December 18, 2017

Spiritual Warfare and Missionary Praxis

(This is a paper that I wrote for my Missionary Methods and Problems class this past semester. My topic on spiritual warfare as well as conversations with friends caused me to wrestle with how I look at spiritual warfare. I hope this paper will help you to wrestle with the topic yourself. If you have any questions or comments, I’d love to hear from you! Just leave a comment below.)

As Christians we are taught that we are participants in a spiritual battle. It is a cosmic battle that is not fought with physical weapons, and we fight an enemy we cannot see. Ephesians 6:12 tell us, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Growing up in the West predisposed me to a perspective that, until recently, I hadn’t thought much about. As I have been learning, disagreements exist between Christians around the world regarding what spiritual warfare is and what fighting the powers of darkness looks like.  Eugene Peterson has said well that, “There is a spiritual war in progress, and an all-out moral battle. There is evil and cruelty, unhappiness and illness. There is superstition and ignorance, brutality and pain. God is in continuous and energetic battle against all of it. God is for life and against death. God is for love and against hate. God is for hope and against despair. God is for heaven and against hell. There is no neutral ground in the universe. Every square foot of space is contested.”

What I am going to address are the different beliefs regarding how spiritual warfare manifests itself  in the physical world and how Christians, especially missionaries, should engage in spiritual warfare.
I have learned that my North American Reformed Christianity has tended towards a perspective that separates the physical and spiritual realms. Paul Hiebert in his own writings calls this separation the “excluded middle.” He explains how those who fall into this trap do not see any interaction between the physical and spiritual worlds. Things such as logic and science are distinct from the supernatural and miraculous which are  often experienced in other cultures. Nam Shin Park in his article Hermeneutics and Spiritual Warfare summarizes Paul Hiebert’s viewpoint on what contributed to the change in perspective of the Church. He writes, “ …the viewpoint of the Church regarding spiritual warfare was dramatically changed by the influences of the Enlightenment and modern dualism, which brought separation between the supernatural or spiritual world and the natural world… These two realms are quite distinct and are not involved with each other.”

Philip Jenkins discusses how North American Christians often view Eph. 6:12 as “superstition and irrelevant” but he says, “However superstitious and irrelevant it appears to mainstream Northern Christians, the passage makes wonderful sense in most of Africa as it does for believers in Latin America or East Asia.” My own perspective has tended toward viewing spiritual warfare as an internal struggle and fight and has excluded how demonic warfare against God is manifested in the physical world.
Problems arise when missionaries from a Western context with a perspective like mine travel to other cultural contexts and are confronted with the reality of supernatural powers at work through systems, false religions, and demonization. Because of their perspective they have no way of understanding or explaining what is happening. More often than not, these missionaries will explain these instances away as being imagined or happenstance. Michael Pocock summarizes this well, “The orientation of Western missionaries was less supernatural than the worldview of those they were trying to reach… They believed that all difficulties stemming from what they regarded as either wrong belief and practice or possibly demons, would disappear when new converts realized they were fearful of forces that did not exist or played a minor role in life.”

Critiques from the non-western world can help teach and broaden the Western understanding of spiritual warfare. Here I will look at and analyze two contrasting views which critique the Western and majority world perspective on spiritual warfare. This will demonstrate ways other Christians believe spiritual warfare is manifested and engaged. The first perspective that I want to examine is that of Nabeel T. Jabbour, an Egyptian Christian. In his work entitled, An Unseen Reality, Jabbour discusses five instances in which Satan has influence in the world. These include demonization, cultures, laws and basic beliefs, structures of power, and thought life. Before discussing these, Jabbour emphasises the fact that the devil has already been defeated by Christ Jesus and will be completely destroyed at Christ’s second coming. This is important to keep in mind as we look at what I think are three of the most important instances which Jabbour brings out. These are Satan’s work through demonization, cultures, and laws and basic beliefs.

A summary of Jabbour’s thoughts regarding demonization is that he believes in the casting out of demons, but he emphasizes “power with truth encounters” in which the glory of God is demonstrated through the event and the purpose is not the amazement of the people around. An overview of his position regarding Satan’s work in cultures is that, “This is what the Devil is set on doing—slowly polluting every culture until humanity is destroyed without its realization or resistance.” His suggestions for Christians is that we be circumspect and watchful, but not to the point that we become incapacitated by fear and ineffective to reach our culture. Finally, Satan’s third influence in the world is that laws, which should be good boundaries to protect us, can be inadequate as well as formed because of evil intentions.

Jabbour concludes all of this by encouraging Christians to take seriously the schemes and plots of the devil, but as we do, to keep our eyes focused on Jesus, because he has given us the power to overcome the evil one. At the end of the article, he charges Christians to “be careful to put on the whole armor of God and close firmly every door and window against our enemy.” He also encourages Christians saying, “As you read your Bible, underline the passages that help you to gaze at God and only glance at the Devil.”

A second perspective I am going to look at is that of false religions as a form of spiritual warfare that Satan uses to keep humanity captive. One example of this is folk Islam. Rick Love states that, “More than three-fourths of the Muslim world, of approximately 800 million people, are folk Muslims, who are doctrinally Muslim but in practice are animists. Folk Muslims confess Allah, but worship spirits. They are more concerned with magic then they are about Muhammad.” Millions of people are ensnared in fear to pagan ritualist practices. Love observes that, “Because they live in a world of magic and miracles, they are not always awestruck by demonstrations of God’s power. On the other hand, if we demonstrate no power they are even less impressed!” In this instance of Folk Islam, Richard Love suggests that power encounters are necessary in evangelism, not solely truth encounters. Rick Love defines a power encounter as, “the demonstration of God’s power, through God’s servants, over the work of Satan and demons, based on the work of Christ, the Great Commission and the ministry of the Holy Spirit, resulting in the salvation of the lost, the upbuilding of the Body and the glory of God.” Love deliberately mentions that he does not believe that power encounters are the key to winning the Folk Muslims to Christ, but he most certainly believes that these demonstrations of power, especially through healing and exorcism, should be practiced in evangelization. Rick Love concludes his discussion by saying, “Power encounter is not the only key to reaching the hearts of Folk Muslims, but it needs to be an essential factor to effectively evangelize Folk Muslims and plant the Church of Jesus Christ in their midst.”

Both of these positions challenge me to expand my Reformed perspective that miracles are not performed today and that the devil and his demons are inactive in our world today. I do not agree with everything both authors have to offer, but I can glean and grow from their understanding. I agree with much of Jabbour’s perspective because of his emphasis on Christ’s victory over the devil and the ultimate goal of the glory of God. I am reminded of Colossians 2:15, “He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” Although Jesus has conquered Satan, we experience the “now and not yet” of this truth. Satan knows he will ultimately be conquered, but the effects of mankind’s fall have not yet been completely eradicated and will not be until Jesus returns again. Until then, the devil, “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” As Christians we are called to wage war against the devil and push back the kingdom of darkness. Paul urges the church at Ephesus to, Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” These positions have helped me see the deficiencies of my own tradition: that God is not able to work powerfully through his people, my tendency toward self-reliance rather than dependence on God to work in and through me, and that Satan is at work both in overt and subtle ways.


I have learned that the despite the Western tendency to think of the spiritual world as superstitious, non-existent, or irrelevant, the Bible says a lot about this realm and how we are to engage in this spiritual battle. It started in the garden of Eden with Adam and Eve. The serpent tempted Eve and after she and Adam fell, God cursed all of them. In Genesis 3:15 God curses the serpent saying, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring, he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Adam and Eve had disobeyed God and then tried to shift the blame off of themselves. They were not deserving of any favor from God and yet, even in his curse of the serpent, he gave a promise to Adam and Eve. God said there would be antagonism and animosity between the offspring of Even and the serpent, but despite being struck by the serpent, the seed of Eve would ultimately crush and destroy the serpent, the devil. Hebrews 2 deals with Jesus being the founder of salvation by bearing our death for us. Hebrews 2:14 continues by saying, “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil,” This verse shows us how Jesus became a human and experienced the same things we experience. He did all of this so that, in His death, He could destroy and conquer the devil. When Jesus came and died on the cross, it appeared as though Satan has won. But when Jesus was raised from the dead, he conquered sin, death, and the devil. This gives us hope in resisting the devil because we know that he is already defeated and that with Christ we are victorious. Also, because we are in Christ, he has given us the Holy Spirit who enables us  to resist sin and overcome Satan.


One thing we know for sure is that “though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” Paul gives us insight into what our armor and weapons are in Ephesians 6 when he charges us to, “Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.” We engage in spiritual warfare with truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, the word of God, and prayer. As Paul concludes the book and chapter 6 of Ephesians by exhorting the church the stand firm, but to do so not in their own strength, but the Lord’s. All of these weapons that Paul lists in the passage are God-centered and therefore require constant dependence upon God. The views held by Nabeel T. Jabbour and Rick Love demonstrate this dependence. Christians have applied these truths in different ways throughout church history, but what we all can learn is that the discussion and engagement in spiritual warfare is something that can only be engaged and overcome by the power of God.

