Christianity Today betrays shallow reporting/understanding of Bhutanese-Nepali Ministry Issues

Just alerted to an article in CT that highlighted some Bhutanese-Nepali work going on in Austin, TX. Here is the quote that stood out:

Migrating Ministry | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction: "Chris Merrell, pastor of global outreach at Austin's Hill Country Bible Church Northwest, describes Monger's (a Nepali pastor) evangelism style as bold and blunt: 'In his own culture, he knows how to speak to them and what their needs are on a totally different level than what any of us could. His lead-in is generally something like, 'Your name is not written in the Lamb's Book of Life. You're not alive.' He'll just start a conversation with that, and it's pretty fascinating to watch.'"

I've seen this with others and have been around after. I don't think I'd describe it as fascinating but rather sad. One wonders if Pastor Chris can speak Nepali and, if not, in what way he's able to assess fairly Pastor Monger's evangelism style. What is fascinating (as well as sad) is to listen to Hindus describe their encounters with Nepali Christians. Recently, I was in a city in North Carolina talking with a Nepali family that was very, very interested in Christ. They described how upon arriving in the US they were eager to learn about Jesus. However, they met a Nepali pastor-type person who shared with them in this so-called "bold and blunt" way. What they understood was that the pastor was calling them "Satan". From that moment, they decided that Christianity really wasn't the answer. I find it naive and irresponsible to simply assume that because someone is Nepali that he/she automatically "knows how to speak to them and what their needs are on a totally different level than what any of us could". I have very often discovered that this is not true.

At the end of the day, I felt that this article read more like a piece of promotional literature for a mission agency.  It is unfortunate that with the first Bhutanese-Nepali church in the U.S. just a few miles away from Christianity Today's offices they failed to do any better than just this little snapshot.  It is true that the Lord is doing a special work among these people but I fear that these kind of articles encourage Americans to stay basically uninvolved and rely on the "indigenous" leaders to do the work of mission.  This is a mistake in the context of diaspora when there are no longer any truly "indigenous" people.  All have entered the realm of liminality. American Christians must be called upon to pick up their cross and enter into this liminality -- to reverse assimilate.  Had we taken the approach highlighted in this article, we'd likely have only a bunch of quarreling Christians and no new Christ-followers.


  1. When I got to that part of the article I felt very sad. Actually, as I read the article it confirmed my worst fears. I really feel a letter to the editor is in order.

    Firstly, I think that the way the cross-cultural worker, Chris Merrell, talked about Pastor Monger betrayed a lack of cultural awareness and sensitivity on his part--he should know that Nepalis are high-context communicators, they avoid being blunt and direct in all but the most serious situations, and that means that this pastor is probably not communicating with other Nepalis in a way that is sensitive to his own culture.

    Most likely Pastor Monger picked up his evangelism/preaching style in Nagaland from Indian Christians who in turn picked it up from American Missionaries from years past. It is very confrontational, and burns more bridges than it crosses. It is pretty unfortunate that Chris Merrell seems to be unaware of this.

    And while the article mentioned the church's outreach to Hindus and Muslims, it didn't even mention issues relating to caste, which shows that this article was badly researched. Pastor Monger himself comes from a Buddhist background, which is actually one of the smallest religious minorities among the Bhutanese Nepali refugee population, the majority are Hindus. My fear is that like so many other Nepali churches, Pastor Monger's church may only truly reflect one segment of the Bhutanese Nepali population, or even one caste.

  2. Thanks, Ian. Right on.

  3. Anonymous5:09 PM

    I assumed that whoever wrote this comments are not a true flowers of Christ. You should have give glory to God by reading Pastor John Monger testimony.Pastor John Monger went through many sufferings for Christ sake.If you havened to be like Pastor John Monger's suffering for Christ being in Prisoned for 15 months,what will be your response for God? i think you will curse God. By reading his testimony from his article you should have learnt how to walk with God.But you only appreciate your Hindu people group and neglect Pastor John Monger who is your Christian brother. Oneday you have to give account before God.A nepali Pastor in North Carolina never said "Satan" to hindu people,Very sure that is the blame...They should know that We christian will rebuke Satan who is the enemy of all God's people but we never say "Satan" to hindu people. That is very true that it's not only for Hindu people but it's for all" If your any bodys names are not registered in the book of life, their part will be in the lake of Fire. so repent now and come to Jesus,and you shall be saved.

