A Warning Concerning YWAM”s ‘The Friend”s Network’: ‘With Friends Like These” ¦’
By Steve Mitchell
Several years ago YWAM proposed a new kind of pseudo-mission endeavor in which YWAM missionaries would allegedly preach Muslims the “gospel” and a supposed great harvest would result. The idea was that a Muslim who was persuaded to believe the gospel would be encouraged to make a profession, albeit privately to avoid persecution. This new “convert” was then informed that they could continue regular mosque attendance, bowing in prayer to Allah, and Quranic reading and still be considered born again. They would then be referred to as “Messianic Muslims” . Make no mistake, they were still Muslims but had claimed some level of “belief” in Jesus Christ. As long as when they continued their “cultural” expressions of worship to Allah but inside actually prayed to Jesus Christ, they were considered saved.
As shocking and controversial of an approach that this was, there seemed to hardly be any kind of outcry against the obvious unbiblical nature of this initiative. YWAM even threatened to “contextualize” the gospel in this way to Saddhus or Hindu holy men in India. YWAM missionaries would drive these men to their temple destinations on their various pilgrimages and along the way allegedly share the gospel with them. If they “believed” they could still continue to worship as a “Hindu devotee of Jesus” but remain in their Hindu culture and religion. This horrendous phenomenon has been thoroughly answered and refuted by good men. Read these:
YWAM has had some awful ideas in the past and this practice evidently continues today and it is an affront to biblical gospel and missionary work. It is not a fulfillment of the Great Commission and the fruit of it is severe confusion, compromise with false religions, and a mixture of truth and error. Ultimately, I believe that it is not only an affront to God, but a disservice to Hindu and Muslim peoples who are in spiritual peril and need a clear and bold distinctive gospel proclamation like we see commanded and modeled in Scripture. Otherwise they will remain hopelessly lost and yet be given a false assurance by these undiscerning YWAMers. As a missionary to India who worked among Hindus and Muslims, I find this whole thing extremely revolting and an exercise in rebellion to biblical mission work. What follows is an analysis of what is provided for us on the following newly ” “formed YWAM website: http://hindustudy.com/
“With “Friends” Like These” ¦”
Enter the advent of YWAM’s latest “mission” work, The Friend’s Network that is the dangerous arm of this faulty premise in India, ministering to Hindu people groups.
On YWAM’s Friend’s Network main page, they begin by partially quoting 1 Corinthians 9:19-23:
I have made myself a slave to all” ¦ I have become all things to all men that I might by all means save some.
Many proponents of the new missiology and extreme contextualization crowd are fond of taking this verse out of context and then applying it to syncretizing elements of the gospel with Hindu thought or other religions and this is deplorable. Does Paul’s statement ‚ mean anything in relation to this farce missionary work that combines pagan practice and terminology with biblical revelation and calls it “gospel” ? To these people, “becoming all things to all men” is taken to mean resembling a Hindu or Muslim to the point that the uniqueness and distinctives of the gospel get all but lost in the mad shuffle to unite with those who need to hear a clear proclamation of the only truth that can set them free.
This verse is so abused and misused to justify compromise with world religions concerning their content and they attempt to combine God’s truth with wicked doctrines. God hates that mixture and is against those who are partcipants in doing that. For a powerful and correct treatment of what this passage is really saying read Mike Oppenheimer’s article here:
“Living Water” in “Indian Bowls” ? ”
The Friend’s Network describes their mission:
To promote, train and establish relevant contextualized work within Hindu communities in India and beyond with the goal to create self-multiplying Christ-centered people movements within Hindu culture and communities along with other members of the Indian family of culturally similar Hindu traditions, such as Jain and Sikh, in India and beyond.
Friends Network’s focus is to explore new means and ways of bringing the “Living Water” of Jesus Christ in culturally appropriate ” ˜Indian Bowls’ to these traditionally unreached Hindu people groups in India and beyond with a hope to retain the cultural beauty and unique expression of those responding the call of Jesus Christ. (Taken from: http://hindustudy.com/)
Where in Scripture are we ever commanded to do this? The Christian gospel must be defined and distinguished from the “Indian bowls” these people are talking about and here’s why: One very potent fact that is being overlooked is that an Indian who ascribes to Hinduism views themselves as Hindu by nature of their nationality. The thought is expressed as: “If I am Indian, then I am Hindu at the very core of my being. It is my national and spiritual identity by birth.”
