Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Worship in unity?

I always wish that Christians from different persuasions could worship together—in unity with harmony. This entails, however, a certain degree of toleration for one another to allow others to worship God in a way that is meaningful to them. Sadly, that acceptance does not exist among Christians. Those who worship in structured and orderly manners could not worship meaningfully with those who worship spontaneously with loud music accompanied by the manifestations of the tongue speaking and vice versa.

In the mission field, Christian workers tried so hard to worship together for the sake of the gospel, but in spite of the effort this seemingly division among us would always haunt us and it would definitely affect the endeavor to reach the lost people to Christ. Unbelievers just could not conceive the idea that we believe the same God but could not worship Him in one place together.

My friend, a Baptist Pastor while we were discussing about this issue told me that the problem with these current fads in worship—praise & worship, drama and seeker sensitive among others is that they are not biblical with the thought that the Baptist traditional way of worship is the only pure biblical form of worship. Conversely, I asked him that what makes him sure that what we were doing in worship is biblical. With this question came the realization that strictly speaking, it may not be biblical at all.

So my suggestion is this: if we want to have unity in the form of worship, let us look how the biblical Christians do their worship and start from there. Forget about our biases and preferences; let us be biblical in the strict sense of the word.

The first Christians’ worship is an outgrowth of the Jewish synagogue. The disciples were Jews and needless to say, Jesus himself worshiped as a Jew. Looking at the way they worshiped gives us the concept of what “biblical” worship is. The biblical Christian following the lead of the synagogue gave emphasis on reading the Scripture, the Old Testament and some of Paul’s writing and perhaps the recitation of the oral traditions of the gospel story. This liturgical reading will be separated by a psalm and ended with a sermon. The sermon was always the explanation of the reading. And since Jesus Christ initiated the Lord Supper, the early Christians observed this every first day of the week. A prayer of consecration was uttered in the Eucharist and before that there was a prayer of intercession. As I can tell it, this is how the “biblical” Christians worship. If we claim that we are faithful to the Scripture in our worship, it entails that we should follow this structure. However, I doubt if we could do this. If that is the case this post is totally irrelevant.

Here are some interesting facts about Christian worship:

It was in the fourth century that the sacraments of baptism, the use of candles, the use of white garments, the use of the blessed oil, and the importance of sacred formula were introduced in worship. It happened when the influenced of the Hellenestic world and the mystery religion crept into the church. Baptism as sacraments corresponded to the mysterious cults’ practice of initiatory washing. The mysterious way that the Eucharist was done, with the priest secretly whispered to the elements because the words was too sacred for the regular worshipers to hear and only the chosen few had the privilege of actually knowing it. This leads to the practice of excluding unbaptized members to participate in the communion. In this time also that words such as Eucharist, mystery, epiphany, advent, doxology, hymn and liturgy came to be used in Christian worship. More and more practices in mystery religions were accommodated and were given Christian meanings.

It was only during the second half of the fourth century that music had been accepted in the church with much reservation. Church leaders couldn’t agree about this (sound familiar). Prior to this, music in the church were ordinarily were chant by the cantor using Psalms and the New Testament songs such as those of Mary, Simeon and Zacharias. The church condemned the chanting of texts not taken directly from the Bible.

It was until the 13th century that the cross was introduced as focal point in Christian churches. This was perhaps because of the increasing emphasis on the doctrine of Christ as the victim.

And I could go on and on… wait my wife is calling me.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Quote of the day



"As for me, Jesus Christ is the scripture, the inviolable scriptures are his cross, death, and resurrection and faith through him."

Ignatius

Friday, July 27, 2007

Liturgy and the meaning of salvation

I can’t remember the time I last attended a liturgical worship. All I know was that I only experience high liturgical worship in a Catholic church. The majestic cathedral, stained glasses, paintings, arts, sculptured saints and the celebration of the mass add up to a mystical experience. Although I believe these elements do not make our worship right, they are factors for worshipers to have the sense of mystery.

I still like the “formal” way of doing worship. It means there is a certain order of worship that the congregation follows like call to worship, prayers, Scripture reading, preaching and the observance of the Lord Supper. This is the closest thing I have been experiencing liturgical worship. Contemporary churches seem to loose the importance of orderly worship. Most of the churches I have been attending regardless of denomination have been doing their worship service very informally. The program usually goes like this: there is an extended repeated singing sprinkled with short prayers followed an extended repeated sermon and an extended and repeated altar call. And sometimes the Eucharist is done while the extended repeated singing is going on.

In the early church, liturgy was very important. It is through the liturgical worship that the average person caught the vision of the meaning of salvation. Historians of theology continually face the problem of trying to determine the average person was thinking while the intellectual theologians were discussing profound theological issues. The early Christians sensed that in the liturgies they understand the meaning of their salvation. The theme of Christ as deliverer was apparent in their worship services, which I believe is not possible to a human-centered style of programs. The early church believe that there was no more dramatic renunciation of Satan, his pomp and service in the baptismal rites of Easter vigil. The exorcisms stressed the expulsion of evil forces from the candidate and away from their old garments as a symbol. Images of deliverance included the creation and the flood. Biblical symbolisms abound in the liturgical worship of the early Christians that for me seems to be lacking today.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Koreans hostage crisis

This is really a sad news. I have many Korean friends and has been in touch with Korean missionaries here. Thailand has extraordinary fondness with Koreans because of their TV soap operas and also with their fascination with Rain. The Thais follow this crisis closely through prime time TV news. Christians and churches everywhere should pray for them. Here are the excerpt from Bangkok Post:
Kabul (dpa) - The Taliban set a deadline of 7:00 pm Sunday (4:30pm Thailand time) for the release of 23 Taliban prisoners in Afghan government custody in exchange for 23 South Korean nationals they have kidnapped.

