In the quietness of the night, a mother, who normally sleeps soundly, can hear the faint cry or slight movement of her baby. She jumps out of bed and, like a speeding bullet, is at the crib checking on her little one. All along, the father, in the same room, sleeps undisturbed. He is unaware that his wife has been up several times in the night. Both have the same capacity to hear. The maternal impulse of the mother is sharpened to when the slightest movement in the crib brings her jolting out of bed. She slept with one ear open, while her husband slept with both ears closed. He was deaf by choice. Someone has rightfully said that a missionary is a person who never gets used to the sound of pagan footsteps on their way to a hopeless eternity. Global Christians share the same sensitivity to the sights and sounds of a lost world.
“My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6). The world continues in spiritual damage, defeat, and darkness because of our spiritual deafness, ignorance, negligence, incompetence, and impotence. This chapter seeks to reverse these regrettable, destructive choices through gaining knowledge concerning the church, our mission, and strategies for making an impact in this sin-soaked world. Failure to do so populates hell when we should be populating heaven.
What Every Global Christian Should Know About the Church
Let me state my bias up front. I love the church and I am so thankful to be a part of it. Why? I once was lost but was found at church. There I also found faith, fellowship, friendship, family, fruitfulness and a heavenly Father. David confessed one day in the Lord’s house—the church—beats thousands spent as a guest in the house of sin (Psalms 84:10). He could be counted on to be often found at church.
The church is a group of believers, anywhere in the world, that have been called “out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9, KJV). The Bible employs about one hundred metaphors and phrases to portray the “church.” Chief among these is the idea that the church is an ekklesia; the “called out” ones (Ryken 1998, 147). Other pivotal images depict the church as the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:3-8; 12-31). The church is a living organism and “grows as God causes it to grow” (Colossians 2:19). Growth is natural, expected, and deliberate. We continue to develop into our future role as the “Bride of Christ” (John 3:29; Matthew 9:15; Mark 2:19; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Revelation 19:7).
The word “church” first appears in Matthew 16:18, “…and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (NIV). The church is called out from the world and called into an assembly (Acts 19:32) for the purpose of fellowship and reaching a lost world. A group of people at any level from local to universal may rightly be called “the church” as demonstrated in the following table:
TABLE ONE–THE CHURCH
|House Church||Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 16:19|
|Local Church||1 Corinthians 1:2; 2 Corinthians 1:1; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; Galatians 1:2|
|Regional Church||Acts 9:31|
|Universal Church||Ephesians 5:25; 1 Corinthians 12:28|
The church is not a building or even a denomination. We are the church! As a missionary I recall, with wistfulness, churches started under mango trees that have now grown through three or four building programs with multiplied hundreds of members. The church is comprised of every believer starting with the birth of the church in Acts 2, throughout the ages, and still propels itself into the twenty-first century. Jerry Rankin and Ed Stetzer (2010) assert that God’s desire is for the church to be “a world force for evangelism, impacting society and making a powerful impact for the kingdom of God” (156).
What Every Global Christian Should Know About the Mission
Sills (2010) correctly states, “a wise maxim in missions is ‘your ecclesiology will drive your missiology.’ That is, what you believe a church to be will drive everything you do for missions” (34).
The primary purpose and mission of the church is best discerned when looking at the life of its head, Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:22; 4:15; 5:23; Colossians 1:18). He came to: (a) “seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10); (b) build His church (Matthew 16:18); (c) “destroy the devil’s work” (1 John 3:8); and (d) “that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10, KJV). He gave His church the same mission before He ascended to heaven. It is commonly referred to as the “Great Commission” and appears at least five times in the New Testament: (a) Matthew 28:19-20; (b) Mark 16:15; (c) Luke 24:47; (d) John 20:21; and (e) Acts 1:8. He promised that His community of believers would do greater works and as they “went out and preached everywhere…the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it” (Mark 16:20).
Growth is the mission of the church. Sills (2008) reveals that, “There are two very simple biblical truths that relate to world missions: the world must hear the gospel and Christ has charged us to take it to them” (143). Warren (1995) attests, “A Great Commitment to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission will grow a Great Church” (102). The Great Commission requires going or sending missionaries or Christians throughout the world, to make disciples, teaching others to obey all that the Lord Jesus commanded. The Great Commandment is to love the Lord will all one’s heart, soul, and mind. An offshoot of this will be to love one’s neighbor as one’s self (Matthew 22:34-40). The New Testament Church fulfilled this through preaching, witnessing, and loving others. From its first day “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved’ (Acts 2:47). Because the church is organized to carry out the Great Commission “they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ” (Acts 5:42) and as a result, filled Jerusalem with their doctrine or teaching (Acts 5:28). Reaching others is the mission and ministry of the church.
The church is on a mission and is shaped by it. It is missional. As such, it’s people will: (a) join God on His mission, (b) make missional choices as a way of life; (c) determine to talk to, and reach, lost people; (d) come to church to be equipped and to learn to serve, rather than merely be served; (e) be entrusted to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth; (f) continue, on a daily basis, to live a missionary lifestyle (Rankin 2010, 169-171); (g) be made up of global Christians with a bifocal vision of reaching people down the street (locally) and across the world (globally); (h) reproduce themselves by starting other churches; (i) will be multiethnic and multicultural in nature; and (j) be responsive to a hurting world through exercising compassion. Every church should strive to be a missional church:
Multicultural missions means receiving people from around the world as well as going around the world. This may be the greatest challenge for the church in the 21st century. In a culturally divided and racially hostile society every local church must be a missional community where people from any and every nation and race are welcomed and encouraged to worship and serve the Lord together. (Nees, 2010)
The great missionary, J. Hudson Taylor, is often attributed to saying, “The Great Commission is not an option to be considered; it is a command to be obeyed.” Christ’s last command should be our first, chief concern. It is the ultimate goal of the church. Every strategy necessary to its fulfillment should be determined and utilized. Telford (2001) said, “This passion is driven by a belief that missions must be the battle cry of every Christian…Missions is the ultimate goal of the church” (16). He goes on to admonish, “Mobilizing the church is the most strategic thing we can do for missions” (125).
What Every Global Christian Should Know About Strategy
“Strategy” is an old military term that refers to an action plan to pull off a particular goal. John Maxwell and numerous others have often quipped, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. We must never forget that we are in a spiritual battle for the souls of men and women. Satan is also on a mission to keep lost souls lost and he definitely has a strategy. A strategic spiritual plan needs to be in place. Jesus taught, “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost…Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to posse the one coming against him with twenty thousand?” (Luke 14:28-31).
Barna (1999) wrote to encourage others in “being strategic in…God-given ministry.” He believes that highly effective churches stand out from the rest because they intensely believe and practice evangelism in a strategic way (114). They share their faith consistently, intentionally, and encourage “participatory global missions activity” (124). Towns (1995) adds, “The best evangelistic strategy is ineffective unless it is implemented” (379).
Dayton and Fraser (1980) explain that strategy: (a) gives us an overall sense of direction and cohesiveness; (b) forces us to see the mind of God; (c) a way to reach an objective; (d) is an overall approach, plan, or a way of describing how we will proceed in reaching our goal; (e) is an attempt to anticipate the future; (f) is a way of communicating our intentions to others (both on and off the field); and (h) helps us decide what to do and not do (16-18). The writers are advocates of “strategy statements” both for the missionary team and each individual missionary. They state, “All over the world we have visited missionaries who seem to be in the business of doing, rather than getting things done” (20). Good intentions, like it has often been said, remain just that—good intentions. “It is absolutely essential that each field have a strategy statement which covers both its long-and short-term range plan of attack.” We must be deliberate and intentional rather than relaxed and haphazard. The harvest deserves more than a “hit and miss” approach.
“As was Paul’s custom, he went to the synagogue service, and for three Sabbaths in a row he used the Scriptures to reason with the people” (Acts 17:2, NLT). Paul, one of the greatest missionaries of all times, had a strategy. We should as well.
What Every Global Christian Should Know About the Indigenous Church
“Indigenous” refers to something that is national and springs up from and develops with the culture. An indigenous church is able to grow within the culture in which it is planted. The words “indigenous” and “self” are often used in discussing principles guiding the establishment and progress of the national church. Both words refer to principles of church growth and organization within a particular country. You may be wondering, “If I am a saint or pastor in North America why should I be concerned with the study of the indigenous church?” First of all, Global Christians are based at home but have a global vision. With the shrinking global village they often travel to far-flung locations in the world in a matter of hours. One can be in St. Louis today; Thailand tomorrow, and back in St. Louis by the weekend. Additionally, indigenous church principles are imperative and useful in establishing multicultural outreaches and ministries anywhere (from everywhere).
