Ever since I first arrived on the field over five years ago I have been wrestling with this question both inwardly in my own spirit and outwardly with critics. The issue recently surfaced again through an email conversation with a past intern who desires to take the Gospel to another Arab Muslim country and has been in touch with a team of missionaries in said country with a very different philosophy than our own. All will remain anonymous because this post isn’t about calling out any person or organization but, rather, addressing a prevailing idea in front-line missions.
Here is a quote from the email my friend got from this missionary on the field:
“The main 2 things for us as workers is 1)”don’t do anything stupid” and 2)”share truth in the context of relationships”. It is illegal for us to pass out books on a street corner, street prch, etc. If I did these things, someone would probably show up at my door by the end of the month and tell me I have 48 hours to pack my bags and get out. It could also mean that everyone who teaches in my same institute would lose their residency in the country as well. This happened with one guy who “did something stupid.” The entire community development agency he worked with got kicked out.”
When I first arrived here I started an evangelistic campaign that I asked people overseas to get involved in. A believer from Ireland told a pastor friend of mine there that I was foolish to evangelize in such a way since it would bring the local believers under more scrutiny and possible persecution. Later, when our ministry here became under fire in the press because of conversions of local Muslims, I was called “crazy” by a missionary who had seen no conversions but had been quite successful at staying “under cover” and “secure”.
I realize that most who read this blog aren’t missionaries to places like this so you feel inadequate to judge on this subject but we all, as Christians, have a stake in this work among the Muslim countries where it is illegal to preach the Gospel. Here are some considerations to help think through this issue:
1. Would Jesus, Paul, or Peter ever consider it stupid, crazy, or foolish to peach Christ?
2. What should be the reasonable thing to expect as a result of preaching Christ?
3. Would a New Testament preacher (mostly Jesus, Paul, or Peter, who we know the most about) ever stay quite in order to maintain residency in a certain place?
4. If the strategy that is employed (one that reacts to persecution with the ceasing of preaching and meeting with believers) is observed by the local believers what kind of disciples will be made? Thus, what will the result of the spread of the Gospel be?
5. Do we have any evidence of any New Testament preacher scolding another believer for being too bold, too zealous for the Gospel, or for causing persecution as a result of preaching?
6. If we are at war, should we expect casualties? Watch a war movie sometime and imagine what it would look like for the Allies if they took an “avoid-loss-of-blood-at-any-cost” strategy.
Now, a few caveats: this being said, it does not mean that we go out looking for problems, persecution, etc. Those are only natural results of obedience to the Great Commission. They are to be delighted in, rejoiced over, and thanked for.
Also, this understanding is a process. I have been very timid and scared. I have wimped out at many opportunities to preach the Gospel. I know missionaries who have radically changed their philosophies after finding by experience that modern methods of “living” the Gospel aren’t near as effective as the Biblical method of preaching it, too. This is an ongoing work of sanctification in all of God’s children. One does not have a right to boast over another for his boldness or another’s lack thereof.
Lastly, I am not calling anyone stupid by this post. Quite the opposite I am pointing out the fact that preaching is labeled as stupid by modern missionaries and I’m against that.
A video I saw yesterday that will stir your heart for this topic can be watched here.