A New Review of my Book

Yesterday there was a review of my book Becoming Native to Win the Natives in the Journal of Global Christianity, which is published by the organization Training Leaders International.

Here’s the link: http://trainingleadersinternational.org/jgc/81/becoming-native-to-win-the-natives-cross-culturally-becoming-all-things-to-all-men

The book review was graciously written by Jackson Wu.

 

Or you can read the book review pasted below:

For new missionaries, Tabor Laughlin’s Becoming Native to Win the Natives is a must read. His book has the rare combination of being practical, relevant and readable. Although a short text (just under 70 pages), Laughlin’s work is packed with counsel that only comes from years of experience.

Section One addresses issues related to one’s perspective and heart. In the second part, Laughlin talks about matters that every missionary faces. These include language learning, assimilating into the local culture, one’s appearance in the local community, and managing family life. Finally, he ties it all together in a concise conclusion.

Laughlin’s book is practical without becoming overly pragmatic. He specifically addresses the daily tasks that make up the missionary life. He equips and encourages readers with realistic expectations. Laughlin gives no space to idealism or abstraction. Instead, one finds advice that is immediately actionable. His stories draw from personal experience and so demonstrate what it might look like to “become native.”

Having served many years in China, Laughlin is able to offer counsel that is relevant to missionaries in every context. By contrast, other authors settle for mere principles in order to reach a maximum audience. Laughlin concludes his chapters with multiple questions that guide readers in application. These questions stimulate personal reflection and will direct missionaries as they consider the practical steps they need to take in order to flourish in their ministry. I envision many veteran missionaries also using Laughlin’s book to train, encourage, and mobilize newer workers.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of the book is its readability. Given its short length, the book is a quick read. Laughlin writes in simple prose. He does not include a lot of technical terms and concepts that would otherwise confuse readers unfamiliar with missiological jargon. His tone is conversational and his message is clear.

Some might complain about the book’s brevity. I, for one, tend to steer away from such short works. Laughlin certainly could have said much more. However, he has spent much of a decade training newcomers to the mission field. As a result, his aim is simple: to write a brief text that people will actually read amid the stress of transition, language learning, and culture shock. In fact, readers will find more substance in this resource than is often found in much larger works.

I heartily recommend Laughlin’s book for anyone who wants to become native to win the natives.

My article today on Desiring God ‘Scripture Memory Made Simple’

Today I had an article on Desiring God. The title is ‘Scripture Memory Made Simple’.

Here’s the link: http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/scripture-memory-made-simple

 

Or you can read the article below:

Whether we acknowledge it or not, we do have a lot of downtime in each day that we could be using to feed our souls. Often, we spend our spare minutes during the day doing other things like watching TV, playing on our phones, or surfing the internet. Maybe some of us are not seeing the spiritual growth we want because we don’t see the free minutes here and there throughout our day as a gift from God, but rather as a time for entertainment or productivity.

If you think about it, the accumulation of spare moments in our days quickly adds up. Getting dressed, eating breakfast, waiting at the bus stop, walking to class, waiting for the start of a meeting — usually our minds are unemployed during these moments, or occupied by social media. But for those who are looking to “make the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16), there is a means of grace perfectly suited to these short pockets of time: Bible memorization.

Ten Minutes for Treasured Truth

Ten years ago, when I worked as a teacher in China, I decided to take advantage of my free time throughout the day by memorizing Bible verses. I’d write a verse or a passage on an index card and pull it out throughout the day whenever I wasn’t doing anything else. In just a few years’ time, I had memorized over a thousand verses from God’s word — whole passages and even chapters from the Bible were locked in memory and doing their work in my heart.

To this day, I would count those stacks of Bible verse index cards among my most valuable possessions. I take them with me and still use them every day.

