by Keith and Linnet Hinton
The church has been growing in Singapore at an astounding rate over the last two decades. But many of these new Christians show symptoms of serious and often crippling birth defects.
The church has been growing in Singapore at an astounding rate over the last two decades. But many of these new Christians show symptoms of serious and often crippling birth defects. For example:
K.T. at her baptism spoke of her faith in Christ, but her testimony was joyless. We found out that she was still wearing charms for protection.
Y.W., a Bible college student, for six years had nightmares, severe depression, and worried about her lack of spiritual desires. She was wearing two spiritistic necklaces that she had bought for fun.
S.Y., out of love and respect, participated in certain spiritistic rites at her grandmother’s funeral, although she didn’t believe in them. Subsequently, she suffered frightening visitations from evil spirits.
W.S. and S.K., Christian workers, were childless for many years. No physical causes were found. The possibility of a spiritual factor was discounted, yet the mother-in-law had put a curse on the young bride. After the curse was broken, S.K. had a healthy baby.
C.Y. became a Christian 10 years ago. Since then she has been troubled by fears and compulsions. As a child, she was offered for "adoption" to the goddess of mercy and took part in ancestor worship. At her conversion this idolatry was not renounced, nor its hold broken.
Christians with such spiritual bondages are dry, defeated, and filled with fear. The difficulties cited above could have been avoided, but these young believers were never told how.
By and large, missionaries have adopted their evangelistic and nurture methods and manuals from the West, such as "The Four Spiritual Laws" and "Steps to Peace With God." These excellent booklets have liberated thousands of Christians for witness, but in the worlds of Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, animism, and spiritism they are woefully inadequate.
WEAKNESSES IN CONTEMPORARY EVANGELISM
Sin inadequately defined. In Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism moral codes are peripheral and defined differently than in Christianity. "Wrong" is a breach of social duty, such as marrying outside one’s caste (Hindu), or marrying someone with the same family name (Chinese). "Sin" therefore has little meaning, or carries a very different connotation from that in the Bible.
John Sung, the great Chinese evangelist of the 1930s, understood the need to define sin. He carried a black coffin into his meetings, the symbol of spiritual death. Out of it he drew, one by one, strips of red cloth on which were inscribed various sins: concubines, opium smoking, cheating, idolatry, astrology. He told his hearers to raise their hand every time a sin they had committed was read out.
One old pastor told us, "After I had raised my hand 10 times, I was in tears before God. I knew I was a sinner."
If we want our converts to remain, as John Sung’s have, we must be no less specific about sin than the Bible is. (Cf. Deut. 18:9-16; Gal. 5:19-21; Rev. 22:15; Eph. 5:3-5.)
Superficial repentance. A vague concept of sin inevitably leads to superficial repentance, which in turn results in a shallow experience of forgiveness and deliverance. Repentance cannot be assumed or hurried through. A generalized confession is insufficient.
In Asian society, repentance is probably best explained in terms of allegiance, as Jesus did with the rich young ruler. To repent is to repudiate every other dependency: gods, spirit mediums, charms, astrology, fortune-telling, horoscopes, palm-reading, lucky dates, and numbers.
A young Hindu, seriously troubled by evil spirits, called us frantically for help. "Can your God deliver me?" he pleaded. He then asked, "If he does, may I still worship my old gods?"
At conversion, forbidden practices and allegiances must be repented of thoroughly and completely, one by one. They must be (1) identified (a checklist is useful) and acknowledged; (2) confessed and renounced and all pagan objects destroyed; (3) their power broken. Then (4) the penitent receives forgiveness and cleansing.
We recognize, of course, that repentance is an ongoing process, and the Holy Spirit probably will not deal with everything at once. Nevertheless, we are proving that converts are healthier and stronger when there is a much more comprehensive clean-up at conversion than is generally provided for in Western evangelistic patterns.
The gospel as information. "The truth" tends to be reduced to a series of doctrinal propositions, and "becoming a Christian" to believing the right things, according to imported evangelism. This approach produces converts who confuse knowing about God with knowing God.
While Christians are certainly expected to believe and to exercise faith, Christianity is, essentially, not so much a matter of conviction as of relationship. It is allegiance to Christ, not endorsement of a set of doctrines. Usually, therefore, the most effective way to present the gospel is through personal testimonies.
Further, evangelism is spiritual warfare. More and more we see that it is the confrontation of the kingdom of light with the kingdom of darkness. Much contemporary evangelism is too humanistic.
We are fighting not just for the minds of men, but for their souls. People are spiritually blind until the scales are removed from their eyes. Our first battle is not to correct misconceptions about the truth, but to work for the release of those whom Satan holds captive.
When counseling inquirers, we find the absolute and exclusive language of the kingdom theology in Colossians more appropriate than Revelation 3:20, which can be so easily misunderstood by naturally syncretistic people to mean that Jesus, by simply being received, may be added to already existing allegiances.
