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John Allen Chau and His Critics

John Allen Chau and His Critics

Most missionaries labor in obscurity. Their successes, failures, joys, and trials are recognized solely to some—their households, pals, sending church buildings and businesses, and people to whom they’re despatched. John Allen Chau is an exception.

Chau, as you in all probability know by now, was murdered in mid-November by members of a totally remoted Neolithic tribe on North Sentinel Island within the Andaman Sea, some 700 miles east of India. Chau, who was 26, was making an attempt to succeed in this “Stone Age tribe” with the excellent news.

For this, the Oral Roberts College graduate has been each praised and pilloried. Whereas many Christians have applauded Chau’s ardour to share Jesus Christ with the 50 to 100 North Sentinelese, some have panned his strategies. Within the first days following his demise, some speculated that he was a lone-ranger “adventurer” with no language or cultural coaching. Others stated Chau was endangering the tribe, whose members would haven’t any immunity to any Western illnesses he introduced with him.

These conjectures proved to be unfounded. Chau, in accordance with Ed Stetzer and Christianity At the moment, “was deliberately getting ready for a few years by getting a level in sports activities drugs, coaching as an EMT, and learning at a revered linguistic institute with a view to study this beforehand undocumented language.” Working with a missions company based by the revered Floyd McClung, Chau additionally “had acquired a number of vaccinations, and deliberately quarantined himself for a lot of days previous to his multi-day journey to the island.”

A number of the complaints dismissed conventional Christian considerations concerning the religious wants of this unreached individuals. David Van Biema, a contributor to TIME and writer of a ebook on Mom Teresa, stated Chau’s efforts nonetheless might find yourself costing Sentinelese lives. “What number of such deaths can be legitimized by the saving of 1 Senitalese [sic] soul?” Van Biema requested. “If the reply is ‘as many because it takes,’ then I feel the calculations of this type of missionizing are laid naked, and they need to look pathetic to anybody not engaged in a fetishization of the thought of ‘unreached individuals teams.’”

Others claimed Chau, admittedly of Asian heritage, was motivated by “a logic of each preservation and extension of whiteness.” Writing for Sojourners, Mihee Kim-Kort strained to attract a hyperlink between present immigration controversies and missionary sacrifice, including, “I can’t assist however mourn his demise, whilst I’m annoyed and indignant at him, and on the Christianity that makes sure our bodies martyrable and sure our bodies disposable.” Huh?

But even those that agreed with Chau’s motivation to share the excellent news with the misplaced had questions—reputable ones. Why had he gone out alone? Hadn’t he damaged Indian regulation by getting native fishermen to take him to the island? Weren’t they now in hassle with the authorities? And the way might he probably share the gospel with individuals whose language had by no means been deciphered?

In a letter he left behind, Chau stated his first encounter with the group didn’t go as deliberate. “Two armed Sentinelese got here dashing out yelling. That they had two arrows every, unstrung, till they acquired nearer. I hollered, ‘My identify is John, I really like you and Jesus loves you.’” Quickly Chau needed to paddle out of vary, disillusioned that they didn’t instantly settle for him. What had he anticipated?

Regardless of his fears, Chau stored going again, hoping for a breakthrough. Fishermen later noticed the islanders dragging his corpse on the seashore by a rope.

Scott Hildreth, director of the Lewis A. Drummond Middle for Nice Fee Research at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, acknowledged that missionaries are nonetheless wanted, however he raised moral, sensible, and even theological questions within the wake of Chau’s dying. “Had he approached me together with his plan,” Hildreth stated, “I might have endorsed towards it. His zeal for evangelism appears to have clouded his judgment.”

One of many extra gracious responses got here from Windfall journal’s Marc LiVecche, who famous that Chau’s actions have been based on the uncontroversial evangelical perception that “religion in Christ is important for human flourishing, and that those that have this religion should share it with those that don’t.” Stating that it has all the time been individuals like Chau who’ve been on the forefront of the worldwide wrestle for human rights, he added, “Dissenters can, and ought, to voice their dismay all they need. However they ought additionally to watch out. The identical zeal that animates the evangelistic ardour animates a lot else.”