The lack of knowledge and understanding Western missionaries have of the spiritual battles they are stepping into must be addressed. If it is not, they will not be able to adequately provide the answers the gospel gives to the questions of evil, pain, and suffering local people are asking. There are a variety of approaches that missionaries can and will use upon encountering these problems. The first is that they will write these encounters off as non-existent spirits and therefore not declare Jesus Christ as the one who is victorious and more powerful than the forces of darkness. As a result people will return to their former way of life to solve their problems. Another possible response is “Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare” which Scott Moreau defines as, “praying against territorial spirits, seeking to ‘map’ their strategies over given locations by discerning their names and what they use to keep people in bondage, and then binding them so that evangelism may go unhindered.” This response does not have much biblical support. It focuses on actively finding, mapping, and naming demons and engaging them through prayer and power encounter when there are no biblical examples of these activities for Christians to follow. Rather we are called to “stand firm” under the attacks of the evil one not seek out and engage. To do so is presumptuous of the power that demons possess. Craig Keener offers another response for a way to engage saying, “If by spiritual warfare we mean particular prayer practices such as “casting down” heavenly powers, we have little biblical warrant. If, however, we mean by spiritual warfare what the image means in the New Testament, missions and the Christian life are spiritual warfare. This spiritual battle includes but is not limited to prayer.” Keener is saying that power encounters are not the only form of spiritual warfare. Rather, he is saying spiritual warfare takes place in the everyday life of the believer as well as the extraordinary.

As much as Christians would like there to be a one-size-fits-all answer regarding what to believe about spiritual warfare, there is none. Despite this, we can see that spiritual warfare is real, and it’s important to consider all that the Bible says on the subject and to be prepared for the battle. Missionaries need to be aware of the culture they are entering and what that culture believes in regards to the spiritual realm. They should prayerfully evaluate their own positions regarding the topic and be teachable. The scripture plays a huge role as missionaries approach this topic of spiritual warfare. The Bible teaches us who God is and how we are to to live, as well as how how to engage the world in a gospel-driven way. This issue is one in which it’s easy to gain a lot of head knowledge, but that is more difficult to internalize. It requires the grace of God to teach and grow us as does all of our Christian life. May we be ever teachable in this area and in every area. 

Resources:

  1. Hiebert, Paul. Spiritual Warfare and Worldview. Web. Nov 13, 2015.
  2. Hiebert, Paul G. “The Flaw Of the Excluded Middle.” Missiology 10.1 (1982): 43.ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials. Web. 4. 2015.
  3. Shin Park. 2011. “Hermeneutics and Spiritual Warfare” Didaskalia (Otlerburne, Man.(2011): 85-103. ATLA Religion Database with ATLA Serials. Web. 4 Nov 2015.
  4. Jenkins, Philip. The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity. 2002.New York: Oxford University Press.
  5. Pocock, Michael. The Changing Face of World Missions Chapter 7. (197) (Grand Rapids:Baker Academic, 2005)
  6. Jabbour, Nabeel T. The Unseen Reality: A panoramic View of Spiritual Warfare (20-59) (Singapore: Navpres, 1995)
  7. Jabbour, Nabeel T. The Unseen Reality: A panoramic View of Spiritual Warfare (33) (Singapore: Navpres, 1995)
  8. Jabbour, Nabeel T. The Unseen Reality: A panoramic View of Spiritual Warfare (40-41) (Singapore: Navpres, 1995)
  9. Jabbour, Nabeel T. The Unseen Reality: A panoramic View of Spiritual Warfare (67) (Singapore: Navpres, 1995)
  10. Love, Rick “Power Encounter Among Folk Muslims: An Essential Key of the Kingdom,” International Journal of Frontier Missions (193) (1996).
  11. Love, Rick “Power Encounter Among Folk Muslims: An Essential Key of the Kingdom,” International Journal of Frontier Missions (194) (1996).
  12. Love, Rick. Muslims, Magic and the Kingdom of God: Church Planting Among Folk Muslims. (113). (Pasadena: William Carey Library, 2000) Web. Dec. 03, 2015.
  13. Love, Rick “Power Encounter Among Folk Muslims: An Essential Key of the Kingdom,” International Journal of Frontier Missions (195) (1996).
  14. 1 Peter 5:8, ESV
  15. Ephesians 6:11, ESV
  16. 2 Corinthians 10:3-4, ESV
  17. Lawless, Chuck. Spiritual Warfare and Missions. (37) Web. Nov. 13, 2015.
  18. Keener, Craig. Paul’s Missionary Method. (107) Web. Dec. 06, 2015. Site: http://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/justintaylor/files/2013/02/Keener-chapter-from-Pauls-Missionary-Methods-2.pdf

 

Five Missionaries Speared To Death In Jungle

Many people thought it was a tragic waste of a life when Jim Elliot and the other four missionaries died trying to contact the unreached Aucas.

