Tom: Well, we’re in our second session with a man that I’ll simply refer to as “Joe.” The reason for that has to do with security purposes. Joe and his family are in a country that’s…I don’t think I’m understating it by saying they’re hostile toward Christianity, particularly biblical Christianity. So for the sake of keeping him and his family out of harm’s way, I’m using the name Joe.
So, Joe, again, welcome back to Search the Scriptures 24/7!
Joe: Thank you, Tom, and it’s always a pleasure to be with you folks at The Berean Call.
Tom: Yeah. Joe, as I mentioned at the end of our last session, I’m hoping that many of the things that you’ve said will speak to the hearts of those in the mission field. And as I think about them, certainly all countries are different, but I think of those who are in Islamic countries, and they’re there, and they’ve been there for years, and they may not think that they’re being effective for the Lord. You know, that’s the problem with coming from the US: “Hey, we’ve got to be successful! We’ve got to make this happen now!”
Joe: Uh-huh, yes.
Tom: It’s like the line I remember of the five-year-old holding a placard saying, “Instant gratification ain’t fast enough!” Okay? Sometimes that’s our mentality.
So, Joe, could you speak to the issue of patience, and let’s say these individuals, knowing they’re led there of the Lord, but they’re not seeing, as they would like, the fruitfulness. What do you say to that?
Joe: Well, of course there’s always – it’s a two-edged sword in some ways. Sometimes people aren’t fruitful because they’re not doing anything, they’re not doing the missionary work that they’re called to do. I hate to say it that way, but there are examples – I can think of some myself – where I just have seen workers that aren’t working. They’re just there, and maybe they never were trained on what to do, and this is why it’s always good maybe for a new missionary to come and work with them – an experienced missionary to figure out what to do, what not to do. But basically, it’s…you’re going to do here what you should be doing in the United States or wherever you’re from in a local church, you know, all aspects of that.
So first of all, some people don’t have any fruit because they’re just not very effective. But secondly, some people are trying their very best, they’re doing all the right things, and they just have a hard time seeing fruit. Well, yes, you have to be patient. I’ve seen people who kind of like are the “Roman candle” type missionaries. They come and they’re here for one year, two years, and they kind of make a big splash with a lot of money, and, you know, get a lot of people to come. But as soon as they leave, you know, what they’ve so-to-speak established falls apart because it wasn’t laid with a good foundation, it wasn’t founded for the long-term. And you just have to realize that this is a long-haul effort, because you’ve got to build relationships with people, you’ve got to get to know them, their family, visit them, talk to them, and it just – it doesn’t take six months, it takes many, many years as they gain your trust.
For example, I had a man today…I was walking down the sidewalk, he gets out of his car, and he comes up to me. And I kind of recognize him, but I couldn’t place his name, and he says – he knew my name, of course – and he says, “Oh, Joe! I’m so glad to see you! What you said to me five years ago…” Now he’s talking five years ago, and I’m thinking, “What did I say to this guy?” And he’s repeating then some encouragement I gave to him, and that he applied it to his life, and – I think it was about smoking cigarettes. I was saying that that’s a waste of money and it’s not good for your health, and, you know, your life is going to be cut short, and that if you were to die, where would you go? And he remembered all this, and it must have shook him up, and the last five years he’s been thinking about this. So right there is an example. You’ve just got to be patient.
Tom: Right, right.
Joe: Eventually it’ll come.
Tom: One of the verses I love – every time I say that, people say, “Well, wait a minute, that’s not the one you said before.” No, no! There are many that I love, but, Joe, “One man plants, another man waters, God gives the increase.”
Joe: That’s right.
Tom: “Neither he that plants nor he that waters is anything, but it’s God.” He’s the one who’s doing it. So we don’t know where we fit in the picture. Are we planting? Are we watering? You know, where is that person? God knows their hearts. So we just want to be available and be used of Him wherever it might be. And it does take – it does take patience. But it also takes…Joe, I’m a fisherman, and people say, “Well, you know, you have to really be patient to be a good fisherman.” And I say, “No, you don’t! No, you don’t. You need to be relentless!” You need to get cast after cast after cast. And yeah, you’re patient and you’re – the endurance is there. Anyway, that’s the way we need to go about things that the Lord has laid out, those instructions for us in His Word.
