mr. t.......... on mission

encouraging one another to be on God's mission

Sunday, January 21, 2007

changing going public

If anyone is checking, I am still around. I have not posted for a long time due to some major changes. My wife and I had planned to return to South Asia by the end of this month. However, the Lord made it clear that He has another plan for us. We are in the process of changing jobs and are now transitioning to do missions through our local church. If you are still interested in continuing our conversation about missions... please go to the new blog at Travel Light.

Yes, mr.t is going public! No need to continue an anonymous blog. So, I look forward to learning more from you and sharing more about what God is teaching us through this wonderful adventure on God's mission.

Monday, December 11, 2006

missionary roles

Missionaries are sent out by the Holy Spirit through a church for the work the Spirit has called them to do (Acts 13:3,4). We saw in the last post how missionary ministry is different from pastoral ministry. The missionary never stays where he spreads the word and plants church but continues led by the Spirit to new harvest fields. Paul stayed in most places for only weeks, sometimes months. Only on three occasions he stayed in a particular field for more than one year. Paul never abandoned the new churches that he planted. There were others that stayed behind or sent later to strengthen and encourage. Paul would often revisit the churches after leaving. Paul also corresponded with the churches. Should all missionaries follow Paul’s model of staying only for a short period of time and then moving on? Do all missionaries have the same role as Paul? Look at what Paul says to the church at Corinth:

Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but servants through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. We are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building” (I Corinthians 3:5-9).

I see at least four insights concerning missionary roles in this passage:
1. The mission is not about the missionary. It is about God. The Lord gives the harvest of new believers and He gives the increase of that harvest. The missionaries are not anything but lowly servants, or field hands, playing their assigned role.
2. Paul played the role of a planter. He spread the gospel until he found good soil where he could plant church.
3. Apollos played the role of a cultivator. He nurtured the new plant so that it could grow and reproduce.
4. Even though Paul and Apollos did not work together directly, they were fellow servants and part of a larger team effort.

Timothy was another that played a role different from Paul. We know that Paul sent him to the Corinthians to “remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church” (I Cor. 4:17). We see many examples of disciples sent to play a cultivating role in the life of new churches. Barnabas and John Mark revisited Cyprus (Acts 15:39). Timothy and Silas remained in Macedonia a little longer (Acts 17:14). Priscilla and Aquila stayed in Ephesus (Acts 18:19) and ended up helping Apollos. Paul sent Timothy several places to cultivate churches and leaders. Paul also sent other fellow workers like Epaphroditus (Phil. 2:25) and Titus (Titus 1:5). We could name several others who played a role in the life of newly planted churches. These were not elders (pastors) but missionaries serving in a team effort to encourage and strengthen the new churches (and pastoral leaders) to grow and reproduce.

Did Paul do some cultivating? Of course he did. We can assume there were times that Apollos planted. But cultivating was not Paul's major role. God called him to lay the foundation for new churches among the gentiles. His goal was to proclaim Christ where there was no church and not to build on another's foundation (Romans 15:20).

Missionaries are outsiders; we don’t take the place of local indigenous leadership. As missionaries, we should be careful to play the role that the Holy Spirit has prepared for each one of us. Some will be more like Paul and do the planting. Many will be more like Apollos and do the cultivating. Hopefully none of us missionary outsiders will take a role that belongs to a local leader or local believers.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

when is it time to leave?

Perhaps the most difficult time in the life of a missionary/church planter is when it is time to leave. One church planter, Darrell , raised the question in a comment from the last post. How do we know when it is time to leave? What characteristics should the new church or churches demonstrate? Before I offer an opinion, let's look at the apostle Paul's example. Below is a summary of where Paul went during his missionary journeys. You will find the reference from the book of Acts, approximately how long he stayed, and the results. This comes from a document by S. Smith (from our org in Asia).

PAUL'S MISSIONARY MINISTRY (Total time - approximately 8 to 10 years)

Island of CYPRUS
13:4-5 Cyprus 4-6 weeks - Word shared in whole island of Cyprus.
13:6-12 Paphos (Cyprus) 2 weeks - Proconsul believes; possible church plant; miracle.

Province of PHRYGIA
13:14-52 Pisidion Antioch (capital of Phrygia) 3 weeks or more (possibly longer) - Church planted; word spread through the whole region (13:49); movement resulted, HS filled disciples; mainly gentiles; run out by persecution; weekly or daily meetings.

