In my Theology of Missions class this past week, a missionary came in and spoke to us about his life and missionary work. He’s from America and he serves in a closed country. I recorded a few things he said and thought they were worth passing along. These aren’t direct quotes, and I’m obviously not going to identify the person since he serves in a closely-monitored country, but here are some of his thoughts. You may disagree, but he’ll at least make you think. Personally, I think his emphases are all necessary. Even if they’re not the only perspectives, they’re the emphases that are needed in my context.
Church Size: Constructing a big church building and making it your mecca for worship is not the way to spread the gospel. In America we like to build big congregations, get a good preaching pastor, and sit at his feet and learn. But this is not the way to spread the gospel. Some churches in _____ are starting to think that this is the best way to spread the gospel because that’s how the American church does it, but they’re mistaken. Unfortunately it appeals to the _____ culture because they have great respect for their teachers and they’re ready to sit at the feet of a teacher for years until they themselves become the teacher and repeat the process.
Church Growth: A church isn’t really growing if it’s not active in missions and evangelism.
Expository Preaching: I believe in expository preaching, but expository preaching often doesn’t send people out to do the Lord’s work. People sit and soak it up and learn a lot, but they don’t do much. [I thought this was a very interesting insight. Personally, I think there’s a problem with the way we usually do expository preaching. We educate, but we don’t inspire and motivate. The problem isn’t with expository preaching; the problem is with us. But that doesn’t make it a smaller problem.]
Knowledge and Evangelism: In _____ with our people, they become believers and all they know is the gospel and their testimony. I tell them to go out and share it. If they have questions, they can come back and ask me and I’ll help them. Then I continue to train them. But as I train them, I tell them to go out and share what they’re learning with others. They must be active in evangelism. In America, when you become a believer, you become a part of a church and you sit and you learn for years. The thought is that you can’t do anything yet because you don’t know anything yet. So we sit and sit and sit and learn and learn and learn and never try to do much until years later when we’re so used to sitting and learning that we aren’t good for much else.
Church: I want the people to know that they are the church; it’s not a building. In the ____ language, there are two words for church — one for the place, one for the people. In America there’s only one word, and we really confuse the two.
Discipleship: If you take anything away from my time with you, remember to emphasize obedience-based discipleship instead of knowledge-based discipleship.