MISSIONARY & Reflections on the Mission of John Allen Chau by historian of mission & evangelism Arun W. Jones.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: When evaluating risky missionary endeavors such as that of John Allen Chau, it’s important (as Dr. Armand Jones, Associate Professor of World Evangelism at Candler School of Theology, Emory Univ. reminds us) to consider three historical/theological aspects of missionary work.

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(photo: CovenantJourney.org)

Some Reflections on the Mission of John Allen Chau by Arun W. Jones, University of Chicago Divinity School, 12/13/18.

… these reflections come after my initial “What the heck?” reactions to Chau’s missiological adventures or misadventures, depending upon one’s point of view.

There are three points I would like to make. First of all, given the long and extremely varied history of Christian mission, it seems to me that there is surprisingly little that is unusual in John Allen Chau’s missionary endeavor. From the earliest days of the Christian movement, missionaries, as well as others who witnessed to their deepest religious beliefs in their own circumstances, have felt compelled to tell others—or let others know—about their faith. Sometimes those witnesses have been understood in their context, other times they have not. Sometimes, though certainly not always, they have suffered and even died for their actions. The eighth-century English monk and bishop Boniface was killed along with fifty companions by Frisians (in the Netherlands) whom he was trying to convert. (Not unlike Chau’s report of being saved from an arrow by his waterproof Bible, Boniface attempted to protect himself from his killers by holding a book containing Christian writings to his head.) The Indian missionary Sadhu Sundar Singh died (no one knows how) after he set off to evangelize Tibet in 1929. Chau’s most obvious predecessor in missionary strategy and death was the evangelical Jim Elliot of Portland, Oregon, who was killed trying to make contact with the Waorani people of Ecuador in 1956. Through two millennia, women and men from all over the world have sometimes died while undertaking Christian missionary work. To understand John Allen Chau is not necessarily to condone what he did, but it is to say that a person of sound mind and judgment in his religious tradition could very well have undertaken mission work in the ways that he did. In fact, it seems that Chau made several reasonable and even thoughtful preparations for his missionary expedition, and he knew that death was a very possible outcome of his forays into the North Sentinel Island. John Allen Chau was not mentally ill, nor intellectually impaired.

My second point hinges on the first one. I have been surprised at some of the vehemence with which Chau has been denounced by members of my own intellectual tribe (i.e., those of us who identify ourselves as “liberals” of one sort or another), including members of my own mainline Protestant community. What is it about his death that has made us so indignant? I think it is that in his mission and death, Chau represents a challenge to the systems of rationality with which we have become so comfortable—systems that are founded in the European Enlightenment…

Read more at … https://divinity.uchicago.edu/sightings/some-reflections-mission-john-allen-chau

SACRIFICE & Guerrillas for God: How Hong Kong’s Pastors Are Delivering the Message to China’s Christians #TIMEmagazine

by LAIGNEE BARRON / HONG KONG, TIME Magazine, March 5, 2018

Rev. C. has nearly finished his latest book, a compilation of daily devotions for pastors in China. To get his manuscript from Hong Kong into the hands of his students on the Chinese mainland he’ll have to — well, for his safety that can’t be published. Neither can his name, since he agreed to speak to TIME on condition of anonymity. So let’s just say this slight and soft-spoken Protestant has spent years giving Chinese authorities the slip to deliver his spiritual message to Chinese Christians.

Rev. C. is convinced that Christianity alone can shake the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) indomitable grip. He’s willing to go jail for this conviction. In fact, he already has.

“It’s a blessing to go to prison,” he says, “to suffer for Jesus.”

He’s not alone. While Hong Kong’s pastors are not allowed to proselytize, sermonize or establish churches in mainland China without official permission, many defy these prohibitions to cultivate a network of underground “house churches” in homes and workplaces.

Hong Kong has historically served as the springboard for evangelizing on the mainland. But as President Xi Jinping kicks off a renewed crackdown to bring Christianity under state control by instituting new religious regulations, pastors in Hong Kong — since 1997 a semi-autonomous Chinese territory — are finding themselves in the crosshairs.

“The Communist Party of China is afraid of this thing. They want to control the Christians,” says Rev. C.

Christianity, he says, has grown too big in the eyes of Beijing, which has historic reason to fear the politicization of religion.

One hundred and sixty-eight years after Christian-inspired rebels nearly brought China’s Qing Dynasty to its knees in the Taiping Rebellion, communist China looks set to host the largest population of Christians in the world by 2030 — a development that is no small source of anxiety for the officially atheist country’s authoritarian leaders.

Read more at … http://time.com/5166220/china-christianity-hong-kong-churches/

MISSIONARIES & being a missionary is getting more dangerous … again.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Being a missionary in New Testament times was a dangerous occupation (2 Cor. 11:23-26). Yet in the past three centuries the missionary has been looked upon as a purveyor of health, education and Good news. But the “Religious Freedom in the World 2016 Report” paints a dangerous but essential future for outreach as large swaths of the world are forcibly experiencing a religious monoculture.

