This post is the second part following Guilted into being a missionary, here!
In the last post I began explaining how God worked in our lives to be missionaries. While at the church we had started and pastored in Cartersville I began to be bothered about the number of churches all over the southeast of the United States. I was concerned about all the competition between churches in America and the great lack of churches in so many other parts of the world.
As each missionary came to present their work at our church I would be moved to be a missionary. I wanted to go to whatever country was being presented. I would go home and do the old fashioned thing, look them up in my world book encyclopedia. You know books, real paper and hard backs not on the internet. I would spend the evenings for the next week or two reading everything I could get my hands on about that country.
Betty would get nervous. She would say, I do not want to be a missionary. I can’t do it.
She asked me to have more missionaries in, give them more money, that she would even fix her attitude about how missionaries couldn’t preach. She just couldn’t see us leaving the people we loved, our first home of our own, our families, etc and going to the other side of the world to be missionaries.
Betty accused me of loving adventure, of just wanting to travel. She was up to anything to keep me from going to the mission field.
Finally she said, if we go to the mission field I do not what to go where it is hot! So I began to look for places where it was cool. She then said well I do not want to go to where it is cold. Then I looked for places that were neither hot or cold. So she finally admitted that she had no desire to go either way!
Now to the rather weird part. This is how I felt called. Now before you read it understand that I was young, came from a culture like what you are about to read, and didn’t understand so much of the Bible as I do today!
In the summer of 1985 I couldn’t get my mind off of going to the mission field. It was all I thought about. It consumed me. I contacted different mission agencies. I went to a mission conference. I talked to missionaries. I told them that I believed that God was going to send me to the mission field.
Everyone thought that I would go to England. I had talked to the mission agency and a missionary in England a year earlier. I wanted to go to England because I knew that I did not have any language ability. I wanted to go where I would not have to learn a foreign language.
I had taken French in High School. I did not do well. When I started in college I was talking to them about what degree program I would enter. The first things seemed to be that I had to decide between a BS, Bachelor of Science, or a BA, Bachelor of Arts. I was a country boy. Those terms were very new to me. I asked which was the best, the most prestigious. They told me that that would be the BA.
I asked what I would have to do to get it and it seemed that the biggest difference would be having to study a foreign language. I thought, well, I have done that before. I think I can again. So I signed up for French class. The teacher was a german lady who spoke both French and German.
I too a semester of French. She was a very nice lady. She gave me a D- out of mercy. She said that I slaughtered the French language and had no language ability. So I decided to take German. I got another D- from her mercy.
Later on when I would finally arrive in Mexico and begin language school the teacher would only need about 2 or 3 weeks to tell me again that I had no language ability.
As I prayed that summer it got so bad that I would go to bed around 10 or 11 and sleep for about an hour. I would then wake up and stay up all night in the living room on the couch praying. Then about 4 or 5 am I would slip back into bed and try to get some sleep before I had to go off to work.
In those long nights God did a work in my life. I knew that I was supposed to go to Peru. I knew that I would live and work in Arequipa even though I couldn’t pronounce the word.
As I continued praying I knew, in my heart, that I would get my support and arrive on the field in January of 1987. That would be just over a year after I surrendered.
Now God didn’t speak to me but I knew that as certainly as I knew I was alive. My biggest fear was what God would do to Betty if she hindered me from going.
One night or early morning Betty came out and asked when I would be going to bed. I was finally ready to talk to her. I had begged God to work in her heart. I had begged God to not take her from me but to send us together to the mission field. (I know I was foolish but I was young and came from a culture that believed that God might even take her life if she wouldn’t follow me. So I had prayed long hours.)
Betty sat down on the couch with me. I told her that God had told me that we were to go to Mexico to learn the language, that we would get our support in that year, that we would go to Peru in January of 1988. I asked her to pray with me and tell God that she would do what He had told me to do. She prayed with me.
When I spoke to the mission agency I told them how things were going to work. The director asked me what I would do if it didn’t turn out like I said. I told him that I would then know that God had not spoken to me and I had just imagined it. But it did turn out just like I had thought.
