July 30, 2008

Ask Anything Wednesday: Witnessing to Mormons

Welcome to Ask Anything Wednesday. This week I am answering another great question. Please keep them rolling in! Just submit your question--on anything!--in the comments section below and I'll consider responding to it in our monthly feature.

"We've had a lovely group of elders visiting for almost 4 months now on a fairly regular basis. They've come to church with us (my husband invited them and they said it was the first time they'd been to a Protestant church), and I've had many long hours of gracious conversation with them. I'm truly interested in hearing them explain their dogma and asking them questions. They know I'm a Christian and don't want to convert.

"So, my question is -- am I fooling myself in thinking that this is a good use of my time? I don't mean these young gentlemen are not worth it! They are. I'm wondering if asking questions, probing, being genuinely interested is a biblical approach AND an approach you've seen bear fruit."

Developing friendships with Mormons (or other unbelievers for that matter) is always a good use of your time. There are many reasons why it is worthwhile to learn about their beliefs and to ask questions. Having them explain their faith allows you to better understand what they believe, which will help you to share the gospel with them as well as other Latter-day Saints in the future. And asking questions not only clarifies one's beliefs, they also can be used as an effective way to point out inconsistencies or plant seeds of doubt.

At the same time, as you can tell, I do not think a Christian may stop with merely having learned more about another faith. Our Savior has not called us to have a better understanding of what others believe; we are to reach out to them with His good news. Mormons are in rebellion against God and are rejecting Him through a false Christ and a false gospel. Apart from repentance and faith in God's One True Son, they face God's wrath for their sin. Thankfully, He has saved us from His wrath and has provided His people with propitiation for sin (which encompasses all who come to faith, including many Mormons). Who wouldn't want to tell Latter-day Saints about this wonderful redemption?

To learn more, I would highly suggest reading Mark Cares' book Speaking the Truth in Love to Mormons. It is easily the best book that I have read on witnessing to Mormons. You can also check out Cares' ministry or learn more through Mormonism Research Ministry (I used to volunteer for this fine organization).

July 28, 2008

The Attractiveness of Error

I wish I could say that I can always come up with a really insightful blog post. But here is the truth: I stayed so busy over the last week that I have not prepared anything for today. So instead of trying to type out some quick and forgettable post, I am going to turn to one of Christianity's earliest and greatest theologians.

IrenaeusIrenaeus lived from around 125 to 202 AD and was Bishop of Lyons in southern Gaul (now Lyons, France). He wrote a massive five-volume work, Against Heresies, toward the end of the second century. In responding to the false teaching of the gnostics, Irenaeus produced one of the first and most significant works defending what God has revealed in Scripture.

While I would love to provide extended quotes from Against Heresies (which you can read in its entirety online!), I will simply whet your appetite for more by this insightful quote from the beginning of his work:
"Error, indeed, is never set forth in its naked deformity, lest, being thus exposed, it should at once be detected. But it is craftily decked out in an attractive dress, so as, by its outward form, to make it appear to the inexperienced (ridiculous as the expression may seem) more true than the truth itself" (1.1.2).

July 25, 2008

Weekly Round-Up: Benny Hinn, John MacArthur, Individualism vs. Communitarianism, and D'Souza vs. Hitchens

Here's this week's round-up:

1) Marthinus van Vuuren Rapport, "God bless your credit card" on News 24 (South Africa). Would you like to know Benny Hinn's latest antics in Africa? This report begins with: "God's blessing would last only two minutes and it would create 500 churchgoing millionaires or even billionaires - all they had to do was use their credit cards to pay $1 000 in offerings to televangelist Benny Hinn."

2) John MacArthur, "Fully Man and Fully God" in Pulpit Magazine. Here is a great introduction to the biblical truth that Jesus Christ is both fully man and fully God. False teachers and cults often deny at least one of these facts, but God's revelation shows us otherwise. What a glorious Savior!

3) Jonathan Leeman, "Individualism's Not the Problem--Community's Not the Solution" (in PDF format) in Modern Reformation (July/August 2008). Many of today's missionaries and church leaders fall into the trap of overcompensating for Western individualism by focusing on community. Leeman provides a much needed corrective to this contemporary shift.