The Afghan Foreign Ministry said Saturday that one German hostage purportedly held by the Taliban was still alive, but a second hostage had died - while in Berlin the German Foreign Minister said the death had to be assumed.

The radicals said in a statement on their website that their forces had kidnapped 23 South Koreans - 18 women and five men - in southern Ghazni province and was keeping them in a safe area.

"As the Korean and Afghan governments asked for the release of 23 prisoners, we also want our 23 friends who are in custody to be released by tomorrow (Sunday) at 7:00pm," the statement said. That would be 4:30pm Thailand time; 0930 GMT on Sunday.

"If the mentioned governments do not give us a positive response by the expiry of the deadline, they themselves would be responsible for the future consequences."

The statement said that the Taliban would give the list of their prisoners once the governments of Afghanistan and South Korea had accepted their demands.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Thanks!

Having friends from the other side of the globe is one of the many blessings of blogging. I feel honored and at the same time humbled by a friend’s appeal in my behalf. Thank you Ben!


Update: Ben's friendly appeal in my behalf gets kind response from major publishers. He says:
I’m delighted to say that some leading theology publishers – T&T Clark, Cascade Books, and Baker Academic – have also offered to support this appeal by donating books to Joey.
Thanks guys!

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.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Bulletin for tomorrow!

This is the page one of unprinted church bulletin for our international worship tomorrow. I wish I could do the same with our Burmese worship but I could not read Burmese yet. I'll be preaching. Looking forward to a worshipful day and joyful fellowship with other children of God. Have a worshipful Sunday to all!

Servants by God's commission

24Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.
25I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— 26the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints.
27To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
28 We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.
29
To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.
In the previous passage, Paul proclaims the supremacy of Christ. Jesus is supreme because he is: (1) the image of the invisible God; (2) firstborn over all creation; (3) the creator and sustainer of the universe; (4) the head of the church; (5) that all God’s fullness dwell in him; (6) the reconciler, as he reconcile all things to himself. We who put our faith in Christ needs no other stuff that should be added to our faith because Christ is sufficient.

This passage starts with the word "now" denoting that he is transitioning to other important practical implications of those truths. As we study Colossians 1:24-29 this morning, I hope that we will get a clear understanding of what God is calling us to do individually and as a church!

We are commissioned to suffer for the church (v. 24)

As we read verse 24, Paul states something that, in my opinion, are rather questionable. Isn’t it strange that Paul is rejoicing in his suffering and he is suffering for the sake of others? As Christians, we should have the attitude of Paul. He is rejoicing because he considers it a privilege to suffer for Christ and his body—the church. We should keep in mind that Paul was in prison while writing this letter to the Colossians and in this instance he was actually experiencing some kind of suffering.

This is an important truth we should know, we cannot serve without sacrifice. If we are in a position where we are not sacrificing, we are not serving. Jesus calls us to sacrifice, He calls us to serve. He calls us to suffer.

Paul understood this concept very clearly. Notice he says that He is suffering for their sake and he is doing his share ob behalf of His (Jesus) body, the church. Paul was called to a suffering we may never experience, but the fact of the matter is this, we must have to suffer to serve the church, to serve our fellow believers.

We need to understand that when we give our lives to Jesus. We are called to sacrifice time, talents and treasures for Jesus and for His church for our brothers and sisters in Christ. It is easy to look at the church and ask what they are going to do for me. We don’t see the fact that we are called to sacrificially contribute to the ministry of this church. Paul endured many hardships for the cause of Christ.

In redemption, Jesus did for us what we cannot do for ourselves. It is up to us to now sacrifice and serve. Paul is not implying that Jesus sacrifice was insufficient is some way, but that further progress of the gospel would require sacrifice on our part. What sacrifices have you made for Jesus? If we are not willing to sacrifice, the work of the church will never get off the ground.

We are Commissioned to Proclaim the Gospel (25-27)

In verses 25-27 we see the another calling for the church and for each one of us who are a part of the body of Christ. Paul was called specifically to be a minister of the gospel according to verse 25. He was called to carry out the preaching of the word.

Usually we think that only the Pastors are commissioned to preach the Word of God. Do you realize we are all called to be ministers of the word? You may not be the type of person who will stand behind the pulpit, but at one time or another we are called to tell something about our faith. We may be required to explain the gospel in few words.

You may not be a preacher but the way we live your life is another way of preaching the gospel. As St. Francis of Assisi says: “We should preach the gospel and if necessary use words.” We need to realize this: we are all called to proclaim God’s word to lost people. You will be able to impact people that I might never be able to reach. In order to proclaim the Gospel, we need to know it. We need to know how to share our faith because we have the duty and privilege of telling others about Jesus. Here are two reasons:

In verse 26 we are told that the message was hidden from past generations. Why was it called a mystery? It was a mystery because it is something that God has not yet revealed. The Old Testament is not a full revelation of God to the church. The mystery was that all people will be saved even those who are considered outsiders have given the same opportunity for salvation just like his chosen people.

A false teaching had been causing confusion among the Colossians Christians. The false teachers were teaching that the secret mystery was available only to the few privileged people and it was not available to the ordinary Christians. Paul wrote and told them that the mystery was fully made known through Jesus Christ.

The mystery which God wanted us all to know is the fact that Christ indwells the believers. That because of this fact we have the hope and assurance of future glory. We have the privilege of proclaiming this wonderful truth to those who do not know it! We don’t need to have special training to do this. Christ in us makes us Christ-like in this life and allows us to share in His glory at the Second Coming!

We are commissioned to help others to Grow in Christ (28)

I believe the question we need to ask ourselves is I am helping anybody to grow in Christ? Or am I a stumbling block to the other’s growth. How do I help others to grow in Christ?
We help others to grow in Christ by proclaiming to them who Jesus Christ is. We should make sure that we are teaching them the right things about Jesus. When we are trying to win people, we should win them to Jesus Christ alone. Not to the church, activities or program. If we are going to help people grow in Christ, it must be Christ we are proclaiming to them. We must make sure when we give advice and help that we are giving them 100% Jesus as much as we can.

We help one another to grow by admonishing one another. To admonish means to “warn, encourage, stimulate.” There are times when we will need to warn people of the consequences of rejecting Jesus or the consequences of being disobedient to Him. Other times we will need to encourage people to hold fast, to hang on for dear life. There are other times when we will need to stimulate their thinking concerning Jesus and what they are doing.

We help one another to grow by teaching with all wisdom. This means that we are to make sure we are not only imparting knowledge, but that we are also teaching people how to apply the principles of scripture in their lives. Christian life is based on the truth of the Scripture. We live what we believe. We should be ready to teach people what God wants from his children.
The warning and teaching always had one goal in mind: so that we may present everyone mature in Christ. God will ask us to have a presentation someday. We will be required to present every person who comes under our influence to have a living in union with Christ. We have the responsibility to make them complete, full grown, and perfectly instructed in doctrine, faith, and practice. Believers are not to remain like babies in the faith, easily led away by something new.

Verse 28 tells us that we are to present every person complete or perfect in Christ. The church has to goal of reaching people and then teaching them how to be pleasing to God. WE are all called to help one another grow. It is sad to see that many believers do not want to stay in the church because it seems that nobody is there to help them grow, we need to be here for one another. You have heard it said that it takes a village to raise a child. Well, it takes a church to raise a Christian.

We are commissioned to rely on God’s power (29)

How are we going to carry out this special calling on our own? We are not; we are called to rely on the power of Jesus! Notice Paul said he was laboring and striving. But he was laboring and striving according to Jesus power which was working mightily within him! Paul labored and strived to help make everyone complete in Christ.

I believe it is easy to forget that message when we forget God’s purpose for us and for the church. We have a big job ahead of us, the job of bringing people to Jesus and then helping them grow. If we try to do these things in our own power, we are doomed to failure. God is working within us, are you aware of the power that is available to you. Through Christ, we can do all things!

Conclusion

God has commissioned us to do something special for him and his church. This is a calling for every one of us, nobody is exempted. We are commissioned to: Serve sacrificially. Proclaim the gospel, help others grow in Christ and rely on the power of Jesus within us. God called you for a special purpose, are you ready to fulfill that purpose.

Friday, July 20, 2007

A book on disciplehip

My friend Nathan sent me his book. And yes, he wrote this one. This book will be helpful in discipling new believers in the mission field. My wife and I are planning to start a discipleship class. In a country where nominal Christians abound, a strong discipleship program is badly needed.

Here is the blurb written at the back cover:

The New Testament describes the Church as a living organism, a body whose one head is Jesus but has many parts. It is a living community which is growing and who welcomes new members into its fold.

Who takes care of new followers of Jesus? The burden cannot be carried by the pastors and leaders only. This can be like the coming of a new baby into a family. Filipino families, in general, depend on a host of helping hands to take care of the new member of the family. There's ate and kuya, lolo and lola, auntie and uncle, friends and neighbors (if possible), and yaya for those who can afford it. Taking care of a new member of the family is a bayanihan effort. It takes a community to raise up a child.

In the same way, it takes a spiritual community to grow spiritual followers of Jesus. The more helping hands, the better. Here is where an ordinary believer can contribute to the vision of building up the kingdom of God where he is. Any maturing believer in Jesus can help by coming alongside a new follower of Jesus to help that person grow deeper and stronger in his or her relationship with the Lord. This book, Helping a New Follower of Jesus to Grow, is a tool for that kind of a growing relationship.

God works quietly and secretly among men and women who have surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus. He does not apply a forceful power that cannot be resisted. God is rather like a man planting a seed. Its success depends on the type of soil in which it is planted. Like a mustard seed, its growth is slow and undetectable. Yet at a future day, Godliness will come out in great power and glory. What is so great about it is that God invites everyone who calls upon him as Lord and Savior to partner with him in his projects. Would you like to take a part in God's kingdom work? Try it and see how great a thing God can do in you and through you.

