Friday, October 21, 2016

The High Calling of a Missionary

What does it take to be a missionary today?   The answer is a very simple one: a calling.  So far away in years from the first time the Gospel was preached, though,  if one were to ask the average church goer in America, "what does it take to be a missionary?" ; they would probably respond with such answers as, "courage", "funding", "training and know-how", a "love for people", or some other generalized rhetoric.

What does it take to be a missionary?  Above all, it takes a calling from God.   Too often in today's clime,  people look at offices in the church, and decide, by singular will or group vote, who should be a missionary, a pastor, a deacon, a teacher or the countless other offices and positions in the church.  They ask God only afterward, to bless their decisions, which are made almost entirely on human rational and preferences.  They like 'Bob' because he is a nice guy and goes along with the flow; they like 'Steve' because he is a successful businessman who will bring others to church;  they prefer 'susan' because she dresses her children well and is soft spoken;  but very few churches truly seek out whether or not a missionary is called.

'Called' people do not all look, act and think the same:  even among the disciples of Christ, one saw the tender spirited John, and the boisterous, 'thundering' sons of Boanerges;  the questioning Peter and Barnabas and the serious Levy.   'Called' is not a personality test and cannot be assessed by a psychological inventory. 'Called' is a selection that God has made,  with the church at hand to discern and anoint a calling.

'Called' is not a preference nor a career choice.  Many people go into missions today as a career option, and why not?  Some mission boards have benefits and salaries as good as large corporations: once I even overheard missionaries discussing about not choosing a mission board because they didn't offer college tuition benefits for their children:  the idea that missionaries should even have the expectations of corporate level benefits shows a new 'lukewarm' attitude towards the Gospel.  While it is not wrong to want or be grateful for a liveable salary nor great health care benefits, nonetheless the 'expectation' that we would not go out into the world to evangelize without OUR requirements being met, shows a faulty understanding of the Gospel, and too often a lack of a true calling.

The Character of a Missionary

Beyond being called by God to do the work of an evangelist or missionary, the character of a missionary comes into play.  Character is not 'Personality'.  Personality and temperament can greatly differ as mentioned above: different people are good at different things:  a studious person may may a good researcher, helper, theologian etc, but a pastor, evangelist or the like one would expect not to be too introverted, or unable to speak before crowds. 

A missionary travelling into different cultures, radically different cultures from their own, cannot be intolerant: cannot shudder (openly) at pagan practices, even if faith in God demands that we have nothing to do with idolatry;  a missionary in a foreign field will encounter even brutal and suggestive practices,  which while they should never receive nor endorse, nonetheless are not even understood as wrong in the other culture:   patience and a lack of condemnation are required of a missionary.

There are basic values and disciplines though, which have to be regarded as fundamental to missionary work.  We know of a couple of missionaries,  who claimed to go to a foreign field, who spent most of their time in the US,  living off contributions, and doing no more than volunteer church work, as any church member might do.   Additionally (a true scenario); they involved themselves in copyright fraud, theft, illegal entries and burglaries, and even in severe beatings of a person who used to contribute to them, who suspecting fraud, committed no more crime, than stopping, and switching their contributions to another missionary.  Another designated missionary to children, from a large church, was found to be under a restraining order to stay away from his former wife and child, and yet was entrusted weekly with the 'children's church' :   my point is that somewhere, even under grace, there have to be limits in Christian conduct for those who represent the church.

A missionary, above all, must be HONEST.  A missionary should love people, even when they are frustrated and angry (you can do both),  and preach and teach in a non-condemnatory way.  A missionary should be expected to be sober, vigilant as to circumstances, knowledgeable about the Bible, and in love with the Lord.  A missionary should stay at least daily in prayer and praise: the spiritual warfare in non-Christian countries is so great,  that today in intolerant countries one can be killed without staying daily in the Word, Prayer, and Praise. 

