mission

 

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The Mission of the Church

MT.28:18-20 – All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have command you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

How will we accomplish this?

Description of the various mission philosophies

  1. A missionary functioning primarily as a CHURCH-PLANTER/teacher.[1]
  2. A missionary functioning primarily as a TENT-MAKER/church-planter.
  3. A missionary functioning primarily as a TEACHER/church-planter.

CHURCH-PLANTER/teacher

Traditionally, the church has implemented the first option. In this philosophy the missionary is fundamentally a church-planter and only a part-time teacher. He enters a country, he selects a region and/or city, and then he starts a church. He builds it from the ground up. He has responsibility over all the administrative tasks, evangelistic outreaches, and discipleship programs. Once the church is fully functional he moves on to another region. He begins the process all over again. During this time he is only secondarily a teacher/pastoral trainer because he contributes a majority of his time to all the various tasks required for church planting. He only trains pastors, as he is able in conjunction with his present church development. This model works well among unreached people groups where there is a minimal Christian influence. However, the weakness of this method is that the missionary contributes a majority of his time to physical, administrative tasks. These tasks are necessary but considering the missionary’s overhead, this model might not make the best use of the resources that he has been entrusted.

TENT-MAKER/church-planter

In this philosophy the missionary primarily views himself as one who works full-time in a secular/professional occupation or potentially in a mercy ministry. His work often includes assisting nationals in their own professional development. He lives among the people and evangelizes them. The gospel witness in his life is just as important to him as his proclamation of the message. Typically, he will assist in the planting of indigenous churches. This is as he is able in accordance with his other responsibilities. This philosophy works exceptionally well in hostile and restricted access countries. It also has a minimal overhead, and so it is very attractive as a model for quick deployment and long-term sustainability. Nevertheless, it too has its limitations. A majority of the missionary’s time is still given to physical tasks. Additionally, the missionary is focused on converting and discipling on a micro-level. He will likely only reach several individuals that he will mentor and eventually see reach spiritual maturity.

These first two methods do have their place in the context of the church and global missions. We do not want to minimize this reality.[2] Indeed our mission board, Serge, operates primarily from the second category. However, we must ask the question, “Will these two philosophies alone reach the nations?” This is a very legitimate and critical question because the reality is that there are approximately 4.2 billion people in Asia. In Southeast Asia alone there are approximately 620 million people. Considering the overhead of $50,000-$80,000 per American missionary, we must question if these philosophies alone will provide real and tangible solutions to the macro-level problem that faces the church.

TEACHER/church-planter

We believe that the addition of a third complimentary philosophy can provide a real solution to this problem. The third model is the TEACHER/church-planter. In this model the missionary assumes the primary role of teacher/pastoral trainer. The missionary contributes the majority amount of his time to instruction of future pastors and missionaries. He assists and mentors his students as they start churches and conduct missions’ work, and of course he is partially involved in a church plant himself. However, he is not the main church-planter. If we approach missions from this method, we believe that we can maximize our cost/effectiveness ratio with the hope that with strategic planning and training we will have a much greater impact for the kingdom. Consider the difference between a missionary successfully starts five churches in his missionary career to one who trains 10 to 20 solid and successful church planters. With all things considered equal, if we make a conservative estimation that the typical indigenous church will have an average attendance of 50 persons, an effective church-planter may reach and disciple 250 total persons. Whereas, throughout the course of a teaching career, if at least 10 to 20 students become successful and seasoned church-planters, that same missionary can produce 500 to 1000 mature disciples. From this comparison, we see the enormous potential for a philosophy that implements a TEACHER/church-planter model.

Biblical Support

When we examine the gospels, especially Matthew’s gospel, the location of the great commission, we find that this is comparable to Jesus’s philosophy. Although he does travel around Israel as an itinerant prophet, preaching the kingdom and healing, his primary task is that of teaching.[3] His students are his twelve disciples. He trains them for approximately three years and then, he commissions them to go to the nations. It may be noted that although Jesus is declared to be the fulfillment of Isaiah in that he is a “light to the nations,” he does not actually fulfill this among all the nations.[4] His ministry is concentrated only around Galilee. However it becomes the prototype in the gospel for the archetype of the ministry of his disciples. The messiah’s plan then is to send his messengers on his behalf to the world. We see this trajectory in the gospels in the preaching of the kingdom from John’s ministry, which is constrained to the wilderness of Judea, Jesus ministry, which is constrained to Israel, and finally his disciples, which are now to take it to the world. The key to this analysis is that he concentrates his time and energy in the twelve disciples. This is intentional. We know from Acts that they are successful.[5]

Paul’s philosophy was much in line with Jesus’s in that he also spent much of his time primarily training leaders in the various churches and then sending out his own disciples, Timothy and Titus, to start and maintain churches.[6] The early church was very strategic in reaching the known world. Paul was a visionary and was very premeditated so that he could accomplish his mission (“for obedience of faith among all the nations for the sake of his name” Rom. 1:5b). It is because of this that we must also have this vision. How are we going to reach 4.2 billion people in Asia?

