Birth of a church…
That team of missionaries we’ve been telling you about all summer long have witnessed the birth of the church among the Wantakia people of Papua New Guinea. The teaching finally reached the story of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. Many people embraced the gospel on that day but the story doesn’t end there. The team continued on with teaching and are now going back thru the stories to strengthen the believers in what they heard. They will now move forward in teaching the people thru the epistles and what it means to be rooted in Christ.
Take a good look at these missionaries. They aren’t any different than you. …And they didn’t have to walk away from their previous careers or houses and lands and family. Or did they? As one of the men on the team said “I was asking ‘What is God’s will for my life? when I realized I was asking the wrong question. I should have been asking ‘What is God’s will and how do I fit into it.”
Missionaries aren’t anything extraordinary; they are much like any believer’ or individual in life. We all have our issues and distresses. But I can tell you they are individuals with deep compassion for lost people. …And they are willing
to do something about it. Those serving with Ethnos360 are not missionaries because they went to some faraway place. No, they were already active witnesses ‘here’ wanted to go ‘there’ to impact lost people with the gospel.
Here, there, wherever… God wants all believers to be active and devoted to the directive He’s given us to ‘make disciples’ among all peoples.
Establishing maturing churches… what does it take?
The growth of the church, not by number, but by spiritual maturity, is dependent upon each believer understanding the foundational truths of God’s Word. Most places where our teams minister are like untilled fields where seeds of truth have not been sown. People living in such areas are considered the least-reached of the unreached world. It is important to us as it is to God that such ones hear the gospel.
People everywhere have some sense of a greater being, though millions remain in darkness and live unfulfilled lives because such a being is a mystery to them. They live in fear, placating spirits or performing ritual to escape the bondage that drives their fear. Round and round they go… nothing changes and bondage deepens. It is in such places that we put teams of missionaries to bring the complete story of God.
Beginning with God’s character, the teaching moves through creation’s story and truths set forth in the scriptures that expose man’s sinfulness, and ultimately points him towards a coming savior. I guess you could say it compares to assembly instructions –you don’t start in the middle of the instruction booklet to assemble a complicated piece of equipment; you start at the beginning. …And so it is with unfolding God’s story. Get that right, you set in motion the foundation for understanding and belief, from which you see God doing just as Jesus described when he said “I will build my church.”
People often tell us church planting among indigenous people must be a very difficult task… it is. Nevertheless, we believe churches here on the home-front have the more difficult job. Here’s why:
On any given Sunday you have a broad range of people coming for services. You have saved and unsaved individuals. Among the saved there are new believers, untaught believers, mediocre believers, and maturing believers. In most churches there is no means to distinguish between these levels of spiritual growth. Therefore, we believe pastors and elders HERE have the more difficult task in ministering to such ones.
While the biblical role of the church is to minister to the believer, nurturing growth and equipping for service, much of that goes unheeded depending on the understanding of each individual. Thus the necessity of the church putting solid biblical foundations in place and making discipleship a priority for every believer.
Perhaps you are wondering how this works in our efforts of church planting among indigenous peoples. Let me explain: As mentioned earlier, we unpack the entire story of God, start to finish. Once we have believing individuals we focus on discipleship and rooting them in Christ. A church is born. But what about those who come along later –ones who haven’t been taught as the others? This is where the distinguishing factor comes in.
From among the first group of believers we appoint and equip spiritually qualified individuals who will teach such ones just as the original group was taught the foundational truths of Who God Is, and then moving through the scriptures from creation to the resurrection. Next is the discipleship of the believing ones. This cycle is repeated over and over as we equip and nurture the church. Evangelism and discipleship is an integral part of church growth. Again, not growth by number but by spiritual maturity.
Interestingly, these believers have a strong sense of urgency in getting the gospel to loved ones and clans living beyond their territories, as well as reaching across barriers to other language groups. It is in context of seeing every tribe, people and language reached with the gospel that Joyce and I serve as mission mobilizers. If we can ignite compassion for lost people in the hearts of believers here, then we believe God will raise up those who will join in reaching those waiting to hear the gospel there.
For the gospel and God’s glory,
Dave & Joyce Hilt,
Global Missions Advocates and mission mobilizers with ETHNOS360 —Don’t stand still too long!