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The Christian Commons - Ending the Spiritual Famine of the Global Church

The Christian Commons - Ending the Spiritual Famine of the Global Church

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Published by Sammis Reachers

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Published by: Sammis Reachers on Mar 30, 2013
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08/16/2013

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The mandate Jesus has given to the Church is to make disciples of all peo-
ple groups. Evangelism and church planting are necessary aspects of disci-
pleship, but neither is the ultimate goal. Accomplishing the goal of making
disciples is dependent on the Word of God, translated into the languages of
the world, made accessible to oral communicators, and forming the basis
for other discipleship resources that explain the Word of God with clarity.

~ ~ ~
One should only trek through the swamps of Papua New Guinea in
the rainy season if they truly enjoy relentless heat, unbearable hu-
midity, and endless trails of knee-deep mud. I am not particularly
fond of any of these, but my teammate and I only discovered what
we had gotten ourselves into after it was too late to turn back. So
we made the most of it and continued on as planned with the lan-
guage survey that would help determine the need for a Bible trans-
lation project in the language of the people group native to that
area.

26

“Be Warmed and Filled”27

Many days later, as we slogged along behind our guide through the
rain and mud in yet another swamp, we came across a long tree
trunk lying in the direction we were going. Instead of continuing
through the mud, we crawled up on the tree trunk and walked
along it. As we got to the end of the log, our guide stopped so sud-
denly I nearly ran into him. He waited there, perfectly still in the
falling rain. Finally, he said to us, “Get off the log.” So we got down
and walked around the end of the log to continue on our way. As
we passed the end of the log, I glanced over and saw the reason for
the detour. A clump of grass had been cut off neatly at the roots
and laid across the end of the log. It had obviously been placed
there by someone, but we had seen no one on the trail so far that
day.
I asked our guide what the clump of grass was all about. He did not
answer right away and when he did, there was concern in his voice.
“It is witchcraft,” he said. “Someone is trying to use black magic to
kill another person. If we had stepped over the grass, the curse
would have fallen on us and we would soon die.”
We walked on in silence for a few minutes and then, quietly at first
but growing louder, our guide started singing a traditional chant,
one of the songs of his ancestors. The haunting melody was unlike
anything I had ever heard before, and seemed to be an eerie flash-
back to the ancient history of that people group. The song was pre-
sumably sung as a white magic “antidote” to the curse we had en-
countered, in the hope that it would protect him from harm.
This was intriguing, because in the villages we had visited on that
trek, we kept asking the people if they would sing us some of their
traditional songs. “Oh no,” they replied, “We do not know the tradi-
tional songs anymore. We are Christians now and we only sing
hymns.”
The first Christian churches had been planted in that people group
over a century before, and most of the larger villages had a church
building. It was true that in their church services they only sang

28The Christian Commons

Christian hymns. But now we realized that the traditional songs
were, in fact, quite well-known. They were still used in situations
like these, when faced with spiritual warfare and the possibility of
demonic attack.
Our guide was one of the most spiritually alert people we met in
that entire people group. He was the one who had made the all-day
hike multiple times to the nearest village with a two-way radio, to
ask for missionaries to come and help them translate the Bible into
their language. But though they knew the right words to say, even
had church buildings and sang hymns, it appeared that little had
changed at a heart level for most of the people in that language
group. They did not know that “white magic” is a lie, or that Jesus
has won the victory over Satan and his demons, or that faith in His
Name is the only real protection against demonic attack.
A little later, we stayed in a village that was near the border of the
language group. In the course of the conversation, some of the peo-
ple mentioned that one of the villages in a neighboring language
group had converted to the Bahá’í religion. As the story unfolded,
we learned that the village had for decades been known as a Chris-
tian village. But recently, the advancing Bahá’í cult had swept
through that part of the country and, with little opposition, con-
sumed the village and claimed its allegiance.
What had happened? Why was it so easy for an entire village of
“Christians” to be swept away by a cult? Why had the people pre-
tended not to know the traditional songs when, in reality, they
were well-known and were used in spiritual (but not “Christian”)
contexts?
These are difficult questions that we will attempt to answer—both
in this situation and in many other situations like it. God alone
knows the hearts of the people involved, and care must be taken
not to assume what cannot be known. But there is one crucial les-
son that comes through in countless stories like this one: making

“Be Warmed and Filled”29

disciples of all nations involves more than merely evangelism and
church planting.

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