Yet, how many Christians would risk their life for an opportunity to share the gospel? Jim Elliot, a young modern martyr, gave what he could not keep and gained what he could not lose.  A ‘missions’ statistic that profoundly challenged Jim was, “There is one Christian worker for every 50,000 people in foreign lands, while there is one to every 500 in the United States.” Early in 1952, Jim Elliot sailed for Ecuador. The plan was to locate in an old oil station that was abandoned because it was considered too dangerous for oil personnel. It was close to the Auca tribe and had a small airstrip. In February 1953, Jim and Elisabeth met in Quito and then on October 8, 1953 they were married. Their daughter, Valerie, was born two years later. Jim and Elisabeth worked together in translating the New Testament into the Quechua Indian language at the new mission station. The Aucas were a violent and murderous tribe and had never had any contact with the outside world. Jim wanted to bring the gospel there so he started a plan which was called Operation Auca. Besides him and his wife, his team consisted of five more missionary couples.

‘NOT A LONG LIFE, BUT A FULL ONE’

The men discovered the first Auca huts with the help of a missionary jungle pilot, Nate Saint. The first attempt to contact them was by airplane. They would fly around the camp shouting friendship words in the Auca language through a loud speaker and dropping down gifts in a basket. Encouraged by this progress, after three to four months of gift dropping, they decided to make a base on the Curray River, ‘Palm Beach’. After they had set up shelter they eventually made contact with the Aucas. After a little persuasion, they were able to convince some to come into their camp. Encouraged by this visit, the men felt that it was time to go in and try to minister to them.

One morning, after numerous songs of praise and considerable prayer, the men radioed their wives saying that they were going to go into the village and would radio them again later. ‘Operation Auca’ was under way. The next day, a group of twenty or thirty Aucas went to Palm Beach. “Guys, the Aucas are coming!” As soon as the others heard that, they flew into action straightening up their camp. Little did these five men know that this would be their last few hours of life. The last radio contact they made was Jim calling his wife saying, “We’ll call you back in three hours.” Jim Elliot’s body was found down stream with three others. Their bodies had been brutally pierced with spears and hacked by machetes.

After Jim’s death, Elisabeth, her daughter and another of the missionaries sister, Rachel, moved to work with the Auca Indians. The love of Christ shown through their forgiveness allowed them to have amazing success with the once murderous Indians. Jim’s life was not a waste, in fact, God used his death to bring life through salvation to many Aucas and encouragement and inspiration to thousands of believers worldwide.

(This article came from this website: http://www.historymakers.info/inspirational-christians/jim-elliot.html but I can not vouch for anything else on the website.)

The Missionary Call Book Review

The Missionary Call by M. David Sills

M. David Sills in his book The Missionary Call does an excellent job of helping Christians to, as he says, “discern their place in God’s plan for the world.” Dr. Sills’s book brings insight to many of the questions and struggles Christians today have about world missions. The things that made this book so enjoyable to read were its readability, its logical flow and its practicality.The author’s mission in writing The Missionary Call is to help the reader better understand the place God has called him to in regards to missions.

The first thing that stands out about Dr. Sills’s book is its readability. While he has his Ph.D and is a professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Dr. Sills’s book is not highly technical or academic. Joe Martin said of The Missionary Call, “Can a book be brief and thorough? Clear and Scholarly? Simple and profound? Practical and heartwarming? This one is. It will be a great help to many.” When Dr. Sills deals with topics such as understanding God’s will or defining the missionary call, he does so without adding unnecessary commentary or information that would otherwise clutter his thoughts. This is an important aspect that I appreciated about The Missionary Call.

