A number of people have asked me for apologetics resources in Thai, so I thought I would assemble a list of what is available. You’ll find that list down below but before you go get the goods, there are few things that need to be understood about apologetics in the Thai context.Apologetic Issues in Thailand are Different than in the WestApologetics resources in the English language are intended to meet the challenges to the Christian faith in the English speaking world. For various cultural, historical, and religious reasons, not all of those issues are applicable to a Thai-speaking audience and thus do not need much attention (if any) when teaching on apologetics in Thailand. Issues that the vast majority of Thai Christians are not dealing with include higher criticism, secular humanism, the historicity of Adam, the inspiration and infallibility of the Bible, atheism, and postmodernism. Those are Western issues that grew out of historical and cultural forces in the West stemming from the Enlightenment, Rationalism, and the Fundamentalist / Modernist controversy. For the most part, Thailand did not experience those movements in Western thought. To the degree to which Thailand has experienced those movements, it has only been peripheral and mostly confined to the more educated upper-classes who have lived abroad or received a Western education.Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying that the issues I’ve listed above don’t matter or are not important. They are important. They do matter. But the the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible are not being called into question in Thai churches, so why mount an apologetic defense against an enemy that your listeners haven’t met (and probably won’t meet) in their context?
One the mistakes that Christians often make is to assume that their own conversion experience is normative for how people come to Christ, generally. The truth is that there are a variety of ways in which God the Father draws people to His Son Jesus Christ by the working of Holy Spirit. Not everyone will experience the crushing burden guilty that Martin Luther did. Not everyone will come to faith in a crisis moment, but some will come to faith more gradually. In order to not impose our own experience upon other people, we must learn to appreciate the varied manner in which God works. To that end, I found the following passage from Wilhelmus à Brakel to be an excellent summary of the different types of conversion. I myself have not read à Brakel’s books, but a pastor friend posted this online and it was so good that I wanted to pass it on:"(1) Some are converted in a very sudden manner, as in one moment. Such was the case with Zacchaeus, the thief on the cross, many on the day of Pentecost, and the jailer. With others this transpires less rapidly.
I sometimes get email from Christians living outside of Thailand who want to know how to share the Gospel with a Thai friend, neighbor, relative, etc. It is easy to think that can Thai Buddhists are so different from the standard secular or Christian Westerner, that sharing the Gospel with them will be really difficult or will require a lot of special knowledge. The good news is that although there are differences, they are not so vast that it is impossible to share the Gospel effectively. In this short post, I want to give just a few pointers to get you started in sharing Christ with a Thai Buddhist that you know. Although it is not absolutely necessary, if you want to share the Gospel with Thai Buddhists it is good to know a bit about Thai Buddhism. Alex Smith’s little book, "A Christian's Pocket Guide to Buddhism" is a good place to learn about Buddhism. But even before you go out and buy a book, just ask your Thai Buddhist friend about what they believe and what Buddhism means for them. Most people like to talk about themselves, and many Thai are open to talking about religion. Buddhism has a lot of diversity within it, so reading a book will only give you a general idea about Buddhism. No book can tell you what an individual person thinks about their religion. It is okay to talk about differences in beliefs, but if you can avoid saying things that sound like you are insulting Buddhism, that will go over better. And pointing out what you perceive as logical inconsistencies in Buddhism probably won’t further the conversation as much as you might hope. Asking about their faith with a real desire to know, however, may open the way for your Thai friend to ask about your faith as well.
“I am just calling to order books, right?” replied the confused secretary, taken aback at why she would be asked such a strange question. She had simply been asked to order some books for a professor, and now the publisher wanted to know if the professor was a Christian?Uncertain about where the conversation was headed, the woman on the other end of the phone explained, “Yes, that’s right. We are a Christian publisher, but this title can be used by both Christians and those who are not Christians.” The secretary didn’t say whether the professor was a Christian or not, but did proceed with an order of 40 books for the students in a Southeast Asian Studies course at a well-known state university in Thailand.