A missionary like pastors should never willfully strike another human being.   Some people one runs into today make us all understand why and how one would feel like striking another, such as a dirty mouthed, lewd person making suggestive comments about a wife daughter, or these days even a son. Missionaries are to show continence and restraint:  our aim is not to hold up our own righteous indignation regarding our reputations, but the ensign of the Savior.   More than most, I know what it is like to be 'pressed out of measure' and I have fallen apart at times and even outright (at home only) cussed out some people who did outrageous things: not proud of it, but I really understand how evil some folks can get, but when I did, I lost opportunity for ministry and caused distrust more in my reputation than theirs, though their crimes were far greater.  Restraint may be the thing that wins the horrible person to Christ.   I only say this with three fingers pointing backward, and am quite forgiving when a dedicated Christian 'loses it' for a moment or two out of life:  we are up against murder, rape, sodomy, and cruelties which people take time to plan out; against bitter humiliations, career ruin etc.  We cannot confront these in our own strength, but Jesus can.

Among ourselves though (I have a ministry but am not an appointed missionary), we are called to the highest conduct: not just legal and civilized, but to love, to counting one another better than ourselves, to 'going the extra mile', 'dying to self',  the like.  No Christian, must less a missionary should every be caught in a crime or 'busibodyness' which hurts another person.  Grateful that we are saved, that Christ died for us, how could we consider any of such horrid behaviors as getting into someone's back account,  gossiping in a ruinous way,  stealing another person's work or reputation, or ruining another's place in the church.  Jealous?  deal with it: don't hurt someone Christ died for.  Think you are better for a position or promotion?  Take a long look at why the Lord allowed it to happen:  the idea that we are 'better' is carnal and does not show an understanding of God's ways.  Even when we are highly skilled, it may be a heart issue, an issue of unforgiveness that causes one to move forward and one to stay behind: in other words, our great failing in the church today is that we have lost God's way in favor of push and shove.

A missionary should then, be called, full of grace, understanding, temperate and self-controlled, sober and serious, love people , the Gospel and the Lord, and walk in the ways of God.  God's missionaries, walking in his ways accomplish great miracles.  Selfish, carnal people, who merely wanted an interesting job abroad, often cause trouble and make it impossible for real missionaries to reach the field and do a great work.

When Missionaries Should Be Removed

A tough topic, all things considered though, is when a missionary should be removed by a church, from service.   We do not want to remove missionaries because they always where the same blue tie, or because they didn't attend one or two events, etc.  There are however serious reasons when missionaries or any church officer needs to be removed.  I strongly believe, based upon Bible commands, that a missionary, evangelist, teacher, or pastor has to be removed for one of the following:
1. Unbelief and a consistent, long term pattern of false doctrine
2. Immoral conduct, punishable by law or not, including adultery, sodomy, seduction or consistent inappropriate touching or comments.
3. Commission of crime, justly judged.
4. Unrepented criminal slander.
5. Known, ongoing child or spousal abuse:  if it is a difficult time for the pastor, there may be a period of probation, to get help and composure, but failing that, a dismissal.
6. Large scale embezzlement or misuse of church funds for personal gain.
7. Intense violence against a congregate or even against an unbeliever, out of a carnal reaction, especially if repeated.  A minor slap is not what I am speaking of.
8. A serious violation of Civil Rights, particularly of a congregation member.
9. Demonstration, in speeches and sermons of a long standing hatred against any 'type' of person.
10. Theft, theft of work or sermons that is long term and unrepented.

The Church and Missions cannot go on nor accomplish the love of the Gospel and salvation of Christ unless we show, through Christ's power, the effect of the Resurrection:  that Christ, his death, and rising again are real and have an effect in our lives on a daily basis.  Though of another faith, I always like what Francis of Assissi said: "Preach the Gospel in season and out, if necessary, use words."  The point is not that we should ever avoid the verbal out loud preaching of the Gospel, that is essential, but that our lives must show that what we are saying is true.   Church discipline is not a dirty word: terrorizing another Christian or his or her family though should never be heard of in the Church.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Why I Left the Baptist Church

