Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Is the Macedonian Call Normative for Missions Today? Part Two

Part One

Before I begin part two, I want to draw your attention to a series on the call that two others and myself did at Jackhammer several years ago (my parts one, two, three, and four).  Those will be helpful to get some more scriptural thinking than in these two posts.

In part one, I said, no, to the question of the title, among other things.

Maybe you're thinking, and I hope not, that it doesn't make any difference that someone hears a voice in his head and says it's God talking to him.  Your thought could be, as long as the stuff he hears doesn't change any doctrine and he wants to do something good, what difference should it make?  That seems about par for the course in Christianity today, where close and even much further away than close, actually does count.

Could you consider that Paul and the apostles and the era in which they operated were unique?  That's fine.  We are not ripped off today.  We have completed scripture and a long time of having sorted through it.  We don't need apostles.  We don't have apostles.  We are not operating in apostolic fashion any more.  It isn't lesser that we are.

Making the Macedonian call normative for today in missions does change doctrine, several doctrines in fact, and it is very dangerous in a number of different ways.

Not in any order of significance, one, the one with the "call" receives further and new revelation from God.  This isn't scripture, but it is being counted as having that authority.  This corrupts the doctrine of scripture.  Scripture, special revelation from God, is complete and sufficient.  We don't need any more and we're not getting any more.  The canon closed with the book of Revelation.  We call that the last book of the Bible.

Two, the signs of the Holy Spirit validated the apostles and scripture.  The Holy Spirit is finished confirming the Word of God.  This attributes something to the Holy Spirit that He isn't still doing.  Another common addition to the revelation from God is some sort of validation of a softer variety than what the apostles received.  Men point to these authenticating events or phenomena as how they know the voice is from God.  They would deny them as signs, but they very often still are (if not always) relied upon as signs.

True spirituality should be judged by scripture.  This "call" and its authentication have become faux evidence of the unique spirituality.  A person hearing from God is very connected to God, and this is a major way, albeit unscriptural, that folks are now judging spirituality.

Three, it messes up the biblical understanding of call.  Almost exclusively, call relates to salvation.  If you are called, you are saved.  Instead of being called meaning salvation, it has become in a wide swath of evangelicalism more associated with the voice in the head.

Four, it replaces the actual means by which someone knows what to do in the realms of the unwritten will of God or the individual will of God.  Men rely on these ways of conceiving of the will of God. Five, it undermines Christian liberty, because someone has the liberty to go somewhere as a missionary without having this extra-scriptural experience.  Six, it can be used to excuse man's will as God's will.  Even if it is permissible, it is said to be God's will, when it really is man's will.

Other problems ensue with the application of the call to missions.

One, unqualified men often become qualified by a call.  Two, men wish to go somewhere they shouldn't go, but they get to go now, because the call can't be refused.  I understand that for one, some churches expect qualifications too, but I've seen this work very often to qualify the unqualified.  For two, churches also will refuse, but again I've seen many instances where they are not.  A Filipino wants to move back to the Philippines except with full support and American money will go a long ways in Manila.

I don't want you to get me wrong.  Many who are "called" are also qualified and going somewhere they should.  They get there and do a good job for the most part.  The gospel is preached, new converts trained, churches started.  When they succeed in biblical fashion, the call isn't the reason.  It shouldn't get any of the credit.

On the other hand, I've met men, very well meaning, who should stay and help in their church.  They don't need to be out on their own.  They need direct supervision from a pastor.  They are so eager, but they are not equipped to do it.  Spurred by some combination of emotionalism, false doctrine, and wish fulfillment, they hear the voice, and say, yes, to it.  They spend years writing bad to mediocre to good mission letters, take photos, and embrace their call.  I'm not saying they're not trying.  Some are.  They just weren't cut out for it.

Three, men waiting for the call don't do missions.  They haven't received it.  It's like waiting to speak in tongues.  There are people out there who try to and want to, and can't.  No one actually is speaking in tongues, actual languages, and they are honest about it.  A lot of men could be evangelizing somewhere full time, sent out by a church, but they still haven't been called.  As much as some shouldn't be out there as a missionary, some should be, but they haven't heard the voice in the head.  Or, they hear voices in their head and are willing to admit they are just voices in their head.  They still haven't been called, so they are not somewhere evangelizing, when they are very qualified to do so.