Why the Philippines?

We have chosen the Philippines primarily because we believe that the Lord has called both Bethany and I to that mission field.[7] Although there is an existent evangelical church in the Philippines, it is not fully matured. It is struggles with infiltration and growth of cults and false-doctrine. They need help especially in the province. There are many pastors that need formal training in order to lead and protect their congregations. In addition, the Philippines is a strategic country for reaching Asia with the gospel. There are several key reasons for this.

  1. The Philippines is one of the more evangelized nations in Asia.[8] That is, there is already a strong Christian foundation in place.
  2. The Filipino is the world’s proletariat.[9] This means that Filipinos are well accustomed to traveling for work and living in different cultures. This is especially true in restricted access countries.
  3. The Filipino is a very adaptable people-group. Because of their difficult economic situation, many Filipinos live very frugally and can adjust quickly and positively to the most difficult living situations.
  4. They are very intelligent. Most are either bi-lingual or tri-lingual. This means that they understand how language works and are able to learn quickly different languages and cultures.
  5. They are a very humble and friendly people.

Therefore,

Our Vision

We desire to train the future generation in the areas of pastoral training, mentorship, discipleship, and ESL programs for the goal of advancing the Kingdom of Heaven in Asia through the Filipino.

Tangible Steps towards this Goal

  1. Partnership with PTS College and Advanced Studies – Long-term partnership. PTS College has currently international students from all over Southeast and South Asia. In my class, which I taught last summer in addition to the Filipino students, there were students present from Bangladesh, Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Thailand.
  2. Partnership with Bicol School of Theology – Long-term partnership. This is a bible college in the Bicol region. They have a solid base of students that graduate with a 2 year or 3 year bible college degree. The degree program is insufficient for both church planters and missionaries. It is the desire of their President Jeyoung Jung and myself to take BST to the next level. We are planning to develop a seminary curriculum that is sensitive to the Asian/Filipino context and to establish a missions center, which is intentional in sending Filipino missionaries throughout Southeast Asia.
  3. Assistance in the Filipino’s professional development – We do agree with the TENT-MAKING/church-planting philosophy as being part of the necessary equation. Therefore, our desire is also to equip Filipino pastors and missionaries with the ability to support themselves and/or to obtain professional work to offset their life expenses. An ESL program is one way which we feel that we can accomplish this.

[1] Teacher is used in the technical category, which describes a seminary professor or one who trains pastors. This is to be in contrast to the teaching and instruction of disciples in the church.

[2] Patrick Lai states, “Tentmaking is not a new idea. It is as old as the Scriptures. There is no need to argue about it being a better or worse method of sending Christian missionaries than other approaches. Both regular missionaries and tentmakers are biblical models and are urgently needed if the task of world evangelization is to be completed. Patrick Lai, Tentmaking: The Life and Work of Business as Missions (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 9.

[3] We can be sure of this because of the fronting of this function in the three-fold description of his ministry (Matt. 4:23; 9:35). Additionally, Matthew highlights his teaching more than any other gospel writer by scattering massive teaching blocks throughout his narrative account (Matt 5–7; 10:5–42; 13:10–52; 18:1–35; 23:1–39; 24:1–25:46). We also note that the word “to teach.” Occurs more than the rest of his functions, namely healing and preaching (30x – “to teach and its cognates”; 10x – “to preach and its cognates”; 16x – “to heal and its cognates”).

[4] Matthew 4:14–16 cites Isaiah 9:1–2.

[5] Acts introduces the great commission and the expansion to Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8). This is then fulfilled throughout the rest of the book (Acts 1:12, 2:5–13, 8:1-3; 28:28–31).

[6] This does not deny the reality that he also engaged in tent-making and church planting (Acts 16:1–5; 20:17–35).

[7] There was an initial confirmation and then a struggle for it to be confirmed. We wrestled with the need for unreached people groups. During this period we had multiple interviews with Wycliffe Bible Translators and attended a weeklong seminar on Bible Translation. However, the Lord confirmed our calling to the Philippines. However, he added to our vision the desire to see the unreached converted through the training of Filipino missionaries.

[8] There are approximately 5,803,000 Protestants in the Philippines. This includes all categories, namely both conservative and liberal mainline Protestants. Jason Mandryk, Operation World: The Definitive Prayer Guide to Every Nation, Rev. 7th ed. (Colorado Springs: Biblica Publishing, 2010), 683.

[9] The Philippine Mission Association estimates that there are over one million evangelical Filipinos working in the Middle East. Lai, Tentmaking, 22.