The second thing that I noticed about The Missionary Call was the flow of the book. Dr. Sills has done a terrific job of ordering the book in a logical fashion. He separates the book into three sections: (1) What is the Missionary Call, (2) Understanding Your Missionary Call and (3) Fulfilling the Missionary Call. In the first section Dr. Sills deals with defining the missionary call and how to know God’s will. The second section builds on the first by helping a person understand his specific missionary call. Finally, in the third section he deals with the mission field, hindrances and challenges of the field and answering the missionary call. Dr. Sills wrote the book in such a way that each section builds on the section before it giving it a clear, logical flow.

The final thing that stood out to me in the book was its practicality. Dr. Sills’s book provides the reader practical help and information in regards to missions. This includes things such as: how to prepare for missions, hindrances to getting to the field, challenges on the mission field and many others examples.  And he does not make these topics difficult but highly accessible for the readers of all ages. The Missionary Call will help readers discern God’s will for their lives regarding serving the Lord in full time missions.

The Missionary Call is one of the best books I’ve read on the topic of world missions. I would recommend Dr. Sills book to anyone who has a heart for missions, desires to be a missionary or just wants to learn more about “God’s plan for the world.” Dr. Sills’s book is a great help in understanding what part you play and where God has called you in His plan for this world.

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Book Description:
Christians of all ages recognize the heartbeat of God to take the Gospel to the nations and wrestle with the implications of the Great Commission in their own lives. The Missionary Call explores the biblical, historical, and practical aspects of discerning and fulfilling God’s call to serve as a missionary. Pointing the reader to Scripture, lessons from missionary heroes, and his own practical and academic experience, Dr. Sills guides the reader to discern the personal applications of the missionary call.

About the Author:
 M. David Sills (D.Miss. and Ph.D., Reformed Theological Seminary) is associate professor of Christian Missions and Cultural Anthropology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He joined Southern Seminary after serving as a missionary in Ecuador. While with the International Mission Board, he served as church planter and general evangelist among the Highland Quichua people in the Andes and as a seminary professor at the Ecuadorian Baptist Theological Seminary. David and his wife, Mary, have two grown children.

Dispatches from the Front: New DVD Series

Dispatches from the Front DVDs

Believers everywhere desperately need a renewed vision of Christ and the unstoppable advance of His saving work in all the earth. Our view of God’s Kingdom is often too small and limited to what we have experienced. Dispatches from the Front highlights the marvelous extent, diversity, and unity of Christ’s Kingdom in our world. The journal format of each episode underscores the daily unfolding of God’s activity on the “frontlines,” bringing viewers up-close with sights and sounds from distant corners of the Kingdom.

Our prayer is that Dispatches will magnify our God. It will unite our hearts with our brothers and sisters in different parts of the world. It will awaken us out of our comfortable Christianity. It will expand our vision of the King and His powerful Gospel.

Watch the Trailer

Dispatches DVDs

Islands on the Edge Southeast Asia

A Bold Advance: Albania, Kosovo & Montenegro

I Once Was Blind: West Africa

Souls of the Brave: India

Father, Give Me Bread: Ethiopia & South Sudan

 

Endorsements for Dispatches

“Apart from the Bible, I believe this is the most important resource we have promoted in my eight years at the bookstore. Rarely have I seen a resource that so clearly communicates something that our Lord cares so much about. The gospel transforming lives, the Church laying siege to the gates of Hell, and Christians living with a clear view of eternity — it was a stirring reminder for me to reclaim my first love.”
– Chun Lai, Director, Westminster Bookstore

“Beware of watching these “dispatches” if you don’t like being moved and inspired and shaken out of the ruts of your life. My wife and I were riveted in watching the frontline reports of God’s work recorded in the Dispatches from the Front. This is the sort of information that builds faith in the present providence of Godover his mission, and stirs up action for the sake of lost and hurting people near and far. I would love to see thousands of people mobilized as senders and goers for the sake of the glory of Christ and the relief of suffering on the frontiers, especially eternal suffering.”
– John Piper, Desiring God Ministries

Dispatches from the Front is a series of DVDs which show first-hand the work of missionaries and pastors in some of the tougher parts of the world. I have just watched the episode on Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro. The low-key presentation enhances the drama and the beauty of the stories told. But be aware: this is sobering stuff. I came away ashamed of my own lack of zeal for the Lord’s work and my ingratitude to him for all of the material comforts I enjoy. This is not a celebration of the pyrotechnic entertainment of the American church; it is an account of genuine works of God. It will convict you of your own sin, drive you to Christ and encourage you to pray for Christians working on the front lines of the Kingdom and to reassess your own priorities wherever you are.”

