Friday, November 25, 2016

Not Every Christian Is A Missionary

As I seek to find and mentor missionaries to America I perceive that one of the pitfalls in America as a mission field is that we, Christians in America too easily turn to Christian celebrities and clichés to make sense of our disorientating dilemma.     One cliché that deserves critique is, “Every Christian is a missionary.

                Yes, I believe the New Testament clearly teaches that the Great Commission is for all who believe in Jesus’ Resurrection (Matthew 28:18-20.)     We do that in a variety of ways which include praying, serving one’s neighbors, giving sacrificially, and witnessing to the power of Jesus to change lives.    Yet, I do believe the Bible teaches there are specific spiritual gifts given to individual believers to empower their acts of service to build up the body of Christ.   I believe one of those gifts is a missionary gift.    When all the gifts are being utilized the body represents the full glory of our Lord.   When some of those gifts are not utilized the body does not fully display the Lord’s glory to the world.

                To explain this perspective let me tell of teachings I listened to many years ago from older and wiser missionaries than myself.

                 I was a senior at Harding College in the spring of 1989.  I sat in our missionary in residence, Monte Cox’ home for African Missions Fellowship.    Our guest was Allen Avery.    He was in Romans 12 discussing spiritual gifts.   The text reads, 

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.  We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith;  if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach;  if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. (Romans 12:1-7.  New International Version.)”

                Allen made several points that have always stuck with me.   First, he mentioned that we find our spiritual gifts in humble service.    We relinquish our agendas.    Then they are affirmed by the body of Christ.    As such our gifts are for the purpose of building up the body.   I remember Allen explaining each of the gifts listed.   He made the point that this was not an exhaustive list of spiritual gifts, but an example.   Then he spoke directly to us as young people interested in African missions.   He told us the only way to discover our gifting was to go and try.   Then if we found that in our service our gifts were affirmed by the body we knew what they were.     We needed to tryout our missionary gift in the upcoming summer’s short-term mission’s trip to Africa.

After that trip I went to graduate school at Abilene Christian University.    One of my favorite missions’ professors was Ed Mathews.    Once he asked us missions’ students where the word “missionary” was in the New Testament.   He had us stumped.   Then he spoke words that kept me going through the darkest days of my missionary career.   He told us that most English translations had no word of “missionary” in them, but the Latin Vulgate did have the word, “missio.”   It meant one sent with a message.     Then Ed told us that in the Greek New Testaments the word “apostolos” from which the Latin translation gave us “missio.”   

Then Ed was both theological and very practical.   Our religious heritage believed that Jesus chose 12 apostles and then Paul to be the founders of the faith.    Their writings during the First Century became our inspired New Testament.    None of us could dare take on the name apostle to describe our ministry hopes.   To do so would have been blasphemous.   

Ed told us that in the days of the New Testament the word “apostolos” had a rather ordinary meaning.   It meant one sent with a message.   It could mean things such as an ambassador or emissary.     True, the New Testament age gave “apostolos” a new meaning of eternal authoritative words.    Yet, Ed proposed that some of the times that “apostolos” was used in the New Testament were rather ordinary meanings of one being sent as a messenger of Jesus to make disciples, develop new churches, and usher in new Kingdom possibilities.   

Ed counseled us that some of us would carry this sacred and distinct responsibility to go to new places sent by the Holy Spirit to initiate new movements of God.    We’d go in humility.    Our journey would be difficult and painful.   Many would scorn us.    Yet, we had this specific missionary call.     In the darkest of our days when our cultural home seemed like a safe and faithful option we must remember that our missionary gift dare not be squandered in generalities.  

I dug in the text.   Ed had a point.   Then I lived through dark days abroad.   Then I returned to my passport home and saw a nation in need of missionaries.   Thankfully, now we’ve got .

If you take a look here are some texts that are worthy of consideration:

“Am I not truly free? Am I not an emissary of the Liberating King? Have I not personally encountered Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work, my mission in the Lord?  Even if others don’t recognize that I am His emissary, at least you do because you are the seal, the living proof that the Lord commissioned me to be His representative.

Let me speak in my own defense against those keeping themselves busy picking me apart. (1 Corinthians 9:1-3. The Voice)”

“Not all are emissaries, are they? Not all are prophets, are they? Or teachers? Or miracle-workers? (1 Corinthians 12:29. Complete Jewish Bible.)”

“Are they all missionaries? No. Are they all preachers or those who speak for God? No. Do they all do powerful works? No.  (1 Corinthians 12:28-30. New Life Version.)”

Are all members gifted as emissaries? Are all gifted with prophetic utterance? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? (1 Corinthians 12:28-30. The Voice.)”

