Thursday, December 07, 2006

Outsiders Can Be Encouragers of the Insiders

There is a tendency in any movement, including true evangelical movements of God, for there to be an overemphasis on one area of Christian ministry to the neglect of other important areas of ministry.

One could argue that the Reformation began with an emphasis on justification by faith, but the corresponding lack of emphasis on Christian unity, as evidenced by the wars between the Reformers and the Catholics, and the eventual break in fellowship between like-minded Reformers over interpretations regarding Communion (Luther and Melancthon), give illustration to the fact that sometimes we end up 'throwing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater' when we try to correct a Christian doctrinal or behavioral problem.

The Church Planting Movement within the International Mission Board has brought some appropriate correction to IMB strategy in reaching the world with the gospel. The desire to reach the nations for Christ is in the forefront of our minds, and reaching out to unreached people groups through CPM is working.

But I would issue a caution that we don't unilaterally neglect established work in countries where the IMB has had a presence for years. While maintaining an emphasis on missions and evangelism we must remember our brothers and sisters in Christ who have established Christian churches in their native homelands, many of which were begun by the efforts of our former FMB missionaries.

For instance, in Japan our IMB missionaries are considered to be 'gaikokujin', which means 'outsiders.'

No matter how deeply immersed in Japanese culture the American missionaries are, they will always be considered 'gaikokujin.'

There are, however, tens of thousands of Japanese Christians among the 127 million Japanese who are 'insiders.' Granted, the work by Japanese nationalists has not been near as evangelistic and mission minded as it could have been over the last several decades, but that doesn't mean it can't change.

The Great Commission of our Lord includes the words 'make disciples' and our IMB missionaries on the field would be serving the kingdom well by making disciples of those national Christians who have already come to faith and are working in established churches.

New churches are great. Apostolic missionaries from the IMB are needed. But it would not be a waste of SBC time or resources for our missionaries to be pastors, teachers, instructors, and helpers to those nationals who are in Baptist churches already.

I realize that you cannot pour new wine into old wineskins, but I think we might could miss the blessing of enjoying the old wine if we throw it out. (Maybe this is not such a good analogy in SBC circles :) ).

The old proverb that says if you catch a fish you can feed a man for a day, but if you teach a man to fish you feed his family for a lifetime applies. I think we must think long and hard before we turn our backs on established Christian work among nationals in the countries in which we have a presence. Some of our brothers in Christ among the nationals could use our encouragement, our support, and our love.

As I try to place myself in the shoes of our missionaries, I believe we must be careful that we don't turn them into a factory machines that churn out numbers of new converts and new works so that the powers that be are satisfied, but instead allow the Spirit of God to work in and through our missionaries to support both the established works of the countries in which they serve, and also be used of God to establish and new works.

These are just my personal thoughts and they are given for dialogue purposes only. And by the way, I have the utmost respect for the missiologists and CPM movers and shakers in our world, realizing that some of the best are right here in the SBC.

In His Grace,



Bob Cleveland said...

This is very insightful, IMO.

I don't think the wine & wineskin analogy is all that broad. If you apply that verse too liberally, you could contradict:

Revelation 3:2: Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.

The idea of supporting indigenous churches to help them be more evangelistic is a wonderful idea.

There's also no "limelight" connected with it, and I like that part.

Rex Ray said...

Wade, Dec 7,2006
Your great post sounds exactly like the missionaries I’ve talked with in my 13 volunteer construction trips to Japan for the SBC.

When babies are born, they are not abandoned to provide for themselves. Much the same way with a babe in Christ.

A race to start new churches may make the numbers look good for the “powers” to praise, but if the depths of those churches are not nourished, they will fade away.

There is much to be said about a missionary being a pastor. The people see he is there for the long haul and not just a fly-by-night.

There should be a balance of starting new churches and providing a way to feed them.

Would a Shepard tell his sheep, “I’m leaving and I’ve appointed this 5 year old boy to keep the wolves away.”
Rex Ray

Kevin said...

Great post!

I am serving in a country with established Baptist churches.

Overall I agree with the emphasis on church planting movements. On the other hand, I get concerned that perhaps we neglect more "traditional" ministries (established churches, seminaries, etc).

Here's my observations:
It seems that church planting movements work great in farm villages and such rural settings. In most other settings it seems that it has to be "tweaked" and mixed with more "traditional" methods.


Franz Snideman said...

Great Post! I agree with you that we must let the spirit of God perform and do His work without us moving ahead of God.

Please keep up this awesome Blog!


Anonymous said...

I have been a long time reader of your blog and have missed reading your thoughts over the past month.

While I am sure that your post was meant with the best of intentions, i personally find some of its assumptions problematic. The weakest and most alarming argument that I read here (and more specifically in the comments) is that the indigineous church needs us "western missionaries" to do the work of the professional church. I think that this mentality reflects an American Imperialism that is prevalent in our culture of bigger and better. IMO, we should be enabling the indigeneous church to raise up pastors, teachers, and instructors who have been discipled in the faith. In past times, when the methods that you have mentioned have been employed, there has been a tendency to develop a cult surrounding the missionary (much like we see with some pastors here in the US). This should be avoided at all costs.

Wade, I applaud you in your efforts to allow all sides of the issue to be discussed in a public forum. I pray that God will continue to bless you and your church.

SWBTS Student

Timothy Cowin said...


Boy, you are hitting the tip of the iceberg...

Just as our Dear Brother Dwight, walked into something he really was naieve about, I am wondering if you are doing the same:)

Maybe you know more then what you speak....

