Posted by: whereintheworldismike | August 25, 2015

Evangelical, Pentecostal, Charismatic Unity for Synergistic World Mission

Evangelical, Pentecostal, and Charismatic Missions—Why the Division?

The founder of Every Home for Christ once said, “The task of fulfilling the Lord’s Great Commission: the first third was easy, the second third is difficult, the final third will be bloody.” This statement has been increasingly fulfilled in our time as any cursory look at the news headlines that barrage us every day will tell us. The conflict between God’s Light and the darkness is intensifying and calls for a united front to extend the reign of Christ worldwide amidst unprecedented opposition.

This is the age Jesus spoke of when he said, “Many who were first shall be last and many who were last shall be first” (Mt. 19:30). While the great missionary sending Church in North America consists of 80% churches that are declining or plateaued1 and many are forced to cut missions budgets as well as staff, African church planters are working in Europe and pastor some of the largest churches there.2

Millions are trusting Christ at the threat of their lives in the Middle East as a result of gracious signs and wonders, dreams and visions from Almighty God.3 Many more—and in some cases the perpetrators—are believing Christ as they receive desperately-needed relief goods and witness supernatural love from those they previously hated in the name of their god.

1 Eymann,’Dan.’“Turnaround’Church’Ministry:’Causes’of’Decline’and’Changes’Needed’for’Turnaround”’in’Great&Commission& 2’Jenkins,’Phillip.&The&Next&Christendom:&the&coming&of&global&Christianity.'(2011)&
3 Rosenberg,’Joel’C.’Inside&the&Revolution.'(2009)’

Finally, a Sri Lankan church multiplication movement leader in his own land travels to Japan to teach some of the leading pastors of the established traditional church in Japan which often resembles the American Church of the early twentieth century. The average stay in the Japanese Church for new believers is only 2.8 years and then they often “disappear.”4

Discipleship that results in greater sanctification is included in the Lord’s Great Commission (Mt. 28:18-20), but has been sorely neglected in most churches in developed countries reflected in a correlating declining “spiritual birthrate.” Effective discipleship must affect the heart and hands as well as the head of Christ followers. This will take more than lectures. So many jokes have been made about pastors’ lectures putting listeners to sleep it is not necessary here to repeat them to make the point. Relational networks must be developed organically to supplement doctrinal teaching that most often approaches the cognition of learners exclusively. Holistically developing obedient disciples calls for combined incorporation of practices commonly associated with Evangelical, Pentecostal, and Charismatic faith traditions.

The interesting thing is that strictly intellectual teaching of the Word of God results in increasing biblical illiteracy. A related paradox is that helping believers experience God results in a greater hunger for the written Word of God.

4 Kikuo’Matsunaga.”Theological’Education’in’Japan”‘in’Preparing&for&Witness&in&Context,’ed.’by’Jean’Stoner.’P.299.'(1991)

A prominent American pastor travels to Japan and other lands to present “Strange Fire” seminars castigating Christians who experience God and, therefore, expect signs and wonders in their ministries. Meanwhile, Presbyterians in Tohoku, Japan pray for local residents who have seen what they think are haunting deceased loved ones from the triple disaster of March 11, 2011. As a result, several are set free of the disturbing visions and start attending the church being started by the missionaries who prayed for them. A growing number of missionaries—from a number of faith traditions—are fighting the darkness with both hands.

Donald E. Miller and Tetsunao Yamamori assert that “global progressive Pentecostalism is the new face of Christianity’s social engagement.”5 The authors report on Pentecostal missional works that have attacked problems such as AIDS, and safety and education for “at risk” children. Pentecostals and Charismatic Christians have long been known for such a holistic ministry approach while Evangelicals generally have not in the world of missions.

