Feb 08 2011

“Prosperity gospel” for Christian institutions? Part 2

The previous post in this series is here, and will help provide background for what follows.

There are many instances of people and groups who take risks for the gospel, do the unpopular thing, and God does bless them. But obvious worldly blessing is not a given. God has His own agenda and ways of doing things, and we cannot assume that our worldly success is due to God’s blessing, nor our difficulties evidence of our failure to seek God’s will and do it. Some missionaries are murdered, and martyrdom in Christ’s service did not end with the fall of the Roman Empire. Lesser difficulties also occur with some regularity, even in the modern world.

Yet how many boards and leaders of churches and para-church organizations proceed with the assumption that apparent worldly or financial success equals God’s blessing, with such a rigid conflation of the two that any policy which carries some attendant risk of worldly disapproval is assumed to be the wrong one? Consider the logic: if we are doing good, God will bless us in worldly ways. Therefore, we should not consider doing something that risks getting worldly disapproval, since if the world disapproves, by our benighted definition, God is not blessing us.

So how can we decide if we are making our decisions according to God’s plan, from a fully Christian worldview, or if we are simply doing what seems best to us, within our human expertise (and afflicted with human pride and desire for power), as we try to strengthen our organization or institution in a worldly sense? There is no way to know for sure, of course….

But one thing seems indicative.

If we find we are mostly making decisions from the point of view of what the world will think of us (not from the point of view of God’s will, God’s commands, God’s moral precepts, and Christ within and among us), even if we have great institutional and public success, even if we are doing some good, we are not doing what God desires of us. Christ’s way is one of sacrifice and risk-taking for the sake of the gospel, most particularly the risk of being misunderstood and vilified by those who do not know Him. This is true whether we are explaining His way to the world, or standing for the principles He taught.

I’ll be developing this idea further in subsequent posts.

The next post in this series is here.


Jul 30 2010

Hate speech in action

Category: church,family,gay marriage,Group-think,left,ministry,missions,Scriptureharmonicminer @ 8:54 am

You tell me who is practicing hate speech here.

Imagine if the roles were reversed…

If the speaker was a gay minister, speaking gently of our responsibility to pray for our unfortunately confused brethren who don’t understand that Jesus was for gay marriage, saying that tactics of intimidation aimed at straight people are wrong, and the speaker was being shouted down by conservative bible-thumpers carrying signs saying things like “Gays hate God” or some such, you’d have seen this all over the evening news.

But the intolerant Left almost always gets a pass.


Mar 01 2009

Pray for missions groups

Category: Mexico,ministry,missionsharmonicminer @ 10:26 am

I am not certain of the value of all the short term missions trips that high school and college students make to Mexico over Spring Break. I’m not saying there is NO value. But I always wonder if that value is more in terms of general inter-cultural contact than actual benefit to the indigenous population of Mexico. And I always find myself wondering if more good would be done by giving the enormous amount of money, spent in sending all those students to Mexico, directly to the missions groups who live there year-round, as opposed to parachuting in and leaving a few days later.

I am not suggesting “neglecting” Mexico, but I am suggesting that sending a hoard of students who consume voluminous resources is perhaps not the best stewardship of those resources, which could be directly given to the professional missionaries who LIVE there, and who could really use the help.

It is, of course, much less glamorous to students to raise some money and just send it somewhere than to raise some money and GO somewhere.  I get that.  It’s not as much fun.  The emotional high of “being a missionary” is missing.  They don’t have a story to tell after coming home.  But the Great Commission does not say, “Go on cool missions trips.”  It presupposes some amount of wisdom and discernment in what we do and how we do it.

Things have really, really deteriorated in Mexico, and it now appears very possible that some “short term missions trip” is going to end tragically, and that tragedy will cause a re-thinking of the purposes of the entire program.  Many who have made these trips for years will disagree, pointing out that it hasn’t happened yet.  The “frog in boiling water” analogy comes to mind, of course.

Below is an excerpt from one of thousands of articles on this topic of Mexico’s collapse as a polity.  People who know what’s going on in Mexico are worried, and delivering warnings.  We should listen, and carefully consider the programs now in place.  It is popular for Christians to discuss “counting the cost” in these circumstances, but when that phrase is used, the assumption is always that, whatever the cost, it must be paid.  I am not so sure.

This entire article is worth reading, and discusses, among other things, the warning by the US State Department to students planning to go to Mexico on Spring Break.

ThreatsWatch.Org: RapidRecon: We’ve Been In Denial

The drug violence in Mexico killed more than 5,800 people last year; since January 1, 2009, the murder rate has already hit 1,000! The revelation of warning students on Spring Break to avoid “crossing the river,” is ludicrous. All of a sudden this is “sage advice”? That anyone would vacation or worse, send a child to a university in Mexico given the lengthy trail of violence in Mexico is beyond my imagination.

To paraphrase: Maybe it’s better to stay away, and live to minister another day.

An excellent place to start is in the USA, which has enormous opportunity for ministry. What could tens of thousands of college and high school students accomplish in local USA communities that could use the help?  What relationships could they establish that could continue year-round?

Those whose administrative expertise and public relations savvy have gone into building very large programs of short term missions to Mexico might consider what could happen in the USA, if programs of similar size, enthusiasm and funding were directed at the neediest areas here.  And those same people should very prayerfully be considering what the effect will be on the entire enterprise if one carload of students is machine-gunned for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In discussing this with a friend who is involved in planning these kinds of programs for a large institution, I was told, “Oh, the odds aren’t even one in ten thousand of there being any kind of trouble.”  Considering how many people go on these trips, those are very poor odds.  And I’m afraid the odds aren’t actually that good.

Pray for our missionaries, and for discernment on the part of program planners.

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