Category Archives: Confessions of a Missionary

From The Archives: Missions is Using Facebook to Defend a Christian worldview…

Originally written January 28, 2019

One of my goals for 2019 is to be more purposeful with my online presence (particularly through facebook and twitter). In the past my posts were focused more on making people laugh or sharing experiences from the mission field, but now they revolve around three things.

  1. Share my burden for the people of Barrouallie, SVG
  2. Encourage and uplift Believers with Scripture
  3. and defend a Scriptural worldview online

That last part is the most difficult because when you take a stand for what the Bible teaches on controversial subjects, people disagree with you. And of course that also means they will challenge your beliefs..

Over the last few weeks I’ve gotten involved in some conversations about manhood, and abortion with friends who definitely disagree with my views. Thankfully they were gracious (didn’t attack me) and relied on strong arguments instead of just emotion. However there’s no doubt in my mind I will eventually be attacked for sharing a Christian view online

If that’s true then why take that stand at all?

Because those online conversations make you stronger…..

Sadly many Christians are surrounded by people who agree with their views on everything. The problem with this is you never really learn how to defend your beliefs in a humble, or gracious way (that doesn’t attack the other person instead of the issue). These kind of conversations, both online and in person, make us stop and think seriously about WHY we believe certain things.

Of course Christians shouldn’t fully embrace the world and compromise their beliefs…however isolating ourselves from other worldviews has a great danger as well.

The online conversations I have had recently (along with others) have also taught me some important lessons about communicating effectively through social media.

  1. Sometimes the smartest thing you can do is log off, and study the subject more
  2. Make sure you know EXACTLY what the person is saying…we can very easily put words in other peoples mouths
  3. When you get too personally involved (its making you angry) take a break
  4. Bring the conversation back to Scripture
  5. Understand what the conversation is REALLY about
  6. And ask lots of questions instead of making lots of statements

This doesn’t mean these kinds of conversations aren’t frustrating (they are!) but they also make us much sharper…

(added March 30, 2022) Of course these conversations can also create serious problems!

  1. Often these Facebook posts can get totally out of hand
  2. It becomes communication focused on proving the other person wrong instead of understanding their point of view
  3. There will always be “trolls” who enjoy being critical of your post
  4. And these online conversations become pointless because nobody will change each others mind

that doesn’t change the fact that surrounding yourself with those who hold to a different view makes your own beliefs stronger.

Racism is a Heart Problem, Not a Skin Problem

As one of the few white people in my community (I’m usually the only one) I’ve had lots of conversations with Vincentian friends about racism.

And had some fun experiences because of my whiteness as well

A few weeks after coming to Barrouallie I was walking down the road, and a man called me over. He smiled and said, “why is a white man walking up and down my street?” For the first few months the name “white man” stuck, not because they were being racist, but because they didn’t know my name. Today they all call me John.

Experiences have shown me that racism does indeed exist

But what some people call racism, isn’t racism.

Racism is an attitude that looks upon other people groups as less important than you, this is sin pure and simple. Yet, there is a growing belief that racism is something inherent that all white people are born with. Because we (white people) experience privileges other people groups may not experience, we are therefore racist.

Let me be very clear about this…..

Racism has to do with my heart, not my skin colour

Over the last six-years, the Lord has helped me live in unity with my Vincentian brothers and sisters. This has nothing to do with my being “anti-racist” or becoming more “inclusive”. I just treated them with respect and dignity as image-bearers, and they did the same for me.

It’s a joy to see how the people of Barrouallie “look out for me” because I “look out for them”

  1. Last year I suffered from a severe stomach virus so we couldn’t have church. The next day many people from the community asked what had happened.
  2. Another time I got sick, and had three separate friends to come by, and see how I was doing
  3. A few months ago my car hood wouldn’t latch properly. Three people came by to tell me it wasn’t closed, and then a neighbour helped me fix it
  4. Another day I left a car door open (still not sure how that happened). A friend came down, and told me it was open….nothing was taken
  5. And a few years ago I went home for Christmas and let a young man in the community drive my car while I was gone. The week after I got back a woman motioned me over and whispered “I saw somebody else driving your car!”

The point is it’s possible for people from other races to live in harmony

You just treat them with dignity and respect

And it helps if you’re part of the same family 🙂

There is no easy fix for racism friends, but I can tell you the starting point is your heart instead of your skin colour.

A Stone in Their Shoe

As a missionary in Australia, I read the book “Tactics” by Greg Koukl, and absolutely loved it. In my opinion, it is one of the best books on how to understand the beliefs of others, and share the Gospel.

one of my favourite principles in his book is called “the stone in the shoe.”

He explains it this way

here is my own more modest goal. I want to put a stone in his shoe. All I want to do is give him something worth thinking about. I want him to hobble away on a nugget of truth that annoys him in a good way, something he can’t simply ignore because it continues to poke at him.