Tom: Now, Joe, again, getting back to missionaries, let me tell you one of my favorite things about interviewing missionaries who have been out in the field: they’re out in the field, and then they come back – whether it be a short term thing, a furlough, whatever it might be – but I like to ask them…I like to get their perspective on the changes they see taking place in the church in America when they return home. Why is that? Because I think that’s a great barometer of the spiritual changes that are taking place. Joe, you know, what is it – the saying that you put a frog in a pot of water, and you just increase the heat gradually, it doesn’t know that it’s being cooked to death. Well, sometimes things happen to us around here that we don’t see, but you see, because you say, “Wait a minute, I was just here three years ago, back in the states three years ago, and whoa! What’s happened?” I mean, what do you think about that?
Joe: Well, that’s a genuine reality, you know. It’s a question that’s, in some ways, Tom, it’s a loaded question, because you ask, “What have we seen over the last 25 years?” And I just put my hand in my head and I think, “Wow, where do I start with this?” You know, there’s so many things to talk about. Well, for example, one thing that comes to my mind is just the worldliness and lukewarmness - they kind of go together. They’re like first cousins. You see that – I mean, you know, there’s always the positive exceptions.
Joe: There’s always churches and groups and individuals that are zealous and going on for the Lord, and I just thank the Lord for people like that. They’re fighting against the tide.
But in general, wow! You go to – you know, maybe you go back to the same place once every five years or something like that, and you think, “Wow, what am I seeing here?” And the second thing maybe that goes with this as well, you know, the first comment was C. H. Macintosh called it the “sin of levity.” And the idea is that things that weren’t done years ago are now freely done. Things that would be shameful, people would never think of doing it, are just done openly now. And just the standard – the moral standard is fallen down a lot, and that might be just moral practices, the dress, the way people act, what they’re involved with, and then also the lack of interest in world missions. Of course, there’s always good exceptions. There’s always a few that have interest, but, you know, I think years ago there was a greater thrust – maybe the churches were promoting it more – but it doesn’t seem as much now as before. And it’s like one of my teachers said: “Sometimes people are willing to do for the corporation,” that is, for money, “what they won’t do for Christ.” And yep, that’s a reality. You know, the corporation, the career, is all-important, and to think of leaving that to go off to some remote place in the world for world missions is kind of remote thinking.
And then this is startling too, Tom: the last point was the rise of Islam. That’s very concerning.
Tom: Mm-hmm, yeah. Joe, we have so much in common. We actually went to the same school – I think I can say that – and the reason I bring that up is because back when we were in school, I wasn’t a believer then, but the thing that caught my attention was the Peace Corps, because I had a sense, even though I loved my comfort, “Man, I want to help change the world! I want to go out and do things!” So that’s a motivation that, wonderfully, after I became a believer, I recognized, Well, okay, that’s good works – maybe has great temporal value, has no eternal value. At the same time, now you are, and certainly your family, you’re involved in something that has eternal value, and that’s incredible. Not only is it a good work and does it affect people – will it affect people – in a temporal sense, but it has eternal value. So that’s a real blessing.
Now, on the other hand, as we’re talking about what affects those out in the mission field, now, you may know of this from some of the people that you communicate with, but all of a sudden they’re getting the newsletter from the church that is supporting them, and they start to recognize some doctrines that are being altered or changed or something like that. And then when they come back to the church on a furlough or whatever it might be, and maybe it’s more than one church, but they recognize, Wait a minute, the church that I left had sound doctrine! And I know the scripture says, “The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine.” We talk about financial gain: they’re not in it for that, but they need to be supported. Now they’re in a position where, “What do I do here? Do I continue receiving support from this church when they’re going south doctrinally?” Well, what about that?
Joe: What about that? Yeah, that’s the question: what should I do in such a situation?
Joe: Well, Tom, our principle, our policy for the last 25 years, ever since we went to the mission field, is we went out by faith. And it’s not just an expression, but it’s a reality is that we were always taught that the New Testament principle and the New Testament model is that people were commended to the grace of God, and that they were under the care of the Lord Jesus when they went out as, you know, workers, as missionaries. And so we – and this is, you might say, shocking to some people: we never talk about money to any church, we never ask for money or anything like that when we give reports or write prayer letters, we just talk to the Lord about our financial need. I mean, when we go to a church and we see, you know, they’re changing or something like that, you know, maybe bad doctrine…but, you know, it’s like, we haven’t ever asked them for money, so there’s no agreement here where we would have to say, “Oh, don’t send us anymore money,” or anything like that.
But I understand what you’re saying: it’s very concerting when you see a good church that gets waylaid and get involved, and there’s plenty of examples where this happens. But we, for our financial status, we just always look to the Lord, and we don’t really worry about this. So if some church drops us, whatever, well, the Lord takes good care of us and has for 25 years.
Tom: Yeah. Well, it’s kind of sounding like a little bit of George Mueller there – maybe more than a little of George Mueller!