The weird part that you have read is not the story of 99% of the people in the world but it is truly my story. I was certain that He had called me, I knew where He wanted me. I knew that I would learn the language because I knew He had called me. I knew that He would give me my support because He had called me.
I could go on but I think that you get the picture. Now I do not believe that I was right. There was no Scripture to support God speaking to me so clearly. I would never expect anyone else to have such an experience. It has never happened to me again since.
This much I do know. If you do not believe that you are doing what God wants you to do then you will probably not stick. You have to feel like you are on a mission from God. That will give you the fire to get your support. That will help you get through language school. That will help you deal with all the junk that will come your way.
Knowing that read the following that I wrote for others that asked me how to know if they were called. I think it sums up more of a Biblical perspective than what happened to me!
Did God call you?
1. Did you have an intense all consuming desire for the work of God?
This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. I Timothy 3:1.
It is not natural to want to be a missionary. The thought may cross many people’s minds but the truth is that it is only a fleeting thought quickly and easily dismissed by most. It is God who has worked in us both to will (or to put a desire in us that is not natural to us) and do his good pleasure. God placed something in our heart that we could not get away from.
For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Philippians 2:13
Many of us were afraid. Many of us doubted but He did something in us. Don’t you dare doubt that when the trouble comes. Don’t you doubt in the night what God gave you in the light. This desire was so great we couldn’t get it out of our hearts and minds.
2. Did God place a “necessity” on you? Did you feel the “woe”?
For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel! I Corinthians 9:16.
I don’t know what happens, but it seems that one day we are happy in our lives and churches and then something just happens. It may have started with a message from our pastor or a Sunday School lesson. It could have started in a missions conference or reading a book. It may have been something that someone said but it happened. It doesn’t happen to most folks but it did to you. All of a sudden you felt like you couldn’t get away. It may have started as only a passing thought. It was kind of romantic. It was neat to think about but it didn’t go away. Almost everyone has thought about being a missionary, but they get over it. You didn’t because you are different. You are called of God.
Did your “heart stir you up”?
And Moses called Bezaleel and Aholiab, and every wise hearted man, in whose heart the LORD had put wisdom, even every one whose heart stirred him up to come unto the work to do it: Exodus 36:2.
No one can explain it. It is different with everyone, but something happened. You knew it then and even in the worst of times you will need to remember it. When it gets tough and the Devil is on your back you are going to need to remember this. You didn’t choose it. He chose you. He put the unnatural but spiritual desire in your heart. He put a “necessity on you.” He put the “woe on you.” He “stirred up your heart.” Don’t let anyone or anything rob you of that. Don’t let yourself, a “friend”, or the Devil try to explain it away. It is the most precious gift we have in our personal ministry and walk with God. He called me!
Others can see the hand of God on my life and ministry.
He put the burden on me but He also has helped me live a life that met the requirements of the ministry. He gave me the ability. I went before my pastor and he could see that in me. A group of Godly men have examined me and they can see it. Not only do I think that God called me but others recognize it in me. God has placed His hand on me. I feel very humble when I think about it but the God of Heaven has counted me worthy and put me in His ministry. One of the wonderful things about it is that I am not the only one who thinks so. You wouldn’t be here today unless God had impressed on others that you have been called of God. You had to prove your call. You had to let others see it and they did.
I believe God has called me or I wouldn’t sitting here right now.
Now you will travel all around the country while literally thousands more evaluate your call. You will have to believe it or you can’t keep telling people over and over. God called me. God called me. Don’t you forget it when it gets rough. Never make a major decision during times of discouragement and problems.
And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. Galatians 6:9
God has confirmed or will be confirming His call in you.
He opened doors for you in your church, at the mission, in other churches, and in the work. He called you. Never, never forget it. Hold on. He that called you will see you through.
God’s call is what holds me when I get down.
