Why i want to be a missionary.
Christian history is filled with martyrs; of men and women going into strange lands among strange peoples to spread the glory and message of Jesus Christ. To the outside world, this must seem a strange thing-- why would talented, brilliant people throw their lives away to talk about a 2000 year old dead man to people who don't want to be bothered? Though I do not claim to be talented or brilliant, I want to follow in their footsteps, and bring a message of life to a dying people.
Thus the questions raised to all missionaries are raised to me. Don't you love your family? Don't you want a nice house in a nice neighborhood? Why would you do something like this?
My answer involves a little bit of biography. There are several key factors that I believe the Lord used to show me the need of the nations and His desire to send me to share His name with those who have never heard it. Without them, I am sure that I would have quite a different life.
My parents are Christians, and I can remember my dad constantly telling me that church was the most important place to be on a Sunday morning. Through their love, prayers, and influence, Christ saved me when I was nine. I grew up in the Baptist churches where my dad worked, hearing of Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong, and wondering why people were so concerned with giving money for people all over the world.
Though I was a Christian before I came to college, coming to Campbell had a revitalizing effect on my spiritual life. I was active in my church during high school, and in FCA at my high school, but I do not think that I understood what it meant to â€œlove the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mindâ€ (Matthew 22:37). I quickly found several Christian friends at Campbell through whom I learned that God's love was worth more than life itself (Psalm 63:3). I also began to regularly read my Bible and to pray. I read several books which really challenged me, such as Keith Green's biography No Compromise. Through these influences I became less enamored with the idea of making a lot of money, and more focused on living an obedient life to Christ.
The first truly â€œmissionsâ€ bell that rang resounded in my mind. I went to Campus Crusade one night my freshman year, and â€œThe Traveling Teamâ€ was speaking. They are an organization devoted solely to visiting different colleges and showing people God's passion for the nations. The speaker showed us from Scripture how God's plan from the beginning was to glorify Himself through drawing people from every â€œtongue, tribe, and nation.â€ He said there were 1600 verses in Scripture which described God's love for the nations. He challenged us from Matthew 28:19-20 (â€œGo therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even until the end of the age.â€) to obey the command that we go into all nations and carry the name of Christ with us. The command was right there in front of me; I decided that night that I couldn't ignore such a clear calling.
That same semester, I decided to go on a trip to India over the summer, so that I might get a taste of what â€œgoingâ€ was all about. In preparation for the trip, I began to pray fervently that God would plant love in my heart for the people of India. I had never even seen anyone from India, so I was concerned that when I got there I would only feel strange and separated from them. As I prayed for love for the trip, I also began to pray for the Lord's guidance as to whether or not I should do this for the rest of my life. He answered, this time in my heart: He gave me a strong desire to go to another nation and share His love.
Then last summer I read a book by Pastor John Piper. It was titled â€œLet the Nations Be Glad,â€ and I loved it because it proclaimed some revolutionary truths about missions. The first couple of paragraphs embody the central theme of the book, and grabbed my heart and soul immediately:
Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn't. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man... Worship... is the fuel and goal of missions. It's the goal of missions because in missions we simply aim to bring the nations into white-hot enjoyment of God's glory... But worship of God is also the fuel of missions. Passion for God in worship precedes the offer of God in preaching.1
This is something I had never heard before: a theocentric approach to missions. It excited me because I knew that it was entirely based on Scripture, and because it didn't cater to any kind of weakness or glorification of any human. It showed me that whatever life I could make for myself was not worth more than a life totally devoted to obeying God. It showed me that God is of ultimate worth.
This truth has since driven me to major in English, because many countries want to learn English, and thus the language is a good way to share Christ's love with people. It is the truth I hang on to when it seems all the world is against me going overseas, including my own heart. It is a truth that cannot be defeated.
Hymns vs. Praise Songs
Christianity in the 21st century seems well on its way to developing a sub-pop-culture. As to whether this is good or even Biblical is another topic for another paper, but along with this culture, the "movement" brings its share of "art." The art comes in many forms; you will find Christian book stores laden with anything from Christian t-shirts to Christian breath-mints to Christian cartoon characters. Perhaps the most popular form is Christian music, which seems to identify with all age groups of Christians. More specifically there is Christian praise music, which is geared less towards a description of Christian life and more towards (at least ideally) worship of the God who gave that life.
A worthwhile and encouraging praise song has certain qualities which save it from being an inane embarrassment.
