In response to the title question of this article, I imagine that many people would give one of two basic answers. The first is, “Absolutely! Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!” The second is, “Never! What does the house of the Lord have to do with the house of idols?!” There are certainly other possible answers along the spectrum between those two extremes, but if you resonate strongly with either of those two answers, you may not like this article.
If we look at the Bible, we discover that neither unqualified patriotism nor denunciation of devotion to one’s homeland fit within the will of God.
Does Pentecostalism promote secularization? As crazy as it sounds, that is the thesis of Stefan Paas's article "Notoriously Religious' or Secularising? Revival and Secularisation in Sub-Saharan Africa"...and I think author could be on to something. At first glance, it would seem that Pentecostalism should be a major force against secularization of societies, given its strong emphasis on the supernatural and the miraculous. And at one level, it that is certainly true.
But we need to remember that large sections of the Pentecostal world also promote the so-called ‘prosperity gospel’, the mistaken belief that God’s will is that all believers be financially prosperous and have good health… if they have enough faith to receive those blessings. This instrumental view of religion, namely a this-worldly focus on using religion as a tool to achieve physical and material success, is nothing new, nor is it necessarily unique to Pentecostalism. However, as Paas has pointed out, when believers with this view of religion obtain the material success that they desire, their need for religious means of obtaining those goals decreases. An increase in an ability to provide for your own needs often follows on from the achievement of material security. If the primary attraction of the Christian faith was the possibility of worldly success, and if ‘conversion’ resulted in new habits and lifestyle habits that led to hard work and business success, then the very thing that led a person to the church has become the very thing that leads them away from the church. God has served his transitionary purpose in achieving success. If you can achieve success on your own now, who needs God?
You may be familiar with the old paternalism. A white European or American missionary evangelizing and church planting in a “heathen” nation, with the help of “native assistants.” These native Christians, who often go unnamed in missionary reports, will someday lead the churches in their homelands but somehow they are never quite ready to do so… according to their missionary patrons. The missionaries hang on to leadership and control of local ministries for longer than they should, either in an official capacity or unofficially as their foreign money continues to hold veto power over local initiatives even after the reins of leadership have been formally turned over. The missionaries may give lip service to putting local Christians in charge, but in reality they doubt whether the locals will really get it right. So they hang on to control just a bit longer. In Western missionary circles today, that kind of overt paternalism is frowned upon, even if it continues to exist in various, more subtle ways, than it did the 19th and 20th centuries.
But as the world has moved on from the era of European colonialism and the “white man’s burden,” new forms of paternalism are emerging. Issues of trust, power, and control are as relevant as ever in a globalized church where denominations and networks stretch across international boundaries and missionaries travel from everywhere to everyone, not just from the West to the rest.Paternalism, in all its forms, hurts relationships, hinders healthy church growth, and dishonors God. Here are a few examples of the new paternalism in world Christianity.
It seems that every time you look at the news these days, there is another story of a fallen Christian leader. Leaders suffer moral failure for different reasons, and sometimes there are specific cultural dimensions that have contributed to that failure. In a number of cultures around the world, false beliefs about gaining and retaining honor compromise Christian leaders. Those leaders may or may not ever experience a crisis-level failure of personal leadership in the way we see in the media, but the influence of worldly models of leadership is serious all the same, and requires biblical correction.
In a previous era of Protestant missions, it was very common for evangelistic missionaries to be ordained (or married to an ordained man). There were exceptions, of course, if you were a school teacher or doctor (or a woman). But for men who went to the mission field to do evangelism and church planting as their primary task, ordination was often expected. That has gradually changed over the years, beginning in the 19th century with some interdenominational faith missions, and in the present day, it is very common for evangelistic missionaries to not be ordained. A minority might be, but it is not necessarily expected in many missions circles, be it denominational missions or interdenominational groups.
Does ordination matter? Theologically, I think there is meaning and significance to ordination. In practical terms, it depends on the context. In some cultural contexts, it is very important. In other cultural contexts, it isn't. In some creative access contexts, there would be great danger in being known as an ordained minister. But even in open access contexts in a given culture or country, some churches value it highly and others don’t.
The question I want to answer in this brief post is whether missionaries should seek formal ordination by their home church (or church denomination). There is no one-size-fits-all answer, but I want to suggest some personal and practical benefits of ordination that a missionary (or potential missionary) would do well to consider in deciding whether seeking ordination is best in their given situation. Providing a full theology of ordination, however, is beyond the scope of this post.
Do you have a bucket list? I first heard of this term in connection with the movie, “The Bucket List”, a story of two terminally-ill men who try to do a bunch of things they’ve always wanted to do before they die, or “kick the bucket.” On the one hand this sounds like a great idea if you’re going to die soon. But on the other hand, it displays a very limited perspective. It indicates a short-sighted, scarcity mentality that the only time we have to enjoy is the here and now. But that simply isn’t true for Christians.