What is it like to go from being on staff at a local church to being on preparation for the foreign mission field?

First, my goal for this answer is to educate the church on the life of it’s mission. It is not so the church will “feel sorry for the missionary”, but give a window to peer through helping the church pray more effectively and engage more purposefully. It is also to help the church understand the seriousness of the call of God, in the same manner as the Apostle Paul let us in on his difficulties. Second, my goal for this answer is to help the church catch a vision to where God has called them.

I think the transition from pastor to Jesus’ mission is a natural transition. Both the pastorate and mission field have the same goal in mind. To see the church of Christ and His fame grow among the nations. As a pastor (or church member your task is to do so locally, and as a missionary your task is to do so globally.

Being a pastor and member of the local church has given me a love for Jesus’ church. The church I grew up in and the church I’ve been an assistant pastor at for the last 8-years have both encouraged and cultivated my love for Jesus and His mission through the church. As a teenager, I was discipled purposefully by two mission-minded deacons and a team of youth leaders. They got me involved in serving Christ as a teenager. It is important to look at the young people in your church not as the future of the church, but as the church now.

Before becoming the assistant pastor of Battle Ground Bible Church, I was on a yearlong church planting apprenticeship in South Africa. It was a turning point in my life. For the first time I could honestly see myself sharing the gospel on the foreign field. Also, I being in Africa I got a bug for Africa [maybe more than one bug!]. I wanted to go back. So when I interviewed for the position at BGBC, they were aware they might release me in the future to go to the mission field. They cultivated that desire by giving me opportunities to lead short trips overseas to help our missionaries, to spear-head their own vision to plant churches locally, and explore opportunities to serve in Africa. When Sarah and I married, they funded a trip we took to the Congo to equip youth leaders and pastors. Then a year later when we desired to take a vision trip to Chad, they were excited to support us. BGBC gave us a lot of freedom to follow Christ call and prepare us for that call.

In August, we were commissioned from BGBC to begin raising prayer and financial partners. That last Sunday on staff was incredibly emotional. We shed a lot of tears. It was an Acts 13 moment I will remember the rest of my life. We left a lot of friends, spiritual family, and our small group which was our major source of spiritual accountability. When we drove away there was a huge void of constant fellowship.

To be honest, the first few weeks I was in a spiritual funk. I did not take a course on how to succeed transitions. While on staff I was use to a great schedule–a routine I understood–and an office where I could have some quiet study time. That changed while we were on the road. I guess, I can understand what it is like when a retired couple is around each other after working their entire lives, only we were 3 years into our marriage. It’s been a good adjustment being around Sarah and our daughter 24-hours a day, 7-days a week. I realized I am pretty blessed to have this opportunity. It’s had it’s challenges and learning curves. You really get to know someone on a long road trip. Although for our family the road trip has been 6-months long.

An emotional day came when we sold our home in December. We were ecstatic that we were able to find a buyer so soon and not lose a load of money, which is surprising in our current housing market. Although excited we were a bit sad. It was the first time we’ve felt homeless. We could no longer go back to the comfortable living room we created, play in our grassy backyard, or pick veggies from our summer garden. Our home is now a Honda Element. We’ve enjoyed the generous hospitality of friends, family and churches while being on the road, but it can be exhausting. We’ve really been living our life on display for all to see. That’s difficult when you’re not feeling good, tired, or having a difficult day with your spouse or teething child.

It took me about a month to pull out of that funk. We’ve found a crazy schedule that’s worked for us on the road. More importantly we’ve found times to be in the Word and pray together. And we’ve discovered creative ways to keep accountable to our church while being so far away.

Sarah and I have been surprised by God’s grace. We would have never dreamed we would be at the place we are 6-months into our preparation for the mission field:
•    We have reached 85% of our required support goals. On our way to 100% by June.
•    We have acquired over 250 prayer partners.
•    We have added 3 families to our team [including 13 children, but soon to be 14].
•    We have sold our home without going into debt.
•    We have signed up for language school beginning in August.

Not that we seek confirmation from God for the steps we take, but God has been expediting the  road that leads to Chad. We take it that He really want the gospel starved “Z” to hear the good news and see the church of Jesus rise where it is not.

danger of modern day CPM’s

Danger of Modern Day CPM’s
This is a review of Reaching and Teaching, by M. David Sills

CPM’s is the current wave of getting the gospel quickly into unreached communities. What is a CPM? CPM stands for: Church Planting Movement. Ideally the concept is an incredible vision with the multiplication of Christ’s church blooming where they have never been planted. The idea behind a CPM is to plant a church that plant churches that plant more churches. Thus you have a movement of churches being planted.

However, in the modern missions era speed to get the gospel out is the goal rather than making sure believers really get the gospel. M. David Sills in his book, Reaching and Teaching adds, “Global Christianity is growing in such a way that truth is considered to be that which works; pragmatism rules in the absence of propositional truth.” [29]

Missionaries are more into wrestling with which level of contextualization they are comfortable with and the best way they can orally speak the stories of Scripture [don’t get me wrong these are not horrible issues to wrestle]. All the while they are wavering from what really matters in the mission: the gospel, in all its gruesome and gorgeous culture-transcending glory.

About 10-years ago, I was involved in a church planting apprenticeship in the Western Cape of South Africa. There I observed a church planting movement 25+ years in the making. That is a long time, according to modern CPM’s. In the Cape there were multiple churches in multiple locations working together to get the gospel spread throughout their region. The planter was committed to these people for life [i.e. multiple generations]. Not only were churches being planted, but pastors were being trained and discipleship was happening within the churches at a healthy rate. Sills echoes,

“When the church growth outstrips your trained leadership, you are in trouble; weak and dysfunctional churches abound. [24] If we are not training national believers to believe biblically solid Christian doctrine and to interpret the Word of God correctly, the day will soon come when those who represent Christ in this world will be preaching a gospel that Jesus never gave.” [29]

What is essential before a church is capable of being autonomous? Or the leadership is fully trained? Here is where opinions differ. Let’s side with the Puritan view of ministry, “The basic qualification of personal godliness and giftedness coupled with single-minded learning in the interpretation of the Scripture; a spirit of prayerfulness; a deep care for the people of God; and the ability to unfold the mysteries of the gospel in a manner which reached into men’s hearts and touched their consciences–and all set within context of a prayerful dependence on the Lord.” [169] The Puritan’s planted solid churches, which still have remnants today.

Here is a solid CPM vision that I recently took note of while in  North Africa, an unreached climate:

“The team recognizes that, for the health of the church, at some point it will be necessary for the team to disengage from the church-planting process.  Recognizing that other missions may still be in progress, the team will remove itself from any participation it has within the church. When the following are present in the church, the team will disengage: first, there is at least a 3rd generation church (the 1st church has planted a 2nd church, and the 2nd church has planted a 3rd one). Second, the churches contain all the key elements of church as defined by the team.”

The key word above is generation. The key to gospel ministry and leaving a CPM is to be sure the people get the gospel, are growing in grace, and are engaging others with the gospel. The gospel is what transforms lives, reinforces righteous living, and marks true church planting movements. The urgency to get the gospel out to unreached people is great, but it must be packaged with generational reaching and reaching. There is a danger in using Speed as the best option to get the gospel to the unreached; rather patient discipleship over generation[s] making sure the gospel sinks below the surface of a communities culture.

Book Reviewed: M. David Sills, Reaching and Teaching, Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL. 2010.

I would highly recommend this book to new missionaries or seasoned missionaries considering new methods.