The first of these is the theology of the song. Christian truth has come down through the millennia of history since it's inception in fairly orthodox form. There have been heresies, but the truth has always remained. This of course implies a standard of what truth is. The Bible defines good and evil and right and wrong. Any song that departs from the absolute truth of Scripture can be labeled as having bad theology. Another good test of the theology in songs is to compare it to the teaching of the church. The Bible names the church "the body of Christ" and thus its teaching (when weighed against the truths of Scripture) can be held as authoritative.
Theology is related to the depth of meaning of a song. If a song has good theology, but deals with a surface issue that doesn't get to the heart of the truth, it makes for a vapid "feel-good" song. Christian songs have the best truth to express, and good ones won't skim the surface of this truth, but will go as in depth as possible.
The depth of meaning has a lot to do with the form the song takes. If a song's central theme is dependent on repeated words, they had better be well-chosen. Repeating words can quickly turn a song into a meaningless mantra. The grammar also needs to make sense. A song should distinguish between the speaker and the person he is speaking to. It should also keep a constant 1st, 2nd , or 3rd person perspective, with no interchanging. A good rule of thumb is not to have a song appear as though it was written on a napkin at Bojangle's five minutes before you performed it. Songs should be well thought out!
Perhaps the most important aspect of a Christian praise song is that it needs to be about God. It should not talk overly much about our duty to Him; it should proclaim and glorify Him. It should not go on and on about how unworthy we are of Him; it should speak of His endless love. It should not dwell on how wrong we are, it should proclaim Scriptural truths about Him. These things about us are true, but (like the American counterfeit people) you have to study the Original.
A good example of a worthwhile Christian song is the hymn "Be Thou My Vision." Here it is:
Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou artâ€“
Thou my best thought by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.
Be Thou my wisdom, and Thou my true word;
I ever with Thee, and Thou with me Lord;
Thou my great Father, and I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.
Be Thou my battle-shield, sword for my fight;
Be Thou my dignity, Thou my delight,
Thou my soul's shelter, Thou my high tow'r:
Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my pow'r.
Riches I heed not, nor man's empty praise,
Thou mine inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of heaven, my treasure Thou art.
High King of heaven, my victory won,
May I reach heaven's joys, O bright heaven's Son!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my vision, O Ruler of all.
The hymn has good theology; God is seen as sovereign and as man's highest joy. The language of Scripture is directly applied when He is named "Father" and "King" and "Lord." The images of God as a high tower, a soul's shelter, and a light all reflect images used in the Psalms. All these allusions to Scripture and images create a deep meaning. The quality of thought points to the author's obvious labor over this song; it wasn't just written on the back of his hand before he sang it for the king of England. The poetic quality also lends to the depth of meaning. The parallel word structure of "Be Thou" constantly asks God to be different things; a sword, a shield, wisdom, etc.
The speaker is constant in this song; he constantly addresses God, and keeps one perspective throughout. His addressing God keeps the song focused on God; he asks God to be his vision because he realizes that he can't see on his own, and that only God is capable of seeing properly. The repeated words only lend the song more strength, as they emphasize over and over again "Thou;" it is important that the speaker does not say "me" over and over again.
A bad example of a Christian song is the modern praise song "Come, Now is the Time to Worship:
Come, now is the time to worship.
Come, now is the time to give your heart.
Come, just as you are to worship.
Come, just as you are before your God.
One day every tongue will confess You are God,
One day every knee will bow;
Still the greatest treasure remains for those
Who gladly choose You now.
The theology seems innocent and Biblical enough, but the song does not pass the Scriptural test, and has some tricky language that could possibly lead to un-Biblical ideas. In the last stanza, the speaker speaks of a day when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that God is the Lord. This is very Scriptural; it's almost taken verbatim from the book of Revelation. However, the next two lines imply universalism; they say that the greatest treasure remains for those who choose Him now. It does not say the only treasure belongs to those who "choose God now;" and Scripture is clear that only those who "confess with [their mouths] that Jesus is Lord, and believe in [their hearts] that God raised Him from the dead, [they] will be saved" (Romans 10:9). The last line brings up another problem. Ephesians 1:4 says "just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world." John 15:16 says "you did not choose me but I chose you." So according to the Bible, we do not choose God, but He chooses us.
Another problem is the author's word choice. He does not focus on God, but on humans and on their acts. It's hard to even call this a "praise" song, because it simply talks about coming to God now and worshiping Him. It's hard to say that the song actually gives God praise for anything. It tells us what time it is, what we should be like when we come to worship, and what will happen in the future, and what should happen now (and their view of what should happen isn't even Biblical!). The song does not address God even once. It does not name any of His amazing attributes. It does not say anything about His glory.
