Consistent Inconsistency – Part 1

Some things have been taking place in my life and heart over the past few years and I would like to share some concerns. I believe these concerns directly affect the state of the body of Christ, particularly in the west like here in America.

There is a trend that seems to have developed to great proportions over the last century. In modern evangelicalism, the trend has grown to the point where fellowship between brethren is either non-existent, or teaching of issues and doctrine has become consistently inconsistent.

Let me explain based on the groups that I have seen or been involved with and share a few examples –

For a long time, I heard that the KJV Authorized Version 1611 was the ONLY version that was ever to be used. It is ignorance to hold to such a position when today we know that only a handful of people in the world can even read the 1611 version due to its style of English. But, it has not stopped the arguments which range from the ridiculous (if it was good enough for the apostle Paul, then it is good enough for me) to the well-meaning individuals who believe and practice that the Authorized Version is the “best translation” available in the English language. It is not really the latter that I am addressing here, but those who fall under the ridiculous 3/4ths of the spectrum.

Many in this group are militant and will refuse to even fellowship over coffee with another pastor across town if they learn he uses the NKJV, does his own translation work for his sermons, or <gasp> has denigrated the faith once delivered to the saints by using the ESV.

Or, another doctrinal issue that is prevalent, normally in the same group, is “Are you pre-trib and pre-millennial?” Again, the straw man arguments abound on positions both for and against, but they exist only to break down possible fellowship between people for whom Christ died.

Sadly, these same individuals have rows of books on their shelves from godly men of old that they hold in high esteem who used versions other than the KJV. They will even quote these men from the pulpit, recommend their books, and send their young people to a Bible college that uses books written by and about men who do not use the KJV and did not hold to a pre-trib rapture position. (Gasp – please say it is not so, but as an aside, this includes the great Prince of Preachers, Charles Spurgeon!) Shhhh, don’t tell anybody this little tidbit or sales of The Pulpit Commentary will decline greatly.

However, the inconsistency lies in the fact that if these godly men were alive and called for a meeting – they would be rejected outright because “they don’t believe in the same Bible.“ Many pastors would refuse to have tea or coffee with these old saints because of their belief system.

Please do NOT misunderstand. I am not speaking about sharing pulpits with others who deny the foundations of the faith. I am speaking about refusing to speak or love others who do not hold the same position on areas that are not based solely on the Scriptures. There were 1600 years of church history before the KJV was offered to the English-speaking world.  There were also a number of godly men, like Spurgeon, who did not believe or hold to a position on the rapture of the Church. Yet, these two issues divide brothers and sisters from spreading the cause of Christ.

Let me use this example —

As a missionary, I called hundreds of pastors trying to schedule an appointment to share my ministry to a non-English speaking group of tribes in Liberia, West Africa. NOT once was I ever asked about my philosophy of ministry. NOT once was I asked what my stand was on teaching these tribes about the dangers of polygamy. NOT once was I asked how I planned on teaching the men to become elders and what material would I be using to ensure continued growth should we ever have to leave the mission field.

Yet, I was asked dozens of times, “We might be interested in you sharing your ministry, but WHAT Bible version do you use?”

NOT once was I asked how I would provide spiritually, mentally, and emotionally for my family while spending hours and hours with men who were almost illiterate. NOT once was I asked what we would do when we walked into a new village that had never heard the gospel even once.

BUT, I was asked, “Do you believe in the pre-trib rapture?” Strangely, I was rarely asked my position on the millennium. However, these same pastors never questioned the theology behind some of their favorite hymns. They have never once bothered to determine whether the hymns they are having the sheep in their flock sing each week are truly theological powerhouses, or if the hymns have faulty doctrine.

Do you see the inconsistency here?

The missionary and his family have been called to a mission field foreign to everything they know and love. Yet, the average missionary requires 3-4 years to raise the needed support to sustain them on the mission field.

This involves:

  1. The cost of calling hundreds of churches,
  2. Travel all across the USA
  3. Wear and tear on the body of each family member
  4. Maintaining a home as well as hotel costs or buying an RV like a travel trailer and vehicle to pull it. The expense of living full time in an RV is not cheap and greatly depreciates what they can sell the unit for at the end of the 3-4 years.
  5. Mailing out hundreds of presentation folders, prayer letters, prayer cards, thank you cards, etc.

Why does this happen?

The average missionary on deputation takes so long to raise funds because of the consistent inconsistency in the body of Christ. Instead of asking questions about things that are vital or important, they are being asked to take a stand on areas that have no bearing on the people they will be working with.

The issues of the KJV or the rapture are obviously not the only ones that are at stake. I have received dozens of “surveys” or “questionnaires.” These pastors and churches who are to be a guide and a shepherd to the sheep would spend great deals of time asking questions like: 1) whether my wife or girls wore pants, 2) what version I used even in my devotions, 3) whether we listened to a certain Christian music group or individual, 4) what hymnbook we used personally, or 5) whether we went to the pastor’s favorite Bible college.

