Conversion and Apostasy
Having ministered in Turkey for over twenty years and planted a Muslim Background Believer (MBB) church, I read Ziya Meral’s article, “Conversion and Apostasy” (October 2006), with great interest.
Conversion and Apostasy
Having ministered in Turkey for over twenty years and planted a Muslim Background Believer (MBB) church, I read Ziya Meral’s article, “Conversion and Apostasy” (October 2006), with great interest. On the whole, Meral gets the picture of Turkish culture correct; however, he omits several very important factors and wrongly emphasizes other factors.
First, Meral seriously downplays the terrible suffering of Christians of all ethnic backgrounds in Turkey. Several Turkish believers have been killed for their faith. Turkish pastors routinely have their homes and church buildings attacked. Believers have been imprisoned for weeks or months for no reason. Pastors have been shot at and mugged. Many pastors and believers have had to be hospitalized and some have suffered comas. These things are not unique to Turkey. The numbers of killings and attacks in Turkey may also be less than in some other Muslim countries; however, the number of Christians in Turkey is still less one percent of the total population. At the end of the day, the Turkish believers should be applauded and encouraged for their faith and perseverance. Second, Meral also wrongly emphasizes a need for “a relevant theology.” Here is where his sociology takes over. In a previous issue of EMQ (April 2005) Meral wrote about developing a “Relevant Theology for the Middle East.” This article was also written from a sociological rather than a biblical perspective, the latter of which is needed. Some applications may be different in Turkey than in Uganda or Brazil, but if the Bible is the same and God is the same, the theology (check the definition of the word) is the same.
This kind of sociological thinking that calls for a “theology for every people” is what has taken many missions and denominations down the road to liberalism. The Christians and churches in Turkey that have persevered the longest are those that have had a solid, biblical foundation, emphasized the teaching of scripture instead of culture and have had a strong evangelistic spirit. I praise God for my Turkish brothers and sisters, many of whom have shed their blood for their faith and my life many times.
—A field worker in Turkey
Preparing for the Realities of Missions in a Changing World
How could EMQ even think about publishing the patently false statement: “Unlike in the past, today’s international worker will often move into risky situations and will likely experience personal trauma during his or her time in a foreign land” (Ron Brown, “Preparing for the Realities of Missions in a Changing World,” October 2006)? What about the missionaries who lived in the Genocide in Rwanda in the 1990s? Or the missionaries expelled at gunpoint from Uganda under Idi Amin in the 1970s? What about in the Congo in the 1960s when the “lucky” ones fled with just their lives while others were paraded naked through the streets, others were raped and over one hundred were killed? Or those in China who fled or died enroute when the communists took over? Or the missionaries who reportedly went to Africa in the 1800s with their belongings packed in coffins? Many died within their first two years. Ron lived in West Africa. But has he ever visited the cemetery outside Accra where all the missionaries were buried in the 1800s? It is an injustice to history and a dishonor to previous generations to perpetuate the myth that missions has only become difficult recently. Today’s “easy places” in missions were once threatening and fraught with danger, trauma and problems. Most have become “safe” only because of the sacrifices of previous generations and the impact of the gospel.
—Glenn Kendall, Africa director, WorldVenture
Response to Glenn Kendell
Yes, the troubled and difficult history of missions is to be remembered and respected as Glenn so clearly reminds us. I experienced this personally in the early 1960s as a teenager in the Congo. My friend’s father was beaten to death, my own father was briefly imprisoned and our family doctor Helen Roseveare was horribly mistreated. Since those early experiences I, like Glenn, have seen numerous missionary graveyards across Africa and I am humbled by these living sacrifices. Yet as I compare the missionary career of my father’s generation in the Belgian Congo with my generation in post-colonial Africa, it seems to me that authors such as Daniel Moynihan (Pandaemonium 1993), Bernard Lewis (Cultures in Conflict 1995), Samuel Huntington (The Clash of Civilizations 1996), Robert Kaplan (The Coming Anarchy 2000) and Philip Jenkins (The Next Christendom 2002) have compellingly described today’s growing tensions which make kingdom work today a riskier business than yesterday.
Combining these arguments with the eschatological element (regardless of where one lands on the doctrine of the tribulation) leaves us with the fact that scripture indicates that human history WILL get darker as we move toward the return of Christ. This surely does not minimize the sufferings of our mission forefathers, but neither does it contradict my thesis, namely that both the literature and mission experience demonstrate a drastic shift into a post-independence mission context of volatility and unpredictable governments. Hopefully, the articles can bring both mission leaders and candidates further along into an improved preparedness as they live in today’s changing world.
Grab Some Leaders and Take Them Along
Jay Childs’ article, “Grab Some Leaders and Take Them Along” (October 2006), was great. I really appreciated his desire to get leaders to refocus on the Great Commission. I am based in China and for the past ten years we have had more than two hundred overseas visitors each year. Many spend a good deal of their tithes on the trip; however, the long-term impact is very limited. Instead, they should send the tithes and buy their airplane tickets from their own money. Many of these “spiritual tourist trips” are a waste of time and even a burden for those on the field.
I always wonder how much follow-up these visitors do after they return home. Do they pray for us? Do they donate to missions? Although they praise us for the work we are doing, we do not get many donations from the people who visit.
Churches and church-goers planning their next “mission trip” need to consider Child’s article. We are wasting our resources and God’s resources if we allow “mission groups” to continue in a pattern not beneficial to those on the field and their home churches. I wish I had two hundred visitors a year prepared by Childs’ church. I would be more than ready to give them my best!
—Marc de Ruiter, China
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