Some local Tamil workers have developed a very fruitful strategy among a notoriously resistant people-very spiritistic, generally illiterate, Hindu laborers. Evangelists visit homes, preaching the gospel and praying for the sick. When they receive any positive response, they get down to specific private prayer:
(1) They bind all deities, spirits, powers of charms, and witchcraft in the homes of inquirers. (2) They pray that the scales will fall from their hearers’ eyes. (3) They pray against any hostile relatives or neighbors who might try to hinder conversion.
At the same time, they encourage inquirers to bring sick relatives and friends into the home for prayer, that the people may see God’s power demonstrated. This, along with the spiritual binding that has been accomplished in the name of the Lord Jesus, prepares people’s hearts and enables them to respond to Christ.
We are discovering that this approach is just as effective with highly sophisticated, professional Singaporeans, who, while not perhaps as overtly spiritistic, are equally bound spiritually.
The Holy Spirit ignored. Evangelistic booklets often give scant place to the Holy Spirit and his empowering for victorious living. Such teaching usually is put off until a later date, by which time many new believers, after struggling to live the Christian life in their own strength, have become discouraged and defeated.
At conversion, we usually teach that assurance of salvation is not based on one’s feelings but on God’s word. But when, at the same time, we give little instruction about the revitalizing energy of the Holy Spirit, we produce a negative effect, because people think there probably will not be any feelings. Inadvertently, we lower their expectations and quench the Holy Spirit.
We have found that converts go on much better and have fewer doubts when, at the time of conversion, we pray with them for the filling of the Holy Spirit and confidently assure them that from now on their lives will be transformed. It takes faith to pronounce these things, but it also builds faith and expectancy in the converts, which, in turn, releases Holy Spirit power. Their assurance is based on both personal experience and God’s promises.
ANOTHER ALTERNATIVE: FELT NEEDS EVANGELISM
When Jesus sent out his disciples, he repeatedly commissioned and empowered them for casting out demons, healing diseases, and preaching the kingdom. Generally, evangelicals put preaching before healing and deliverance, but Jesus did not invariably teach or practice this order himself. Nevertheless, we used to find ourselves manipulating people to make room for our gospel presentation. We forced our agenda on them.
For most Asians, the validity of religion is seen in its power rather than in its doctrine. They call on the gods and the spirits in times of need. Therefore, our best starting point for evangelism is their felt needs.
If we minister to them through the power of Christ at the point of their need (e.g., illness, spirit oppression, financial collapse, failing marriage, despair, etc.), we find their ears are more open to our message. In other words, we start with their agenda. Having encountered the Lord in their crises and experienced his love and power, they have a deep gratitude and devotion to Jesus Christ and a hunger to know him more.
Cheng, a cowering fugitive, pursued by his enemies and the police, was miraculously helped by God. The Holy Spirit has beautifully transformed him and he has become an avid reader of the Word, with a passion to reach other troubled people.
(A response to this article follows. – Eds.)
First, tools such as "The Four Spiritual Laws" have been extremely effective in helping people all over the world to communicate their faith and to bring others to a point of making a decision to receive or reject Christ. It does, however, take more than this tool to complete the nurturing process and a lot of different types of material are available.
Some people only go so far as introducing a person to Christ and have no further contact, or do not attempt to disciple them further. These people could easily have the problems the Hintons refer to, if not dealt with.
I am familiar, too, with the problem that many people make a decision for Christ as a young person and then when they graduate from the university they do not become active church members. It is possible that what the Hintons are referring to could be a reason for this. However, one must also consider the tremendous pressure and influence in Singapore to gain wealth, material goods, and position. Many college graduates fall into this category, putting their Christian priorities aside.
Second, the effectiveness of this tool, or any other tool used in evangelism, depends a lot on the person using it. Many people have no idea of the demonic activity and spiritual warfare that holds people in bondage. As a result, they do not deal in this area when introducing someone to Jesus Christ.
On the other hand, many do. I had a lot of experience in this area in Indonesia. Other Campus Crusade staff are encountering this in Thailand and in Africa. I would say that for most Crusade staff this is a new phenomenon and many feel uncomfortable in dealing with the occult or other areas of spiritual warfare. I have been one of the few with experience in these areas and have been teaching about it in my missions courses.
Third, the situation of the people being witnessed to is important. Most people in Asia and Africa have some relation to, or knowledge of, ancestral worship, the use of amulets, witchcraft, and so on. Many of them are under demonic influence without being aware of it.
Yet there are a lot of people, especially young people, who do not hold to any such belief or practice at all. These people will often respond to the gospel as the answer to what they lave been looking for.
When it comes to Singapore, we often see it as such a Western city that we don’t suspect spiritual warfare to be a factor in evangelism. Yet, there is so much bondage in the background of many Chinese and Malay people that it is bound to be a significant factor in conversion patterns.
Fourth, in the past most missionaries have gone to the field believing that if a person receives Christ that is all there is to it, and any Satanic activity or influence in one’s life is automatically taken care of. Many Crusade staff fall in this category. This is a result of the teaching in some of our leading U.S. seminaries.
However, I see a change coming. In Thailand, where the "Jesus" film is used quite extensively, our staff go into villages and cast out demons, heal the sick, and see many people become Christians. This is making an impact on our U.S. staff, to the point where they are asking questions about spiritual warfare that they never considered before.
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