Missionary in the Making

This trip has a high level of difficulty. The heat will be intense and bus rides on narrow mountainous roads. We will be eight to ten hours on these roads. There are very sharp curves and steep grades up and down. Many places on the road are one-lane gravel with a rock wall on one side and a 1000 foot drop off on the other. If you have any tendency for motion sickness or have trouble with heights, this trip is not for you. Two days of clinic will be conducted in each village with the possibility of large crowds. Bathrooms are primitive and there will be no hot water or air conditioning. This trip is not for the faint of heart or those who need modern comforts.

…and so reads the description of the second medical missions trip the Lord is leading our daughter, Lauren, to serve on this coming May. Below is a letter from her personally about this wonderful opportunity.

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Dear Prayer Supporters,

Please accept my deepest thanks for everything you have done for my family and me throughout the years. I especially want to thank you for your prayers and support last October as I traveled to Peru with Operation Renewed Hope to assist as a translator.  During that trip I was praying that God would confirm in my heart if medical missions is His will for my life.  He clearly answered that prayer and I am now positive that the field of medical missions is God’s calling for my life.  However, none of this would have been remotely possible without your help, financially and with your prayers.

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Before I left Peru last October, Mr. Jan Milton, the director of Operation Renewed Hope, personally invited me to return to work with them in Peru in May of this year.  Also, I received an invitation from the Whatley family in Cuzco, Peru and the Fitzgerald family in Puerto Maldonado, Peru, to return with the purpose of actually doing an internship with these two families in their respective cities.  After a few months of seeking godly counsel and the Lord’s will through prayer and Bible reading, I am confident the this is God’s will for me to do an internship with these two missionary families and also help out again with ORH. I am planning on spending one week in the “high jungle” of Pillcopata with the Whatleys, one week in that same area with ORH, one week in Cuzco with the Whatleys, and then finally two weeks with the Fitzgeralds in Puerto Maldonado.

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cuzco-map

cusco-to-puerto

I cannot do this by myself, so now I humbly come before you, my brothers and sisters in Christ, asking if you would prayerfully consider giving toward this trip. If you can’t give financially, would you please pray?  This is going to be a trip where I hope to learn even more than before. As I begin nursing school at Maranatha Baptist University next year I hope to go in with a good viewpoint.  Knowing more about medical missions will help me gain a better perspective since I will know what differences there are between the traditional field of nursing and nursing on the mission field.

I calculate a total need of $1,200 for lodging, travel expenses, meals and airfare.  I have $300 saved toward the trip, so I will need $900. The easiest way to give is through my parents’ Paypal account. You could also send the funds through our sending church, marked “Lauren Greenwood, Peru trip.” Thank you for considering helping me with this huge opportunity.

In Christ,

Lauren Greenwood

MK in Argentina

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First Missionaries

Our church had the privilege of holding its third missions conference this past weekend. Of course, it was a special time for us personally as missions is obviously near and dear to our hearts! Even more special, our speaker was Adriano Silva, Brazilian missionary on deputation to Argentina. At the end of the conference, the church voted to take on 5% of their support. How exciting to think that this young church plant, even in the middle of a building project, is taking on their first missionary!

Conferencia Misionera 2015 @ibi_pilar

Conferencia Misionera 2015 @ibi_pilar

The Lord has blessed Adriano and his wife Josi with 64% of their support in the past nine months. Lord willing, this sweet couple will come and work with us their first term. We are all praying they would have 100% of their support in order to arrive next March.

Planting Biblically Separated, Culturally Sensitive Churches

by Dr. Kevin L. Brosnan

churchplantgraphic3Baptist World Mission’s emphasis on “planting churches worldwide” is more than a slogan; it encapsulates our understanding of mission theology and praxis in the New Testament. It is the outworking of the Great Commission, as demonstrated by the Apostle Paul’s tireless efforts to plant and mature churches on the mission field. But how can the missionary church planter establish churches cross-culturally that are both doctrinally sound and culturally appropriate? And are these two goals necessarily at odds with each other?