  4. First, I find your anonymity cowardly. Don’t you see at least a small amount of hypocrisy behind baselessly predicting that I would renounce my faith under persecution when you yourself are not even willing to reveal your identity on a post? You are certainly welcome to say whatever you like about me. But don’t hide. Let’s really engage the issues.
    Now, although you haven’t really demonstrated that you understand the substance of what I have written above, allow me to respond to your comments.
    1. You have claimed that I am not a true follower of Christ. The best I can tell, you base this on the fact that I have not glorified God because of John Monger’s testimony. That would seem that you have developed a litmus test for determining who are true Christians on the basis of how they respond to John Monger’s testimony. Please share with us your Biblical support for this. In our ministry, we teach and proclaim that a person can become a follower of Jesus by putting their faith in Him, repenting of sin, and being baptized. There is much support for this in Scripture. Since today I preached in our Nepali church from Acts 2, I will refer you to verse 38:
    “And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
    I also warn you in Christ not to be very careful in making such statements. You may perhaps safely critique my theology or missiology or whatever. However, when you say that I am not really a follower of Jesus, you are crossing a serious line. You are making a pronouncement as to my condition before the Lord that could actually pit you against the Lord himself. It is very clear from the level of rationale manifest in your comment that you truly don’t understand what I am talking about in the post nor are you well-versed on the issues raised. Thus, humility and wisdom should tell you to avoid questioning my salvation. After all, I also have a testimony and many years of ministry. My theological views are those of the churches I pastor which align both with the Southern Baptist Convention and the Lausanne Movement. I lead a ministry that bears much fruit for the Kingdom. But beyond all that, I love Jesus. I trust in him alone for my salvation. Please carefully consider the following question from the Apostle Paul:
    Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
    (Rom 14:4 ESV)

    If you look again at my post above, you will see that I have never questioned John Monger’s salvation in anyway. I have raised questions about his ministry methodology as expressed by the Christianity Today article referenced. I’m not sure if you have even read that article, but I hope you will before commenting further. You, on the contrary have said that I am not a follower of Christ and have suggested that I don’t know how to walk with God. You’ve also said that I would renounce my faith if faced with persecution. You presume to know an awful lot about me. But what is the basis upon which you make these statements? Friend, such presumption is sinful. Before the Lord, I call you to repent.

  5. 2. You have said that I “only appreciate [my] Hindu people group”. I don’t really know what you mean by this. What is a “Hindu people group”? “Hindu” is not the name of a people group according to any missiologists that I know of. Also, what do you mean by “appreciate”? Further, what do you mean by “appreciating” Hindus while “neglecting” John Monger? What exactly do you expect me to do with John Monger? I don’t know the man. Are you saying that I should neglect Hindus and appreciate John Monger?
    As a matter of fact, I love Hindus very, very much. God has called me to reach out to them with the love of Christ. On the other hand, I’ve never met John Monger. What exactly are you wanting me to do for him? Do you prefer that I not work at reaching Hindus? Are you saying that it is incumbent upon me as a Christian to read Monger’s testimony and like it? Are you saying that Christians are not allowed to critique and examine one another’s methods, ministries, and messages? Then I should ask why you are even posting comments. Can’t I just adopt the same bad argument as you and use it against you? Can’t I simply say that you should have read my testimony and glorified God? Can’t I say that you should support my view because I am your “Christian brother?” Of course, I wouldn’t use such arguments. Why? Because they are bad arguments.
    3. You claim that a Nepali pastor never said “Satan” in North Carolina to Hindus. How do you know this? I have spoken both with the Nepali pastor and with the Hindu family involved. Have you? Plus, please read more carefully. Did I write that a Nepali pastor actually called them “Satan”? No, I wrote that the family “understood that” he was calling them Satan. At the end of the day, it isn’t what leave our lips that matters. It is what enters their ears that makes the impact. You have further stated that Christians will “never say ‘Satan’ to Hindu people”. But I know directly that this is false. You can simply accuse the Hindus of lying, but I take offense that you accuse a family that I know well and love of doing so. You are not in a position to know whether they are lying or not. Why then do you assume they are doing so? Especially in light of the fact that I have also shared about their interest in Jesus Christ, why can’t you conceive of the possibility that there exists a Nepali pastor who makes mistakes in ministry? Unless perhaps you are that pastor?
    4. Finally, where did I say that Rev. 21:27 is false? Here’s the real problem that we are having. You do not understand what I have posted. English is not your first language and you haven’t been able to grasp what I have written. That’s fine. I don’t understand Nepali perfectly either. For that reason, I do not leave critical quotes on Nepali blogs. I try to recognize my limitations in that sense. For you, I would invite you to examine my article much more carefully and then try to respond to the substance of what I have written.

    The support you have provided for this claim is that I have not given glory to God by reading John Monger's testimony. However, I have not written in response to John Monger's testimony. I am not aware of it nor do I have access to it. Further, it isn't in any way relevant to my brief article. Are you really suggesting that only those who read John Monger's testimony and then glorify God because of it can be true followers of Jesus? If so, please support this position Biblically? Actually, the Scripture is clear that you are not to make such judgments.