Abraham Lincoln once said, “You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.” Once a church or multicultural ministry has been founded and is growing, care must be exercised not to slow down its growth. Church growth and evangelism can come to a standstill when leaders become satisfied with maintaining the church organization as it is. One basic principle is that the longer a missionary maintains an exclusive leadership without sharing the responsibility, the more difficult it is to include others in leadership responsibilities and eventually to transfer the responsibilities of leadership of the church to the grouping. A famous missionary, Hudson Taylor, stated, “I look upon foreign missionaries as the scaffolding around a rising building. The sooner it can be dispersed with, the better; or rather, the sooner it can be transferred to other places, to serve the same temporary use, the better”(Hattaway, 2003, 184). It would be inappropriate and questionable for a builder to insist that his scaffolding remain in place permanently for fear the building would collapse.
In beginning and developing the multicultural outreach, ministry, or church, care must be taken to establish the following: (a) a foundation based on the Apostle’s doctrine (Acts 2:42; Acts 2:38); (b) a training program for developing disciples and leaders on every level, (c) an evangelism program using both personal and mass evangelism methods, and (d) a strategic plan to develop an indigenous church.
The principles of church growth and organization within the national, indigenous church encompass the following four vital areas:
TABLE TWO–THE INDIGENOUS CHURCH
The church is involved in evangelism within its borders. The church reaches the lost using national ministers, equipment, and finances.
The church has, at its disposal, national leaders that are able, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, to govern the affairs of the church. This begins at the local church but works its way up through the organizational structure of the entire national church. These leaders adhere to the guidelines established in Acts 6:3; I Timothy 3:1‑13; and Titus 1:5-9.
The church has instituted God’s plan of tithes and offerings; therefore, a system already exists to raise funds for the various ministries of the church.
The local church should care for the local pastor. It should also contribute to the operation of the national church. When the national church supports its own efforts, it opens the door to expansion. It may be felt that the people of a nation are very poor, but God can raise up a church anywhere.
The church begins sending out missionaries to other countries and cultures. The national church becomes a missionary-minded church.
A Native American was walking with a friend on a busy street in New York City. In the midst of honking horns, squealing traffic, and rushing people, he claimed, “I hear a cricket.”
“Impossible,” said his friend. He walked over to a planter and found the cricket under a small tree. The Native American told his companion that people hear what they are listening for. To prove his point, he dropped a handful of change on the street. Every head within a few feet turned to look. It all depends what one is listening for, looking for, and longing for. Christ is listening for our response to the call to fulfill the Great Commission. He longs for the church to take its rightful place in global missions and to institute strategies to reach people groups everywhere. He looks forward to “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people, and language standing before the throne….” (Revelation 7:9). Until then, the question is, what are you listening for, looking for, and longing for?
- Barna, George. Being Strategic in Your God-Given Ministry, The Habits of Highly Effective Churches. Ventura, California: Regal Books, 1999.
- Dayton, Edward and David Fraser. Planning Strategies for World Evangelism. : William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1980, 3-69. Quoted in Strategies in Cross-Cultural Ministry: Supplementary Readings, ed. Global University Staff, Springfield, Missouri: Global University, 2010, 11-49.
- Hattaway, Paul. More than 2000 Great Quotes and Illustrations. Edited by George Sweeting. Texas: Word, 2003.
- Kellogg, Charles. Charles Kellogg, The Nature Singer: His Book. White Fish, MT: Kessinger Publications, 2004.
- Nees, Tom. “Defining a Missional Church.” Cultural Expressions Magazine (Summer 2010): 1. Article, http://culturalexpressionmagazine.org/en/magazine/archived-issues/18-summer-2005/82-d/ (accessed 3/29/2011).
- Ryken, Leland; James C. Wilhoit, Trmper Longman III, ed. Dictionary of Biblical Imagery. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1998.
- Rankin, Jerry and Ed Stetzer. Spiritual Warfare and Missions. Nashville, Tennessee: B&H Publishing Group, 2010.
- Sills, David M. The Missionary Call: Finding Your Place in God’s Plan for the World. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008.
- _____.Reaching and Teaching: A Call to Great Commission Obedience. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2010.
- Telford, Tom with Lois Shaw. Today’s All-Star Missions Churches: Strategies to Help Your Church Get into the Game. :, 2001.
- Towns, Elmer L., ed. Evangelism and Church Growth: A Practical Encyclopedia. Ventura, California: Regal Books; Gospel Light, 1995.
- Warren, Rick. The Purpose Driven Church. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1995.