Friday, May 11, 2012
Some people get tired just looking over my schedule and itineraries, but when I do I get so energized that it’s hard to sit still. In addition to all this, I get to meet my heroes, the most interesting people on the planet: missionaries! An added blessing is getting to know and work with the agencies that send them out. Their administrators and leaders are also like-minded folks who run on the same fuel I do and share a common goal of seeing the nations glorify God in New Testament churches with biblically qualified, trained leaders discipling the nations. Some of those I have had the privilege to interact with recently are Darren Carlson at Training Leaders International, Pete Gibson at Global Outreach, Chuck Lawless, Ron Wilson, and Gordon Fort at the International Mission Board, AJ Gibson at To Every Tribe Ministries, Jim Teasdale and David Blackney of The Master’s Mission, and Randy Gardner at Bible Training Centre for Pastors. Each mission agency brings its own unique contribution to the overall task of reaching and teaching the nations and I am thankful to count on their partnership as we work together in this essential task that God has entrusted to us.
In recent months God has been multiplying the opportunities before me at an accelerated pace, in ever increasing places around the world. I currently have in my Reaching & Teaching inbox email invitations to help with ministry needs in Nicaragua, Ecuador, Peru, Mexico, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay, Argentina, Brazil, Belize, Romania, Togo, Uganda, China, and Indonesia. Added to these are standing invitations from places in Europe, India, Pakistan, Burma, Tanzania, and Kenya. There is rarely a day to go by that another invitation doesn’t come from missionaries, national pastors, stateside churches, missionary candidates, or an agency that wants to find out how they can partner with Reaching & Teaching to do what we do or ask for help to train their people. In the absence of cloning devices, how do you manage it all? How do you know the balance?
As I examine the burgeoning ministry God has given, I see some common threads running through them all that may provide some guidance. One is the repeated encouragement I receive from people who have read my books, The Missionary Call and Reaching and Teaching. I regularly hear from people who are on the field as a result of reading them when they were trying to discern their own call. Other missionaries who were faltering because of perceived pressure to promote kinds of ministries they weren’t sure were biblical have thanked me over and over for helping them think through the issues. Many have seen that our Reaching & Teaching vision resonates with their own, so they want to join with us as we join God in what he is doing in the world.
Teaching at SBTS has given me the privilege to teach, shape, mentor, and get to know hundreds of students. In my twenty semesters of teaching there I have known some students who wanted to be prepared to serve overseas—and now they do. Others were just as convinced that missions was NOT for them, but while taking our classes a light bulb came on in their minds and a fire was started in their hearts. Now I get to visit them in the countries where they serve around the world.
Speaking at missions conferences and leading orientation for other agencies allows me to get to know many who are just on the verge of getting on the plane. The things I share are often the last instructions they hear as they leave to begin their ministries on the field. Sometimes they return to SBTS to continue their missions studies and we are able to hear of the impact their education or a missions conference has had in their ministries. Conversations and emails such as these are what spur me on as I teach classes, preach conferences, lead teams, and provide orientation for new missionaries, teaching them to observe all that Christ commanded us so that they can do the same on the field.
The common threads through all of this stand out as well. The growing awareness of missionaries that they cannot train oral cultures the same way they were trained at home is resulting in more frequent requests for training to help them with this challenge. In fact, I get so many requests for this training that I have published a new resource, Reaching and Teaching the Highland Quichuas: Ministry in Animistic Oral Cultures to assist those who are reaching the oral majority of the world’s peoples.
Biblical illiteracy and syncretism is virtually the norm around many mission fields of the world. Certainly there have been some very faithful missionaries who planted their lives among the peoples God called them to serve, poured their lives and wisdom into them, formed faithful churches, and raised up discipled believers. However, in areas where a minimalist approach has driven missions efforts, weak churches, syncretism, heresy, or health-and-wealth ministries often characterize the churches. Missionaries and national churches alike are seeing that the crucial need is for assisting national churches with theological studies, pastoral education, and deep discipleship.
As I mentioned, God has been blessing us at Reaching & Teaching with increasing contacts, invitations, and opportunities to partner with others. God’s incredible hand of blessing is on us, and working to bring all of this together. I see Him doing the same in many of the other ministries I mentioned above. I believe it is because we are seeking to study God’s Word, obey it, and teach others to do the same. (Ezra 7:10)
I am so thankful to know these leaders, missionaries, and ministries and to make all of these connections to network for the nations. I confess to being confused, overjoyed, bewildered, thankful, and wondering why God is moving as He is all at the same time, but we are committed to seizing the day—and days to come. We need your prayers. Please pray with us that we will have wisdom and God’s leadership to recognize the doors that He is opening and have boldness to walk through them for the advance of His kingdom and glory to His name.
If you would like to join the fun and talk about how you can be involved reaching and teaching the nations with us, call, email, Facebook, or message me on Twitter. There are unlimited ways that you could help and we can use every willing hand on deck.