Needless to say, this belief must be clearly identified and kept in mind when witnessing to a Hindu and the gospel is the only message that truly liberates someone from this mindset by calling him or her out of this deception. While the Hindu- Indian connection is a cultural reality in the eyes of many, Christ desires them to be set free from that entire mentality and thus when truly saved they become part of the “ecclesia” , “called-out” of their moorings. Nowhere are we ever told that our commission is to “redeem cultures” or integrate false religious views and practices with Christian faith.
Read Sandy Simpson’s and Mike Oppenheimer’s landmark book: Idolatry In Their Hearts for a thorough treatment of this and other relevant subject matter. Available at: http://www.deceptioninthechurch.com/idolatrybook.html
The “Ministry” of YWAM’s Friend’s Network
In anticipation of the obviously jarring extreme of contextualization that YWAM is implementing, they include a page possibly anticipating some of the Frequently Asked Questions concerning the Friend’s Network. They explain that:
Friends Network was established to develop a relevant contextual witness among Hindu people groups that are largely neglected or unable to understand traditional ministry approaches. (http://hindustudy.com/ministry).
They want to be edgy, innovative, and above all,measurably successful? The problem primarily is in the typical misunderstanding of contextualization in that it is commonly taken too far and enters the realm of being an unholy mixture of truth and error. Power tools are fabulously useful and productive, but not in the hands of a toddler! When the undiscerning get misled by these deceptions, they wreak havoc on those they are trying to help. This is definitely the case in this scenario in the Friends Network objectives. This can be seen in their proposed methods of how ministry to Hindus should be done:
In our use of the word (contextualization) we mean the process of incarnating within the Hindu community to share the good news of Jesus Christ. (Ibid.).
This whole idea of “fleshing out” or “incarnating” carries with it a great deal of baggage especially when considered in the context of YWAM’s past affiliation with the Indigenous Peoples Movements, First Nations groups, and the Dominionists of the New Apostolic Reformation. Go to: ‚ http://www.deceptioninthechurch.com/wcgip.html
Trying to relate with someone’s culture is ok to a point but the objective here, as we will see, seems too focused on remaining within a Hindu context, as if its spiritually ok to be a “follower of Christ” , “Yeshu bhaktas” (“Hindu devotee of Jesus” as they say on http://hindustudy.com/service) and still participate in the trappings of a false religion.
Keep in mind, YWAM advocated the “Messianic Muslims” practices where a Muslim could make a profession privately of faith in Christ and yet attend the mosque, bow on their prayer mats in assembly, pray to Allah, and continue reading the Quran. Remember YWAM was trying the same approach with “saddhus” or Hindu holy men in India and this appears to be the fruit of those propositions. Now, according to them, a person who makes a profession of Christ can remain at worship in their Hindu context as well which is problematic because again, according to the Hindu worldview, a person’s being cannot be divorced from the religion of Hinduism. Most of the entire Indian culture is influenced by the religion.
This is the same problem with trying to divorce yoga from its actual meaning and then doing “asanas” , worship postures to demonic false gods, and labeling it “Christian” . This is a huge problem among many in the emerging church and YWAM has been tripping the line and crossing it for several years now with these premises.
Again this whole idea has been thoroughly treated, defined, and refuted by Mike Oppenheimer and Sandy Simpson in their book Idolatry In Their Hearts. Get this book!
The Friend’s Network: Looking to Jesus?
Here’s really where YWAM is heading with this dangerous concept and I think we need to reread this several times:
We follow the ultimate example of contextualization, Jesus Christ, who ” ˜emptied himself, taking a form of a bond servant, and being made in the likeness of man.’ (Phil 2:7). Just as Jesus Christ, who was God incarnate, fully entered into the Jewish culture and community, we also seek to fully enter the Hindu culture and community, incarnating Him within that lovely community. (Ibid.).
Using Christ’s humbling as spoken of by Paul in Phil. 2:7, and His being born a Jew is one thing. No refutation there, but then to basically say that Christ is leading YWAM to do the same thing in Hinduism is blasphemous. Jesus, as a Jewish man and a Jewish teacher, pointed the way for any who would hear His call to repent and receive him as their Messiah. The referents for Jewish worship were based in the truth that YHWH was the true God and He had called the Hebrew people forth as His chosen people. This is a unique situation and has no application to alleged Christians entering into the Hindu culture and “incarnating” into it. Mike Oppenheimer points out an important fact in this area:
“Cultures are man-made, not God-given. They are as diverse as people’s tastes in the world. Every religion, except Judaism, is manmade and Christianity is the completion of Judaism. Only the Hebrew culture was God-given and overseen by God (starting with Abraham and developed through Moses and the prophets). It is in this context that the apostle Paul wants the gentiles to relate in their faith to their Jewish roots. He never sent them back into their own pagan cultures to do as their customs dictated. If what they are teaching them were true they would not need to be grafted into the covenants with Israel. They would be their own tree (Romans 11).” (From Idolatry In Their Hearts, p. 23).