I often think of quitting. I often get tired but then I remember. I am not in Peru because I want to be. I am not going as a missionary because I am a good guy. I am not there because I like it. I didn’t choose to go He called me. I would be afraid to do anything less. When I get down I just remember, (I try to forget), but it is still there I came here under orders. I do not want to embarrass my God, my Calling, my Church, my Mission Board. I will stay. I will not allow myself to think of other things. I will not try to rationalize it. I will not try to figure a way out of it. I will get a hold of God. He sent me He has to help me stay. For 30 years now He has not failed me and He won’t fail you. He has a job for you to do and He will give you more grace and help if you will just allow Him to do so
God chose to call us. God has allowed us to preach the Gospel. God has entrusted His Word to us. He shed His blood and has entrusted His Holy Word to us. I Thessalonians 2:1-4
He Called, He Will Philippians 1:6
“And people who do not know the Lord ask why in the world we waste our lives as missionaries. They forget that they too are expending their lives…and when the bubble has burst they will have nothing of eternal significance to show for the years they have wasted.”– Nate Saint
I like this book about God’s call on your life! It will tell you not to look for what you see in my life. I agree.
Recently I have had two different statements or questions mentioned about being pressured to be a missionary. One asked the question, were you guilted into being a missionary? Another said that it seemed that a ministry of my friends, I wasn’t even there, put too much pressure on those in attendance to be missionaries. I wanted to address this concern.
I do believe that every Christian should feel the pressure to get the gospel to the world. It was the command of the Lord Jesus Christ. Hudson Taylor felt that pressure when he made the following statement:
“The Great Commission is not an option to be considered; it is a command to be obeyed”
Another person has said:
“Christ’s last command should be our first concern”
Dave Davidson said:
“If you found a cure for cancer, wouldn’t it be inconceivable to hide it from the rest of mankind? How much more inconceivable to keep silent the cure from the eternal wages of death.”
William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army said:
“‘Not called!’ did you say? Not heard the call,’ I think you should say. Put your ear down to the Bible, and hear Him bid you go and pull sinners out of the fire of sin. Put your ear down to the burdened, agonized heart of humanity, and listen to its pitiful wail for help. Go stand by the gates of hell, and hear the damned entreat you to go to their father’s house and bid their brothers and sisters and servants and masters not to come there. Then look Christ in the face — whose mercy you have professed to obey — and tell Him whether you will join heart and soul and body and circumstances in the march to publish His mercy to the world.
Click on the picture to purchase a copy of one of my all time favorite, life changing books!
Jim Elliot once said:
“that we do not need a call to get involved in world missions – we need a good swift kick in the pants.”
I want to discuss with you how you know if you should go to the mission field as a foreign missionary. I do want you to know that we would never expect you to go because of guilt or outside pressure. I would hope that God, His Spirit, and His Word would place in you the desire to go to the point that you are willing beyond all understanding to go and serve!
First I would call your attention to what the call is not. The following is from a book “Mission Possible World Missions” by Marian Schindler and Robert Schindler by Sudan Interior Missions
What the call is not:
just feeling sorry for the other guy
a delicious feeling running up and down the spine
a bolt of lightning
a yen to travel
the urge to be a hero
a voice from heaven
but the call is God’s revelation to you of his will that all men hear the gospel.
So, maybe you should stop worrying about the call and start working on the answer?
Here is a CHECKLIST TO SEE IF I AM CALLED AND READY TO GO TO THE MISSION FIELD!
Can you give a clear, confident testimony of your salvation based on the written Word of God?
Can you express clearly and confidently your call to the ministry?
Can others see the hand of God on your life and the proof of your calling?
Has God made it clear to you where it is that He wants you to serve Him?
Are you faithful to your local church, this means all regular services and also any special services?
Do you participate in the soul winning ministry of your church?
Have you ever led anyone to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ?
What ministries do you participate in, in your local church?
Have you ever built a Sunday School class so that your pastor and church can see you exercising your gifts and calling?
Have you ever discipled anyone to the point that they came from nothing and nowhere spiritually to maturity in Christ?
Can you stand alone spiritually or do you need to be pumped up and propped up spiritually?
Have you had a problem finishing what you start?
Have you finished your studies, Bible College, etc.?
Can you explain how you determine the will of God for your life?
How much pulpit experience have you had?
What is your attitude about living around or working with other races of people?
Are you in debt?