Congratulations Nathan for a work well done.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Christian Apologetic Mission in Asia

This is the last part of Augurlion's article published in Missio Dei, a journal of missions and evangelism of Myanmar Institute of Theology. He argues that apologetic missions is a good and inoffensive method of sharing the Christian faith in a pluralistic Asia.

The Asian countries, especially the developing countries, are greatly affected by Globalization. The global influence of Western cultures is a threat to the Asian cultures which were designed to function appropriately in Asian society. The distortion of the Asian cultures can lead to the moral corruption of the society. In addition, the economic globalization creates a great social gap between the people of Asia. Though there are some aspects of development, poverty has become widespread along with population explosion and endemic diseases. The privileged become rich and the outcast become extremely poor. Violence, exploitation and corruption also weaken the society. The state, the market, and the civil society are the sectors which are functioning in the society. However, without religious influence these sectors can not function properly. There are some religious representatives in these three sectors, but their influences in these sectors are ambiguous. In fact, religious factors are important for the strength of the civil society. Kang Moon-Kyu insists:

Without integration of religious factors and strategic alliances with organized religion, civil society is unlikely to gain sufficient strength to counteract the status quo. Is it possible to bring to life the third-sector's [civil society] proclaimed values such as solidarity, compassion, non¬violence, human rights, peace promotion, and an end to r, oppression without seeking strategic alliances with the major religions of Asia: Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Islam?
As Christianity shaped the culture and mentality of the Western people, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and also Christianity have shaped or enriched the culture and mentality of their adherences in Asia. The religion is an important sector for the cultivation of peaceful and moral society. It can control the social order even when the state fails to govern properly because religious consciousness is a driving force for people to live peacefully and morally. Hinduism, Buddhism and other religions have functioned in the Asian societies since before the arrival of Christianity and the emergence of the Democratic, Socialist, and Communist systems. Thus, it would be unfair to persuade the adherences of these religions to abandon their religio-cultures. In fact, the problems in Asia are too much for Christianity to handle without the cooperation of other religions. Through cooperation other religions can be used as the tools or channels for Christian service to the world. But the cooperation is possible only when the non-Christians put aside their negative views on Christianity and see Christian mission as a rewarding task. Apologetic mission is the only way to change the non-Christians' misperceptions of Christianity and its mission.

Christian apologetic mission in Asia is to defend Christianity from the theological attacks and various accusations of the non-Christians. The oppositions that the church has faced in Asia alert the church leaders to think of Christian mission in defensive terms, instead of aggressive terms. The objective of Apologetic mission is not to conquer or to win but to reduce the prejudice on Christianity. It is a humble explanation of ourselves, our faith, and our mission in a way comprehensible and inspiring to those who criticize and misunderstand us. Our explanation must be the answer to the questions and the informative argument to the critiques.

Apologetic mission can take place both in academic level and grassroots revel. Various models of contextualization and interfaith dialogue can be applied in both levels. But they must be applied not as the tools for proselytizing but as Medias for sharing, clarification and conscientization. The function of apologetic mission in academic level, as it was the case in the apologetic work of Origen, is to defend the theological attacks on Christianity and, at the same time, sharpen the spiritual and moral insights of the non-Christians in the light of their own religious philosophies. This work can be helpful to enhance a mutual enrichment and understanding between the religions and also create a possible way for the co-operation of the religions in Asia for a common service. To allow this to happen, the idea and practice of "unity in diversity" in the ecumenical movement need to be extended to other religions.

As "the unity for service" was an important factor for the churches in West, it is important for the religions in Asia. Religious pluralism and diversity in Asia will not allow any religion to universalize its belief. The attempt to universalize a religious belief will surely end with conflict and hostility as it was the case with the European Christianity in the Reformation and post-Reformation world. Religious and ethnic divisions in Asia are the threats to the integrity and solidarity of humanity in Asia. The mission of the church in this setting is not only to remove the prejudice of non-Christians but also to defend the integrity and solidarity of humanity by developing inclusive theologies and practice the ecumenical theme of "unity in diversity."

To be inclusive or ecumenical, Christianity needs to be adaptable to the every local culture. But, on the other hand, Christianity needs to preserve its uniqueness and distinctiveness. Apologetic mission also includes the defense of our Christian spirituality, morality and commitment to Christ. Robert L. Ramseyer insists:

As Christian we have experienced the fact that it is not always easy to develop deep personal relationships with the non-Christians around us... As Christians we are different. We have committed our lives to Jesus Christ. He is our Lord and we want to follow Him. Therefore the ultimate authority by which Christians order their lives is different than it is for other people. This allegiance to Jesus Christ unites us as Christians and divides us from other people. At the same time, Christians have come from the general Christendom was successful from the late patristic period to the dawn of Reformation. Evangelists contributed very much to the growth of the Church in this period. However, the imperial power was the most significant sector for church growth. Under the direction and support of the imperial leaders the pagan nations were rapidly integrated into the Christendom. The use of imperial force in mission was the main factor that helped the growth of Christianity. However, such a kind of church growth can no longer happen.
The Medieval Christendom has become fragmented after Reformation. The rise of modernism and secularism has reduced Christianity to a private institution. Moreover, the rise of democratic rules and the post-modern pluralistic world provide no right for any religion to do proselytizing mission. In the areas, like Asia, where the majority are Hindus, Buddhists, and, Muslims, Christianity is a disregarded religion. There is no imperial power to support Christian mission. The government's support of the national religions and restriction of Christian mission make Christianization or aggressive evangelism impossible. Though the Patristic and Medieval model of Christian expansion is irrelevant to the Asian context, the patristic model of apologetic mission is still useful for the churches in Asia. Because of globalization the name Jesus and Christianity are no longer foreign to most people. Some non-Christians already have a general knowledge of Christian teachings. However, their perceptions of Christianity may be wrong. This is a challenge to the churches to defend Christianity through a humble explanation and clarification of Christian gospel, and by "living out" the gospel to the non-Christian neighbors. The objective of this sort of mission is to promote religious peace and to impose Christian mission spirit into the hearts of non-Christians so that all religions will work together for the success of the civil society and the spread of the Kingdom ofGod in Asia.

A Border Wedding


We were invited to attend a wedding by our friend, and she is actually the bride. She and her aunt are the first few people who become our closed friends. The ceremony started on time. The groom was evidently nervous. Of course, the main event for any wedding is the bridal entrance to the hall. Everybody was enthralled with the beauty of the bride, our friend looked very beautiful in her wedding dress. It is a marriage between a Thai-Chinese and an Akha lady from Myanmar. The ceremony was held in a Chinese Baptist Church. The officiating officer was a Thai Pastor who did the ceremony in Thai translated by someone in Burmese. I guess this is the normal way wedding at the border is done.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Nominalism

Nominalism, a curse in which people claim to be Christian but fail to act like it, has plagued much of the worldwide church. While the evangelical growth around the world could be characterized as a mile wide, too often it is no more than an inch deep.

Stanley Guthrie, Missions in the Third Millennium.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Theological and Philosophical Attacks on Christianity


Here is part 6 of Augurlion's article piblished in Mission Dei, a Journal of Mission and Evangelism of Myanmar Institute of Theology. The information presented here may not be fresh, nevertheless, I feel that what he points out are critical to the western missionary enterprise. Because of these criticisms, Asian missionaries can do missions in places that otherwise is impossible for the western missionaries to do. Read this article:

Most Christians, especially the conservatives, claim that Christian truth is unique and universal. But in the eyes of the non-Christians it is unreasonable and limited. From the Hindu perspective, Commitment to Christ represents only a particular way of devotion to the Reality. Hinduism is not an institution that bases on a specific dogma, but it is a polytheistic religion that allows various ways of approach to the Reality. The Hindus believe that "God has looks like tritheism." Islam also criticizes Christianity for not having a set of moral or Divine Law like Shari'a. Seyyed Hossein Nasr asserts: "Christianity is seen by the Muslims as a religion devoid of exotericism which then substitutes a message of an essentially esoteric, there by creating disequilibrium in human society."

Colonialism and Christian missionary attitudes have influenced the non-Christian views or assessment of Christianity. Both the Roman Catholic and the Protestant missionary movements were viewed as identical or related to Colonialism. Along with their colonial expansion, Spain and Portugal were given the responsibility to extend the Roman Catholic domain. Though the Protestant missionary movements that arose by the end of the eighteenth century could not be grouped together with colonialism, it resembled colonialism in one way or another. Along with Christianization, the Protestant missions introduced modernism and imposed Western culture that threatened the non-Western people of loosing their cultural and national identities. According to Andrew F. Walls, the mission awakening in the nineteenth century in Britain based on the belief of British people that they were the "chosen people." They believed that modernism and social progress in Britain were God's blessings. Therefore, they felt that they were responsible to evangelize the heathens and impose modernism and Christianity, which is their imperial religion.

The mission movement during the colonial era was basea on the concept of the expansion of the Christendom. Thus, Christianity was reviled and rejected by the non-Christians in Asia, whose adhered to Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and Confucianism, and whose countries were subject to the colonial rule. Anagarika Dharmapala (1864-1933), a Sinhalese Buddhist reformer, argues:
Semitic religions have neither psychology nor a scientific background. Judaism was an exclusive religion intended only for the Hebrews. It is a materialistic monotheism with Jehovah as the architect of a limited world. Christianity is a political camouflage. Its three aspects are politics, trade, and imperial expansion. Its weapons are the Bible, barrels of whisky, and bullets.
Christianity, therefore, was seen as the European tool for the expansion of Western hegemony over the colonized countries. Some Hindu critique showed their reverence to Jesus but strongly criticized the Christians and the missionaries for perverting Christianity and the teaching of Jesus. Keshub Chunder Sen, a famous Hindu leader, delivered a lecture in Calcutta in 1866 and stated:

I regard every European settler in India as a missionary of Christ, and I have a right to demand that he should always remember and act up to his high responsibility. But, alas! owing to the reckless conduct of a number of pseudo-Christians, Christianity has failed to produce any wholesome moral influence on my countrymen. Yea, their muscular Christianity has led many a native to identify the religion of Jesus with the power and privilege of inflicting blows and kicks with impunity... I must therefore protest against denationalization which is so general among native converts to Christianity. With the religion of their heathens forefathers, they generally abandon the manners and customs of their country, and with Christianity they embrace the usages of Europeans; even in dress and diet they assume as affected air of outlandishness, which estranges them from their own countrymen.
There were also Islamic antagonism to Christianity which was influenced by the stigma of the Muslims' experience of Western colonialism in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The rise of Islam fundamentalism in 1950s was an attempt to re-assert Islamic identity against Western hegemony and Christianity. This anti-Christian movement based on the prejudice that Christianity has influenced the Western culture which "is self-evidently politically and militarily expansionist, morally corrupted, and religiously decadent." All these reactions certify that the Christian missionary movement or Christianization in history was seen only an expansion the Christendom and Western hegemony by the non-Christians in Asia. Christianization and modernization were only the factors that perverted the local cultures in the colonial countries. The rise of nationalism was a protest against Western hegemony that came along with Modernism and Christianity.

Friday, July 13, 2007

We've been away and a van

Jared, Reuven and the van

My children don't want to go to Chiang Mai. They hate to stay in a city. But we had to because we need to extend our visa for another year. I can identify with what they were feeling. We endured a couple of days in Chiang Mai with its humidity and pollution. Mae Sai is clean and relatively cool.

However, God has a surprise gift for us. Somebody gave us a van and I drove it back home to Mae Sai from Chiang Mai, a five hour relaxing drive that we all enjoyed. We never thought that we will own a vehicle here. And we actually never thought we need it. But God knows better, with our growing ministries with children like the primary school, day care and hostel ministry, I believe God may be saying, "it's about time you have one." The van is old but the engine is good and reliable. We are praying that God would sustain it and make it useful for longer time.

And since we've been away, I don't have time to response to the emails (in case some of you are wondering why). I'll do it tomorrow.

Rainy days and God's faithfulness

Last year, some time in September I wrote this and posted it over at my other blog.

We are experiencing dark and rainy mornings here for a week now. Yesterday, when we were preparing to go to the church and as I was putting on my rain coat, it happened, a tiny tear from the neck decided to go all the way down to the bottom. The rain coat proved to be unusable. I had no choice but to go in spite of the strong rain. I drove our 10-year old Honda Dream 100 with my wife holding a big umbrella at the back and my 8-year old son at the front holding a smaller umbrella; we negotiated the road to our church up to the mountain. It was a difficult and dangerous drive. The drop of rains pierced my eyes and face like millions dumb needles. It was painful. And I was thinking I had to do it again for I had to come back for my other two children.
My friends who are also missionaries always tell me that I need a vehicle—a car or a pick-up truck that I can use for our ministry. But to be completely honest I really do not have the desire to owe one although it may be a real need for mission work. I believe a motorcycle will do the job. However, God knows our needs and not our wants. I don’t want to have a car but if God saw that it is what we need then perhaps God will give us a car.

I’m not trying to trick God by saying I don’t want it but we need it to so that He will give it anyway. We had a similar experience before with God when I was studying at the seminary. I was serving in a church as an interim pastor on the weekends while studying in Baguio for the weekdays. The church is a 3-hour drive from the seminary. I thought we did not need a car because we can commute every weekend to our place of ministry, but of course with much difficulty. We were satisfied with that arrangement because that was our way of life for almost a year and we got used to it. But God knows our needs more than us that after almost a year in that situation, He did provide and gave us a vehicle we can use every weekend. Now it made me think… God would provide our needs if it will help us become more effective in His ministry and because He loves us. For me… it is a clear application of this verse: …for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. (Matthew 6:8)

Monday, July 09, 2007

Religious Pluralism and Problems of Mission in Asia

This is the fifth part of Augurlion article in Mission Dei, A Journal of Mission and Evangelism of Myanmar Institute of Theology.

The ecumenical movement and the formation of the WCC in the west certified that the existence of the church as a Christendom was no longer possible after the Reformation. The emergence of city-states and the national churches became the phenomenon to be tolerated. Though the idea of the extension of Christendom was no longer relevant to the West it was still practiced in the non-Western world by means of Christianization. However, the extension of Christendom was more problematic in Asia than it was in the Reformation world. Andrew Walls puts it:
The success of the Spanish project to incorporate its new world into Christendom was thus more apparent than real. More important for the future of Christendom, however, than the apparent success of the Spanish was the fact that the Portuguese found the task impossible... The Portuguese began its empire with joyful acceptance of the task of expanding Christendom. But its resources were slander, its hole often precarious, and even in the territories it occupied, resistant Islam, and resistant Hinduism, and resistant Buddhism refused to lie down.
Asia is a pluralistic continent populated with millions of people from different ethnic, social, cultural, and religious background. The world major religions such as Hinduism, Buddhist and Islam have become the national and cultural identity of the countries where they have dominated. For example, Hinduism is the national and cultural identity of the India; Buddhism is the national and cultural identity of Thailand, Myanmar and Sri Lanka; and Islam is the national and cultural identity of Pakistan, Indonesia, and many Arab nations. Thus the situation in Asia was and is totally different from the West. Reinsie Perera states:
It is true that in Europe, Christianity played the role of the dominant religion, and one might even say, the only religion for centuries. It is that influence that created the concept of Christendom. But this was and is not the case in Asia... In Asia many religions are competing with each other and the religious ethos has shaped the language, culture, and the psyche of the people. The religious impact on the life and destiny of people is so immense that one finds it difficult to make a clear separation between the sacred and the secular.
Christianization in Asia has always been a difficult task for the missionaries because conversion to other religions, for the Asian people, is a betrayal of their nations and their cultural identity. Loyalty to their nations, for them, is loyalty to the national religion of their countries. The missions in Asia have won converts most from the ethnic minority groups and the outcasts who have never attached to the religions of the majority in their countries. However, the number of converts from the major religions always be small. Therefore, Christians are only the minority Asia.

