An Interview with Dr. Sam

Dr. Samuel Kamaleson, Pastor of Emmanuel United Methodist Church in Madras, India, bears witness to what the Holy Spirit is doing around the world. He also offers some exciting ideas for new missionary strategy centered on conversion to Christ.

Question: You travel extensively and you come into contact with many Christians. What evidences do you see that the Holy Spirit is working within the Church?

The Holy Spirit is giving a new sense of oneness that transcends structural and denominational boundaries. Within the church, people now seem to feel more liberated than ever before. This is prevalent everywhere.

In my city there is a prayer meeting once every month, where 2,000 people gather together and stay throughout the night. Every denomination is present; the major mood is what is known as charismatic. This is the working of the Holy Spirit.

He also gives, within the Church, a holy boldness that recaptures Simon Peter’s experience in the earliest day of Pentecost. The message itself has so gripped the mind, the heart, and the will of the individual that he will almost die if he doesn’t share it. Here is a boldness that the world knows no way of stopping. The world has to stand back in amazement, as it did on the first day of Pentecost.

Yes, the Holy Spirit is working all over the world. He is moving in the secular world, bringing people into the consciousness of Jesus Christ, whether they recognize Him as such or not. He is also moving in the universal Church in all the Eastern countries that I’ve visited. For instance, in Malaysia, there is an intense hunger among the Methodists for a movement similar to Good News.

Question: How do you see God operating in today’s world?

In India we talk much about Democratic Socialism and lifting people up. There are many things happening which, except for the pressure from outside, churchmen will be very reluctant to accept. For instance, there is a new law in India which forbids religious institutions from holding too much wealth for themselves. At the end of every year the churches are accountable to the government.

This seems to impinge on individual rights—but the law is not talking about individuals. It refers to collective groups (i.e. churches) which have purposed to serve and help mankind. On the one hand it seems as though this law will prevent the church from doing the things she wants to do. But it does not. It gives options to clearly categorize and earmark certain funds.

The law does bring pressure upon all institutions to carry out the work of compassion and not stagnate or fail in their mission through complacency. In this way ·it seems as though secular government is saying to the Church, “You shall not hoard. You will share what you cannot reasonably use for yourself with others around you.” Thus the plain Gospel is being preached by the government of India to the churches. This and other acts of God are too clear to be denied.

Question: Are you saying that some of the movements that Christians might tend to fear in terms of being secular are, in fact, being used of God for His own purposes?

Yes. We have a tendency to pull back from these things because they seem strange in their newness and we’ve not been used to them in the past. This kind of [secular] pressure has never been brought to bear on the church. But now it comes and one has to ask, “Why?” Is God saying something new to us in this?

I believe He is. I’m convinced that all the lines of history are irrevocably moving toward one point, and that is Jesus Christ. Man cannot stop this movement, no matter how he may try.

There is the oft-repeated complaint that the Indian government doesn’t permit Christian missionaries to come into India. This is true. But I think concern is uncalled for. What this new restriction has done is to make the Indian church accept her responsibilities for evangelization and for growing and surviving. In this way the government’s law is a part of God’s plan for the strengthening of His Church in India.

Question: You mentioned the sense of oneness and boldness brought about by the Holy Spirit. What else do you see as a result of His movement these days?

 Freedom from being a slave to structure. The Spirit has broken right through that, and I praise God for it! Structure is unavoidable, but dependence on structure alone is basically damaging. It inhibits us from acting upon the new incentives the Spirit wants to give us these days.

Question: Advocating freedom from structure could be misunderstood. Some may interpret this as divisive …

If I’m really divisive, then I would move out of the responsibility of being part of the total thing called Methodism. I would begin to attack from outside.

But I’m not doing that! I’m still a Methodist and I’m proud to be part of the total confession of The United Methodist Church. But where the United Methodist Church structure seems to be moving away from what the church ought to be, as a son within the family, I have a right and duty to point this out.

Question: Has this failure of the institutional church affected United Methodist concepts of missions?