How does your family make major decisions? Who has the final word in family decisions?
Can you explain and defend your basic doctrinal beliefs?
I need to remember the following things:
God’s plan for my life is based on the following:
My relationship to Him
My motivation which should be my relationship to God
God’s will for my life will be based on the gifts and abilities that He has given me
As I do God’s will each day in my life where I am then God will show me where He wants me to be
I need not be worried about knowing the where until I really know the who, the what, and the how.
As I prepare myself God will open the doors.
My part is to do all I know to do based on what the Word of God says until God makes it clear to me all the other details
The Call of God is not very clear in Scripture. We are not Old Testament prophets that are going to hear God speaking. Today He speaks through His Word. He would never say something that was not based on what He teaches in the Bible. There is a lot of tradition in our churches about what it means to be called. We often experience things based on what we have been taught even more than what the Scriptures say.
When I was a young boy of about 11 I was at a camp for young boys. I was having stomach issues. I remember all too well how I was embarrassed. I wanted to get back to the bathroom. We were at a campfire service. I didn’t really hear anything that was said. I just wanted to leave. I didn’t feel well.
When we got back to the room my cousin, who was at the camp also said, why didn’t you go forward tonight to give your life to be a missionary. He said that he had fully expected to see me at the front. I played it off. I couldn’t say that I wasn’t there because I was sick or had a messed up stomach.
When I got home I couldn’t get it off of my mind. I had enjoyed the camp very much. There had been a medical doctor there that we called Jean Doc. She was a retired medical missionary who stayed at the camp. I loved going to her cabin and sitting on the porch and hearing her talk about serving God, China, and doing missions work but it never dawned on me that I might be a missionary.
But now that I was back home it was all a little 11 year old boy could think about. As I hoed the garden each day I would day dream. I knew that I couldn’t preach. I was too embarrassed to talk in front of people. I was afraid of what they might think about me. So I decided that I could be a medical missionary.
From that time till college I told everyone that I was going to be medical missionary. I would become a doctor. I would later read about Bill Wallace of China and be very excited about being like him.
When I grew up and went to college it only took one semester to realize that I wasn’t near as interested in biology as I was in teaching the Bible. I decided that I would do something in ministry but not medicine. I still wanted to be a missionary just not a medical missionary.
Betty and I got married. I told her that one day I would be a missionary. I hardly understood what that meant. All I really knew was what I had heard at Vacation Bible School, summer camp, and read in a couple of books that I had read. I just knew that being a missionary was what God wanted me to do.
After marriage Betty and I got the privilege of serving on the church staff of a church in Rome, Georgia area. I was in heaven. I got to teach Sunday School, Training Union, Monday night Bible study, and then Wednesday night Bible study to the youth and couples of my church. I loved it. I couldn’t quit thinking about it. I was in heaven. Those were the most wonderful people in the world.
Later I would go to Tarrant City to work with a friend in another church. I couldn’t believe all that I got to do. It was wonderful. While there I began to realize that maybe I had made a childhood mistake. Maybe I shouldn’t be a missionary. I didn’t want to be a doctor for sure. I wanted to teach the Bible and preach. I was still scared to death but thought that maybe God would let me be a youth pastor and assistant all of my life.
Then Betty and I started a church in Cartersville, Georgia. I was always in heaven. I couldn’t believe the life that I was living. We serve there for 8 years. I thought that I would die in that church and city. I never planned to move.
Then it happened. I began to feel like God was calling me to be a missionary. I didn’t even understand what that meant. I hadn’t done much for missions until this point in my ministry. I had run up to 6 bus routes in my city. I had allowed missionaries to come and speak at our church but that was about it.
I will tell you the rest of the story in the next post. God did some really wild things in my life.
I would love to hear your story. Tell me how God dealt with you. If you think that I am wrong about something that I have written here please let me know. If you have felt guilted into the ministry and want to share your story feel free. I want to discuss God’s call with you!
Please comment. Discuss this with me!
More notes from 1991!
