Proselytism and Western missionaries

Discussion in 'General Baptist Discussions' started by Crabtownboy, Aug 11, 2008.

  1. Crabtownboy

    Crabtownboy
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    I read the following quotes in the January 2008 edition of the Journal of European Baptist Studies, page 27. I am curious on your take on the following.

    Metroplitan Kirill of the External Relations Department of the Moscow Patriarchate defined proselytism as:

    Metropolitan Aleksii said:

    A non-Orthodox writers are amongst those who are critical of the insensitive and aggressive efforts of some western missionaries.

    Such criticisms may be readily elicited from Baptists and other evangelical Christians in many parts of the former Soviet Union. Such judgements are reflected in the more sober response of senior theological educators in Russia, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Georgia who, reporting on the current challenges to theological education in their regions, point to the need to move away from the 'off-the-shelf' theological programmes they were offered in the early 1990's and to adopt more contextually appropriate curricula.
    p. 27
     
  2. Marcia

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    I am very wary of these kind of criticisms. They are coming from 2 quarters, as you point out:

    1) The Orthodox churches, which see evangelical Christianity as competition and are usually very much against missionaries coming to give the gospel.

    2) The postmodern movement within the church (Emerging and Emergent) which attempts to frame giving the gospel itself as "aggressive." They are the ones talking about being "contextual" and "missional." This is ironic considering that some of their leaders say we don't know what the gospel is or that we need to reconsider it.

    While missionaries should be sensitive to other cultures, I think that most of them have been doing this for years. Missionaries who are overseas whom I know are not aggressive in an offensive, insensitive way. In fact, they study the culture ahead of time and do everything they can to be sensitive to it. If God has called them to that field, they are burdened for those people and have a love for them.

    The 2 groups above have their own agenda and are attempting to portray evangelical missionaries in a bad light. I think most of this is a straw man issue.
     
  3. Brandon C. Jones

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    Good evening Crabtownboy,

    It's hard for me to address your specific post because the snippets are hard to contextualize. However, I think that American evangelicals are only starting to recognize how often their missionaries are perceived as Americans first and Christians second in other cultures despite their best efforts at being sensitive to other cultures and not being aggressive. Slowly, there are changes taking place in seminaries to take note of not taking their own brand of Christianity overseas, and finally there is some exposure to some great resources in theology from the global church. It will take time to rethink things and adjust accordingly, but recognizing the problem is surely a step in the right direction.

    I must disagree with Marcia that this has to do with postmoderns wanting to paint missionaries in a bad light. Few people stateside are questioning the call and desires of American evangelical missionaries, but they are analyzing the results and constantly looking for better methods (I can't speak for the motives of Orthodox detractors).

    There's some great resources already out there for missionaries in training. I recommend works by Andrew Walls, Philip Jenkins, Lammin Saneh, and Kwame Bediako (the last two are quite helpful for African theology) just for starters.

    I also recommend visiting John Stott Ministries website and see what they're doing. I think it's an exciting and fruitul method of evangelical missions that is aware of the problem brought up by the OP.

    BJ
     
    #3 Brandon C. Jones, Aug 11, 2008
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 11, 2008
  4. Crabtownboy

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    Three of my own experience. Two while at the International Baptist Theological Seminary in Prague, and one when I was at the Moscow Baptist Seminary.

    One of the Ph.D. students at IBTS, from Lebanon, told me that a SBC missionary told him he was not a Baptist and implied not a Christian because he did not agree with everything that he, the missionary, believed.

    This winter there was a conference at IBTS and one of the attendees was a young man from Sri Lanka. At breakfast one morning we ate together and he talk about his being a Christian. A very conservative Baptist missionary and several others from his church spent several days at IBTS. One of them hounded this young man every time he saw him. Why? Again, because he did not agree with everything the American said. I was very embarrassed that a fellow American and Christian would be so aggressive. The young man, to his credit, remained very calm and polite.

    In Moscow a Russian pastor said to me during a conversation, "Well, my church has just about recovered from the last mission group who came from America."

    "What was the problem?" I asked.

    "They kept insisting on addressing problems that we do not have and insisting that we just did not understand. They could not believe we have problems that are different from theirs."

    Just three little examples that I have witnessed.

    Historically the Russian Orthodox Church has taken a very dim view of non-Orthodox missionaries. This is understandable. How welcome would Russian Orthodox priests be in the deep South if they began taking Baptists away from Baptist churches?
     
  5. 4His_glory

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    As a missionary myself, I would like to add a few things.

    1. I am an independent fundamentalist Baptist, while there are some missionaries that have identified themselves as IFB missionaries that did not understand the culture and tried to conform it to "americanism", this has not been my experience. The majority of churches down hear in the circles I traditionally run in are for the most part Argentine and the missionaries deal with Argentine issues- some of which one does not face in the US. In other words don´t paint with such a broad brush because their is a significant number of missionaries who abandoned the "conversion to westernism" mentality long ago.

    2. I do agree with Marcia in regards to the post-moderns. They will paint conservative evangelicals or fundamentalist Christians in a negative light with out reserve.

    3. Contextualization is a good thing if it is done the right way. Sadly what happens in many cases is either one of two extremes. There is either no contextualization and an expectancy for the nationals to conform themselves to what the missionary sees as biblical Christianity. Or, one may see where contextualization is to the point of altering the Gospel of Christ in an effort to "reach more people". As is often said: God´s work must be done God´s way." The Holy, Sovereign, Creator of all has ordained to save men by the proclamation of the Gospel- the pure Gospel of faith and repentance in Christ.