I know that writers of Christian songs usually mean well, and don't intentionally carve good theology to pieces. I'm sure that they want to glorify God and want to write songs that attribute to Him the glory that He deserves. This is terrific, and I am not criticizing their desire to glorify God. I am criticizing their method. Christian art that expresses Christian truth should be meticulously planned, carefully crafted, and rigorously scrutinized. It expresses the greatest truth there is!
A conversation between Postmodernism and Jared
Jared Postmodernism, I am really tired of seeing you around here. I think it's about time you left.
Postmodernism Leave? If I left your world would fall to its knees. You cannot live without me. I am everywhere; all things that now are exist by me. Across history there has never been such a complete and utter framework as I. Take me away and you have chaos. Take me away and you lose your connection with reality.
Jared No!! You blind us from reality! You are chaos! You keep us from the truth!
Postmodernism <chuckles lightly> There's that word again. Truth. And what is truth, Jared? Is it what you've always been told? Is it something that you can observe in a science lab? Can you touch it? Can you see it in the morning when you wake up? Do you feel it in your heart? Where is truth? It is on the radio, on the television, in the newspaper? Please. You don't know what you are talking about. Truth is undefinable, Jared. Don't waste your time with truth. It is meaningless.
Jared Funny for YOU to tell ME about meaninglessness!! That's what you do: you take away meaning from our words and destroy the concepts behind them. You are a destroyer. You were never meant to do anything but destroy, in the guise of building. You say you build unity, but you are really only destroying truth. You say that you build care and compassion, but you actually destroy it by ignoring what is really wrong. You claim to build humanity, but you are only destroying who we really are and building a pleasant looking store front to cover our hideousness. You deal with appearances, not with essence. You have exchanged superficiality for reality.
Postmodernism Wrong! I merely point out that your words do not mean anything anyway. Let us consider the word "truth" again. My earlier point was that the word itself had so many meanings that it was a worthless word: its multiplicity of meanings actually reduced it's meaning to nothing. Now let us look honestly at what entails. It follows that a word which means nothing can only signify nothing. Ergo, truth is nothing. There is no truth. But let us look at the words "truths." Cannot this designation hold meaning for our discussion? Think of it. All the possible definitions of "truth" that I mentioned earlier can be "truths." So while there can be no truth, there can certainly be "truths." Each definition that I mentioned was equally valid, so there cannot be a defining definition.
Jared How can all of your definitions be equal? How can "feeling" something in your heart be equal to something you've been told? There is a huge distinction there between "intuition" and "learning."
Postmodernism Who are you to say there is a distinction? Are they not one and the same? Or rather is not "learning" penultimate to "intuition's" ultimacy? For what standard is there besides the intuition? Surely no religious creed, for there are many religions, and they are the same in some points and different in others. Surely no social philosopher, for, like the religions, they are both the same and different. Jared, there are no absolutes. There is no standard by which is to point us to the conclusions you seem to reach. Who is to tell us that some definitions of "truth" are wrong and others are right? Who has the right and the authority? Who dares think that he has some inside track on "truth?" (I continue to use the term for the sake of our conversation, Jared)
Jared That is where you are most wrong. If I have a watch in my pocket, it must be one color. There cannot be two colors. If you say it is green, and I say it is black, it must be green or black. It cannot be both. My watch is black, not green. It is not black and green. I know that your response will entail something like "but Jared, you can pull out the watch and show us. You cannot pull God out of your pocket and show us." My analogy is only an analogy, not a proof. Non-provable truth must exist in the same kind of relationship. Just because something cannot be proved does not mean that it is not. It does not follow that simply because truth is unknowable, and many people have many opinions about that truth, that all their opinions are correct.
Postmodernism I will not pretend to fail to see the "truths" behind that statement. However, it is of no concern. You are free to have that view. Every proposition is ultimately non-arguable. Your view of truth is yours, and that is ok. You are ok. Everyone is ok.
Jared What is this incoherent babble? You're just evading the issue. I am sick of you. I am sick of you permeating our churches and eroding our belief in Scripture by your false definitions that don't mean anything. You are destroying the meaning of Christ-- He came to give us meaning but you've taken it away and replaced it with lies that look good but kill us!! You've taken true scholarship and pummeled it into some kind of joke where anybody with an opinion can state it and get praised for it, just because it's an opinion and his. I'm warning you, postmodernism, I am at war with you. I will never stop. I know I cannot win, but I must fight you. Truth is too important. We must kill you before you kill us.