Definitely, the tragedy highlights the inescapable incontrovertible fact that godly zeal have to be accompanied by godly knowledge, even in missions. Like many others, historian Ruth Tucker likened Chau’s destiny to the well-known 1956 martyrdoms of the 5 American missionaries by the hands of the remoted Waorani tribe in Ecuador, an occasion that impressed many individuals to think about missionary service. However in contrast to different commentators who noticed solely the potential for religious profit in Chau’s dying, she referred to as the same Ecuador incident a “hard-headed instance of wrong-headed mission technique and follow.” Tucker added that hallowed tales of missionary heroism are not often so simple as they appear, noting that they typically carry unintended penalties.

As nicely, the 2 instances spotlight the totally different world during which missionaries discover themselves at present. Whereas the martyred missionary staff from 1956 was lionized with glowing protection in Life journal, Chau has been vilified. In our post-Christian tradition, missionary work is mechanically suspect and have to be carried out with the utmost care.

But whereas all these cautions—or most of them, anyway—are crucial, they remind me of a narrative advised about D.L. Moody. In the future a lady criticized his technique of evangelism. Moody agreed together with her and graciously requested her how she did evangelism. “I don’t do it,” she replied, to which the good man answered, “Then I like my means of doing it higher than your means of not doing it.”

Whereas we might have reliable questions on Chau’s strategy with this unreached group, we should give him full credit score for doing it. In response to some anthropologists, the forebears of the Sentinelese might have migrated to the island from Africa greater than a thousand years in the past. But, in all that point, nobody launched them to trendy drugs or new methods of considering that may have rescued them from lives which are possible nasty, brutish, and brief. Most significantly, nobody bothered to introduce them to the Savior—till John Allen Chau confirmed up in a kayak.

Chau, whether or not he knew it or not, was following within the footsteps of the good William Carey, the daddy of recent Protestant missions. Carey, a Baptist, was a linguist and a Bible translator within the late 1700s who fought towards the brutal Indian and Hindu apply of sati, or widow-burning. It was Carey who was informed by skeptical church leaders about his want to convey the gospel to India, “Younger man, sit down! You’re an fanatic. When God pleases to transform the heathen, he’ll do it with out consulting you or me.” But Carey persevered by way of many hardships (together with, tragically, the psychological breakdown of his spouse, Dorothy). His philosophy has been encapsulated as, “Anticipate nice issues from God; try nice issues for God!”

No matter Chau’s flaws or failures, he was trying nice issues for God. In fact, zeal isn’t almost sufficient. Although such ardour pleases God, we’re additionally anticipated to make use of the minds He gave us. It appears possible that Chau’s technique was missing—however at the least he had a technique. What number of of his critics might say the identical? Chau, captivated by the problem of sharing Jesus with the misplaced, is criticized for going it alone, however we have no idea how many individuals he might have requested to share within the ministry. What number of provided to return alongside Chau and, like Priscilla and Aquila with Apollos, clarify “to him the best way of God extra adequately”?

Sure, it’s straightforward for us Christians within the snug and comparatively protected Western world to shake our heads in amazement at such a sold-out and maybe foolhardy soul, to calmly faucet our fingers collectively and level out his errors, to clear our throats and say he ought to have waited—however for what, precisely? Haven’t the Sentinalese individuals the best to listen to about Jesus? Haven’t they waited lengthy sufficient?

As Teddy Roosevelt correctly stated,

It isn’t the critic who counts; not the person who factors out how the robust man stumbles, or the place the doer of deeds might have accomplished them higher. The credit score belongs to the person who is definitely within the area, whose face is marred by mud and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes brief many times, as a result of there isn’t a effort with out error and shortcoming; however who does truly attempt to do the deeds; who is aware of nice enthusiasms, the good devotions; who spends himself in a worthy trigger; who at the perfect is aware of in the long run the triumph of excessive achievement, and who on the worst, if he fails, at the least fails whereas daring significantly, in order that his place shall by no means be with these chilly and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. 

The church wants extra women and men within the area—like John Allen Chau.


Stan Guthrie, a licensed minister, is an editor at giant for the Colson Middle for Christian Worldview. Stan is the writer of Missions within the Third Millennium: 21 Key Developments for the 21st Century.


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