Sunday, July 22, 2007

What set us apart?

One of the many things I noticed when we came and started working for the poor migrants here in Mae Sai is the presence of many NGOs who are trying to do social works like orphanage, community development, health education and trainings to help people and improve the quality of life. These activities are being duplicated by many Christian groups who are trying to help these people. However, I am saddened by the fact that these Christian groups are trying to do their works without the partnership of a local church. I should say that if Christian missionaries are just duplicating the work of the NGOs then they might as well leave. Here I agree with Carl Volz statements in his book Faith and Practice in the Early Church that Christians should do what they are supposed to do. The thing that set us apart from the others is our faith in Jesus as Lord and God. We do social works, we help people so are the other institutions and organizations. Being a Christian means that in spite of our good works we proclaim to people who our Lord Jesus is. Let us make known how marvelous is our Lord that people can't help but worship the King of kings and the Lord of lords.
What is it that Christians do which no one else does? That is, what is a definition for being a Christian? Certainly it is not in trying to lead an upright life, which is hardly unique to Christianity. After all, the Ten Commandments come out of Judaism, and the Golden Rule is much older than the Bible. If Christianity cannot be defined as terms of unique ethics, it can be described in terms of worship. If all Christian throughout the world would suddenly cease to be, the worship of Jesus Christ as God and Lord would also end. The church is not unique in preaching ethics or doing works of charity or providing social programs, but the worship of Christ is its one activity which no other institution provides.


Jonathan said...

I wholeheartedly agree. Leave those items to the local church. If you are going to be a missionary, go somewhere you are needed. For instance, I was offered an opportunity to go to a large city as a missionary, but there are already so many missionaries there; I'd be lost in the crowd. Certainly, there are people to be saved there, but let the local church reach them. I want to go somewhere that has very little--if any--influence from the church. I want to go where I'm needed.

James Gilbert said...

We work with the local church, and this has helped us be so much more effective in our ministry with the poor. I agree, but...

It is sad that there are so many Christian NGOs seperated from the local church. But what I have found is that SOMETIMES it is the local church which is at fault, a small group of Christians sensitive to the Spirit wanting to serve the needy, evangelize the non middle-class, or social deviants, while the local church budget i.e., new stained-glass windows, better hymnals,etc., or simply the pastor(and his reductionist theology) fails to understand the mission of the church. These NGOs allow christians to follow the Spirit. Is it not the ministry of these NGOs to challenge, encourage, invite the participation of the local churches? I think of some of these larger NGOs as taking their mission from the Church and they encounter a local church which does not have the vision.

I appreciate the quote from Carl Volz, thanks.

Joey said...

HI Jonathan,

I agree with your agreement. There are places where missionary abounds. I was also invited to work in one of those cities. The sad thing about this is that missionaries instead of worshiping in a local church, are gathering together in a hotel to worship. I can't stand it.

If there is no local church nearby, then it is good to gather the local believers and worship. This is where our influence will be mostly needed. I'm not saying that missionaries should not do social ministry. The truth is, social ministry is inevitably part of the gospel. We should strike the balance somewhere.

Joey said...

Thanks for the comment. And you are absolutely right. There are just churches who don't want to work with NGOs, Christians or not, because of the misconceptions of the mission of the church. Although sometimes I think NGOs are in fault for demanding something that the church could not do because it's not supposed to do those things.

I do pray however, that Christian NGOs should work as much as possible with a local church.


Steve Hayes said...

One of the things the local church should be doing is finding who the most needy people are.

I've seen outsiders go in to a place where there is a great deal of social need, and distribute things like clothing, and after a couple of distributions, the meetings and access to them are controlled by second-hand clothes dealers.

Joey said...

Hi Steve,

You observe it right. These second-hand clothes dealers are getting rich. Selling of second-hand stuff business is growing in evidently poor countries. It is growing in the Philippines and I have been in the border of Cambodia and Thailand and the business is incredibly big.