4) Dinesh D'Souza, "An Absentee God?" on the Townhall web site. D'Souza takes atheist Christopher Hitchens to the woodshed, showing how simplistic and problematic his arguments can be. I may be a young earth creationist and would defend Christianity somewhat differently, but I still found D'Souza's piece informative.

July 23, 2008

Book Review: African Reformation

African ReformationAllan H. Anderson, African Reformation: African Initiated Christianity in the 20th Century (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, Inc., 2001), 282 pp.

The twentieth century witnessed the rapid expansion of Christianity throughout Africa. One of the main avenues of growth was in African Initiated Churches (AICs). These churches began in Africa and were started by Africans (not missionaries). What can we learn about their origins and development? How should we understand their place in global Christianity? Allan Anderson answers these questions in African Reformation. A white South African who is involved with AICs, Anderson combines his experience and knowledge with thorough research in this work.

The result is a book that is broken into three parts: context, history, and lessons. The author begins by seeking to characterize AICs and then moves to examining their causes. Next, he devotes a chapter to each region of Africa, summarizing the formation and progression of AICs through the twentieth century. Finally, Anderson concludes by providing an analysis of AICs in light of contemporary questions and issues.

I am amazed at how much information is packed into African Reformation. It is a veritable treasure trove of data on AICs. I will regularly consult this book as I conduct research on African Christianity. It will be an invaluable resource in understanding numerous churches and denominations in Africa.

At the same time, I found Anderson's third section lacking. As an "insider," he dismisses theological challenges far too easily and goes out of his way to minimize charges of syncretism. He essentially submerges Christianity into cultures, leaving us with numerous contextual theologies rather than with an overarching revealed Theology. As a result, he denigrates theology and philosophy while emphasizing experience and the dynamic, ever-changing nature of "spiritual" Christianity.

Anderson's treatment of salvation and the gospel is especially troubling. He writes:
"Salvation" in Africa needs to be related to more than an esoteric idea of the "salvation of the soul" and the life hereafter. It must be oriented to the whole of life's problems as experienced by people in their cities and villages. . . . Many AICs see "salvation" not exclusively in terms of salvation of sinful acts and from eternal condemnation in the life hereafter (the salvation of the soul), but also in terms of salvation from sickness (healing), from evil spirits (exorcism), and from other forms of misfortune" (233).
While Paul Hiebert and other missionaries today are correct in pointing out Western Christianity's unbiblical segregation of the natural and supernatural worlds leaving an excluded middle, expanding salvation itself into deliverance in this world easily corrupts the gospel. The fundamental problem in this world is our rebellion against God, not poverty, sickness, or evil spirits. Far from being esoteric, salvation from God's just wrath gives us true joy and hope. This does not mean that the gospel has nothing to do with the many challenges in our world, but they must be seen in light of our relationship to our Creator. We must distinguish between salvation in Christ and the many other ways that God works in this world.

In any case, there is a lot to like about Anderson's book. He has done all of us who are involved in African ministry a great service by providing so much material in one place. At the same time, his analysis must be read critically. For the discerning reader, African Reformation will prove tremendously useful.

July 21, 2008

A Blessing from God

Divitos in Uganda
There are many ways that God has equipped me for my future ministry with the Africa Center for Apologetics Research. I was raised as a Mormon, knowing what it is like to be raised in a religion that preaches a different Jesus and a false gospel. I graduated from seminary, equipping me to defend our faith against error and corruption. I have a heart for missions, desiring God's gospel to reach all peoples to the ends of the earth.

Nevertheless, one of God's most important blessings is often overlooked. She is my wife. Next to Jesus Christ, my wife is God's greatest gift to me. Her patience, affirmation, and encouragement allow me to serve Christ in a way that I could never do without her. There would be no ACFAR without her.

It is not every woman that is willing to move her family half way around the world. But not only is my wife willing, I am secure in knowing that she will raise our children well and provide invaluable assistance for my ministry in Uganda. Our vision for East Africa is possible by God's grace and because of our extraordinary relationship.

