Saturday, March 03, 2007

Please come teach us!

The desire to know and obey the Word of God is in the heart of every true believer. The closer we are to Jesus, the more precious His Word is to us as well. Many missionaries have been drained dry by the constant demands of new believers with no Bible background who want to learn. Then, these missionaries return to the Lord in their Bible study times with blessed hearts but empty cups for the Lord to fill. There is no shortage of students among new believers who fall in love with the Lord. Teaching nationals, many of whom are preliterate primary oral learners, is overwhelming, challenging, and one of the most rewarding ministries ever known.

I regularly meet pastors, leaders, and church members all over the world who are pleading for someone to come and teach them. It is encouraging that the need for instruction rises from their own lips rather than from their hearers. Many men are struggling along in pulpits week by week and are painfully aware that they need biblical training and pastoral preparation. On one occasion in the banana fields of Ecuador, I was addressing a gathering of six pastors and leaders of rural village churches. I shared the basic Gospel message in a way that spoke of God’s holiness, man’s sinfulness, Jesus’ work to pay for our sin and give us His righteousness, and the requirement to repent and be born again. One pastor said, “I have never understood the Gospel so clearly before.” Another pastor repented of his sin and prayed to receive Christ as Lord and Savior!

On another occasion, I was in Riobamba, Ecuador having breakfast with another denomination’s missionary to the same people group I served when the waiter approached to tell me that a group had arrived asking for me. Wondering how anyone could know I was even there or what these folks could want, I made my way to the front to greet them. It was a small delegation of indigenous leaders who live in a group of six villages at the foot of Mt. Chimborazo. They had heard that I was preparing a training program for their people and they wanted to receive training. They only had a few men to serve the six village churches and none had any training.

I was recently walking across the tree-shaded campus of the Nigerian Baptist seminary and several men asked for a private conversation. They pleaded with me to send them someone to teach them in several subject areas. They had some professors, but not for areas required for their studies. They need and want to learn the whole counsel of the Word of God, but they need help.

The first Quichua church we served in Ecuador was a small group of believers who asked for someone to come and teach them basic Bible doctrines. They had come to know the Lord and now wanted to know His Word. We began meeting at 7:00 AM on Sunday mornings at the frigid altitude of 11,000 feet in the Andes. With no windows or doors in the little building, the “fresh” air was abundant. But, our hearts were warm as we studied the Bible together week by week.
A friend of mine was interpreting for a stateside pastor who had come to Ecuador for a week to help train pastors. The pastor had forgotten about the phrase-by-phrase translation that the students needed when he planned his teaching time. Translating phrase by phrase obviously requires twice as much time because the interpreter must repeat every sentence after the teacher. As the teaching time went on and on, the fragrance of lunch being prepared by the church ladies began to waft through the meeting room. Stomachs began to growl and the pastor felt very guilty. The scheduled lunch hour approached and then passed. Finally he said, “Men if you will give me just thirty more minutes, we can pause and eat.” The gathered pastors revealed their greatest need and desire when they smiled and responded, “Brother, we are eating—teach on!”

Another group of Quichua brothers in the shadow of Ecuador’s Cotopaxi volcano invited me to teach basic doctrines to their men. As we discussed the necessity of being born again for salvation, the elderly man who was their leader began to look concerned. He told me that his parents had lived on that same mountain many years before and had only seen a priest when he came to the neighboring town once a year or so. The masses said by this priest were in Latin and the old man’s parents did not speak Spanish, much less Latin. He said that they never heard the Good News. Then he asked me, “Where did my parents go when they died?” As compassionately as I possibly could, I explained that I do not know everything, but according to what I read in my Bible, they did not go to heaven if they were not born-again believers in Jesus. This was a very hard conversation to have with this tender believer. He paused for what seemed like a year, and then said, “I think that those priests will have a lot to answer for.” He said his parents should have been taught.
In every one of these instances, the nationals already recognize their need for teaching. Yes, they have the Holy Spirit and, in many cases, the Bible. Yes, the Holy Spirit can lead them into all truth, but they need someone to teach. This is no surprise to God. Christ commanded us to teach them everything He commanded. Paul says that this teaching must be more than mere orientation or even preparing pastors. It must include evangelizing evangelists, teaching teachers, and training trainers (2 Timothy 2:2).
I regularly have students come to my office saying, “Dr. Sills, you taught on the mission field and prepared pastors. That’s what I believe God is leading me to do.” These conversations are increasing in frequency, while at the same time nationals in every country I visit are increasingly asking for teaching. We have done a good job of planting churches. These churches need trained pastors and leaders who can rightly interpret and teach the Word. It seems that God is raising up churches begging for teaching and men begging to go teach. As Henry Blackaby made popular in Experiencing God, Let’s find out where God is working and join Him there.

3 comments:

Blayne said...

Dr. Sills, this really hits home and warms my heart deeply. I have not met you, but I have heard about you from Dr. Martin. I graduated from SBTS w/ a degree in missions, and was the first 2+2 student to go to Malaysia. Now I'm pastoring a church, and I love preaching/teaching expositorily, but my heart's strong desire is to return to Asia and bless pastors by teaching and training them. I have tried and tried to go back with the IMB, but the answer has always been "NO". Perhaps you have an idea as to where I can look next? I've been wanting to return for 4 years now!

David Sills, D.Miss, Ph.D. said...

Blayne,

Thank you for your encouraging note. Yes, I would be glad to talk with you. I know that when we delight ourselves in the LORD, He gives us the desires of our hearts. (Ps 37:4) If He is guiding you that way, He will open the doors. Stay in touch.

Blayne said...

Dr. Sills, I will give you a call or send you an email soon. I live in Nashville, and I plan to take a trip up there to campus as soon as I can swing it. I hope we can talk while I'm there. I'm also thinking about a possible D.Miss., but that's the color of another horse...