- Lawrence "Chunk" Cohen
i recently returned from a mission trip to honduras. it was a great week and i was blessed, as always, to be a part of God's kingdom work.
i enjoy ministry in general so i knew i would enjoy the trip. when it comes to missions i'm open to hardships, discomfort, etc. going in, though i've never experienced REAL persecution or suffering, so my "openness" hasn't really been tested. regardless, i try to keep the right perspective and remember why i'm there and what i signed up for.
our trip was multifaceted. we had a couple of pastors teaching a Bible institute where pastors were being trained, a handful of women holding a women's conference, a couple doing a marriage/parenting conference and a big group doing general street/park evangelism. i was on the general evangelism team (and got to preach in a few churches!). we got to minister in the local park, a couple of schools, the mall, a colonia (lower class neighborhood) and in local churches. it was really cool seeing people work in their areas of giftedness (teaching children, singing, playing guitar, serving, etc.) across cultural lines. and it was cool seeing people step up into areas that weren't as comfortable for them (public speaking, FTW!).
there were two main things that stand out to me the most from this trip. the first thing that i was impacted by was seeing first-time mission trippers fall in love with ministry/missions. there was a pair of teenage siblings with us on their first trip and while it was definitely a learning/growing/stretching process for them, they both were fired up to go on another trip by the end of the week.
the second thing that stood out to me was the need to continue ministry in places like honduras, even though they are "reached" nations. i had an inner tension with me on this trip because of a conversation i had with a good friend (and missionary) several months ago. when i told him we were going to honduras he basically said, "everyone goes to honduras. why don't you come serve where i am? it's staunchly muslim and really lacking for missionaries."
his comments really stuck with me. he's right in many senses. we saw several missions groups at the airport, on the plane and even in the town we were serving in! honduras is well reached in comparison to many places in the world. i found myself wondering if our work was really that impacting.
here's why i believe it was: because honduras is well reached, not only has the gospel been proclaimed widely there, but FALSE gospels have been proclaimed widely there. we saw mormon churches and seventh day adventist churches, etc. so i believe it's still crucial to proclaim the true gospel in honduras. and i think the pastor training our team did is invaluable so that they can make disciples with a clearer understanding of biblical truth.
i know my missionary friend doesn't think we should ever stop preaching anywhere, so this IS NOT A COUNTERPOINT TO HIS STATEMENTS. but his thoughts stuck with me and i wrestled with them. and i think we do need to send more missionaries to under-reached muslim countries. but it's ok to keep sending them to honduras, too!
our church has taken the month of march to discuss stewardship, based on randy alcorn's book. all of the sunday morning classes are studying the same principles and the sunday sermons are on texts that point to different stewardship principles, as well.
part of this emphasis included a challenge from our pastor to illustrate the parable of the talents.
i'd really appreciate it if you'd take a few minutes to check out the college and young singles ministry's treasure principle site. and if you give, you can even register for the chance to win a prize!
fyi, this post was sort of inspired by this post. so you may want to read it before moving on, but you don't have to.
just hear me out. i'm not hating on bieber in the sense of "i hate his music and teeny-bopper culture." i don't have strong issues with those who are fans of his, really, either. what i don't like (and i'm not calling shrode out on this, i'm just reminded of it by his post) is people trying to tout bieber as a good Christian influence amidst a sin-filled environment. (from what i read, shrode was hopeful that bieber could stand for something other than the world and that bieber came from a faithful family that he was rooting for to direct justin in the right direction.)
this has probably been addressed at stuff Christians like, but i know that Christians like to root for famous/successful Christians. heck, i praised tony dungy and kurt warner on this very blog for the confusing contentment they've demonstrated in their post-nfl lives.
on a minor level, the danger here is promoting a celebrity as Christian in such a way that they become models in the faith when they shouldn't be. on a an extreme level, the danger is following a "Christian" celebrity so that we can label our idol worship as something much more tame, like "support."
back to what spurred this line of thinking... in the thinklings post referenced above, bieber's faith-walk was wondered about and certain evidences were given in hopes that he might be a believer who is working hard at keeping his nose clean and sending out good clean, positive vibes. (i really hope i'm not misstating or misquoting anyone.)
in the comments, someone mentioned that bieber's rolling stone cover was already a sign that he was headed for or already on a slippery slope. i went looking for said photo because i had seen things of bieber on SNL that already concerned me. i really didn't think he was a Christian role model, anyway, based on the fact that he's a secular artist. shamefully, it's the cynic in me that doubts a believer who is serious about their faith can really be wildly successful in the entertainment industry.* to me, you have to sell out to some extent to be THAT successful. at the very least they aren't characterized by their faith in Christ. i could be wrong. please remind me of examples where i am.
anyway, what i found on rolling stone's site was not the cover photo in question, but a picture of bieber flipping the bird to some paparazzo. granted, this does not mean he isn't a believer. but it is evidence that we should be extremely careful in promoting any human as a role model who isn't characterized by imitating Christ.
i don't doubt that bieber is talented. i don't doubt that his music is positive. i don't doubt that he's a generally good kid. BUT what that all adds up to is as eternally significant as charlie sheen's recent tirades. beyond that, it might even be more dangerous than sheen's "words of wisdom" because bieber is safe, cuddly and encouraging. sadly, anything short of Christ just makes for a safe, cuddled and encouraged journey to hell (unless you side with rob bell (oooooh, booyah, didn't see THAT coming did you? obligatory rob bell reference: check.)) basically, #tigerblood is just as God glorifying as #bieberfever.
so, to sum up: i don't mind if you're a bieber fan. i really don't. shoot, continue to pray for him, hope he stays out of trouble, etc. but please don't try to champion him as a Christian role model or put him on a pedestal. it's ok to enjoy secular music, really it is. as long as we don't glory in it and don't idolize those who represent it. and whatever we do, we dare not label it as "Christian" so we can embrace, stomach and parade our worship of anything/anyone other than Christ.
looking for role models? look for this attitude: "Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ." 1 Corinthians 11:1
wondering what to worship/promote: "Some boast in chariots and some in horses, But we will boast in the name of the LORD, our God." Psalm 20:7
"But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." Galatians 6:14
*i believe pro athletes are different because their profession/success is based more on their athletic ability than their image or message/brand.
i've been much busier than normal with work, school and mission trip preparations. hope to bring you more substance after next week's mission trip, but if you need a break from discussing rob bell... here i am!
and here's a quick list of trivial things that i like:
the dart guy from this dating site commercial:
you may disagree. and most commercials are not funny. this one even has things that don't play at all. BUT i love the lines "i don't know, is that a real sponsor?" ... "gonna get stupid loose" and "mountain top!"
this best buy commercial:
"you bought the wrong tv, silly head."
this clip from a league of their own: