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.
- The cost of calling hundreds of churches,
- Travel all across the USA
- Wear and tear on the body of each family member
- 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.
- 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.
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 Gospel 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
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.
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.
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 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.
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. http://operationsnehemiah.org/
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
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.”