Missions History Uncategorized

mission killers: man-centered missions

It seems odd to think that a missionary or pastor can do man-centered ministry. What is man-centered missions? Man-centered missions sound like some of my old sermons and college papers. It all changed when I heard a sermon by Paris Reidhead entitled, Ten Shekels and a Shirt.” The sermon changed my life. I listen to it regularly. What is the big take-away? Do missions for God’s sake and not for man’s.

What is the difference? Metrics. It’s all about metrics and how we consider something a success. Man-centered metrics look at two things, attendance and response. If these are the metrics by which you measure success, then you will conduct your ministry to these two ends.

How to gain a boost in attendance: Make church as little like church as possible. Give away anything you can. Make the music as much like what you hear on the radio as much as possible. Find a song, some skilled musicians, and play some of the most popular songs. Make the message as application-heavy as possible. As a speaker, be funny, give great stories, and don’t get real “preachy.” People don’t like that stuff. Let the people feel good.

For a boost in your response, make it easy for people to respond. Just take a show of hands, count those up and then report the raised hands. If you want people to respond, offer them the deal of a lifetime. To kids, have them repeat a short prayer. Promise them unlimited ice cream in heaven and let them know they will see their grandparents there. To adults, let them know heaven will be full of streets of gold, six-pack abs, and a mansion. You can relax at the heavenly beach home that you have always wanted. All you have to do is repeat this short prayer.

Other ways of man-centeredness are not so blatant. Before you completely dismiss the above methods, I’ve heard them all. I haven’t embellished. I remember them because they are so outlandish. I am not as worried about the crazy ice cream promise to kids. I am worried that someone said it but it isn’t as common as much as the other ways we do man-centered ministry.

When we make the success of our ministry man-centered, we operate with the goal that someone leaves happy. We want them to come back. We want them to respond. So we minister in such a way to find a way to give a man what he really wants.

We are the prosperity gospel preachers but we just make the payoff in heaven and not on earth.

Do we want people to attend? YES!

Do we want people to pray and trust Christ? YES!

Do people who have never prayed before need a model to follow? YES!

So what is the difference? The end. The goal.

Man-centered ministry can look like other types of ministry and missions but the goal is not man’s response. The goal is God’s glory. Full Stop. Nothing Further. God is the goal, not man.

We must make a change in our methodology by changing the metrics. The goal must be making much of Jesus.

Jesus says,And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself (Jn 12.32).” If our goal is man’s response

Missions History

mission killers: hyper-Calvinists

There is nothing as dangerous to missions today as hyper-Calvinism. Calvinism is just fine but not hyper-Calvinism. It’s dangerous and it should be avoided like a leftover wet sock left at youth camp.

The clearest distinction between the addition of “hyper” to Calvinism goes to the very beginning of what is called the “Modern Day Missions Movement.” Missions programs, methodology, and cooperation began with the sending of William Carey. Carey was a cobbler turned preacher turned pioneer missionary who is affectionately called, “The Father of the Modern Day Missions Movement.” It’s a great title of which we will see more later but for now, just think British shoe cobbler turned Jesus loving preacher.

Carey is in a meeting with some Baptist pastors. He’s one of the younger ones and the least influential. However, he had finished reading Captain James Cook’s book’s Voyages. Carey was captivated by the people and need to evangelize the lost. Hearing Carey’s passionate plea about the need to evangelize the lost, Dr. John Ryland Sr. said, “Young man, sit down! You are an enthusiast. When God pleases to convert the heathen, he’ll do it without consulting you or me.”[1] And that my friends is hyper-Calvinism.

Hyper-Calvinism takes the idea of God’s sovereignty and election to an unbiblical extreme. The extreme measure looks like this: God has chosen who will come to faith in Christ and it is not dependent on our actions. We do not need to interfere with God’s sovereign will. If they are to be converted they will be, whether we evangelize or not. The most thoughtful will believe that if we share the gospel with them, then their judgment will be more severe because they will know more about the gospel message. We should not heap extra judgment on those who are not elect and therefore have no chance at coming to faith in Christ.  

You can see how this is a problem. Carey is excited about learning about people from all over the world and he wants to tell them about Jesus. Ryland thinks this is preposterous at best and spiritual harmful at worst. Carey replied with a small booklet called, An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens in which the Religious State of the Different Nations of the World, the Success of Former Undertakings, and the Practicability of Further Undertakings are Considered, or An Enquiry for short.

His booklet set the world of missions on fire! In his booklet, he demolished the hyper-Calvinism of the day. He argued that God uses “means” or methods to see the conversion of the lost. He argued that we could not know the elect but that we must evangelize because God uses means to convert the lost. We are the means. Hyper-Calvinists were comfortable with man having no responsibility and action in God’s election. A Calvinist like Carey believes in election but knows God’s method is to use other believers’ prayers and gospel presentations to change the lives of the lost.  

You can see how hyper-Calvinism is dangerous. It is dangerous not because it misunderstands election (it does) or because it wrongly applies missionary methods (they do) but because they are biblical. Jesus calls us to make disciples of all nations (Matt 28:19-20) and to be witnesses (Acts 1:8).

Before you go, maybe ask yourself this question, “Am I a hyper-Calvinist?” You may say, “NO WAY!” So let me state it another way, do you live like Rylan or Carey? Do you have a passion to see the lost come to faith in Christ? Are you praying for lost friends and sharing the gospel with them? Or, are you acting like John Ryland?

[1] Mark Galli and Ted Olsen, “Introduction,” 131 Christians Everyone Should Know (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 244.