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The Critical Examination of Missionary Work in the Insanity of Obedience

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Introduction

In The Insanity of Obedience, Nik Ripken seeks to explain how a Christian believer is able to maintain a healthy, personal relationship with Jesus Christ in the face of persecution. Ripken illustrates several examples of Christians maintaining their testimony while suffering beneath the burdens and trials of persecution.

Ripken is no stranger to persecution, however. Nik Ripken and his wife Ruth have been faithful missionaries for over 30 years. Primarily serving is Muslim communities; Ripken endured many losses and hardships. In 1997, Nik and Ruth Ripken tragically lost their 16-year-old son to an asthma attack. Despite this painstaking loss, Ripken continued to be faithful to the Great Commission, and spread the good news of the gospel to over 72 countries worldwide. The Insanity of Obedience manages to highlight what a biblical view of missions is, even in the midst of hardships and persecution.

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Summary

In The Insanity of Obedience, Nik Ripken outlines what being an avid follower of Christ should resemble. He continues to persuade the reader that all Christians should embrace a life of persecution. Ripken states that, “Jesus sees persecution as an inevitable result of the obedience to His followers” (23). He continues to challenge the reader by having the reader question whether or not he or she believes Jesus is worth the inconvenience of persecution and trials (57). This radical view of persecution seeks to transform the way Christians respond to persecution of themselves and fellow believers. Ultimately, he warns believers that following Christ means whole-heartedly embracing a life of persecution, suffering, trials, and hardship.

Ripken divides this book into five main sections. Part I elaborates what a biblical view of missions should look like, and what response Christians should have to the Great Commission. In part II, Ripken explains how those can come to a saving knowledge in Christ in the midst of war-torn, hostile environments. Furthermore, in part III, generational faith is discussed and illustrated. Part IV continues as it examines over-seas missionaries and their responsibilities for leadership in local churches. And, finally, Ripken reveals that it is possible for a Christian to thrive in the midst of persecution and suffering in part V of this book (13,14).

Throughout the book, Ripken recalls several accounts of Christians enduring persecution, and what their responses looked like. After countless stories and illustrated experiences, Ripken states, “The goal, therefore, is not to reduce or eliminate persecution, but to see persecution the way that Jesus sees it” (23). Furthermore, the book describes that persecution is neither a good nor a bad thing. It is simply an inevitable conclusion to those who actively pursue Christ. Toward the conclusion of the book, Ripken introduces the reader to Dmitri. Dmitri is a zealous follower and missionary of Christ. Ripken retells of the hardships Dmitri endured, as he was arrested by Russian communists for preaching the gospel of Christ. Dmitri continued to thrive in his walk with God, despite being torn from his family and placed into the hands of persecutors. With this in mind, The Insanity of Obedience completely alters the way that the majority of Christians view persecution as a result of missions.

Critical Evaluation

Nik Ripken does a phenomenal job of presenting an overall biblical view of missions in The Insanity of Obedience. Ripken’s writing style makes it very clear and simple for the majority of Christian readers to understand his message. He uses a variety of short stories, personal experiences, and discussion questions to channel his message to the reader. I found this book to be informative, challenging, and thought provoking in both positive and negative aspects.

Overall, Ripken seems to successfully drive his view of biblical missions into the hearts of the readers. His writing style is very repetitive, which leaves the reader with no doubts of Ripken’s intentions. Throughout the entire book, regardless of section or chapter, multiple themes continue to reappear. For example, the idea that obedience and submission to God will inevitably result in persecution is repeated countless times throughout The Insanity of Obedience. I believe that Ripken has the intention of ensuring that every reader completely grasps the points he is trying to make. I appreciated this about Ripken’s writing style, because as I continued to read, I never lost sight of what the book’s message was.

Nik Ripken’s background in overseas missionary work may have resulted in several biased opinions throughout the book. Throughout the entirety of The Insanity of Obedience, it is not once mentioned that one can strive to fulfill God’s mission in their hometown. For example, Ripken argues that it is a lie to believe that “We must reach our own country first. The needs here are so great. There are millions of lost people right here. After we meet the needs here, then we can go to the Nations” (78). While there is a hint of truth to this statement, I do not believe God has called every Christian to overseas missions. Many Christians should strive to meet the needs of their nation, their hometown. Overseas missionaries need sending churches. If we ignore the spiritual condition of the United States, overseas missionary work will suffer. Ripken appears to believe that almost every ‘good’ Christian should do some sort of overseas work, and I simply do not believe that is the case.

Although the book seems to have a delayed beginning, Ripken’s use of personal accounts from overseas missionaries seems to draw the reader in. The stories he presents are incredibly powerful, and they carry much meaning. These accounts were the most compelling sections of the book, as they hit the reader with waves of emotion. These accounts cause the reader to think and reevaluate his or her previous view on missions and persecution.

“According to Paul Marshall of Freedom House, 80 percent of the world’s believers…live in persecution” 21. This powerful statement causes the reader to view persecution in a completely different light. Ultimately, Western Christians are the minority; evidenced in the fact that we share the gospel with little to no fear of actual persecution. By placing the accounts of persecuted believers throughout the book, Ripken further illustrates his view on biblical missions and persecution. Towards the close of the book, the testimony of Dmitri was the most compelling. Though he was torn away from his family and placed into horrendous conditions, he continued to faithfully serve God. This insanity of obedience to God is the awe-inspiring truth that drives the ultimate message of Ripken’s book.

Aside from testimonials and his repetitiveness, Nik Ripken also uses small sections at the end of each chapter to present a handful of questions to the reader. These questions stem directly from the content of the chapter to provoke the reader, as well as stress the overall nature of the chapter. I found these to be very helpful as I read.

Conclusion

I would recommend Nik Ripken’s The Insanity of Obedience to the majority of Christians, especially to those who are being led to overseas mission work. This book is incredibly informative about how God views missions. Furthermore, it provides insight to persecution, as it wonderfully explains how persecution is a result of obedience to God.

Readers will feel challenged, convicted, and encouraged to see persecution as a result of missions in a completely different light. Some might even feel called to the mission field upon reading this book. Regardless, the message of this book requires action. Christians must become radical disciples and witnesses for Christ. We must be insane with our obedience.

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