Note how YWAM refers to the Hindu culture as “lovely” and that begs major clarification. Idolatry and demonic ritual, possession in trance-like states, insanity as a means to enlightenment, perverse ascetic practices, and even past atrocities like “sati’ (The burning alive of a widow on the deceased husband’s funeral pyre) are all fruits of Hindu religion and the culture embraced (in the case of “sati” , thankfully no longer in most places) or currently embraces some of these elements, and that’s anything but lovely. Let’s be honest and straightforward here.
Let me just say that if they mean that there are beautiful colors in their clothing, aesthetically pleasing artwork, and great food, well I agree that there are some things to admire but please realize that according to God and the revelation in His Word, there is absolutely nothing “lovely” about Hinduism as a religion and this extends even to many facets of the Indian culture as well. God is not pleased with the worship of Hindus to their false gods which are actually demonic spirits disguised as images and idols (1 Cor. 10:19-21).
Candle flames are pretty but when lit in honor of Kali, Ganesh, Shiva, or the host of other false gods in pagan worship, the practice itself is detestable before the True God. He does not desire integration with Hinduism. And to label it “lovely” without clarification is misleading and at the very least needs clarification. God also detested false worship among the Hebrews as well. Christ came not to applaud the worship of backslidden Israel or to give kudos to Mishnaic tractate enforcement. He came to rescue sinners and lead them out of bondage to false idols and false worship of YHWH. He presented himself as the Messiah and the only Savior for the whole world. The distinction needs to be clearly outlined.
Needless to really say, The Friend’s Network makes no blatant statement as to the danger that Hinduism is a truly false faith and nowhere on their website do you see any kind of clarification or limits to their contextualization theory. This appears to be cross-cultural compromise at critical level.
The Friend’s Network: Looking to Paul?
But surely, Paul would prove as an example for this kind of cultural infiltration. They quote the famously abused passage of scripture that many take out of context to somehow justify an integration of biblical truth and false worship like the idea of “Messianic Muslims” or holy Hindus. Did Paul ever label the Roman or Greek culture “lovely” ? Was Mar’s Hill not a confrontation with the epicurean and stoic views of worship and a correction to them concerning their erroneous view of God and the rampant Athenian idolatry? That’s for Greek contexts but as part of his ministry just the same (Acts 17).
We see that Paul reasoned, explained, and demonstrated the faith in the synagogues every chance he could and was an apostle sent to the Gentiles who taught boldly and made clear distinctions between the prevailing false views of Rome and Greece often to the point of real severe persecution. It was clear that Paul was in no way conciliatory to the evils of the society he walked in as he shared the gospel.
No “Friends” to Traditional Mission Approaches
YWAMers in the Friend’s Network, along with the First Nations crowd, really don’t seem to like “traditional, westernized” mission work even though the Lord has used missionaries from outside India to accomplish great things and see God move and save many. Yes, there were problems but too often the pendulum swings wildly towards accommodating an eastern mindset or compromising with paganism as a reaction to past failures or wrongdoing by some foreign missionaries.
YWAM seems to respond with equally reckless and damaging phenomena among many of its missionaries as pointed out by Jacob Prasch of the excellent Moriel Ministries:
“Moriel had warned that biblically, the ecumenical YWAM organization has no scriptural right to exist.
Acts 13 ‚ teaches that when The Lord calls missionaries to foreign mission fields, He calls veterans not young believers. In YWAM everything from Roman Catholics (still praying to the dead, believing a false sacramental gospel, and engaged in the idolatry and cannibalism of the Mass etc.) to teenagers “saved” for as little as 3 months are sent into mission fields. The discipleship training courses use psychological techniques and employ the unbiblical teachings of John Dawson, inter faith doctrines calling the God of The Bible by the name of other gods (which scripture twice identifies as demons), and the apostolic transformation ‘paradigm shift’ apostasy of C. Peter Wagner.