Sadly, if the questions were not answered correctly or favorably, the missionary has to call more churches just so they can find “the right place” to talk about their love for the Lord and for an unreached people group.

Oh, and for all this hard work of finally gaining a meeting, the average missionary gains a love offering that rarely covers his expenses for a week and a possibility of support. The average missionary requires 4-6 churches visited to gain an average monthly support of $50-100 per supporting church.

Brothers and sisters, this is just wrong. Such inconsistencies bring many missionaries to conclude that they must not have been “called.” Many use up all of their savings accounts just trying to gain enough funds to support their family and their ministries while they are on the road. They are worn out and often not in a position spiritually, mentally, or emotionally to then go through the culture shock of entering a foreign land.

To conclude for now, I realize that many who claim to be called as missionaries are not qualified. They were not taught by their home church, or have no clue about what they are going to do when they arrive in their chosen land. There are many factors that affect a missionary going overseas, but again, this is just a concern that needs to be addressed.

There is nothing about inconsistencies that bring honor and glory to Christ. All it does is helps to perpetuate poor or shallow theology at best to lies at worst.

Just because a church or pastor is consistent in their inconsistencies in belief or practice does not make it right. Inconsistencies are harming the body of Christ and not just when it comes to dealing with missionaries. Over the next few blog posts, I will have other thoughts on consistent inconsistencies.

I look forward to hearing any thoughts you may have.

 

 

What if Today Happened to You?

Today was a special service at our little mission. There was rejoicing, a time of prayer, and worship of the Most High. While we spent time in prayer specifically for the persecuted church, every part of our service, including the time of fellowship afterwards, was intended to bring honor and glory to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Each person that came today woke up to a dreary, grey, overcast sky and drove in a vehicle in a country that freely allows us to travel. But still we came.

Each person that came today had the privilege of coming to a building where we have freedom to worship as we see fit and not having to hide in a cave, or in the forest, or out on a dreary plain just to worship without fear of being reported to the authorities. But still we entered.

Each person that came today had no thoughts of any news that might or might not be taking place around the world. But still we worshipped.

Each person that came today had the opportunity to have a better understanding of what the persecuted church experiences every day. But still we prayed.

Each person that came today was reminded that there is an eternity to look forward where there will be no sin, no tears, no dying, no fears, and only joy in the presence of the Savior. But still we sang.

Each person that came today heard the truth of Scripture being boldly proclaimed that Jesus Christ alone saves sinners. But still we listened.

Each person that came today left after service to gusts of wind blowing across the parking lot, and a sky that was clearing with beautiful sunshine. But still we left.

Each person that came today read the news this afternoon that while we were worshipping, there were others who were doing the same but who did not go home for the wickedness of the heart of man was made evident as several in a Baptist church in south Texas went out into eternity. But still we grieve.

Tonight and in the coming weeks, there will be much soul-searching by many who go to services. Many parents will have concern for their safety and that of their children. Many will wonder if it is safe to go and worship with other believers, or will more lives come to an end. Many church leaders will face the daunting task of determining what kind of security they believe is necessary to help provide protection for those who come.

Yet, through the difficulty of following the news, these things remain true. The dangers are real. The reasons why this young man chose to kill will remain unanswered because he went out to eternity where he faced God as Judge.

Every day across this world, there are millions of Christ followers who live in danger of being harmed or being killed. Millions understand the risks of coming together knowing that it could be their last week. From places like North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, and many other countries, especially in the 10/40 window, there is the cry of the persecuted church. They are being harmed or killed simply because they have called on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

BUT still they went, still they entered, still they worshipped, still they prayed, still they sang, still they listened, still they left, and still they grieved.

The world is going to get worse. The Bible promises that this will be the case. Others will die for their faith. Others will have to determine whether dying for Christ is better than living for self. Others will have to decide if they will be bold for Christ and accept the martyr’s crown, or if they will deny the Christ who died for them and so forget that the servant is not above the Master.

What if tomorrow doesn’t take place like you think it will? What if tomorrow you are called to stand before God?

What if today happened to you?

Is Your Wife Your First Ministry?

Is Your Wife Your First Ministry?

At DefCon, we holistically support men who support their families. Men who make discipleship and love a priority for the home. The home is one of the central building blocks for a society, and the marriage is the sun by which everything in the home orbits. Having said this, there are many priorities that pastors, open air preachers, and everyday christian men have that may sometimes burden us. We can become anxious, stressed, and overwhelmed with the multiple obligations that we are to tend to. And yes, wives are included in this list of feelings. And the one thing that is not helpful are Christian cliches like, “Your wife is your first ministry.” It has a nice ring to it, and for the most part it is well meaning, but it does not properly convey the responsibilities and obligations a Christian may face on a day to day basis. It has also been abused by certain preachers that wish to exclude certain men from ministry.

I have attached a blogtalk episode that I and a pastor friend of mine recorded about this topic. My hope is that we would all take into consideration the biblical model of men not just in ministry, but just being men in general. All the material discussed in this episode may or may not reflect all the views of contributing bloggers here at DefCon. Here is the narrative and link of the episode below.

“On this exciting episode of G220 radio, George will be joined by Pastor Tom Shuck from Pilgrim Bible Church. Pastor Shuck is a graduate of Master’s Seminary and Columbia Evangelical Seminary and was a missionary to India for 12 years. He holds both a Masters of Divinity (MDiv.) and a Doctorate of Ministry (DMin.). He has been a pastor of Pilgrim Bible Church for 4 years and helped start a seminary in India as well as planted a church there. He enjoys sports, music, family trips, and George’s personal favorite, linguistics. He has evangelized in cities like Oakland, Orlando, Mumbai, Pune training believers how to evangelize, preach the gospel, and make disciples. His wife is Lisa Shuck and two children.”

“This episode we’ll explore the cliche “Your wife is your first ministry.” Is it Scriptural? Are there other primary biblical responsibilities? Can you make ministry your idol or mistress? What should a man who is called to preach do with this kind of cliche? What about missionaries and evangelists of old that we look up to that sacrificed much, even their marriages, for the gospel? What about Matthew 22:35-40, 1 Corinthians 7:32-34, Ephesians 5:22-33, and 1 Timothy 3:5?”

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/g220radionetwork/2016/05/10/ep-157-is-your-wife-your-first-ministry

-Until we go home

 

Facing a Task Unfinished

This is a great post about the hymn entitled, “Facing a Task Unfinished.” It can be found here at the Gospel Coalition website.

“In Matthew 24, atop the Mount of Olives, Jesus told his disciples, “This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Almost 2,000 years later, we’re still here, which is all the proof we need to keep on preaching the gospel, especially in places it’s yet to be heard.

Yet the gospel message isn’t restricted to sermons or tracts or books. Think of how you first absorbed the good news. For many of us, I imagine it wasn’t through a sermon, but a song.

Keith and Kristyn Getty are convinced of the vital role music plays in Christian discipleship. This is why they’ve spent much of the past two decades writing new hymns and restoring old ones—to help Christians and churches continue “making melody to the Lord” (Eph. 5:19).

I corresponded with Keith Getty about their re-introduction of what he dubs the “greatest hymn on missions ever written,” how God uses music to shape Christians, other missions hymns your church should start singing, and more.


What’s the story behind the song “Facing a Task Unfinished”? Who wrote it and why?

Frank Houghton, an Anglican bishop and missionary to China, wrote the hymn in the 1930s. Originally it was written with a request to bring 200 more missionaries to China, which was a horrific period in Chinese history.

Facing a Task Unfinished” was a hymn I grew up loving. So I began talks with OMF (China Inland Mission) about a new version around the time of TGC’s Missions Conference in 2013. OMF then approached me last year and asked if we would do something for their 150th anniversary in Singapore, where OMF director Patrick Fung planned to introduce a new challenge and revitalized vision for missions.

We were so excited for the hymn itself. I think it’s the greatest hymn on missions ever written. The vital importance of missions is present throughout the entire song. So we put an agreement together to create a new copyright.

The hymn has fallen out of widespread use over the past century. How’d you come across it?

It was still sung in the churches I grew up in, but I think the hymn lacked two or three things it needed for popular appeal in today’s churches. First, it’s a Great Commission hymn, but it doesn’t give a chance to respond. Second, it was typically sung as a strophic four-part hymn, and with each new word came a new note—this tends to give guitarists sore hands! Third, the hymn doesn’t have an amazing sense of contour or journey, so by writing a new chorus we shaped it into more of a ballad. As a result, we were able to reinvent the song, still allowing people to sing Houghton’s original lyrics but with Kristyn’s new chorus.

You’ve talked about the “power of a hymn to galvanize a community, even in the most difficult of circumstances.” When it was originally written, in what ways did it accomplish that?

The amazing story of the song is that 200 missionaries were able to go out to China. The wider story of China is perhaps the most incredible story of Christian growth in history. The church has grown from fewer than 750,000 Christians in the 1930s to more than 80 million today. My wife and I always comment that when we sing the hymn, it clears our minds of things that are, by comparison, irrelevant.

How do you hope its re-introduction will continue that tradition?

Houghton understood that what we sing affects what we think, how we feel, what we pray for, and, ultimately, every decision we make in life. It is my prayer that by singing this song Christians around the world will get more excited about both music and mission, but also about living the mission of God on our own doorsteps and in our own kitchens, as well as around the world.