I’ve found that whether one spends lots of time in Scripture memory, or just a little time, it is always an incredibly valuable thing to do. It’s easy to consider our short breaks in the day to be “our own time” to relax or surf the internet or watch TV. While these are by no means bad things, we should weigh the value of these activities against the great gift of time to learn God’s word. I can assure you, whether you can invest ten or fifteen minutes each day into Scripture memory, or longer (or shorter) than that, any effort we make is time well spent.

For while rest and recreation have some value, memorizing Scripture has value in many ways. For example, here are four practical benefits of Bible memory:

1. We meditate on God’s word.

When we have the Scriptures hidden in our hearts, if we are regularly reviewing and learning them, we make the truth of Scripture available to our minds all throughout the day. We can be sitting anywhere, or doing anything, and suddenly turn our minds to think about Scripture that I’ve memorized — we can meditate on it day and night (Psalm 1:2).

2. We fight sin and resist the enemy.

The Scripture tells us that we should hide the word in our heart that we might not sin against God (Psalms 119:11). Paul says we must take up “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). This sword of the Spirit is what we use to fight the battle against Satan and against sin. Bible memory means we’re always armed.

3. We get a deeper understanding of the Bible.

This is a huge benefit of Scripture memory. By memorizing many verses covering the whole Bible, we gain a much better understanding of the Bible — not only in small segments, but also as a whole. I’ve found that I can recall key things about all books of the Bible from the top of my head. The more of God’s word we take in, the more we can see its architecture and design when we go to read it.

4. We are equipped for everyday life.

It’s often incredibly handy to be able to have Scripture “within reach” without pulling out our phones or opening our Bibles. We could be doing many things, like encouraging someone in our church, praying alone or in a group, preparing for a sermon, sharing the gospel with an unbeliever, writing someone an email or a paper or a book. Even with the modern ease of looking up info on the internet or on our smartphones, it can never be more convenient than knowing by heart the exact verse that you want to use whenever you want to use it.

Not Effortless, But Priceless

I encourage the readers to put in the time necessary to memorize Scripture. None of that time spent will be spent in vain. It may sound intimidating — just like learning anything, it doesn’t happen naturally. But it does happen simply. And the time you spend will be of great benefit to you and your life.

If you’re not memorizing Scripture right now, or even if you’ve never memorized a verse in your life, I’d encourage you to try with a simple goal of one memory verse every week or every two weeks. Do your best, not simply to memorize as much as you can, but to retain what you’ve already learned. In almost five years, I haven’t learned any new verses, but I still have hours’ worth of material to memorize every day, simply by reviewing. In this way, Scripture memory can be a lifelong means of God’s grace that will benefit you your whole life.

Trip to Xinjiang

Originally in my January 14th, 2010 Journal [on scout trip to Xinjiang Province]

In Urumqi, there are missionaries learning Chinese & focusing on the Han. And there’s others who learn Uyghur & focus on the Uyghur. I question this approach, to totally separate the ministry into two groups. Those focusing on the Han can’t speak Uyghur & those focusing on Uyghur can’t speak Chinese. It seems that, if what some missionaries say is right in saying the Han will be used to best reach the Uyghur & the Chinese pastor’s testimony in Kashgar can attest to that fact, missions organizations would be better to combine the ministries in Urumqi, training workers to speak both Chinese & Uyghur & to be able to actively work with the Han in order to reach the Uyghur. It would be critical that these people speak both languages fluently. Separating the ministry into two distinct parts has way too many limitations.

Lord Changing Hearts in Chinese University

Originally in my January 6th, 2008 Journal [ministering in university in E. China]

There has been a confession of faith! Apparently, two days ago Edward (also from class 3) told Jairy that he became a believer. Yesterday he told Eric. This all followed his 6 hour conversation about the Lord with their lexicology teacher Andrew (a Chinese professor). What a huge blessing Andrew has been! So a guy student has given a confession of faith at the school. We’ll see what happens next. Needs lots of prayer. Also I met with Jordan. He said he feels God pulling him towards Him. He said he just needs more time. I said there are many examples in the Bible where people immediately believe & are transformed (like Paul). I said I know many people who say they’ll wait until they have a family to do the “Christian thing”. Obviously this attitude is wrong. I said “What if they die tomorrow?” They’d go to Hell because they’d have no faith. That got him thinking a lot. He needs immediate prayer. May he be hugely convicted of his lostness. I feel like he’s close, but we can’t relax until he’s turned to the Lord! I also met with Newmoon & she took Pilgrim’s Progress from me to read for the break. May the Lord convict her in a huge way through Bunyan or the Word or some other source. Great things happening with that class of students!

Working Hard for Christ in School or in Work

Originally in my December 13th, 2004 Journal [age 22, senior year studying engineering at Oklahoma St. Univ.]

The main lesson I learned this semester is in regards to labor. Many Christians equate their religion with not worrying, & and thus, not working hard. This was my state last semester & early this semester. I learned that no one will respect anything I say if I don’t do my best at everything I do. Then I am a poor witness. Jesus must be reflected in every aspect of my life. Were Jesus or Paul slackers because they had a ‘carefree attitude’, not concerned with the worries of this world? Heck no! If anything, they worked harder than others in everything they did. It has been a huge lesson for me this semester & I am incredibly thankful.

my article this week on Desiring God ‘Lay Aside ‘Lone Ranger’ Ministry’

This week I had an article on Desiring God titled ‘Lay Aside ‘Lone Ranger’ Ministry’

Here’s the link:

http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/lay-aside-lone-ranger-ministry

 

Or you can read the article below:

As we ministered in our first city in eastern China, doing outreach to college students, our missionary team saw significant fruit among several students within our first year. What caused it to grow?

It was indeed the Lord who caused the seed to grow (1 Corinthians 3:6), and looking back, I also can see how the Lord made us his means and blessed our team with a tight bond. Not only were we close, but a lot of our time with the students was spent together as a team. We were intentional to spend time and minister to students not just individually, but also as a group.

For example, my friend Eric was ministering to a Chinese student named Jordan. He would get lunch with Jordan and talk about the gospel, among other things. Afterward, Eric and I would discuss how it went and pray for Jordan. Some other time, I would go get coffee with Jordan and talk about all kinds of things, but I’d also try to be intentional to share spiritual things. Afterward, Eric and I would pray.

Eventually, by spending time with different Christians individually and together with us in groups, Jordan became more interested in the gospel, until he believed. To this day, he continues to grow and persevere in that faith.

Partnering with others in gospel outreach can be powerful and effective. And we find that shared outreach is a very common model in the Bible.

They Shall Know by Your Love

A big part of our testimony to the lost is not only our words to them, but also our deep love for other believers. Jesus himself says in John 13:35 that “by this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” So, a huge part of our witness is how we love other believers. But if we are doing ministry on our own, it provides no opportunity for people to see our love for other believers and how we interact with them.

If we are committed to only doing outreach by ourselves, how will unbelievers see how we love each other? Certainly we need to proclaim the gospel through our words. This is vital, but it’s just one part of our witness. The other part of our testimony, biblically, is the conduct of our lives, including our love for other believers (Matthew 5:161 Peter 2:12). If we truly, selflessly love those in the church, others outside the church can see that and consider how this love may be unique to the Christian community. They may think this love expressed among believers as strange and be incredibly curious about the reason.

Jesus Sent Them Two by Two

In Luke 10:1–24, Jesus sends out seventy-two disciples in groups of two. One possible reason for this is so that they could hold one another accountable to the task at hand. If Jesus sent out seventy-two lone-ranger evangelists, it would be much easier for them to compromise the mission. But if they’re sent out with others, they can remind each other of their call and purpose, and encourage one another in times of discouragement and wandering.

