Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Auditorium Project Update #2

Last week was a BUSY week!  Our hired crew worked hard all week on knocking out the wall to expand our auditorium, installing a new door, and doing all the finish work (brick, cement, tile, etc) which is part of a job like this.  In addition to the hired crew, we had about 15 of our church people plus my family working hard on other aspects of the project.  We had to scrape, sand, prime, and paint the exterior wall of the church.  That was a lot of work, but every one worked together and got the job done.  Let me share a few photos from the week.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Auditorium Project Update #1

After nearly two years of searching for a bigger place for our church, God opened the door recently for us to do some remodeling and rent more of the building in which we currently meet.  This morning at 7:00 we got the project under way!  

The remodel includes knocking down one side wall of our auditorium in order to add the landlord's living room (which is on the other side of the wall) into our current auditorium.  This will result in a 100% increase in space!  The project also includes repainting both the inside and the outside, as well as many other cosmetic improvements.

Instead of saying a lot in this post, I just want to post some pictures from our day today.  The church and our landlord are splitting the cost of hiring a crew to do the demolition work as well as the more technical work we cannot do, but our folks are all excited to invest their own labors as well.  Today we had eleven of our church people show up to help!  

My own children have been as excited as anyone else about this project, and they were a big help today too.  If there are too many pictures of my kids in this post...sorry!  I'm not only a missionary, but I'm a dad too:)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Extreme Bible Drills

Okay, okay...maybe the title of the post is a little over-hyped!  But seriously, I have some ideas for Bible drills which I would like to share with you.  Using games is a great way to help information stick with people.  That’s probably why so many Sunday School teachers, youth pastors, and other people who work with kids and teens use Bible drills.  Bible drills can be a great help towards getting people to be more adept at finding things in their Bibles, and also can help to generate some excitement in a particular class or gathering.  Here in Cambodia, even the adults like games, drills, and quizzes.  In fact, sometimes it seems like they enjoy it more than the kids!  We use a variety of games and activities with all ages to keep people involved, keep people learning, and keep people smiling.

But one of the problems with games is that if they are overused, then people will lose interest.  I have three variations on Bible drills which I would like to share with you.  If you have quit using Bible drills because they seem too old and stale, here are three fresh versions which may liven up your next class, youth meeting, or even family devotions.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Philosophy of Gospel Tracts Part 3

This is Part 3 of a series.  To read the introduction to this series click here.  To read Part 1 click here.  To read Part 2 click here.

Does every Gospel tract need to present the Gospel in its entirety?  There are many tracts out there which do not actually present the plan of salvation, but some other Biblical truth.  There are other tracts which present some aspect of the Gospel, but really do not present the entire Gospel in a way that a person could understand and get saved simply from reading the tract.  Is this valid?  Or does every Gospel tract need to present "the whole story"?  In order to properly consider this question, we must first consider the different ways of presenting the Gospel.

There are many different approaches and “plans” that people use to present the Gospel, but there are two approaches which I consider to be extreme.  One is what I call the “5-Minute Approach”.  This is also know as the “1-2-3, Repeat-After-Me Approach”.  This approach consists of running quickly through a few verses in Romans then leading the person in a prayer.  The second is what I call the “65-Lesson Approach”.  This one is particularly popular on the mission field where many believe that a person must be taught numerous Old Testament stories first so that they can understand the significance of Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross.  One very popular series used for evangelism has the story of Adam and Eve boiled down to a mere 7 lessons!  In case you are wondering, I don’t go for either one of these approaches.  I find both of them to be extreme, and I believe there is a happy medium.  I plan to share some further thoughts on this issue in a later article, but for now I simply wanted to present these 2 approaches in light of this article on the philosophy of Gospel tracts.  A person’s philosophy of Gospel tracts will undoubtedly grow out of their philosophy on presenting the Gospel.  So let us return to the question at hand:  Does every Gospel tract need to present the Gospel in its entirety? 

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Philosophy of Gospel Tracts Part 2

This is the third article in a series.  To read the Introduction, click here.  To read Part 1, click here.  The next question I would like to address is:  How much Bible must be in a tract?

A few years ago, a tract-printing ministry in the United States sent me some Vietnamese tracts to use here in Cambodia, and they also asked if I would send them a good tract in Khmer that they could print.  They were very nice people, and their desire to be a blessing was evident.  I sent them a tract I had just written, but they declined to print it.  Their reason:  not enough verses in it.  They tried to add in a bunch of verses, but their tract template was just to small to contain it all.  I was not upset as they had a right to their own opinion regarding the content of their tracts, so I went ahead and printed the tract myself locally.  They wanted more Bible verses and less explanation.  I wanted less Bible verses and more explanation.  But this was not the first time I had faced this issue.

The first time was when I arrived in Cambodia nearly 10 years ago.  There were not yet very many good tracts, and many of the missionaries were using Gospels of John for tract distribution.  As I participated, I began to inwardly question the effectiveness of what we were doing.  I almost felt guilty about questioning it, because I didn’t want to suggest that God’s Word was weak or ineffective.  I believe the Word of God is powerful, and it is never a bad idea to place a whole Bible, a portion of a Bible, or even one verse of the Bible into someone’s hands.  There is no way that we could know what has already been going on in that person's life and how God may use His Word to speak to them.  On the other hand, it seemed to me that for the vast majority of people who knew NOTHING of Christ or the Bible, we could do better than simply handing someone a “colorless, non-attractive, difficult to understand book with no pictures”.  (I don’t view the Bible in this wayJ…this is how THEY viewed it).

After struggling with some mixed-emotions and praying about the correct approach, God directed me to Acts chapter 8.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Firefighting in Cambodia

In the past few weeks, I have read two articles in a local newspaper about firefighting woes in Cambodia.  Both of these articles caught my attention because of the parallels to the missionary work in which we are engaged.  Let me share a brief excerpt out of these two articles in the hopes that they will challenge you as they did me.

The article which I read today had this headline: "Not Enough Fire Trucks To Save Market From Fire".  It talked about a big market fire in Kompong Thom province in which 160 of 360 market stalls were destroyed.  As they interviewed officials, a major problem became obvious.  Here is an excerpt from the article.
"We don't have enough fire trucks to put out a major fire," said Chhou Sam An, provincial deputy police chief, who noted that the province has only two trucks. After an hour of battling yesterday's fire, officials sent for three more trucks from far-away Siem Reap province, but the flames had been contained by the time they arrived hours later. Chan Kimseng, director of the Ministry of the Interior's Weapons Control and Firefighter Department said he was aware of the problem, but that the government simply does not have the resources to purchase fire-fighting trucks. "We don't have enough fire trucks to meet the demand," said Mr Kimseng, who noted that there are 90 trucks for the entire country of 14 million people. (The Cambodia Daily, March 3, 2010)
That's quite a number...90 fire trucks for an entire country of 14 million people!  But as I considered that ratio the thought occurred to me that it is probably not much different than the ratio of Gospel-preaching missionaries to the general population in many countries around the world.  There is such a tremendous need all around the world for additional laborers for the harvest.  Men are dying without Christ, and there are just not "enough 'fire trucks' to meet the demand."

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Philosophy of Gospel Tracts Part 1

The first question that I would like to address is:  Are Gospel tracts a vital tool or a waste of time?  I have heard people, even former missionaries, say that Gospel tracts are just a waste of time in an illiterate country.  They cite two main reasons as proof:  First, it is a waste of time to pass out tracts in a country where so many people are illiterate.  Second, even the people who know how to read just throw the tracts away, because they are not interested in reading about Christianity.

There is no doubt that those objections do bear some legitimacy, as I can attest to myself.  But let’s consider the objections individually.  Regarding the issue of literacy, let me give an illustration in order to disarm their argument.  I have six children, only three of whom know how to read.  That’s 50%.  But today I bought a bunch of used books for my children.  If we followed the logic of some, then I wasted my money since only 50% of my children are literate.  But I didn’t buy the books for the ones who can’t read.  I bought them for the ones who CAN!  Of course, the illiterate people in Cambodia can’t read our tracts, but there are millions of people who CAN read.  The tracts are for them!  You may say that it is not a fair comparison, because my younger children can’t read only because they haven’t yet learned.  But I can assure you that I would have purchased the books, even if I knew that the three younger children would never learn to read.  Why?  Because the books were for the ones who can read.  I don’t understand the logic that says since some people cannot read, don’t give literature to anybody. 

Their second main objection is that even the people who CAN read just throw the tracts on the ground.  Again, there is some legitimacy to that concern.  One of the first tract distribution efforts with which I was involved here in Cambodia was a major flop.  A very high percentage of the tracts were tossed to the ground without even being opened.  We analyzed and adjusted and tried again with much better success the next time.  However, I believe that it is a mistake to think that just because some tracts are thrown away that it is a poor method.  In the parable of the sower, there were 4 kinds of ground.  How many of the 4 were good ground?  That’s right, just one!  So in this Bible parable about sowing the Word of God (which is exactly what one is doing when passing out Gospel tracts), a full 75% of the ground upon which the seed fell was not good ground.  I don’t think that this percentage (25% good ground) is necessarily a magic formula or a threshold of receptivity that must be reached.  It does, however, give us a Biblical principle to guide our efforts.  That principle is that we should not be dismayed, disheartened, discouraged, or even surprised when a large percentage of the tracts we distribute get tossed aside and are never read.  We are looking for the good ground, but are under no illusions that it is all good ground.