2007-07-25

Need for Solid Bible Teaching

A brother and sister who live among the Dong relate this story, which shows some of the pressing needs of Dong Christians:

The first thing they all asked us when we had all sat down in the living room was, "Is it ok to sacrifice to our ancestors?" At first, we did not know quite what to say. The question had a testing feeling to it, as if they were making sure we gave them the same answer as they had heard elsewhere.

Come to find out, several of them had just come from "training" in a nearby city. They receive most of their training from Chinese house church Christians, and though the house church has an incredible zeal for the Lord, they often lack cultural awareness. I do not want to say anything bad about them, but this story is a great example of what we often see in the local Christians.

They had been told, in more or less black and white terms, that sacrificing to their ancestors was wrong. Do not hear me wrong, we very much agreed with the teaching, but these Dong believers did not seem to have any biblical basis for such a statement nor did they understand any of what the Bible says on the topic.

I think the real problem arose from a lack of cross cultural understanding. Many of the house church Christians (who did the training) actually come from Christian families, where a topic like this is not really an issue at all. However, for the Dong (or just about any non-Christian Chinese family), this is a very serious issue that needs more than just a rule.
Paul did not just tell the Gentiles to not be circumcised. He wrote long and hard as to why they did not need to. And when the Jews had issue with the idea, he had to work through the topic quite clearly with Peter, the other apostles, and leaders of the Church. That was a cultural issue, something which carried a different meaning in different cultures, and which required discussion by the Church.
And actually, Paul has much to say about this issue of sacrificing to ancestors as well, because the issue of eating food sacrificed to idols is almost identically the same. The problem was, I had the distinct impression from the way they spoke and tested us on the topic that, had we not encouraged discussion of what the Bible says on the topic, they were going to go home and ignore the teaching as unnecessary.
So, after an hour or so of reading what the Bible had to say and talking through what we all felt it instructed us to do, these Dong believers came to the same conclusion, but it was their own conclusion, not some enforced rule.
I cannot say for sure, because I do not know what is taught or how it is taught, but many, if not all, of these "trainings" the Dong people attend are not giving them what they need most. They need Bible study. Without instruction by example of how to study the Bible, these Dong people return home ill equipped to answer the questions that come up in daily life, daily Dong life. Instead, they have a lot of good teaching that "does not scratch where they itch".
This is just my opinion, but I really think we need to pray for solid Bible teaching among the Dong people. Again, I do not want to say anything negative about what is being taught at the training sessions or the heart and motivations of the people who are teaching, but there is a need for Bible teaching, whether that replaces the trainings or is given in addition to the training. Even if I am reading the situation incorrectly, it can still never hurt to pray for the Holy Spirit to speak through the Word.

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