Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Leading Toward a Biblical Culture - A & J

J and A lead an AIA STINT Team in East Asia at a Sports University. J is down front. A is man on the right and his wife S is in the red cap. K is their other teammate on top of the rock.

In the fall J met a girl and nicknamed her, “Stalker,” because she called so much. J says, "In our earlier conversations it seemed that Stalker wanted to be my friend for the wrong reasons, (to just learn English) and I really did not like her. After a conversation with her last semester, I had to confess to God my attitude toward Stalker, ask Him to help me see her like He does. I lost contact with her when I changed my phone number and then I left the country for a month. I thought I was free of Stalker. One day I was walking to the cafeteria a different way than normal and ran into her, she asked for my phone number, which I really did not want to give her, but my phone was in my hand at the time. So I thought, 'I will give her one more chance', even though I had brought up spiritual things a few times before and she seemed uninterested. When we met, I was able to share the gospel, and she prayed to receive Christ! I was surprised and wondered if it was a real decision. Time will tell if her decision is genuine, but after meeting with her again, it seems like it is. I asked her to buy a Bible, and the next day she attempted to do so. However, when I looked at what she bought, it was a book of stories about the Bible."

Earlier J and K led another friend to Christ. Over lunch J initiated spiritual conversation and asked this friend, "What do you believe in?" She answered, "I believe what my mom believes". "What does your mom believe?" J asked. She answered, "I do not know." J writes, "This example gives a taste of the culture in which I live." Since this girl received Christ made her mom will and they will in fact believe int he same thing.

I don't know if this is a smooth transition but since J mentions culture I will share with you part of an email I got last week. I asked some of our international partners to send prayer requests and I got one from an ICS whose team is handing the ministry over to students.

"For the ministry finances, that the students will be able to raise and sustain local funding for the weekly meetings (they have to rent a room and pay for the snacks)"


Is this what we have succumb to that when we hand off ministry that our biggest prayer is that they have money for a meeting space and snacks? Not that they preserve and follow Jesus?

[A good friend pointed out that a very practical person wrote that prayer request and that there are people there who are concerned for the movement being like Jesus. This friend, who I totally respect, suggested I add more grace here and believe the best. I agree. The following is sarcasm which is not words that build up but its not meant so much to scoff the people serving in that location as much to point out we all in our best efforts may be building something that is too American in nature. I will keep it as is but note that I exaggerate the point to make a point. And I am just as guilty.]

I am sorry but I can't imagine Paul and Barnabas appointing elders in every town laying hands on them, encouraging them to remain true to the faith, and then saying: "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God... so don't forget to raise money for snacks." When Paul was in Athens and he sent Timothy back to Thessalonica was he really worried if they had enough Baklava? Surely when he was kicked out of Philippi, he didn't worry about them needing to rent a weekly meeting space because the believers met by a river, in Lydia's house and a jail.

Does it sound like I am being too harsh? My soapbox is that I am afraid we have created a monster (or are in process in creating ones all over the world). We launch movements to leave them. Our whole diabolical plan is to turn them over to Nationals... whether staff, volunteers or students. It's a not a death when we finally leave, it's a celebration. It's what we long for.

But if we are launching something that is American in nature - a weekly meeting where you need to rent a room and buy snacks or anything of the sort - are we not setting them up to fail? Like where is it written we have to have a meeting every week? Are we thinking through what we leave behind?

I confess I did the same thing when I was on STINT. I remember we rented an apartment and in our first gathering of believers we had Western snacks that none of our disciples could afford. Then I noticed that only thing the East Asians ate were sunflower seeds and drank the tea. Little did I know we would be kicked out of the country in 5 months and leave this ministry to these young believers. I wished we showed them that they could follow Christ and help build His kingdom with the critical mass of a bible in their hand and the Holy Spirit in their hearts.

Learning a New World is a drive to a biblical culture. It might behoove us to think of anything and everything we are doing and ask, "If we left next week, could the national believers carry this on?" And not just in what we do but even in our discipleship. Are we really looking to entrust the movement to them? Are we thinking now of handing it off not just so far away time? Are we teaching them to be dependant on Jesus or us?

Okay I will get off my soapbox... have a good week.


Joe Cross said...

watch out! preach it bro. it's a good word...i won't even buy a much needed online database system due to incurring a cost that nationals would have to maintain in the coming years (we are creating our own using the latest freeware available on the web that is easily transferable). we must continually consider sustainability and transferability.

GPI Gravel Road said...

Do loaves and fish constitute snacks?

Andy McCullough said...

Bert.. that's why in Mark 8 when Jesus tells them watch out for yeast of pharisees that the disciples think its because they forgot to bring the soda crackers. Jesus had to remind them that if they let Him provide the snacks they would more left over.

Jessica Joy said...

nice post andy . . . i'm convicted!!

Matt said...

Andy, I agree with you. Last semester we decided to cancel our weekly meeting b/c it wasn't being evangelistic and was draining our team. We've had a lot of people ask us why we did that, but we saw our key students rise to the top and start to form the foundation of a true movement here in Kosice, Slovakia. I'm encouraged that you followed the Lord in laying down some severe truth for us all. Keep on doin' it!

Andy McCullough said...

Jess, Matt, Joe - thanks for the comments. Hmm maybe I should stir up hornet's nest more often because I rarely get comments. :)

One thign that may be overlooked is that COMMUNITY is still a huge value in launching mvts. And the early church met over meals. My pt was more in the line of what Joe mentioned that we 'need to remember sustainability and transferability'. Or in Matt's case sometimes we overdo it in trying 'run a program' that actually can stand in the way of evang & disc.

Sometimes its helpful to think, 'what do students in Japan/Slovakia/Mexico do when they gather for community?' Do they gather in homes and everyone just bring something? Then do that. The more of a productive we make, the more we model 'this is how it has to be' and we might be setting them up to fail. It's a hard balance because sometimes we only we can do (eng clubs for example) gather people. But I trust the Lord will all give you wisdom. That's why you make the big bucks!

Andy McCullough said...

Ignore my typos in comments above. SWEESH!

Should be 'they would have more left over'

'the more of a production we make...'

& 'sometimes what only we can do...'

Jeremy Haddock said...

Thanks Andy. That definitely gives me something to think about in terms of building and passing on the movement.