Lite cottage cheese, Lite cream, Lite cheddar cheese, Lite potato chips, Lite butter, Lite cola, Lite TV dinners, Lite mayonnaise, Lite oil, Lite sausage. The list goes on and on. It seems that Western grocery stores these days carry a Lite version of just about every food imaginable. There are just about as many lite foods as there are new ministries serving in East Central Europe and the former Soviet Union.
I am beginning to think that some of us are creating a Lite version Christianity and exporting it to other nations. It is most noticeable in East Central Europe and the former Soviet Union, places where bearing the cross has been anything but a Lite task. Take the evangelist who went to Kiev two years ago and told people that the next time he came he was going to bring deodorant for everybody to help them overcome body odor. Oh, and by the way, how about accepting my Jesus? That is a Lite ministry if there ever was one. A college friend who now is a pastor tells me that Russia has replaced Israel as the place for ministers to go for two-week mountaintop ministry experiences. Lite pastors doing Lite ministry.
Or what about the Christians Josif Tson mentions (in this issue), who have gone to Romania and with a skillful blend of sincerity and pomp make promises to local authorities about what they will do to help Romanian society and then they leave Romania and the local authorities wait and wait and wait and nothing happens. Finally, the local authorities go to the national believers and want to know why these Christians do not keep their word. Lite is a polite way of describing that kind of "ministry."
But consider another more positive aspect of the Lite-foods phenomenon and another more positive aspect of ministry in the East-West context. Companies produce Lite versions of foods because people want alternative foods that are more nutritious or contain fewer harmful ingredients. They have less fat and little or no cholesterol--better for the heart, we are told. Certainly, ministries exist in the East which are not effective or are opportunistic or are ill-prepared. It is true that well-meaning Christians can actually harm the cause of Christ. But it is equally true that Western believers, with pure hearts and with prayerful planning and preparation, can be of benefit to the spiritual and moral life of the peoples of East Central Europe and the former Soviet Union.
Decidedly, it takes work to learn the new challenges of the chaotic cultures of East Central Europe. Here are some suggestions:
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© 1993 East-West Church and Ministry Report