Wednesday, November 25, 2009

An Addendum To Temple/Mosque Visitation Concerns

Several things need to be noted concerning this trend of visiting Hindu temples and Muslim Mosques. it's no secret that some in our fellowship have been vocal about this practice and actively leading teams of adults and young people into these pagan places of worship in the name of trying to give people a "heart for the soil" of a lost person's soul.

I have spoken with the main leader of this practice in the FGBC at length about my concerns and made it clear that we disagreed about this issue. I think it's a terrible idea with potential and actual spiritual hazards and he absolutely sees the whole thing differently.I will continue to oppose this practice and he will continue to promote it.

I was cleared to have my blog posted on the FGBC website and was told that my concerns were valid about many of the issues I wrote about.

I was also cleared to post a series of articles on my objections to Temple/Mosque visitations under the condition that I did not mention specific names of those I disagreed with and used a cordial tone. Those at the website KNEW that I was going to post these concerns and gave me the go-ahead to do so.

Upon returning from India I posted the first part of my series and pretty much the very day that my second part went up, my blog was pulled from the FGBC blog page. I did not remove it. It was PULLED.

I had a phone conversation where I was told that what I had done was disappointing and apparently several in the FGBC were "upset" that I had disagreed with this practice.No actual address or citation of my actual writings were made to me. The issues were not dealt with but I was told that others were giving flack and getting flack over what I posted at some level unknown to me but there it is! The "powers that be" in the FGBC have deemed my concerns controversial and too hot to handle for the blog page.

Please understand, folks, that I am not trying to be edgy or controversial but was actually encouraged for a very short time that we had a fellowship wherein we could openly dialogue and even respectfully disagree with one another without the fear of being unreasonably censored or pulled from our respective slots on the blog page...or so it seemed.

I leave you with two things: 1) I think that this does not bode well for this fellowship in that this seems to be a clear case of information control going on. 2)I will continue to post freely on this blog if I feel the need to share concerns with whoever else may be concerned about what they see happening in the church today.

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Plea to Stop Visiting Temples/Mosques, Part 3: Answering Five Final Objections

Greetings, everyone and sorry for the delay but a lot has been happening. As promised, here are the second five actual and anticipated objections to my concerns about Temple/Mosque visit tours currently being conducted by some in our fellowship. This is also the last article about this phenomenon unless further developments occur. I am praying that many will heed these concerns and that we could relegate this hazardous practice to the past. Here they be…

Objection 6: “But my temple visit was so powerful, so moving, so out of the box. Now I pray fervently for these people like never before. I really learned about their lostness and saw it first hand.”

This may be a genuine response but re-think this for a moment. Was there any other way to be so burdened? The answer must be yes because most missionaries and intercessors for Hindus and Muslims didn’t receive this burden from going to a temple or a mosque Many receive it in prayer or a classroom or a moving sermon…or a trip to India. Just get off the plane here and you will immediately see all you need to know about Hinduism and the religions of India without ever setting foot in any temple. You will know what it is like to be vexed within when you see life here (as was Paul in Athens, Acts 17).My point is that while you may be forever changed by this experience rethink through and make sure your shoe removal or hijab donning might not have been the best and certainly not the only way to be moved for these dear folks.

Objection 7: “But the church needs this practice in order to wake up.”

The church needs to be biblical and honoring to the true God and there are other ways for this to happen.

Objection 8: “Steve, is your objection to these temple tours based on a belief in the sacred\secular distinction?”

Partially, yes. I know that this argument has been less than accepted by many lately due to the onset of more and more postmodern thinking but consider the truth that God definitely deemed certain things “holy” and other things “profane”. Pagan practices were actually and remain “abominations” before a holy God. There are other activities that fall into the categories of being foolish and unwise. Either way you slice it, these visits may involve some measure of willful/unwillful, knowing/unknowing participation in sinful practices. I definitely believe this involves that but let each one be convinced by the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit what they do and say. As for my counsel, don’t even risk the danger of being on the wrong side of this issue.

Objection 9: “What then, do you suggest, is the best way to go about witnessing to Hindus and Muslims?”

Share a bold and loving testimony with Hindus in the parking lot of their temple or street witness to them. Make friends with your local restaurant owners, waiters, gas station attendants and grocery store owners, and businessmen who are from these locales. I have had great conversations with Indians at home and abroad and a powerful testimony to them is a kind explanation to them as to why you cannot go into their places of worship. What an open door to share about the holiness of the true God and His Son, Jesus Christ. In India I refuse to enter temples or even say the customary greeting “Namaste” because of its spiritual implications (“Namaste” literally means “My spiritual atman (“god-self”) bows in reverence to your spiritual atman.”). Although it is a customary greeting we have an open door of opportunity for why we give a hearty hug or handshake instead.

Objection 10: “Steve, aren’t you just being an ill-informed, reactionary , preachy, etc…?”

This last reaction is an imagined one as everyone with whom I’m spoken with on this matter has been courteous and respectful but trust me, the answer may very well be “Yes”. I could be totally wrong with my concerns but I don’t believe so. I have seen and done many things in the nation of India since 1999 and even married into it with my beloved wife Supriya, who hails from Maharashtra, India. We are united in our concerns that, at the very least, these temple/mosque visits are not the best way to go about evangelizing Hindus and Muslims and may even be dangerous in terms of participating in a practice that compromises the Christian faith and sends a wrongful message to Indian believers and non believers alike. Of course these concerns apply to all religious backgrounds involved in these visits.

So, in conclusion, these are my thoughts about temple visits. My advice: “Don’t do it!” and really think about why it isn’t a good idea. This is a “for-the-record” series of blog posts and I encourage you to be vividly biblical on this and whatever proposals and practices come down the pike, even from respected persons in our own fellowship of churches.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this, and thank you so much to those who have already responded.

Monday, November 9, 2009

A Plea to Stop Visiting Temples/Mosques, Part 2: Answering Five Objections

A Plea to Stop Visiting Temples/Mosques, Pt. 2: Answering Five Objections

I have dialogued at length about this issue with some in the FGBC including one of the main leaders of these temple trips. We have had fervent exchanges and good discussion but my concerns have been dismissed as reactionary and not based in any kind of real justifiable vantage point. These activities will continue unless others begin to speak out I am sure but I feel it necessary to answer a few counterpoints that have been raised to my concerns. Most of these were actually raised and some are anticipated but there are more than what I answer here. Let these “Top 10” suffice with this part being the first five. I feature the objection followed by my response. I let you the reader decide what is valid and worthy of your time and attention here.

Objection 1: “This is an example of what Paul did by “being all things to all men” and reminiscent of his visit to the Areopagus in Acts 17”.

Paul visited synagogues and was taken to Mars Hill where he clearly preached the gospel to those who were there. He even told the Areopagites of God’s requirement that all men everywhere needed to repent ( Acts 17:30). Everywhere Paul went he preached the gospel of Jesus Christ which directly opposed the false worship that was going on in these places. Participants in these temple visits, to my knowledge, are going to “learn about the Hindu or Muslim faith” and in the initial ventures from Momentum 2007, they were told specifically not to witness but to be observers only which is not the same intent Paul had for being found in those places. Paul also did not capitulate or compromise by participating in any form of pagan practice in order to gain entry to these places. Shoe removal and hijabs are a form of participation or at least send a message of mutual acknowledgment to some validity of the “faiths” being learned from.

Objection 2: “This practice is a “fast-track” that is worth weeks of classroom lectures to help people “see the soil” of the lost world and “get a heart” for those enslaved to foolish false religion.”

This sounds noble and pragmatically practical. How could anyone argue with the impact something like a temple visit has on Christians who see this, especially for the first time? My response is this: Is there any other way someone can receive a burden to pray for and evangelize Hindus and Muslims other than actually having to go visit their temples? YES. Is this temple/mosque visitation the only way someone can really “get a heart” for these lost souls? NO. There are other better safer ways for this to happen that don’t involve any sort of compromise or reverence to a false faith. Yes, one can learn about tenets of these religions in a classroom and it can be a tool that God uses to impart holy concern for these folks. A personal visit is an “in your face” activity but not necessarily the best one and I would caution even becoming too familiar with foreign religions in any case. You don’t have to actually do what they do. You don’t have to be familiar with the tenets of Hinduism or Islam to pray for and witness to people in those religions. Here’s the best way to get a heart for Hindus and Muslims: Pray this way: “Father, please give me a burden for those lost and on their way to hell who are trapped in any form of false worship.” Watch what He’ll do. I became a missionary to India because of praying like that, not visiting pagan temples. God can impart His burden for Hindus, Muslims, Jains, and Sikhs without these visits.

Objection 3: “Steve, there is no such thing as an actual pagan place or anywhere that’s forbidden ground for a Christian to go in. The geography of what is found inside or outside the temple belongs to the Lord and we need not be afraid of “evil places’ or temple grounds.”

While this is technically correct, the practice of removing our shoes or donning a hijab or any custom we have to do to enter these places sends the message to these adherents that we do indeed consider their temple or mosque “sacred space”. We are showing respect for what they do there which is worship a false god or goddess who is really a demonic spirit. Why would we do this? God does not have mutual respect for any other “faith” and doesn’t want His people displaying any form of veneration or acknowledgment to any other false beliefs. Israel was told “all the gods of the nations are idols”( Ps. 96:5) and they were not to do anything that smacked of or was actual pagan practice. we are to be separate from these things and I assure you this sends a greater testimony to those dear folks that any mutual acknowledgment of their “faith”.

Objection 4: “We need to extend the right to all people to worship as they please.”

Yes we do but we shouldn’t do anything that compromises or encourages what they are doing by acknowledging their practices as sacred or valid in any way.

Objection 5: “This practice of temple/mosque visitation was first suggested by an Indian believer.”

This may be true but there are a lot of unbiblical and unwise things suggested by leaders of any background. There are many more Indian believers who would object to what’s going on with these visits if made aware of this practice. Just because the idea is Indian in origin means nothing and a lot of what has been suggested and implemented in the name of contextualization and evangelism is unbiblical and borders on erroneous activity that is actually syncretistic in practice. There is no real weight to this argument.

There’s five objections to my objection to the practice of temple/mosque visitation. I leave them for your consideration and ask you to stay tuned for the conclusion of this series of posts where I will present five final objections and my responses.

Read and share as the Lord leads.

Monday, November 2, 2009

A Plea to Stop Visiting Temples/Mosques, Part 1

A Plea From India Concerning the Danger of Temple/Mosque Visits

Aloha and greetings from Pune, India. I am writing this blog post with a renewed sense of urgency after my first week of being back in beloved India. One can’t help but be moved and vexed within when walking through this city give over to idols, temples, and masjids(Muslim Mosques) are everywhere. Demons are being frequently and reverently worshipped with great fervor. Indian Hinduism and Islam for that matter is frightening to behold and staggering in terms of how many people are devotees.

A recent trend seems to be catching on in our fellowship that involves taking young people and adult conference goers into Hindu, Jain, and Sikh temples as well as Muslim mosques. The FGBC have begun to do this with vigor and trips are offered as part of the Equip and Momentum conferences in the future. The leaders of this activity in our fellowship even offer to come to your local church and lead visits to these places in your area. In the initial 2007 online articles about this practice among our youth at Momentum, it was clearly mentioned that they were told not to witness as they went to these various sites of pagan worship. One wonders how this can then be termed an “outreach” but the real danger is the actual undertaking and what it involves for our young people and other well-meaning Christians when they decide to venture into a Hindu temple or Muslim mosque. I want to share some vital concerns about why I believe that this practice is a terrible idea for Christians to participate in.

Concerns with Hindu temple visits are based on my missionary experience in India living among Hindus and surrounded by their places of worship in the Mumbai slums and the city of Pune from whence I am writing this post. Here’s what everyone should consider when they enter temple grounds. First, know this. If you remove your shoes, as is the requirement for entry to any Hindu temple worldwide, you are already engaging in a worship ritual laden with significance. The world outside every Hindu temple is actually worshipped as a goddess but the dust of the outside world is considered profane and since it accumulates on the feet of the worshipper, the shoes must be removed as an acknowledgement of the contamination of the outside world and the “holiness” of the sacred ground inside the temple. Shoe removal is not merely for sanitations sake, it is considered the first ritual of worship to whatever god or goddess resides in the temple. Christian, you are already capitulating to a false religion by removing your shoes. One article published online about 2009 Momentums recent temple visits emphasized that fact that this group were “learners of the Hindu faith (with bare feet)”. Is this what we want said of our youth at Momentum?

One may counter that there is no significance to the temple visit if the visitor doesn’t actually believe in the god or goddess inside but I would ask you to understand that the message sent to your Hindu host or temple guide is that you revere the temple site itself as “sacred ground” and have a mutual respect for the worship that happens there. Dear believer, shoe removal to enter the Hindu temple is not only already a participation in part of the purification rites but a bad testimony that sends a message that you agree with your host that their temple is sacred ground. I trust you can already see the compromise I’m referring to here and why I believe it best to not enter Hindu, Jain or Sikh temples.

Concerns with visits to the masjid, or Muslim mosque involve some of the same aspects. Shoe removal also sends the message that you have a respect for the sacredness of Islam and the presence of Allah. A second major issue involves the requirement of Mosque visitors concerning women who MUST wear the hijab or head covering. This is symbolic on two fronts: the submission of a woman to Muslim men and reverence in the presence of Allah. Why would a Christian ever want to participate in this ritual or send the message to unbelievers that there is a mutual respect for their religion? Understand me here, we respect everyone’s right to worship what or who they want BUT we cannot capitulate to those false religions by entering their places of worship and taking part in the rituals they require because they are laden with so much significance and most of this is unknown to those participating in this trend of temple and mosque tourism. It was both concerning and heartbreaking to see pictures posted of young girls at Momentum smiling while wearing hijabs. It sends a wrongful message to be sure and I think this whole thing needs reconsidered.

I have talked to the main leader involved with introducing this practice to the FGBC and my pleas have fallen on deaf ears. My wife, who is an Indian, and a Christian was taken to temples as a child by her Hindu maid and is very familiar with what happens there. She was shocked that Christians in the US were taking tours of these places and many Indian believers can’t ever see a good reason to reenter those places after being saved from the clutches of the demons being worshipped therein. So if you want a third reason that this is a bad idea, take the fact that it could very well stumble brothers and sisters in Christ in India who watch with bewilderment at the church going into these places

A final concern I have with these temple/mosque visits is based on the fact that is very observable here in India. Devotees to the false gods (including Allah) and goddesses, in some cases, experience demonic possession as they engage in their worship. Muslims actually conduct exorcisms on people they believe are controlled by “D’jinn” or evil spirits. Sometimes this happens in the course of Islamic worship and the sight of it leaves no doubt to the discerning Christian that these are demonic occurrences. Similarly and probably more widespread are the definite demonization of Hindu devotees in their temples who sometimes ask for the gods to possess them and demons seem ready to comply. In the awesome book Death of a Guru, the author Rabi Maharaj clearly states the “spiritual oppression” and demonic powers he felt while visiting a temple after his conversion (he went there to see his mother). Being a former guru and Hindu devotee, he knew all too well the danger of demonic powers in places where these evil spirits were being worshipped.

Demonic possession is not something I believe may befall a believer in Jesus Christ but why risk the chance of taking a young person, new believer, or even someone who may be unsaved at one of these conferences directly into the place where these activities are being practiced? I believe that if someone ever gets oppressed severely or even demonized because they are unsaved in one of these temple tour groups, this whole foolish practice will be abandoned.

Dear ones, this concludes part one of my concerns about the FGBC participating in this new trend that I believe both to be unbiblical and spiritually dangerous. I have made the case that their really seems to be no reason to enter these places as the requirements for entry already demand that someone begin to participate in the pagan worship being done there. Shoe removal and hijabs are laden with religious significance and it causes the visitor to already be compromising and capitulating, in a way actually participating in aspects of pagan worship. It sends the wrong message and is a bad testimony to some Indian believers. Finally, demonic forces are at work in these places and it isn’t wise to lead teams of mixed maturities (or young people in the faith) into potentially risky situations.

Please consider these assertions as a plea from the heart of someone whose wife and himself love Indians, Hindu , Muslim, and otherwise and has spent considerable time among them and sadly is all too familiar with some of their worship practices.

Parents please reconsider allowing your young person to participate in this risky experiment.

Pastors, is it really a good thing for your congregation to be entertaining?

Please receive these concerns in the heart and tone in which they are written and stay tune for part two where I will answer some of the objections raised to these concerns.

Feel free to let fly your commentary…