Another possible reason why Jesus sent out the disciples two by two is for increased gospel witness. One person sharing a testimony can have great power, of course. But of even greater power is a complementary testimony coming from two or three people. One person may have a particular background or testimony that can hit someone with the gospel in a different way than another person who has a completely different background or testimony. The hearers can get multiple perspectives on the message, rather than just one.

Speaking to his disciples, Jesus said that “where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (Matthew 18:20). In this place, Jesus is referring to acts of judgment within the church, following the Old Testament requirement of multiple witnesses to a charge (Deuteronomy 19:15). Nevertheless, it is easy to see how this principle applies more broadly to gospelwitness.

The testimony of two or three witnesses about anything is much more reliable and trustworthy than that of one witness. One person could just be confused, lying, or crazy. But having multiple people sharing a common testimony of truth is much harder to reject and brush aside. So when we are the only ones witnessing to someone about the gospel, it is quite a difficult task. It is much better to partner with another to deliver the gospel message with greater power and breadth.

Apostolic Ministry

Paul had a similar approach in ministry. Typically he was doing ministry together with others. Even when he was in prison, he often had other brothers with him. As he traveled on his three missionary journeys, he was not only traveling together with others, but also doing ministry with them.

On his first missionary journey, Paul — possibly one of the greatest evangelists of all time — did not go alone. In Acts 13:1–3, we see that the Holy Spirit himself told the church in Jersusalem to set apart both Paul and Barnabas. Paul and Barnabs ministered together in Iconium, “speaking boldly for the Lord” (Acts 14:3). They are not only in the city together, but they are boldly proclaiming the gospel together. This is just one of many examples in Acts of Christians sharing gospel ministry.

Feel the Freedom of Mutual Ministry

Once we see what the Bible says and shows about doing ministry together, we should be intentional to put it into practice in our lives. Consider cooperating with others in your church, or small group, to evangelize together, working together with other Christians in your neighborhood to try to reach your neighbors, or when possible, partnering missionaries with other missionaries on the field to minister to the local people.

Here’s a call to embrace the wisdom of the Bible in place of our own individual efforts and work with Christ’s body to make disciples both at home and among the nations, for his glory and the increase of our own joy (Philippians 4:11 Thessalonians 2:193 John 4).

Questions about Missions [Part III]

I’m copying more of a conversation I had with a U.S. college student interested in missions.

His question # 1: Are your experiences with evangelizing in China more from personal relationships that have developed over time or spontaneous meetings with people?

My response: My evangelizing in China has pretty much been primarily through personal relationships developed over a long time. I’ve had periods of time in China where I did lots of sharing to random folks around me, like taxi drivers, or students, or just random people I’ve met. But where I’ve at least seen the fruit has been through personal relationships. Usually it starts with just getting to know them casually in groups. Then eventually beginning to meet one-on-one with them. And then slowly through that being able to share more and more about my faith. And then some will make a profession of faith. Though this profession of faith should be celebrated, just like with folks in the U.S., it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re saved because they’ve made a profession of faith or ‘prayed a prayer’. Usually it takes much longer to see if those people will persevere in the faith. And those that I’ve initially evangelized & have now persevered in the faith 5 or 10 years later are quite few, just a handful. 

His question # 2: Because of the sensitivity of evangelizing in China, how does that affect your methods and the work you do?

My response: Certainly security is a factor for missionaries in China. You don’t want to preach to a big group in public. But doing small Bible studies or sharing one-on-one are usually okay. This doesn’t mean that the Chinese government approves of this, but usually you can do this without getting in trouble. I usually wouldn’t hand out Bibles or tracts to groups or anything like that. Certainly security makes it much different to try to share with people in China compared to in the U.S. But there are still many opportunities. For example, when teaching in a university in China, the college students are very curious & have lots of questions. They wanna hang out with you. And so there are many opportunities to share your life and your faith with them, and most of them can speak English.

Going to Chinese Church

Now we’ve been living in Deerfield, IL for about three months. I’m here studying my PhD in intercultural studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School [TEDS].