The PROBLEM in starting a new church is that it will not be indigenous in the beginning. You must understand that no church is truly indigenous as long as a missionary is in the church. If a missionary is there they are depending on him to provide the message and give direction and they do not pay his salary. You can try to wait until you have mature Christians, but I am afraid that you will be waiting a long time. It is one thing to start in the states where the folks know something and may already have some interest but in a foreign country it is not like that. Think of them as babies that need your help as you start. They can do nothing for themselves. You open the doors and you close the doors. You sweep and clean. You visit, but as you nurture them along you will train them to do all of this and you will try to work your self out of a job. At first you pay everything and then as you win them and train them they will take the responsibility. From the very first service I take an offering and teach them what they should do. If God the Holy Spirit gets involved you will find that your people will want to take their own responsibility. You will not build an indigenous church overnight and not without much sweat, blood, and tears. You will need to let them begin to do things as soon as possible even though they will not do it the way you would nor as well. It is their church, not yours.
Many folks think that indigenous just means they do not get money from the states, but that is only one small part of the job. They must be self supporting , self governing and self propagating. For that reason many want them to do all the giving while they make all the decisions. Again the plan is that I will treat them just like my child. At the first, I do nearly everything, but each day I will allow them more freedom, and responsibility until they will one day be doing it all and will arrive at indigenous status. Be sure to start teaching immediately what you want even though you do all of the work. Then take the risk let them do the work.
In the actual PRACTICE of starting a church, several things should be considered. By what authority do we start churches on the field? In other words, what principles do we follow and what is the pattern of a New Testament church? As we start our church, what will be our priority? How will we spend the majority of the time? What is our plan to bring them from babes in Christ to maturity? On the field all the theory goes out the window. Many folks discuss the work but you will be faced with the actual problem of doing the work. Where do we begin?
The PRINCIPLE we follow is that of the local church fulfilling the Great Commission. One local church plants another local church through the life of its members. Therefore, the authority behind what we do and are doing is the local church, not the mission. The mission is an handmaiden of the local church, helping her to fulfill her mission. There are many valuable jobs that the mission fulfills but we must be certain to never think of the mission as being the authority. God’s word does not show us the mission board but it teaches us of the local church. This is not to say that there is no need for the mission board. The board will be of great help to you. It will help by establishing who you are and what you believe to the churches you are going to visit. It will give you guidelines to follow on the field. It will give you someone with experience who you can turn to when you do not know what to do. However, we are not starting churches for the mission board. The Bible gives examples of this principle in the life of Paul. Paul did not simply choose to go as a missionary. He was called and sent out by the Holy Ghost and from his local church.
Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid [their] hands on them, they sent [them] away. So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus. Acts 13:1-4
They were sent out by the local church under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. They did not go because they so chose or because a mission board sent them. Upon their return after their first journey, they report to their churches.
And thence sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled. And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles. Acts 14:26-27
It should always be remembered by what authority we are starting churches. We do so as a ministry out of our local church. The mission serves the local church as a handmaiden. We are not sent out by the mission. We answer first to the local church. Without a doubt the mission serves in a wonderful way, but we do not find in the Bible one mission board. As you start your church it will be the daughter of your home church.
Whenever you can you will need to organize the church with a charter and bylaws etc. We do not start churches based on the authority of the mission. We are out of a local church and the church we start will actually be a daughter of our home church. You start your church based on the authority given us by the Bible and the local church which has sent us out.
What is exactly the work of a missionary on the foreign field? Do we go to win folks to the Lord? Are we an evangelist? Many have heard the stories of literally thousands saved in only one week of evangelistic campaigns. Someone goes to a foreign country and shows a film and preaches through an interpreter and upon his return we hear of all that God has done and how the folks are literally begging for tracts and Bibles. I do not want to belittle this effort but we all realize that after the campaign it can be very difficult even to find all the “converts”. It is hard for the normal person to understand missionary work. We go and we win a few here and there and baptize them and have trouble getting them to live right but the evangelist has so much success in such a short time. As missionaries we must learn that our job is to start local, indigenous New Testament Baptist Churches. The missionary does not go to the field to win souls although he will have to do so to do his job. We go to start churches.