Just as pastors in America must vigilantly counter the eroding effects of moral decline in their culture, so missionaries must distinguish between moral and amoral aspects of culture if they hope to plant indigenous churches that will remain faithful to their founding principles. This distinction is the difference between pragmatic capitulation and legitimate acculturation. While missionaries justifiably fear culture as a potential pathway to syncretism, they must also understand the necessity of acculturation. Adapting in matters of dress, food, language and customs is an external starting point, not an ultimate goal. The most effective missionaries understand how the people of their culture think. They study their worldview, religious concepts, lifestyle, traditions, language, values, manners and customs and are able to interact with the indigenous people on these levels.

Failure to plant culturally appropriate churches violates the principle of indigenity by ignoring legitimate cultural norms. At the other end of the spectrum is compromise under the banner of cultural relevance, which ultimately results in syncretistic churches that no longer hold to the “faith once delivered” (Jude 3). Additionally, failure to plant self-sustaining churches violates the principle of autonomy. Failure to plant churches which are both indigenous and autonomous will result in short-lived ministries.

The tension of this dichotomy between cultural compromise and cultural assimilation relates to the outworking of what missiologists have long called the “indigenous principle.” By the later nineteenth century, men on both sides of the Atlantic were alarmed by the long-term dependency (paternalism) of foreign churches on missionary personnel and funds and by the erosion of doctrinal fidelity in nationalized works. They took a fresh look at Scripture, and men such as Henry Venn of the Church Missionary Society (CMS) in England and Rufus Anderson of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) independently began promoting indigenous principles, which Melvin Hodges later formulated into the well-known “indigenous principle.” Hodges’ three-fold expression of the indigenous principle states that the mission church should be self-supporting, self-propagating and self-governing.

That expression focuses on three aspects of the function of the mission church. While function is a vital emphasis, the concept of indigenity must also relate to the form of the mission church. Although missionaries often use the two terms synonymously, the concepts of indigenity and autonomy relate more directly to form and function respectively. A mission church may function autonomously, but not be culturally indigenous in form. The missionary cause benefited greatly from the contributions of the aforementioned men and from the resultant corrective measures, which missionaries took with respect to the function of the mission church.

Perhaps we could suggest that our generation of independent Baptist missionaries would also benefit from a greater focus on the form of the mission church, because the establishment of an autonomous church is not the only essential goal of the church-planting missionary. It is entirely possible and in many cases, probable, that the self-governing, self-supporting and self-propagating church will apostatize. What has the missionary accomplished in such cases?

While doctrinal drift may result from any number of root causes, failure to plant culturally-appropriate churches is a major cause of failure among mission churches. This oftentimes is because of issues that confront the national pastor after the missionary leaves. On the one hand, the national pastor may be left with a “foreign” or “Americanized” church. While the church may have appeared healthy under the missionary’s leadership, its non-indigenous form presages its decline under national leadership.

On the other end of the spectrum, the missionary may have unwisely welcomed cultural elements into the church under the banner of indigenity, which are either inherently unscriptural or dangerously suggestive of a path to compromise. In this context, doctrine is not only creedal, but also the practical living of those beliefs, including a willingness to live biblically separated lives that embrace the necessary alienation from aspects of popular culture. In such a case, it is unlikely the national pastor will recognize the danger or have the power to change course. Thus, the importance of indigenous policy, the missionary’s approach to culture, can hardly be overemphasized.

This question not only relates to distinctions between ministry in one’s own culture and cross-cultural church planting, but it also correlates to how servants of God conduct ministry within their own cultures. This is because all culture, whether native or foreign, contains many unbiblical values and practices from which an obedient Christian must separate. This is exactly Paul’s point in Romans 12:2, “and be not conformed to this world.”