All of us need to sort through the relationship of the Old Testament to the New, the Gospels to Acts,  and the Epistles to the Gospels and Acts.  There is a fundamental hermeneutical error that arises from a departure from historical, biblical theology, that provides the basis for making the Macedonian call normative for today.  I ask that you take this into full consideration.


Kent Brandenburg said...

Does silence mean, I agree with this or I disagree and I want to argue? Is the voice in the head not actually rampant? It is legitimate? You can't really come down in the middle on this, but I think that's where people want to abide. Just ignore it. This is substantial, because this is widespread in Christianity, in evangelicalism, in fundamentalism, and among unaffiliated Baptists. I'm guessing in general people would be angry with this, because they want the voice in the head to continue, just called by another, more legitimate sounding name. It's like when you talk about a naturalistic origin of the universe, or "science," I call it "accident," everything came about by accident. That's what they are saying, but they don't like the word "accident" used because they know it makes their viewpoint sound stupid and untenable. They like a name that will make it sound credible, when it isn't credible.

JMark said...

I hear fellow believers use the term "God has called me to this ministry" all the time. Their often repeated response is they kept praying about it and now have peace about it. Its sort of like saying you can do something over and over in your head that you are going to do it and now you have psyched yourself up enough to do it that you believe you are now called to do it.

It reminds me of my time at West Coast when I heard preachers tell freshman to point at a country on a map, research it and decide to be a missionary in that country when you graduate. It is sort of like that name it and claim it philosophy on missions.

Bill Hardecker said...

I find it interesting that the "call" wasn't just a personal call. The leadership of the Antiochan church were the ones who received the mandate from the Holy Spirit. We don't wait for a call. We have a command, a great commission, a mandate. Every unsaved person needs to heed the call to get saved. Every saved person needs to heed the call to holiness (i.e. separation from the world unto the Lord, which implies being called out from the world and joined to a New Testament Baptist Church). Every church member ought to work the Lord's mandate, doing the work of the ministry, under the leadership of their Pastor(s), to the edifying of the body of Christ (the "local" church). If a man says that he is called and it is "news" to his Pastor or Pastor, that's not how it works. If a man says he is called by some internal voice, he needs either special guidance or sincere medical help. For me, I would never approach my pastor and tell him of a call. In all three of my church membership experiences (previous and still one current membership) it was the pastor or pastors who came to me and asked if I was willing and able to do ministry task and trained me as I sought to honor them as best I knew how. I certainly don't believe that the Macedonian call is normative although it is informative.

Bill Hardecker said...

To avoid or to ignore could be a ploy to silence opposing material. Just wondering out-loud.

Daniel said...

I am greatly helped and challenged by the posts on this blog... I hope that the silence of others does not hinder you from continuing to challenge us in these areas. The past few years have been very busy ones and I haven't read all of your posts, let alone have the time to comment on them.

As a man who was sent out as a missionary and was in 200 different independent Baptist churches on deputation and has filled out many, many questionnaires from churches, I can affirm your assertion that a call to ministry is something that has been made normative today by most, and even has been made a requirement for churches to support a man.

A "calling" is something that is subjective, individual and unquestionable to most people. People are called in different ways. Callings are personal (relating to God's moving in an individual person and not the direction of a church). No one is allowed to question a man's calling, even if he may not be equipped for the task to which he has been called to. (these are my observations)

I have now seen many people experience a calling to a mission field, they talk about their calling as if it is something that is unmistakable, then never make it to their field because of various reasons, or they do not make it on the field for one reason or another.

I believe in the sufficiency of the Word, that the cannon is closed, and that we receive no further revelation outside of God's Word. I even make comments like, "If you say God told you something, then give me the chapter and verse!" However in this area of the calling, there seems to be a pass given my many (and even myself). Thank you for sharpening me in this area!

I think what churches should be the most concerned about is: What is the testimony of this man? What kind of church does he come from? What is his relation to his church? Has he been found faithful in his service in his church? Has his church set him apart for this work?