Knowing us well

If our work among an unreached people group proves that our intentions are indeed good for the people – then we know we have been always straightforward about our identity as servants of Jesus Christ.  And as some make decisions to become followers of Christ, it will not come as a surprise to the community as those things gradually are made known.

“… but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see—we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed” – 2 Corinthians 6:4,9


Power encounter

The term “power encounter” comes from missionary anthropologist Alan Tippett. In his 1971 book, People Movements in Southern Polynesia, Tippett observed that in the South Pacific the early acceptance of the gospel usually occurred when there was an “encounter” demonstrating that the power of God is greater than that of the local pagan deity. This was usually accompanied by a desecration of the symbol(s) of the traditional deity by its priest or priestess, who then declared that he or she rejected the deity’s power, pledged allegiance to the true God, and vowed to depend on God alone for protection and spiritual power.

At such a moment, the priest or priestess would eat the totem animal (e.g., a sacred turtle) and claim Jesus’ protection. Seeing that the priest or priestess suffered no ill effects, the people opened themselves to the gospel.1 These confrontations, along with those classic biblical power encounters (e.g., Moses vs. Pharaoh, Ex. 7-12, and Elijah vs. the prophets of Baal, 1 Ki. 18) formed Tippett’s view of power encounter.

According to this view, Jesus’ entire ministry was a massive power confrontation between God and the enemy. The ministry of the apostles and the church in succeeding generations is seen as the continuing exercise of the “authority and power over all demons and all diseases” given by Jesus to his followers (Lk. 9:1). Contemporary stories about such encounters come from China, Argentina, Europe, the Muslim world, and nearly everywhere else where the church is growing rapidly.

I believe Jesus expects power demonstrations to be as crucial to our ministries as they were to his (Lk. 9:1, 2). However, any approach that advocates power encounter without giving adequate attention to the other two encounters—commitment and truth—is not biblically balanced.

Typically, Jesus started by teaching, followed by a power demonstration, then a return to teaching, at least for the disciples (e.g., Lk. 4:31ff.; 5:1ff., 17ff.; 6:6ff., 17ff., etc.). Appeals for commitment to the Father or to himself appear both implicitly and explicitly throughout his teaching.

His appeal for commitment to at least the first five apostles (Peter, Andrew, James, John—Lk. 5:1-11—and Levi—Lk. 5:27-28) occurred after significant power demonstrations. Once his followers had successfully negotiated their commitment encounter, their subsequent growth was primarily a matter of learning and practicing more truth.

First century Jews, like most people today, were very concerned about spiritual power. Paul said they sought power signs (1 Cor. 1:22). Jesus’ usual practice of healing and deliverance from demons soon after entering a new area (e.g., Lk. 4:33-35, 39; 5:13-13; 6:6-10, 18-19, etc.) may be seen as his way of approaching them at the point of their concern. When he sent out his followers to the surrounding towns to prepare the way for him, he commanded them to use the same approach (Lk. 9:1-6; 10:1-9).

Jesus’ reluctance to do miraculous works merely to satisfy those who wanted him to prove himself (Mt. 12:38-42; 16:1-4) would, however, seem to indicate his power demonstrations were intended to point to something beyond the mere demonstration of God’s power. I believe that he had at least two more important goals. First, Jesus sought to demonstrate God’s nature by showing his love. As he said to Philip, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father” (Jn. 14:9). He freely healed, delivered, and blessed those who came to him and did not retract what he had given, even if they did not return to thank him (Lk. 17:11-19). He used God’s power to demonstrate his love.

Second, Jesus sought to lead people into the most important encounter, the commitment encounter. This is clear from his challenge to the Pharisees when they demanded a miracle, that the people of Nineveh who repented would accuse the people of Jesus’ day who did not do likewise (Mt. 12:41). Experiencing God’s power may be both pleasant and impressive, but only a commitment to God through Christ really saves.

Charles Kraft




Power Encounter

Power encounters and missionaries

Power Encounters

Power Encounter

‘Power Encounters’ Bring Discipleship Results

The Power Encounter


Communication of the missionary

The message is not really theirs.  The missionaries did not originate it.  They were not there when it was first given, nor are they a member of the culture in which the message was communicated. They know that they must be diligent to present themselves —

Study and do your best to present yourself to God approved, a workman [tested by trial] who has no reason to be ashamed, accurately handling and skillfully teaching the word of truth. – 2 Timothy 2:15

In relationship to the biblical message, the missionary is simply a messenger, an ambassador – a secondary, never a primary source.

First, they want to communicate Christ in such a way that the people will understand, repent and believe the gospel.  Second, they want to commit the message  —

The things [the doctrine, the precepts, the admonitions, the sum of my ministry] which you have heard me teach [a]in the presence of many witnesses, entrust [as a treasure] to reliable and faithful men who will also be capable and qualified to teach others. – 2 Timothy 2:2

— commit the message in culturally relevant terms that only indigenous leaders can fully understand.

Michael Frost gives an example of preaching the Gospel to the Zanaki people of Zimbabwe using Revelation 3:20 as the text. 12 He explains that when we visit someone in British culture, their door will be closed and probably locked and the inhabitants safely and privately inside. You therefore have to ring the bell or knock loudly to gain entry. In Zanaki homes, however, there are no doors. If you visit a friend you simply call out loudly at the doorway. Your voice would be recognised and you’d be welcomed in. In that culture the only people who knock are thieves because they do not want to be identified! If, having knocked, they heard noises inside they’d disappear rapidly. Revelation 3:20 speaks of knocking and calling out, so a message contextualised to Zanaki culture might emphasise the calling out. Sadly the Victorian missionaries who first sought to evangelise this tribe emphasised the knocking and by doing so made Jesus out to be a thief!



Worldview, Scripture and Missionary Communication


The promised blessing


“For Abraham will certainly become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth will be blessed through him.”  –  Genesis 18:18

In the initial call and promise, God told Abram that he would become a great nation.  In the second announcement, mentioned in the verse above, the promise seems almost identical.  But the next verse adds that God would bring it about, referring to the promise.

In the drama of the third announcement in Genesis 22 we find a significant shift.  Abraham obeyed God by offering his son Isaac.  No longer is the promise of blessing to be fulfilled during the lifetime of Abraham, but instead, in the days of his children yet to come.  God promised this with the surprising gravity of solemnly swearing with an oath.  The purpose of the oath was to assure future generations that God would not fail to fulfill His promise to bless all nations, and that He would do this amazing thing through them.

God gave the promise a fourth time, this time directly to Isaac,  In the fifth declaration, God promised Jacob that his descendants would be numerous. At the time, Jacob may have thought that the geographic expansion was nothing more than populating the immediate land of promise.