  6. Anonymous3:30 PM

    For what it is worth, this article misrepresented my words and relationship with John. He is definitely a passionate evangelist and one of the most loving and selfless men I have ever met. He is a man of prayer and grace that does boldly speak of Christ but also serves and loves tirelessly. God continues to powerfully minister through him to multiple nationalities of refugees and Americans. John's story is one of humility, suffering and joy. -chris merrell

  7. Pastor Chris, I am grateful for your response here. It is helpful and affirms on a certain level my critique of CT's reporting in this story. My real complaint isn't with a particular evangelistic style nor the praise of it. Rather, I have a problem with CT's promotional approach to the issue. I don't believe that the Church or the cause of Christ among Bhutanese refugees is served well by this kind of an article. Other voices should be heard and real complexities brought forth. I hope that is understandable. Blessings!

  8. Jonathan8:20 PM

    Dear brothers in Christ! It is good to inspire and encourage someone working in the ministries with the motiv of exalting Christ!There are also many lay Pastors and evangelists amoung the Bhutanese refugees but I have neither heard people talking about them nor seen their name in any of the articles. The reason is that they can't communicate in English! They were also many Church and believers in the refugee camps, but Pastor John Magar was pastering non of them. Today,there are many home church and fellowship are growing in USA and Canada, is Pastor John Mongar is the one who is planting the church and ministering them? And what is suffering in Christ? Is his 9 months prison experience a licene for bosting amoung the Christian? They are lots of simple Pastors and leaders serving God without blowing the horn!

    1. Brother Jonathan, you've raised a good perspective. Thank you!

  9. Dear friends, I am sorry that my article published by Christianity today has hurted your feelings.Suffering is part of our lives. I aways take to suffer for Jesus christ is my privilege and my joy.My humble request to brother Jonathan,whoever you are,my prison experiences for my lord is not my licene to bost among Christian.Rather my experiences made me more humble to serve Him in every situation. You are right,there are many simple Pastors and Leaders in USA,Canada and in the Refugee Camps,who have planted Churches an " i am not the one that planting Church"? Infact,who am I to plant the Church ? Where Christ has said " I will build my Church and the gates of hell will not prevail it" Mathew 16:18. I don't knpw brother Jonathan,if i know you personally. If you were living in the Bhutanese Refugee Camps,i might know you and perhaps you know me too.Because If you were in the Refugee Camp,Nepal, you should have known how we planted the gospel seed in the beginning. There were not even a single church in 1991-1992. But God used the simple men like you said,Pastor Micheal Magar,Pastor Stephen Magar,Pastor Abraham Biswa,Pastor Santosh Ramdham,Pastor Philip Thapa,Pastor J.B Magar,Psator Karna Tirwa,Pastor Silas Koirala,Pastor Saul Powdel,Pastor Kishan,Pastor Simon Thapa,Sister Premila Rumtel,Sister Rupa Rai,Pastor Ashok Rai and Me John Monger to plant the 52 Churches in the 7 different Refugee Camps.We use to conduct openair gospel Crusade,Leadership seminars,general Conference and youth conference and Leadership Bible schools.The Bible School i had conducted was Restoration Bible school.There were 316 young men and women were trained up from our Bible school.Many of graduates went to Canada,Norway,Netherland and many parts of USA.And not only that,all above Pastors and Leaders moved to USA and many other countries. But see how God united our heart to sow the gospel seeds and in God's perfect timing,He brought us together in USA and many other countries. Now in USA,all above mentioned Pastors are not in the same city and states,but God has placed us different cities and States and Churches are being planted. We meet time to time and encourage each other,we conduct leadership seminars,National Conference,youth conference and many other activities to help each other.So it is not only me doing,It is like Paul said in the 1st Corintians 3:5-9,Each of us did the work God gave us,one will plant the seeds, and one will water it.but it was God ,not we,who made it grow.The ones who do plant and the ones waters are not the important,but God is important,because He is the One who makes the seeds grow.The ones who plants and the ones waters work as a team with the same purpose.And they will be rewarded individually,according to their own hard work.So brother Jonathan,i am not pastoring each and every Bhutanese Nepali church but we are encouraging each other,helping each other and partnering each other, and preparing each other to be a misionary around the World. By saying this,if i hurt your feelings again, please call me personally or contact me.You will find my contact with any Bhutane Nepali Pastors in USA.Finally,I must decrease but Christ must increase. God bless you and love you my friend.

    1. Thank you, Pastor John, for adding your comments here. As I've previously mentioned the CT article is too shallow to really serve well the purpose of extending Christ's Kingdom among Nepali-speakers. Blessings to you as you serve our Lord Jesus.