I have tried in my 30 years of being a Christian to stay away from divisive statement and arguments which divide without a critical cause.   I have however recently, decided to explicate the reasons why I left the Baptist church some 19 years ago,  and why I do not intend to go back.  My beliefs are determined entirely by the Word of God:  this is not a diatribe or trick about 'the Journey Home', as I began life as a Catholic, but left that denomination also very early.  When I became a born again Christian, in 1985,  I knew very little of differences in Protestantism, Evangelicalism, Fundamentalism, or Pentecostal/Charismatica:   though I had a doctorate in a secular field,  my knowledge of Christianity was limited,  so I first attended a Methodist church, only to find out they believed very little and not in being 'born again',  and then a Charismatic church,  and for 6 months, a small country Catholic Church before settling on Baptist and occasionally Evangelical churches, which were essentially baptistic.   It was a learning process,  based partly on growing in Christ, partly on misinformation which was prevalent in the teaching at that time to 'go back to the denomination you came from' and partly a 'stumbling around' to find a right church.   I liked Charismatic churches but found too little bible and too much variation and doctrinal error.  I wasn't crazy about the Baptists because I found too much 'fun and games' and no talk of walking in the Spirit,  Because of the Bible based teaching,  we first tried a Christian Union church,  but they believed you could lose your salvation every time you turned sideways,  and eventually, we settled on Grace Brethren then the Baptists because I wanted my children grounded in the Word of God before moving on and growing in to the things of the Spirit.  The problem is,  that needs to be a synthesis, almost impossible to find these days in a denomination-heavy, carnal, and problem-bound American church.

We stayed in the Baptist Church until 1997.   During the time we were in, we said very little out loud in church,  knowing how they felt about women.   Much of the time we were in Independent Fundamental Baptist Churches,  but we ran into so much unhappiness,  that our only choice, for them and for us, was to leave, rather than stay and cause division.   We made no grand pronouncements, I have rarely written on the reasons we left,  but the problems are so great for the true Christians within the Baptist camp, that it has to be addressed.  This is not a broad sweep of all Baptists:  some we met were in love with the Lord, and diligently lived out their faith.  Those however were the small minority.

I am still an 'eternal security' believer.  I believe that Jesus Christ is sent by God, is God, is the Word Incarnate,  paid a ransom of his own blood for an atonement for our sins, and that we are saved from wrath and the curse of the Fall of Man by his blood, death and resurrection.  On this central teaching, no Christian could possible disagree.   We are bought with a price: we are his, and the Cross is where we come, surrender, repent, and give our life to him, as he gives His life to us in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  He is about love, mercy, peace, grace and the reconciliation of mankind to God.  The Cross affords redemption, sanctification, and renewal, new life in Him, through the power of the Resurrection.  I do not believe we can add or subtract from the Word of God nor from his Salvation. "It is Finished' 'Teleos' meant it is finished, continues to be finished and will always be finished: the thing is irrevocably done, and by Christ who is one with the Father.

That being said though, my reasons for leaving were the following:

1. From many pulpits, we heard the false doctrine,  that the gifts of the Holy Spirit were not for today; that God was some how finished with those gifts in the first weeks or so after Pentecost, and that all we got after that was religion and edicts.  The fallacy comes in the Baptist acceptance of doctrines such as Dispensationalism (first instituted by early Jesuits, and reintroduced by Jesuit trained persons such as Darby around the time of the 'new finds' in Bible texts) and from the acceptance of the Catholic (Roman) Canon of Scriptures as the rendering of 'that which is perfect is come.    The gifts have continued on through the centuries, buried by the PR of the Roman Church.

2. In alliance with that issue is the Jesuit origin of a main Baptist doctrine of 'Dispensationalism'.  While Darby is considered the father of modern Dispensationalism, favored by Plymouth Brethren in the 1890s and since,  his Jesuit training betrayed doctrinal purity.  The early history of Dispensationalism is clearly Jesuit as noted in ""