 "What I am doing now, I will keep on doing. I will do it to stop those who say they work as we do.  Those men are false missionaries. They lie about their work. But they make themselves look like true missionaries of Christ.    It is no surprise! The devil makes himself look like an angel of light.  (2 Corinthians 11:12-14. New Life Version.)”

“Peter, messenger of Jesus Christ, sends this letter to the exiles of the dispersed tribes (in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia), whom God the Father knew and chose long ago to be made holy by his Spirit, that they might obey Jesus Christ and be cleansed by his blood: may you know more and more of God’s grace and peace.  (1 Peter 1:1-2.  Phillips.)”   

From: Peter, Jesus Christ’s missionary.

To: The Jewish Christians driven out of Jerusalem and scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia Minor, and Bithynia. (1 Peter 1:1.  The Living Bible.)”

 “This letter is from Peter, a missionary of Jesus Christ. I am writing to those who were taken away from their homeland and are living in the countries of Pontus and Galatia and Cappadocia and Asia and Bithynia.  (1 Peter 1:1.  New Living Version.)”

 Peter, an emissary of Jesus the Anointed One, to God’s chosen people living as aliens scattered among the unbelievers in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.  (1 Peter 1:1.  Voice.)”      

A common contemporary American Evangelical teaching in most churches is on discovering your spiritual gifts.   It seems to me that one gift that is being neglected in our present day is the missionary spiritual gift.   

If in the New Testament a missionary gift were to be more utilized what would it look like?   

 (When in doubt remember the classic, Missionary Methods:  St. Paul’ or Ours by Roland Allen, and start asking the question, “What would Paul do?”)  In Acts 13 we read, 

“Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.

The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:1-4.  New International Version.)”

Thus it seems that out of worship, teaching ministry, and service to the local church some will be set aside as missionaries.     They then should be sent out by the Holy Spirit through the local church with prayer and fasting to begin new movements of Jesus’ disciples.

In some situations we may hear an audible voice of the Lord, but in most it is largely just the sanctified common sense of the church which notices those with gifting in teaching, initiating, and culturally competency who are selected and sent.

Some may ask why I find it such a big deal to take issue with the cliché that all Christians are missionaries.    After all, I do acknowledge that all Christians should be about the Great Commission.

I find this matter of great significance first because the task is so big and God’s people are generally doing so poorly.    There are still a multiple of people groups in the world with no messenger from Jesus.   There are also many areas of the world that have a Christian witness but do not have enough Christian personnel or resources to make a substantive Gospel impact.   These types of arguments have traditionally been made about missions outside of the West.  Now we can make them about the West.   There is broad consensus that the West is socially Post-Christian.   The results are tragic and in some cities even secular media sources are now bemoaning neighborhoods of church deserts.    To address such an overwhelming task we must find those who are the most spiritually equipped for the task.   If we believe in the Holy Spirit we must assume He is equipping some and our local church is tasked to discern, nurture, send, and support these missionaries.

Second, though there are a multiple of Christian commands to be obeyed some of us are given extra skill in their execution.   For instance, we all should worship the Lord yet some are more skilled as corporate worship leaders.   We all should steward our resources.   Yet some are skilled as treasurers and accountants.   We all should shepherd our community.    Yet for some this is distinct role in our local body.    If we unnecessarily blur the lines between commands and gifting we minimize the gifting and leave our local body anemic.   Thus if every Christian is a missionary in practice then no Christian is really a missionary.

Third, though we can easily make the argument that nothing is impossible with God and His resources are immeasurable yet He only entrusts us with measurable resources and people.    We are tasked to be good stewards.   Then as we steward well He multiples (For further reference see The Parable of the Talents, Matthew 25:14-30.)     Thus there must be priorities of time, personnel, and resources which local churches make.    If we do not discern and prioritize church deserts will grow.  Not only are these results disastrous for the task of evangelism.   These results are disastrous for the unity of the local church.   With no discernment of gifting and little support of the gifted fierce partisan competition develops in local church bodies and Christian unity declines.   Conversely, with discernment and good stewardship the Lord will entrust more measurable resources and personnel to our stewardship. 

Some who are reading this blog are seeing a pitfall of pride in those who claim to have the missionary gift.   I concur with your appraisal of pride.   In fact, Allen Avery’s early Biblical counsel would be to not think of ourselves more highly than we ought (Romans 12.)    Some of us have even seen church leaderships that are filled with lording lunacy.   They have a supreme leader called an apostle who is accountable to no human.   He likely has a big chair at the front and a psychological profile of him would say he suffers from a narcissistic personality disorder.    That level of arrogance has no place in the missionary gift and call.  It’s extremely dangerous to assume one with a missionary gifting has a New Testament apostle’s spiritual authority.   