Koukl in this article rightly speaks against Believers trying to “close the sale (bring Salvation) as soon as possible.” Of course, when someone is open to hearing the Gospel, or the Holy Spirit leads us to, we should definitely share the whole Gospel.

However, most conversations on the mission field has shown me its better to “put a stone in their shoe” so to speak.

Give them a Biblical truth that the Holy Spirit can then use to bring conviction.

I recently told a story that reminded me of this truth. The Lord allowed me to be involved in a conversational English group in Australia at the local library. In this group there were buddhists, muslims, agnostics, catholics, and a baptist minister 🙂

The first week I was there they asked me what I did, and I explained my work as a missionary. For weeks I waited for the moment to put a stone in their shoe…give a biblical truth that would make them stop and think.

Finally one Wednesday morning we were discussing church attendance if I remember correctly, and led by the Holy Spirit I said “you know, I hate religion.”

That was it

About ten minutes later we went home, and I asked the Lord to bring that up again next week if it was His will.

We’d barely started the next week when a woman who I believe was saved turned to me and said. “John you said something last week I didn’t think a minister would say!”

Then in a public library I had the privilege of explaining the difference of a works-based relationship with God, and accepting Christ as your Saviour.

Satan loves to tell us that we have to share everything at once (and the person MUST get saved) or our attempt at evangelism is a failure. Nothing is farther from the truth. The Holy Spirit can use just one Biblical truth to lead someone to repentance.

It is not my job to convict people, thats the Holy Spirits job

My job is to faithfully share what God has said…..one rock at a time

Sitting with the Hurting….Celebrating wiht the Rejoicing

A few weeks ago, I read a statement from a missionary friend in Togo, Africa describing missions that really spoke to me.

Feed the hungry

Sit with the hurting

Celebrate with the joyous

The more I read those words, the more I realised the he was right. A massive part of missions is simply developing relationships. Evangelism is done as we develop relationships with the unsaved, and share the Gospel. Discipleship is done as we develop relationships with Believers, and teach Gods truth.

Because relationships are some important, they must be constantly nurtured and cared for so you don’t drift apart.

Of course, life happens, and sometimes you have to rebuild those relationships

One of the greatest effects my cataracts had on ministry is I no longer interacted with people. Not because I didn’t want to, but because the poor eyesight made it incredibly difficult to recognise people. As the medical furlough got closer, I spent more and more time at home.

While I am grateful for the time in America getting my eye surgery, thats more time apart from the people of Saint Vincent.

The sad fact is, by the time I get back, my close friends will be acquaintances 1. So I must rebuild those relationships.

  1. With meaningful conversations (direct eye contact, listening ear, kind words)
  2. With quality time just being present
  3. With genuine concern
  4. And with constant communication

More than anything else….its just being there for them.

A big part of me wants to hit the ground running when I get back to Saint Vincent in daily activity.

But the best thing I can do is just sit with people

Mourn with those who are hurting (without trying to fix the problem)

Listen to those who are struggling

And rejoice with those who are blessed

  1. People you know, but don’t have a close relationship with

When Ministry Is Boring

For the last week, my “office” has been a small kitchen table at the house my father was born and raised in, lovingly called the “West Virginia House.” Being here with my parents as the medical furlough comes to an end is a time of rest, relaxation, refocusing, and making of memories.

It’s also very boring

before you get upset, let me explain what I mean by “boring.” Ministry (and missions is particular) emphasises activity. Becoming involved in evangelism, discipleship, and leadership development keeps a person very busy! Before my cataracts began to bother me, most of my day was spent going from one place to the next, ministering to people.

“Boring ministry” is a season that emphasises mental work, prayer, and personal reflection instead of constant activity. Obviously this is incredibly necessary. But sadly because we aren’t actively “doing things” it can be viewed as wasted time.

NOTHING can be farther from the truth!

The interesting thing is you cannot do active ministry properly without those periods spent studying and planning.

There are many reasons why the boring seasons of ministry are precious, but let me share a few

  1. You do big things: I have completed notes for a college-level Eschatology class during the medical furlough, and am working on notes for a class on the Major Prophets covering 180 chapters of Scripture! This took lots of reading, typing, and working on a computer. Time I could have never created in an already busy schedule
  2. You get perspective: A common problem in ministry is that you need to take a step back in order to see things clearly. I’ve done a lot of thinking lately about how to reach the people of SVG lately while helping my dad work in his garden.
  3. You can hear God: Now of course God doesn’t speak in an audible voice. Yet often we can get so busy we aren’t paying attention to how He is leading in our lives. Its in the quiet moments of life we can hear Him the clearest.
  4. You will come back stronger: A personal goal of mine is that the John Wilburn who returns to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines will be much stronger than the one who left. I’m not just referring to my eyesight, but to have a deeper walk with God, and a more focused purpose. Personal development takes time, but it’s well worth the time spent.

Part of me wants to dive back into the work of SVG, and thats okay. But at the same time I gladly submit to the boring days of ministry, since its often in those God does the greatest work.

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