"The origin of this theory can be traced to three Jesuit priests; (1) Francisco Ribera (1537-1591), (2) Cardinal Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621) one of the best known Jesuit apologists, who promoted similar theories to Ribera in his published work between 1581 and 1593 entitled Polemic Lectures Concerning the Disputed Points of the Christian Belief Against the Heretics of This Time, and (3) Manuel Lacunza (1731–1801).  The writings of Ribera and Bellarmine, which contain the precedence upon which the theory of Dispensationalism is founded, were originally written to counteract the Protestant reformers' interpretation of the Book of the Revelation which, according to the reformers, exposed the Pope as Antichrist and the Roman Catholic Church as the whore of Babylon.
Ribera's theory lay dormant until it was revisited by Lacunza, and Lacunza's work the Coming of Messiah in Glory and Majesty (Vol.IVol.II.), was translated into English by Edward Irving (1792–1834) in 1827. However, Irving was not aware that the author of this work was not the converted Jewish Rabbi he pretended to be, but a Roman Catholic imposter, and a Jesuit at that! Irving was duped into believing that Lacunza was a converted Jewish Rabbi named Juan Josafat Ben-Ezra, and he was taken in by his anti-Protestant writings. It should be noted that J. N. Darby was also vehemently opposed to Protestantism and at one time, like his friend John Henry Newman, considered converting from Anglicanism to the Roman Church. Having been led astray by this Jesuit work, Irving completely rejected the historical orthodox Christian belief concerning the return of Jesus Christ; as the following extract from his introduction to his translation of Lacunza's work clearly shows.
"...having, by God’s especial providence, been brought to the knowledge of a book, written in the Spanish tongue, which clearly sets forth, and demonstrates from Holy Scripture, the erroneousness of the opinion, almost universally entertained amongst us, that He is not to come till the end of the millennium, and what you call the last day, meaning thereby the instant or very small period preceding the conflagration and annihilation of this earth; I have thought it my duty to translate the same into the English tongue for your sake, that you may be able to disabuse yourselves of that great error, which hath become the inlet to many false hopes, and will, I fear, if not speedily corrected, prove the inlet to many worldly principles and confederacies, and hasten the ruin and downfall of the present churches."
Another Roman Catholic counter-interpretation to that held by Protestants is that of Luis De Alcazar (1554-1613), a Spanish Jesuit. Alcazar also wrote a commentary on the book of the Revelation entitled An Investigation into the Hidden Meaning of the Apocalypse. In which he suggests that the entire Revelation applies to pagan Rome and the first six centuries of Christianity. Perhaps the Roman Catholic origin of the dispensationalist view is best described by Le Roy Edwin Froom.
It was Irving's own interest in prophecy which led him to the works of Manuel Lacunza, (who wrote using the false Jewish name of Juan Josafat Ben-Ezra). Lacunza's ideas were similar and probably based on the writings of the sixteenth century Jesuit, Francesco Ribera. Ribera was one of the Jesuits commissioned by the Pope to write a commentary on the book of Revelation that would hopefully counteract the anti-Catholic Protestant interpretation held at that time.
In 1590, Ribera published a commentary on the Revelation as a counter-interpretation to the prevailing view among Protestants which identified the Papacy with the Antichrist. Ribera applied all of Revelation but the earliest chapters to the end time rather than to the history of the Church. Antichrist would be a single evil person who would be received by the Jews and would rebuild Jerusalem.
George Eldon Ladd. The Blessed Hope: A Biblical Study of the Second Advent and the Rapture. 1956. pp. 37-38.
Ribera denied the Protestant Scriptural Antichrist (II Thessalonians 2) as seated in the church of God—asserted by Augustine, Jerome, Luther and many reformers. He set on an infidel Antichrist, outside the church of God.”
Ralph Thompson. Champions of Christianity in Search of Truth. p. 89.
The result of his work [Ribera’s] was a twisting and maligning of prophetic truth.
The Word of God is a whole, start to finish, telling one story and history.  I do not believe that God ever dealt with Salvation differently in a period of time. Many have debated the issue over time, but the same website, Regal-Network  includes three other quotes by Pink, Mueller, and G. Campbell Morgan:

"My brother, I am a constant reader of my Bible, and I soon found that what I was taught to believe did not always agree with what my Bible said. I came to see that I must either part company with John Darby, or my precious Bible, and I chose to cling to my Bible and part from Mr. Darby." George Müeller (1805–1898)
I am quite convinced that all the promises to Israél are found, are finding and will find their perfect fulfilment in the Church. It is true that in time past, in my expositions, I gave a definite place to Israél in the purposes of God. I have now come to the conviction, as I have just said, that it is, the new and spiritual Israél that is intended. G. Campbell Morgan (1863-1945)
Dispensationalism is a device of the enemy, designed to rob the children of no small part of that bread which their heavenly Father has provided for their souls; a device wherein the wily serpent appears as an angel of light, feigning to "make the Bible a new book" by simplifying much in it which perplexes the spiritually unlearned. It is sad to see how widely successful the devil has been by means of this subtle innovation. A. W. Pink (1886-1952)

These men are among the most respected of Baptist doctrine: surely it must be given thought.