    Some times the methods of this proclamation may need to change (so long as to not violate the clear boundaries of Scripture) , but the message absolutely never changes or else it ceases to be the gospel that saves and becomes "another gospel" as Paul put it.

    I am not Southern Baptist, so I do not know nor can answer accurately in regards to how missions is done in there "camp". But I do know that there is much good down being done for the cause of Christ to the glory of God by many unknown and unsung people who´s only desire is not to change a culture but to see God change people through His Word. From my perspective: God is raising up a people for His- the called from every tribe, tongue and nation; and He is doing doing it through His dedicated servants committed to the declaration of the Greatness News that meets the world´s greatest need.
     
  6. Brandon C. Jones

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    4his...

    That's great to hear. Your comment about the broad brush is noted, and perhaps you should not wield yours against "the post-moderns."
     
  7. 4His_glory

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    Could you direct me to a postmodern theologian that praises the efforts of evangelicals let alone the more conservative evangelicals or better yet those who identify themselves as fundamentalist Christians? I have yet to read anything of this nature. By nature postmodern theology is contrary to that which is historically orthodox and biblical. Most postmodernists have made that very clear by my estimation. So I fail to see how am painting with a broad brush.
     
  8. Brandon C. Jones

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    What I can't figure out is how post-modernism has anything to do with this thread. The OP doesn't mention it as far as I can tell and somehow it was just assumed that criticism of evangelical missionaries came from post-moderns. Hence, my questioning of the broad brush.

    As for your last post, I can think of John Franke who is proud to be called an American evangelical. I'm sure there are others if I took the time to research and think of them. As for the rest of your post, well it's quite a hasty generalization to say that by nature postmodern theology is contrary to that which is historically orthodox and biblical. That's just rhetoric from you and the very same could be said of fundamentalists in this country depending on what counts as historically orthodox and biblical. Besides, this thread is about missions not postmodern theology and what people think of it.
     
  9. Crabtownboy

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  10. Revmitchell

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    You asked for personal "takes" on the snippets. Marcia gave hers and gave clear reasoning for it to include why she included the subject of Post Modernism. It is rather disengenuous to question it. And if you really are having that hard a time understanding it reread ehr post. It is quite clear.
     
  11. sag38

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    I didn't see the word used either but it certainly reeked of it.

    Yes, there are some dud missionaries. There are some insensitive ones. And, both can give missions a bad name. But, let's not be guilty of association. Most missionaries, short-term or long term, are very aware of the culture. Lottie Moon learned that lesson the hard way over one hundred years ago and it hasn't been forgotten.
     
  12. Crabtownboy

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    How did it "reek"of it. I find it interesting how quickly a lable is found to smear a person or quote that someone does not agree with. I admit I know nothing about post-modernism as a theological topic ... so educate me. Simply to report how many missionaries are viewed by other cultures does not seem a reason to accuse anyone of post-modernism, fundamentalism, or liberalism. Americans, missionary or not, are often views as arrogant and disrespectful. Is that post-modernism?
     
  13. Revmitchell

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    Don't take the bait. :rolleyes:
     
  14. Crabtownboy

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    Why don't you add something useful to the thread. I am really interested in knowing the answer to my question. I am not arguing, I am seeking information. Why don't you try that sometime instead of attempting to muddy the waters or throw a thread off topic?
     
  15. Revmitchell

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    You have derailed your own thread.
     
  16. Marcia

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    This is all anecdotal, and one is apparently a short-term mission group, so I am not convinced all missionaries are like this.

    Undoubtedly some missionaries behave poorly; this is hard to prevent. Some Christians behave poorly. But I do not buy into a total change in how missions are done. You can get so contextual that the gospel is blurred or is subsumed or syncretized into other beliefs. This happened with the Roman Catholics.
     
  17. Marcia

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    Is this the same John Stott who denies hell and advocates annihilationism?
     
  18. Marcia

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    I think you were addresssing someone else, but I've been following the postmodern/Emerging Church movement for some time now. Recently, Brian McLaren spoke at Princeton and said that Christians "on the right" are "growing mentally ill and violently so" (I listened to this speech twice and to some parts of it 3 or 4 times). McLaren has been a leading spokesperson, and while not all Emerging people agree with him, he has gone from the fringe into more mainstream arenas and influenced many.

    Just read the essays in An Emergent Manifesto (eds. Pagitt and Jones) sometime -- the digs at evangelicals and even at the Bible are there. (I realize there are some churches who came from the Emerging movement who are doctrinal and sound but the Emerging writers and spokespeople are more radical).

    I am not trying to paint them with a broad brush, but many of them are undermining doctrine (doctrine is a dirty word to many of them), the Bible, and the gospel. I brought them up because they have talked a lot about contextualization and being "missional" by which they do not always mean giving the gospel.
     
  19. Brandon C. Jones

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    Hello Marcia,

    Thanks for explaining why you think postmoderns fit into this. You're correct about some emerging writers like McLaren being quite radical. However, from what I can tell the types of things pointed out by the OP do not really relate to emergent writers. I have read the Emergment Manifesto and have enjoyed much of it. Yet, I don't really fit into their camp. I think one book you may like is Why We're Not Emergent. I also enjoyed it.
     
  20. Marcia

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    Thanks for your comments. I have to say I did not enjoy Emergent Manifesto - I grew very angry reading it (there are some essays in it I did not read yet)! You should see my notes in the margins on the straw men, false dichotomies, loaded language, and New Ageisms that I found!!

    I have read a review of Why We're Not Emergent and would like to read it -- some day! I have so many books I'm reading now and more I need to read!

    Could you answer my question re John Stott? Thanks. :wavey:
     

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