Province of GALATIA
14:1-6 Iconium (Galatia) "long time" 4-8 weeks? - Church planted; large number believed (v.1); bold witness with signs; stayed until run out by persecution.
14:6-20 Lystra (Galatia) 2 weeks - Church planted; some believers; no great results; stoned and run out of town by Jews.
14:20-21 Derbe (Galatia) several weeks? - Church plant & many disciples; preached gospel; good results.

14:21-23 Lystra, Iconium, P. Antioch (Galatia & Phrygia) several weeks - Re-visited disciples; strengthened them, encourage them to continue in face of persecution; appointed elders in each church (churches solidified); commended to Lord.

Province of PAMPHYLIA
14:25 Perga (Pamphylia) 1-2 weeks - Shared the gospel but no evidence of results.

15:39 Cyprus - Barnabas and Mark re-visit disciples.

16:1-5 Derbe, Lystra, Iconium (Galatian region) several weeks or months - Strengthened the churches and disciples; impression that the number of churches has multiplied; disciples still increasing daily; Timothy taken as a team member.

16:6-7 Asia, Mysia, Bithynia several weeks - FORBIDDEN by Holy Spirit from sharing. Not the right time???

Province of MACEDONIA (Europe)
16:12-40 Philippi (capital of Macedonia) 2 weeks - Church plant; via 2 people of peace; miracle; sent away by authorities.
17:1-9 Thessalonica (Macedonia) 4-5 weeks - Church plant & large number of disciples; Jason as leader? Run out by Jews; weekly meetings, "day & night". "Upset the whole world!"
17:10-14 Berea (Macedonia) several weeks - Church and many disciples; Jews ran out Paul, but Silas & Timothy REMAIN a little longer.

Province of ACHAIA (Greece)
17:16-34 Athens (Achaia) 2 weeks - Few disciples, possible church plant; left because of poor response?
18:1-18 Corinth (Achaia) 1 and 1/2 years - Weekly training; great harvest; raised up Priscilla & Aquila, Titius Justus. This time NOT run out but protected by authorities. Taught the word of God to them. Probably all of Achaia (Greece) evangelized from here.

Province of ASIA
18:19-21 Ephesus (Capital of Asia) 1 week - Great interest from locals, Paul decides to return one day. Priscilla & Aquila left there.

18:23 Phrygia & Galatia several weeks - Re-visited churches strengthening disciples.

Province of ASIA
18:24-20:1 Ephesus (Asia) 3 years - Apollos continues witness. He leaves & Paul finds disciples there. Then begins witnessing & training daily regarding the kingdom of God. Everyone in Province of Asia hears word! Seven churches of Revelation started. Great miracles, radical commitment by disciples (life transformation). Apparently Ephesus is the base for mission (the new Antioch?). Great uproar. Night & day for 3 years with tears Paul admonished believers (20:31). Paul finally leaves.

20:1-2 Macedonia several weeks, months - Re-visited and encouraged the disciples.
20:2-3 Greece (Achaia) 3 months - Re-visited and encouraged the disciples; run out by Jews.
20:3-5 Macedonia short visit - On way back to Jerusalem.

20:6-12 Troas (Asia) 1 week - Encourages disciples from the Asia mission in Ephesus.
20:15-38 Miletus (Asia) 1 week - Final exhortation to Ephesian elders to take up their shepherding responsibilities.

Okay, did you notice anything about the length of time Paul stayed in any one place? Most of the time it was very short, only weeks, maybe months. The longest period of time was three years. So, we can learn from this that there is no certain length of time required to plant viable churches.

Another observation is that Paul laid the foundation, baptizing initial believers and teaching them to obey before moving on. After leaving, we see Paul's teammates often stayed behind or revisited. Sometimes Paul revisited the church or churches to encourage and strengthen them. We also know that he followed up through correspondence. So, the new churches were not abandoned, however, Paul never stayed. In every case he left for another field.

The Holy Spirit led Paul from place to place and we assume indicated when it was time to leave. (In many cases persecution was the determining factor).

When Paul left, the new church was empowered by the Holy Spirit to continue the work among their own people, spreading the gospel, planting new churches and maturing in their faith by obeying the word.

Missionary (church planting) ministry is different from pastoral ministry. The missionary stays as long as the Holy Spirit and circumstances controlled by God's sovereignty permit. The missionary is an outsider used by God to initiate new work among people of a different culture. The missionary will revisit from time to time, follow up through correspondence, and team members may stay on. But the missionary team should never stay in the same place indefinitely. The new churches must grow up and take responsibility for their own people, the sooner, the better.

How do we know it is time to leave? By following the Holy Spirit's lead and submitting to God's sovereignty. As missionaries/church planters we should regularly ask the Lord to "show us the door" when it is time. We should make sure that we have done everything possible to "teach them to obey" before we leave (the last part of the Great Commission). One indicator for me has been: Are my disciples making their own disciples? Do we see a third generation of disciples obeying the Lord?