One of the great strengths of evangelical missions today is evangelism. If you read the literature, follow the blogs, and listen to the conversations, everyone is talking about how to find quicker, better, more contextualized methods of evangelism. After all, isn’t that what the Great Commission is all about? (Matt. 28:19)I love evangelism. But the longer I spend on the mission field, the more I believe that in all our zeal to fulfill the Great Commission, evangelical missions often fails to take seriously the entirety of what Jesus told his disciples in Matt 28:18-20. If we were to reverse engineer what many missionaries do in order to discover how they understand the Great Commission, it might read something like this:“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples converts of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you just enough to be a good church member and avoid falling into blatant immorality. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
In his book, “The Altar Call,” author David Bennett looks at the ministries of Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, and John Wesley. All three are widely acknowledged as successful evangelists who saw many come to Christ, yet the first two were Calvinists and the third an Arminian. However, as Bennett documents, none of them used the altar call or any other form of public invitation to produce Christian conversions. While listeners would sometimes approach these preachers to inquire about salvation, these men did not issue public or private calls for people to indicate their conversion by an external response of some sort. These men preached about law and gospel, counseled people, and left the results to God.1
guest post by Larry Dinkins Before I came to Thailand I had been trained in a number of evangelistic approaches such as 4 Laws, EE, Romans Road, etc. I added to my repertoire methods that missionaries had devised, most of them tract or poster based. Most of them were rather "canned" and what I noticed was the Thai immediately equated my presentation with selling a religious "product" and invariably responded with, "All religions are the same, they teach you to be a good person" (I've heard that phrase a thousand times). As my language improved I was able to be more sensitive in my evangelistic efforts but I still came across as a salesman or lawyer as I sought through apologetics to find a hole in their Buddhist philosophy or reasoning process. After being exposed to the power of story and the fact that Thai are at their core oral learners, I have started using a different approach. Most conversations we have as we go through life are in natural situations like waiting at a bus station, traveling in a taxi, interacting with a merchant over a purchase, getting a hair cut, etc. Often these divine appointments are only 5 or 10 minutes long. In the past, my default was to make small talk, look for a chance to insert a "bridge building" connection to the gospel, throw in an apologetic argument and end the conversation by handing them a tract. My hope was that they would read the tract and since it contained the Word of God, I was assured it would not return void. I still hand out a tracts if the situation warrants, but more often I'm seeking to tell the Thai a short Bible story that somehow fits with where they are in life. This last weekend in Bangkok I was encouraged by four such encounters:
guest post by Dr. Larry Dinkins
I have just finished four orality (Simply the Story) workshops in the Thai language in Khon Kaen, Bangkok, and with Thai/tribals in the Chiang Mai area. This is the fourth year that we have done such training with the Thai and these patterns continue to emerge:
Orality and the Need for Bible Storytelling in Thailand
1. Thai at their core are oral learners and although education is widespread, the majority after school do not use what they have learned and often end up semi-literate or even functionally non-literate. It may be true that most all who come to Christ have been influenced at some point by printed material or tracts, but it is the relational dimension of hearing personal testimonies/witnessing that influences them the most.
One would think that Americans are fairly literate group of people. But unfortunately, many are not readers, nor even critical thinkers. That’s not to say people aren’t smart but just that they don’t process and learn primarily through the printed word. I’ve included below a fascinating summary of the literacy rate in the United States (source). The implications for evangelism and discipleship both in the West and the Majority World are staggering. For more info about oral strategies for sharing the Gospel, see this page on the Simply the Story website.
What would you guess the literacy rate is in the USA? The published literacy rate for the USA is 98%. Interestingly beside that rate, there is a note saying, "85% functionally literate." Humm? I wonder. What does "98% literate" mean then?
