Revolution In World Missions: One Man’s Journey To Change A Generation, by K.P. Yohannan
In many ways, this book is a sales pitch disguised as a personal memoir. For a man who claims to be talking about missions, he spends most of this book talking about money, and it is clear that his real lord is mammon and not Christ. What does he want from believers in the West? Occasional technical skills, and money. What does he talk about when it comes to the lifestyle of some Western missionaries? Money. What does he talk about the most when it comes to his own life, from his upbringing to the problems his German in-laws had when he proposed marriage to their daughter? Money. What served as the point of contention when the author resisted the call for accountability? Money. Over and over again, the author begs for money, complains about how materialistic Westerners are, speaks with the bogus language of third world anti-Western attitudes, uses a narrow jargon with expressions like “national missionaries,” “10-40 window” and the “two-thirds world” that creates a distance between the moneygrubbing charlatans like the author and those he represents and readers who are not in line with his thinking.
In terms of its contents, the book is organized in a particularly typical fashion. Rather than opening up with its purpose, the author spends the first few chapters talking about his own personal life and the privation of other missionaries of native background, with a contrast to the luxuriant life of many Western missionaries. Speaking from personal experience as someone who spent over a year living in Southeast Asia, not all American missionaries live anything close to a high lifestyle, as I know I lived very modestly, with a small flat with a squat toilet and a stipend that started at only 50 cents a day. The author’s continual claims that Western missionaries live high on the hog while supposedly more noble local missionaries are exploited is a personal libel against me, and those who have served abroad in the same fashion as I have. After his initial personal narrative, which included a great deal of time spent being educated in the United States on scholarship, for which he doesn’t appear to have been grateful, and which led him to be envious of the standard of living, he has the nerve to tell his presumably Western audience that God’s judgment against this country would be turned away if American Christians start spending more of their money, no strings attached, to people like him. Then comes the array of sales pitches, the language of marketing, and the demands that this money be given without any commensurate accountability for how that money is spent. In short, this book is the religious equivalent of sitting at a supposedly free luncheon that ends up promoting real estate investment trusts of a nominally spiritual kind.
Yet despite the book’s ungodly focus on mammon, its dodgy eschatology, and its ungodly and bigoted approach towards Westerners and their motives, all of which are contrary to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to say nothing of the author’s total lack of biblical knowledge in proper fundamental doctrines and the need for Christians to live as Christ lived and walk as Christ walked, there is much that can be learned even in a negative sense from a book like this. For one, even if we are not in a race against time in a battle for souls, contrary to the author’s shrill and panicky tone, there does need to be more effort in translating the Word of God into other languages and in understanding the cultural bridges that exist that can lead people into a knowledge of God’s ways, first through our example and conduct, and then through our message. Likewise, any worthwhile efforts require a knowledge of conditions and a focus on building infrastructure of a tangible and intangible kind. If the author is an example of the same kind of materialistic focus and if he confuses living hand-to-mouth and having poor financial stewardship as living on faith, it is a problem that is not his alone, and it is a reminder that how we live is how the Gospel is viewed by others, and that is true regardless of whether we are white or brown or red or anything else. It is high time for those who come begging for money to treat those they are writing to with some respect and stop trying to profit off of the imaginary guilt of colonialism.