– Carl R. Trueman, Westminster Theological Seminary

“I want, and I want my kids to have, a heart for world missions. These videos stir that passion. . . . I would highly recommend this series.”
– Joshua Harris, senior pastor, Covenant Life Church, Gaithersburg, MD

Dispatches offers a potent reminder that in the darkest places, the gospel shines brightest. It should come with a warning label. Danger: Graphic scenes of mission reality that will disrupt your comfort and ignite your heart for God’s work on the frontlines. Pray, watch and act!”
– Dave Harvey, Sovereign Grace Ministries, Church Planting & Missiology

“Who knows what might happen if churches and small groups and families were to watch these videos together, open to God’s leading for going and sending? It is a risk to watch them. But the motivation is Gospel grace, not guilt. I cannot recommend too highly these DVDs.”
– Justin Taylor, VP of Editorial, Crossway

“Are you afraid to open your eyes and see death and destruction in the world? Dispatches from the Front will open your eyes to the great needs of the lost, enflame your heart to go to the nations, and give you the courage to carry on the ministry of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the glory of God. This is a bold call to action.”
– Burk Parsons, pastor, author, editor of Tabletalk magazine

Dispatches from the Front is a fascinating look at how the gospel is penetrating some of the world’s neediest places. These are regions where all the worst agonies of human life are multiplied and magnified relentlessly by war, extreme poverty, sex trafficking, drug dealing, false religion, and disease. . . . But your spirit will be encouraged by the triumphant power of Christ.”
– Phil Johnson, executive director of Grace to You

“These videos are unlike any resource I’ve encountered. Rather than asking for financial contributions or embarking on an international guilt-trip they invite us to see the power of the gospel as it penetrates into even the darkest regions of our world. They invite us to meet and rejoice with our brothers and sisters who are part of the Kingdom’s “bold advance.” I was moved to tears as I witnessed the faithfulness and goodness of our God to change hearts and transform lives. I wish that individuals, families, and churches would “take up and watch,” having their hearts stirred and eyes opened to the glorious riches of grace and the saving power of Jesus Christ. I cannot commend these strongly enough—if you make only one purchase this year, make it these!”
– Benjamin Thocher, Associate Director, Westminster Bookstore, 2012

 

The Primary Purpose of Global Evangelism

I suppose it really all began around the age of six or seven.

If you had asked me at this time (or any other age after that) what I wanted to be when I grew up, you would have received the definite answer, “I want to be a missionary!”

Of course, I didn’t come close to understand all that being a missionary entailed. In my over-imaginative mind, I assumed a “missionary” was someone who went into jungles and rain forests on the other side of the world, having loads of adventures, and occasionally telling people that “Jesus loves you” (my family and I were not Reformed until about three years ago). I had always loved the idea of adventure, and since, to me, this whole idea of being a missionary could co-exist with the idea of “church”, I thought it would be the only adventurous thing I could ever do with my life that my parents might approve of.

I was saved at fifteen. Since then, and especially in this past year, God has radically changed my outlook on global evangelism. While I still aspire to become a missionary, my ideas regarding the true purpose and goal of missions is completely changed. Actually, I am here dealing more with Global Evangelism than with missions in general. Yes, there is a difference; all Christians are “missionaries” in the sense that they bear the gospel and are told to share it with all they come in contact with. The idea of Global Evangelism carries with it the idea of one or two individual Christians going amongst a people group with little to no gospel access whatsoever, and there sharing the Word of God.

Why would a Christian ever consider being a missionary on the other side of the world? What could possibly motivate Christian men and women to travel into hostile countries, putting their lives on the line, in order to share the gospel? Why would young Christians such as Jim Elliot move to a remote swamp in South America infested with mosquitoes, gnats, and spiders (not to mention cannibals) with virtually none of the comforts he left behind in the States?

Many times I have heard this answer given; “Because of compassion for the souls of the Lost”. That is, according to these people, the “Great Goal” of global evangelism. While there certainly must be a healthy amount of compassion for those poor and impoverished people in Africa who may go their entire lives without ever hearing of their great need for a Savior, this is not the primary reason we evangelize the nations. It’s a good reason, but not the main reason.