“Truth that Sticks: How to Communicate Velcro Truth in a Teflon World” by Avery Willis and Mark Snowden (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2010)
reviewed by Karl Dahlfred
As I have been learning and reading about oral Bible storying, one of the questions that has come up in my mind is, “To what extent can storying be used? Don’t we need to use other methods too in order to bring people all the way in discipleship and leadership?” In “Truth that Sticks”, Avery Willis and Mark Snowden have not only laid out a vision for biblical storying but have also explained how it connects with discipleship, leadership, and church growth.
I have to commend the folks at Chick Tracts for making a good effort to produce a contextualized tract for Buddhist Thailand. If you are not familiar with Chick Tracts, they are a brand of cartoon tracts that are (in)famous in American evangelicalism (and fundamentalism?) for their very direct nature. They are engaging little tracts that draw you in, keep you reading, and usually end up with the main character being cast into hell after watching a “This Was Your Life” movie before God’s judgment throne. The best way to describe Chick Tracts is “in-your-face.” In the Chick tract, “The Tycoon,” (read here), a wealthy Thai Buddhist businessman is commended for his large donations to the temple. Periodically through his life, Christians try to tell him the Gospel but don’t get very far because they are quickly ejected from his presence, or he himself ridicules them. He dies in a car wreck and is condemned before God’s judgment throne.Is this tract contextualized well for Thai Buddhists?
December is the high season for evangelism in Thailand. Tapping into people’s natural curiosity about this “foreign” holiday, Thai Christians and missionaries alike take full advantage of the opportunity to put on special Christmas evangelistic events and programs. Whether its in schools, homes, neighborhoods or churches, everybody in the Christian community is doing some kind of evangelistic activity. Over the years, I’ve participated in and lead many such activities but I’ve begun to wonder how “evangelistic” some of them are.
It is a great thing that Thai Christians and missionaries are leading songs and games, and doing crafts with kids on a Christmas theme. It is also great that skits or retellings of the Nativity story from the Bible are presented. It is my hope (and that of many others) that such activities will go a long way to dispelling the popular notion that Christmas is an American and European holiday that is about Santa Claus and gifts. That is the ONLY image of Christmas that most Thai people receive in the popular media, and it needs to be corrected.
reviewed by Karl Dahlfred
Has the altar call always been a part of Christian evangelism? If not, where did it come from? How did it become so popular? And is it really as effective as is sometimes claimed? These are the questions that David Bennett sets out to answer in The Altar Call - Its Origins and Present Usage. Based on his M.Th thesis for the Australian College of Theology, Bennett has put together a thorough, scholarly, and extremely readable book that is vastly informative for anyone who has ever wondered about the legitimacy of the altar call.
Although Bennett has a definite theological bias (which I happen to share), the book reads in a very even-handed manner. In the first half of the book, Bennett takes up the question of historical origins from the eighteenth century through the end of the nineteenth century. He has read broadly in the primary sources and is careful to qualify his conclusions where the historical data is ambiguous. In the second half of the book, the author looks at modern usage and then makes an analysis and assessment of the altar call, drawing upon theology, statistics, and contemporary rationale for use of the altar call. For those who favor the altar call and would hesitate to read Bennett’s work, respected church historian Mark Noll assures readers in the foreward that “the book should be as stimulating for those who fully embrace use of the altar call as for those (like Bennett) who see real problems in its use.” (vi)
Watching the news tells you what is happening but it doesn’t usually tell you how to respond. In today’s guest post, missionary Erwin Kint reflects on how Christians are to respond in times of crisis, and how Thai Christians are responding to the flooding crisis in the Central Thailand province of Lopburi:
Everywhere in Central Thailand and in Bangkok, one can find all kinds of walls and dams erected to protect people’s property, like houses and shops. If I want to go to the 7/11 in our neighbourhood, I need to use a sand-bag step to climb over an approximately two feet high brick wall. If I want to go to the bank, a big step over a brick wall suffices. Many other people use sandbags to protect their property, but we all know that sandbags without a water pump are only temporary means of flood protection.