The U.K. Guardian newspaper explains, and then quotes, the report:

“(The report) argues that the ‘Islamist hyper-extremism’ of Isis – a phenomenon whose hallmarks are systematic attempts to drive out all dissenting groups, unprecedented levels of cruelty, a global reach and the effective use of social media – is having a devastating impact around the world.

‘In parts of the Middle East –including Syria and Iraq – this hyper-extremism is eliminating all forms of religious diversity and is threatening to do so in parts of Africa and the Asian subcontinent,’ says the report. ‘The intention is to replace pluralism with a religious monoculture’.”

Read the complete report here: http://www.religion-freedom-report.org/

Here is how The Message bible translates Paul’s missionary work:

“Since you admire the egomaniacs of the pulpit so much (remember, this is your old friend, the fool, talking), let me try my hand at it. Do they brag of being Hebrews, Israelites, the pure race of Abraham? I’m their match. Are they servants of Christ? I can go them one better. (I can’t believe I’m saying these things. It’s crazy to talk this way! But I started, and I’m going to finish.)

I’ve worked much harder, been jailed more often, beaten up more times than I can count, and at death’s door time after time. I’ve been flogged five times with the Jews’ thirty-nine lashes, beaten by Roman rods three times, pummeled with rocks once. I’ve been shipwrecked three times, and immersed in the open sea for a night and a day. In hard traveling year in and year out, I’ve had to ford rivers, fend off robbers, struggle with friends, struggle with foes. I’ve been at risk in the city, at risk in the country, endangered by desert sun and sea storm, and betrayed by those I thought were my brothers. I’ve known drudgery and hard labor, many a long and lonely night without sleep, many a missed meal, blasted by the cold, naked to the weather.”

“And that’s not the half of it, when you throw in the daily pressures and anxieties of all the churches. When someone gets to the end of his rope, I feel the desperation in my bones. When someone is duped into sin, an angry fire burns in my gut.

If I have to “brag” about myself, I’ll brag about the humiliations that make me like Jesus. The eternal and blessed God and Father of our Master Jesus knows I’m not lying. Remember the time I was in Damascus and the governor of King Aretas posted guards at the city gates to arrest me? I crawled through a window in the wall, was let down in a basket, and had to run for my life.”

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– 2 Corinthians‬ ‭11:23-33 ‭MSG‬‬
http://bible.com/97/2co.11.23-27.msg

“‘Islamist hyperextremism’ could bring world to brink of catastrophe – report” by Sam Jones, Guardian Newspaper, 11/15/16 retrieved from http://www.religion-freedom-report.org/

MISSIONARIES & Insanity of God’ Film Shows Faith Amid Despair

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: In my books “The Healthy Church” and “Cure for the Common Church” I encourage suburban churches to share a greater percentage of their wealth as John Perkins suggests in his “3 Rs of Reconciliation.” However I find very few church doing so. A clearer understanding of the sacrifice of missionaries might help suburban congregations sacrifice more … as missionaries are daily sacrificing around the world. Go see this powerful first film from LifeWay films for a reminder.

Insanity of God’ Film Shows Faith Amid Despair

by Bob Smietana, Facts & Trends, LifeWay, 7/27/16.

Nik Ripken almost abandoned hope when he first arrived in Somalia 25 years ago.

Ripken, then a young International Mission Board (IMB) missionary, had caught a ride with the Red Cross in a small plane carrying relief supplies across the border between Kenya and its war-ravaged neighbor.

What he saw shook him to the core. He met parents who asked not for food and water for themselves, but for burial cloths for the children they’d lost. He saw soldiers passing out narcotics rather than relief supplies to those in need.

It was a country where despair was commonplace.

“It was like I’d been plunged into hell,” Ripken recounts in The Insanity of God, the first theatrical release from LifeWay Films. It opens in 400 theaters across the United States on August 30 as a one-night event.

The movie, based on a book by Ripken (who uses a pseudonym), follows him and his wife Ruth from their days as a young missionary couple just starting out through their time in Somalia and some of the hardest places in the world.

Read more at … http://factsandtrends.net/2016/07/26/insanity-of-god-film-shows-faith-amid-despair/#.V5ihJ_T3aJI

CULTURE & A Leadership Exercise That Can Increase Bridge Building Over Cultural Chasms

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 10/23/15.

Building bridges over which the Good News can travel to other cultures is a strategic intention that requires sensitivity and understanding of other different- and inter-cultural milieus.  To train leaders in intercultural understandings and bridge building across cultural gaps, I use this exercise with my students.  In this exercise, you will be looking at the efforts, effects, and principles of inter-cultural ministry.

Begin by posting one (1) paragraph on each of the following questions.