The first and most important reason for Global Evangelism is the glory of God. Does that surprise you? We don’t go for the people, we go for God? It shouldn’t surprise you. Just as we read in 1 Corinthians 10:31, a passage we should all be very familiar with; So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Likewise, we read in Isaiah 66;

“For I know their works and their thoughts, and the time is coming to gather all nations and tongues. And they shall come and shall see my glory, and I will set a sign among them. And from them I will send survivors to the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, who draw the bow, to Tubal and Javan, to the coastlands far away, that have not heard my fame or seen my glory. And they shall declare my glory among the nations.
(Isaiah 66:18-19 ESV)

God is glorified when souls are saved. God is glorified when His children direct all of their efforts towards knowing and obeying Him. God is glorified in the deaths of His saints. Therefore, missions of all sorts, both local and global, are pleasing and glorifying to Him. As I have heard and read missionaries make the almost unanimous (and seemingly callous) observation from their experiences on the mission field, “Compassion for the Lost will not keep you on the mission field. Evangelism is hard. Living in another culture is hard. People are hard. Persecution is hard. Once you live in that sort of environment for a few years, you abandon every ideal and fantasy you may have had at one time about missions being “romantic”. Only a burning zeal for God’s glory will keep you on that field.”

Zeal for the glory of God gets you to the mission field, and zeal for the glory of God keeps you on the mission field. It is like that missionary (I can’t remember his name) who was serving in India. He walked into a temple and saw all of the idol-worship that was taking place. He covered his ears and ran out of the temple weeping and crying, “I cannot bear living if God’s name is to be so dishonored!” It was that same burning, all-consuming desire that God’s name be hallowed among the nations that lead men and women such as Jim and Elizabeth Elliot, Gladys Aylward, Lottie Moon, the Disciples, and Paul the Apostle unto the uttermost ends of the earth.

I encourage you to spend a significant amount of time in prayer concerning missions. Pray, as Christ instructed, “for God
to send out laborers into the harvest“. Pray for the missionaries currently around the world, that their ministries would bear much fruit, whatever that fruitfulness might look like. And lastly, pray that God would create in you a greater desire
for the salvation of nations. But remember, as my Pastor says; don’t pray unless you’re willing to be sent.

Elizabeth
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I am Forgiven–Romans 4:7-8
I am a Slave of Christ–John 12:26
I am set-apart–2 Timothy 2:21
I am a new creation–2 Corinthians 5:17
I am striving to be Biblically Feminine–Titus 2:3-8
I am becoming The Proverbs 31 Woman–Proverbs 31:10-31
I am a warrior against the World, the Flesh, and the Devil–Ephesians 6:10-20
I am being conformed to the image of Christ–1 Peter 1:13-20
I am a sinner saved by grace alone–Ephesians 2:8, Romans 5:8
I am a follower of Christ Jesus alone.

Quotes on Missions

As many of you know I have a desire for missions and think God may be calling me to go to the mission field one day. I thought I would share some great quotes about missions.

“All my forefathers have passed away into darkness without knowing anything of what was to befall them; how is it that your forefathers, knowing all these things, did not send word to my forefathers sooner?” -African Chief speak to Missionary David Livingstone

“The concern for world evangelization is not something tacked on to a man’s personal Christianity, which he may take or leave as he chooses.  It is rooted in the character of the God who has come to us in Christ Jesus.  Thus, it can never be the province of a few enthusiasts, a sideline or a specialty of those who happen to have a bent that way.  It is the distinctive mark of being a Christian.” -James S. Stewart

“The primary qualification for a missionary is not love for souls, as we so often hear, but love for Christ.” -Vance Havner

“Many of us cannot reach the mission fields on our feet, but we can reach them on our knees.” -T.J. Bach

“A church that says no to missions is not just saying no to men. It is not just a matter of leaving men in their sins. It is saying no to God’s greatest concern: the spreading of His glorious name among the peoples of the world. This is His passionate concern; it must be ours.” -Steve Fernandez

“Missions is the overflow of our delight in God because missions is the overflow of God’s delight in being God.” -John Piper

“We talk of the Second Coming; half the world has never heard of the first.” -Oswald J. Smith

“The bedrock of missions is not the value of man. It is the spread of God’s glory. The biblical commitment to evangelism and missions is rooted in God’s passionate concern to make His name known.” -Steve Fernandez

Interview with Don Richardson, Author of “Peace Child”

Don Richardson is a missionary, filmmaker, teacher, translator, anthropologist, builder and author. Listen to his amazing story of bringing the gospel to  headhunting cannibal in New Guinea who viewed treachery as an ideal to be achieved and bettered. I hope these videos are a blessing to you!

 

VOM-Weekly Prayer Update: 07/01/11

Hey Everyone! Sorry I have taken so long to get the updates up from Voice of the Martyrs. Please keep these persecuted brothers and sisters in your prayers and ask God to give them strength as they endure these hardships!

