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For missionaries in the twenty-first century, change is necessary in order for them to continue to be strong and viable. Growing Missionaries Biblically takes a fresh look at Christian missions and proposes a comprehensive, biblical missionary training program for short- and longterm missions. Its objective is to produce an effective, cross cultural ministry for Africa and, with some modifications, globally. The goal is to provide a postimperial, post-colonial model for training...
For missionaries in the twenty-first century, change is necessary in order for them to continue to be strong and viable. Growing Missionaries Biblically takes a fresh look at Christian missions and proposes a comprehensive, biblical missionary training program for short- and longterm missions. Its objective is to produce an effective, cross cultural ministry for Africa and, with some modifications, globally. The goal is to provide a postimperial, post-colonial model for training missionaries by looking to biblical guidance on the subject.
Author Dr. R. Zarwulugbo Liberty is a native of Liberia, Africa, with biblical, theological, and practical insights for prospective and seasoned missionaries and their supporters. The information he provides can successfully launch and sustain these missionaries in the course of their mission work. In order to accomplish his goals, he proposes the use of bicultural missionaries.
A bicultural missionary is one who has studied both his own culture and the culture of the people to be served. This missionary will not equate his or her culture with Christianity and will know and understand the practices of the culture he or she serves that can easily be incorporated and assimilated into Christianity. Growing Missionaries Biblically proposes a vital curriculum for missionary preparation for cross-cultural missionary service.
Mission begins with God and ends with Him. God became a missionary when Adam and Eve disobeyed Him in the Garden of Eden (Gn. 3:1ff). As a result of their disobedience, our first parents were driven out of God's Paradise with a promise of restoration (Gn. 3:15). God called and sent Abraham to make His name known to all men in preparation of His restoration (Gn. 12:1-3). The Lord fulfilled His promise: He became a man in the person of Jesus Christ (Jn 1:1-4; 14). God the Son gave His life on the Cross of Calvary for the redemption of mankind, mainly for those who believe in Christ as their Lord and Savior. The apostle John writes, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, and that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him" (3:16-17 NIV).
Christ commissioned the apostles and every believer to go and preach the Gospel of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5: 18-20) to every man unto the utmost part of the earth. He promised to be with us "always" (Mt.28:18-20). The message of the Great Commission is that God is reconciling the world unto Himself through the blood of His son, Jesus Christ. The Gospel was erroneously preached through the cultural lens of Judaism. To avoid the continuity of this error, God commissioned Paul to be an apostle to the Gentiles and Peter to the Jews (Acts 9:15; Gal. 2:8). The perennial problem of the church historically is its failure to differentiate one's culture from the Gospel.
This book is aimed at solving this age-old problem. I am taking a fresh look at the missionary training programs for short- and long-term missions. There is a need for more effective preparation of missionaries to serve for short- and long-term missions in Africa. Honestly, the West has ignored the traditional religions and anthropological aspects of some developing countries. In spite of the advancement of missionary education, most Bible colleges, seminaries and missionary-training institutions do not offer any course in these disciplines. Africa is producing more theologians, churchmen, and missiologists in the twenty-first century. Therefore, the training procedures of the colonial and imperial missionary outreach epoch in the third-world countries are unacceptable in Africa today. In the past, the West believed that Africa was "the white man's burden." They viewed African belief systems and cultural institutions as primitive. Missiologists and missionaries, then, considered the life of Africans to be that of savages and heathen societies. Hence, they needed to be enculturated into Western civilization and Euro-American Christianity. Globally, such a cultural imperialist methodology cannot be effective any more in this modern era of the church.
Western evangelization globally, then, bore a myriad of positive fruits. But many missionaries were not cognizant of their host culture and religion. Consequently, they failed to contextualize the Gospel appropriately to the understanding of the unreached people. As a result, some African Christians were still syncretistically practicing their pagan religions within the Christian Church. Accordingly, there were always cultural conflicts between the indigenous peoples and the missionaries. Scott Martell affirms, "One problem that I am adjusting to in Ethiopia is the complexity of the culture." All the missionaries who I interviewed stressed the need of learning the host country's culture and their religion for effective ministry.
Missionaries are called to imitate Christ the Eternal Son of God: He became incarnate (Jn. 1:14). They are to imitate the apostle Paul who, also, became "all things to all men" (see 1 Cor. 9:19-23) just to win some to Christ. Seeing the unreserved devotion of the Athenians to the worship of the "UNKNOWN GOD," Paul recognized their misguided commitment. He introduced them to Christ whom they had ignorantly worshiped as unknown. And, Paul taught them how He is to be truly worshiped (Acts 17:17:24-30). One can effectively minister to a man when he understands his culture, religion and traditions. Missionaries should be faithful to the unchanging Gospel but present it, as best they can, in a culturally sensitive way.