A number of Christian experts on cults have additionally warned of the cultic nature of various practices they have identified within YWAM’s discipleship training seminars.” (From the recent article: “Church Shooter A Member Of Youth With A Mission” , http://moriel.org/articles/discernment/church_issues/church_shooter_member_of_YWAM.htm).
This is a strong and much needed warning. For all the error and lack of results that groups like YWAM attribute to western traditional approaches, are they bringing anything better to the mission field in many cases? I think the replacement they offer is as bad, no definitely worse in many cases than what has occurred.
Sandy Simpson also points out in his book about how the Indigenous Peoples Movement or First Nations Movement, with which YWAM is involved in their mission efforts, often vilifies historical mission work done by western missionaries (See pages 74-76 of Idolatry In Their Hearts).
I agree that we ought not be just blowing through somewhere leaving a church that is entirely western in style and content but we must be careful to never compromise the gospel and this issue gets tricky. Here’s how the Friend’s Network do it:
“Some individual Hindus have responded to a Westernized approach but unfortunately it has alienated them from their friends and family to such an extent that they have been violently ejected from their community. Friends Network focuses on touching the ” ˜heart strings’ of our Hindu friends through using bhajans, a traditional devotional song style, within the context of satsangs, an organic group dialogue to discern truth (sat) within community (sang), letting Hindus experience heart transformation in Jesus Christ. The core concept of Friends Network is to present the good news in a culturally relevant way so that Hindu people can understand and experience His life changing presence.” (http://hindustudy.com/ministry).
Its sad to see persecution and many have experienced it even to the point of death. I do not want to seem callous here at all but it must be stated that wherever the gospel is truly preached and believed on then the truly regenerate will be facing the possibility and in some cases the probability, certainty of harsh attacks on their new found faith and person. This is part and parcel of following Jesus Christ. His invitational command to take up the cross, daily, and follow Him alone (Luke. 9:23) means just that and it is a commitment to death and denial that may not be seen as safe as if your family and friends could not tell the difference. I have met persecuted believers in India and other countries in Asia and fully empathize with their situation in this world, so YWAM would like to alleviate that possibility as much as possible and emotionally I understand why.
The problem is perhaps that the message being brought to many Hindus and Muslims through these initiatives caters to the trappings of their lost cultures and brings in the perceived lowest common denominators in order to be as least offensive and noticeable as possible. Depending on how far this is taken or how short it comes up, we have potential problems of confusion and again compromise in order to avoid persecution.
In some cases this breeds a “Christianity” that is easy believism and not characterized by hardly any outward change. After all, YWAM wants to leave as much of their culture intact and as we have seen this includes things that need to be discarded like Quran reading, temple attendance, and other rituals (like satsangs and pujari) as described for us. Should the truth of the gospel be communally arrived at and discovered or should it be forth told and revealed as we already have it, in its entirety and boldly proclaimed? How can a satsang, remaining wholly in its Hindu context, accurately discern the truth of the gospel through Hindu discussion?
The crucial contents of the gospel need not be arrived at through dialogue in Hindu context. This is the folly of the Emerging Church concept that relegates the once for all delivered content of the true faith, including the gospel, to a “conversation” where various ideas and opinions can be equally brought to the table. No, the gospel has been delivered to us and laid out in terms that must be vigorously proclaimed as the truth that it is.
Let me clarify, satsang is a communal dialogue about weighty things that happens and while there may be doctrinal discussion that follows this pattern, we must be sure that the gospel is adequately, biblically and boldly explained to someone who hopefully will then truly believe and be saved.
Oftentimes in my ministry with Hindus in Mumbai, India I found it crucial that there was no sort of “satsang” -type discussion concerning the gospel. Why? Because the terms of the gospel are not open to public wrangling and dialectic consensus. What I mean is there are truths that the Bible says must be clearly and boldly asserted even if they are in contradistinction from the cultural backgrounds or ways and the gospel is intrinsically that in relation to Hinduism.
Folks, we must do these lost ones the service of clearly and boldly proclaiming the gospel message with no room for confusion or even the slightest notion that following Jesus is compatible in any way with their current state. This is what the call to repentance means and the invitation to turn away and be called out of this wicked world and its false religions. If a Hindu or Muslim does not grasp the severity of their lost condition and be truly informed of the solution as found, not in any culture, but in Christ alone and His version of salvation, then in that case it does not appear that the true gospel has been adequately presented.