 

  • Pakistan—Evangelists Threatened and Under Investigation
    Muslim leaders in a remote Pakistani community threatened an evangelist recently, telling him to stop his work or he would “see results coming in the future.” The men approached “Salman, ” the evangelist, as he distributed gospel literature. They told him, “We are well aware of what you are doing here; you are trying to convert Muslims to Christianity. We warn you to stop these activities.” Unshaken by their threats, Salman boldly replied, “I am here because my God sent me. … When the Lord asks me to leave this place I will do it, but until then I will not leave.” In another Pakistani city, officials visited an evangelist’s office and asked if Christians were involved in converting Muslims to Christianity. The officials also asked about the evangelist’s source of funding. Christians who work in the office are now under investigation, and authorities are also watching their mail. Pray that God will grant wisdom and protection to all those sharing the gospel in Pakistan.
  • Sudan—Growing Violence in Sudan
    Intense fighting has erupted along the border between north and south Sudan. Eyewitnesses report that dozens of civilians have been killed and more than 60,000 displaced. Two churches built in the area by the Christian ministry Samaritan’s Purse (SP) were burned, and multiple bombs have been dropped near an airstrip used for SP relief efforts. In addition, attackers looted the home of some of the ministry workers and burned their offices. “Churches and pastors were directly targeted, ” one pastor said. The renewed violence comes at a critical time in Sudan’s history, as south Sudan is preparing to become an independent nation on July 9. If the fighting continues, it could escalate into another civil war. Pray for a peaceful transition of power. Pray that Christians in both north and south Sudan will wait in hope on the Lord.
  • Afghanistan—Christian Beheaded
    A recently released video shows four Afghan militants beheading a man believed to be a Christian in Herat province. The militants, who claim to be Taliban, captured Abdul Latif from his village outside the town of Enjeel. In the video, the men, whose faces are covered with scarves, recite verses from the Quran as they pin Latif to the ground. They read an indictment that references Sura 8:12: “Whoever changes his religion should be executed.” One militant stabs Latif in the neck with a knife, and the men shout “Allahu Akbar!” (God is great) repeatedly until he is fully beheaded. They then place Latif’s head on his chest. Afghan Christians warn of dire consequences for believers when American forces leave Afghanistan. “If U.S. troops are not in Afghanistan, the Taliban will come to power, ” Afghan Christian Obaid S. Christ told World Magazine. “We will have the same situation we had in the 1990s when the Russians left Afghanistan, when we had civil war and millions killed.” Pray for the protection of Christians in Afghanistan. Pray that other Afghans will find hope and peace in Christ as they anticipate more violence. Pray that God will grant wisdom to those involved in determining Afghanistan’s future.

Heart Cry Ministry Update: New Believers and Persecution in Japan

Hi everyone! You may remember in the past I have posted updates from Heart Cry Missionary Society’s newsletter email. The first I posted was on Japan after the tsunami (http://haleydempsey.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/japan-update-from-heart-cry-missionary-society/ ) and an update on South America (http://haleydempsey.wordpress.com/2011/04/15/news-from-heartcry-missionary-society-south-america/ ) If you have never heard of Heart Cry and would like to know more check out their website at http://www.heartcrymissionary.com/. Please pray particularly for these believers who are being persecuted in Japan.

This update was sent to Matt Glass (Coordinator for Asia) from HeartCry missionary Luis in Japan:

The last months were the most intense months we have had in Japan. We are amazed and have not stopped praising God for His power, mercy, and grace. Also, the enemy has attacked us like never before. We are emotionally and physically tired, but with joy and grateful hearts. We praise the Lord for giving us three years of New Life [church’s name] as a church. We celebrated our anniversary last week with two baptisms. [Read more…]

VOM Weekly Prayer Update-05/27/2011

China–Government Imposes New Regulations on “Illegal” House Churches

The pastors of some of China’s house churches are facing new restrictions, according to VOM workers. The pastors must provide police with weekly reports detailing their whereabouts and how many people attend their meetings. If pastors travel outside their city, they must report their plans, and they are restricted to short trips. If the pastors fail to report and police are unable to contact them, they are arrested. VOM workers say these regulations primarily target large house churches that organize under a specific name, advertise and meet publicly. House churches, which operate outside the official state church, are illegal under Chinese law. But because of the house church movement’s rapid growth in recent years, the government is struggling to deal with these churches. [Read more…]