When it is time to leave, does this mean that we make a physical move to another state, region or country? That is up to the Holy Spirit. He will lead if we will follow, and it depends on the sovereignty of God in our lives. Some will live in the same place for years but change focus or travel to different areas within the same region. Others will make a more drastic move. The important thing for the missionary is to always maintain an attitude of "wherever He leads, I will follow."

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

back to blogging... prayer updates...

Hey fellow bloggers,

I don’t know if anyone is checking this blog anymore. Is anyone out there? We are on home assignment, traveling extensively during the fall season, thus, little time for things like blogging. We are back at home base for now and I will try to catch up with everyone.

Here is a prayer reminder… this was posted back in August and below this post is an update on how these believers from the "uddermost" are doing…

August post…

The anti-Christian groups continue opposition in John's area. But the work is growing in spite of their efforts. John*, the doctor and another leader (Dan*) are doing well. They are penetrating some new villages. The doctor is evangelizing his home village which is 7 kms away from where he practices medicine. People there are very interested in the gospel.

In the midst of the persecution, John baptized 23 new believers. There were 60 baptisms reported in this area by four different church planters during the last ten days. More believers are ready for baptism, but because of flooding (not because of persecution), they had to postpone.

Thank you for praying, continue to pray for boldness in the face of opposition.


November update…

1. John* (first generation disciple) and family are doing fine though they continue to face opposition. Some of the new believers were influenced by the anti-Christian groups to leave their newfound faith and return to the H. religion (a case of I John 2:19?). Others have remained faithful despite the persecution. John will baptize some more new disciples next week.

2. Dan* (second generation disciple) and family are also doing fine. He asked for prayer for his mother-in-law who is undergoing a kidney stone operation this week. Dan is going to baptize some new believers next week.

Through Dan’s testimony, his brother who was a 'Baba', (H. priest), accepted Christ. PTL!!! Dan’s brother (third generation disciple) had built an H. temple but demolished it to plant a vegetable garden in its place after he became a believer. His testimony of how he experienced the power of Jesus in his life is impacting people far and wide. Most of Dan’s relatives are now believers (third and fourth generation disciples).

The doctor (second generation disciple) and his family are doing well and a great support for the work. The doctor’s brother recently accepted Christ (third generation disciple). He was a devotee of S., one of the H. gods. The brother used to act as a spiritual guide to over 5000 people. The ex-devotee of S. and spiritual guide for thousands went through our month-long 24/7 discipleship immersion program. He is now a strong follower of Jesus Christ and actively sharing his faith with others. PTL!!!


Please continue to pray for these… that they will remain faithful and intensely grow in their faith… that their testimonies will spread the gospel where there is no good news… that a church planting movement will develop in this area as generations of new believers, churches and leaders multiply.

Monday, October 02, 2006

home for a season

We are "home" for what we call stateside assignment. We are immersed in western ways of living. The fall of the year is an especially active season for missions conferences, so I (and sometimes my wife and daughter) will be on the road a lot. Actually, we have been here for a while undergoing reverse cultural stress, submitting to medical evaluations, going through personal stuff, spending time with family/friends, speaking at churches, enjoying our home church and staying in touch with our partners back on the field.

We will go to a church in North Carolina this week for their annual missions conference. This is one we don't know, so we will meet all new people. We will go directly to Virginia the following week for our debriefing. Then our fall schedule continues in various places... Oklahoma, Georgia, but mainly in Tennessee. We have a full schedule but have also blocked out time for family. We took a vacation in the mountains last week. I will go fly fishing later this month with some old friends. I have played golf a few times with my Dad. We look forward to the holidays with family. So, we are enjoying our time here... But...

We feel strange whenever we come back "home". A part of us remains with brothers and sisters in Christ on the other side of the planet. A part of us stays here when we return to the field. We don't feel totally comfortable in any place. I guess that is a good thing... since the world is not supposed to be our real home.

Pray for a team from our home church going in our place this week. It feels very strange to be here while they are there, taking their first solo trip. You can keep up with them at: Connect & Relate

Please remember us as we get refreshed, retooled, and refocused for whatever God has planned for us next.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

encouraging and leaving

“But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them” (II Timothy 3:14).

“For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you” (Titus 1:5).