Sandy Simpson weighs in on this excessive emphasis on “redeeming cultures” that many in the third wave dominionist groups obsess on:
“Gentiles are without hope and without God in the world. Their cultures and religions are false worship of false gods. The sooner Christians realize this and stop pandering to heathen, worldly cultures (which means ALL gentile cultures), the sooner they can bring light back into the pitch black darkness of the gentile world.” (Idolatry in Their Hearts, p. 13).
I wholeheartedly agree. But perhaps you are thinking that the Friend’s Network and groups like it are only trying to redeem cultures and not the Hindu religious practices. If this is what the Friends Network is attempting to do then they truly have no concept of the absolute link between culture and religion in the Hindu world. This is the same concerning Islam and many other religions around the world. The culture emanates and is tied to, woven together with their religion in such a way that only a clean break can insure no compromise. Again, Christ never came or sent us to go redeem cultures and try to combine pagan elements with the real truth. This will bring false faith and God’s judgment.
I’m not judging individual YWAMers for their zeal or their intentions but what they are proposing rings problematic and in need of clarification before we can see it as biblical and safe. Given YWAM’s penchant for extrabiblical guidance, low discernment, false teachings and desire for experimentation in missions and church (See the “YWAM Concerns” section of our site: www.powertostand.org ), we must sound the warning here with the mention of adapting Hindu cultural practices like satsang and unless the lyrical content is changed the bhajans as well.
A Crucial Question for The Friend’s Network
They tell us:
The core concept of Friends Network is to present the good news in a culturally relevant way so that Hindu people can understand and experience His life changing presence. (http://hindustudy.com/ministry).
So my question for Friend’s Network is are Hindus that experience this change still referred to as “Hindu” , or are they “Christians” ? Why ask? Because this is not clarified and the descriptions lean towards a reluctance to fully identify with being Christians for fear of the consequences. This type of cross-cultural “relevance” needs to be clarified and until then, questioned.
A few years ago, YWAM Global Leadership Team member Danny Lehmann from Hawaii interviewed a man name Herbert Hoefer, Ph.D. (now on the advisory board for the error laden Aloha Ke Akua Ministries: http://www.alohakeakua.org/) about a very dubious concept called “Churchless Christianity” . This was a phenomenon in India where thousands of Hindus polled in a questionnaire checked the box that identified them as believing Jesus Christ was the only way to heaven and simultaneously that they were still Hindu in culture and religion. It was then labeled ‚ “Churchless” Christianity which if understood in its implication is impossible anyways. These people hadn’t been officially baptized into a church but considered themselves Hindus and Christians or at least they made an assent to Christ of some sort.
Danny Lehmann has been instrumental in introducing a host of false teachings to the churches in Hawaii especially in this vein of contextualization and redeeming cultures. (Again, visit the “YWAM Concerns” section of www.powertostand.org). This interview was a low point in his Word to the world program but very informative concerning Hoefer’s views.
I reference Hoefer’s theory because this “Hindu and Christian” designation also reveals something very crucial to grasp about Hindus and their worldview.
As a missionary to India I encountered a tolerance and even an outward veneration of sorts for Jesus Christ among the Hindus I spoke with. Yes Jesus was a “good man” , a moral teacher, and ONE of the incarnations of God but just like every other deity and the millions of divinities in the Hindu pantheon, they also believed that He really was no greater than any of us are if we just realized that we too could be enlightened in the way He was. His godhood or “Christ consciousness” allegedly is possessed by each one of us.
I had to spend quite a bit of time defining what it meant to be saved and a Christian and of course, the uniqueness of Christ over and above the false gods, including the deities worshipped by the very people I was speaking with. Only after much clarification and of course the aid of the Holy Spirit, was headway made. I say “headway” because, at least, I got to share with them what the Bible says concerning mankind’s lostness, the need for Christ and Christ alone, what it means to be saved and yes the fact that one cannot be truly Hindu and truly Christian simultaneously.
Hoefer’s research seemed to indicate to him and YWAM and other missiologists that God was indeed with even those who didn’t really believe in the exclusive claims of Christ and remained staunchly Hindu in their religion. Then results of the poll seemed to show that God was doing a “work” among them in a unique way. Hoefer is now working with Aloha Ke Akua ministries who have a long history of completely muddying the contextual waters and dispensing confusion among the nations who really need instead a clear call to repentance and boldly proclaimed Gospel message. The problem of postulations like this is that some just accept that some spiritual thing is happening and don’t take God’s word for what it says about what needs to happen to be truly born-again.