The principle is that of the indigenous church. The dictionary says the word indigenous means “produced, growing, or living naturally in a country or climate native to the location. For us that means a church that is (1) self-governing, (2) self-supporting, and (3) self-propagating.
By “self-governing,” we mean a church that is able to govern itself and make its own decisions. As a missionary, my job is to win people to Christ, baptize them and then teach them to so do the work that they will be able to win souls, baptize them, and carry on all the functions of a local New Testament church without outside intervention. They must learn how to do all the work. They will call their pastor. They will baptize. They will have Sunday School. They will send missionaries. When the missionary has finished his job in a local church they will be able to carry on in a manner that is pleasing to our Lord and they will be able to carry on the work of God as well as any church in the United States. They will reach maturity when and when they become a living, breathing, reproducing, understanding organism like any other mature church. At first they will depend on the missionary for many things. The missionary tells them how to do things and also when to do them. As they mature they will learn how to find out from God’s word what He wants and they will begin looking for ways to do the work of God. They will then learn how to walk in the Spirit and teach others how to do so also.
The danger here is, if and when the church decides to be self governing, it does not know how to do so. The church is not to be, in all honesty, even a democracy. Decisions have to be made based on what the Bible teaches and not necessarily what the people as a group want. The church will need, however, to learn to make decisions without looking to any outside source for its leadership. The Bible, the Holy Spirit, and the local body will make the decision. Too often the church on the field has had to obey the missionaries. We believe in the local church. That indicates that the church is not to look to Rome or even your home town and church. We must so prepare them that they can know how to take the word of God and find the leadership of the Lord for their church. That means they must be taught how to make spiritual decisions as they follow the leadership of the Lord. They must not be under pressure from us to do what we want.
Often the mission boards choose to own the buildings so that the people are forced to do what the mission says. To be truly indigenous we will have to get them to a point that we can take our hands off and yes run the risk that they will do something we do not want them to do. Consider Paul in the book of Acts as he finishes his first missionary journey. He ordains elders and then commends them to the Lord
And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.
We must teach and train our people to the point that they can make decisions, follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit and call their own pastors. They will not be able to do so until they really learn the basic principles from the word of God and how to apply them. Train up a church in the way it should go and when it is indigenous it will not depart from it.
I wrote the following in 1991 but still think that there are things you can glean from!
How to Plant an Indigenous Church
How do we plant an indigenous church? What will be the PLAN to use in starting your first church? Obviously, each country will have its own peculiarities and each missionary will do things differently, but we will present at least an idea or plan to refer to, should you so desire.
From beginning to end, all depends on PRAYER.
Be sure to know the will of God in what you are doing.
Many people quit because they do not know what God’s will is for them when the discouraging times come. They begin to think that they are where they are because they decided to do so without the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Be sure he has called you and then ask his guidance, waiting on him for guidance on where you will work. Seek his power. Seek his direction as to where, when and who will help. Be careful to pray wisely. Drive around. Look at the folks and find out where the need is. Wait on him to show you just where to begin. You need not hide from other churches but it might be wiser not to start a church right next door to another church. What economic level will you work with? Be sure to find out where the best location is. Determine what was in the building before you and if you are close to a bar, etc. Starting the church is not something you will do lightly or quickly if you want God’s blessing on what you are doing. Be careful to start in a place that will leave open doors to carry the ministry forward.
Pray about the will of God as to who will help you start the work.
Will you work with a national or will you be alone?
Maybe you can get at least temporary help from another church in the area. They could go visiting with you, sing specials, give testimonies. Often times there is no one to help so you just go and start by yourself. Be careful to not jump in with out praying and planning, but neither should you waste time just because you are scared or nervous. I have personally known people in Peru that took months and one fellow years to get started because they where studying everything. He actually spent 4 years traveling the Amazon River before he started his first work. He knew where all the fishing holes were. He told me this himself. There is too much to do to be wasting our time like that. Work for the night is coming.
After much prayer and finding out who will help you it will be time to find a PLACE to meet. You need to be careful to get a good location where the people can find you. You need to study the area to see where the other churches are and where the people live. It is wise, especially in a third world country, to find a safe place because the people are often afraid to go out at night to certain areas.
