Whenever you put out a strong opinion about something… you can expect hate mail.
You know, the messages you get on Facebook, email, and your blog that doesn’t make sense. The person discounts all the good that happened. The messages are written in one big continuous block of text full of bad spelling and grammar. The message is hard to understand and common sense it nowhere to be found. Okay, I could go on, but there is no need. You get the point.
I have pretty strong views and write from a perspective that expresses my opinion. Am I always right, definitely nope. When people disagree, they often let me know in a not so pleasant way. I guess this is what I deserve since I often react in a bad way to things I don’t agree with instead of acting in a proper way. I am trying to grow and learn.
I hope that many of my post don’t come across as judgmental. I hope they encourage the fearful to be brave. I hope they encourage the lazy to be active. I hope they encourage the foolish to be wise.
I know this doesn’t always happen because people take personal offense, or they defend why they do things the way they do. They simply react to what they disagree with or what makes them uncomfortable. (I am fine with people having different opinions and expressing them in an intelligent, normal, productive way.)
One thing I have learned from working around missionaries to closed countries is this: everyone lives on a different level of fear and most people are looking out for themselves; therefore, brotherly love is often dismissed because fear rule one’s emotions.
Fear is a greater problem than most people imagine. Fear is one of the major hindrances of the gospel in China. Fear can hinder the best of us. Fear can cause you to doubt everything you have been taught to do. Fear makes you act crazy and respond in unusually ways. Fear is worse than culture shock because it is something you can never get comfortable with in your life. Fear causes you to think crazy things. Fear messes with your thought life and causes you to think things are happening that aren’t.
Fear is often what causes people to send hate mail.
(Side note: I have learned something else: missionaries who work together as a team that encourages and helps each other seem to do better at overcoming fear.)
Whenever something drastic happens… you can expect hate mail.
Our team had two men deported from China. We knew hate mail would come. Why? Because of our strong stance before our men were ever kicked out. Every since I have been a missionary to China, there have been haters prophesying my downfall and those I work with. I have written about all the “alarms” and discouragement from different people over the years. (A simple search on this blog and you will be able to find it.)
People have been telling us for years that we are going to be kicked out of China. Some would say it to our faces and others would just say it to others. So, why didn’t we listen to these warnings? Why didn’t we listen to the caution and the perceived wisdom of others?
This is a good question to ask and answer. I wanted to answer it for those who may be wondering. I know haters will be haters, and this won’t change them. So let me try to explain for everyone else who is genuinely wondering…
Answer: We do ministry in the manner that we do because we believe it is right and the best way to accomplish our goals.
There are two aspects to what I mean here:
(1) The Fundamentals (non-negotiable) – These are the core things that we are committed to doing where ever we are doing ministry in the world, such as, preaching the gospel, making disciples, planting churches, training men, etc. If I was not able to do these things in a consistent manner, then I would change fields or be persecuted for doing them. To me, these “fundamentals” are to be obeyed or disobeyed.
Many people working in China often give up the rights to some of the fundamentals so they can do the other or vice versa (usually give up everything else for the opportunity to do some evangelism). But most people would agree that we need to obey these, and they usually don’t send hate mail to us because we shared the gospel with someone (though you might be suprised).
The hate mail usually comes from the second aspect:
(2) The Preferences (negotiable) – These are all the “hot button” issues. How open should we preach the gospel? How much information do we put on the internet? Do we have to talk in code? Can you send a text message to someone with “Bible words” in it? Can you invite strangers to your church or do they first have to have a relationship with someone, so you know they aren’t undercover police? Can you use Facebook? Should you use a false name? Should you witness to a police officer?
As a team, we have taken an “open” stance in both of these areas. For us, the “fundamentals” are settled. It is the “preferences” that are constantly changing. We do have limits. I don’t think anyone on our team has been preaching on the street with a bullhorn. We don’t think there is anything wrong with it; we just have chosen not to do it because we don’t think it helps us accomplish our goal. Opportunities for us to present the gospel in a more clear and effective way are abundant. So we have chosen a different route.
Other areas, such as our openness on the internet and lack of code words often get us hate mail. So why do we not listen to these objections from others? Because we don’t think that it hurts our ministry in China. We don’t believe what most people say about this aspect of ministry in China is true. We have found no links between any of the cases that we have studied. Maybe we aren’t studying the right people, and we are ignorant on the subject (most haters would agree we are). Here is a part of a comment I left in response to someone on my blog in 2011:
“I will never deny the technology is possible because enough research will scare anyone to not post anything on the internet. I think missionaries are low on the government’s radar, and they aren’t investing money into hunting down missionaries online.”
“I could be wrong but from looking at the facts and actual situations leaving the “fear” aspect of it aside, I see no great danger at this present time. Every worker in China must make their own decisions about their “online presence”. One day it might be a serious problem, but I have found that when you worry about the smallest of things, you usually let that affect the larger more important things.”
Another question you might have is: How is this the best way to accomplish your goals if you get deported?
Answer: We believe that we can produce more fruit doing ministry with a wise forwardness (boldness) in a short period than doing ministry with a fearful mindset over a long period.
The above answer may be offensive to some. Sorry.
As I mentioned above, the “fundamentals” are settled. The “preferences” will change when we see a problem arise. If we are doing something that doesn’t have to be done (non-fundamental) and it causes us problems, then we will change it up. We don’t desire to cling to “it has to be done this way” traditions.
In conclusion, if you see our team doing something that you are wondering about, it is probably for one of the five reasons:
- We don’t think it is a threat.
- It is a threat but a fundamental.
- It is a threat, not a fundamental, but the effectiveness is worth the risk.
- It is not a fundamental, but we don’t know if it is a threat or not, so we are testing the line and willing to take the risk.
- It is not a fundamental, but it is a threat and we are not wanting to take the risk.
Below are a five examples of how the above reasons are practically applied:
- The internet, we don’t think it is a threat.
- Church services are a threat but a fundamental.
- Introducing myself as a pastor to strangers is a threat, not a fundamental, but the effectiveness is worth the risk.
- A church sign is not a fundamental, but we don’t know if it is a threat or not, so we are testing the line and willing to take the risk.
- Street preaching with a bullhorn is not a fundamental, but it is a threat and we are not wanting to take the risk.