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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Book Review: Jesus Untangled

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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

Happy Memorial Day

memorial day

I’m going to post this today and then Happy Monday as usual tomorrow. This is an update from an archive post dated 5/18/2009. 

Memorial Day is traditionally the first long weekend of summer, so maybe for you it’s just another excuse to break out the grill and water toys.  If you have to work that day, maybe it’s an inconvenience that that the Post Office and banks will be closed.  Some people will simply sleep in that day and not care why.  The American dream lives on. Continue reading

National Day of Prayer, a History Lesson

reaganFrom General Washington’s struggle at Valley Forge to the present, this Nation has fervently sought and received divine guidance as it pursued the course of history. This occasion provides our Nation with an opportunity to further recognize the source of our blessings, and to seek His help for the challenges we face today and in the future. -Ronald Reagan 

The Second Continental Congress (as in the guys that signed the Declaration of Independence) first asked colonists to pray in 1775, recommending “a day of public humiliation, prayer and fasting.” Only in 1952 did President Harry Truman sign a bill stating that each successive president must designate a national day of prayer each year on a date of his choosing. A National Prayer Committee was formed in 1982 to establish a fixed day annually. Since 1988 the National Day of Prayer has been the first Thursday of May. George W. Bush is the only president in recent history to host an annual event in the nation’s capital in observance of the Day of Prayer (Reagan and H.W. Bush each had one). Continue reading

Boy Scouts and How Christians Will Respond

Screenshot 2013-05-26 at 11.43.10 PMUPDATE: The SBC will vote next week, June 11 or 12, on a resolution encouraging all of its 16 million members to withdraw support of the Boy Scouts. 4,000 troupes sponsored by the SBC and 100,000 scouts would be directly affected. Read that full story here

By now you’ve heard that the Boy Scouts will be lifting the ban on gay members. The change will take effect on January 1. The ban on openly gay leaders will remain in place, but both sides agree it’s only a matter of time.

I expect many local troupes will suddenly find they are unwelcome at local churches. Not on Sunday morning, but during their regular scout meetings in what would otherwise be an empty gym or fellowship hall. Churches that currently share their meeting space or even storage areas with Boy Scouts are suddenly going to see the Scouts as a “gay friendly” organization. Before it comes up at your local church, let me tell why this is a bad idea. Continue reading

In God We Trust: Let’s Be Honest

Quick thought: I heard a preacher this morning say that “In God We Trust” is printed on all our money, and that must really tick God off.

I’ve wondered before how much longer that was going to last.  In all honesty I can’t believe our printed bills and minted coins still I have that on them.  Some ridiculous things have occurred in the name of separation of church and state.  We don’t live in a theocracy, but in a free country, and I understand that well.  Michael Spencer said that mixing church and state is kind of like mixing dog crap with ice cream; you can’t make the crap any better but it sure does ruin your ice cream!

What do you think: Is it to our credit that our money bears “In God We Trust” or is it just a lie?  Remember, this is our money we’re talking about.  We know what Americans really trust.

How to Mix Christianity with Patriotism

This isn’t really about how to mix Christianity with patriotism.  There are plenty of people already doing that.  But if you’re a follower, either online or in real life, you know that’s one of those things that makes me a little nervous.  I’ve been an American since birth and a Christian since age 12, but one is not synonymous with the other.  I get a little weird when Christians quote those Old Testament land promises God gave the Jews and act like those are about us.  A literal kingdom with borders and a king on the throne – that’s what God was doing then.  The kingdom he is building now is bigger than any one nation or one people.  We don’t live in a “Christian nation” either, and on that point I run the risk of starting a war of rhetoric.  We live in a free nation in which many people choose to practice Christianity without fear; but many choose not to as well.  The melting pot of many cultures, languages, races and religions is an essential part of our national identity.  We are not a Christian nation for instance the way Iran or Afghanistan are Muslim nations.  These are sermons I’ve preached before and I don’t want to get too distract before saying

However… Continue reading