After having discovered that evangelism in India was difficult Robert di Nobili, a Jesuit missionary in India in the fifteenth century, tried to use the strategy of "contextualization." He dressed like a guru, studied Hindu Sanskrit and Brahmin Philosophy in order to indigenize the gospel. It is said that he won some convert among the Brahmans. Another early missionary who used this strategy was Matteo Ricci, a Jesuit missionary in China. He studied Confucian philosophy and tried to accommodate Christianity in the cultural context of China. It is stated: "Ricci accommodated Christianity to Chinese life by allowing for the customary veneration of Confucius and of the ancestors among Chinese.

The Protestant missionaries who became active in Asia in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries also came to learn that evangelism in Asia was not as easy as they expected. They also came to realize "the need to live on someone else's terms. The first missionary conference held in Edinburgh in 1910 dealt with the issues which the missionaries faced in the non-western world, especially in Asia. The cultural, ethnic and religious pluralism in Asia enlightened the mission groups to work together and consider their mission techniques that met the need of the non-Western people. For these reasons, mission schools and medical mission came to the fore as the channels for evangelism. In addition, the mission strategies such as indigenization, contextualization, and inculturation became popular both in academic discussion and practical fields. Despite the use of these methods conversion to Christianity in Asia was and is very limited. No matter whatever strategy is used it is not successful because its objective is to conquer and to win. Christian mission was regarded as a threat to national unity and identity. Thus, Christianity has faced with the accusation, critique and hostility of the non-Christians. Christianity was perceived as a heretical religion in Asia.

Hostel ministry


Our church started a primary school for migrants. The age of the students range from 3 to 12. Most of these students come from resettlement area from Myanmar where access to school is non-existent. Some of the students live in the town. But we never imagined that the place provided to them by the church could not really accommodate so many children. The church had accepted more children than we expected. The pastor does not have the heart to turn them down.

So, with the help of some friends. We thought that it would be sensible to start a hostel ministry specifically for the students of the primary school. We believe that the Lord give us the provision that we need to care for the children and to minister to them in godly way. We want to minister to them and give them a house conducive for learning and to provide them a proper environment for children who are growing up. We pray to the Lord that through this ministry we could make concrete to them the love of God so that they would grow up believing that Jesus Christ love them so much that he gave his own life so that they may enjoy theirs.

We looked at the house today. It needs a lot of cleaning and some repairs. We hope that the house will be ready for the children within a week.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

I love rain!

My children biking in the rain! They love it.

Rainy days are here. I love rain and enjoy the smell and the cleanness and freshness it brings. I love it in spite of the inconveniences it causes. I have a feeling that the rain will be less this year here in Mae Sai. Whatever! I love the rain!

The joy of publishing the church bulletin


At the moment our feet touched the soil of the mission field we are assigned, we immediately look for a local church. We found one right away, rather the church warmly welcome us. We fell in love with the church, it is love at first sight, so to speak. We didn't know then that Mae Sai is a multi-ethnic town. We thought that every church must be a Thai church. God brought us to a church whose membership composed of people from different ethnic groups mostly from Myanmar. We are enjoying it so far.

The local Pastor gave us the privilege to be part of the church leadership and welcome our advise. My wife teaches Sunday School and trains the teachers. She also becomes the acting Principal when the church started its Primary School three months ago. I became the Pastor's helper as we organized the international community. The international community is holding its worship every morning. I preached regularly every Sunday, until we asked some workers to help us in proclaiming the Word of God and three missionaries responded positively. I end up preaching once a month.

The international community then started the mission training school last month. We take turn in teaching in the training school and American fellow workers helped us in building the training hall which is now almost finish.

One of the tasks I'm enjoying right now is publishing the church bulletin. No other church here has been able to publish a church bulletin like ours. Of course, there are few of them here.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Apologetic Mission in Asian Context (4)

The Collapse of the Christendom

The church was the center of the community as long as it was supportive to the moral integrity, social security, and spiritual welfare in the Christendom. Once the church ailed to support these factors, it lost its position as the center of the community. The decline of the Papacy and the emergence of nationalism in the late Medieval period was the result of the failure of the church to maintain its responsibility as the protector of its subjects. As the church became the tool of exploitation under the rule of the immoral priest, many seek to break from Rome. Reformation brought these sentiments to action which finally gave rise to the collapse of the Latin Christendom.