I certainly will not go into details, but the IMB's much debated "New Directions" has been the cause of much discussion and debate for those in the IMB family.

Let me first say, that there is SO much good to be said of ND with its emphasis on Church Planting Movements CPM's. But I think the strategy as implemented is unsound for a couple of reasons.

1. I truly beleive in the concept that the Missiologist, Donald McGavran espoused which is basically: "Win the winable now, then they can help us win others later." Much of our 10/40 iniatives deny this principle. Don't abandon it, but most of our resourses and personnel should be strategically directed in "fields that are ripe..." IMHO.

2. New Directions, sadly has been used to give way too many M's a New Direction right off the field... In Christian charity, they should have honored M's God-given calls, instead of usurping the role of the HS and telling existing M's to move or leave. Let them retire, focus on those coming in.... Before anybody denies what I am saying you need to know that members of my family have personally walked this painful road out of the IMB as well as others.

Wow Wade, I certainly agree... Can we really go here? (can you go here?)

There is a place for medical missions, hospitals, seminaries, bible schools, social ministries etc...

Blessings Timothy said...

Bro. Tim,

These are only my personal thoughts.

I'm a good Baptist.

I believe in freedom of conscience.


The 4 Sullivans said...

One of the most difficult questions to answer is, "How long does the missionary need to stay around until there are locals who can do it without the missionary?"

Often missionaries like to feel needed and wear out their stay. We forget that we don't need to just make disciples but disciple makers.

I notice that missionaries who want to serve as pastors or theological educators often feel "left out" of the Church Planting Movement strategies. I personally realize the need for these ministries but it is hard to put it all together sometimes.

See you soon Wade! Blessings,

Winning Truth w/Tim Guthrie said...

What should the balance be between Church Planting on the Mission field and other types of missionairy work? This is a question that many missionaries are struggling with from what I hear. I think it is a great discussion of method for the next twenty five years that may be more key to any other emphaisis we have seen.

Mark Spence said...

Time Magazine has an interesting article on the Obama-Warren "controversy"

What was especially interesting was this statment contrasting evangelicalism from fundamentalism:

"He (Billy Graham) was in the business of leading evangelicalism back into the American mainstream by distinguishing it from hard-core fundamentalism, one of whose most irritating characteristics was "second-degree separation," a philosophy of ostracizing other Christians simply for dealing with people considered less spiritually pure."

I think this statment can describe life in the SBC today...the conflict between Evangelical SBCers and Fundamentalist SBCers.

David Rogers said...

SWBTS student,

If I understand Wade right here, he is saying just the opposite of an "American imperialistic" approach. The truth is, in many places, if we are going to see anything worthwhile accomplished, we must find good ways to partner with the national believers. The problem is when we think we can start and facilitate CPMs all on our own.


I am in basic agreement with what you are saying here. I do think we need to be careful, though, to not fill roles that nationals ought to fill (such as, in most cases, pastoring established churches).

The house church "guru" Wolfgang Simson (with whom I do not agree on 100% of what he says), when asked what is the best thing we as North American missionaries can do to help further CPMs, replied: Find a national believer who is on fire for God, and pour gasoline on his/her fire. I believe there is some great wisdom in this statement. said...


As usual, spot on.

I agree.

B Nettles said...

Thanks for the good post. I'm so glad that you are a pastor who has finally pointed out that the Great Commission says "make disciples", not count professions, or even "church starts." Oh, that we would establish a few churches among a people which become mature enough to establish other churches. I think that was the thought at IMB when the church planting strategy started. However, many good discipleship projects were cut off in the effort to focus on 10/40 window groups.
To borrow from a recent infamous article "Balanced Baptist is an oxymoron."

It is important that we come alongside the brethren in other countries to encourage them and, for those who are younger in Christ, instruct them. If one-on-one evangelism (as we do it currently) was what Jesus meant, then Paul really messed up. He stayed too long in Corinth and Ephesus.

We should, however, be careful that our instruction is in Christ, not in "American church."

Bryan Riley said...

I hate to be too cliche, but we must be the hands and the feet of Jesus everywhere we go. We can't just teach the gospel, we must live the gospel. That requires more than just planting churches but it doesn't lessen the import of planting churches. I like your post and what several of the other commenters have said.

Anonymous said...

I am in agreement with you on this, Wade, and with most of the commentators as well. While I am in favor of New Directions overall, and I want to see CPM's like everyone else, I realize that these unreached countries need Christian institutions like Children's Homes. That is who we are working with in India, as is your church. These Christian institutions can be great platforms for church planting and they also provide context for discipleship. It doesn't have to be either/or, but it can be both/and, in my opinion.

We should really be helping the nationals make "disciples of nations" shouldn't we? What does it mean to disciple a nation? To teach a nation to obey God and give Him glory? We need Christian institutions for this task and they need to be led by those who are native to that population.

Kevin said...

I have one more thing to ad--admitting upfront that I'm extremely biased.

Some of the most responsive population segments, children and youth,simply do not "fit" well into church planting models. I consider this a potential weakness in "pure" church planting models.

Sometimes I wonder what the world would look like in a few years if about half of our resources were poured into youth ministry.

Like I said, my view is biased :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your post. I am currently serving in South America where in many places the cookie cutter approach to CP is not working. It is almost sinful to force missionaries to use a method of church planting that will not work in their context. Please encourage all of our regions to report not only new church starts, but how many churches have died during that same period. If this information was made public, things would change.

Every missionary I know wants to see God pour out His Spirit in a mighty way; this will only happen when they are able to follow the Holy Spirit's leading in the work they were called to do.

A Worker in the Field