3. Beyond Dispensationalism, I could no longer stay in the Baptist Church because of the often encountered anti-Semitic doctrines and ideas including:

A. God is finished with the Jews. They are cut off, and we are the replacement.  This is error, as noted in Romans 11.
B. The Jews in the end, if they are to be saved, cannot come by Christ alone, but have to obey also the entirity of the law.  This is betrayed by the scripture, "Jesus Christ, the Same, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow."  The idea that the Jews must either not be able to be saved, or must come through even in part their own efforts betrays the teachings of the New Testament and Old, in which Salvation is always taught as given by God.. (See all passages on Salvation in Psalms)

C. That the Jews cannot be saved in this 'Dispensation'.  Nonsense.  The blindness of Israel is misunderstood by most today.  It is "in part"  and refers to spiritual blindness, addressed equally in the Old Testament, and has to do with what moderns call a 'slumber' but which Tyndale translated as a 'disquietness':   a time of restless semi-blindness,  to serve the purpose of grafting on the Gentiles to fulfill prophecy, which is resolved in the re-grafting of the Jews to headship, in their chosen status, in an everlasting covenant.  "Hath God cast off those he foreknew? God forbid."  Paul writes.  It is serious error and affront to God and his Word, God and his covenants to believe that God is in any way finished with Israel.  The blindness is to some Baptists who cannot see, though the Jews have returned to Israel after 2000 years.

D. Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit.
Some Baptist pastors are very careful with this issue:  even though they may personally believe that the gifts are not extant, they nonetheless do not believe they should teach about it, taking very seriously the one sin which can disavow the 'new covenant': blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.  This includes according to the Scriptures:
Matthew 12:31-32King James Version (KJV)31 Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.32 And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.  from Bible Gateway: KJV

Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit includes attributing the work of God to Satan:  e.g. the Pharisees attribute the power of Christ to 'Beelzebub'.  But Christ responds that Satan cannot cast out Satan,  and in another passage:
Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men  mt 12:31
We cannot attribute the works of the Holy Spirit to the Devil: this is done over and over from Baptist pulpits, and they throw the baby out with the bathwater, endangering their own souls.  The Holy Spirit still works today, and they that are of the Holy Spirit, know the work of God.

The result in the Baptist Church, by denying the power of God in this century, and accepting Roman teachings simply on convention,  has been lukewarmness, religiousity,  and lack of a true dedication to Christ.  Instead,  we see a kingdom of men,  teaching part of the truth, denying the rest.   Because of this, the Baptist Church's fences are down,  they have become a wealthy and worldly church,  politicized, believing like Catholics and Protestants that going to church, nodding in acquiescence and being 'Republican' is atonement enough.  Nationalism enters in: they cannot imagine that Christ would not favor and be partial more to America than any other nation.   The horrible result is that many unChristian and anti-Christian influences have plied their way into the Baptist Church as well as others, ranging from false religions, to cults and political groups, and even groups with alternative 'lifestyles' and theories, which in the end undermine and destroy Christian faith.

There are more reasons I left than these, but this writing is becoming lengthy.  The celebration of worldly holidays, Christmas trees on the altar, Halloween parties,  Superbowl sundays, and the myriad of 'cool ' worldly things, betray Christ.  They seem minor,  and we give liberty to each other on issues such as these, or issues of dress, food, tvs,  etc,  but the main issue is that we have lost the great and high calling,  of placing our entire allegiance to God: over nations, issues,  favored doctrines, etc.  We have settled down in the world,  and we are beginning to reap what we sow. Attitudes towards women have become not those of surrender but of domination over women, or conversely, 'anything goes' mentalities, erasing godly boundaries and rank which are there for a purpose.  Baptist churches have become havens of disruptive behavior, division, and even violence.  Prayers should take eminence over field trips and potlucks.  We can enjoy social events and fellowships, but in the end, it is all Christ, or not Christ.   I left, and 'came out from among them' not because 75% of their doctrine was not true, not because they did not carry on the work of Christ and the Gospel, but because they have failed to see Christ as King and Lord.

Elizabeth Kirkley Best