Friday, November 15, 2013

Isogete or Exegete

     When dealing with interpretation of scripture we must be careful how we arrive at what we believe and practice. "What saith the scriptures?" (Romans 4:3a) is the final authority. It is not, 'What saith the commentaries? (though often helpful), "What saith the college I graduated from? fellow alumni, a noted Pastor or Evangelist, a fundamental voice from yesterday, my Aunt, Uncle, Mother, Brother, Father, Hammond, Powell, Pensacola, Lancaster, Long View, or any other geographic reference point. Seems to me we have surrogate authorities out there that, at times, are competing with (against) the very words of God. Just saying.
    So how do teachings come about that have no home in scripture? It begins with an interpretation of 'isogesis' (eisegesis) instead of an interpretation of 'exegesis'. Just saying.
The word isogete simply means "to lead into" which means a person is reading something "into" a passage based on their personal preference, bias or predetermined conclusion. We could write it as "I"/"So"/"Getes" with an emphasis on 'I'. It is the proverbial pounding of a square block into a round hole. I know what I believe now let me find something to prove it. The word exegete means "to lead out of" which means someone is interpreting the words of scripture based on what they actually say in a literal grammatical historical setting...the Bible is telling "me" what it says, not the other way around.
     Dr. R. B. Ouellette wrote a book several years ago that was titled, "Things That Aren't So" in which he showed several commonly held beliefs in IFB circles that have no scriptural footing. I think the book needs a Volume II. There are still nice quiet doctrines of men that are embraced, shouted over, given Amens!, and held dear across a spectrum of men who hold the KJV dear. But they still have no weight in a careful exegetical approach to scripture. I'm afraid some of what we believe we believe only because some other man told it to us and not because we have studied the Bible ourself to see if it was so. This is such a widespread problem that we have even come up with cute little titles to describe those that isogete such as, "cafeteria Christians", "buffet Christians" (which indicates they eat only what they want), "cherry pickers," or "misquoters of scripture".
(More next week. I'm still learning to blog and my time is up.)

Friday, November 8, 2013

Cleanliness is next to Godliness...Sometimes.

     The adage "Cleanliness is next to Godliness" is not in the Bible and unfortunately sometimes it is not in the church house either. We've been to a number of churches where the neglect of basic care of the property was quite evident and reflected a poor testimony to any who may attend.
     The prime motivating factor for us to purchase a travel trailer to do our deputation work was the "living" conditions we as missionaries were asked to bear with for sleeping arrangements. One church's prophet chamber took me hours to clean before I'd allow my family to unpack for the night. I found out the next day that the church auditorium and facility was no better. I spent my days there cleaning and scrubbing before showering and heading to other meetings in the area to present our ministry.
     We are not "neat freeks" but I do put a premium on clean and private. I like 'doors' on the bedroom I may be asked to sleep in not a curtain and  my daughter is going to sleep in proximity to my wife and I not in a communal type entertainment room as suggested in one place. I like pillow cases and sheets that are not stained to the point that you can't tell if they are clean or not. I am a guest doing the King's work! Motel 6 with its soiled carpets, thin walls, broken tiles, attendant who does not speak intelligible English and leaking faucets may be okay for the trucker looking for a cheap $39.95 stay but I am a fellow minister with a family to care for. It is a challenge to keep everyone's spirits up as you wonder where the money is going to come from to buy groceries or gas or pay the bills back home only to see the expression on your wife and daughter's face as they 'see' where they'll be sleeping!
     One other side note here. If the guest speaker is staying in a nice motel..."everyone" ought to stay in a nice motel.  There is a forecasted hierarchy communicated to the missionary and to the church in this which reads, some are worthy of greater accommodations than others.., and "Oh, by the way, this is a Mission Conference and we want you to give to support these dear brothers." Maybe if we gave those missionaries the same royal treatment as the special speaker the church would 'get' the message that missions is important!
     The missionaries I have met have all held a four year college degree, have answered a call of God on their life, have personally sacrificed earthly comforts and possessions and are living a life of faith often with small children in tow traveling from place to place. They deserve the best in my book. Few if any would comment about any short-comings of the church because they are trying to be a blessing and saying one thing cross-wise might loose them all hope of support. I don't offer advice but if asked about meals or arrangements that seem sub-par for one of God's churches I will tactfully explain how things may be improved upon in the future. The pastors I have spoken with seem to appreciate the honest suggestions. Maybe I can do this because of 23 years of pastoral experience.
     Now we have met some wonderful pastors and members who have really gone out of their way in accommodations and being a blessing. Their buildings are clean and well kept. They are expecting us and are prepared. They are not treating having a missionary in as something they 'have
 to do' because they are a church. There is an air of expectation. They are a true joy! Here's hopeing their numbers increase. Just saying.