These first few months we’ve been going to a Chinese church nearby. We are the only foreigners at the church who go to the Mandarin church service and Sunday school, and a Mandarin small group. We thought going to a Chinese church being in the Chinese service we’d be able to learn more about Chinese believers. Our Chinese would continue to improve during our planned couple years in the U.S., before Lord willing returning to NW China. We’d continue to be around Chinese people and be continued to their culture. All these benefits would also be for our daughter, who was born in NW China & went to a Chinese kindergarten last year in our city in NW China.

But now this week my wife & I have decided to find an English-speaking church around here. Though we’ve enjoyed going to the Chinese church, it seems as though it’s been more challenging than we expected to go to a church that is all in our second language. Our Chinese is good enough to converse with minimal difficulties, read the Chinese Bible, or watch Chinese movies with Chinese subtitles. But doing everything at church in only Chinese has been incredibly hard. We can understand most or some of the sermons’ content. But as far as understanding it in a deeper way that is necessary for impacting us spiritually, it’s very hard. When we’re at Sunday school or small group, we can understand most of what people are talking about. But in that setting, it’s hard for us to actively play a part in the study, to articulate in Chinese what we want to say it when we want to say it.

Now I can relate to all the people out there who go to English churches when English isn’t their first language. I can understand such challenges. Previously I would’ve thought that the ideal church would be one where it’s a mixture of Asians, Africans, Latinos, and Europeans all going to the same church together. But now I can understand why there are ‘Chinese churches’ or ‘Korean churches’ or ‘Polish churches’. Even for those who’ve been in the U.S. for a long time, for those people it’s not just a matter of being nationalistic and only wanting to be with people from their country. Even for those who’ve lived here a long time, there’s nothing that can compare to doing church in that person’s heart language, rather than a second language.

So now we’re gonna look for an English-speaking church.

Please pray for us in this, that very soon we’d be settled in at a church here that we can really invest heart and soul into.

Questions about Missions [Part II]

I’m copying more of a conversation I had with a U.S. college student interested in missions.

His question # 1: Is there an opportunity/need for missionaries to be working in industry and business in China or would teaching be a better way to reach people?

My response: Yes there are many opportunities for Americans to work in various industries as a platform to do ministry. We have a teammate who studied Architecture in college, so he’s done a decent amount of architecture work full-time in NW China, mixed in with some time teaching full-time, and now he’s doing both. We’ve had a guy who did some accounting in his city in NW China, because he had an accounting experience. Though my college degree was Engineering, I’ve never worked in the Engineering field in China. I’ve always been an English teacher, which I came into with absolutely no experience. I think there are some questions to consider in the decision.

Lots of missionaries in China run [sometimes very successful] businesses, like coffee shops, restaurants, export companies, computer programming, tourist companies. So certainly something you could get a better idea about if you were interested.

His question # 2: Why are you teaching instead of practicing engineering?

My response: If you genuinely love working for a particular industry, then you can certainly use that passion to minister in those spheres in China that others can’t reach. You can work as an Engineer in China and do outreach with your co-workers there & those in that profession. It’s a crowd of folks that we as English teachers can’t really reach. But there are other factors, too. If you are an Engineer, you’ll be working at least 40 hours per week in that. So you’d better really like that work, and it’ll take away from time you could spend elsewhere. Whereas if you’re an English teacher in China, you only work 15 hours per week & have lots of free time for language study & outreach. So if you want to have an Engineering job in China, it should be something you really have a passion to do.

This is why I’ve always taught English in China, rather than doing Engineering. I did well in my classes in college, but Engineering was never my passion. I was more interested to serve overseas in other capacities. The first few years of teaching English in China, I really didn’t like it. It was quite painful. But eventually I got the hang of it. I can’t believe now I’ve been doing it for ten years! And the last few years in our city I’ve been teaching at the top high school in our province, which is more demanding. Ten years ago I never would’ve thought I’d be doing that : )