Guest Post (Greg Mathias): Is Bad Sex Killing the Great Commission?

[Editor’s Note: This guest blogpost is written by Greg Mathias, Associate Director of International Missions at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He writes about an ever-pertinent issue in Southern Baptist mission efforts.]

“The Smuttiest Cities in America” is the title of a recent article in Men’s Health Magazine. The article uses statistics of the number of DVDs purchased, rented, or streamed; adult entertainment stores per city; rate of porn searches; and the percentage of households who subscribe to a cable channel that shows soft-core porn to come up with a snapshot of the most ‘pornified’ cities in America. [1] The findings are disheartening on many levels, but what troubles me is that Raleigh, NC ranks as the #4 smuttiest city.

This troubles me because I am employed at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) which is in Raleigh’s backyard. A large number of our students and seminary employees live, raise families, and work in the Raleigh area. Every year we send many men, women, and families to the mission fields of North America and the globe.

God continues to bless SEBTS, yet I wonder if the numbers of those going overseas could be much, much more. Our primary international mission sending partner at SEBTS is the International Mission Board, SBC. According to their estimates 70-80% of applicants every year have some sort of pornography history, and many of these applicants are either slowed down in the application process or stopped all together.* A legitimate assumption is that these numbers are similar with the North American Mission Board, SBC as well.**

At SEBTS we are committed to equipping students to serve the Church and fulfill the Great Commission. Yet, according to this study, bad sex is undermining these efforts. Some fundamental issues are at stake when it comes to the corruptive nature of pornography:

  1. Questioning God’s Goodness. When you engage in pornography a fundamental assumption is that God is not good. James 1:17 reminds us that every good and perfect gift comes from the Father. God gave us the sexes as a good thing. He gave us sex within the bounds of marriage as a good thing. God is good. Pornography in any shape or form judges God’s provisions as not good enough.
  2. Living too Long on Fantasy Island. The world is not about you and your fantasies, nor is it a playground for your personal pleasures and desires. 1 John 2 tells us that this world, along with its desires, is passing away, but the mark of a true believer is one who is captivated by the will of God not the things of this world. It’s time to leave Mr. Roarke, Tattoo and “The plane!” behind and get back to reality!
  3. Laziness Trumps Self-denial and Discipline. It’s easy to click a mouse, type in a Google search or rent a DVD. Real relationships take time, work and energy. The Christian life is one of sacrifice and perseverance. Jesus reminds us of this very point in Luke 9:23. Paul urges us to be self-controlled lest we be disqualified in 1 Corinthians 9.
  4. Enslavement. Pornography is a common sin among many men and women in today’s world. Too many settle for an identity of sin and struggle. You are not your sin. In Romans 6, Paul tells us of our new identity as slaves of God, not slaves to sin. If you are in Christ, you have been set free indeed! Live like who you REALLY are.

We all need to live a confessional life before God and others. If you are one of those who struggle with pornography, I urge you to love God more than pixels or images. Sin always overpromises and under delivers. After the rush of adrenaline and excitement, you are only left with guilt and shame.

With any sin pattern, there are times when true freedom seems hopeless. If this describes you, the situation is not without hope. There is a way forward:

  1. Seek out help. This seems obvious, but there are people who can and will help you. Seek them out. Go to your pastor, your small group leader or another mature, trusted friend. Seek out those Proverbs 17:17 people. 1 Corinthians 10 reminds us that temptation does not automatically lead to sin. There is a way out.
  2. Get serious about God, your sin, and you. God hates sin. He is also better than anything that sin promises. Repent. Call your sin, sin and bring it into the light. 1 John 1 helps us see the need to live in the light. If we confess our sins God is the faithful one who forgives and cleanses us.
  3. Kill sin, don’t simply anesthetize it. John Owen powerfully states, “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.” Run from your sin. This will mean a radical lifestyle change and some brutally honest and invasive accountability with your spouse and others, like those people in number 1 above. Jesus is harsh on sin in Matthew 5. You should be just as harsh with your own sin. Remember, this will most likely take time. Proverbs 4:23 admonishes us to guard our hearts. This is a long and arduous process. For some, repenting of a certain sin is a onetime thing, but for most, a continual struggling repentance is the means to defeating sin and its entanglement.
  4. Consider NOT going…right now. Pornography does not automatically disqualify you from being used of God. God wants His name glorified among the nations, not your sin. Mission work often intensifies struggles and sin. Deal with your sin; allow time for healing and a new pattern to be formed in your life. The point is not to simply put off sin, but to also put on godly character (Colossians 3). Then consider where God may have you serve.

The Great Commission is our mandate. God is great and He has given us a Great Commission. Why aren’t more going? The complicated answer might be bad SEX.

*These are rough estimates. More research needs to be done in order to provide an accurate picture of pornography usage among IMB applicants. Also, these numbers do not take into account other sexual sins and deviations which hinder or stop applicants in the process.

**Research needs to be done to verify numbers with the North American Mission Board, SBC.

Ten Who Changed the World (Or, Ten Bucks That Will Change Your Life)

You have been served notice: Ten Who Changed the World (B&H, 2012) is a book that you will want to buy immediately, for yourself and for your friends. It will be the best $10 you spend this year (you might soon consider those bucks the “ten that changed your life”). The book is a unique blend of biography, theology, missiology, and spiritual formation, in which Akin tells the riveting stories of ten Baptist missionaries (William Carey, Adoniram and Ann Judson, Bill Wallace, Lottie Moon, Jim Elliot, George Leile, David Brainerd, Eric Liddell, John and Bety Stam, and James Fraser) pairing each of their stories with a passage of Scripture that illumines their lives.

Here are some samples of what Christian leaders are saying about the book:

John Piper: “As a lover of rich and readable biography, I thank God for this little explosion of inspiration.”

Al Mohler: “A powerful book . . . read it, and pray that the next edition tells the stories of thousands who similarly changed the world.”

C. J. Mahaney: “These ten compelling biographies will stir your soul ten times over, inspiring you to pray, give, and if called, go for the sake of the gospel.”

Thom Rainer: “It is rare that a book has such a profound impact upon my life that I leave its reading with a certainty that I have known the nudge of God. But when I finished Ten Who Changed the World, I found myself near the point of tears. Above all, I came away pleading with Him to take my wretched life and shape it that I might be used, even if only slightly, like these heroes of the faith.”

Russ Moore: “Reading any page in this book can kindle a fire in your bones.”

Johnny Hunt: “Inspiring, encouraging, and challenging all at the same time.”

Ed Stetzer: “Ten Who Changed the World is not for armchair theologians, but for those who are ready to ‘go and do likewise.’”

Here is what I wrote in the preface:

Missions matters because God is a missionary God. Therefore, his people must be a missionary people. From Genesis to Revelation, we see God’s central promise that He would send a Savior, and that this Savior would win the nations unto himself. Through the Savior, God’s glory will cover the earth and through the Savior the lost will be found.

 And yet there are almost two billion people who have little or no access to the gospel of Jesus Christ. In many corners of the globe there are not churches, no Bibles, and no Christians to bear testimony. Many of these two billion people could leave their homes and search – for days and weeks and months – and never find a Christian, a Bible, or a church. It is our responsibility to remedy this. Our Lord commands us in Matthew 28:18-20 to make disciples of all nations.

The magnitude of this task is great, but it is matched and exceeded by the magnitude of our biblical convictions: that God is a missionary God; that all people without Christ are lost; that a central theme in the Scriptures is God’s desire to win the nations unto Himself; that since the coming of His Son, God has chosen that all saving faith be consciously focused on Christ; that the church’s task in each generation is to proclaim the gospel to her generation; and that this progress of the gospel to the ends of the earth may be hindered temporarily, but there can be no doubt about its final triumph.

In Revelation 5, our Lord gives John a breathtaking vision. In this vision, all of heaven burst forth into praise. Among those worshiping, John sees men and women from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation. This is the vision that drives us—that our Lord will be worshiped from all corners of the globe. He alone is worthy of such worship. Our lives should be lived in such a way as to contribute to this triumphant march of God, as He draws unto Himself worshipers from ever tribe, tongue, people, and nation.

This vision is the driving passion behind the book you are reading. The chapters arise out of a series of missions messages preached by Danny Akin, and collected in this book. In each message, he couples a passage of Scripture with a missionary biography. As he preaches through Matthew 28:16-20, Romans 8:28-39, Philippians 1:21; Romans 12:1, Psalm 96, Revelation 5:8-10, 2 Timothy 1:8-12, Galationas 6:11-18, Psalm 67, and Hebrews 12:1-3, he expounds and illustrates those same passages with riveting lessons and stories from the lives of William Carey, Adoniram Judson, William Wallace, Lottie Moon, Jim Elliot, James Fraser, David Brainerd, George Leile, John and Betty Stam, and Eric Liddell.

Be forewarned, however, This book is for readers who like their coffee strong. Those who read these messages will find themselves informed, rebuked, challenged, and motivated. They may even find themselves able to say, as Jim Elliot does in the pages of this book, that “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”

Consider this blogpost an encouragement to buy this book, read it, and give it out to your friends. May the Lord multiply it for his glory and for the sake of the nations.

Looking at Insider Movements (6): Resources for Further Study

By: Doug Coleman

In this final installment I’ll point to some resources for further study and make a few summary remarks about the Insider Movement debate.

Publications by proponents exist almost exclusively in the form of journal articles. The majority of these have appeared in just a few journals, several of which are freely available online. Most of the positive articles have been published in the International Journal of Frontier Missiology (www.ijfm.org) and Mission Frontiers (www.missionfrontiers.org).

Critics have offered a number of responses via articles published in St. Francis Magazine, which can also be accessed free of charge online (www.stfrancismagazine.info/ja/). Also, the web site Biblical Missiology (biblicalmissiology.org) was founded to address concerns about IM methodology (yours truly is not the founder or a participant, by the way). Most recently, the folks there have focused on issues related to Bible translation, particularly controversy related to translation of Sonship and familial terminology.

I have previously mentioned my own dissertation available either from the SEBTS library or for sale here, or in Kindle version. It focuses solely on biblical and theological issues. However, another excellent dissertation critiquing selected missiological elements of IM was completed and submitted at Southern Seminary last year. It also gives an excellent description of the development of IM. You can access it for free here.

Finally, i2 ministries has sponsored conferences critiquing IM, and has published a book as well: Chrislam: How Missionaries Are Promoting an Islamized Gospel. I have not yet read the book because it was released after I returned to the field last year and I have not been able to obtain a copy. See a review and lengthy discussion in the comments section here.

At the beginning of this series, I noted that the tone of this debate has often been less than charitable. I do believe this is worth debating, even vigorously, because the consequences of the outcome are potentially quite serious. But the debate doesn’t require ad hominem arguments or presupposing motives. Furthermore, participants in the debate should work hard to avoid misrepresentations or mis-characterizations, unintentional or not. Unfortunately, I almost always find myself issuing qualifications when I recommend resources from both sides, often not because I disagree with the content, but because I find the tone or other comments objectionable.

I don’t claim that my own writing navigates the waters perfectly, but I can say that fairness, charity, and accuracy have been my highest secondary objectives. I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to share some of what I’ve learned and interacting in the comments section. I hope it’s been helpful.

[Editor’s Note: Doug Coleman is a SEBTS alum who lives and works in Central Asia. His SEBTS dissertation was recently published as A Theological Analysis of the Insider Movement Paradigm from Four Perspectives: Theology of Religions, Revelation, Soteriology, and Ecclesiology (Pasadena, CA: WICU Press, 2011). We asked Dr. Coleman to publish a critique of the Insider Movement here at BtT, in the form of a six-part blog series.]