Friday, November 1, 2013

Acts 1:8 Missions Giving

     But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. Acts 1:8

     I heard it again recently and every time I have heard it the geographical locales of "Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost part of the earth" is paralleled the same. "Jerusalem" is our home town or city, "Judea" is our county or perhaps State, "Samaria" is our country, and "the uttermost" is the foreign fields of the world. I don't see anything wrong with this. What I have begun to wonder about is the majority of mission monies spent overseas when Acts 1:8 may show a principle of 75% of mission support ought to be here at home.
     Now, I am for foreign missions. I have to put that in because there are those who are quicker to judge what is being written then to think about what is being written. Acts 1:8 shows the great commission as three-fourths domestic without argument. So, what if we translated that into the way we spend our mission monies? What kind of a nation might we have today if 75% of all mission giving had been directed into areas of church planting, discipleship, evangelism and helps here in the United States the last fifty years? What kind of a more robust spiritual nation might we be? How many more churches would there be to support those called individuals seeking to go to a distant country?  Would we be on the precipice of ruin if we had been taking care of America with our "Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria" monies (75%) instead of taking care of the "uttermost part" with our 75%, or more, level of giving?
     One of the first things I do when visiting a church is see the fields that are being reached by that particular church's mission program. A few things stand out. First, the majority of missionaries are foreign. Second, three fields are usually always represented - the Philippines, Mexico and Papua New Guinea. These are certainly needful areas no doubt but I mentioned to my family that its almost like you cannot be an IFB church without a representative to these three nations (there are 196 countries in the world). Third, there are few individuals being supported who are working here at home in the areas of evangelism or church planting.
     America is in need of being reached with the gospel. If America goes down as a nation the gospel will continue on without her but how much more could be done if America should regain her spiritual strength once again? With all the monies proportionately spent in foreign lands why is the world 'further' away from being reached than ever before? Maybe the answer, in part, lies in how we spend missionary dollars. Just saying.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Sucessful Missions

     I have been in approximately 70 churches in the past months while on deputation and I try to be observant as to how a church is doing especially as it related to being able to support new missionaries. I want to pass along a few positive actions that have translated into greater involvement in giving and greater growth numerically I've garnered by watching and by taking time to talk personally with pastors.
     The first key is prayer. This may sound almost trite considering we 'are' talking about churches and missions but I'm talking about prayer exercised in a real way. I have seen the altar flooded with men in Lima, OH and again in Paw Paw, MI which I believe God blessed in seeing these churches grow under their present leaders. I know prayer can be done anywhere but it just seems heaven may get a little closer when men humble themselves collectively at the front of the church. 
     Another act I liked was the month of prayer about Faith Promise Giving under Pastor Bickelhaupt in Oak Harbor, OH. He did not limit praying about what God would have you do in giving to just a week, but he passed out a 'prayer commitment' card in advance of his annual Missions Conference. Members were asked to pray about missions and, in particular, what God would have them do for a month before indicating on a given Sunday what the Lord had impressed upon their heart. Again, this was a growing church and a church that was able to add new missionaries on an annual basis.
     One more church I learned from was Grace Baptist Church under Dennis White in North Ridgeville, OH. Along with prayer ahead of time he also planned a 2.5k day on the Saturday of the Mission Conference. The goal was to distribute gospel literature to 2500 homes. The end result was 2800 homes were given tracts with a church invitation and 5 first time visitors were recorded the next day (Sunday). Again, prayer was integral but "shoe leather" was added to push for a big day as part of reaching their Jerusalem with those reaching around the globe.
     There are churches growing. There are churches adding missionaries to those they already support. Each has an emphasis on prayer, corporately and individually. All of these churches are doing so under the present economic conditions too. Just saying.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

     I'm of the opinion that Missionaries ought to be seen as real Christian human beings. By this, I am referring to how we as Pastors may respond to those whom we may disagree with on the foreign field once we take a new Pastorate. I recently heard from a veteran missionary brother serving in a difficult field that if a pastor resigns and moves on that 30% of the new pastors taking over his existing work will either drop or diminish this missionary's personal support, "While still on the field"! This is just not Christian!
      I was a Pastor of a church for twenty years and during that time we had a couple of missionaries we supported go awry. One man we supported monthly failed to say he had been divorced (early in ministry I just assumed every man from Hyles-Anderson had been vetted before being ordained, my bad) and according to the church's position we would not support a divorced man as a church planter. Once I found out I called this missionary and he confirmed that what I heard was correct. I explained that we would continue to support him for a year to allow him time to adjust his budget or raise the loss of funding. The point being we wanted to do what I believe was the "Christian" thing to do. {This man served here in the States}
     Another missionary had to come home from overseas for moral failure. We were sent a letter from his mission board saying he had returned and that support should be stopped. I continued sending a support check with a letter stating the monies should go to his wife for her and the family's needs during this transition in life.  He may have made a wrong decision but the wife and kids did not, so why should they suffer unduly. Again, we as a church sent a monthly support check for a year because we believed it to be the "Christian" thing to do.
     Somewhere along the line I think we have missed the human connection when dealing with missionaries, perhaps they seem less real to us because we see them for such a brief period of time during their deputation scheduling. Whatever the reason may be I think we ought to be very careful about "dropping" some one's support while they are on the field. If at all possible we should wait until they are back on American soil before financial changes are made. Just saying.