(Originally printed in the Spring 2011 Issue of the MCOI Journal)
This is a paper that tries to identify the unity between the Old Testament and the New Testament regard¬ing God’s desire to reveal Himself to ALL people, i.e. evangelism. We recognize the Great Commission in the New Testament to reveal God to all people. Often, however, we think that this call was not part of Israel’s purpose in the Old Testament. This is not true. Israel was specifically used by God to reveal His presence, power and salvation to the people of the ancient world. Many times Israel did not recognize that this was God’s goal. 1
This opening portion of the online article “Evangelism in the Old Testament” (EOT) by Chris Sarris caught my attention as I was considering revisiting the topic of being missionaries to America. We first wrote on this in the winter 1999 issue of the MCOI Journal (vol. 5, no.1). 2 “The more things change, the more they remain the same” (Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr) seems to echo in my mind as I consider our mission: Exposing the growth of cults, false religions outside the church, and false teach-ers/teaching within the church. As we pointed out in that article more than 12 years ago: When we think of missions, we often think in terms of place—sometimes exotic and almost always across a large body of salt water. The inside joke among home missionaries is that in order to qualify as a missionary, we have to cross a large body of salt water; so we fly over Salt Lake City, UT once a year.☺
Sarris is correct in his article (EOT) that Israel was “to reveal His presence, power and salvation to the people of the ancient world.” 3 In other words, they were to be missionaries. Being missionaries (or in today’s descriptors, being missional) always has been part and parcel of God’s expectation for His people. It seems they often fall short as they become more self-focused and ingrown as a community. The result tends to be less-than-glorifying to God and tends to focus on evangelizing amongst the various groups within the people of God to their particular denominational distinctives rather than to the doctrinal essentials of the faith. That is not to say the de¬nominational distinctives are not important, they are; but they are of secondary importance in comparison with the essentials of the faith. In Christian orthopraxy (the way we practice the faith) for example, the time and mode of baptism is less important than Christian orthodoxy (what we believe about the essentials of the faith) such as whether Jesus was physically raised from the dead. Jesus spoke to this dilemma in Matthew 23:15:
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.
The context of that statement demonstrates my point. They were focusing on the things of secondary importance and virtually ignoring or even altogether abandoning the things of primary or essential importance.
Woe to you, blind guides, who say, “Whoever swears by the temple, that is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple is obligated.”
You fools and blind men! Which is more important, the gold or the temple that sanctified the gold? And, “Whoever swears by the altar, that is nothing, but who ever swears by the offering on it, he is obligated.” You blind men, which is more important, the offering, or the altar that sanctifies the offering? Therefore, whoever swears by the altar, swears both by the altar and by everything on it. And whoever swears by the temple, swears both by the temple and by Him who dwells within it. And whoever swears by heaven, swears both by the throne of God and by Him who sits upon it.
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. (Matthew 23:16-23)
He continues publically exposing them and calling those religious leaders “hypocrites,” “serpents,” and “a brood of vipers.” (v.29, 33) Jesus was not politically correct, certainly; but instead, He was direct and to the point with those who should have known better. The Pharisees were missionaries, but they had in mind to build up an anthropocentric (man-centered) kingdom rather than a theocentric (God-centered) Kingdom. All the while, claiming and, perhaps, even believing their efforts were for God. However, the sad result was a proliferation of false teaching and false teachers outside and inside the com-munity of faith.
Book Ends In Time
The Church began during the first-century Roman Empire. The Empire was largely pagan and relativistic. Truth seemed foggy and elusive which explains Pilate’s response when he asked, “What is truth?” (John 18:38). He almost comes across as tired of hearing the competing claims that this or that is true. This is very understandable, because the common folk regarded all truth claims as equally true, while philosophers viewed all truth claims as equally false, and politicians thought all truth claims were equally useful.
Injected into this mix of competing truth claims, the first-century disciples were sent as missionaries to their locales. We see this in a few places in Scripture, but of particular note are Matthew 28:19-20 and Acts 1:8. I will handle His last instructions to the disciples as one thought:
Go 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 to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:19-20)
… but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth. (Acts 1:8)
They were sent as missionaries first to their homeland people and then out from there. Reaching your homeland people has several advantages: You have a shared culture and language with which you are familiar as well as having a shared history, which is important. You use the same money and measures, shop at the same stores, frequent the same restaurants, work at the same jobs, and live in the same neighborhoods. Even though the Apostle Paul was sent to the Gentiles (Rom. 11:13), his heart was still with his people— Israel (Romans 10:1).
