Truth in Advertising
"I'm supposed to be teaching English, but I'm just flat out teaching the Bible."
These words will resound in my ears for many years to come. They were spoken by a Western missionary who was explaining his role in Russia. My immediate reaction was a mixture of anger and shame.
My anger was directed at the pride with which he spoke such words and the message that he communicated: "I am not who I say I am." My shame was that he was one of "us"--those who had come to Russia with distinctly Christian purposes.
I have come to realize, however, during our years in Moscow that not all of us have the same purposes. The person who spoke the words above is only one of many we have met who have misrepresented themselves in an effort to "save" souls. I have even begun to question how many of us are here out of compassion and love and how many of us are mere opportunists.
"The doors are open in the Soviet Union!!" everyone shouted. "Let us go now before they close!" they said. And we came. Some of us came as learners and learned much. Others of us came only as teachers and have learned little.
Many of our strategies have been driven by our desire to mobilize large numbers of people to save the masses within the former Soviet Union. In order to mobilize quickly, we have cut corners. In addition to the ethical problem already mentioned, we have neglected other basic principles of missions such as learning the language of those we have come to serve and gaining an appreciation for, rather than ignoring, the culture that surrounds us.
We need to proclaim and demonstrate the gospel in ways that are appropriate within this culture. Turning an English class into a Bible study is not a demonstration of the gospel. At best it is pragmatic opportunism. At worst, it is deception.
To teach that the Bible is the basis for values and morals and then misrepresent ourselves takes the life out of our message. We need to trust God to honor our obedience to His principles of honesty and integrity. It seems, however, that some of us would rather practice an allegedly sanctified version of the ends justifying the means.
We need to think about the long-term effects of our short-sighted efforts. It is past time to look at our approach to ministry in Russia. Let's be open, honest, and truly Christian. God will be honored because of it.
Editor's note: This issue's guest editorial provides
thought-provoking insight from a missionary working in Russia--a
mission filed that is in a constant state of flux. We encourage
other voices from inside the borders of the former Soviet Union and
East Central Europe to express their opinions on effective ministry in
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© 1995 Institute for East-West Christian Studies