I imagine few churches sing hymns about cross-cultural missions—not for lack of desire, but lack of worthy choices. Could you point our readers toward a few missions hymns that are underrated and under-sung?

When Don Carson asked us to do the music for TGC’s Missions Conference, we wrote a song called “Lift High the Name of Jesus.” Over the years, Stuart Townend and I have written hymns inspired by different key missional figures. Our love for Martin Luther’s hymns inspired “O Church Arise.” Our friendship with Operation Mobilization and its prayer book led to us write “Across the Lands.” We also wrote a song called “Hear the Call of the Kingdom.”

The missions hymns I sang growing up were mostly gospel songs from the 19th- and 20th-century worldwide missions movement, which weren’t exactly the most timeless hymns. “All Over the World,” “For My Sake and the Gospel’s, Go,” and “We Have a Story to Tell the Nations” are a few I grew up singing. Other traditional hymns I sang in more choral-based churches include “Who Is on the Lord’s Side” or, my favorite, a hymn called “Go Forth and Tell” (set to the English choral tune “Tell Out My Soul”).

Let’s say a pastor or music director wants his church to start singing this song in their corporate gatherings. What does he need to do next?

It’s simple. If they visit our website, we’ve got everything they’ll need: lead sheets, chord charts, orchestrations, as well as translations into other languages. In fact, this coming Sunday, February 21, we’re asking any church who’s interested to sing “Facing a Task Unfinished.” Our goal is over 10,000 churches across every continent!

Recalling Liberia

Long time readers will know that I have had a love for the people of Liberia for many years. In fact, I have been involved with Liberia longer than I have been writing for Defending Contending. The older I become, it seems the faster the years go.

Nine years ago, I was recovering from a debilitating illness while pastoring in England. I was contacted by a man who later proved to be a scammer. However, it was not until I had flown from England to the steaming jungles of West Africa that I realized that I was in a very dangerous situation. Still, the Lord showed His grace and love and protection. During that trip, I was brought to love these Africans who were, and still are, in need of a Savior.

Many of you also know that our family moved to Liberia in 2012 only to have to return six months later. It was supposed to be a permanent trip, but one of my daughters and I contracted a severe case of malaria. I actually contracted malaria and typhoid two different times in less than three months.

During the intervening years since our return, I often wonder what our lives would be like had we been able to remain. We could have been there during the outbreak of Ebola which claimed the lives of several thousand including some Christian brothers and sisters that we personally knew. We could have been there for the first baptisms that took place in the villages of Foloblai and Tamayta where we started two mission works. We could have been there when Cyrus Smith began his first work in the village of Dentaa. We could have been there when the first Biblical marriages took place. There are many things we could have seen and been involved with.

However, today the work that God graciously, and in His sovereignty, only allowed us to plant seeds for continues to flourish and grow without the white missionary. The Bible Institute of Church Ministries still continues to train jungle pastors to teach the people of their village churches. Baptisms continue to take place as testimony is shared of the saving grace of God. Lives are still being changed. Another church plant is getting ready to take place under the guidance of Cyrus Smith.

The short time in Liberia still makes a difference in our lives today. We are thankful for every experience — the dangers, the lack of food and provisions at times, the fellowship of fellow missionaries who had no idea what we had or didn’t have, the prayers of family and friends through the dark nights when death was so close at hand, the village chief (Cyrus Smith) who surrendered all and became my Timothy, but most of all, the privilege of having served the Lord in a country where so many still need the Lord.

My prayer is that you will enjoy these pictures. They are not the best quality, but they represent a work that grows despite all the opposition. They represent part of my heart, but more importantly, these pictures show a Church and Bible Institute growing to the glory of God.

Should We Pray for ISIS?

The following post from Russell Moore can be read in full at The Gospel Coalition. These are some great thoughts about the juxtaposition of justice and justification.

“Over the weekend many of us watched with horror and heartbreak as reports of terrorism came from Paris. At least 120 people were killed in what appears to be a coordinated operation by the Islamic State (ISIS), a terror organization that has murdered thousands of innocent people over the last year, including many Christians.

ISIS is one of the clearest embodiments of persecution and evil that we in the West have seen in many years. Their very existence is a commitment to wiping out political and cultural opposition through violence. They prey relentlessly on the innocent, including children. There’s no question that ISIS is a menace that must be engaged through just war.

But is justice the only thing that Christians should pray for when it comes to ISIS? Should we pray that our military, in the words of singer Toby Keith, “light up their world like the Fourth of July”? Or should we pray that, as a friend of mine posted on social media, there would be a Saul among those ISIS militants, whose salvation might turn the Arab world upside down with the gospel?

These are not contradictory prayers, and to each of them I say, “Amen.”

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