“I want to become an infidel” said a guy who was speaking to my colleague. My friend has had a wide range of reactions over the years of his ministry in a ‘restricted’ location. He’s been ignored, shouted at, argued with, afflicted with riots and even arrested and jailed several times. But this response really caught him by surprise. The man was fed up with his cultural religion and wanted to become what his belief system identified as the ‘enemy’. He wanted to be an infidel. (one who doubts or denies opinions, doctrines, or principles of a particular religion)
I have a neighbour, a melancholy zealot, who has rigorously informed me that certain of my ‘ideas’ and ‘behaviour’ are not acceptable. I don’t fit his prescribed form or manner of governing words and actions. He didn’t call me an infidel, but I wish he would. I rather like the role!
For a long time I have been an ardent supporter of translating God’s Word: both into unwritten languages and into practical living. But as I’ve dug zealously into the Word, and been stimulated by other researchers among my Body of Believers, I’ve gone further. I push the parameters of Bible translation toward Bible ‘transformation’. In so doing I’ve been wonderfully inspired to check out a number of ‘doctrines’ that I have just accepted. I had never determined if they are all actually in the Book. I hadn’t researched whether they may just be popularly accepted opinions being passed around as truth. Making assumptions is the same as adding to or subtracting from scripture. Assumptions easily become opinions which do damage to the Truth! But asking questions makes me think and thinking causes transformation. It’s made me dump several opinions and stand more firmly on the principle. It’s at this point that I become an infidel! I enjoy causing others to think of what they ‘believe’, question what I say, force them to determine what God’s Word says and then evaluate if either of our conclusions / suppositions is correct.
I’ve just come home from Zambia. My greatest high of that trip was spending time in what was probably the longest and most stimulating Bible study that I’ve had in a good while. About 40 of us met to investigate Biblical Finances. I started out being extremely reluctant to impose western ideas into the subject matter, so I stuck to a workshop format of asking questions. I learned a lot through listening to Africans provide answers from their perspective. I’m conscious that in teaching and learning there is always the induction of personal and cultural bias. That probably happened somewhat, but I was so helped by hearing answers coming through an African grid of understanding. That helped each of us to ask more questions about whether we were actually reading the Bible or reading into the Bible. Our cages got rattled several times when we learned that some of our ‘beliefs / behaviours’ were not founded on scripture! Several infidels graduated from the study! (You can pray that we will have the courage to act on what we learned.)
I received a letter this week asking: “I was wondering how to pray for you guys. I don’t have an up to date itinerary….hope all is well?”
Yes, all is well. Amazing breakthroughs, heartbreaking disappointments, persevering plodding, exhilarating encouragements — all are parts of this Calling. But an itinerary of global travelling and leading training courses, though high profile, are not the essence of this Calling. They are the easy things to ask prayer for. But there are periods of time when I’m stuck in a no-man’s land of administrative floundering. That is the type of situation I find myself in at the moment. Administration is necessary but it always feels like playing in a puddle of mud. It’s always there; it has no obvious outlet; it has to be dealt with but after you’ve done extensive work in it, it only seems to have grown in size! Admin is like housework, it never ends. I’m so glad that Laura is able to pick up so much of it.
At the moment I’m in the midst of follow-up efforts generated by the several trips / trainings over the past few months. It is always a challenge to seek our Father’s Words of wisdom to challenge folk. With 1000’s of contacts around the world, I have a fabulous congregation to work alongside.
I’m also in the middle of negotiating ministry ideas for this next year. That is a huge challenge. Leaders ask for training, but urging them to organize their lives and make plans beyond their next three weeks is a major user of energy. Maybe that’s why Life Management Planning is requested so often! I yearn to be helpful but their lack of strategic vision and action really handicaps our opportunities to reach their colleagues. The tyranny of the urgent distracts from focusing on and accomplishing the important.
Infidels are the leaders who doubt or deny the common practices that result from the opinions, doctrines, or principles of their culture to become movers and shakers toward a better standard of living.
Pray that the leaders and thinkers with whom I can be most effective will respond to our Holy Spirit’s urgings and initiate actions that will help them “… go and make disciples.”
I like being an infidel. J … john
(original e-newsletter post – August 2012)