I challenge anyone who is witnessing to a Hindu to be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit as you share the gospel with them. If you yourself are truly saved I believe there will be no question that God leads us towards being clear and distinguished from anything false and evil. The message of the gospel and the beliefs of Islam or Hinduism are diametrically opposed. Your love for these dear folks will cause you to abandon foolishness like syncretism and attempts to focus on common ground issues with false religions. True discernment will certainly favor being crystal clear on the uniqueness of Christ and the danger of worshipping false gods.
Trying to bring the saving message of the true Gospel as revealed in scripture in any kind of correlation or synthesis with a Hindu context makes a mess and seems to be running its course into our day in terms of these proposed compromises. False teachers like these lead the body of Christ astray and keep non believers in the dark of believing that they can be “Messianic Muslims” , “Christian Hindus” , or “born-again Amenonakanushi worshippers” (First Nation teachings about Japan), etc). Read these: http://www.deceptioninthechurch.com/wcgip.html
Who’s Behind Friend’s Network?
In a word, YWAM, but you may not know it when you see them:
Friends Network has been developed and is accountable within the Frontier Mission (FM) trans-national structure of YWAM and runs registered University of the Nations (U of N) training schools. However, Friends Network often minimizes it’s association with traditional mission and Christian community due to the need to focus on Hindu communities who have been unable to understand Jesus Christ via traditional approaches.
Note: you may not even be aware of Friend’s Network affiliation with YWAM especially if you are in the Hindu religion. It also seems to indicate that they w ill not be partnering with Christian churches in India to do outreach. This is fine by me because the Church in India, like everywhere, has enough false teaching and false doctrine and the less of this YWAM compromise the better. Their refusal to associate with established churches though also shows, I believe, the shame associated with what they are doing and how far off base they are spiritually in telling people they can be saved and remain in Hindu context.
Mission work should strengthen the local churches if there are any and give an opportunity to indigenous church leaders to minister to their own people as well. Again, I am not too concerned with Friend’s Network staying away from true Christian churches because they aren’t doing biblical mission work anyways. Perhaps good churches in
India should be reaching out to share biblical instruction to some of these misguided missiologic experimenters.
I suppose they’ re attempting to be wise as serpents here and distancing themselves from “traditional approaches” . I just wished they would distance themselves from some of the sketchier aspects of their version of cross culture contextualization.
The Friend’s Network: Training Up Children In the Way They Shouldn’t Go!
How are they going to move forward in implementation of these approaches? Through extensive training in Hinduism, of course:
To train, disciple & mobilize both nationals and foreigners in Hindu contextual understanding” ¦Friends Network entry programme is the School of Hindu Studies (SHS).( http://hindustudy.com/training).
Lets get to the crux and probably an answer to my earlier question: so are the “converts” that come about from the ministry of the Friend’s Network Hindu or Christian? Perhaps this statement will clear it up:
SHS plays an important role in training participants to understand Hindu culture & community, to be able to effectively communicate good news within Hindu community, to develop self-multiplying Christ-centered Hindu people movements and to incarnate themselves within the Hindu culture and community by following Friends Network ministry values. (Ibid.).
Did you catch that? To effectively be able to communicate “good news” within Hindu community” : interesting. Consider the question begged: THE Good News, (i.e. the biblical Gospel) or generic “good news” including the fact that one can remain a Hindu and still follow Christ? Is this included in that definition? I believe that this is a valid question.
Or what about the goal to “develop self-multiplying Christ-centered Hindu people movements” . Does this say what I think it does? One can remain Hindu and be “Christ-centered” ? Do they want to multiply that? Clarification is needed. I believe that to question this statement is important as well.
How about the final statement: “to incarnate themselves within the Hindu culture and community” by submitting to the leadership of the Friend’s Network ministry values. Whatever does this include? Again, are these people really going to hear the full presentation of the biblical Gospel and as they place true saving faith in Christ alone, begin to live a “called-out” separated life from the surrounding pagan worship, Even if that means persecution and expulsion from their culture? Can a person who is truly saved rightly be referred to as “Hindu” in culture and religion?
I fear that the answers to these questions are less influenced by what God’s Word has said about truly following Christ and being a Christian and more along the lines of what we’ve heard and are still hearing about “Messianic Muslims” , and related syncretistic compromises in Missiology practices.
Was Jesus a Guru?
