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Thoughts about the John Chau Story

Thanksgiving Day news of Missionary John Chau’s death began to go out over mainstream news channels. Because Chau was a Christian Missionary, comments were reactionary, emotional, even vicious. It didn’t matter the position one took regarding the proliferation of the message of Jesus – whether for or against it – people dug in to their position quickly and made their opinions known on social media.

John Chau was a missionary affiliated with All Nations Family, Inc. Originally from Vancouver, Washington, Chau learned about the North Sentinelese from the Joshua Project. They are, according Joshua Project data, an unreached people group. In fact, they are, by choice (and protection by the government of India), totally cut off from the modern world. John Chau was killed trying to reach them with the Gospel of Jesus.

Reaction to Chau’s death was instantly negative in mainstream and social media. Christians and non-Christians alike mostly condemned Chau’s missionary strategy (or supposed lack-thereof). But in the first hours and days, the story went viral and passionate opinions outweighed thoughtful dialogue and helpful, forward looking analysis.

Thankfully, thoughtful conversation and analysis has begun to surface. What follows are some helpful resources to help a Great Commissioned minded person intelligently process John Chau’s story.

One of the earliest and most helpful pieces available is this podcast from J.D. Payne. In the podcast, Payne interviews Dr. Pam Arlund, a leader and missionary trainer with All Nations. The resources on the podcast landing page have been a helpful resource for writing this article.

Christian missiologist Ed Stetzer has written two thought provoking articles on the topic on Christianity Today’s website. In part one, Stetzer provides links to an interview with Mary Ho, executive leader of All Nations. Stetzer also encourages taking a position of waiting for more information to be gathered. Also, because so many compared Chau’s story to Jim Elliot’s encounter with the Huaorani people of Ecuador, Stetzer offers some insight to how information was distributed in Elliot’s day versus how information is proliferated today.

In part two of Stetzer’s treatment of the topic, he discusses the lessons to be learned. Ed Stetzer holds a Ph.D. in missiology and is an experienced missionary trainer. He brings credibility to the issue and research specific to the Chau story that has been uniquely curated. Keep up with Stetzer on Twitter to be notified when part three gets published.

There’s no doubt about it, missions can be dangerous. John Chau is not the only missionary who died in 2018. But his story has provoked conversations that are necessary on so many levels. Security, training, community, missionary care, policy are all top shelf topics when sending missionaries to the field well. Thoughtful analysis around the issues surfacing from the Chau story will definitely help future missionaries to be sent with excellence as the Name of Jesus is made known among the Nations.

Photo by Kevin Bosc on Unsplash and All Nations

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