This brings us back to our second question. Are the two goals of doctrinal fidelity and cultural appropriateness necessarily at odds with each other? Yes! Every honest missionary who has carefully considered the implications of indigenous policy will admit that he sometimes struggles to distinguish between his own culturally shaped preferences as to the form the church should take and his identification of genuine collision points between culture and Scripture. Not only is the missionary obligated to be faithful to God’s Word, but he also needs to understand that doctrinal compromise, for the sake of cultural acceptability, will ultimately result in a syncretistic church—one which blends non-Christian tenets with biblical truth.

Neither can the missionary afford the luxury of rejecting culture “out of hand” for the sake of protecting the church against doctrinal compromise, because doing so violates indigenous policy, which is essential to successful church planting. A good biblical definition of syncretism is found in 2 Kings 17:33, “They feared the Lord [Jehovah], and served their own gods, after the manner of the nations.” Idolatry is the Old Testament word for syncretism, when it includes the blending of rites associated with other gods with the worship of Jehovah.  Jehovah’s condemnation of Israel’s syncretistic idolatry provides a theological answer to today’s syncretism. Insulating mission churches against syncretism is a challenge because syncretism is sometimes difficult to distinguish from mere cultural expressions.

Identifying syncretism is a theological, cultural and academic exercise that the missionary must master and mentor because seemingly innocuous “seeds” will grow into truth-choking “weeds.” If the ultimate goal of New Testament missions is the multiplication of indigenous churches to the glory of Christ, then the successful development of national church leadership must be of paramount importance. The New Testament bears this out with much emphasis on the development of God-called pastors. It is not the establishment of a church, but the grounding of it that occupies the most attention in the New Testament.

Study of New Testament methods should not distract one’s attention from the product of missions, which is enduring, biblically orthodox churches. That leadership development is the key is almost a moot point. Whether it is couched in academic terms, such as pastoral training or leadership development, or in more personal terms such as mentoring or discipleship, the development and equipping of national leaders is the single most important factor relating to the successful indigenization of any church-planting ministry. Solutions must lie with issues that address this process. National pastors have often waned in their commitment to the theological convictions upon which the missionaries founded their churches. Viable solutions must ultimately redress this shortcoming by emphasizing both function and form when mentoring national leadership. Churches will not replicate until missionaries replicate themselves in God-called national preachers who, among other things, are committed to biblical separatism. Perhaps an anecdote from my ancient college days can best drive home this capstone truth. I commented, in a paper presented in a missions class, that producing indigenous churches in fulfillment of the Great Commission is “simply a matter of training nationals to carry on the work.” When I examined the graded paper, I noticed that my veteran missionary instructor had circled the word simply several times in red ink and had remarked, “Is this really such a simple matter?” The wisdom of that comment became increasingly evident over seventeen years of ministry in South Africa. Producing successful national leadership has always been a key, if not the paramount challenge of the Great Commission mandate. It takes biblically separated, culturally sensitive missionaries to mentor biblically separated, culturally sensitive national preachers to plant biblically separated, culturally sensitive churches.

Reprinted with permission. This article originally appeared in the Winter 2015 issue of the BWM Messenger

http://www.baptistworldmission.org/

For the Sake of His Name

gbcWhat is the purpose of leaving the ministry in Argentina, traveling thousands of miles to dozens of churches?  Well, the number one reason would be to express our gratitude to our supporting churches and tell of the fruit that abounds to their account (Phil. 4:17b) because of their giving to missions.

The second reason is to educate and encourage believers regarding missions.  Lord willing, the Lord will use our first-hand testimony from the mission field to speak to someone’s heart about going to the field himself.

 

The words of this hymn, For the Sake of His Name, embody the message we want to share with the churches we visit:

FOR THE SAKE OF HIS NAME (Text by Chris Anderson; Tune by Greg Habegger)

Go to the world for the sake of His name;
To every nation His glory proclaim.
Pray that the Spirit wise
Will open darkened eyes,
Granting new life to display Jesus’ fame.

Refrain:
In Jesus’ power, preach Christ to the lost;
For Jesus’ glory, count all else but loss.
Gather from every place
Trophies of sov’reign grace.
Lest life be wasted, exalt Jesus’ cross.

