This post is in honor of my aunt and uncle, Dr. Frank and Betty Coy, retired IMB missionaries, and longtime servants of Christ to the Chilean people in Santiago, Chile.
Uncle Frank and Betty were assigned in 1960 as Field Evangelists (now called Strategy Coordinators or SC's for short) with the Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Frank pastored several churches in Chile, including new church starts, and in 1969 he became a professor at The Santiago Theological Seminary where he taught Ethics, New Testament, Christian Education, and Biblical Counseling.
Santiago Seminary had been founded by missionaries with the Foreign Mission Board, and in 1978, Frank became the President of the seminary. He served as President of SBTS for eleven years. Uncle Frank told me over the phone yesterday that his job at SBTS was to work himself out of a job. He discipled and trained Chilean nationals to become the professors, pastors and leaders of the Chilean Baptist Convention, now called The Baptist Union of Chile, and he trained those same leaders to take over the seminary.
In 1989 Dr. Frank Coy had the privilege of handing over the reigns of Santiago Theological Seminary to a Chilean national named Dr. Guillermo Catalan. This transition of authority marked the end of the Southern Baptist Convention's work in Santiago Theological Seminary, for soon all professors, administrators, and, of course, the President himself, were native Chileans.
This causes my uncle to smile for joy. The SBC missionaries in Chile had succeeded in establishing a theological institution that is currently completely self-funded, with no monies from the the SBC flowing into the coffers. Uncle Frank worked himself out of a job.
As mentioned, during Frank's service as President at SBTS, he also pastored Chilean churches. I can remember him coming home on furlough and speaking of the work in establishing these churches in Chile.
He would ask the listeners at the Missionary Conferences in the States, "Do you know how many Southern Baptist Churches we have in Chile?"
That's right, none. Over 400 churches have been started in Chile through the efforts of missionaries from the Southern Baptist Convention, but these churches are Chilean Baptist Churches. They are fraternally connected to the SBC, but they are NOT Southern Baptist Churches.
Uncle Frank says that until Southern Baptists understand the dynamics of starting churches on the mission field, we will be making many mistakes in the area of control. It's a little like a mom and dad who gives birth to children, but rather than realizing that kids are not carbon copies of their parents, as the kids grow older, they control, manipulate, and in general, refuse to respects the boundaries of their children in an attempt to get the "kids" to look just like "the parents."
We must be careful that we don't try to control how churches in the mission field look. It deserves repeating, there are "NO" Southern Baptist churches on the mission field. A church in Afghanistan will look different than a Southern Baptist church in America. A Southern Baptist church in California will look different than a church in Chile. A church in Pakistan will look different than a Southern Baptist Church in Pennsylvania.
An understanding of this should help us in two areas:
(1). At the IMB we better be prepared to realize what may work in one culture of the world may not be the best in another culture. House churches are needed in persecuted areas of Muslim influence, but sometimes buildings are needed in Portugal and South America where people associate "church" with buildings. To train missionaries the same, for all regions of the world, is ignoring reality.
(2). To attempt to reproduce our Southern Baptist Churches in America on the mission field is impossible, and even detrimental to our mission work. Sure, we provide a doctrinal framework for new church starts, but we better be very, very clear on the doctrinal essentials and not get our cultural biases confused with the clear mandates and commands of the Word of God.
Anyway, I hope that we as Southern Baptists can come to the realization that what we are striving for in our mission efforts around the world is the evangelization and discipleship of people in need of a Savior.
Jesus Christ and Him crucified is what we proclaim. The ekklesia (called out ones) in different cultures will "do church" differently than us.
So be it.
Thanks Uncle Frank and Betty for your service to the IMB.
In His Grace,
P.S. My son is attempting to lead his basketball team into the 6A State Tournament. I will be posting again early Monday morning. Everyone have a great weekend and celebrate Christ and fellowship with others who enjoy Him as well this Sunday.