Bags of Bran

Exporting American Christianity
August 6, 2012, 10:04 pm
Filed under: Biography

It’s not good to start out by saying what you’re against. I am against, for example, sending a large family of barely-literate unskilled labor to Brazil to befoul the landscape with another camping center on a floodplain. You see? It was not good to start out that way because it caused unneeded controversy:

Reaction: “You are against sending the gospel to the unreached because you are a selfish, spoiled Western pig.”

Rejoinder: Aren’t you ashamed to send American Christianity to other countries?

Look past the rough start of this post for a moment, if you are able. See past the fume and brimstone. Look at the point I’m making on its own merits.

Whenever I hear a call for a church to divert its resources toward that dark, unbounded miasma that we cheerfully call  “missions,” defined no more narrowly than “sending the cross where it’s unknown,” I feel another brick slip into my backpack of sorrows. The marketing wing of American Christianity is nearly as vague as the marketing wing of the pharmaceutical industry, except we no longer accept the authority of the Doctors of the Church to see if missions is right for you.

For the record: I am not against “missions” if by “missions” you mean “helping people who want churches to be planted to plant those churches, then getting out of their way and off of the dole.” I am very much for that, and I applaud and support it. If the question were merely about sending the Christian religion to other countries, I would be all in. The Christian religion is God-breathed truth; in keeping with the purpose for which He created the world; and the only satisfying solution to the problem of evil. In short, the Christian religion is the finest, most admirable thing that exists.

But that’s not what “we” are doing.

“We” are laboring under a set of assumptions which includes two or more of the following:

  • The Christians in other countries mean well, but are inept and could not plant a church on their own. Only Americans can plant churches.
  • VBS is pretty much a universal key to the human situation.
  • Missionaries would not be missionaries if they were not inherently less encumbered by depravity than other people.
  • People who cannot manage their own finances here in the states will, by a fiat of the Holy Spirit, manage mission board finances impeccably with an ocean between them and the home office.
  • Young men whose spiritual qualifications consist of emulating John Piper sermons, reading Crossway titles, and watching televised sports, are infinitely trustworthy with an ocean between and etc.
  • No missionary would ever lapse into “permanent vacation” mode.
  • Missionaries vouchsafe the unvarnished, un-massaged truth in their letters and marketing media presentations.
  • All of the natives in the slide show are believers who read their Bibles and pray every day.

Then there is the obvious, unutterable question that stands monolithically in our Friday-casual Calvinistic-slogan churches: if we don’t send, for example, Joe-Bob and Betty-Bob and their nine children to Peru to start a basketball ministry, who will reach Peruvians with the American Gospel? Other Peruvians???

You may have heard it put another way: Isn’t the mere potential for one soul fording the Styx worth shipping eleven incompetent people to Peru, expenses paid, for the rest of their earthly pilgrimage?

The logic is incontrovertible.


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