Love the unloved for the sake of His name;
Like Christ, befriend those whose heads hang in shame.
Jesus did not condemn,
But was condemned for them.
Trust gospel pow’r, for we once were the same.

Rescue the lost for the sake of His name;
As Christ commands, snatch them out of the flame.
Tell that when Jesus died
God’s wrath was satisfied.
Urge them to flee to the Lamb who was slain.

Look to the Throne for the sake of His name;
Think of the throng who will share in His reign.
Some for whose souls we pray
Will share our joy that day,
Joining our song for the sake of His name!

Copyright 2013 ChurchWorksMedia.com.

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/75827106]

July Update

Faith in Action

Another “first” for our church plant – missions. As a church, we have been putting 10% of the general fund aside for missions. We have actually had the opportunity to help with two projects–a building project for a sister work and a national pastor who needed car repairs. This month, a young Argentine man from a sister work presented his desire to go to China as a missionary. Our church people voted to help him by paying for almost 75% of his airfare to take a survey trip!

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Even more amazing is the spirit of the people. In the business meeting to decide on how to help this future missionary, the church folks publicly expressed their thankfulness that God sent them a missionary, and that they wanted to give because of all God has given them for the building through local churches in the States.  That is only a work God can do in their hearts!  Isn’t it neat to realize that the impact of your giving goes beyond dollars and cents?

Good News from a Far Country

smithWe were privileged to host our home pastor Travis Smith for a visit in June. Of course, he’s read and heard our reports and seen pictures of the ministry in Pilar, but this was his first opportunity to meet the very special people who make up our church. It was an extremely encouraging visit for our family to have quality time with him, and for our church people to get to meet the pastor of our sending church.

Furlough Plans

kidsJaden, Lauren and Josiah are furiously finishing up home schooling, so they can be free of their studies while on furlough. Please pray for them as they transition to life in the States. Plans are coming together for housing, renting a vehicle and reporting to churches. Pray for us as we wrap up details here and fly to the States on July 30. As our roots grow deeper in Argentina, it becomes increasingly more difficult to pull away for months at a time for furlough. At the same time, we anticipate the much-needed rest and fellowship in supporting churches.

A Biblical Philosophy of Church Planting

Every subject has a philosophy. It may not be spelled out, but it is there just the same — whether good or bad, right or wrong. Church planting has its own philosophy — godly or worldly. Of course, the true philosophy of church planting is to be Biblical. But what is the Biblical philosophy of church planting? (O. Holmes)

Dr. Otis Holmes wrote an article in May/June 2000 edition of Frontline Magazine, which recently appeared in the online version, http://www.ProclaimandDefend.org. You can find the full article here.

Before we began our first church, we wrote out our own philosophy of church planting, along with a timeline and methods tailored to the culture of Argentina.  We have had to go back and make adjustments regarding the specifics, but the Biblical part does not change!

Dr. Holmes’ article was an encouragement and affirmation for us to keep doing right, following the clearly established pattern in God’s Word. As we read his summary, we sort-of gave ourselves a check-up on how we’re doing in the various areas mentioned:

  • The Great Commission  
  • Holy Spirit Control
  • United Leadership
  • Teaching and Preaching
  • Independence
  • Fundamentalism
  • Discipline

Of course, there is always room for improvement!  However, by God’s grace, we will continue to evangelize the lost, disciple the saved, walk in the Spirit, follow Christ’s leading, teach and preach the whole counsel of God, allow the church body to make its own decisions, contend for the faith, and confront sin.  

We thank God for our spiritual heritage through a solid Bible education, an excellent sending agency (mission board), and a strong, missions-minded home/sending church.  Each of these institutions has played a vital part in who and where we are today.  Above all else, anything good we do, say, or think is a blessing from our Heavenly Father!  (The rest is all our fault!)  Thank you for your continued prayers.

Serving the King of Kings,
James & Amy