real change comes from the inside out

St. Francis of Assisi supposedly said “Preach the gospel at all times; if necessary use words.”

Perhaps he didn’t need to say it. In fact, I wish he hadn’t. Because it is easily one of the favorite things for evangelical college students today to say, and what they mean by it is that words aren’t necessary.

They are wrong. The gospel is good news, not pantomime.

Yes, many of them want to feed the hungry, build houses for the poor and save the planet. They want to act out the story of Jesus as best they can without having to understand it or explain it.

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praying for missionaries

17 When the poor and needy seek water,
and there is none,
and their tongue is parched with thirst,
I the Lord will answer them;
20 that they may see and know,
may consider and understand together,
that the hand of the Lord has done this,
the Holy One of Israel has created it.
—Isaiah 41

The sovereign purpose of God in missions and evangelism suggests two things. We should count less and pray more.

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a symbol of civility

There was some great food in Argentina. Asado, a kind of barbecue concept, involves eating different cuts of meat over a period of about 3 hours. Katie and I even came back drinking mate, a hot drink unique to South America.

But understanding and appreciating the cultures where our missionaries work is not about the food. Nor is it about what they can or can’t buy or how long it takes them to pay their bills, although all these things are important and may help us pray more thoughtfully about the work they do and the challenges they encounter.

Culture, at some level, is about the core values of a people. And each country, and in fact each family or individual, has been shaped by its history and geography in ways that shapes its politics and its art. To reach a people, missionaries have to learn these things. And to pray for a people we must learn them too.

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are there guitars in Argentina?

I was talking with Pablo last night, at our final asado on this trip. Fifteen people got together to eat about 16 pounds of meat over three hours, as the various cuts and kinds roasted slowly on the grill.

Pablo is a missionary kid, a child of two cultures whose parents have the opportunity to be supported by churches in the States, although they are both from Latin America. In addition to his deep-seated appreciation for his own culture (he says we really need to see a professional soccer game in Argentina before we die), he has been to the U.S. several times, for several months at a time. Continue reading “are there guitars in Argentina?”