This phenomenon of keeping the water outside the gates occurs at different levels: individuals guard their houses, neighbours seal off their neighbourhoods, cities protect industrial parks, and provincial authorities protect their region. Nobody is happy to receive a massive deluge of water, and as a result provinces have been closing their gates, not allowing the water to spread out. The result is a massive unstoppable deluge that has been heading south towards Bangkok without losing much power. And Bangkok is also still attempting to keep its gates closed, swamping its suburbs under 1-3 metres of water.
One the brilliant opportunities that I have had as a missionary in Thailand is to hold an evangelistic kids club in a local elementary school. While school officials in the U.S. continue to close the door to any religious influence in public schools, many Thai schools at all levels are opening the way for the Gospel to be proclaimed to Buddhist students.Not all Thai schools are friendly to Christians but a surprising number of Buddhist teachers are willing to grant permission for Gospel proclamation alongside English teaching. While living in Central Thailand, every Friday I went to a small elementary school in a rural village, teaching English through games and songs to twenty to thirty Buddhist children.... and telling them Bible stories. As often as I could, I got Thai Christians to tell the stories, and over the course of year and a half we covered a number of major Old Testament and New Testament stories.
Watch the following six minute video to understand some of the great challenges that face the church in Thailand, but also the great hope that we can have because of what God is already doing.28448794If you can’t see the video above, you can watch it on Vimeo by clicking here.
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As people move around the globe like never before, there are unprecedented opportunities to share the Gospel. Many new immigrants to the West are from Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, and other non-Christian backgrounds. Some of them speak English well. Some don’t. How will they hear the Gospel?One solution is diaspora ministry. The term “diaspora” is used by many missionaries to refer to people from traditional missionary-receiving nations who now live in traditional missionary-sending nations. So that means reaching out to Thai people in Sydney, and Chinese in Munich. Missionaries working in diaspora ministries are often those who had been “out there” on the mission field, working with XYZ people group, but have had to return to their home country. They still have a burden to see XYZ people know Christ, so they do diaspora ministry to reach out to XYZ people living in their home country. But, as you might imagine, the problem is that there are not enough diaspora workers to go around.
In his research on conversion growth in Protestant churches in Thailand, Marten Visser discovered that 60% of Thai Christians say that literature of some form played a role in them coming to Christ. That is an impressive statistic, especially considering the fact that most Thai people are not big readers. So even though books are by no means the key to evangelism in Thailand, getting good books (and booklets) into people’s hands is still significant to evangelism and discipleship among Thai people.There are lots of tracts available in Thai but they are not all of equal quality. In this post, I want to highlight some of the better Thai Gospel tracts that I have come across. So whether you are looking for something to hand out en masse or (even better) looking for something to share with someone in conjunction with personal conversation, the following tracts would be suitable for many Thai people.
This is an album of photos from our first full missionary term in Thailand, from 2006-2010. Included are pictures of where we lived, daily activities, people whom we knew and worked with, outreach events, church, Thai Buddhism, Thai culture.
Click on any picture to see a larger image.
When the bigger picture pops up, you can scroll through the whole album by hitting your right arrow key (and left arrow key if you want to go back)
Although many people concede that there are problems associated with the sinner’s prayer, many can not conceive of not using it. “If we don’t give an altar call and ask people to pray the sinner’s prayer,” it is asked, “how else can we call people to respond to the Gospel? Despite the fact that many fall away, we still need to use this evangelistic method in order to give people an opening shot into the world of Christianity.”I would contend, however, that it is completely possible to give people an “opening shot” into the world of Christianity without the sinner’s prayer. Whether from the pulpit or personally, we urge people to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. We urge them to flee from sin and from God’s wrath, to depend on God’s gracious promises, and to trust Him alone for salvation. We tell them to examine their hearts to see if they are truly trusting in Christ’s promises. Do their warm feelings (or guilty feelings) wear off after a while, or is there a continued desire to seek God, to read His Word, and to throw oneself at the feet of the Savior to escape God’s wrath?