This final area of concern is extremely troubling. Someone interested in YWAM ministry to or among Hindus may enter the Friend’s Network Gurukalam DTS (Discipleship Training School). The course descriptions are all in Hindi titles and refer to certain aspects of ministry that one allegedly needs trained in for reaching the unreached people groups. One might ask, if Hinduism is so “lovely” why does it need to be reached? Perhaps some are under the impression that adding Christ to Hindu culture to produce “Christ centered” Hindus is what is actually in view here. Again taking a look at some of the presuppositions in the contextualization crowd one cannot help but see that YWAM has compromised the gospel in some of their outreach areas.
Yeshugranth: Understanding the Bible in Hindu Context: This process begins with obeying the basic commands of Christ by understanding the stories of the Yeshugranth in their context and re-contextualising them into the Hindu context.
Should we teach and learn the Word of God in a Hindu context? This needs clarified but right off I believe we need to say a hearty NO or “Nahi” if you speak Hindi. Hindus must be told what the Bible reveals in its prescribed context and not through the filter of a sinful culture or false religion. ‚ Our cultures are subject to what God says not the other way around.
Another course, Margdarshn, is about “Hearing God’s Voice in your Life” .
If this has anything to do with the sketchy and unbiblical guidance principles followed by Loren Cunningham and taught to almost every YWAMer as learned in New Zealand then caution should be exercised. What would that look like? Refusal to take that course. Read these articles: about YWAM’s “guidance” :
Same goes for Mahan Agya which is about “discipling nations” effectively. YWAM has erred repeatedly in its teachings about this in many facets in the past. In fact Dominionism is probably the best descriptive term when speaking of the discipling nations notions that have been endorsed and followed in this group.
One other troubling case in terminology from this site is in the description of the whole DTS course called “Gurukalam” . According to the description:
We refer to this DTS as a ” ˜Gurukalam’ because in ancient times disciples would come under the teaching of a guru. The place where a guru lived and taught the students was a gurukulam. (Ibid.).
So who’s being influenced, Hindus or those who supposedly are to bring Christ to them? To even insinuate sameness in anything but peripheral concepts here is staggeringly undiscerning. Gurus are the spiritual teachers of Hinduism and have a prominent role in the hearts and minds of many Hindus worldwide. While this title can be seen generically as “teacher” or “saint” it often carries with it implications that go far beyond some generic reciter of “truth” or spiritual leadership. There’s very deep spiritual baggage associated with the title of guru. I believe it is unwise to refer to this term or apply it to Christianity as a referent.
In my discussions with Hindus in India, I believed that “guru” needed to be dealt with in our vocabulary when speaking about Christian pastors or leaders and especially Jesus. Because of the baggage associated with this title, distinctions needed to be made and to call Jesus a guru is to basically place him in a long line of enlightened spiritual teachers or, depending on the view of some Indians, con artists who, for a fee, promise to help the devotee get a “short cut to enlightenment” by skipping rebirths.
In the end, calling Christ a guru places him in succession and alongside a gamut of charlatans, fools, and occult practitioners. It is diminutive to the Bible’s exaltation of Him as the second Person of the Godhead and far above any earthly teacher. When this title is ascribed to Christ it takes away from the revelation that He is the unique God-man who is the Way, the Truth and the Life exclusively. A great deal of confusion results when we refer to Jesus this way, but the Friend’s network apparently has no problem with it:
Our DTS is a Christ centered gurukulam, seeking to experience, understand and share our Guru Yeshu’s love among the unreached Hindu people groups. (Ibid.).
If one wants to get technical about it with the text of Scripture we see that although Jesus was addressed as “teacher” several times He was never given the title “Teacher Jesus” or “Saint Jesus” . This is what “Guru Yeshu” literally means and again it is diminutive, confusing, and laden with false meaning. For YWAMers who seek to be so contextual, they really are misinformed about the Hindu mindset concerning their interconnected Hindu-Indian identity and the meaning of guru.
I believe that this is the height and epitome of having no discernment. It’s either an extremely unwise choice of words or a blatant compromise with Hinduism and it monkeys around with the way we speak about Jesus Christ. It is contextualization gone too far and no matter the reason results in confusion and muddy waters where meaningful presentation of Jesus Christ is concerned. His gospel is supreme and His titles exalted. His person and authority is far greater than any “spiritual leader” or so-called “enlightened” person. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, not a guru. We ought not to introduce Him as a guru regardless of how many points we’re trying to score or how far we want to distance ourselves from western traditional approaches to ministry.
YWAM’s Friend’s Network: A Christian or Hindu Organization?
