Posted On February 9, 2018

8 Reasons Why The Next Missionary You Support Should Be A Cessationist – Part 2

by | Feb 9, 2018 | Missions

The Prelude

This series is predicated on the important truth that the continuationism vs. cessationism debate is no small deal. You are either one or the other, and there is no squishy middle (though some might lead you to believe there is). The key question is whether or not God is still speaking new revelation to His people today through audible voices and spiritual impressions. If so, then that drastically affects cross-cultural church planting methodology.

It isn’t minor, it’s yuuuuuuuge.

I noted in the previous post that I believe cessationism, obviously, is the Biblical position, and I am writing primarily to those who agree with that statement. Rather than trying to convince you to take a position that you already agree with, I am hoping to convince you and your church that sending missionaries who allow for extra-Biblical words from God and prophecies is horrifically dangerous.

To simply say, “Well, a continuationist missionary is better than no missionary at all,” is unwise. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. You are convinced, as a Pastor/elder/leader, that your church’s spiritual vibrancy hinges on faith in the pure Word of God. Wonderful. Now, I would exhort you to be equally convinced that a tribal church’s spiritual life depends on that same belief.

My overall point, which sprung from Fred Butler’s recent series, is this: continuationism inevitably causes Christians, who are already prone to forgetting Scripture, to slip towards unorthodoxy. Animistic people, however, who are prone to syncretism and are often hours from the nearest Evangelical church, are 100-times more likely to slip into unorthodoxy through Charismatic beliefs.

This is, ultimately, why I wouldn’t even plant a church with Matt Chandler or John Piper in an unreached people group. Praise the Lord that, through intense study of the Word over many years, the Lord has seemingly protected them from unorthodoxy. Guess what, though? This will not be the case for tribal groups. This deep, decades-long foundation has not been laid for them. To entrust them to rightly distinguish which messages are from God, which messages are from their Ancestors, and which messages originate from themselves is obviously dangerous.

As you will see throughout this series, cessationism is not only the Biblical position, but the safest one for tribal church plants.

Onward.

***

In writing this next sentence, I realize this may offend some of our more proper Western, millennial sensibilities — although it is absolutely true, obvious, and critical to my overall point, before and below.

Deep breath, here we go: there are a lot of people in the world that don’t think like us.

Yeah, there, I said it. At least one-third of the world has a completely different worldview than most Westerners do, and that worldview is called “Animism.” It’s terrible and wicked and gross. I hate it so much, because I’ve seen it turn children into mindless murderers, men into monsters, and women into mush.

Animism

Animism is a worldview built on the fear that ancestral spirits roam villages freely, ready to bring sickness and death upon those who don’t do things the “Right Way,” you know, “like the ancestors used to do.” Nothing makes sense, and everything makes sense at the same time.

It’s difficult to describe, but here’s a helpful example (try to picture yourself in this kind of environment):

Old men die in the village all the time (this is normal), but, often in Animism, the death of even an elderly person is never understood to be due to normal, natural causes. The assumption is that someone caused that old man’s death, either indirectly – by not doing things as the ancestors would have done it – or directly. “The Knowers,” — those people in the village who have the special gift of discerning the spirits of the ancestors, — might burn some leaves, go into a drug-induced trance, or shed some animal blood, it doesn’t matter: The Knowers, the special ones, the village Rock Stars — they’’ll figure out exactly who caused this old man’s death and encourage the village to act accordingly. Spoiler alert: the revenge is horrifying and unjust.

Ultimately, in the animistic worldview, the death of an old man who died of old age and natural causes is perceived to have been caused by caused by someone else, and therefore warrants revenge. The revenge is multiplied by a hundred times when a baby or healthy adult dies…Yikes.

Ultimately, in the animistic worldview, the death of an old man who died of old age and natural causes is perceived to have been caused by caused by someone else, and therefore warrants revenge. The revenge is multiplied by a hundred times when a baby or healthy adult dies…Yikes.

Don’t get me wrong, the prevailing worldview of our time and place, Secular Humanism, is just as godless, murderous, and damnable. Just as Satan (the god of this age; the author of Christless, worldly philosophies), has blinded Westerners’ minds with ideas of Evolution, Therapeutic Deism, and Atheism — darkened minds pepper the 3rd world countries, where mission-minded churches send missionaries to plant churches.

When your church sends out or supports missionaries in 3rd-world countries, they’ll be confronted with it, and the only tool they have to wage war against this worldview is Sola Scriptura. I’m not exaggerating here. The full counsel of God, chronologically taught from Genesis to Revelation, is the sword we are called to wield, and I’ve seen its miraculous results in cultures that have been steeped in pitch-black darkness for thousands of years.

I hate Animism. Did I mention that?

In this extremely important series, I am boldly exhorting churches to send missionaries who not only give lip-service to Sola Scriptura, but truly live by it. Please, send missionaries who are confessionally and functionally cessationist. That is, they firmly believe the Apostolic sign gifts of tongues, miracles, and healings have ceased, and that God speaks to His people exclusively through His Word.

I want so, so many missionaries in the field. I want a lot of them. I want every believer, through the study of Scripture, prayer, and Godly counsel to consider leaving everything behind to reach one of the approximately 2,300 language groups who have no Gospel witness.

