Global Missions Week at SWBTS focuses on Central Asia; For the Church Workshop, led by Strachan, Christ’s redemption of a fall world.
Global Missions Week at SWBTS focuses on Central Asia
By Julie Owens
FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) — Social pressure, violence, and unrest are barriers to mission work in Central Asia, but the region is fertile with opportunities for enthusiastic missionaries who want to spread the Gospel abroad, International Mission Board representatives told students at a luncheon recognizing Global Missions Week at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
The Sept. 18 luncheon brought together students and missions for Global Missions Week. It was one of a half-dozen events organized by the World Missions Center (WMC), intended to inform students about mission work and the possibilities open to them.
IMB affinity leaders talked about mission opportunities in three regions of Central Asia and urged students to contact them if they think their skills and interests might be a good fit for the work at hand.
“If you go there, expect it to be hard,” an IMB leader for Central Asia told the group. “If it wasn’t hard, it would have already been done.”
Twenty percent of the world’s Muslim people live in Central Asia, and speakers of 29 active languages in the region still have no active Christians among them, the IMB leader said. People have many false perceptions about Jesus, and there are barriers to evangelizing due to hostility toward the Gospel, Americans, and the West in general.
“Still, the Great Commission sends us to go,” he said, “to go to the place where fewest have heard the Gospel. That’s why we’re in Central Asia.”
The majority of people in the part of Central Asia that used to make up the Soviet Union are diverse in culture and needs, and are hardened to Christianity, one speaker explained. Yet there are also opportunities where the church is more developed, he said. In other parts of the former Soviet Union, missionaries have the opportunity to help people resolve their struggles with racism and prejudice.
Another IMB representative described outreach to the peoples of Asia Minor. Among its 100 million people, fewer than a tenth of 1 percent are believers. Among the region’s 69 people groups, 25 have no one engaged with Christianity. Opportunities for missionary service are plentiful in this region, he said. “There are many people there who have never heard the truth, and no churches to reach out to them.”
Another IMB representative urged students at the luncheon to pray for the ouster of violent radicals from these regions. Social and family pressure and political unrest are significant barriers to mission work there, he said. “But there are leaders being raised up; there are churches being planted. God is at work there.”
Throughout the week, the WMC also hosted a missions information night; a “Mommy & Me Storytime” event for women and young children; a women’s tea and panel discussion; and the annual Tastes of the Nations event, showcasing popular foods from regions around the world.
On Thursday night, Ask-a-Missionary, a discussion session intended to allow students to ask questions about missionary service, capped the week of events. About 60 students heard four missionaries representing Central Asia describe their roles and challenges. Service in Central Asia is “inspiring,” one said. “You can walk in the footsteps of the apostle Paul.”
Responding to questions, missionaries described how they build teams to create viable churches, and said church planting leaders are needed. Missionaries with backgrounds in engineering, nursing, and agriculture are in demand, along with English teachers. Physical fitness is encouraged as well.
Challenges persist in maintaining healthy family relationships, they said, particularly when there is a lack of support system for spouses. Children may also struggle with living overseas. Flexibility is mandatory. “We had three days to move from one country to another,” one missionary said.
The group emphasized that the Gospel resounds with Muslim women because it encourages self-esteem and self-worth. “Women have a vital role in evangelism because they are likely to hear the Gospel from each other,” one said.
Learning the language is an ongoing challenge, another missionary said. One recalled a time when he attempted to invite an Asian man to an event, but instead, through language errors, told him, “I invite you to go to hell.”
“At home, you’re an intelligent person, but then you become a child again, trying to communicate,” another said. “The learning never ends.”
For more information about how to get involved in missions efforts, visit swbts.edu/wmc.
For the Church workshop highlights Christ’s redemption of a fallen world
By T. Patrick Hudson
Midwestern Seminary hosted its second For the Church Workshop of the semester on Oct. 2, featuring Owen Strachan as lecturer and emphasizing that there is an anti-order that resulted from the Fall; however, it is only through Christ that mankind can overcome this anti-order and be redeemed.
The three-part discussion based from Strachan’s new book, “Re-enchanting Humanity,” included a chapel message from Genesis 3 and two afternoon sessions.
Strachan, who is associate professor of Christian theology at Midwestern Seminary, began by preaching a chapel sermon examining how Adam and Eve’s initial sin set the human world into anti-order, or upside down from God’s perfect plan.