Rent a place big enough for what you want to do.
You will need a place where at least 40 or 50 people can sit, a place with a bathroom, etc. Of course you will need to think of how the people of your country think and not what you are accustomed to here in the states. If you are able to do so you should put up a sign advertising the church and the services. Make it a good one. If you are in a country where you can not advertise a church, like Mexico, maybe you could use one of the portable signs that you can put up and down on service day. (Back in the day in Mexico many were afraid of losing their property to the government if they rented their place to someone to start a church! I do not think this is a problem today.)
Once you have your place you will need to get chairs, a pulpit and offering plates.
I always try to have Testaments or Bibles present until the people can buy their own.
I provide song sheets or hymn books, etc. I know what you are thinking. If it is an indigenous church, shouldn’t it be self supporting? Yes, it should and will be when you have been there long enough and done enough. Even in the states, when a man starts a church from scratch, he has to provide everything initially. There are folks who do not believe in providing anything. However, you will sure lose a lot of time getting folks saved and teaching them the Bible when they don’t have one and can’t see one. In Latin America, it is often very difficult to buy land in a city once you have started due to the fact that all the land is taken. At least in Peru there are very seldom any vacant lots. Try to rent where you will be able to stay long enough to raise the money to build and buy because it will not be easy.
There are still many PREPARATIONS to make even after you have gotten your place to work and found the place you will meet. It is good to print and use literally thousands of invitations, passing them out door to door, in the streets, market places, and public meeting places. Never give out an invitation without a tract because the majority of the people who receive the tract will not come. It would also be good to fix up some posters that you can put around in the public places so that people will know what you are doing. We even use a public address system to drive around inviting the people to come. I decided a long time ago that even though the majority will not come, I at least want everyone to know what we are doing.
I try to make a lot of “noise” about the opening of a new church.
The PROCEDURE then is to plan what you will do to get started. You might hold a week of meetings with gospel films followed by preaching or maybe just a regular service with Bible study. Which ever you do, you will need to go out and invite folks all around the area. I literally visit every house in the neighborhood with a gospel tract and an invitation. Many times we make plans to go back every day or every week with a new gospel tract. We do not stay long because our goal is to get folks out to the meeting. If you plan a week of meetings you might consider inviting other Christians from another area to come and give personal testimonies of what Jesus has done in their lives and what the Bible and the church mean to them. It is also good to have some special singing if you can. What we do is sing and have testimonies, then show the film, followed more testimonies.
We then preach on the same idea of the film, trying to get folks to stay afterwards to talk with us about salvation. Be sure to sing the same simple chorus over and over so that the people will learn them and remember them. Once you know what you will do and when then it is time to go visiting, be sure to visit much. When I knock on a door in Peru I ask for the man and teach the others to do the same. The church (at least in Latin countries) has too long been a thing of the women. I make my church a place for men. I do not use women much and when they are able to start making decisions I use the men of the church. By the way, I know missionaries that use women as deacons and song leaders, etc. I do not think that is scriptural nor wise in most cultures. Be sure to invite the world.
Be sure to go to the market and to all public meeting places with your invitations. You never know where God has someone that will come. Due to the amount of work necessary we usually visit and advertise a week of meetings up to a couple of week before it really gets started. Before leaving the idea of using the campaign, let me tell what the Christian Missionary Alliance is doing in Lima, Peru. They will plan a campaign of up to two weeks and then will visit and work for a month getting ready. Then after a campaign of two weeks they will have follow up for two weeks and then another campaign. They go this way for an entire year. Currently in Peru they have the largest and most powerful churches. This schedule is obviously very difficult, but it has worked.
A couple of PRACTICAL POINTERS TO FINISH THE IDEA.
The hardest part is getting your first group of people together.