                Instead if we look back to master missionary Paul we see a missionary gifting is one of humility, constant learning, and flexibility.     Occasionally, a missionary may counsel the powerful.   Yet many times he simply bounces around borders and government bureaucracy.    Occasionally, a missionary may have an exceptional skill to know other languages and cultures.    Yet, for most it is a discipline that is nurtured.     Occasionally, a missionary can successfully execute a master plan.    Yet, for most good missionary principles are constantly flexing for new and rapidly changing circumstances.   

                There is little human glory for most gifted missionaries.    Yet the tasks of global evangelism will not be adequately addressed without them.    I’m convinced the Bible teaches that all Christians are responsible for fulfilling the Great Commission.    I’m also convinced that the Bible teaches that some Christians are given a missionary gift to be sent by the Holy Spirit to make disciples, start new churches, and usher in new Kingdom possibilities.    Can we now discern who those missionaries are in our local churches, nurture their gifting, and commission them for the awesome tasks of our season in eternity?

As master missionary Paul writes, 

“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?  And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news! (Romans 10:14-15.  New International Version.)”

Thursday, November 10, 2016

10 Missionary Reflections On the 2016 American Election

The outcome of the United States of America 2016 election  was far from what I wished for but not far from what I expected.   Both of the leading parties gave the voters options which I considered evil.   I do some long drives across the American plains, and those long quiet moments give me time to pray, reflect, and prepare for what missionary options may come.    America has been blessed by abundant natural resources, good infra-structure,and a resilient people.   Those blessings should be nurtured.  

Missionaries for thousands of years have sought to be good citizens while living in nation-states governed by less than ideal leaders.   We must do that in America during this season of history.   I'm thankful that in this posting of mine I was able to vote.  Yet, even in locations where I can't vote I must seek to live in community.   Here's my best attempt to make sense of the 2016 election:

1. November 9 was a planned and expected day of grief for me. I voted in clean conscience. If one analyses my ballot it could look nuts. At one point I went 3rd party. I crossed a partisan line. I abstained. I was pro-life and pro-immigrant. I was better read on voting than I've ever been in my life. Some I voted for won. Some lost. I am at peace with me, but troubled at the lack of shared virtue in the current American experience. From grief comes resolve. America is a great nation. We are called here as missionaries. We will remain until God calls us to a new posting.

Our family homeless days in 2013
2. I empathize with Trump voters. I'm an old white poor male. I see almost no hope in any system for my family to come out of poverty. When I count my hours of daily labor they are usually 9 to 14 long. The elites in my profession have screwed me. They are arrogant and manipulative. My ideas, people, and work ethics are better than theirs. I'm frustrated too.

3. Keep laughing.   When I watched the election results Tuesday evening into Wednesday morning with my son we laughed frequently. I saw tears from some, but the systems crying I consider evil. Taking of life no matter what stage of biological development is abhorrent to me. I also laughed at how disconnected the elites are from the ordinary people. The science of polls missed this one big time.

4. America hates corruption, conflicts of interest, and lies. We'll tolerate a lot but profiteering from public service is repulsive.

5. Those with whom I disagree are my neighbors and decent people.   On my run Wednesday morning I wondered what would happen to all the election signs. I didn't want trash in my neighborhood. A Republican volunteer was picking up the signs. I stopped and helped him. I'm sure I voted a little different than he, but he's my neighbor and a decent man.   

6. Being a good neighbor means life sometimes stinks.   There's been a dead skunk in the middle of
the street a block from my house for a couple days. I couldn't stomach its smell nor driving by anymore. I buried the skunk. I'm going out of my way to be a good neighbor.

7. Wining  and losing with grace matters.   My favorite Trump supporter called me Wednesday morning and didn't gloat. I'm thankful I've followed him my whole life. He's at peace and I trust his judgement. He voted his conscience. He couldn't vote for a party that takes the life of the unborn. He's got adopted kids and grandchildren.   He made a tough choice believing in his family's values. He's fed up with elites who don't listen and told me stories that are local. He's worked for men like Trump before and its paid the bills. He knows people working long hours who can't pay all their bills. Maybe, he sees something I don't? 

8. With the House, Senate, and Presidency controlled by those in theory who are pro-life maybe 2 Supreme Court justices who are pro-life will be added. Roe vs. Wade is a tremendous evil. Maybe, we will see that evil changed in this season of history?

9. The American Evangelical Church has been discredited by this election.    I believe the Church is full of syncretism and nominalism.   The critics are right. This election has tainted the church in both unbelievers eyes and in young Christians appraisal of the older generation's integrity.   I kept thinking I was watching Saturday Night Live skits as evangelicals made political endorsements.   It may take generations to undo the damage to the Church by many evangelicals in this election cycle.  There are still deep systematic evils of race, prejudice, and poverty in the American Church. They seem to be getting worse. Maybe, now is not the season for them to be resolved by legal policies? Maybe now is the season for the church to lead in resolving these deep generational sins.     Now is the season for the church to go far beyond the call of duty. 

