Imported Forms


We traveled to Antsirabe last week for a seminar on cults and false religions. The teaching was excellent and Pastor Doda’s translation from English into Malagasy is humbling. We learned the general marks of a cult or sect, the history and doctrine of Mormonism and practical ways to share the gospel without arguing with followers of a cult or sect. Unfortunately, we left ABE before the teaching on the Jehovah Witness.

While at the seminar I met several FBB (Baptist Biblique Madagascar) pastors. All that I met were joyful and demonstrated a love for Jesus. What surprised me is that most who I met reminded me a lot of the stereotypical Southern Baptist pastor in the States. Most wore slacks, collar shirt, suit jacket, and some even wore ties. What a pastor wears truly doesn’t matter to me, but what these pastors wore communicated to me that in addition to them receiving the gospel and biblical instruction, they inherently received a dress code. I doubt that they were ever explicitly told what to wear to be a Baptist Biblique pastor, but a cultural form was exported from the West and imported to Madagascar joined with the gospel.

Even while writing this post I stopped to connect with an old friend in the States. He just returned from Uganda and shared with me a conversation with a Ugandan pastor who has followed Jesus for more than 50 years. The pastor said that the missionaries brought the gospel and because of that he was thankful. Yet the missionaries CONDEMNED THEIR CULTURE WHOLESALE taking from them both the good and the bad and a leaving a vacuum in it’s wake. How sad.

Another example involves a FBB Seminary student who wants to join the work in the rainforest among the Tanala but is concerned about living in the village because he won’t be able to charge his laptop. I think he completely missed my response to his concern, not because I did not speak Malagasy clearly, but because he truly doesn’t understand that he can be a pastor without owning a laptop, wearing a coat and tie or introducing himself to everyone he meets as “Pastor.” Worse still, I observed pastors within the group who did not own laptops or smartphones imply that having those things is the pinnacle to being an FBB pastor. Stop the bus; we’re getting off.

So one of many challenges that we face in working with rural, village believers is for us to take the gospel to the people, void of any imported forms. Out of the baptized believers in AKZ, the Holy Spirit will raise up leaders/pastors/shepherds. It is our responsibility to help them see their responsibilities in light of Scripture, not Western cultural forms. And if a FBB seminary student does give up his Facebook diet for two months to work in AKZ, I must lead and shepherd the flock with grace gently past the imported forms they will see in the student’s life.

Please pray:

  • For the unknown seminary student who will work among the believers in AKZ for two months. Pray he will boldly proclaim the gospel and teach the Bible, void of external traditions and cultural forms.
  • For the believers in AKZ to hold firmly to the gospel that was delivered to them.
  • That we receive wisdom as we make decisions about His work among the Tanala.




One thought on “Imported Forms

  1. A good word, Tim. A very good word. (Insert some sarcastic joke about my macbook here} But seriously, it’s so sad to see people wrestle with what is ‘tradition’ and what is Gospel. It stinks when it’s the missionaries that have started the confusion in the first place.

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