The increasing frequency and intensity of disasters worldwide is changing this as Evangelicals who previously focused nearly exclusively on a simplistic proclamation of the gospel have come to the realization in the face of new realities that destitute people are uninterested in listening to a presentation of the gospel when their family members may have recently perished before their eyes, and they may have been cold, hungry and

5 Miller,’Donald’E.’and’Tetsunao’Yamamori.’Global&Pentecostalism.'(2007)

sleepless for days. The compassion of Christ has motivated many missionaries unaccustomed to holistic social engagement to pitch in and help in practical ways as they prayerfully wait on God’s timing to explain the source of the compassion behind their actions. Evangelicals have recently started micro businesses with bereaved housewives in Tohoku, Japan, and wheelchair repair and provision to Muslim, animist, and Christian children in Northern Nigeria amidst religious kidnappings and murders. Truly the evangelicals are shining brighter and brighter amidst the growing persecution in several locations. They are bravely flying straight ahead with two wings as they proclaim the gospel of Christ in deed and word.

On the main island of Japan, there are missionaries who preach in tongues when they preach in Japanese that is much better than they could naturally employ, and Japanese people who come to faith in part from hearing an audible voice from heaven6 or from hearing a word of knowledge from a missionary or Japanese Christian who was told what to say by the Lord’s Spirit. These are phenomena that Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians are more commonly associated with, but some of the missionaries in this discussion are from Evangelical traditions and serve Evangelical— non-Pentecostal churches.

Jesus prayed repeatedly for the unity of his believers in John 17 (cf. verses 11, 21, 22). Satan has successfully splintered Christ followers for centuries on relatively unimportant points of theology. In times of disaster

6 Wilson,’Michael’L.’Exponential&Culture:&Believer&Transformation,&Disciple&Multiplication.’P.’134.'(2014)’

our underlying unity often surfaces and the world marvels as the unity of believers brings synergistic spiritual power to bear in the fight against despair and other spiritual darkness.

In any communication theory book one might care to read, the reader is enjoined to think about the underlying assumptions, values, and knowledge base the hearers might have. The Apostle Paul did this when he wrote to his protegé Timothy: “Be diligent to present yourself to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15 NKJV). This verse is instruction in how to develop the comprehensive discernment necessary to determine what is the source of demonstrated spiritual power and how to deal with it/respond to it.

Timothy, a younger man who was half Jewish, had considerable exposure to the Hebrew scriptures from his mother and grandmother and was very familiar from a formative age with the Jewish worldview largely shaped by his forefathers’ time in the wilderness with God leading the way with a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire. Early in his life, Timothy also learned how the Israelites had crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land at flood stage on dry ground as God showed them his miraculous providence. Timothy could be exhorted to “fan into flame the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands” (2 Tim.1:6 NIV). He was familiar with spiritual power. What he most needed was safe boundaries for

that power. Hence, Paul’s exhortation to him to develop his ability in the comprehensive discernment of God’s written Word.7

As any missionary who has worked in an animistic culture can tell you, there are sources of spiritual power other than the Spirit of God. People in many cultures grow up expecting manifestations of spiritual power on a daily basis. Almighty God often seems to like to show up in such contexts, and show himself supreme. Timothy needed the knowledge of God to touch his head as well as his heart and hands—so that he might stand against the darkness and cooperate with the Light.

When Paul exhorted Timothy to “imitate me,” he included Timothy’s “hands” (actions) in the realm of areas needing attention in discipleship (1 Cor. 4:16). Paul’s rejoinders to diligent study of the Word, and life on life imitation are good words of reminder to some who might be so enamored with signs from God that they are tempted to neglect these important areas of discipleship.

In contrast when Luke wrote about Paul’s encounter at the Areopagus in Greece, he states, “All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas” (Acts 17:21 NIV). These discussions often centered on theology as the existence of an altar to an unknown god amidst the many worship articles attests. Today, there are many seminaries that devote themselves exclusively to the discussion of theological ideas. While this is important to refine future

7 Wilson,’Michael’L.”ibid.’P.’66.’

ministers’ theology, Paul’s admonishment to the believers in close proximity to the Greek theological debaters are important to note, and included these:

“And my speech and preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Cor. 2:4-5 NKJV), and

“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power” (1 Cor. 4:20 NIV).

