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Kevin Graham

Church Growth Trends

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Rhinomelon, God knows where the missionaries are most needed.

I agree. Which is why He sends them everywhere the gospel needs to be preached.

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Dang, I don't know German! But I would like to, eventually. So this kid, Helmuth Huebner, resisted the German regime? How does that fit with obeying the authorities?

Okay, I'll summarize the issues presented by the Huebner affair.

Helmuth was a rabid anti-Nazi who recruited young folks to resist and oppose the propaganda being spewed on the airways and through print media. He would transcribe BBC broadcasts on a Church-owned typewriter and mimeograph the results on Church-owned paper and distribute the leaflets all over the place.

Problem 1: The Branch President was an early regime supporter. So were some other members, though many weren't and some were jailed for such nefarious acts as saying the wrong thing to the wrong person, especially later as the war started going poorly for the Reich. The Branch President later hoped to keep the Mormons out of the KZ Camps, and thus reported to authorities that Helmuth, after his affair became public, had been excommunicated (he never really was, as it was but a paper transaction he had no authority to make -- the paperwork "error" was later corrected). It was a real risk, as has been reported by folks on the ground: Mormons were told that they were next on the list as soon as the war was over. They took these threats seriously.

Problem 2: Many Mormons were trapped behind the Iron Curtain, being unable to escape Sov oppression after the war. Church materials were scrutinized very carefully (as carefully as only Germans can), travel to the Swiss Temple very limited, and implicit threats of wiping out the Mormons on the ground to a man rampant -- the threats were credible, as Stalin had shown in the '30s in Ukraine, Byeloruss and Georgia. The Church throughout the late '40s-'80s maintained close contact with DDR religion ministry authorities, pushing as gently as possible to loosen up Temple Travel Visa restrictions as well as restrictions on missionarying and Church publications. During the (unknown to us all) dying days of the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union in the late '70s, the Huebner affair became generally known. Some folks were dismayed at the Church's not making more of the events, as Helmuth and his friends were obviously heroes that should have been trumpted to primary kids, yet the delicate relationship with the DDR probably would have been destroyed, perhaps permanently, if the Church did what it wanted desperately to do (as has later been reported). So the Church was stony silence over Helmuth. And the Freiburg Temple, built long before the Wall fell, is the result.

So . . . while it may be a simple thing to say, "Go ahead and disregard unjust laws against proselytizing," it is not just the lives of the missionaries, but also the lives of the members on the ground whose existence is in the hands of brutes, thugs and pigs that are also at risk. Who are we to minimize their lives?

People are more important than things.

People are more important than ideas.

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Very interesting story. That period in history has always fascinated me, mostly because of people like this young man.

So . . . while it may be a simple thing to say, "Go ahead and disregard unjust laws against proselytizing," it is not just the lives of the missionaries, but also the lives of the members on the ground whose existence is in the hands of brutes, thugs and pigs that are also at risk. Who are we to minimize their lives?

We should not minimize their lives, or treat them as cannon fodder. You are right there. The risk is theirs, and theirs alone. But shouldn't we give them a choice? In closed countries, those who come to faith in Christ are very aware of the risks (particularly in Muslim countries), and yet they do it anyway. Sometimes they keep it undercover, sometimes they don't. But it is always their choice. Missionaries should never minimize the risks associated with following Christ (although in many countries the risks are self-evident). But they should never minimize the urgency and truth of the gospel message either. Both must be laid out, and the choice is up to them. Jesus said something similar on many occasions, talking about counting the cost, taking up the cross, etc. for his sake.

And though it may seem odd, many people count themselves blessed when they suffer for the sake of Christ, like the apostles in Acts. I have read so many accounts of people persecuted for their faith, but who received such peace and joy from God that it overshadowed all the suffering. We here in the US can forget that peace in the midst of strife, I think. Myself included.

I'm am not advocating forcing beliefs on people. I am advocating giving as many people as possible the whole message of the gospel, and letting them decide. That's the way it's always worked.

Just my thoughts. Thanks for the story, by the way, fascinating stuff. Take care, everyone :P

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rhinomelon:

We are a small church, only about 12 million members world wide. Still we field a missionary force of some 60,000.

To give you an idea of just one of the challenges involved. When we are finally able to legally have missionaries in China. It will take some 40,000. So are we to remove nearly ALL of our missionaries from around the world JUST to serve that ONE country?

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We are a small church, only about 12 million members world wide. Still we field a missionary force of some 60,000.

To give you an idea of just one of the challenges involved. When we are finally able to legally have missionaries in China. It will take some 40,000. So are we to remove nearly ALL of our missionaries from around the world JUST to serve that ONE country?

I have always been impressed with the overall missionary program of the LDS church, in terms of numbers and zeal. I tell other people about it all the time.

Now, in terms of the numbers issue, why assume that you need that many? Why not start with a seed group of maybe 200 missionaries or so, have them establish a small group of believers, then have those believers reach others, and so on. The church grows geometrically at that point. This is how overseas missionary work has been accomplished by mainstream Christians, for the most part. For instance, in India and China, I would estimate that about 90-95% of all missionary work is done by natives who go to their own people. This is how the LDS church would have to do it out of necessity. But they have to start somewhere, which they are not doing at this point.

I witnessed this first hand, as young men and women who came to Christ almost immediately wanted to go back to their hometowns and villages to share the gospel. Of course, they realized that it would be difficult, and persecution was almost inevitable, but they went anyway. This is how the church really spreads.

From reading accounts of early Christianity, this is how the early church spread as well. Individual believers spread their faith, not leaving it up to those in a particular position or role, like apostle or evangelist. Sharing one's faith was a way to make one's faith complete, as it says in Philemon. I think mainstream Christianity has gradually slipped from the "every member a missionary" concept (in LDS parlance), but it is again gaining strength today.

Such an approach also gives added meaning to Christ's words about the kingdom of God being like a tiny seed that grows into a huge plant.

Take care, everyone :P

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rhinomelon:

We have Missionary Training Centers(MTC) in various parts of the world where local members go to be trained to be missionaries. As the Church grows more will be built. But they are expensive to build and run, and we are a small church. :P

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