A long time back, in 1955 or so, felt that too much institutionalized rigidity in the concept of missions had ruined our total mission purpose. We seem to be more and more in mission for ourselves than for. the Lord. We seem to be so eager to put a tag on it and stamp it and say this is ours and not yours—forgetting that it is really His. This paternalism, this institutional ism, has killed the true spirit of missions.

Fortunately, this kind of rigid institutionalism is being bypassed. The Holy Spirit seems to be saying today, as in the times of John Wesley, ” If the church is so very stuck up that she will not listen to My message within the walls, then I’II take My messenger out into the tombstones and make him preach the Gospel there. I’ll get My work done, and I’II sidestep the church institution. It is not indispensable to the Kingdom. My work must be done!”

This seems to be the mood of the Spirit at this time.

Question: Have you experienced this type of freedom in your own work in India?

I’ve been attached to a farm, an agricultural fellowship. From the beginning we said we would not be tagged as a mission at all. We’ll be free of that, and we’ll not be under any denominational tag. We are all kinds of people working in this group-Frenchmen, girls from Switzerland, a Japanese couple. They come and live with us and work with us in India. There is no systematic way for anybody to channel funds to us, no structures at all. But it has worked. It has survived now nearly 13 years. It has been prosperous. The Lord has blessed us, and the witness seems effective in the surrounding communities. We have baptisms in this agricultural fellowship and those who are baptized become part of the Church of South India.

Question: Do you think evangelical Methodists can reach out directly and bypass dead institutions which limit them in fulfilling the Great Commission of Jesus?

Already this is happening. This may be new to us in Methodism, but this is happening all over. That I know.

For a long time evangelicals have reached forth with compassion, with love, and have been doing redemptive work. We who have been Methodists traditionally have always moved through the structure, because we have had undying confidence in our structure.

Now it is a new thing for us to move out of this, and it is painful. It’s very traumatic but the time has come.

Question: Would there be a receptivity to U.S. evangelicals establishing direct contact with Methodists in India?

There will be an intense interest. You will find people in India who have a tremendous lot of know-how in this kind of direct action.

Question: What place does the evangelical have in terms of World Christian mission?

The mood in the Third World—particularly in India—is the mood of revolution. The true evangelical (one who has been liberated by Jesus Christ) has a more rightful place, a more logical place in today’s mission than the one who is caught merely with the cultural consciousness. The liberal is attached to what is cultural, what is environment, whereas the true evangelical is the liberated individual. The true evangelical is set free by Christ from the cultural hangups. The true evangelical is so liberated that he or she is able to think of things that, as the young people say, blow the mind. So new that it cannot be described in old language.

Somebody has said that the Book of Acts is dominated by people who are drunk with the Holy Spirit and who march off the map. They did the most unexpected things! People couldn’t predict them and that is why they were the ones who turned the world upside down. That is the evangelical idea of missions.

Question: As a Christian from the “Third World” what do you see as the greatest needs in missions today?

For people who permit passionate compassion to take hold so completely that they forget all other distinctions—and know only the thrust of compassion motivated by Jesus Christ. When all talents and training are in His control, you become most beautifully available to people around you. This is the most important thing needed in Christian missions today.

Question: We hear that doors are now closing all over the world to Christian missions. Is this true?

Let us correct that basic attitude. Doors are not closing to the Christian missionary; but some doors are closing to the traditional methods of being a missionary. The old concept of a missionary is one who is sent overseas through a mission board. Such doors are closing and praise God for that! I think this is God’s action.

You see, the traditional, categorically-described missionaries experience built-in difficulties. If you are known as a missionary in India, and categorized as such, then the person whom you are trying to reach will raise up all kinds of barriers.

But suppose an Indian looks at you as somebody who has come to India on your own, working for the government or a company, not as a “missionary.” Then this inhibition is not immediately present. You can more readily communicate your faith, your commitment, your knowledge of Jesus Christ if you come to India as a non-traditional missionary in the non-traditional understanding.

Question: Does this mean that the historic denominational mission board is now obsolete?