North American Evangelicals, perhaps more than any other segment of Protestant Christianity have subscribed to Enlightenment thought in their understanding of faith and the Church. The result is a lot of talking about God, but increasing biblical illiteracy and a Church that has diminishing influence in an increasingly post-Christian culture. Charles Kraft notes that the signs of “Enlightenment Christianity” are:

  1. 1)  A pervasive rationalism that rules
  2. 2)  Doing things “decently and in order” (to an extreme)
  3. 3)  Centering our church meetings on a lecture that only informs
  4. 4)  Downplaying the value of experience
  5. 5)  A tendency to think of God’s Word only as something written
  6. 6)  The approach to evangelism and missions is primarily a matter

    of knowledge and technique

  7. 7)  A tendency to think of medicine and doctors before we think of

    God (as Healer)

  8. 8)  Secular social programs8 while believers only proclaim a mono-

    cultural gospel with no demonstrations of the Spirit’s power.

When we lean too heavily on the power of our intellects, believers often lose the faith to believe God for miraculous healing and other signs of his

8 Kraft,’Charles’H.’Christianity&with&Power.’P.’41ff.'(1989) (adapted)’

awesome power and compassion. Many churches use a stopwatch to keep everything “on time” and “in order,” and in so doing leave very little opportunity for God’s Spirit to intervene and provide “demonstrations of the Spirit’s power” that strengthen the faith of believers.

Along with an overemphasis on cognitive disciple development, many churches exhibit a culture of distrust regarding spiritual experience. Henry Blackaby, a Southern Baptist minister, states that “when Christians begin to experience God and join him in his work, outside observers no longer see what a group of dedicated people can do but they see what only Almighty God can do.”9 As long as a servant of the Most High God has a solid base of scripture knowledge for a foundation, spiritual experience is nothing to fear, but rather to welcome and be alert to, when God graciously intervenes in a situation.

The Chairman of the Board of the Asian Access Japan pastoral training ministry is Rev. Paul Ariga, a well-known evangelist in Japan for over 60 years. He, as every Japanese believer, longed and prayed for the salvation of his family members once he believed Christ as a middle school student (Act 16:31). To develop the discussion of spiritual boundaries as they pertain to spiritual fruitfulness further, Rev. Ariga’s testimony recorded and translated from an interview in November 2000 about the salvation of his entire family is presented.

9 Blackaby,’Henry,’Richard’Blackaby,’and’Claude’King.’Experiencing&God:&Knowing&and&Doing&the&Will&of&God.’Pp.’163,’218.’ (2008)”

In regards to doing evangelism in Japan, ancestor worship is something to be handled cautiously while at the same time being bold. I was saved through the ministry of a missionary who had extreme fundamentalist views. Obviously, at the beginning, foreign missionaries come bringing their Christian culture with them. So they see anything having to do with Buddhism as very bad. For example, this missionary would say that if someone in a family becomes a Christian they could have absolutely nothing to do with Buddhism or anything associated with it. So if someone in the family dies, they would say the Christian could not attend any ceremonies for their non-Christian deceased relative. But the result of such an extreme view is not good at all. Actually, my initial approach was very similar to this. Since I was not the eldest son, it worked out well for me until my older brother went away to war. It was after I had become a Christian, and he told me to take over different responsibilities. I told him I couldn’t because that is idol worship and if I do that I will go to hell. For three years I continued saying this. I had become a Christian while in middle school and for three years I was adamant that I could not be involved or I would go to hell. So my Dad called me over one day and said to me, “Look, you’re the littlest one in this family, and you went out on your own and became a Christian. Then you have very negatively and destructively said to us that you can’t take on certain family responsibilities or you would go to hell and you have even said that I will go to hell as well.” So for the first time I realized, though it seemed too late, that though I was thinking about how my family could be saved, with this approach alone— taught to me by the missionary—they were all misunderstanding me. They were just thinking that if they go to hell or don’t go to hell it doesn’t matter. But that was totally different from my heart’s desire. So I decided to change my approach.