Yes, YWAM’s Friend’s Network incorporates a host of unbiblical, in fact, Hindu cultural forms and practices in their endeavors in India:
We are committed to redeeming, developing, and encouraging the adaptation of Hindu cultural forms and meanings, including devotion, music, customs, traditions and culture by the development of redemptive analogies, stories and sacraments bringing new meaning and greater depth to the new believers faith in Jesus Christ. Some of the ways that we are experiencing the power and presence of the Holy Spirit is through the use of bhajans (traditional devotional style singing), puja (liturgical worship using signs and symbols), & contextual devotional times in Hindu style that focus on Jesus Christ.
Note they are committed to develop and encourage the adaptation of MORE Hindu baggage as they try to forge a new kind of faith among Indian peoples. This really strikes me as na ƒ ¯ve and dangerous and the sad fact is that these people are claiming to be Christian. Worse, they claim that identifying redemptive analogies will prove helpful. (For more on that folly, read Idolatry In Their Hearts. Get the book now!).
Combine this with the abovementioned “sacraments” and we see probable ecumenism involved as well. A mixture of Roman Catholicism and Protestant Christianity has resulted in some ecumenical catastrophe among Indian churches. Interestingly enough I met many Hindus who had no problem participating with Rome in the veneration and false worship of Catholic saints and of course “Mata Mary” . Hinduism has no problem embracing any faith that is misguided from the Bible and the parallels between Hinduism and Rome are many. YWAM’s Kerygma Teams have been trying to combine Rome and the true church for many years and it isn’t hard to imagine that the version of “Christianity” being allegedly shared in a Hindu context will take as many sides with Roman Catholicism as possible because there is definitely less resistance to them than there is with any true presentation of a biblical faith. There is not much hope that such a convoluted, non-discerning set of false teachings and practices will yield anything other than false faith and well, Hindus who think they are saved and in relationship with God. None of this brings people closer to biblical faith or a right understanding of scripture.
Ask my Indian wife or my truly Christian friends in India whether or not a true believer should be doing “puja” activities or contextualized devotional times” Hindu style? You would get a resounding “Nahi” for all you Hindi-speaking friends out there. “Puja” or “Pujari” are devotional worship ceremonies to false gods. That’s what they are and will remain. Nowhere in scripture are we commanded to do anything like what one can observe being done to the demonic idols and gods in India.
Don’t believe me? Tell a true believer in India that a saved person who knows and loves Jesus Christ can still participate in puja ritual or yoga and you will hear a resounding “thud” of jawbones hitting the ground. True Christians in India, including my wife here with me, are appalled and rightly so at these propositions from the Friend’s Network and groups like YWAM, ‚ the Indigenous Peoples Movement and First Nations crowd. True Christians in Asia can many times see the danger of trying to mimic the wicked religion and culture that they were saved from because someone told them the real unadulterated good news of the Gospel. Think about this, dear ones.
Will some YWAMer in this network please explain to me how anyone can discover new meaning and greater depth in Christianity through the implementation of more Hindu culture? Truly being born again means no emphasis on these pagan practices, not a continued involvement in them. This is preposterous. Yet the Friend’s Network threatens us that it is only “scratching the surface” of their experimentation in this area.
Yes YWAM wants to teach any who are willing to “disciple in a Hindu context” and this ought to be avoided.
Finally: An Appeal to YWAM’s Friend’s Network
I realize that some may take issue with these statements and call me reactionary, ill informed or worse. I can but share my convictions and relate what experience I have had talking with Hindus and Muslims in India. I am still involved in ministry with India and return there as often as I can. My wife is Indian (from Maharashtra) and grew up in a Christian home surrounded by the religions of India. She would be first to tell you how “off” and even offensive the idea is to give ground to Hinduism in order to try some sort of integrative syncretistic hybrid religion.
There is truly no such salvific merit in being a “Hindu devotee of Jesus” , i. E. Yeshu bhakt” as Friend’s Network describes them. To desire more “Christ-centered” Hindus is not a worthy or God-honoring aim and actually does a disservice to a lost Hindu who needs to clearly hear the glorious gospel of salvation in clarity and with the needed differences so that they can truly believe and accept the real truth even if it means they are “called out” from being a Hindu. The same goes for Muslims who need to hear the unadulterated and uncompromised truth of the gospel so they can flee the great deception of Islam and truly be saved from their sins.
Any former Hindu or Muslim who is now a true Christian thanks the Triune God that someone told them the biblical gospel and the call to salvation with clarity and distinction from the damning principles of Hinduism and Islam.