Paul never abandoned his new disciples, churches and leaders. He always followed up with encouragement and further instruction, even as he left to preach the gospel in other places. He would do this primarily through faithful men like Timothy. He also sent letters to the churches along with his faithful disciples, to remind them of “his ways in Christ” (I Corinthians 4:17). Paul himself sometimes revisited the churches to strengthen and encourage them (see Acts 14:21-23).

Paul modeled a Biblical pattern for the new churches to follow. The new churches would model this same pattern for others while Paul observed their obedience. Most of the time, he heard reports of their faithfulness (or lack thereof) from a distance. Paul would revisit the churches to delegate authority to the recognized leaders who demonstrated obedience (Acts 14:23), or he would have faithful men like Titus do so (Titus 1:5). Finally, Paul would encourage them to continue following the pattern they had learned and practiced, even as he left for another place.

Jesus modeled the same pattern for His disciples. A careful reading of John chapters 13 through 17 reveals the same pattern for training: Jesus modeled, observed, delegated, encouraged and left. But He did not abandon His disciples; He left them “the Helper”, and continued to be ever present with them through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (see John 14:15-18). Jesus also prayed for the future spiritual generations of new believers that would believe because of His obedient disciples. In John 17 Jesus revealed how He was to accomplish the Father’s master plan, through reproducing generations of loving obedient disciples.

Jesus said: “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that you sent Me” (John 17:20,21).

Like the previous stage of delegating authority, we often fail to encourage and leave our disciples. It is difficult to let go and change our role; after all, we have invested so much of our time, effort and resources in them! Don’t we have the right to continue to be their instructor? And, what if they mess up?

Remember, we are not talking about abandoning our disciples. We are talking about moving on to another stage of development, a different level of trust and maturity. We can continue to have a mentoring relationship, but that relationship should mature into a higher level as we delegate responsibility and authority to them.

It is very similar to how we should train our children. At first, they are very dependent upon us. We are their role models, they observe everything we do and say. Then we observe how they do, how they follow our example. There is a great deal of correction and discipline in the early stages. As a child enters adolescence, they become more independent. They still need our guidance but they begin to handle more responsibilities on their own. As they mature, we delegate more freedom to act on their own accord, but we still hold them accountable for their actions. We continue to encourage them to live according to the pattern that we set before them. Sooner than we like, they grow up, become very independent and leave us (here the analogy breaks down, as church planters we should do the leaving). They become an adult and start their own family. They will make mistakes; nevertheless, the cycle of life reproduces itself and will repeat the whole process again through another generation. Our relationship still exists, but it is changed radically by this natural order of things. This is the natural progression of a healthy child who develops into a mature adult and starts his/her own family.

We should practice the same cycle of training in our spiritual life. But it should not take years and years to reproduce. Depending on how the mentor and trainee carry out their roles, the time it takes for the reproduction of a new spiritual generation should be relatively short. Christ took only 3 years. Paul never stayed more than 3 years in one place, but most of the time; it was only a matter of months before the second generation of disciples was delegating authority to a new third generation. When Paul saw that his churches were reproducing healthy churches, he let go and moved on. He continued to encourage them, sometimes he revisited them, sent letters, or left a disciple like Timothy who was fully authorized to do everything necessary to help the church obey the Great Commission. But Paul never stayed; he left them to continue the work on their own. Did they make mistakes? They sure did, but Paul still gave them full authority to carry on the work. He even left the job of choosing leaders for the third generation churches to second-generation disciples like Titus.

“For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you” (Titus 1:5).

What are your thoughts? Do you have any experience with leaving to make other disciples? How did you continue to encourage from a distance?

Friday, September 08, 2006

the key to reproducing disciples, churches and leaders

Have you ever been given a job to do but your boss will not trust you to do it on your own? Maybe he or she stands over your shoulder to make sure you don't make a mistake, or that you do it a certain way? Or, maybe you don't have the authority to implement, always having to call your boss for permission? This lack of empowerment is very common, not only in the everyday working world, but also in everyday kingdom work.

“And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (II Timothy 2:2).

Paul charged Timothy with entrusting his teaching to obedient disciples who were equipped to teach others. This is the key to reproducing followers of Jesus: a disciple is empowered to carry on the work of his mentor, training others with the same teaching, and in the same manner. For this to happen, the trainer must delegate authority to his trainee, so that disciple will be empowered to do all that is necessary to reproduce another generation of disciples.

Jesus did this with His disciples in Matthew 28:18-20. He left no doubt when He said, “all authority has been given to Me… Go therefore”… (v.18a,19a). God the Father fully authorized Jesus to carry out His mission, Jesus delegated His authority to His disciples to carry on the same work in the same way. The original disciples were empowered by Jesus (through the Holy Spirit) to do even greater works (see John 14:12-18). What were the original disciples of Jesus, and now present day disciples, authorized to do? As they were going, they were to make followers of Christ from all people groups, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that Christ had commanded (Matthew 28:19-20).