The way I did that was to stop opposing the Butsudan (family altar). Every morning I was the first one up. I would clean the house inside and outside, pump the water and help out. In addition, we had an Ariga Family gravesite. Now I made it a point not to go on days when Buddhist rituals typically went

on at the gravesite, such as Higan (equinox), Obon (annual reunion), or Meinichi (the anniversary of the death of a relative), but I would go there once a week or once a month, clean it carefully and place flowers. When a Meinichi came around (since I was the youngest of six children—two of my siblings, a brother and a sister had already passed away) on the anniversary of their death I would go to my father and ask him what kind of a person he or she was. My brother was seven when he died so my father had many good memories of what he was like. He said he was kind and enthusiastic and lived with all his heart. So I would tell him that I wanted to carry on these same traits and in the same way live life with all my heart. My sister died when she was three and when the anniversary of her death came around, I took what was good from her life and just as if my brother and sister were living in my heart in the same way I dedicated myself to my parents and my family. As I followed this approach, slowly their hearts were opened. I was no longer in opposition, but rather while believing in Christ I actually showed more than normal respect and honor for my deceased ancestors. Of course I did not worship them but I did show gratitude and respect. Slowly my family grew to understand my position and then on the anniversary of the day I was saved my mother became a Christian. I had prayed to God that my father would become a Christian first, but I believe God knew who in the family had the most power and influence, not my father but my mother. Seven years later my father, then my older brother, my sister-in-law, two sisters and my brothers-in-law, all became Christians. This all took a total of 14 years. Which I think was a little too long. However, after these 14 years my entire family had become saved. I spoke with my family and told them that according to Buddhist teaching what the deceased person was not able to do before their death the living relatives must do in their stead through memorial services and good works which allows them to live on. Now since we are all Christians and we know that through faith we will all go to heaven why don’t we have a Christian gravesite. So we talked with the Temple where our gravesite was kept and had it moved to a church’s Christian cemetery.

So you must consider the social and cultural conditions here. If you think about it, related to ancestor worship this is scripturally clear according to the fifth of the Ten Commandments which says to honor your father and mother. Also in the Bible God says He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. As we welcome God and His teaching into our homes perhaps this could be a new way of “ancestor veneration” something that we can create “in Christ.” It is a testimony of our faith to many that we show a heart of gratitude and honor toward our parents and ancestors.10

Reverend Ariga makes the point that any good communicator knows— one must communicate in a way that can be received and correctly perceived by the receiver for communication to truly take place. Ariga was initially seen as in opposition to his family when he was following the directions of the fundamentalist missionary who was seeking to “ground him in the Word”— apart from worldview concerns. But eventually, Ariga’s actions: to do a distinctly different but more diligent job of honoring his deceased family members won the respect of his living family members and some onlookers, and eventually opened many of their hearts to saving faith in Jesus. Effective functional substitutes—not compromise—are needed in Japanese and other animistic cultures to reach many caught in cultural prisons of disobedience.11 Similar but distinct forms which faithfully manifest the gospel of Christ can redeem many in the “Mt. Everest of Missions”12 and other cultures where the only alternative is to completely cut off new

10 Wilson,’Michael.’Japanese&Christian&Multiplication:&A&Phenomenological&Study.&(2009)’
11 Lingenfelter,’Sherwood.’Agents&of&Transformation:&A&Guide&for&Effective&CrossKCultural&Ministry.’Pp.’237X238.'(1996) 12 Wysocki,’Jr.,’Bernard.’“Japan:’Mt.’Everest’of’Christian’Missions”’in’Wall’Street’Journal.’Pp.’1,’16.'(July’9,’1986)’

believers from the ones they have most influence with and love most deeply. Undoubtedly both—functional substitutes and functional equivalents— resulting in syncretistic compromise—are occurring in Japanese and other animistic culture “Christianity.”13 The former (functional substitutes) are modified but similar actions with sanctified meanings. The latter (functional equivalents) are the result of the utilization of new ritualistic forms while maintaining old animistic meanings, concerns, hopes, and desires.