10. Some of my closest friends are immigrants, people of color, and young. Honestly, some are quite freaked out. Yet, the wisest Ugandan woman in America I know told me today she would not be afraid. I trust her and will follow her leadership. Will you too?

Wednesday, August 3, 2016


Missionary church planting is primarily about following relationship webs to new postings.   When we arrive we're usually overwhelmed with the task and call out to God (Matthew 9:35-38.)    He usually answers by asking for us to go on a humble journey in which old friendships find new possibilities.    An answer to prayer is developing and we could use some help.

Here's the brief story:   In June 2005 our family moved to Kigali, Rwanda with the dream of starting an English speaking church for returning Rwanda Diaspora with a good children's and youth program.   The first year we spent gathering the needed government documentation to make church planting a possibility.    Dave got our visa to stay in Rwanda by teaching Ethics at Kigali Institute of Science and Technology.      During that first year of largely waiting to begin an actual new church our family were members at New Life Bible Church.    Dave on occasion did some volunteer teaching or pastoral care.   Jana helped with kids functions.   We felt nurtured by the staff of New Life Bible Church.

As we started Christ's Church of Rwanda we occasionally would get together with New Life Bible Church and trade notes.    They always made us wiser.    

As we've been in Chicago land we at times are overwhelmed by the church deserts.    We sense our relationship networks of East African Diaspora can be part of the answer to address the church deserts.    Yet, it is very difficult to mobilize people so geographically and time scattered.    We really need people with pastoral skill geographically close to us.    God is answering that prayer.

A few months ago we received an email that friends from New Life Bible Church, Elisee and
Glorieuse Uwizeye
Glorieuse Rugambarara would be moving to Chicago with their 3 children
. Their children are Joe; 9 years old, Joanna; 5 years old, and Joella, 4 years old.   Glorieuse will be studying for her Ph.D. in Nursing from the University of Illinois - Chicago.    Elisee was one of the pastors at New Life Bible church during our time with them.   He had stepped away from the staff position to help his family's business but remained as an elder at New Life who was very involved.    After a little prayer and counsel we decided to ask for Elisee and Glorieuse to join us, and they said, "Yes."

They arrive on Thursday, August 11 with just their suitcases.    They'll live across the street from us at the TEAM (The Evangelical Alliance Mission) apartments.   We need to furnish their home ASAP. 

Can you help?   Below is our quick list of what we need.   Feel free to call Dave at 630-649-4350 or Jana at 630-649-4695 with questions or to arrange a drop off or pick up.   

Murakoze cyane (Thank you very much),

Furniture needed:

Living room:
1.    Couch or loveseat
2.    2 additional chairs
3.    Coffee table
4.    1 or 2 side tables
5.    1or 2 lamps
6.    Book shelf

Kids bedroom:
1.    One bunkbed with mattresses
2.    One dresser

Master bedroom:
1.    Queen or King size bed with mattress
2.    One dresser
3.    Two nightstands

Other basic needs:
1.    Bed sheets for queen or King bed
2.    Bed cover for queen or King bed
3.    2 girl comforters
4.    1 boy comforters
5.    10 towels
6.    10 wash clothes
7.    4 hand towels

Kitchen Basics

1.    Garbage Container 
2.    Can Opener
3.    Measuring cups and spoons
4.    Wooden spoons
5.    Grater
6.    Spatulas
7.    Serving ladle
8.    Potato masher
9.    Pepper and salt shakers
10. Oven mitts
11. Juice jug
12. Kettle
13. Drip coffee maker
14. Colander
15. Casserole dish
16. Containers to store leftovers
17. Pots: (all with lids)
a.    10 qt. stock pot
b.    8 qt stock pot
c.    5 qt. dutch oven
d.    2 qt. saucepan
e.    1 qt. saucepan
18. Frying pan
19. Mixing bowls
20. Cookie sheets
21. Baking pans
22. Muffin tins
23. Cutting board
24. Knives (paring, bread)
25. Dish drying rack
26. Tea towels
27. Dish cloths
28. Plates
29. Cutlery
30. Glasses
31. Mugs
32. Cutlery divider
CAR:  Quality Used Vehicle for a family of 5
1. 1 Quality Men’s Bike
2. 1 Quality Women’s Bike
3. 1 Quality Boy’s Bike
4. 1 Quality Girls Bike
5. 1 Tricycle / Starter Bike
Children’s Stuff:
1. Soccer Ball.
2. Basketball
3. Rollerblades
 Basic Food Items: