My Article Today on China Source

Today I had an article on the website China Source.

Here’s the link:

Or you can read below:

In the “Teaching across Cultures” class I took last month with Dr. Craig Ott, he had us read The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently . . . and Why by Richard Nisbett. The crux of the book’s argument is that Westerners and Asians think differently because of their different ancient roots. Westerners are highly influenced by the ancient Greek mindset, which is to make laws and formations for everything around them. Whereas, Asians are most influenced by the ideas of Confucius, which do not put so much emphasis on making laws or explaining everything with rules.

Within the realm of theology, Western theologians always need to have air-tight explanations and arguments to explain everything from the Bible. Whereas, most non-Westerners (Asians, Africans, Middle Easterners, Hispanics) are not as concerned about making air-tight theological laws, but are able to accept the mysterious and paradoxical parts of the Bible (i.e. Calvinism vs. free will).

Pondering these factors interests me greatly. I think of my best Chinese-pastor friend who leads a small house church in northwest China. He knows all parts of the Bible incredibly well, as well as any Chinese person I know. However, he has never been interested in discussing the more debated theological topics that Westerners normally discuss. Those debates just are not important to him.

In my Bible-related conversations with him, we talk about things he has recently preached on. We talk about things I have been learning from the Bible. We talk about stories from the Bible. But for him, a book of “Systematic Theology,” where the information is organized in a list of common themes in the Bible, would be of little or no concern. This style of studying the Bible is targeted more towards a Western mindset, than a Chinese mindset. My Chinese friend would be much more interested in studying things that relate to his ministry. He has been encouraged much by the Chinese translation of the missions book Perspectives. It seems to me that overall his understanding of the Bible comes from reading the Bible itself, rather than reading books about the Bible.

First Moments at Southern Seminary 2013

Originally in my August 14th, 2013 Journal

First moments at Southern Seminary [where we stayed for a year & I got my MDiv]

Now we’re in our new apartment (Springdale Apartment, #623) at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) in Louisville, KY. We drove all day yesterday (14.5 hrs) to get here. Getting out of OKC it was pouring rain, but after that we had mostly clear weather. We got here at 9:30 pm EST. We got our key & met our good friend from China, who was waiting for us with all the furniture he’d gathered for us in the U-Haul. He & I moved the furniture (bed, kitchen, table, sofa, leather chair) into our 2nd floor apartment. We finished around 11 pm local time. It was an exhausting day, but the Lord carried us through it. We’re excited to be in our new home.

Prayer for Central Asia

This morning I spent some time praying for Central Asia, though I’ve never been there. But our region in NW China does border many countries in Central Asia.

I’m praying for the Muslim world, and particularly for those in Central Asia. There are many people in this region, most of whom have no Christian witness around them. The people have varying levels of religious zeal for Islam. There’d be many following folk Islam. And some of these countries [i.e. Afghanistan, Pakistan] are quite unstable. Some of the areas are isolated and in mountain ranges 15,000-25,000 feet high. So it can be a hard region for missionaries or outsiders to penetrate into, much less to witness to people on the ground in their own local language.

I pray for the Lord to move in huge ways in these areas. I pray there may be many missionaries sent to these areas, & that the Lord may sustain them and use them and the Holy Spirit to convict the hearts of many locals and turn them to the Lord. And I pray that local churches may thrive and grow, not only numerically but also in depth of knowledge and obedience to God.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!” (Eph. 3:20,21)

Birth of New Missions Organization in NW China

Originally in my July 6th, 2011 Journal

Birth of new missions organization in NW China

Our two families were in prayer together. We looked at the big China map on the wall. We put paper (yellow, blue, & red) on the cities [our organization] wants to focus on: 1) Yellow [Shaanxi (Xi’an, Weinan, Hanzhong, Ankang, Baoji)],; 2) Blue [Gansu (LinXia, Lanzhou, Tianshui, Zhangye, Dunhuang, PingLiang, Wuwei, JiuQuan, JaiYuGuan)]; 3) Red [Other NW China Cities (Xining, Yinchuan, Turpan, Urumqi, Aksu, Hotan, Korla, Kashgar)].

We prayed for these specific regions & cities & for the Lord to prepare the way for us to send Workers there.

Church Strengthens Us in Our Weak Areas

I was thinking about how I was spiritually challenged and strengthened when we were in Louisville, KY from ’13-’14 as I studied my MDiv at Southern Seminary, and we went to Clifton Baptist Church. As I was a pastoral intern at the church for that year, I was blessed to be able to get a closer look at the church and the leaders of the church than I probably otherwise would have been.

Three of the elders in the church had particular strengths that were exactly spiritual gifts that I am very weak on. One elder was Tom Schreiner. He was such a humble guy, though he had written many well-known books at the seminary. But every week he would get up out of his seat and help old ladies in our Sunday school class as they would get into their seats. He never seemed to be self-promoting about himself, but soft-spoken and unassuming. I am a proud guy and feel incredibly challenged when I think about Tom’s example of living out humility. Another elder was David Dykes. He is willing to serve others, and would often be the one to go way out of his way to help people out when they were in need. I am not too strong in serving others, and so I could see his model of service and learn from it, to try to be more like him in that regard. The last elder I want to mention is Shawn Wright. Shawn has an amazing spirit of gentleness about him. He is approachable and has a soft and gentle spirit to him, and in how he interacts with those around him. Again, gentleness is not something that I feel very strong in. So Shawn’s model of gentleness is something I can strive to pray to have more of for myself.

Praise God that He puts people around us in the church to strengthen the church as a whole. And He also desires that when we see godly traits in others that we don’t necessarily have, we may strive to pray that the Lord may grow us in those areas.

Urgency of Gospel

Originally in my July 30th, 2007 Journal [summer after 2nd year in China]

I was with God: listening to Piper sermon, singing praises, prayer, memorizing verses, writing, listening to Andrew Murray’s Ministry of Intercession. I’ve been really getting lots of satisfaction in God’s presence. The Spirit is teaching me some good stuff.

Our first priority is to preach the gospel. If I truly believe that people around me are going to hell if they don’t believe in Christ as Savior, how am I loving them by not telling them how to be saved? I know it’s disruptive at this school & it disrupts the peace here. But just because millions of people in China are content with their lives, does not mean that they’re NOT going to hell. They’re still going to hell whether they know it or not.

My Book on Missio Nexus

On June 27th, the large missions network Missio Nexus put my book Becoming Native to Win the Natives on their website: https://missionexus.org/category/books/leaders-edge/

I was thankful Missio Nexus could choose my book for their monthly author interview on their Leaders Edge resources page. I did the interview with the VP Marv a few weeks ago. It was a great opportunity for me.

If you are a member of Missio Nexus, I suggest you to read what has been posted on that website about my book, and you can listen to the interview with me about my book.

working on book #2

I’m in the process of writing my 2nd book. I’m now looking for a publisher for it.

It’ll be about suffering and God’s sovereignty in our sufferings. Much of the book will be about a biblical understanding of suffering. Then the 2nd half of the book will be about some of my particular sufferings & how the Lord has carried me through them.

I started writing the book about two years ago. And I am nearing completion of the book.

I could use prayers for guidance & strength from the Lord in all this.

I think about Paul’s words: “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Col. 3:17)

Review of my book in EMQ

Last weekend I came across another review of my book Becoming Native to Win the Natives. It was written in the January 2017 edition of the missions journal Evangelical Missions Quarterly (EMQ).

You can read the review below, written by Dr. Ed Scheuerman, professor at Lancaster Bible College:

 

—Reviewed by Ed Scheuerman, professor of intercultural studies, Lancaster Bible College

Living among nationals is not enough to accomplish the goal of gaining acceptance in order to share the gospel. The missionary needs to seek to ‘become native.’ Drawing upon his ten years of living in China, Tabor Laughlin’s primer highlights the challenge of crossing the line from being among to living with those God calls the missionary to serve. He additionally calls the reader to “build deep relationships with them and to be intentional to share with them the gospel” (p. 8).

This short book (just 71 pages) is in three sections: (1) principles, (2) practices, and (3) take away. Each of the seven chapters ends with a few practical questions. The primary benefit of this book is its practical suggestions in such areas as language learning, food, dress, and identity among the local community. Laughlin wisely stresses the need for integrity in areas such as one’s visa.

The author seeks a level of acceptance where, “They will no longer see us as an outsider” (p. 37). But I don’t know that this will be entirely possible. Personally, one of the best days of my life in China was when I was told that I was “just like a Chinese.” I knew that this was a statement of acceptance but that I would never truly be Chinese.

Another slight concern is when Laughlin writes, “In such instances, when we realize that it’s actually our home culture that does things weird, not the new culture, maybe we should consider adopting the local custom” (p. 42). Neither needs to be “weird,” just different. We need to guard against making value statements (in either cultural direction) when customs are simply different. But the main point of adopting local customs is advisable.

Referencing Romans 14, the author wisely exhorts the reader to consult local believers when seeking to decide what would be a potential stumbling block for both believers and unbelievers in the local culture. “May the Lord grant you his wisdom in such cases,” he writes (p. 43). Laughlin similarly makes strong value judgements about children’s education and a wife’s language learning. “For her, studying the language should never be a higher priority than taking care of her family” (p. 58). I understand his intent here, but I would caution against imposing a Western value—in this case, of how one prioritizes family life. While I would not advocate imitating the family life of William Carey, I also don’t want to impose my Western understanding of family uniformly on everyone. The concern here, as with attempting to follow presumed “biblical standards,” is the need to recognize that how we interpret the Bible is also done with a cultural lens.

This book will serve well as an introduction for those about to get on the airplane to go overseas. But it can also serve as a challenge for all Christians to increasingly and appropriately seek to be in the culture in which God has placed them, regardless of their here and now.

Western vs. Chinese Theology

In my “Teaching across Cultures” class this week with Dr. Craig Ott, he had us read a book by Richard Nisbett from 2003. The crux of the book is that Westerners and Asians think differently because of their different ancient roots. Westerners were most highly influenced by the ancient Greek mindset, which is to make laws and formations for everything around them. Whereas, the Asians were most influenced by the ideas of Confucius, which do not put so much emphasis on making laws or explaining everything with air-tight rules.

Within the realm of theology, Western theologians always need to have air-tight explanations and arguments to explain everything from the Bible. Whereas, most non-Westerners (Asians, Africans, Middle Easterners, Hispanics) are not as concerned to make air-tight theological laws, but are able to accept the mysterious and paradoxical parts of the Bible (i.e. Calvinism vs. Free Will).

Thinking about these factors interested me greatly. I think about my best Chinese pastor friend, who leads a small house church in NW China. He knows all parts of the Bible incredibly well, as well as any Chinese person I know. However, he has never been one who is interested to discuss more debated theological topics that may be normal for Westerners to discuss. These debates just are not important for him.