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.



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!

Operation Nehemiah

A few weeks back, Voddie and I were at a conference where he was speaking. We met a man from South Sudan who was on fire for the Lord, biblically sound, and earnestly seeking to spread the imag001Gospel in a country ravaged by war – both political and spiritual.

In cleaning out my briefcase, I found his newsletter and took a look at the web site. I recall his plan and burning desire to use a transportable radio station (less susceptible to gorilla attacks and economical, thanks for some smart engineers). Here’s a look at their “What We Do” page.

What We Do
Our Mission
      The primary Mission of Operation Nehemiah is to rebuild & restore the Biblical family and the Church in the republic of the South Sudan which is recovering from the ashes of war & Islamic persecution through the preaching of the Gospel, promoting sustainable & Biblical stewardship. As Nehemiah 2: 18 Says. ” “let us rise and build, so they join their hands together for this good work.

Our Values
The compelling force driving our work is promoting the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which brings people to repentance and eternal salvation. This serves as the criteria for the success of any of our efforts. We believe that a person’s dignity is enhanced through meaningful work, education and discipleship. The main focus of Operation Nehemiah Missions is to promote the Gospel of Yeshua that brings people to repentance and Eternal Salvation. We stand on this scripture “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Yeshua Hamashiach. We are ministering to the body, soul, and spirit. Jesus said “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matt. 4:4) We believe that the Bible is the only infallible and authoritative Word of God. We recognize its divine inspiration and accept its teachings as our final authority in all matters of faith and practice.
We are disciplining men, women and children in the South Sudan to have a loving relationship with Aba God, and Savior Yeshua the Messiah. This is our Eternal hope & destiny:we disciple new believers to “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.” All these things integrate together: God, family, work, and ministry—and do everything as unto the Lord.
Our Distinctive
We are primarily an indigenous mission. 98% of our staff is South Sudanese Christian nationals. Our staff has a burning desire to take an active role in the rebuilding of their nation and to establish a “City on a Hill” in the New Sudan. We believe that self reliance is best promoted through indigenous leadership. We trained and established skilled and transparent indigenous Field Management Team with a shared long term vision and commitment. Our vision is to equip and empower the indigenous Christians to manage and account for the investment which God has entrusted to them with and through the benevolent gifts of the fellow Christians in USA. Our goal is to build trust and faithfulness with the leadership on the ground to deal with UN incursion and the remaining element of Islamic encroachment.  Nehemiah strives to archive genuinely sustainable indigenous operation. Our objective is to reduce the resources coming from outside by increasing the resources generated from within South Sudan.
Our Focus
Our primary focus is to prepare Beth Israel, a village in Magwi County, Eastern Equatoria State, and South Sudan for the return of people who were displaced by the war. We are taking one village and one family at a time. We are intent upon establishing a community that will provide people with the opportunity to rebuild their communities, their families, and to grow in their fait and to build a Godly  city upon the Hill that can not be hidden. We train  and  disciple women to embrace God,  family & motherhood. We train and disciple  fathers to demonstrate the impact of a gospel-centered home.  In  Genesis 18:19,  God approved of Abraham, because he commanded his children to keep the way of the Lord. God does not entrust the raising of children to the institutions of the state nor to the church, but to the family. Therefore it is incumbent upon us to disciple parents to teach and disciple their own children in the word of God. Homeschooling is the only means by which we can hope to do this.
Our Outreach
We endeavor to implement our vision and mission through indigenous church planting, Pastoral discipleship training, medical relief clinics, gospel radio broadcast, agricultural development, micro business start-up, polytechnic training, and repatriation assistance to families returning from exile. Our goal is to reduce dependence upon imported food and U.N. feeding programs by encouraging the local farmers in entrepreneurial organic farming, producing both healthy food and a stable local economy, thus raising the overall standard of living.

More information here, on their web site.

Passing the Baton – The Jungle Missionary

Dear DefCon Friends,

First, thank you ever so much for your prayers and all the letters of encouragement we have received in light of our revised plans due to my on-going health issues. This has been a very hard trial, and although it is not yet over, we continue to trust our Sovereign Lord that His purposes are always right for His children.

Second, I would like the majority of this email update to focus on what has transpired recently in the two villages where we have been able to start two new mission works a few months ago.

The three main men I have been training came to visit me this last week. It was a wonderful time focused on the Lord Jesus Christ and our hope for the future being in the One Who holds tomorrow in His hands. While they are all sorely disappointed that we have to leave already, they have risen well to the challenges of moving forward.

I shared with them about the Olympic Games and one of the races that always amazes me – the men’s 4×100 relay race, where they have to pass the baton from one to the next. The first man, the lead, starts and runs his hardest, at a certain point, the second man begins his run and without looking back has to trust that the man behind him will accurately place the baton in his hands and continue running to where the third man waits, then to the 4th man, who takes the baton and runs for all he is worth to reach the finish line. The question I posed to them was this, “Who won the race?” They thought about this for a few moments and then Augustus replied, “ALL of them won for they could not have completed the race if each had not done their part!”

This is the way I feel. While I have not been able to be a marathon runner here, I believe I have been faithful to run my part so far of the 4×100 race. I have had to pass the baton to these men who are continuing to run the race, even though they will not see me for awhile, if ever again. In the end though, the race and the subsequent victory is not really ours, but the Lord’s. These men may not even see the finish line, but may have to pass the baton to another to keep running with patience.