That is right. But the way this change is interpreted by our structure- oriented people is, “The day of the missionary is over.” This is not true! Our approach to mission-sending needs to be different, that is all.

My contention is that evangelical Christians should not wait for a mission board’s endorsement to go and do what the Lord is asking them to do. The mission board is not the only way a person can be “in mission” today. Perhaps the Holy Spirit is saying, “Maybe it will not be the same old thing as it used to be. I’m moving you in different directions and I want you to follow Me.”

Question: Could you explain this new approach more exactly?

I’ve been telling young people there are many ways they can go overseas and be a witness for the Lord Jesus Christ. The Peace Corps is one possibility. I’ve met some dedicated Christian youth in the Peace Corps and I believe that these young people, working in the backwoods in India, out in the sticks, are really being missionaries in the best sense of the word. Their price tag is picked up by the United States government!

In a country like India, where religious freedom is given to every citizen, anybody can talk about God. An Indian farmer may be raising chickens, and the Peace Corps Christian working with him. After they talk about chicken-raising, eventually they will get into discussions of the bigger questions of life. Then the Christian Peace Corps worker can naturally communicate his or her faith in Jesus Christ.

Question: What about professional people who are interested in serving Christ overseas?

Suppose that six doctors in the United States decide that they have a spiritual obligation under Christ to witness in India through medicine. They can easily do this on their own. A three-month tourist visa is easily granted to anybody. If these doctors can earn their twelvemonths’ salary in 10 months, they can then give two months of that year to one spot in India. Six U.S. doctors could keep that spot completely staffed throughout the year. To do this doesn’t require a mission board.

Question: Have you used this approach in your own work?

I am a veterinarian. If I am working with people in breeding and preventive methodology, and they ask me, “Why are you here instead of in another place?”

I have a reason to give—Christ.

If they see a difference in my lifestyle and want to know the reason for this difference, and if they ultimately say, ” I’d like to be like you,” then I point them to Christ, who is the source of anything good in me. This is the evangelical’s great advantage. We know that Christ is the answer to all these questions. And to this knowledge we witness.

Question: What are some of the secular channels through which evangelicals may work as missionaries?

The United States’ oil and tire companies collaborate with similar concerns in India. A young person from the States, committed to Jesus Christ and employed by one of these firms, can volunteer for overseas work. He then comes as missionary and, I am told, that the U.S. company may add a bonus to his salary. Can you beat that? You get paid more for being a missionary!

These are the new things that we really ought to explore. We can so cultivate this possibility that it will be more than just a trickle here and there. I know people who have done this. It can happen. It is happening now.

Question: What other creative, new possibilities are there for people interested in serving Christ overseas?

College students can go for postgraduate studies overseas. India has scholarships available for students from the United States. Qualifying young people can go to India, and while on the campus as students, they can be living witnesses for Christ. They can be missionaries for one, two or three years.

When they finish their two-or three-year degree program in India, they can say, “Now I’ve done my job. I’m going out to a new field.” And all the while somebody else has picked up the price tag, giving Christians uninhibited liberty to work with ardent Marxists and other revolutionaries. No traditional missionary can have this opportunity—because of being tagged as a missionary.

Good News needs to probe into these possibilities, make data available, and virtually recruit people on this basis.

Being a United Methodist, when you reach the land where you are going to work, you get in contact with the local Methodist congregation and become part of it. Here is where the universality of the United Methodist Church comes into focus. You are then a United Methodist missionary freed from the traditional stigma and from the load of an institution which may not be essential for our mission to be fulfilled.

Question: You have talked about the work of the Holy Spirit, both in the world and in the church. You have mentioned the need to bypass traditional church structures in order to get the Gospel to all people. And you have suggested some exciting ways to serve Christ overseas. How does all this relate to the community of believers? How does the community of believers reach out into the world?

We should sense the mood of the Holy Spirit within the community of the committed. If He tells us to get into operation and action somewhere, we need not wait for a mission board’s sanction. We will go ahead and do it! Not simply as an ant1thesis to the structure, but in obedience to the will of the Lord.

The time is right for this obedience.


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