Though the church became the imperial tool in a different form in Western countries, individualism and personal perception of religion became widespread. Industrial revolution and urbanization heightened individualism and diversity became common in Christianity. The attempt to reunite the Christians under the Christendom or the imperial church caused a great conflict and fighting between the Roman Catholics, the Lutherans and the Reformed churches. The separatists also suffered a severe persecution under the imperial church. The apologetic mission during the patristic period was to express Christianity as a universal faith. The main task of the Church Fathers was to condemn diversity a'id universalize the church. However, such a model of Apologetic mission was no longer relevant to the European context after the Reformation because any effort to universalize the faith ended with quarrel and division.

The Reformation and post-Reformation world convinced the church to defend its unity in a different way. In such a world it was no longer possible to condemn diversity and demand for uniformity. The religious division in Europe, at that time, could not be settled by forcing the churches to unite undr: a single hierarchy with a single confession. The only way to heal the division was to practice toleration, accept diversity, and co-operate for a common mission. The ecumenical movement that came into being in the early twentieth century can be considered as another guise of apologetic mission. It objective was to defend the unity of the church. However, its concern was unity in service rather than unity in belief.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

What! This blog is rated R

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I was hoping to get a G but I got R instead and this is because it found the word "missionary" 13x and "hurt" once. If somebody knows the reason behind this, please let me know. :-)

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Apologetic Mission in Asian Context (3)

This is a continuation of a paper written bay Augurlion taken from Missio Dei, a journal of missions and evangelism of Myanmar Institute of Theology (MIT).

Effect of the Apologetic Mission

The defense of the church against the internal threats such as Gnosticism,Docetism, Marcionism, Montanism and other heretical teachings resulted in the formulation of Creed, the canonization of the Bible, and the emergence of the church's hierarchical order. These things were the causes for Christian unity that surpassed the pagan religions and sects in the Roman Empire. Through the works of the apologists the church became a hierarchical system that ruled with the Creed as its faith and the Scripture as the source for morality, and so it became the imperial tool for unity under the rule of Constantine. For some reasons, the adoption of the Church as the imperial religion cannot be regarded as the gain of Christianity. As the church became the political tool, there came corruption and worldliness in the church. However, the approval of the Emperor and the growing number of converts certified that the Church became influential and beneficial for the well being of the society both institutionally and theologically.

Through out the Medieval ages Christianity, though filled with corruption and worldliness, was central both in the West and in the East for the wellbeing of the society. The church was the saving factor among the destruction and casualty during the barbarian invasion in the West. Even after the collapse of the central power Latin Church became the leading figure in the governance of the society in the West. The monasteries played an important role in education and spiritual training. Priests and bishops were important leaders along with the kings. Evangelical preaching was a major cause of individual conversion into Christianity. However, some conversions were communal and it took place not by personal experience of Christ but by the following after the regional rulers who accepted Christianity as a useful teaching and ruling system. Such a communal conversion took place both in the Western and Eastern Mission fields. The conversion of Clovis (Prankish king) and his subjects, and the conversion of Russians are the examples of the communal conversions.

The use of the church for the political ploy was ridiculous or unpleasant to many (Donatists, non-Chalcedonian churches, Spiritual groups), but from a different perspective it is the success
of the church because through it Christianity became influential and beneficial for the society. In other words, the success of the church was not because it became the imperial church but because its teaching and hierarchical system became beneficial for the society and the social order of that time. All these successes owe to the apologists who, through their defense of Christianity, worked for the development of the Creed, the Bible, and the hierarchical order that built up Christianity as a significant religion or institution for the society.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Apologetic Mission in Asian Context (2)

Apologetic Mission in the Patristic Period

In order to understand the Apologetic mission one must turn to the works of the apologists in the early centuries. The apologists had played a great role for the expansion of Christianity. To defend Christianity from the various attacks they developed the Christian thoughts and arguments that became influential and informative to the non-Christians. The apologetic mission can be understood as the defense of the Christian faith both from the internal and external threats. The internal threats had to do with ideological attacks and the external threats have to do mostly with persecution and moral accusation against Christianity. The most prominent of the apologists were Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Irenaeus of Lyons Clement of Alexandria and Origen.2 Their defense of the church convinced the pagans and the emperors that Christianity was not a threat to the empire, but a catalyst for the wellbeing of the empire because Christians were not like others but had virtuous lives. Some of them, like Origen, tried to express Christianity in pagan philosophical terms, making Christian thoughts comprehensible to the pagans, and leaving it open for the later theological
development. It is said:
Many of the later debates continued to follow lines of reasoning first articulated by Irenaeus, Justin, Clement, Origen and others. If Origen was correct, that the apostles did not say all that was to be said regarding Christian truth" in order to leave room for later generations to bring their own resources to the task, then the apologists were as much engaged in a missionary task as the original apostles.
The works of the apologists may be exclusive or inclusive, but they were contributing to the growth of the church. By the end of the apostolic age Christians were still the minority who were the objects of persecution. The rapid growth of the Christianity from an unrecognized stage to the stage of imperial religion, however, took place during the patristic period. The work of the apologists, therefore, was an effective mission model for the spread of Christianity.