In light of these and other comments, they came to me after a time of prayer and shared with me plans they have been making. It is so encouraging to know that the training continues and they are willing to take baby steps. You want to be there, to hold their hands, and to continue picking them up, but sometimes you just have to let go and watch God do His perfect work in their hearts and minds. Their plan, unbeknownst to me til this last week is for Cyrus (the 3rd man I have been training) to move to another nearby village that needs its very first Bible-believing work called Beletana. He has a sister who owns a home there that he and his family are going to be able to live in and he is going to start in September the process of evangelizing in this village and another called Danda. As things progress, he will begin a Bible study which will essentially be a mission work out of the works in Foloblai and Tamayta!!

Regarding the works in Foloblai and Tamayta, the two leaders, Augustus and George indicated that as they are so close (about 30-35 minutes walking time), they are going to pose to the people that they join forces in the work until they are large enough to have a separate work in both villages! I encouraged them in this decision and we spent time in prayer that the Lord would continue to grant them wisdom. This will allow them to work more closely together and will be able to serve all the people hand-in-hand. It will provide some stability, they can encourage each other, help to hold each other accountable, etc. Next month by the end of September, they will be moving their families out of their home village into these new ones. Please pray with us that they will be able to work through the transition smoothly. The works are moving steadily along but not without difficulties. These two village works are not liked by the liberal establishment there and those who think they can call themselves Christian yet live a debauched and debased life the rest of the week. Drunkenness and sexual activities are very much commonplace. Pray that these new Christians will have courage to stay away from the things which strive daily to capture their attention.

Just as with the 4×100 relay race, the first man in line cannot worry about doing the job of the next men in line, but can only focus on his own part. The reality is that I am not really the lead man though, for before I came, there were others who paved the way. You have each held the ropes and have been running your part of the relay. Long after we are gone, there will be others who will be called to run the race that is set before us. May we each though keep looking to the Author and Finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross.

Thank you again. It seems like a small thing to say, but we could not have made it without your prayers, and these men will not be able to make it without more prayer. We will be continuing to provide some financial support for them to help with certain aspects of living expenses as the Lord provides, until the works are able to sustain themselves.

My wife and I have spent the last 1 1/2 years including our pre-field ministry learning to live by faith and trusting the Lord will provide without posting our actual financial needs. We believe the Lord has honored our commitment to Him through this and has helped us to show by example to these pastors-in-training that God can, does, and will provide. As David said, he has never seen the righteous forsaken or their seed begging bread. Truly, the Lord is sovereign even when His ways and purposes are unknown. He makes no mistakes.

As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to contact us. We will be departing from Liberia on Sunday, September 9, back to the USA where we will be spending the next 2-3 months just trying to recuperate and allow my body to heal. I am still fighting the effects of having had two very serious cases of typhoid and malaria (two times each) that have hit me over the last two months. Unfortunately, the typhoid is not responding well to the heavy antibiotics that I have been on for the entire two months. We appreciate your continued prayers for the work here as well as whatever direction the Lord has for us.

Reluctantly Passing the Baton,

Mark – The Jungle Missionary

Sermon of the Week: “The Bible’s View on Missions – Part 9 (Conclusion)” by Akash Sant Singh

We are pleased to offer the conclusion of this nine part series of messages on biblical missions from Pastor Akash Sant Singh, pastor of Community Bible Church in Reno, Nevada. As a missionary to West Africa, this sermon has spoken to my heart and it will be a blessing to you as well.

It is important to remember that every true believer is actually called to be on a mission for the Most High Sovereign Creator of heaven and earth. May Christ be exalted through the proclamation of His word and to each listening ear.

Church description – “The Bible’s view on missions – part 9 – Conclusion – a Sunday school message by Pastor Akash.”

The Bible’s View of Missions – Part 9

Conrad Mbewe: “Africa’s rural areas are in desperate need of the true gospel.”

An excerpt from Conrad Mbewe’s article, Africa’s rural areas are in desperate need of the true gospel.

“What struck me the most, however, was that while in Lusaka we are falling over each other to plant more and more Reformed Baptist churches, our trip in rural Zambia showed an almost complete absence of any evangelical witness, let alone any Reformed Baptist witness. Apart from one Pentecostal Assemblies of God church, the only “churches” we found in the whole area were Roman Catholic, Seventh Day Adventist, and New Apostolic churches. Inevitably, therefore, in all our conversations with the people in the villages the universal answer to the question of salvation was law and works. This was a very sad state of affairs. How could we be so negligent of the souls of our brothers and sisters in rural areas like this? Whole regions believe in a salvation by works. . . . I have said before that the price tag we place on a cause can best be seen by the price we are willing to pay for it. Missionaries sailed bloody seas in order to bring the gospel to Africa at a time when there were no modern conveniences at all on the continent. Many of them died soon after arriving due to the malaria parasite. That is how convinced they were of the value of our souls and the value of the gospel. Even today, missionaries such as the Reeces, are still willing to leave the comforts of the West to spend and be spent for the cause of the gospel in the villages of Western Province. What about us? Is the gospel not precious enough for us to relinquish the comforts of our towns and cities to take the gospel into rural Zambia and rural Africa?”