The other noteworthy passage is 2 Corinthians 5:20:
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
An ambassador is one who is commissioned to represent his or her sovereign to a foreign nation. In this case, it is one representing Christ to unbelievers. The place it was to be done first was on home territory so to speak. Sending missionaries to other parts of the world is a fine thing; but if we do not build a solid base from which to work, the endeavor will ultimately fail.
A missionary’s work was not only to evangelize, but also to teach essential sound doctrine and to raise up leaders who would do the same thing. The missionary—Paul— wrote in 2 Timothy 2:2 to the young man pastoring the church Paul had planted, saying:
The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also
As we look around, the world in which we live in is more like the first century than any other time in history. Alvin J. Schmidt, in his book Under the Influence: How Christianity Transformed Civilization, outlines the amazing transformation in the thinking and behavior of culture brought about by Christians in the first four centuries. Rampant homosexuality virtually ceased; male/ female monogamy became the order of the day. Abortion and infanticide—once regular practices—gave way to protecting children. There was truth that could be known, and it was found in Scripture. The predominant world view became Christ-centered. Even though many were not Christians, the Christian world view greatly influenced Western culture and thinking.
While it is true many wars and atrocities were done in the name of religion by power brokers who (mis-) used religion by wielding it as a club to build their empires, that is not the same thing as proving Christianity was responsible for these great evils. The sway the Christian world view had on culture for 1600 years began to lose its influence in the United States around the 1930s. We addressed some of this in our article, “Stranger Danger” in the Summer 2004 MCOI Journal (vol. 10, No. 3),4 so I will only make a few brief comments here.
With “Progressives,” “Socialists,” and liberalism seemingly increasing on all sides, Christians—like the Nation of Israel—largely abandoned interacting and challenging culture, preferring to retreat to a safe place. The reason is understandable: They wanted to protect their children. However, the results of this would become manifest a generation later when the vestiges of the Christian world view were wearing off and disappearing from the American populace in the 1960s and 70s.
Another generation has passed since then, and we now find society has reverted back to embracing the practices of the first century culture. Abortion, infanticide, the glorification and acceptance of homosexuality, as well as the idea that personal pleasure is the primary determiner of truth have become the norm. The silence of the lamps (Matthew 5:14-16) has been devastating (I am aware I have used a mixed metaphor here, but I like it anyway). The attempt on the part of the Church Growth Movement to make the church appear more like culture in order to “attract” non-believers has mostly backfired, and the result has been Christians live more like culture. With each successive poll, we find the divorce rate higher in the “Born-again” and “Evangelical” churches than among Agnostics. There doesn’t seem to be a noticeable difference in the number of abortions or even very much concern over sexual immorality. Some Evangelicals have resorted to trying to bring the culture back to some semblance of Christian values through politics. There is nothing inherently wrong with trying to influence legislation to favor a Christian world view, but legislation alone is not able to influence the heart. It may force better behavior; but in the end, all we have is better-behaved, unredeemed sinners.
Gentleman, This Is A Football
The inimitable Vince Lombardi is credited with walking into the locker room of the Green Bay Packers to address the horrible way they were playing by saying: “Gentleman, this is a football.” Using only five words, Lombardi conveyed his point: We’ll start with the basics and make sure we execute the fundamentals. How much more basic could one get? In many ways, that is where the church is at today. With a one-word substitution I would like to say: “Ladies and gentleman, this is a missionary.”
A missionary works alongside the pastor and the local church. Their task is two-fold: It is outreach and, to some degree, border maintenance. By that, I mean they need to understand the world view, language, and culture of the unbelievers to whom they are called as missionaries, whether the location of those unbelievers is at home or in a distant land. It is just as important to understand the language and culture of an Agnostic, Jehovah’s Witness, or witch as it is to be trained to understand the language and culture of the people in Zimbabwe. The pastor’s task is to guard and guide the flock under his charge. The missionary’s task is primarily about outreach and then discipleship, which includes getting the new believers into local churches. This has become more difficult today as it is becoming more and more difficult to find good, doctrinally-sound local churches. It is also the case that very few churches support or understand the value in having missionaries to cults and culture. Add to that, many of us engaged in this particular mission field witness the invasion and proliferation of false teaching and false teachers in the church. By speaking up, we are rendered as anathema or divisive by many church leaders for whom the great theologian Rodney King’s credo—“Can’t we all just get along”—has become paramount at the expense of souls.
Like the first-century disciples, missionaries are not concerned with empire building We are not to be intentionally offensive for the sake of offending, but we are to communicate the truth in love (Eph. 4:14-15) for the preservation of souls regardless of how well or not it is received. We are to reach individuals with the Gospel who, in turn and in partnership with missionaries, reach other individuals and eventually the community. This should be done in conjunction with and support from local churches.
Support Your Local Missionary
By virtue of their work, missionaries are largely physically disconnected from the local church. Their task is primarily living among, mingling with and talking to unbelievers who hold to opposing beliefs, world views, and behaviors. This is particularly difficult in a nation where Christians, cultists, false religions, and false teachers speak essentially the same language (English) and use many of the same terms (i.e. God), but those terms can have radically different meanings from group to group.
For example: The term resurrection (Greek: anastasis) actually means a standing up again. Essentially, the physical body which was buried will be raised (stand up again) with additional properties and the spirit of the departed will be reunited with their body (cf. John 2:19-21, 1 Cor.15).
In contrast to that, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (WTBTS) teaches Jehovah’s Witnesses that “resurrection” essentially is a copy of the original. They teach there is no soul or spirit per se, and the body is forever lost to decomposition. So, God makes a new copy of the body and makes a new copy of the memories and experiences of the individual from His copy, and He allegedly puts those into the newly minted body.5 One can perceive that without an understanding of the language being used, no vital communication can occur.
Salvation is another term common to many religions, but having radically different meanings. Biblically, the words salvation and eternal life are synonyms. Conversely, these terms mean two entirely different things to Mormons: Salvation is the possibility of being resurrected, while eternal life is becoming a god or goddess of your own planet. As Lorenzo Snow, the fifth president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (a.k.a. Mormons) said: “As man is, God once was; as God is, man may become.”6
Biblically, salvation is individual rather than national (an entire nation) or corporate (an entire group): “… he said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ They said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.’ ” (Acts 16:30-31), and we can individually have shalom or “peace with God” (Romans 5:1). For Black Liberation Theologians (i.e.: Pastor Jeremiah Wright, Barak Obama) and Progressives (Tony Campolo, Brian McLaren, et. al), salvation is corporate and primarily focuses on eliminating poverty, redistributing the wealth, and is man-centered; and talking with Wiccans requires a good understanding of relativism.
In the first century, most Christians came from pagan backgrounds. They already had an understanding of the culture around them. They were learning their new faith and sharing it with their non-believing friends, because they already had a grasp of the language, world view, and culture from which they had been delivered. This is less true today. The American culture has shaken off the hangover of a Christian world view and ethos. Consequently, understanding their thinking and communicating with them has become more specialized. Missionaries to America are an asset to the Church “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;” (Eph. 4:12). As with other mission agencies, Midwest Christian Outreach, Inc. is in need of prayer, encouragement, and financial support in order to carry out the mission to which we have been called.
L.L. (Don) Veinot Jr. is co-founder and President of Midwest Christian Outreach, Inc., a national apologetics ministry and mission to new religious movements based in Wonder Lake, Illinois with offices in Florida, Iowa, Southern Illinois and Colorado. He, along with his wife of 40 years, Joy, have been involved in discernment ministry as missionaries to New Religious Movements since 1987. He is a frequent guest on various radio and television broadcasts as well as being a staff researcher and writer for the Midwest Outreach, Inc. Journal and is co-author of, A Matter of Basic Principles: Bill Gothard and the Christian Life, contributing author of Preserving Evangelical Unity: Welcoming Diversity in Non-Essentials, as well as articles in the CRI Journal, PFO Quarterly Journal, Campus Life Magazine and other periodicals. He was ordained to the ministry by West Suburban Community Church of Lombard, IL, at the Garden of Gethsemane in Jerusalem, Israel in March of 1997. Don is a charter member of ISCA (International Society of Christian Apologetics) and is also the current President of Evangelical Ministries to New Religions (EMNR), a consortium of Counter cult/apologetic and discernment ministries from around the country.
- “Evangelism in the Old Testament” by Chris Sarris, Online Thoughts, http://www.onlinethoughts.com/onlinethoughts/evangelism_in_the_old_ testament.htm ↩
- “Missionaries to America?,” by L.L. (Don) & Joy A. Veinot, MCOI Jour¬nal, vol. 5, no. 1, 1999 http://www.midwestoutreach.org/Pdf%20Journals/1999/99win.pdf ↩
- “Evangelism in the Old Testament” by Chris Sarris, Online Thoughts, http://www.onlinethoughts.com/onlinethoughts/evangelism_in_the_old_ testament.htm ↩
- “Stranger Danger,” L.L. (Don) & Joy A. Veinot, MCOI Journal, vol. 10, no. 3, 2004
- Documentation of these beliefs of the WTBTS can be found in the two following articles: “Questions and Reflections from Cyberspace: Xerox People” MCOI Journal vol. 2, no. 1, 1996 http://midwestchristianoutreach.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/96janfeb.pdf ↩
- “As God Is, Man May Be?” By Bill McKeever, Mormonism Research Ministry, http://mrm.org/lorenzo-snow-couplet ↩