Are Long Term Missionaries Obsolete?

I was recently talking with a pastor whose church does not send any long-term missionaries.It is a vibrant church with many members and a vision for missions, and they could probably send and support their own long-term missionaries if they wanted to.But it seems that they don’t want to.Why not?This pastor told me about what he believes to be more strategic, more effective, and most cost-efficient way to do missions outreach than sending long-term missionaries.

This pastor and his church conduct many short-term training events and seminars throughout the world, gathering together a large group of local leaders and teaching them in an intensive course.When the course is done, the pastor and his team go back to the USA and the local leaders go back to their homes and churches, presumably to put into practice what they have learned.Besides live teaching from short-term missionaries, this pastor is also committed to getting a video training course called ISOM into the hands of groups of leaders in various countries, to be used in place of live teachers but administered by a local coordinator/facilitator who leads discussions about the video course material.It is his belief that Western churches can have a much bigger global impact for the Gospel by doing missions through this type of short-term leadership training rather than paying for long-term foreign missionaries (I am defining “missionary” as one who intentionally crosses barriers of language and culture to share the Gospel with those who would normally not have the opportunity to hear the Gospel within their cultural and/or linguistic context).

The Challenge of Being There for Family

On of the most difficult aspects of being on the mission field is that we are half a world away (literally) from family. If you fly from Thailand to New Hampshire, USA you can't get any further apart without starting to go back around the globe again.

When our family made the choice to go half way across the world to make known the truth and grace of Christ, we knew that separation from family was one of the costs. It is a cost we are willing to live with because the proclamation of Christ to those who do not know him is extremely important. We want other families in spiritually dark parts of the world to have the same hope and comfort of Christ that we do. However, despite the importance of the task and our commitment to it, it doesn't make the distance and separation any easier. We praise God for technologies like Skype and blogs that make staying in touch somewhat easier but it is never the same as being there.

It has been particularly difficult for my Mom to be separated from her only grandchild, Joshua, whom she knows almost exclusively through the pictures that we post on the Joshua blog and the stories that we tell her in phone calls and emails. When she was rediagnosed with cancer a few months ago, she really wanted us to come home. We weren't due for home assignment until the end of 2010 but as it became obvious that Mom's condition was much more tenuous than

Christmas in Thailand

Even with three to four years cumulative time living in Thailand, I am still not used to how different Christmas is here when compared to the U.S. It is different not only in terms of how the culture in general "celebrates" the holiday, but also how Christmas is celebrated at church and in the family.

Christmas in Thai Culture

Thai Santa Claus

Thailand is over 90% Buddhist so December 25th is just a normal working day like any other day. Buddhists don't celebrate Christmas - that is unless you own a department store or mall and want to get on the Christmas consumerism bandwagon. Because Christmas in the West is barely a religious holiday anymore, all that most Thai people know about Christmas is Santa Claus, gifts, Christmas tree, reindeer, and snow. And, of course, that Christmas is a foreign holiday, and therefore not for Thai people. But because of all the superficial hoopla in the West, many Thai people see Christmas as a fascinating curiosity. The big malls (which there aren't many of outside of Bangkok) put up some tinsel, sell Santa hats and fake Xmas trees, and have special sales, advertised, not as a Christmas sale, but something like "Amazing Gift Festival". And, like in the West, some Thai people find it fun to get on the superficial commercialized Christmas bandwagon. However, there is little to no knowledge about the true meaning of Christmas in this nation of Buddhists that has less than one percent Christians.

A Great Cloud of Witnesses (on CD)

Since Sun hasn't been feeling well because of the pregnancy, I've been taking care of Joshua more than usual so that she can rest but I run out of things to do with him and get completely exhausted. On the days that he decides to wake up at 5 am, it doesn't help matters. And, frankly, I can only build towers with blocks or watch him drag pillows around the house so much. Keeping him from getting permanent head damage from his climbing (and falling) expeditions also gets old after a while. I love the kid, but often times I would rather be doing some language study or sermon prep instead of watching him for hours on end. But, in any case, I decided to try to make the best use of time, so while I lie on the floor and try to prevent Joshua from hitting me with wooden blocks or plastic tubs, I also listen to sermon CDs. I don't always get through a whole CD before he needs a snack from the kitchen, or a piggyback ride, or the something else happens to take us out of his room, but I have been incredibly blessed by some of the good preaching I've been listening to while watching Joshua at home, and while driving around town with him doing errands.

I was given a set of CDs from the Shepherd's Conference (MacArthur's pastor conference) and it is just excellent to hear some good solid Biblical expositional preaching and teaching. I've heard quite a bit of preaching here in Thailand and frankly, a lot of it is not that impressive. The church here seems to suffer from the same ailment as Western churches - sermons that don't really teach the Word of God but rather merely use a verse or short bible passage as

Enter the Dog

This past Wednesday I went out to Chaat & Mui's home in Nong Doan to teach Ephesians to them as I do every week. Pastor Jarun and I are hoping that this Christian family will be the core of a new church in Nong Doan. This particular week we were studying Ephesians 2:11-22. Usually it is just Chaat, Mui, and myself (and sometimes Sun & Joshua) but this week Chaat decided to bring along Yong, another guy who lives in Nong Doan. Yong is not yet a believer, has shown some interest in the Gospel, but is still not yet decided whether he wants to become a Christian or not. Since Yong doesn't know much of Scripture (at all), I needed to make sure I gave enough background info as we got into our study. Eph. 2:11 starts off, "Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called 'the uncircumcision' by what is called the circumcision..." and Paul goes on to describe the enmity between Jews and Gentiles that was destroyed by the reconciliation brought about by Christ's work on the cross. I made sure that I went through thoroughly who the Jews are, and who the Gentiles are and why circumcision was such a big deal.

On the whole, my Thai language ability is not stupendous and needs work but I can manage my way through teaching a Bible study or preaching a sermon well enough to be understood and a blessing to others. I mention that because after I had been explaining about circumcision, Jews, and Gentiles for a few minutes, Mui quietly says across the table

Life Is Like A Boat

Thai evangelistic tractA couple months ago I was chatting with our neighbor across the street and I decided to get out the poster preaching book that I had bought for personal and open air evangelism and tell one of the stories in it, about some people riding in a boat. This neighbor had previously told me, from his Buddhist perspective, about how life is like a boat and we are all riders in the boat. So, I had another boat story for him.

If you've read some of the previous posts in this blog, this is the same guy who thinks that God helped him get a winning lottery ticket after we prayed for him (we didn't pray for a winning lottery ticket, by the way).

The story is told using a series of poster size pictures, the first of which is also the cover of a tract which tells the same story (see picture above). In brief, the story goes like this: A bunch of people go out for a pleasure trip in a boat and while they are having a good ol' time, the boat flips over. None of them can swim so they are frantically thrashing around for dear life when another boat approaches. They think they are saved, but NO! The man rowing the boat in their direction stays a little distance away and takes out a swimming manual and begins to read it to them, instructing them in the proper swimming method that they need to use in order to save themselves. So some of them drown, but then, while the first guy is still reading the "how to swim" book, another boat approaches and the man in that boat comes right up to the people and starts lifting them out of the water and into the boat. The point of the story is that in order to be saved from sin and hell, we don't need someone to teach us how to save ourselves, but rather we need a Savior who will save us. Thai Buddhists usually think about religion as

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