Once you have some who will attend you can begin training them to win souls and to visit . They will bring their families. They will invite their friends if they have really made a decision. You must kill yourself to get those first ones. Use your people from the first day. Let them help with the visitation. As soon as someone shows some promise let him do something in the service that is not really important. He can welcome people or maybe later take up the offering. You need to do all you can to win them and then let them know that the church is theirs and for them. To be honest, it takes a miracle from God to get a church going but He will do it. We must be careful to go in his power and Spirit. Remember that the communists are using the young people to get their movements going. Don’t be afraid to use the older teens. Let them visit and invite also. The more involved they are, the better. They will not be what you want in a church member the first day, but if you can love them and teach them they will get to where they should be. Remember that it is all new to them.
Place Nationals in Places of Leadership
Place nationals in places of leadership from day one and let them fail. Now how is that for a contradiction of what we said before. The point of this chapter is to help you realize how important it is to immediately put the nationals into leadership. You will not find “ready made leaders.” You will have to develop them. As you train your men to serve God you will have to put them in the work so that they can fail. If they do not fail they will not learn from their mistakes. Theory is one thing and practice is quite another.
Consider how Jesus tested His men as He trained them. In Luke 10:1 He sends the apostles out to preach and do the ministry. His purpose is actually to test them and show how much they have learned. They come back in Luke 10:17 and discuss the ministry with them. He corrects them about what they should rejoice about. They were excited that the devils had been subject to them. He wants them to realize that the power He gives them is never the exciting part. The important thing is that they know that their names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Jesus takes the time to correct them. Now that they have some experience and not just theory He can teach them more.
In Luke 8:22 the Lord Jesus clearly tells them that they are going to the other side. He says “let us go over!” This is something that is going to happen but when the storm comes up they get very afraid. This is a tremendous test. Can they trust Jesus to get them to the other side no matter the circumstances? When they are afraid He corrects them. He asks them where their faith is! Teaching in the classroom is one thing. Teaching in a storm will not be forgotten.
In John 6:6 He knows what He will do but He still asks. It makes for a good teaching time. Have you guys learned to think yet? It is a pop quiz, check up time. If you wait until your gone to test them you will be unable to help them get the answers right.
Use the ministry to train your people. Do not use your people to build the ministry. He explained the ministry to His people. He then let them go and test their knowledge and ability. When they failed or messed up on something He was there to help them. They needed to test the theories. They needed to see how it would work in their own lives and ministries. Just remember that the secret of your success is helping your people have success in their spiritual lives and ministries. You are not really a success until you have made others a success and until you have a successor.
You will not find leaders that are ready made. You will have to love them, lead them, and train them. Do not expect perfection from them. Know that you are working with flawed men. Know that they need you. If they were in such good shape and ready made leaders then why would they need you.
The next question will be what positions of leadership can they have. So let me remind you that leadership should really be view as servanthood. There are no verses in the Bible that would lead us to be leaders as in bosses. Biblically the idea of being a leader is viewed negatively in the Bible.
Matthew 20:25-27 But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:
We are not to be about our titles and positions. This goes against what much of our culture has taught us as missionaries and pastors. We want the titles. We want the positions. We breed it into our people and so they want it also. This causes a great deal of fighting for position.
Matthew 23:8-12 But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.
So when we consider giving them a position of leadership it is not about being the pastor. It is about starting them in some sort of ministry. Make a list of every possible ministry a person can have in your church from being a greeter, usher, cleaning, nursery, Sunday School teacher, discipleship, etc. Start with the smallest things that need doing. Do not promise more later. Do not tell them that they are being tested to be moved up. You do not tell them everything you know. Let them try their hand at a ministry that is within their abilities. Teach them. Make that ministry as big as you can. It is important. Everything that we do in the ministry is important. Serving is leading.
Be careful not to build into them the need to be recognized or important. Remember the command that we are not to have titles, not to lord it over others, but to serve them. Teach them serving. Teach them that it is not about them but Him. Teach them to lift up the Lord and make much of Him. Teach them that it is an honor to serve others.
As they lead remind them of this passage:
Philippians 2:19 But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state. For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.
So remember that as you train them to lead you are really training them to serve. If you are not careful you will have the wrong attitude and you will build it into your people. Regardless, you need to give them responsibility and let them try. When they fail and they will, help them, love them, and teach to do it better next time. They can’t learn without trying and failing until they learn.