1)  Share a story from the missionary field that demonstrates how a missionary had to acclimate him or herself to another culture. Then tell us what lesson this has for helping multi-cultural churches live in harmony.

2)  And secondly, tell about a church that is sharing its facilities with a congregation of another culture.  For instance, you may describe how a Caucasian church is sharing its facility with a Latino church, or an African-American church shares its facilities with a Laotian congregation.  You may be familiar with such examples or you may have to do some sleuthing.  If the later is the case, go online and find an example of a church sharing its facilities with Christians from another culture.  Or you could call your denominational office.  Then you may wish to call the church you locate and ask them a few questions over the phone.  Whatever you choose the result of your inquiry should be to answer this question: What are some of the strengths and weaknesses of a multi-cultural approach?

STORIES OF FAITH & Remains of first English missionary discovered #BBCnews

By Jane O’Brien, BBC News, 28 July 2015.

Scientists say they have identified the remains of four men who were among the early leaders of Virginia’s Jamestown settlement.

Jamestown was the first successful British colony that gave rise to modern day America.

The bodies were exhumed in November 2013 in the church where Pocahontas married Captain John Rolfe in 1614.

It took two years of detective work and the latest scientific techniques to identify the badly-preserved bones.

It’s now known the remains belong to important figures who lived in Jamestown between 1607 and 1610, when the colony almost collapsed…

“This was a time of food shortages, Indian attacks and disease,” says James Horn, president of Jamestown Rediscovery. “These men helped established the colony and bring to life the challenges faced by the first settlers.”

“We have two men from the first expedition of 1607 and two men from the second expedition that saved Jamestown and English America in 1610. So it’s highly significant in terms of understanding the success of Jamestown and its survival as an English colony in the New World.”

The bodies were found in the church’s chancel, indicating they were people of great status in the community.

Using physical evidence at the site, analysis of the bones and extensive historical research, scientists narrowed the search down to these four men.

the remains of the Jamestown leaders

The fourth man, Reverend Robert Hunt, was the first Anglican minister in America and arrived with the founding expedition in 1607.

Hunt nearly missed his chance to leave the shores of England. His acute seasickness was considered an ill omen by his companions who wanted to put him off the ship.

Part of his mission was to Anglicise Native Americans by converting them to Christianity, but he died a year later aged about 39.

Forensic anthropologist examine the grave of Rev Robert HuntForensic anthropologist examine the grave of Rev Robert Hunt (Donald E. Hurlbert/Smithsonian)

His grave faced west towards the people he served, which helped researchers identify him as a man of God.

“It tells us something about the importance of religion at Jamestown,” says Hunt.

“The fact that the Church of England was established here is very important because [the religion] was only half a century old at the time.

Read more at … http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-33680128

MISSIONARIES & The Gulag Imprisonment of Brigadier Josef Korbel

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel:  “I often ask my students to share inspiring stories of Christian women and men who have impacted the student. Such stories inspire me too, as we sometimes feel the North American cost of ridicule and derision is too much for us.  It is stories of missionaries, the leaders of missional movements, that give me strength, perseverance and excitement for the task ahead.

The following is the story of Brigadier Josef Korbel that a student once shared with me.   Here is how the student (Glenn Cady, an officer in the Salvation Army) described the story of a Salvation Army officer who was imprisoned by Czechoslovakian Communists.”

Glen wrote: “Brigadier Josef Korbel was an officer in Czechoslovakia when the communist regime took over. Refusing to forsake his call to preach the gospel and serve people, he found himself arrested and sent to a concentration camp. Yet even there he could not keep from sharing the gospel and ministering to cell mates and members of the work crew. It became so bad that they eventually put him in solitary confinement. He was in a dark room that had a small sliver of light for a few moments a day. Even in that room he would sing songs and quote scripture just in case someone could hear. Little did he know that he was not alone in that dark room. He had a cell mate who had not talked in years and was considered insane. But through the singing and scripture of Josef, he came to know the redeeming power of Christ. He wanted to know more, so Josef would teach him from single pages of scripture his wife would smuggle to him between the slices of meat in his sandwich.

“I met Brigadier Korbel as a college freshman. He had been released from prison and had come to the US as an evangelist. We shared around the table and I was struck by the things that excited him. It was the little things. The fondue pot where he could not stop fixing treats for all of us to eat. The freedom that we all took for granted. The fact that God did not forget him in his trials was always a topic of discussion. God provided for his wife, a nurse, to be conscripted into service in the very camp and cell block where he was being held. This was never viewed as coincidence. Josef taught us to savor the little things, thank God for everything and trust God even when we could only see a sliver of light for a few minutes a day.

“Josef Korbel’s story can be found in the book “In My Enemies Camp” 1976 Christian Resource Communications)  and the sequel “When the gates were opened.” (Self published 1980).”

Here is an interesting interview with him: