Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Philosophy of Gospel Tracts - Part 5

This is part five of a series.  The previous articles may be read here:  Introduction, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.

As I have stated previously, my ideas and views in these articles are with regards to Gospel tracts on the foreign mission field, not tracts in the United States.  Also, I want to make a clear distinction between Gospel tracts and church invitations.  I think that church invitations and Gospel tracts designed for use in the United States would typically require a very different approach in design, layout, style, and content than the ideas I am putting forth here.

Now that we have considered the validity of tracts, the content of tracts, and the importance of cultural relevance, let us move on to the next question:  Is a straightforward approach better, or is it better to ease into the message?

My opinion is that there is a time and a place for both styles of tracts.  I like to use straightforward tracts for people who already have some interest in Jesus Christ.  There are times when a person is literally asking for information about Christianity or asking good questions about Jesus and it seems a waste of time to give them a tract that beats around the bush.  For this purpose, a few years ago I wrote a tract called "Five Questions About Jesus".  This would be a perfect example of a straightforward tract.  It just tells you right on the front cover what it is about, and interestingly enough, this tract is one of the tracts that people like to use the most.  

On the other hand, many (perhaps even most) of the people with whom we come in contact are not yet interested in Christ.  They need a tract which will engage them by way of some question, statement, or topic which grabs their attention and compels them to read further.  I call those kind of tracts “back door" tracts.  The purpose of this type of tract is the same as any other tract – to get inside of a person’s heart and mind with the truth of God’s Word.  But since they often don’t throw open the front door of their mind with enthusiastic interest, we have to go through the “back door” instead.

By the way, God is the originator of the “back door” tract.  You probably already knew this, but the book of Esther doesn’t mention the word “God” even one time in 10 chapters.  Yet God’s sovereignty, wisdom, providence, grace, and power are seen all throughout.  This shows us that it is possible to get a point across with a subtle approach.

How do you know which kind of tract to use?  Here are four very simple thoughts to keep in mind.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Lang, Hang, Sang, Mang, and Chang

There is no shortage of humor on the mission field.  Recently I was writing an email update of our ministry here in Cambodia, and the thought occurred to me that some of these names must sound a little bit funny to someone who doesn’t live in Cambodia.  In one update I talked about a man named Hee and a man named Vee, and then in the next update I talked about a woman named Ree.  For the record, besides Hee, Vee, and Ree, other common names in Cambodia include Lee, Tee, Dee, and Nee.

It’s pretty common among Cambodians to name their kids in a series of very similar-sounding names, oftentimes one letter of difference between them.  I think they do it on purpose to mess with the minds of friendly pastors who try to remember their kids’ names.  My favorite family of names was the siblings of a man I led to Christ 7 years ago.  His name was Lang.  He invited me to his house one day, and when I arrived, he introduced me to his brother, Hang.  When I asked how many other siblings he had, he informed me that besides Lang and Hang, there were 4 more:  Sang, Mang, Chang, and (are you ready for this?) ...Tuen!  OK, I’ll admit it.  I was kind of disappointed when I heard that last name.  I mean…it’s not like they were all out of rhyming names.  There was still Fang, Gang, Rang, Tang, and Bang.  I don’t know.  I just felt kind of sorry for the kid.

Here are some other classics:

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Missionary's Message

Several weeks ago I wrote an article called “Cool?!”  If you have not read that article and the subsequent comments, you won’t fully understand this post.  This post is a continuation of the comments on the other post.  The reason I am posting this as a new article instead of in the comments section is that my reply is way too long to fit in the comment box.  Also it will save readers the time of having to scroll through all of the other comments to get to the newer comments.  By posting this as a new article I am in no way saying that my comments are more important than anyone else’s, but am simply trying to streamline the process for my readers.  If you would like to read the post and comments that are the precursor to this article click here.  Otherwise, just read on.

Dear Colin,

Before delving into the heart of the matter at hand, I would like to say a couple of things regarding the context and content of my article and your subsequent comments.

First, I would like to commend you for defending your friend, Tith Chandara.  Loyalty is an admirable trait, and I appreciate what you have tried to do to invest in the future of this young man and many others.  I have read through a couple more issues of LIFT since this article, most recently the expanded issue about the job market. I am grateful for the work you are doing to help give Cambodian young people a vision for their life. 

I do think that you read way too much into my blog post with regards to your reporter, Tith Chandara.  It was not in any way, shape, or form meant to demean or belittle him as a person.  My article was simply using some of his statements to make a point about an over-arching mindset towards religion.  It had nothing to do with him as a person.  From the way you describe him, he does indeed sound like a delightful young man.  I am sure if I met him that I would like him.  I am also sure that if I met him I would tell him about the Lord Jesus Christ.  If you will read the rest of this post, you will see why I must tell him about Jesus, and why it is not an arrogant thing to do but a kind thing.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The ABC's Of Driving In Cambodia

Angles are everything.  When another driver is turning toward you at a 5-degree angle, don’t worry, everything will turn out alright.  A 15-degree angle, you’re still fine, just make sure you keep your front bumper a few inches ahead of their front bumper so as to force them to merge behind you.  A 45-degree angle, at this point things are getting a little dicey.  Several long blasts on the horn are in order.  Warning: You should only call their bluff in direct proportion to how nice the other car is.  In other words, do you love your car more than he loves his, or does he love his car more than you love yours?  A 90-degree angle, hope your brakes work well!

Big cars rule!  Learn the laws of the asphalt jungle.  Know where you fit in the food chain.

Create your own space.  Yellow lines, white lines, double lines, dotted lines, crosswalks, concrete barriers, and sidewalks are there simply to get your creative juices flowing.  When it comes to getting from point A to point B, learn to think outside the box.