This post is dedicated to my brothers and co-laborers in Christ, Jeff Drake and Scott Williams.
If you know me, even just a little bit, you know that I love the outdoors and all types of adventure (ok, not ALL types I do drawn the line at certain death defying stunts and other unsavory adventure elements like giant spiders and extreme heights). For instance, one of the accomplishments that I am most proud of, earthly speaking, was summiting Mount Washington on a bitterly cold March morning about 4 years ago. Being from North Carolina it is rare for us to see more than 10 inches of snow at one time. So climbing a mountain atop 49 inches of snow was something of a novelty. That is not to mention nearly having frostbite on three of my fingers on our first attempt on the mountain during a "wicked cold" evening with temperatures well into the negative degrees. Aside from that, I just love being in the outdoors whether it is hiking, backpacking, canoeing, kayaking, bouldering or whatever. The thought that is always in the back of my mind, however, is how can I combine my love for the outdoors and my love for Jesus? Well, these two gentlemen have done a marvelous job of making this combination.
Timothy Scott and William Decker have made the Great Commission their mission. Their mission statement, per their website (http://www.traveltheroad.com/) is to, preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth and encourage the church to be active in the Great Commission. This mission, they say, is two-fold. First they preach the Gospel actively and second, they seek to reach people who are not normally ministered to by traditional missionary efforts. Furthermore, they document their journeys and produce a weekly "Christian reality show" that chronicles their adventures. That, I would say, is television worth watching.
If you watch the interview with ABC News the correspondent brings to light an interesting question that has been the subject of more than one missiology class to be sure. The essence of the question is this; doesn't asking people to convert the Christianity cause them to lose, or turn their back on, their culture? I think the answer that Scott and Decker give is accurate and well thought out. The simple answer is, no. However, the more complete answer is, perhaps, it depends. First of all we must understand that Christians around the world give Christianity a certain culture depending on where they live. Obviously, in the United States we have a distinct Christian sub-culture. That is, the way we worship is distinctly American, or Western. However, it would behoove us to realize that Christianity in America looks drastically different than Christianity in the Middle East or Asia or Central America. That is not to say that the beliefs or doctrines are different but that we have a unique way of going about it. The point is this, by asking someone in Mongolia to become a Christian no one is asking them to cease being Mongolian. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is fantastically flexible when it comes to things like worship and cultural distinctions. Let me give an example, if someone were to evangelize a Native American tribe it is not necessary to ask them to give up all of their unique heritage in order to become a Christian. What is important is that they understand that when they worship the "Great Spirit," or whomever, they are worshiping the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Creator of ALL things and the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul does this in Athens when he tells the people there that the "unknown God," is actually the One that is real and He has sent His Son to die for their sins. The bottom line is that if a certain bit of culture does not conflict with the Bible then it is allowable.
The flip side of this is obvious. If some part of someone's culture flies in the face of the Gospel or the Bible then it must be set aside. The example I immediately think of is the tribe in Ecuador that Jim Eliot and his friends and family reached. When they came to know Christ it was imperative that they lay aside their culture of killing. Did that automatically make them "like us?" No, they still retained a unique amazonian culture but now it was directed by God. They began to "walk His trail" rather than the false one they were on. This is, I believe, the great flaw in people's perception of evangelism. We are not trying to make people more American, or more Western. We are trying to make people followers of Christ wherever they are and wherever they come from. This is not some grand geo-political conspiracy. It is sharing the life giving message of Jesus Christ that is applied to the here and now and into eternity. Heaven will be a diverse place with people of all nations, languages and cultures represents but it will not be a place of diverse beliefs. It will be marked by the unity of worshiping God the Father, God the Spirit and God the Son, Jesus Christ.
So, my hat is off to these two men who are making every effort to take the message of Christ to the ends of the earth. They may not be doing it in a unique fashion but they are using our unique time in history and the technology available to us to share their adventure with the world. As my dear brother Jeff would say, they are on the "tip of the spear."