendation,

We should look to Paul as an example of zealous patience. From the moment of his conversion, he was told his purpose. But you’ll see in Acts that it was more than ten years before his first missionary journey. In the interim, he spent three formative years in Arabia, time in his home city of Tarsus, and finally a season at the church in Antioch until he was sent out with Barnabas. This is Paul, mind you, who at conversion already had an immense knowledge of the Scriptures. It appears Paul did not begin his mission in earnest until he was sent by his “home” church of Antioch at the Holy Spirit’s leading through the elders and congregation.

It seems the apostle Paul sat around for a decade before obeying Christ’s missionary calling. Or did he?

Think about what you know of Paul. He’s just encountered the Risen Christ on the Damascus Road who commissions him to take the gospel to the Jews and the Gentiles. This is a man of action. He waits 10 years before obeying Christ’s call!

Paul tells us that he began preaching the gospel immediately in the synagogues of Damascus. Opposition grew, and Paul grew increasingly powerful. Paul traveled to nearby Arabia to continue his missionary work (Gal 1:15-17).

There is no evidence for the popular belief that Paul spent three years in quiet contemplation in the Arabian desert; Arabia was not all sand. It included the area of the modern country of Jordan and was home to the Nabatean kingdom, a flourishing civilization with cities, seaports and farming land. In cities such as Petra there were synagogues where Paul could meet fellow Jews and local Gentiles who were attracted to the God of Israel. Through these Gentiles the gospel could have spread to the surrounding community.

When he had completed his mission in Arabia, Paul returned to Damascus where the representative of King Aretas of the Nabateans tried to have Paul arrested (2 Cor 11:32-33). Paul’s mission in the cities of Arabia had stirred up trouble.

Paul related his Arabian mission closely with his call to preach Christ among the Gentiles. He told the Galatians he began to discharge this call before he went up to Jerusalem to see the apostles. Therefore no one could say that any human authority, including the Twelve, commissioned him as an apostle to the Gentiles.

I covered this in my book What Jesus Started. In doing so I relied on some outstanding historians of New Testament mission:

So next time someone says you’re unqualified to be a missionary, remember the example of Paul. He was obedient to Christ’s call.


Contagious Disciple Making on sale

Contagious Disciple Making by David Watson is on sale in the Kindle store: $1.99 (US) £1.99 (UK).

It’s a must read.

Jesus, the Jesus of the Qur’an and the Jesus of Islam

 1141px Hoffman ChristAndTheRichYoungRuler 

Gabriel Reynolds, professor of Islamic studies and theology at the University of Notre Dame explains the difference between Jesus, the Jesus of the Qur’an and the Jesus of Islam.

Many Christians and other non-Muslims who want to understand the Christ of Islam turn to the Qur’an, yet the Qur’an won’t tell them much about Jesus. It mentions his miraculous birth. It refers to miracles such as raising the dead and bringing a clay bird to life. It speaks of his disciples, although it does not give them names.

Otherwise the Qur’an has precious little to say about Jesus’ life. There is nothing in the Qur’an, for example, of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee, his confrontations with the scribes and Pharisees, his entry into Jerusalem, or the Last Supper.

As for his death, the Qur’an relates laconically that the Jews “did not crucify or kill Jesus” and in a following verse that “God raised him up to Himself.” Whether Jesus was killed by someone else and then rose again, or whether he escaped death entirely, is left for the reader to ponder. The Jesus of the Qur’an, in other words, is a figure shrouded in mystery.

Muslim scholars, however, have not left him that way. Instead they record a great variety of stories about Jesus, some of which describe episodes the Qur’an never mentions and others of which offer definitive explanations for things the Qur’an leaves ambiguous.

This history of storytelling, more than the Qur’an itself, shapes the common Islamic understanding of Jesus today, by which Jesus is a prophet who emphasized the spiritual life above all, who valued austerity, and who taught his disciples always to think about the fate of their souls on the Day of Judgment. Any serious appreciation of the Christ of Islam—and in particular of how Muslims think about Jesus today—must involve this history of storytelling. The Christ of Islam, in other words, is not simply the Christ of the Qur’an.

keep reading

On the way to No Place Left in Haiti

Jacob and Keesha Via serving in Haiti provide an update of what God is doing.

Notice how clear they are about the end vision and what they need to do on Monday morning. Even the kids get it!

They’ve left the missional fog behind.

Was Jesus a Red Letter Christian?

Red letter bible 

In some bibles the actual words of Jesus are printed in red. Red Letter Christians regard Jesus’ actual words in the Gospels as more authoritative than the rest of Scripture.

They want to take Jesus’ words seriously and live them out, especially the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount. I can understand why someone might be drawn to Red Letter Christianity. I also think they might have an agenda.

Apparently Red Letter Jesus is a warrior for LGBT rights, he’s for action on climate change, he leans left politically and he doesn’t believe in hell.

Unfortunately the real Jesus said some things that might upset Red Letter Christians.

He regarded the whole of Scripture as given by God. He didn’t come to overturn the teaching of the Old Testament but to fulfil it. He regarded the God revealed in the Old Testament as his Father.

He affirmed the teaching of Genesis that marriage is a union between a man and a woman (Matthew 19:4-6). He taught that sexual immorality characterises those who will not enter the kingdom of heaven (Mark 7:21-22).

He sent his disciples to the nations to tell them of the message of his death and resurrection and call them to repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Luke 24:46-47).

As the risen Lord he continued to shape the life, message and mission of the early church resulting in the writing of not only the Gospels but the Acts and the Epistles. 

The Jesus of history and the risen Lord Jesus are one. How do we know that? By reading the red letters of the Gospels, in their entirety, and taking them seriously.

4Fields Training in Houston

Screen Shot 2016 09 19 at 2 25 54 pm

The NoPlaceLeft guys are training in Houston: Nov 14-17, 2016.
From the blurb:
The 4Fields Training for Church Planters and Catalysts will equip participants with the Biblical principles and best practice (North American) methodologies to multiply healthy disciples and churches.

124-Growing leaders, building teams for movements — Troy Cooper

2016 Troy Cooper driving

Troy Cooper talks to Steve about growing leaders and building teams for movements.

This is the second half of a two part interview.


Following and Fishing in Sweden

2016+ +Following+ +fishing SOCIALA+MEDIER

Michelle and I are heading out this week to train in Sweden — Stockholm (23-24 Sept), and Linköping (29-30 Sept).

Our hosts are the Evangeliska Frikyrkan.

Out of the missional fog with Donald McGavran

Donald McGavaran

A voice from the past to help us navigate our way through the missional fog.

Donald McGavran, the great pioneer of a movements approach, describes the goal of Christian mission:

The goal of Christian mission should be to preach the gospel and, by God’s grace, to plant in every unchurched segment of mankind a cluster of growing churches.

By the phrase “segment of mankind” I mean an urbanization, development, caste, tribe, valley, plain or minority population.

The goal is not one small sealed-off conglomerate congregation in every people. Rather, the goal should be, a cluster of growing congregations in every segment.

How can this be achieved? Not by a one-by-one approach but through people movements. 

To find out how you’ll need to read the whole article.