At this stage of training we often fail to do what is absolutely necessary for reproducing a new generation of disciples. In most mission work around the world, the first spiritual generation is very slow to share authority with disciples from the second generation. Therefore, the second generation of believers seldom authorizes a third generation to do all that is necessary to make disciples, plant churches and train new leaders. This is because they are not fully empowered by their mentors. The third spiritual generation may be allowed to do evangelism and the initial work of planting a church (which is quite difficult in itself). However, the first generation, with maybe a few from the second generation, will continue to do the baptizing, administer the Lord’s Supper and train leaders. This disrupts the reproduction of future spiritual generations and limits the expansion of God’s kingdom to addition, and not multiplication. In most cases, the first generation disciples do all of the “authorized” work, and the second generation disciples become eternal assistants, never fully authorized to empower their disciples (the 3rd generation) to do all that Christ commanded.

The first generation will use Scriptures to justify this:
“A bishop (pastor/elder) then must be… not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil” (I Timothy 3:2a,v.6). Or where it says: “Do not lay hands on anyone hastily”… (I Timothy 5:22a). However, leaders are more likely to never lay hands on anyone, than to do so hastily.

Most of us have been guilty of not empowering our faithful disciples to baptize, administer Lord’s Supper, lead and teach. We forget that the “laying on of hands” is a basic doctrine (teaching). It should be part of our basic discipleship curriculum. Look at what Scripture teaches in Hebrews:
“Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary (basic) principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection (maturity), not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine (teaching) of baptisms, of laying on of hands”… (Hebrews 6:1-2a).

The writer of Hebrews is saying that if we want mature disciples, we must get beyond these basic doctrines to deeper teaching and practice. Teaching about the “laying on of hands” is one of those basic foundational doctrines that we should not only teach about, but that we should put into practice with our obedient disciples. We should not blame our faithful disciples if they are not mature enough to be in leadership. We should blame ourselves for not equipping them properly and with enough intensity. If we met with them for training and mentoring more often, they would progress much more rapidly. But often we only have infrequent meetings with our disciples (or no meetings at all). They continue to faithfully wait until maybe one day we will count them worthy enough to entrust them with full authority.

The measure of maturity is not in how much you know, but in how much you obey. If our faithful men continue to obey, are they not demonstrating maturity? I would rather have new Christ followers that know little but obey the Lord every time, than to have disciples who have professed Christ for many years, and yet do very little with what they know.

No one ever arrives, so how can we judge when someone is "ready" and share full authority? Faithfulness... when our disciples demonstrate progress in their character (fruits of the Spirit) and obedience (works of faith), we entrust them with the training of their own disciples. Our disciples must be fully empowered to do all that we do in order to help their disciples follow Christ. Yes, that even includes baptism and Lord's Supper, or any other function that we have traditionally reserved for the clergy.

We see multiple reasons for the “laying on of hands” in the Scriptures: to give a blessing or inheritance, to consecrate an offering, to ordain a Levite priest, to heal the sick, to impart the gift of the Holy Spirit. But another reason for the laying on of hands, that is often overlooked, is to commission one for a task. I am not talking about legal ordination. Look at the example we have from the church at Antioch:
“Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers… As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away” (Acts 13:1a, 2,3).

Paul and Barnabas were fully authorized by their church to do all that was necessary for making disciples of all nations: baptizing, teaching to obey, and anything else needed to train the local leaders raised up from the harvest. Paul and Barnabas were not commissioned to do whatever they felt like. They had to return and give account to their church for what they had done with that authority (see Acts 14:26-28). Accountability Always Accompanies Authority (Quadruple A). This is kingdom insurance against abuse of authority.

This last year, when we discovered our disciples did not feel authorized to baptize or administer the Lord's Supper, we organized a commissioning service. We had other national believers pray, lay hands on them and send them out. This made all the difference as new baptized believers and house churches multiplied in a short time.

What about your experience? Have you been frustrated by a leader unwilling to share authority? Or maybe you have been reluctant to empower your disciples to teach and do all that you have taught them? Many will say: "I would rather err on the side of caution." In other words, they will not entrust their faithful disciples with all authority. If we make that choice, instead of freely sharing authority (always with accountability of course), we are choosing to interfere with the Holy Spirit's work and the expansion of God's kingdom. Pray about using the key to reproducing generations of disciples, churches and leaders. Delegate authority and step back to see what God will do.