The Sharpest Tool
30 Oct 2017
When I want to teach something to my young adult daughter, I really want to show her how to do it the way I think is best, the way that I like to do it. But she prefers some space to test things for herself, to succeed and fail, and work things out in her own time and her own way. Better for her, but tougher for me to watch! Church planting can be a bit like that.
How much should missionaries teach new believers how to live the Christian life, how to “do church”, what cultural practices are OK to keep, and what need tossing out? Or how much should they let the new church work things through for themselves? There are dangers on both sides: with strong leadership from the missionaries, the church may grow to be dependent, and driven by rules and practices they don’t fully understand or embrace on a heart level. If left to themselves, there is the danger of syncretism, where they mix their old religious and cultural practices in with their new faith in Jesus.
But God has given us a very precious gift that switches on a clear light wherever there is confusion and darkness. The word of God. Hebrews 4:12 tells us “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” It is the sharpest tool in our shed!
Australian Pioneers missionaries, Greg and Chris, were sharing in our office just last week. They have been working for 6 years in a very Buddhist village in Thailand. Pin, one of the ladies in that village, has come to faith in Jesus in an amazing way. God had spoken to Pin in a dream that one day a foreigner would come and ask her to do something for them, and that she should do it. Greg had been asked by some bible translators to find some Northern Thais who would be willing to test read their translation work, and the Lord led Greg to Pin. Following the instructions from her dream, Pin immediately agreed to do it. She began to read the bible, and God began his work on her heart. One night, Pin had another dream. She was in a fast flowing, endless river, and she couldn’t get out of it by herself. She felt that the river in her dream represented Buddhism. She saw a man dressed in white on the river bank reaching out to her, she grabbed hold of his hand and he pulled her out of the river. Jesus. And from that day on, Pin rejected Buddhism and gave her whole heart to follow Jesus.
The challenge for Pin, and the other new believers coming to faith in that village, is how they can continue as an accepted and integral part of their community. There are so many Buddhist ceremonies and practices that are a part of everyday life. Greg and Chris made the brave decision to allow Pin and the other new Thai believers to make the decisions on how church and Christian faith would be expressed in their village. So how is that working, you may well ask!
As in all Buddhist villages, people often go to the Buddhist temple bringing food offerings and reciting prayers to earn merit. Pin decided to continue to go to the temple and to bring food with her. She prays to Jesus, gives the food to the poor and then sits on the steps of the temple and reads the bible with anyone who wants to read it with her. That is pretty cool. She is washing her community in the word of God! On one occasion, the village were having an idol-making festival. Pin decided she should participate, as part of the community. Greg and Chris felt that her decision had probably crossed a line. Instead of confronting Pin, or trying to sway her opinion, they gave her some bible passages to read. Next time they met with her she said; “I think I have made God very angry!” The word of God and the Holy Spirit within her had convicted her of right and wrong, and she is learning to discover God’s truth for herself.
Can you bring the word of God into the life of someone you know who is seeking the truth about life and God? Why not invite them to read the bible with you?