This book is intended to resolve the problem by taking a fresh look at cross- cultural missions. I am proposing a comprehensive training program that is biblically, cross-culturally, theologically, historically, philosophically, exegetically, cross-cultural communicationally, anthropologically, and biculturally sound. It also includes an analysis of African Traditional Religion and Philosophy, and the Law and Constitution of a host country. This book is also aimed at exploring and explaining the challenges facing short- and long-term missionaries serving overseas. This approach will, however, avoid syncretism and cultural imperialism. It will enable the Western missionaries to be cognizant to the true worship of Christ in the African context. Knowing the worldviews of the people, eventually gives birth to sound biblical contextualization in the host country. It also insures that the missionaries are law-abiding as long as it does not conflict with one's faith in Christ.
To achieve this goal, appropriate books and articles published on intercultural studies were reviewed. The review also included many books published on African Traditional Religion and Philosophy. I interviewed some mission-minded churches and reviewed their training manuals for short-term missions. The research was also supplemented by interviews with missionary-training organizations and missionaries who are currently serving on the field. Retired missionaries interviewed also provided helpful information. What is unique to this writing is my personal experience as an African native missionary and church planter. My service in the United States as missionary gave me access in contacting mission's organizations and missionaries globally.
My approach to this research was both diachronic and synchronic: The historical and biblical development of missionary theory and practice were traced. Cognizant of the many historical changes in mission strategy, I proposed a comprehensive Gospel presentation for the twenty-first century. It also considered the various Gospel presentations developed by prominent pastors/scholars in this century. The analysis is biblically critical in my evaluation of mission theory and theology. Gleaning from these outcomes, a comprehensive curriculum is proposed in this book, for cross-cultural ministry training. Also, a short-term missions training program is also proposed with what I considered the biblical theology of missions.
Although, this study is limited to Africa, the principles can be applied (with some modifications) to any country. My proposed objective is to create a model for twenty-first century missionary outreach; it is Bible based, culturally sensitive, practical, and applicable for missionary training to African nations and other third-world countries. With God's blessing, this model for missions will change the world for Christ.
Bicultural Missionaries Can Happen
The concept advanced in this book regarding the need for bicultural missionary as the answer for the twenty-first –century- missions outreach is not a mere proposal, it has been tested and found to be very effective. Almost at the end of 2010 I received an e-mail from Dr. LaTonya McRae, founder and president of the Tree of Life Ministry with headquarters in New Jersey. She wanted to go to Africa on a short-term missions trip. LaTonya said that the Lord had laid this trip on her heart and had been praying for over five years for someone to host her in Africa. While browsing through the Internet, she found the Africa International Christian Mission on the web. Immediately, she communicated with our office indicating her desire to go to Liberia, West Africa. In reply, I assured her that the mission is willing to make her dream come true provided if she takes our eleven-week Short-term Missions Trip Training course, as we cannot send anyone without the training. Dr. LaTonya joyfully expressed her willingness to take our course.
In November 2010 LaTonya flew from New Jersey to Boynton Beach for a four-hour visit with Esther and me. At the end her visit she said, "Before I visit your country I wanted to know you and your wife personally; I am very excited to meet you and I appreciate the joy you all have for having me in your home." In response, Esther presented her with African-traditional attire. Esther told her, "This traditional attire is an honor; we love you, and surely you will enjoy your stay in Liberia. In fact, because you flew here just to see us, this indicates your seriousness for the trip. You will lodge in my house in Liberia at no cost to you. We will pray for God's provision for your trip." In addition to this, I assured her that our ministry in Liberia (Church of the Believers) would host her.
I immediately started the eleven-week training via Conference Call with her when she returned home. She did the course successfully. Dr. LaTonya became my second bicultural missionary (I am the first), and I taught her the culture of the specific ethnic group she was to visit. In this study we considered the theology of missions; we included a careful study of the American culture, and since it was a brief trip, we covered some of the dos and don'ts in that culture. The course was completed and LaTonya went to Liberia in February 2011 for a week. She was met on arrival at the Roberts International Airport by the leadership of the church headed by Deacon John Karmo Vah. She was taken to our residence in Monrovia as Esther had promised.
During her first day in the country, I received several calls from Liberia, the church leaders and other prominent members. One of the leaders said that "the woman has an American's skin and a Liberian's heart." My son's wife, Nana said, "I have never seen a missionary like this woman all of my life; she knows everything about us and she is just a down–to-earth person. Dr. LaTonya ate with her hands this morning!" Pastor Joseph Karbonwen of Liberia said, "If all the missionaries that come from the West were like this woman, they would penetrate this society with the Gospel." Elder Abraham K. Zarwulugbo, district superintendent of the church in Monrovia at that time, excitedly said to me, "Reverend, I cannot believe what we are seeing in the life of this woman. She knows exactly how to greet people according to our culture whenever we enter any home. How does she know these things?' And I said to him, "AB, she took my short-term missions training before coming to Liberia."
On the second day of her stay in Liberia, I called to check on her; she joyfully said, "Pastor, I am with my family. I love the people and they love me. Thank you for allowing me to come. I have family in Liberia now. You and Mother (Esther) are my parents, your children in Liberia are my brothers and sisters." T. Martee Barnie, who is the missionary pastor for the women in Liberia called me and said, "Reverend, in my judgment, Dr. LaTonya is the best missionary who ever entered this country. I wish all other missionaries could imitate her. How does she know all the things we do?" I told Martee that she had done my missionary training.
