In the early 1990’s my wife and I (along with our infant daughter) were young missionaries with a large world-wide organization living in Budapest, Hungary.
While there we saw the effects of what I call “missionary supremacy” first hand. We first noticed it when some of our local Hungarian friends asked us why we lived in Pest (the flat, blue collar, industrial side of Budapest) because “All the other missionaries lived in Buda” (the affluent side of Budapest in the hills and amongst the greenery).
It was a true statement at that time but thankfully much has changed in Hungary over the past 20 years… Budapest is now a world-class city and both sides of the Danube are magnificent! But the idea of “missionary supremacy” still lives on in the least developed nations on earth.
Not too sure about that? Read on…
Emerito P. Nacpil, a missionary in the Philippines, has seen the following among young Filipinos:
”When they see a missionary, they see green—the colour of the mighty dollars. They see white, the colour of western imperialism and racism. They see an expert, the symbol of western technology and gadgetry. They see the face of a master, the mirror of their own servitude. They do not see the face of a suffering Christ but a benevolent monster.”
I know that many of you reading this article feel that I am stating my position too negatively and that I should concentrate on the positive examples. Of course there are many encouraging stories taking place right now all over the planet…
But my optimism is tempered by 25 years – on and off – of living overseas in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
What’s My Best Advice?
Three Words: “Follow Paul’s Example”
We must return to the apostolic model/method of church planting as seen in the New Testament, both power and practice!
Many overlook the Pauline pattern and suggest that they follow Jesus! Well, when it comes to following the Biblical record of starting house churches that multiply like rabbits throughout the Roman Empire of the 1st Century, the apostle Paul is our God-inspired example.
”When the Lord Jesus was personally on earth, the Church was not yet ordered, according to the form which He intended it to assume among men. He was engaged in collecting, rather than in arranging, the materials for His spiritual house; in preparing the living stones, not in building them together. (B.W. Newton 1843)
But if you think I am too pessimistic, hold onto your hat, because there is so much good news to report in this area:
> The huge (early) success of church planting movements (CPMs) by the Southern Baptists.
> The overwhelming support and embrace of missionaries across all denominational lines of the house church/simple church movement.
> Of late I am very impressed with Avant Ministries, a mission agency that is promoting “short cycle church planting teams”. The teams they send out to the far corners of the globe must complete their task within five years!! (Sounds like Paul to me! Jesus too!!)
With such a short cycle paradigm “missionary supremacy” (dependency and paternalism) hardly becomes an issue as from the VERY beginning they are planning their exit strategy!! I cannot tell you about their doctrine or beliefs but I love their emphasis of “get in and out” AS SOON AS POSSIBLE — something all missionaries give lip service to but most are woeful in terms of practice!
I close with one last quote from a missionary in Africa, Robert Reese, who also calls for a return to a New Testament pattern for fulfilling the Great Commission:
”It is necessary in the postcolonial period to return to basic New Testament patterns of missions. It is time to uncouple political power and military might from the spread of the gospel, as it was in the early church. There we find that missionaries did not create dependency except the importance of depending totally on God to supply needs. They regarded all wings of the body of Christ as equal despite long histories of racial discrimination among both Jews and Gentiles. They understood the primary task of missions as being to plant dynamic churches of the Saviour.”
Yours for the least in the Kingdom,
Jeff and Maria Gilbertson
One of the most beautiful portions in all of Scripture is the scene in heaven of God on His throne surrounded by the worshipful four living creatures and the 24 elders from Revelation 4 – 5. In the midst of the creatures and the elders we see the Lion of the tribe of Judah, Who is also seen as the slain Lamb!
Songwriters for centuries have powerfully portrayed this scene with songs such as: “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty; The Lamb Who is Worthy; Worthy, O Worthy are You Lord, Revelation Song, etc”
Here is one such example:
”Worthy is the Lamb, Seated on the throne,
Crown You now with many crowns You reign victorious,
High and lifted up, Jesus Son of God
The Darling of heaven crucified,
Worthy is the Lamb, Worthy is the Lamb”
Most often the Lamb is seen as above: “slain for the sins of the world” and therefore most worthy. However, in Rev. 5 (which is the source of all these songs) the Lamb, because He was slain, is found worthy to open the scroll and break open its seals!
The focus is on the sealed-up scroll in the Father’s right hand and Who is worthy to break its seven seals!!
Right here is where, I believe, God is sovereignly shifting the focus of the church from looking backward to the cross to looking forward to the scroll.
His First Coming was about mercy, His Second Coming is about judgment.
I say “Halleluiah” to that!
You see, the scroll is the “title deed of earth” and as Jesus takes it from His Father’s right hand the creatures and the elders fall down in worship! All of heaven (and earth for that matter) recognize what is taking place: Jesus will break the 7 seals and open the scroll, the title deed of earth, and bring to an end “this present age” and usher in Eternity – “the age to come”.
Prior to this point, no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was found worthy to open the scroll. This fact sent John weeping greatly… Finally one of the elders told him to stop weeping for there is One who is worthy to open the scroll and break open it seals.
“Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.” (Rev 5: 5)
Sadly, one of the most beautiful (and real) scenes in the Bible lies buried under clouds of confusion and uncertainty. And this all because the devil has misled the church over the past centuries into quarreling over the timing of the rapture!!
God forgive us and have mercy!
Can I say it again:
There is no portion of Scripture more disputed and dissected than the last book! There is no other book in the Bible that we allow ourselves the “freedom” to say that “We don’t get it…” or that you can interpret it as you want to! We even teach classes on the four “accepted” different interpretations of the book of Revelation!
Dear Saints, Don’t we understand what we are saying?
> Can there really be four different interpretations of the book of Revelation? Why don’t you use that same symbolism and approach with the cross? That’s what the Muslims and Hindus do…
> Can you really live at peace with your Creator and say to Him: “That stuff at the end of the ages– I just don’t get it!“
Might I suggest the unthinkable: Just read the book!
Read with me Revelation 5
Then I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?”
But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”
Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He came and took the scroll from the right hand of Him who sat on the throne. And when He had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song:
“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.”
And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.”
And the four living creatures kept saying, “Amen ” And the elders fell down and worshiped.
Now go to the Lord in prayer and in humility and ask Him for insight and understanding. Read it again and again… Read more and more. You will be stunned when you see that by breaking open the seven seals, Jesus releases judgments on the earth in real time and space like Moses released God’s judgments upon the Pharaoh and the people of Egypt.
Maybe you want to fast. That’s what Daniel did!
“So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes…. Now while I was speaking and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the LORD my God in behalf of the holy mountain of my God, while I was still speaking in prayer, then the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision previously, came to me in my extreme weariness about the time of the evening offering. He gave me instruction and talked with me and said, “O Daniel, I have now come forth to give you insight with understanding.” (Daniel 9:3, 20-22)
Actually, I am pointing to Daniel here very purposefully as Daniel unlocks our understanding of the book of Revelation. The two books must be treated as companion volumes.(i.e. Apocalyptic I, Apocalyptic II)
Much of the poor exegesis currently in vogue comes from not reading Revelation in context with Daniel and the other 100 plus End Time Scriptures scattered throughout the Bible. For a case in point, try reading Zechariah 14, Psalm 48, Isaiah 63 and Joel 2-3 and see if you can make any sense out of them!!
You might find out that you have a huge gap in your belief system…
Yours Until He Comes Again,