April 22, 2014
Where is Your Focus?
By Brittany Tedesco
A few months ago, I joined the other writers gathered around a native missionary visiting us from India. Whip smart, he holds a Ph.D. in ministry to Muslims and has worked years to develop a training program on how to effectively reach and disciple them. We all had gobs of questions and were firing away as the interview stretched into its third hour.
Naturally, we were fascinated by the culture in which he lives and works: poverty-stricken villages where people live in fear of angry deities and consult witchdoctors as remedies for any sort of ailment. Islam and animism mingle in these syncretistic societies. Not uncommonly, people are harassed or possessed by demons.
“Tell us about the miracles,” we urged him. “Have you ever cast out demons?”
“Of course,” he answered, nonchalantly. “But that’s not our focus.”
With more prompting, he finally told us several stories about demons he and his wife had cast out of tormented villagers.
A similar conversation took place prior to this one, when we writers met with a missionary from Myanmar. He lives in a dark culture where Buddhism merges with animism and demon possession is prevalent. But again, we were told that casting out demons wasn’t his focus. Like the Indian missionary, he was focused on training and discipleship.
Weird, I thought. In such godless societies, you’d think they’d focus a little more on the cultural problem with demons.
As an American, I’d never really paid that much attention to pop culture in the U.S. That is, until a few years ago when, by chance, I was exposed to a music video tied to a catchy pop song played frequently in stores and restaurants. The video was filled with occult symbolism that didn’t even seem to correspond with the lyrics.
Repulsed and yet intrigued, I did a little research and discovered that the occult imagery that used to be relegated to a few “shock rock” bands is now ubiquitous—almost a must to make it big in the music and fashion industries.
Popular Christian singer, Natalie Grant, walked out of the Grammys last year. Probably because, as part of the ceremony, a popular artist performed what appeared to be a demonic ritual to summon Satan.
No one can doubt that a shift in American culture has been occurring for a while now…it’s just ramped up significantly in recent years.
The Barna Group conducted a survey two months ago that revealed that the percentage of Americans who “doubt the Bible’s relevance and authority” has doubled since 2011. Um…that was just three years ago.
This attitude is held in a greater degree among people ages 18 to 29. We’re seeing the “graying” of America’s churches now; just wait another decade.
In such a godless society, should we be focusing more on our cultural problems?
In Vietnam, hundreds of tribal pastors have been taken away from their families and thrown into hard labor camps because of their Christian faith. We support a ministry that cares for the wives of these imprisoned believers, including the cost of the annual visit allowed by the authorities to see their husbands.
A report was sent back by one of the wives who, after making the arduous journey to the prison camp, was allowed only 10 minutes with her husband.
In only 10 minutes, what did he say to her? What had he been thinking about—been focused on—in prison for the last year?
How to get out of prison? How to change the culture so it’s friendlier toward Christians?
He had only one concern: that his wife keep her faith.
While free, he’d been focused on discipleship—on training others to carry the gospel message forward. His wife was one of those trainees.
You and I are alive now, in this society, for a reason—for such a time as this. So how do we “make the most of our time because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16)?
By focusing on our rotting culture and trying to change it?
Or by taking a page from the strategic handbooks of these native missionaries?
Evangelism. Discipleship. Training.
Where is your focus?