The Irony of Missions

missionsI remember listening to missionaries tell stories and share slide shows – not Power Point projections, actual slides on carousels. They were from “the mission field” a place with terrible roads, lack of electricity and unsafe drinking water. They worked with people that looked, dressed and spoke differently than we did. What I knew about missions as a child is that they were far away, in difficult to reach places, and we needed to fund missionaries to print Bibles and build churches. I also hoped, at a young age mind you, that God didn’t call me to the mission field because I didn’t want to go.

My understanding of missions has of course matured over the years. Christians are called to be mission-minded across the street as well as around the world. I have been on short term mission trips and served full time on the stateside mission field. Generally speaking Americans are uninformed of how things are in the world around them and that has an affect on American Christians. I’m going to say most, but not all, of regular church goers imagine that the mission field is a difficult place to serve and, those not on church staff or in leadership positions, would assume that serving in the United States is much easier. While some of you know better, many Sunday church-goers imagine the pastor answers a few calls, responds to a few emails, and spends a few minutes each week putting bullets points on the sermon outline.

It’s an understatement to say that things are not always as they seem. There’s an irony of mission work that I’m just now realizing. You may have to take a long plane ride followed by a longer ride in a Jeep or Land Rover to reach unreached people groups but those people are hungry for the Gospel message. I don’t want to over-simplify because there are places in the world that the Gospel will get you killed. Anti-conversion laws in India, Muslim controlled states and North Korea’s resistance to everything make reaching the ends of the earth a daunting task. But people that have never heard the Gospel often respond to it in dramatic fashion. Government and religious leaders may oppose mission efforts but there are tiny villages all over the world that treat missionaries or even those just bringing Bibles better than any rock star ever has been. Hugs, tears and baptisms are the order of the day.

Meanwhile the climate has changed in the United States just in my lifetime. Even in the Bible belt the church culture has somewhat turned. It used to be that to get elected to a local office a person had to at least feign church attendance in order to be considered a community leader. Today church attendance could almost be a strike against. Our society has shifted from apathy toward Christians to resistance and in some places violence. When a university has “free speech zones” and what you can say even in those is limited, exercising one’s first amendment rights becomes an iffy prospect. When protests turn violent and a scheduled speaker is cancelled; when bakers and photographers face fines in the hundreds of thousands of dollars that drive them out of business; when a city mayor demands to see pastors’ notes before the sermon is preached; when the anti-fascist protesters are the most fascist people in the street, reality sets in. We may have a high standard of living in terms of per capita income and internet access via wifi but Americans are no longer receptive of the Gospel message. Imitating Christ could get you labeled as a bigot and accused of hate crimes.

When the Apostle Paul reasoned with the philosophers in Athens (Acts 17) they were at least willing to listen. They enjoyed hearing new things they could discuss and debate. I’m painting with a wide brush but Americans are arrogantly no longer open to new ideas. Many now oppose even a discussion taking place. Our freedom of religious expression is being interpreted more and more often in courts of law as freedom from religion. (There is an organization by that name that funds legal battles across the country.)

Life is pretty easy in the United States, including for Christians that are willing to read their Bibles quietly and keep their mouths shut. But if you want to share the Gospel, love your neighbor, build the Kingdom, take a stand for traditional marriage or oppose abortion… well don’t expect a pass from the world, they hated Jesus too you know. The Land of the Free is no exception.

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Sermons Online

It is true that I haven’t blogged in a while but I have been preaching. The Sermons Archive page on our church website has been updated with sermons from Acts chapters 8, 9 and 10. Saul beings preaching the Gospel in the 9th chapter and Peter preaches the Gospel to Gentiles in chapter 10 so lots of good stuff in there. If anyone has been wondering what I’ve been up, well there it is.

Sermons page at UnityBaptist.Church

 

A Christian Response to Racism

biblePerhaps a better title would be A Scriptural Response to Racism but this is copied and pasted directly from a Facebook post I put up yesterday. There is so much upheaval in the world today and we are bombarded with information from traditional media to social media 24/7. When it gets to be too much, the Christian believer needs to step back, take a breath, and remember that we are in the world but not of the world. 

I don’t mean an official resolution passed by any group of representatives from any church denomination; my congregation will tell you that we read a lot of scripture. Every sermon, every Wednesday night Bible study, every Sunday school lesson begins with reading scripture and keeps going back to it. So this is not any particular Christian leader’s response to racism, this should be “our” response to hate and racism anywhere based on the inspired Word we live by. Continue reading

Voddie Baucham

If I went to every conference, seminar and retreat that I get invitations to I would never be at home. It wouldn’t take but a few weeks of missing church to get fired, seeing as how I am the pastor and what not. Having said that, I probably should make time for more of those than I do. So it was a pleasure on the National Day of Prayer to hear some good preaching. Continue reading

Book Review: Jesus Untangled

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Click image to view on Amazon.com

Jesus Untangled: Crucifying our Politics to Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb by Keith Giles

Giles is an intelligent writer that has done his homework and presents his case well. He is right in saying that Americans have their politics wrapped up in their Christianity. There is no morally right political party and pinning all of your hopes and dreams on any party platform will leave Christian believers disappointed. Let’s begin by analyzing what he does a good job of in this book. Continue reading

On Preaching: Expository and Topical

preacherIf you’re thinking “Wow, this guy hasn’t written an actual blog post in a while” you’re right. The weekly Happy Monday posts will turn 5 this summer but I spend a lot more time now on social media (lots of Facebook, little bit of Twitter) than I do blogging. I’m pastoring a church and maintaining the church website, hopefully some readers are following that as well. There is an RSS feed in the left-hand sidebar, most of the posts are Sunday sermons.

The title of this post is not “Expository vs. Topical Preaching.” I’m not doing a straight compare and contrast of the two forms, but kind of hoping you know at least a little something about them. What I want to do is explain why I prefer one to the other without avoiding the other completely. Continue reading

Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter

img_20160923_145217Critics of the Creation Museum say that it presents a “pseudoscientific” young earth creationist view of the origins of the earth and universe “even though scientific evidence shows the Earth is about 4.5 billion years old and the Universe about 13.8 billion years old.” I hate taking a side in this fight. My argument is that the age of the earth is one of the least important details one can hope to glean from a study of scripture (and in point of fact the Bible does not say how old the earth is).

I can empathize with Ken Ham’s motives for organizing Answers in Genesis and desiring to build a Creation Museum. As a science  teacher in the 1970’s, Ham would take his students on field trips to places like museums of natural history. While there is much to learn about archeology and anthropology from such a museum visit, evolutionary processes and geologic time scales are accepted as fact without question. Ham moved from Australia to the United States where the population of conservative Christians is much higher and began Answers in Genesis in a small storefront office. The idea of a creationist museum was in the back of his mind for a long time. Continue reading