Joe: Yeah, we read his books, so we pattern our lives after him. That’s exactly right.
Tom: Which is wonderful, and honestly, the dilemma for some people: “Oh, wait a minute, now I really have to trust the Lord!” Yes you do! Yes we do! Yes I do! Absolutely. And that takes pressure off. Maybe scary at the beginning, but it takes all the weight of pressure with regard to how then you have to deal with it. So that’s a wonderful response, Joe.
Joe: That’s right. And there have been examples where we have gone to a place, and they have pressed me to say, “Do you agree with our new doctrines that we brought in?” And there will be times where I just say, “No, I don’t agree with this.” And then they would say, “Well, we’re dropping you from our…” you know, maybe it was a monthly support or, you know, a couple times a year. Just say, “ Oh, we can’t do it,” I just say, “Well, whatever! That’s what you feel, and that’s okay.” But the Lord always takes care of us and He always has.
Tom: Absolutely. You know, it’s really simple: we do things God’s way, I’ll tell you: it’s going to turn out well – maybe not a walk in the park at the beginning. We do things our way, our own way, and I can guarantee you the results, and you won’t like it. You just will not like it.
Now, Joe, there’s another thing when we were talking last week about the planting of churches and so on: America, for a century – I know decades – has been known for its support of missions and exporting not just missionaries, but lots of things. Well, today, in this day, here’s my question: what do you do about some of these doctrines that we’re seeing that are spurious at best, yet have now – affecting these young churches that you’ve helped develop, but then turned over to indigenous or to the locals to minister – what about that? We’re exporting some bad stuff, that’s what I’m saying.
Joe: Well, if I have your permission, I can name an example or two.
Tom: Go ahead.
Joe: Okay. Yeah, I mean, every bad doctrine in, let’s say, the United States will eventually appear on the mission field. And I have seen, you know, the prosperity gospel be brought in – not so much to our churches, the ones that we have been involved in, because they’ve been taught pretty well – but some of this worldly thinking about, you know, certain things, that gets brought in. But I’ll tell you, the worst one that I have seen in recent years is Calvinism and Reformed Theology.
Joe: Now, maybe this is going to upset some listeners, but I’m just being honest here: I believe definitely in the sovereignty of God and everything, but also in salvation by grace, but there is human responsibility. Like I mentioned last week, Romans:10:13: “Calling upon the name of the Lord.” A person has to understand they’re a Christian, and then call upon Jesus Christ for salvation. So it’s got both elements in there. But we have seen very aggressive groups come in, and when I say aggressive, they have a lot of money behind them and a lot of books they’re publishing, distributing them, conferences and inviting people, websites, you know, everything. And to be honest, there have been examples where people who were clear have gotten confused and kind of taken up by the bigness of this movement: “Oh, it’s big, hence it must be good.” And they forget about how they were saved. You know, they forget that Romans:10:13 was a reality in their life at one point years ago, and now they’re thinking, “Oh, this is all of God, and God is the one who determines who’s going to be saved,” and all this. And this is not healthy, Tom, and it really causes confusion, and then people…go ahead.
Tom: Well, can I add you’re really being kind when you say “confusion?” I would call it “church splits!” Talk about undermining a fellowship! That’s where their aggressiveness comes in, and you know that I know, because I’ve been where you’re talking about, and it’s a heartbreak: you have a young, vibrant church, and all of a sudden what ends up is discord! They’re sowing discord among unbelievers. So…
Joe: And splits do occur and have occurred, and the worst thing is that when you just try to reason with people, and, you know, you think, “Well, let’s think this through: who then is saved?”
And they say, “Well, God’s the one who determines that.”
And you say, “Well, are you saved?” Well, if you press them hard enough, they want to say “yes,” but they can’t say yes…
Joe: …because they themselves don’t know. And then, you know, all of a sudden it becomes they’re not even sure of their own salvation. And who can be sure?
Tom: Yeah, and let me add to that: when we look at TULIP, the “perseverance of the saints,” anybody, I believe, looking objectively at the whole Reformed Calvinist teaching, especially the five points of Calvinism: it is works-salvation. They have to look to their performance to recognize or to at least believe that they’re one of the elect.
Joe: Oh, you figured that out, Tom! Well, you’re doing really good! Yeah, well, that’s exactly true!
Joe: And it’s like where is Romans:10:13? “Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” It’s so simple, so beautiful!
Tom: I know, it really is. You know, along those…
Joe: So that is a real problem.
Tom: Well, let me talk about, you know, just a few more, and we’re kind of winding down here, but, you know, part of what the Lord has put on my heart (and without expecting it) is that certainly I’ve been with The Berean Call from the start, but now part of what the Lord has me do, and it has – it involved you and your ministry and “Country Number One,” as we mentioned last week – it has to do with what I call “damage control.” In other words, you have a young, vibrant church, they get excited, and what happens? Satan comes in and sows these seeds….
For example, I’m invited to Mongolia. Why would I go to Mongolia? Because these young, vibrant churches have been taken in by the prosperity teachers who have translated their books into Mongolian, and I’m there, you know, as, again, damage control! “Hey, wait a minute, let’s get back to the Word of God. What does the Word of God say about these things?” and so on. Something I never expected, even though, you know, with Dave, Dave Hunt, I’ve been involve in apologetics and encouraging people to be Bereans. But who would have guessed I’d pack a bag and go to Country Number One, or to Mongolia, or to South Africa, wherever it might be? But I’m thankful for the Lord that I can be used that way. But it’s important.
Joe: That’s right. And I’m thankful that they are asking you to come…
Joe: …because – yeah, you just need a good teaching, clarification, you know, another voice to come in to help neutralize some of these bad things that are coming, you know.
Tom: Yeah. Now, Joe, this might be a little difficult for you, because I’m not exactly sure how we handle it, but how can our listeners support your work in the Lord? I know prayer, absolutely. First and foremost it’s going to be prayer. But, Joe, what else could we do to encourage you, to help you, and not just you, but others out there that we know who are in the mission field? What do you recommend?
Joe: Well, yeah. You mentioned prayer, but that’s kind of general. You know, there’s a lot of specific things that people can pray for. One of the requests that we usually make when we’re with people is pray for the leaders of these challenging countries. You know, they’re just men; they’re souls for whom Christ has died, but sometimes we think that they’re beyond salvation, but they’re not.
Joe: And I often pray that I’ll be able to meet the leaders of the country that I’m in now on a personal level and be able to talk to them one-on-one. That would be a wonderful thing that has not happened yet, so you can pray for that.
And also another specific prayer request is pray for the young churches in these countries, particularly in our Country Number One, that they would continue on by themselves. Yeah, they like for me to come and encourage them, but hey, you know, one day I’ll be with the Lord, and they just need to learn to do it all themselves.
Joe: Have you ever heard of the Three-Self Movement in China, Tom?
Tom: I have, I have.
Joe: Yeah. Now, a lot of people think, “Oh, that’s really, you know, evil,” but maybe how they apply it isn’t so good, but the principles they have there are actually very good and very biblical. One is that they are self-governing, and, yeah, that’s what we want the churches to be: you know, the men, the local men, to rise up and be the leaders, the future leaders…not be dependent always on the missionary with the passage of time. To be self-financing: again, not dependent upon foreign money…I mean, in the beginning that’s a necessity, but with the passage of time you want them to dig in their own pockets and support the work. And then the third point is self-propagating, which means they’re doing themselves the evangelism instead of, “What’s the missionary want to do? Let’s follow him as he does the evangelistic work.” Well, in the beginning, yes. That is the reality. But with the passage of time, you want these local men to do all the work. So pray for that. That is so important.
And then the last thing is, well, we’ve been talking for two weeks now about missions, about the need on the mission field, the need for good teachers. If there’s a listener out there who is thinking about this and maybe he or she will be like what we were, hearing the voice of God: “Who shall go for us? Whom shall we send?” and maybe one of the listeners will say, “Here am I, Lord. Send me.”
Tom: “Send me.” Right.
Joe: So that would be something that people could do is say, “Send me.” Just talk to the Lord about it.
Tom: Excellent, excellent, Joe. My guest has been a veteran of the mission field whom I’ve been calling “Joe,” as I mentioned, for reasons of his safety, the safety of his family, because he’s involved in a country very hostile to Christianity.
Joe, again, I can’t thank you enough for your insights. I’m hoping and praying as we continue to pray here that these interviews that I’ve done with you and with others, that really would touch the hearts and minds of people out there, encouraging them in the Word, and to…
Joe: Yeah, I really appreciate out conversation that we’ve had these last two sessions, and it’s just of the Lord that we were able to connect, because a lot of times I’m not in a position – I’m not physically in a position where I’m able to connect. You know, I’m inside these countries, so it was just of the Lord, and I pray that there would be some eternal benefit to our talks.
Tom: Yeah, amen and amen. So, Joe, thank you for your insights and for being with me on Search the Scriptures 24/7.
Joe: Okay, thank you very much and God bless you all!