Rice Christianity, Folk Christianity, Ethnic Christianity

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Missionaries have some terms for the versions of "Christianity" they encounter on the mission field.

The first of these is Rice Christianity. In their workings among the peoples of the world some missionaries encounter those who call themselves Christians because they link Christianity with charity from the missionary organizations. These people have little love for Jesus, they're just after a bowl of rice. The missionaries still meet the needs of the people, but they go on to stress that Christianity is much more than having a full belly. Jesus had to deal with the same mentality from those who ate the fishes and the loaves.

Next is folk Christianity. These are peoples who mix Biblical Christianity with the practices of the old pagan religions. In Haiti you'll find those who appear at church on Sundays and practice voodoo the rest of the week. You'll find those throughout the world who along with the worship of Jesus still engage in fortune telling, the evil eye, hexes, amulets, charms, etc.

Then there are ethnic Christians. These are people with no living personal faith who will tell you that they're Christians because they belong to an ethnic group with is linked with one of the sects of Christianity. If the person is of Irish, Hispanic, or French descent they'll tell you that they're Catholic even though they've not set foot in one of those churches for years. If they're Armenian, Russian, or Greek they'll tell you that they are Orthodox Christians even though the teachings of those churches have no impact on their personal faiths or lifestyles. If they're from Georgia or Alabama they'll tell you that they're Baptist or Methodist even though they've never been to church in their lives.

In your little corner of the world do you find these types of "Christians"? Many is the time I've seen families show up in churches with a need, claiming an intention to get right with God only to disappear once they'd enjoyed the hospitality and charity of the congregation. Sometimes they'll not disappear though. How many in your congregation feed feed feed off of the ministries of your church with no return giving or committment to service in return? Such behavior might be expected from a new Christian, but some engage in this for decades. You have a Rice Christian on your hands.

Then the folk Christian. A WASP suburban soccer mom can be every bit as much a folk Christian as anyone. All it takes is the blending of local culture with pure Christianity to the degree that the purity of Scripture is compromised. The Kingdom can be lived out in innumerable ways, with local customs resulting in innumerable forms of music, and methods of worship. These are wonderful. But it is possible, and common, to allow pagan elements into our worship in the name of local tradition. Does this go on in your church?

Then the Ethnic Christian. Sure, Grandma said you are a Christian family, and she might even have been a Christian. But that faith isn't transmitted to the children through the genes. Everyone must have a personal encounter with Jesus, and live a vibrant and daily relationship with Him. Assume nothing among your people or yourself in this regard.

Be blessed!

-- Anonymous, May 29, 2002

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