First, Strachan noted that there was an attack on God’s good design when the serpent tempted Eve to eat from the Tree of Life. In the world, God had created an order and provided a tremendous gift to everything in it, as all was sustained by his provision.
“The fall of Adam and Eve is not merely the story of them biting into forbidden fruit. It is the unraveling of the good and gracious order of God,” Strachan said.
He then explained how, since the Fall, the human race craves immortality without the divine. He noted multiple side effects of the anti-order which include: the beginning of gender dysphoria, insecurity over one’s body, people masking themselves to not show their hearts of darkness, men not leading in their marriages and families, people not accepting responsibility for their actions, human pride, and much more.
“We learn something about ourselves here: even without any coaching, any depravity-based training from the cradle, we are experts at self-justification,” Strachan said.
Lastly, Strachan explored God’s reaction to the first couple’s sinfulness, saying, “The fall represents holistic personal rejection of God by Adam and Eve. It is a demolitonal moment, a spiritual extinction-level event.”
This extended beyond Adam and Eve to all of humanity, and it affected the lifestyles of mankind in every way.
“People do, say, think, and hunger after bad things because they have inherited a corrupt nature in Adam, and they are totally depraved,” he said.
Strachan concluded by explaining this knowledge is positive today because it helps us see how fallen we are; it drives us back to the Lord; and we understand he is the only source that our help and worth can be derived.
In the work, Strachan posits that humans have become disillusioned with themselves, thinking they have no divine origin or relationship. In counterpoint, he presents a Christian biblical anthropology that is a systematic study in the doctrine of humanity, addressing contemporary questions of transgenderism, homosexuality, technology, and more.
In the second session, entitled, “The Rise of Neopaganism,” Strachan posited that since the Fall there is, and always will be, a fundamental contrast: Christianity and Paganism.
Noting that Romans 1 provides the clearest understanding of this concept, Strachan said paganism begins with thanklessness toward God, which results in futile thinking and a darkened heart. People exchange God’s glory and God’s truth for a lie. Men then worship idols instead of the living God.
As a result of this darkness, Strachan explained that the “twisting of the mind leads to the twisting of the body … and when people turn away from God in a decisive way, they reject nature; they reject the body.” Thus, God gives them up to “dishonorable passions” — God’s design for sexuality is exchanged for homosexuality.
“The rebellion of Romans 1 occurs and recurs throughout human history,” he said. “It will do so until the end of the age. It is not a fragmented reality, as Paul makes clear. It comes to us whole, though few see it that way.”
Strachan then noted that the major worldview today, which opposes Christianity, is neo-paganism, which presents four major challenges: feminism, post-marital sexual libertinism, transgenderism, and homosexuality.
“These four ideologies represent an anti-order, a worldview that is, in truth, no worldview at all,” he said. “If most modern people do not bow to stone deities, this in no way means they are not cheerful participants in neopagan worship.” Strachan added that neopaganism is the major competitor for the hearts and minds of Western people.
Strachan –in his final session entitled “The Image of Christ” — said that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the one force in the cosmos sufficient to overcome creature worship, as it transforms sinners in entirety: “We are redeemed in identity, thoughts, desires, and actions. … We become new people in and through Christ.”
The heart of human identity, Strachan said, is found in the imago dei, or the image of Christ.
“Mankind is the representative of God on earth; to see a man or woman is to see the only living creature made in the image of God,” Strachan said. “To see humanity is to see the likeness of God. The human race is a living testimony to its Creator.”
In 2 Cor. 4:4, Paul identifies Christ as “the image of God.” Thus, we look to Adam as God’s original intention for his creation, but we look to Christ for healing, hope, and salvation.
“Adam was made to rule but subjected himself to the anti-rule of the anti-ruler. We all live under the natural sway of Satan as a result. But Jesus comes to enact a new rule, the rule of the kingdom of God, the very embodiment of heavenly righteousness on the earth.”
To view all sessions, visit: https://www.mbts.edu/2019/10/ftc-workshop-with-dr-owen-strachan-session-1/.
Midwestern Seminary plans to host two FTC Workshops per semester. President Jason Allen presented the first workshop on Sept. 18, based on his recent book, “Letters to My Students: Volume 1.” The next FTC Workshops will take place in spring semester of 2020.