Alan Tippett, writing about the animistic Fijians prior to their conversion to Christianity, notes

The operation of religion had a place for sacred rites, for sacred assemblies, for sacred localities (like groves and temples), for sacred persons (priests), for sacred paraphernalia and for a variety of means of approach to deity. This was so in pre-Christian times. Provision was made for all kinds of sacrifices, propitiation, atonements (both individual and collective), making vows, presenting thank-offerings, first fruit, penitential oblations and covenants.”14

The many places, objects, and rituals of pre-Christian religion constitute a highly integrated complex. Tippett advocates that such a complex, comprehensive system of religion must be replaced with a holistic faith that meets most, if not all, of the felt needs satisfied by the pre-Christian faith. This includes the sometimes life-long dependence on an expectation of a “deity’s” intervention in daily life’s situations as necessary.

13 Mayers,’Marvin’K.’Christianity&Confronts&Culture:&A&Strategy&for&Crosscultural&Evangelism.’Pp.’372X373.'(1987)
14 Tippett,’Alan’Richard.’The&Growth&of&an&Indigenous&Church:&A&collection&of&essays&arranged&diachronically.’P.7.'(1967)

Many missionaries from the West are persistently enslaved to an individualistic life paradigm that neglects a holistic view of the world that has no place for a gospel that comprehensively addresses the needs and concerns of a traditional community. To neglect to present a “holistic gospel” is to invite syncretistic mingling of incompatible faith components when some traditional beliefs are retained to fill in perceived gaps in newly acquired Christian faith.15 Working in such a culture to propagate the gospel, will require at times “demonstrations of the Spirit’s power” so that the faith of the local people might rest on God’s power and not on man’s strategies or techniques. A missionary working in such a context should be well-practiced in being a channel of God’s amazing power to redeem in order to be most effective.

Tippett continues, “It may be said that despite their ceremonial inhumanity these people were ready for the gospel. This heritage of ways and means of reaching out to the gods they vainly served was taken over by the Church and sanctified.”16 The Fijians were ready for knowledge of the Living God in part through their earlier comprehensive dependence on animistic gods. They just needed to be shown that the Creator of All is superior in meeting their legitimate needs—felt and unfelt. A sensitive, compassionate, and Spirit-led approach by Christians working in Japan is needed if they are to utilize the predisposition to the supernatural of the Japanese who are

15 Tippett,’Alan’R.’Introduction&to&Missiology.'(1987)’
16 Tippett,’Alan’Richard.’The&Growth&of&an&Indigenous&Church:&A&collection&of&essays&arranged&diachronically.’P.8.'(1967)

entrenched in the comprehensive cultural prison of disobedience that is encapsulated in ancestor veneration.

Bronislaw Malinowski first introduced the concept functional substitute as follows: substitution of an institution “which fills a similar function” in place of a basic, integrated cultural institution, e.g., family, chieftainship, ancestor worship, or agriculture.17 This is an extremely complex substitution because these basic institutions are highly interconnected with multiple aspects of culture. Tippett cautions, “They (functional substitutes) would have to be substitutions which met the needs of the total group and gave group satisfactions.”18 In the case of Christian applications, such functional substitutes also need to fall within any and all scripturally mandated parameters. To accomplish this, a multinational discussion is needed on how scripture applies to the fulfillment of specific legitimate needs in any given culture.19 In Japan this includes prayer only in Jesus’ name, no concern of a need to appease spirits of the deceased, and no expectation of blessing from the spirits of the deceased.20

Many Japanese Christians, especially housewives and oldest sons, are often confronted with the decision whether to develop new forms of participation in family gatherings with new meanings (functional substitute), or cut off much contact—and accompanying relational witness—with loved

17 Malinowski,’Bronislaw.’The&Dynamics&of&Culture&Change.’P.’52′(1945)
18 Tippett”ibid.”(1987)’P.’183′
19 Steffen,’Tom’A.&Passing&the&Baton:&Church&Planting&that&Empowers.’Pp.’188X198.'(1997)’

20 Wilson,’Michael.’Evangelism&at&the&Family&Altar.’Great&Commission&Research&Journal.’Volume’3.’No.’2.’Pp.’110X112.’ (2009)

ones. Conversely, some groups have stumbled into functional equivalents in which they have changed the forms of ancestor veneration but continue with old meanings resulting in syncretistic faith.21 This is reflected in a retained concern for appeasement of deceased kin and expectation that such appeasement can result in peace and blessing.