On Sunday she wore a complete African suit – the only difference between LaTonya and the African women was the language. While she was in Liberia, the Liberians women gave her an African name, Dekontee, which means "everything has its time." This is our time for a missionary to relate to us well by respecting our culture and people.
LaTonya (Dekontee) returned to America after a week. I did a follow up Conference Call to discuss her trip. She could not express in words how she was welcomed by the Liberian people and how the training was a tremendous blessing in her interaction with people. She said, "I still feel that there is unfinished work in Liberia and I need to go back this time for two weeks; pray for me." Accordingly, LaTonya went back to Liberia in March of 2012 for two weeks. While she was back in Liberia, more praises were reported from church leaders, laymen, and others about her extraordinary gift as a missionary. One young preacher in Africa summarized her activities among the Bassa, Gbee and Krahn ethnic groups as though "she was being incarnational."
Therefore, the bicultural missionary proposal in this book does work – Dr. LaTonya is a bicultural missionary. In fact, she promised at this time to take a team to Africa in 2013.
This approach to missions is effective; I am the first long-term bicultural missionary. I did some of my theological and missiological studies at home, and most of it in the States. Prior to my assignment from the Lord in the United States, I came to the United States in 1999 to do a feasibility study about the establishment of the AICM. Besides my research at home I interviewed many American friends who I came in contact with during my visit. One of them was my brother-in-law, Robert Gollmann who hosted me for six months. He taught me a lot of things about the American culture; some of his cultural lessons were very practical and I have not read some of the things he taught me in any textbook. As Robert took me around in Fort Myers to meet other pastors, knowing my objective, I asked him a series of questions. Bob would just explain to me all that he knew about his people. As a result of my effectiveness in ministry in the United States, the Knox Theological Seminary of Fort Lauderdale, Florida learned about my work and awarded me a certificate of honor in Evangelism and Missions during my graduation in 2008. I believe that a bicultural missionary is the answer for the twenty-first century intercultural ministry. How do I know? Because we are doing it.
Summary of the Journey
This book is divided into four sections instead of chapters. Every section may contain one, two or more chapters.
Section One, Introduction: This section has two chapters. The first chapter states the problem facing modern missions and gives details for its solution. Chapter 2 deals with the definition of the title: Growing Missionaries Biblically. I did an extensive study showing parallels of growing from an agricultural perspective; it was limited to traditional farming – shifting cultivation and Christian mission strategy. The missionary might see his work at times as tedious, but God who calls us is faithful to lead missionaries in patiently reconciling the world to Himself (2 Cor. 5:16-20). Like a farmer, the missionary requires a high degree of carefulness, sensitivity to the farmland in clearing, felling, burning, plowing, harvesting and storing. "Growing" was also defined from a biblical perspective. Agriculture is not a new phenomenon; it is a divine institution (Gn. 2:15; 3:19, 23). Adam was placed in the Garden of Eden as a caretaker (Gn. 2:15). Various aspects of the mundane farming analogy were used by Jesus in a series of parables (Mt. 13:1-52) to teach a heavenly meaning. Jesus pictured the world as a field in which a farmer planted the good seed of the Gospel; but an enemy (devil) planted a counterfeit seed.
Gleaning from the above definitions drawn from both a traditional and biblical perspectives of agriculture, I present the following definition: Growing Missionaries Biblically is the development of God's missionary/sower to present the Gospel cross-culturally through biblical, theological, anthropological, religious and cross-cultural communication education. The goal is to effectively proclaim the Kingdom of God and call people to faith in preparation for the final harvest.
Section Two, Theological Perspective of Growing Missionaries: This section has two chapters. Chapter 3 focuses on the Biblical Basis of Missions. This chapter traces the biblical development of missions from both the Old and New Testaments. And chapter 4 traces the diachronical and synchronical developments of missions and the message proclaimed by the missionary. Also, a review of three prominent pastors/scholars Gospel presentations was considered. These presentations have gained international acceptance. I also proposed a comprehensive Gospel presentation for the twenty-first century.
Section Three, Anthropological Perspective of Growing Missionaries: This section contains one chapter. It focuses on the man in his context. Due to the complexity of people, I proposed that a Western missionary should be required to be bicultural. This will enable him to bring his host country and his home culture under the lordship of Christ. I also proposed that the religion of the people, their culture and other secret societies need to be studied. This will enable the missionary to minister effectively and seek to appropriately contextualize the Gospel.
Excerpted from Growing Missionaries Biblically by R. Zarwulugbo Liberty Copyright © 2012 by Dr. R. Zarwulugbo Liberty. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted April 3, 2013
This book is a great read for all who love missionary work and seek to advance God's kingdom Biblically.
It is a fresh approach understanding the cultural implications of doing effective missionary work in day and age.
Posted October 17, 2012
No text was provided for this review.