This week, we are celebrating 11 wonderful years together. While we have had our share of trials and difficulties, our love for each other has only grown stronger. And after all of our years together, our commitment to glorify Jesus Christ has only increased. Above all, we desire to display the gospel through our marriage (Ephesians 5:22ff).

On our 11th anniversary, I pray that God will allow me to show her in some small way how much she means to me.

July 18, 2008

Weekly Round-Up: Judaism in Uganda, Syncretism in Nigeria, New Missions Audio, and Reflections on South Africa

Here's this week's round-up:

1) Daniel Edyegu, "Judaist leader installed in Mbale" in the New Vision newspaper (Uganda). Is Judaism in Africa? Yes. And the first black Rabbi in East Africa will lead about 800 followers in Uganda.

2) Laurie Fortunak, "Dual Allegiance" in Christianity Today (August 2008). Here is a deeply troubling account of a pastor in Nigeria practicing syncretism (or as the article prefers to call it, dual allegiance). According to this report, one former missionary in West Africa said, "One out of 10 self-named Christians in this region practices only Christianity."

3) HBC Missions Conference 2008 Audio. The conference may be over, but you can still listen to these timely and important messages on missions. Be sure to listen to Conrad Mbewe, a pastor in Zambia (of course, this is after you listen to my interview with Isaac Makashinyi from Zambia!).

4) Jonathan Leeman, "4 final thoughts about time in South Africa" on the 9 Marks Blog. Some of the 9 Marks guys were recently in South Africa and have been blogging about there time there. I have really been blessed by their posts, but this wrap up says much about Christianity in Africa today.

July 16, 2008

African Apologetics Audio: An Interview with Isaac Makashinyi

African Apologetics AudioWould you like to know more about the challenges facing Christianity in Africa? In our first ever audio interview, John Divito and Isaac Makashinyi from Zambia have a lively discussion answering this vital question. Hear firsthand about the serious danger of cults and false teaching facing believers in Africa. Learn more about the growth and popularity of charismatic preachers peddling the prosperity gospel. Discover what church leaders and Christians in Africa need to effectively meet these challenges.

Download it. Share it. Publicize it. Let's advance biblical discernment in Africa!

July 14, 2008

Focusing on Prayer

PrayerWhenever people catch the vision for the Africa Center for Apologetics Research and ask what they can do to help our ministry in East Africa, I always begin with the same answer: Prayer.

But let's be honest, sometimes my response is simply seen as a required answer. Of course Christians are supposed to pray. What I find is that my answer regularly doesn't seem like it is enough for believers. They want to know what else they can do to help. Unfortunately, this way of thinking can minimize the importance of prayer. It seems as if some Christians see prayer as the bottom rung on a ladder of importance for ministry. It is obviously needed, but there are more important ways to be involved.

The Apostle Paul has the opposite understanding of prayer. Prayer lies at the very center of all our service to God. After he lays out the need for followers of Christ to put on the whole armor of God in Ephesians 6, he concludes that we must be "praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints" (v. 18).

Why is prayer for the saints so important? Because we are engaged in spiritual warfare. Earlier in this chapter, Paul explains, "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm (vv. 12-13). I know that there are a lot of crazy beliefs and practices out there regarding spiritual warfare today, but this does not change the biblical truth that we are in a very real spiritual battle.

Our enemies are not cultists. Our enemies are not false teachers. Our enemy is Satan and his demons. We fight against the spiritual forces of evil. And they are a fierce and powerful enemy.

The first time I visited Uganda, I was able to speak with a young African missionary working in northern Uganda. He is serving Christ in one of the most difficult areas in the region, with open political rebellion and violence. When he heard about our plans for developing a center to defend our faith, he quickly recognized the importance of our ministry. But then he looked at me and said, "You are about to enter one of the most difficult tasks I could ever imagine. The devil will be striving to stop you at every turn. He won't want to give up one inch of his territory, and you will have a long and difficult fight ahead."

I will never forget how serious he was. His eyes burned with fervency in light of our vision. It is almost as if he was making sure that I really knew what I was getting myself into. He caused me to pause and remember afresh the spiritual battle that I will be involved in through our ministry.

I don't take his warning lightly. But I also have hope, because Jesus Christ has triumphed over our enemy. In this spiritual war, He provides the power that I need to overcome. But this is accomplished through the faithful prayers of His people.

So when I say that the most important thing you can do for our ministry is to pray, I am not simply giving a required answer. I really believe that what ACFAR needs most is the faithful prayer of fellow Christians. Yes, we have additional ways that you can help, but I desire above all for many Christians to come together bringing our East African ministry before the throne of God.

Please pray for us! And if you haven't already, consider keeping up-to-date by joining our e-mail prayer list. Together, we will defend Christ and His gospel by His grace and for His glory.

July 11, 2008

Weekly Round-Up: Pentecostal Problems, AIDS in Uganda, and Defining Mission

Here's this week's round-up:

1) Stephen Bwire, "Pentecostal theatrics thrive under fear" in the Weekly Observer newspaper (Uganda). Yet another African sees the rampant corruption of the prosperity gospel in Uganda. He writes, "The list of incidences such as these is endless. The curtain on these theatrics in some of the Pentecostal churches is in dire need of coming down." Yes, this false health-and-wealth gospel must be countered with the true gospel of Jesus Christ!

2) Sam L. Ruteikara, "Let my people go, AIDS profiteers" in Baptist Press. I don't know how I originally missed this piece in the Washington Post, but Baptist Press has thankfully picked it up. Ruteikara writes about the problem of AIDS in Uganda and shows how political maneuvering is preventing true solutions from stopping its spread.

3) "What did I do today?" on the Sheltons in Uganda blog. This link is a little more personal, but we love the Shelton family and are thankful that they are serving Christ in Uganda. They were even gracious enough to allow us to stay with them on our recent trip! In any case, if you've never dealt with the traffic in Kampala, you'll be amazed at this post and pictures. Let's just say that there is no such thing as defensive driving in Uganda.

4) Keith Ferdinando, "Mission: A Problem of Definition" in Themelios Journal (in PDF format). I am excited to see Themelios back in print, especially under the general editorship of D.A. Carson. In this article, an African scholar shows the need to keep the priority of missions work as making disciples. Since many today are diminishing the centrality of preaching the gospel through the language of holism, this article is indeed an important one.

July 9, 2008

Book Notice: Preachers of a Different Gospel

Femi Adeleye, Preachers of a Different Gospel (Kampala, Uganda: IFES Anglophone Africa, 1999), 154 pp. (Christian Perspectives Series)

Preachers of a Different GospelFinally, a book written by an African theologian exposing the errors of the prosperity gospel. With this false gospel running rampant throughout Africa, a biblical refutation has been desperately needed. Femi Adeleye has responded with this essential resource. While it may not be easy to find, I pray that this book will make its way into the hands of many African church leaders.

From the back cover:
You have seen posters advertising the crusades; 'Come and hear the great man of God! Receive your miracle!' The man may be great, but is he always great for God? There is the God who uses people, but there is also the God people use. Which is which?

So much that goes under the cover of the gospel is counterfeit. The 'great men' are preachers of a different gospel! Their 'gospel' should not be accepted on face value but rather be put under the scrutiny of the Scriptures.

Table of Contents:
General Preface, ix
Acknowledgement, xi
Strange Times, Strange Gospel, 1
Between the Cross and 'Champagne', 11
Charismatic Renewal and Confusion, 27
The 'Modern' Preachers, 39
Misreading Scripture, 49
Counterfeit Faith, 59
The Delusion of Prosperity, 75
The God Man Uses, 105
Phoney Christianity, 117
Authentic Christianity, 131
Notes, 147
Copies are available directly through the ministry Fellowship of Christian Unions (FOCUS) Uganda. You can contact them for more information:

Mail address:
Fellowship of Christian Unions (FOCUS)
PO Box 16415

+256 41 530626

July 7, 2008

Spreading Error Through Technology

MP3 PlayersI love technology. Most people that know me immediately recognize how much of a "tech geek" I am. I blog. I listen to sermons on my MP3 player. I use a digital camera to send pictures to my family. I have even considered buying a Kindle (unfortunately, the price is still way too high). Technology is wonderful.

At the same time, technology is dangerous. Anyone can post material online, whether accurate or not. Wikipedia provides a tremendous amount of information, but none of it can be trusted because its entries can be modified by any visitor. The floodgates of falsehood are always before us.

Growing technology also allows cults and false teaching to spread more rapidly around the world. One case in point: the Branhamites (also known as Voice of God Recordings). In the latest edition of their newsletter Catch the Vision (June 2008), they report on a new project.
Voice of God Recordings (VGR) always had the burden to give every believer on earth access to Brother Branham's Message. As soon as VGR was founded, we established overseas Message libraries, so believers could have a place to get the books and tapes. But it was still not possible to locate a library in or near every church. Cassette tapes were too large and expensive to ship in such huge quantities. To further complicate things, many believers were completely isolated and didn't even have a church, let alone a lending library. It would take years before God's plan became clear.
Branham's 'supernatural' photoWhile many Christians in America have never heard of VGR, they are zealously working toward spreading William Branham's teaching globally. In the past, getting their materials overseas was difficult and expensive. Not anymore!
In 2003, the Lord led us to put together a package including a battery-powered MP3 player, a full set of English MP3 CDs, and a full set of English Message books (1963-1965 plus all the bound books). Fittingly, we called it the Lighthouse Project. Once again, God's Great Machine was in motion.
Thanks to advances in technology, they can now easily distribute Branham's messages as MP3s without worrying about copying and distributing cassette tapes. What has been the result?
We recently shipped 342 packages to Kenya, 138 packages to Mozambique, and 100 packages to South Africa. We hope to have enough sponsors to ship 571 Lighthouse packages to Zambia in the hear future. This will give every known church in that country a Lighthouse package.
The Branhamites are now rapidly spreading their message in Africa. And if you would like to know how successful they have been throughout the continent, check out their African offices page. VGR is now working in multiple languages throughout East Africa, including two of the most common in Uganda: Luganda and Swahili.

I have experienced their growth firsthand. On my latest trip to Uganda, I was speaking at a preacher's conference and asked how many of the pastors had heard of William Branham. I was shocked to see over half of their hands go up.

As technology increases, the challenges to our faith only become greater. Nevertheless, we serve a God who can overcome all obstacles! Lord willing, church leaders and fellow believers in East Africa will soon have a place to turn when they encounter the errors of VGR. May God's truth in Christ shine brightly!

July 4, 2008

Weekly Round-Up: Ugandan Preaching, the State of Apologetics, A Theologically-Driven Missiology, and Witnessing to Mormons

Here's this week's round-up:

1) Caroline Mbabazi, "The good old sermon" in the Sunday Monitor newspaper (Uganda). Wow. A woman writes about how poor preaching usually is in Uganda, appealing to Creflo Dollar, Joyce Meyer, T.D Jakes, and Rod Parsley as good examples. How desperately churches in Uganda need to grow in biblical knowledge and discernment!

2) William Lane Craig, "God Is Not Dead Yet: How current philosophers argue for his existence" and "Recommended Reading: Books on the existence of God;" Troy Anderson, "A New Day for Apologetics" in Christianity Today (July 2008). Finally, an issue of Christianity Today magazine focusing on the defense of our faith. Whatever one may think of Craig's methodology, these articles are very helpful. I pray that a growing interest in apologetics will spread to East Africa!

3) Bruce Ashford, "A Theologically-Driven Missiology," Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 on the Between the Times blog. Ashford is a professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary who is writing a series of blog posts for Southern Baptists on the relationship between theology and missions. So far he has covered Revelation, the Triune God, and Christ. While I just came across this series, I am very impressed so far. He says, "Our tendency is to affirm Christian Scripture as being inspired by God and without error, and then to ignore Christian Scripture in forming our strategies and methods. It is as if we are saying that 'what' we believe about God is important, but 'how' we practice is not. We think that we can 'bank on' inerrancy and then do whatever we’d like." May many more missionaries see the importance of theology in their service to God.

4) Brett Kunkle, "Getting Mormons to Explain Why," Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 on the Stand to Reason YouTube page. A must-watch video series on witnessing to Mormons. As a former Mormon myself, I heartily recommend it.