Nida’s concerns regarding functional substitute based exclusively on expatriate misapplication of the concept in Mexico which often focused on customs and practices that offended their home culture values are best kept in mind in forming any strategy of application. Nida states, “If the message of Christian missions is to reach living people, it must show them how they can make the Christian message a reality in every area of life, and this must include material culture as well as all other aspects.”22

A community of mature, Spirit-led nationals, or perhaps, such a community made up of both nationals and expatriates can prayerfully take on the complicated challenge of developing comprehensive new forms and meanings which are both truly indigenous and devoid of syncretism. Such a community would need to be very dependent on the Holy Spirit and transparent and accepting of one another in order to avoid becoming a Pharisaic community that does more harm than good. Legalism creates huge barriers to acceptance of the gospel but failure to address the issue keeps a

21 Wilson,’Michael’L.’Japanese&Christian&Multiplication:&A&Phenomenological&Study.&Cook’School’of’Intercultural’Studies.’ Biola’University.’Pp.’209X210.'(2009)
22 Nida,’Eugene’A.’Customs&and&Cultures:&anthropology&for&Christian&missions.&New’York:’Harper’Brothers.’P.’91.'(1954)

different invisible barrier to the comprehension and acceptance of the gospel in place.

On another cautioning note, Steffen (1997) warns,

“In the search for unity (between two cultural systems), however, the value of confrontation may be overlooked, and can lead to an uncritical acceptance of cultural practices. Therefore, I prefer to add the word ‘biblical’ to the term (functional substitute) to emphasize the role contradiction plays within the community of faith.”23

Community that includes both Spirit-led nationals and expatriates who love the Word of God and are truly dependent on the Author will profit from their diverse perspectives spoken together in love in an atmosphere of mutual respect and acceptance. Such mutually respectful collaboration can cut through the fog of not only cultural misunderstanding, but also the confusion and incomprehension that is often the result of our Adversary’s opposition to comprehension of the gospel. Viewing proposed functional substitutes through different cultural lenses will reveal threats to orthodoxy as well as the potential cultural functionality that opens the way for proclamation of the gospel more effectively.

Steffen continues,

Conflict, contradiction, and disequilibrium are necessary for balanced perspectives. God’s Word challenges our routine behavior frequently. Because biblical functional substitutes take into account both conformity and contradiction, certain cultural elements will be retained, while others must be deleted, and/or

23 Steffen,’Tom’A.’Passing&the&Baton:&Church&Planting&that&Empowers.’Center’for’Organizational’&’Ministry’Development.’ Pp.’189X192.'(1997)

transformed. Biblical substitutes call for a “putting off” as well as a “putting on” (Col. 3, NIV).24

One of the reasons I elected to join with Asian Access at the very beginning of my missionary career was their already established track record of bringing Pentecostals, Charismatics, and Evangelicals together for worship and a variety of ministries including the establishment of new churches. This theological diversity extended to the expatriate missionaries as well as the national church leaders who participated in our new church development enterprise. We can learn much from each other and model greater unity for national partners who need that unity and a spectrum of perspectives to navigate the traditions and values that challenge the comprehension of the gospel in any culture. Such unity brings synergistic power for Kingdom expansion.

Michael L. Wilson, DMiss

Author of Exponential Culture: Believer Transformation, Disciple Multiplication (2014). Currently being adapted and translated into Japanese and Arabic by God’s serendipitous grace.

24 ibid.’p.’189


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