Monday, June 30, 2014

Book Review: The Insanity of Obedience, by Nik Ripken

"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
Matthew 5:10

Do you, as a believer in Christ, want Jesus to return?!?  If so, it's in your interest to see the gospel preached to all the tribes of the earth.  The Insanity of Obedience uses modern examples to highlight Biblical truths in a way that will benefit believers both in persecution and relative freedom.

In his first book, The Insanity of God, Ripken recounted the stories of persecuted believers he met over two decades of ministry.  In the follow-up, Ripken reports his lessons learned for how Western believers can assist the body of Christ in difficult settings.  In both books, Ripken illustrates how Biblical patterns repeat themselves in modern settings.  As Ripken says: "[E]ven as we try to understand how it is that God brings new believers into His family, it is overwhelming to discover that God continues to do exactly what He has always done" (135).  His actions today are perfectly consistent with patterns seen originally in the Bible (especially the Book of Acts).

A lot of the problems faced in overseas mission work concerns money; this isn't surprising considering that Judas was the guy who complained about money.

One important lesson is for "[T]he goal is always to help local believers to be financially independent from outsiders" (147) (Italics in original).   Financial dependence on the west 'taints' local believers in the eyes of the majority.  Financial independence makes a local believer a much more credible witness for Christ.  The best strategy is to encourage entrepreneurship among the local community (248).  It's worth explicitly pointing out that, at no point in the New Testament, does anyone get a job from being saved.

Another important consideration is that: "[T]he more the faith community is defined by paid clergy, buildings, property, and denominational connections, the easier it is for persecutors to control the Church" (189).  This difference helps explain why the persecuted Church collapsed in the Soviet Union while it thrived in China.  Ripken points out "Western styled Churches with paid clergy and buildings are expensive.  No so with house Churches and bi-vocational leadership" (248).  This is a pattern we have noticed in the American Church.  The statistics about Church debt speak for themselves.

The hardest lesson Ripken teaches is that sometimes outsiders need to allow local believers to suffer for Christ.  Jesus addressed this topic in the quote from the Sermon on the Mount listed above.  Joseph and Paul both went to prison; miracles happened as a result.  Unfortunately, too often Western believers focus on extraction, when "evangelism is impossible when evangelists are extracted" (181).  With all due respect to Ted Cruz, maybe Pastor Saeed needs to stay in that prison.

One way to lessen persecution in a local environment is to focus on evangelizing older men.  When older men start coming to Jesus, it gives the other locals "permission" to do likewise.  This helps mission teams use local cultural mores to their advantage.

On page 113, Ripen writes: "Here's the amazing biblical insight.  One reaps as they sow.  If we sow a one-by-one witness we shall reap a one-by-one harvest.  If we invest our witness to families, families then have the opportunity to come to Jesus together" (italics in original).  We have nothing to add.

The Insanity of Obedience (like the Insanity of God before it) is an incredibly challenging book.  It WILL point out blind spots in your own faith.  The book is worthwhile for spiritual growth alone.  This nine paragraph review doesn't do it justice.  But if you're serious about wanting Jesus to return, you owe it to yourself to read this book.

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