Trust me, I want a greater quantity of passionate missionaries entering the field, but not at the cost of quality. We all know that sending men to plant churches who aren’t elder-qualified is dangerous. I think it’s equally important, however, to recognize that sending missionaries who don’t functionally see Scripture as utterly sufficient will cause more harm than good in the long-run.

Remember, not even the Apostle Paul planted churches with continuationists. *wink, wink*

The Analysis

In Part 1, I listed eight reasons your next missionary should be a cessationist, confessionally and functionally. In this post we’ll deal with that first reason: Sola Scriptura demolishes the Animistic worldview and syncretism, but continuationism promotes it.

Charismaticism Encourages The Knowers

I mentioned this group above, and they’re key characters in the Animistic meta-narrative. These are the “experts” of the Spiritual realm, who have all the answers (sound familiar?), and they’ve got special VIP access to the Ancestors of old. In Animism, just like the Pharisees of Judaism and the Twitter-Celebs of our time, the sorcerers and the rich are particularly difficult to reach because of their big-time status.

They have power.

Sola Scriptura in its purest form — no “I think God is telling me to do this,” no pseudo-healings of the sick or grandiose attempts at raising the dead, no weird dreams, no snake-handling, no silly babbling sadly mistaken for Biblical tongues — yes, pure and unadulterated Sola Scriptura takes authority out of the hands of The Knowers and The Experts, the sorcerers and the rich, and places it firmly on unwavering Truth.

When my wife and I were in missionary training, there were several missionaries who spoke in our chapel. Some, in fact, held to Sola Scriptura in word only, clearly relying on regular, extra-Biblical words from God for their Christian growth. One man in particular gave my wife some trouble. I remember her asking me, “Why doesn’t God talk to me like he talks to Him? Why doesn’t God give me deep spiritual feelings and impressions?” I’ve had those same thoughts.

Continuationism inevitably creates two classes of Christians: one receives words, does miracles, speaks in tongues, and the other doesn’t.

Continuationism fits perfectly into the Animistic worldview. They’ve already created classes in their villages, The Knowers and The Non-Knowers. The Non-Knowers never had a chance before, but, now that these rich, fat, Western missionaries have brought their God and spirits to town, they have a chance to get a leg up. They can become something. The Non-Knowers can manufacture some special words from God or tongues or miracles or a healing to get a “Big Name,” as they call it in Papua New Guinea. This, by the way, is only one example.

Imagine the disorder this would cause. Confessional and functional Sola Scriptura — Sola Scriptura in its purest form, is not only Biblical, but it removes this temptation completely.

Continuationism Promotes Syncretism

I want a missionary who understands and combats syncretism: that sneaky little attempt to mix two, often totally different beliefs together. Animism is particularly prone to it, though we all fall prey to it, to some degree. Where I worked, the people mixed folk-Catholicism, Animism, and the belief in evolution all at once. When an experience out in the jungle or at home contradicted one of these, they chose to view it through a different worldview.

This, once again, proves that they think differently than you and I. They approach life much more pragmatically, and have little thought of the big questions we’re concerned with: where we come from, where we’re headed, Heaven and Hell, etc. Whatever belief might work to get food on the table is worth a shot.

A missionary with laser-sharp focus on teaching the Word and holding it as his final authority will successfully combat syncretism, showing that God’s way is absolutely different than their Ancestors’ way. For the village, they will see that they cannot serve two masters — it’s now a binary choice. Men and women will be humbled and transformed by it. God and the spiritual realm of the Bible will look night-and-day different to them, compared to their Ancestral beliefs. They’ll finally see that God isn’t perpetually angry with them, and, rather than focusing on manipulating the spirits for their food and health. They’ll realize God is the Super Star, the provider, the Owner. Not the spirits.

Continuationism actually promotes syncretism. It’s odd obsession with the spirit realm, Satan, casting out demons, and prophetic words quickly and easily mixes with the beliefs of tribal groups all over the world.

This may be tough to swallow, but Charismaticism has an awful lot in common with Animism.

Yes, both place their time and focus on created and tertiary things, rather than Christ the Creator, who is exclusively revealed in the sure and true Word of God. He is the Head of the Church, and He is the One we preach.

Conclusion

It’s precisely this insatiable desire for miracles, a desire built into continuationism, that diminishes and distracts from the Gospel: the only message that gives life and maintains the spiritual vibrancy of indigenous churches. Why would I want to send a missionary who will settle for anything but that?

I want my missionaries focused on Christ, and Him alone — without any distractions. And Christ shines brilliantly through pure and unadulterated Sola Scriptura.

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2 Comments

  1. Chris Nelson

    Piper is hardly orthodox, even apart from his Montanist heresy. His view of justification is heretical as well as his promotion of the ESS Christological heresy. He is way off kilter on a multitude of lesser, but important issues as well. I do not understand how he became the rock he did in serious evangelical circles.

    • Justin Bullington

      Piper has certainly shown a lack of discernment in whom he has associated with in the past. I would also note re: Piper: “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.” -Prov. 10:19