Michael tried so hard to be one of them. It was a sad and funny and oddly relatable moment if you’ve ever had that awkward experience of walking into a lunch room full of people, trying to find a decent spot to park your big old caboose, not finding said comfortable spot, and settling for a seat by yourself.

He was “The World’s Best Boss” just trying to be one of the guys, but it wasn’t working for him. It was weird. For years, Michael Scott sat in his office alone, eating his potato salad sandwiches. Changing his routine on a whim was strange. Nobody liked it. It made everyone clam up and act…awkward.

I wish I could remember which episode of The Office this moment was from — maybe one of my trusty readers knows, but the point was clear: Michael didn’t fit in. He was the boss (a pretty bad one), trying to be friends with his employees. He was like Oprah-approved, dude-bro millionare Rob Bell trying to help a suffering man who lost a loved one by telling him his tour would be back in Atlanta someday and it would all be okay by then. It’s really difficult to speak into somebody’s life if you a) you hate God’s Word like Rob Bell, and b) you haven’t worked to genuinely relate to them. That’s just a fact.

Take, for instance, the 40-year-old mega pastor who wears skinny jeans and probably maybe is on steroids. His congregation is entertained by him and perhaps really enjoys his motivational speeches, but they don’t understand grace. Sure, they leave wanting to improve themselves. They totally want to be as successful in their fields as the pastor is in His — but they aren’t encountering Christ, they are encountering…the pastor.

So, Christian who is really concerned with the Gospel and the authority of God’s Word: what do you see in these three completely arbitrary examples that may or may not help make my point? You see frauds, don’t you? If Michael Scott really wanted to be “one of the guys” he’d take a demotion and a smaller paycheck. If Rob Bell really wanted to reach that suffering man, he’d quit his Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band Tour, sit with the dude in the midst of his agony, and point him to truth. If Steven Furtick was really doing the work of a Shepherd, he’d look and smell like his sheep and point them to the Chief Shepherd.

He also wouldn’t sign a lucrative contract with Lakewood Church. JKJKJK.

The point: Are you taking a group on a short-term mission trip to another country? You all will look and feel like the Michael Scott, Rob Bell, or the Megachurch Pastor with ‘Roid Rage.

You’ll feel that way because you’ll be treated that way.

You don’t know the language, you don’t know the culture, you don’t know the people, and, by their third-world standards, you’re rich. They live hand-to-mouth, and only have a couple changes of clothes. You have a different change of clothes every day! Your teeth are white, your skin is…probably white. You are not one of them, but you sure have it all together. Like the Megachurch pastor’s congregation, they want what you have, so whatever steps it takes to reach your level, they’ll go for it. They get to be friends with a rich American dude!

Without long-term relationships, you’re Rob Bell on his tour. You’re Michael Scott trying to fit in. You’re Steven Furtick with all the answers.

Sharing the Gospel in another country without knowing the culture is dangerous. You simply don’t know what theyre hearing when you say things like “sin,” “Jesus,” or “God.” To the people I worked in overseas, sin was just refraining from beating your wife too much, or abstaining from the MaryJane, or breaking Kuman social norms. Are you taking a mission team to another country hoping to share the Gospel or do some street Evangelism? I promise, you’ll get lots of confusion, decisions, and raised hands, but not for the reasons you think.

Trust me, if you want to make a positive difference overseas with a mission team, dig a septic hole, put up some gutters, bless the missionaries. These people are on the ground, have deep lasting relationships, and know the heart language and culture.

You do not.

Update 4:10PM: Tweetsman @MrJohnHooper alerted me of my Defcon Scale ignorance. I have linked my Defcon Scale reference to the appropriate website, but have not corrected it in the piece for humor’s sake.

I’m back in the old blogger saddle — man that sounds so lame. Not that I’ve ever written anything real significant or important, nor have I ever blogged consistently enough to be called a “blogger” anyways — but it’s been way too long, and there’s a contoversy reaching Defcon 7. I’ve been watching the stupid thing on the sidelines and it’s time to throw my all-important two-cents in. It’s sort of like an itch that I haven’t been able to reach for weeks and I’m sort of just tired of being, well, itchy. It’s time for this relatively irrelelavent blogger to scratch his itch, is what I’m saying.

Something has been happening inside the Evangelically-Reformed universe that feels…well…not so Reformed. It almost feels a bit, dare I say it, Arminian. Not Armenian, that would be at least a little interesting — but Arminian.

Somebody’s…no…some people’s — plural — some people’s Anthropologies are showing.

Dr. James White, a man to whom we all owe a debt of gratitude, sat down with a Muslim to talk about the differences between Christianity and Islam. The goal was, of course, to reach as many Muslims with the Gospel as possible, as well as open the door for more Christians to talk to Muslims in the future. You see, James has been doing this his entire adult life. He’s debated Muslims, Catholics, KJV-Only Cultists, Mormons. He’s used those cordial relationships to reach people who are dead in their sin, condemned before God, suppressing the truth, and are hopelessly depraved.

Speaking of hopelessly depraved: I lived in an unreached people group in the jungles of Papua New Guinea working tirelessly to learn their language and culture so I could proclaim the Gospel to them as clearly as possible.

It was insane.

I also had some internet access that allowed me to listen to these debates, which, you know, helped me fall asleep while drunks were wandering aimlessly and wife-beatings were circling our house. James White was my jam, and I can’t tell you how many times I silently pumped my fist with joy as I heard James explain their strongest argument, earn his right to be heard, dismantle their strongest arguments, and then proceed to give them their only hope for salvation.

You see, in a strange way, though we were thousands of miles apart, that dude felt like another co-worker. We were doing the same thing. I was studying the Kuman’s language and culture so I could preach the Gospel as clearly as possible, he was studying Mormons and Muslims so he could speak to them with understanding. This is exactly what wisdom demands, right (Prov. 18:13)?

By God’s grace, I wanted to think like a Kuman so, like Paul wanted, God’s truth could destroy every one of their beliefs that comes against the knowledge of Christ. James White and I were both doing the work of a missionary: taking the Gospel across cultures. He of course got to wear bowties and I had to kill pigs and constantly buy anti-diarrhea medicine, but we were doing the same work. We were kind of friends during that time, you know, in an odd, stalker-ish kind of way.

But then, out of nowhere, some guy I’ve never heard of named Brannon Howse started calling Dr. James White a useful idiot who was being used by Muslims to accomplish Sharia Law in the US! What an accusation! According to Brannon and his ex-Muslim entourage, White is being used to Make America Muslim Someday (MUMS… I just made that accronym up). Yes, the Muslims are wearing their metaphorical MUMS hats and are trying to take over the US and White is a fool for playing their little game, and helping them WIN!

Traitor.

This got me thinking. Those gears were a’turning in my incredibly hard head. Of course: I understand why Brannon would act so Arminian, because he’s, well, Arminian. But why would Janet Mefferd and Steve Camp act so Arminian?

What I mean is, when did we Reformed people decide to stop sharing the Gospel with those who want to take power away from us? Since when did we stop sharing the Gospel with people just because they waned to be their own gods and rule their own domain? Was there some sort of document that we all signed that confined us to sharing the Gospel with people only if they came to us on our own terms?

“There is a large swath of people in your community that wants to take over America? No, I will not treat you as an image-bearer of God and give you the only thing that will change your totally-depraved heart.”

Something about this seems so Arminian to me.

Look at Romans 3

“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God…”

Wait for it..

“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Here’s where there might be a little inconsistency with Brannon, Mefferd, and the Ex-Muslim’s Anthropology: Evil, depraved people do evil depraved things. Liberals want to take over America and make us do liberal things. Mormons, if given the chance, would love to take over America and make us do Mormon things. Republicans want to take over America and make us do Republican things. This, of course, is true only if what the Bible says in Romans 3 is true.

Don’t you see? In Adam, we are all quick to shed blood, Muslims, Catholics, and *gasp* Republicans. Nobody knows the way of peace. All man is confined in sin — that is, until the Gospel is preached with clarity. 

Brannon Howse, his ex-Muslim friends, Janet Mefferd, and Steve Camp have an inconsistent Anthropology. We don’t stop preaching the Gospel to people just because they want to use us to accrue social and political power. If that’s our critera for who is worthy to hear the Gospel, then nobody can hear it.

I’d be honored to be called a “Useful Idiot.” I’d wear that badge proudly, because that means that I’m actually in the game. I’m interacting with fallen, totally-depraved people. Of course they want to use me.

The Kuman used me all the time. For social and political power too. In order to actually get somewhere, I still had to function in that relationship, and I work hard to understand where they were coming from. By God’s grace, I acted with compassion and gentleness knowing that is the only way they could live, because they were dead in their sins.

By believing Republicans, Mormons, and Liberals have a more acceptable depravity — they are at least more stealthy in their blood-thirstiness — Howse, Meffered, and Camp have adopted an American Anthropology, not a Biblical one.

J.C. Ryle was a Reformed writer and pastor who was dubbed by his contemporaries as “A Man of Granite with the Heart of a Child.” Some of his most popular works include Practical Religion, Christian Leaders of the Eighteenth Century (1869), Expository Thoughts on the Gospels (7 vols, 1856–69), and Principles for Churchmen (1884).

Here are Ryle’s 7 tips when reading the Bible:

1) Read the Bible with an earnest desire to understand it.

2) Read the Scriptures with a simple, childlike faith and humility.

3) Read the Word with a spirit of obedience and self-application.

4) Read the Holy Scriptures everyday.

5) Read the whole Bible and read it an orderly way.

6) Read the Word of God fairly and honestly.

7) Read the Bible with Christ constantly in view.

Practical Religion, “Bible Reading”, [Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1998], 131-33.

“Look unto the Lord Jesus Christ; look unto him as he hung naked, wounded, bleeding, dead, and forsaken upon the cross. Look unto him again as he now reigns in glory, possessed of all power in heaven and in earth, with thousands of thousands of saints and angels worshipping before him, and ten thousand times ten thousand ministering unto him; and then compare your sins with his blood, your wants with his fullness, your unbelief with his faithfulness, your weakness with his strength, your inconstancy with his everlasting love.”

While in the Kuman Tribe of Papua New Guinea, my wife Deb had lots of time to reflect on missions and the Christian life. Here’s a look back at some of her thoughts during that year.

Moving into Kuman and getting adjusted to life in a very foreign culture has been really hard. I won’t sugar-coat it or tell you that every day is a super fun adventure, or that I never struggle to trust God or walk in joy. Culture stress is real, and we’re in the thick of it now as we begin building relationships with the people who have never heard the truth all around us.

For me, the hardest part has been accepting the way the people here view me and talk about me as a white woman.

White women are lazy, white women are weak, white women sit in their houses and do nothing…. and white women have money.  Here we have people trying to sell us things, asking us for money, stealing anything we’ve inadvertently left out, attempting to break into our storage. It just feels like we’re being used. It feels like anyone who wants to be my friend, wants to be my friend so that they can get something from me, or so that they can make others in the village jealous that they are good friends with “the white lady.” People even use me to get their children to behave when I’m around, “Don’t cry, the white lady will be angry!” That one bums me out because they are teaching their children to be afraid of us, and one day I hope to be able to minister to the children here. Yes, I’ve felt used, and I haven’t liked it.

But today God used my dear Kuman friend to challenge and encourage me. She has been a believer for many years and has helped to translate the New Testament. She studies God’s Word, and it takes root in her life. Lately she has been helping with the translation of Luke, and today, as we were talking, she said this:

“This is one sin that I have been guilty of many times: I see someone with something that they have stolen from me, and I am angry, and I go and I take it back.”

Honestly, that didn’t sound wrong to me at all. I mean, it was hers, and they stole it… she has the right to take it back. I sat there a minute trying to think of what to say (using my second language), and she went on to say, “But I see in God’s Word that He says ‘If someone wants to take something from you, let him have it.'” Wow! here I’ve been feeling so down about being used in my relationships here, thinking about my rights, my emotional needs, forgetting that this is exactly what we are all called to. The verse she was referring to is Luke 6:29, one which we are all familiar with, but may not have actually taken root in our hearts and lives:

If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.

If I am going to have joy here, it cannot be because I am finding emotional fulfillment and mutual respect in all my relationships, it cannot be because I feel that I am looked up to as someone who is hard-working and capable. I need to remember why I am here.

Christ is my reason, Christ is my identity, Christ is my fulfillment, and He loves me. Resting in Him I have all I need. When I allow His love to be my sense of worth, to fill every need in me, I am free to love others without thinking of myself. Just think of how He loved me… I didn’t acknowledge Him for who He was or somehow show Him love before He gave Himself for me freely. He didn’t seek to stay where He was only adored and worshipped — and comfortable. No — He came to where we are, in our sinfulness. He was used and abused, endured every kind of pain imaginable, all for love. And now His love is ever available to me, to love people whether they love me back or not; to love people who steal from me or talk bad about me; to love people who have destroyed others’ lives, just as Jesus loved and died for even those who tortured, beat and killed Him. And this is the love they need to see, so that they will be drawn to the One who is Love Himself, Jesus.

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus. Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, He made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.