Forrest McPhail, BJU Alumnus
Making disciples cross-culturally is a tremendous privilege, one that requires serious commitment and focus. What we are considering in these posts is no mere academic exercise.
Last time we covered 2 of 8 factors that contribute to the challenges faced by most cross-cultural missionaries, especially those laboring in more pioneer contexts. Here are a few more:
Factor #3 Intense discipleship requires dealing with sin
First generation Believers
Most converts in a pioneer setting will be first generation believers. Understanding and believing the Gospel message is the first major step. Following that, all believers in Jesus Christ are on the path of “renewing our minds” so that our lives can increasingly reflect our Creator (Eph. 4:20-24). Most of the young believers we are teaching have just begun to walk on the road of the knowledge of God. There is a huge difference between them and those who come to faith with a Christian background. Everything about the Christian life and the local church is new and foreign. It is radical to them. The Christian conscience must be built with the help of the Word and the Holy Spirit. The missionary needs much love and patience as he shepherds.
Obviously, one important aspect of discipleship is helping believers understand God’s commands in order to make decisions that please Jesus Christ. We must believe that the Holy Spirit will help them apply the Gospel to their culture. Only in this way can missionaries equip the believers to serve God effectively. It takes time. There are no shortcuts.
This means we must rely upon the believers to apply Scripture to the many events of life. Weddings, funerals, house-warming parties, baby dedications—all provide excellent opportunities for exercising discernment. We must enable them to apply Scripture to how they interact with the many religious and community events that are going on around them. This is discipleship.
Loving Church Discipline
In church planting, it is crucial that loving church discipline be understood and implemented when necessary, from the beginning of the ministry. The NT everywhere demands that God’s people “perform deeds in keeping with their repentance” (Acts 26:16-21). Church discipline is an essential doctrine of church life that helps to clarify the Gospel.
Should we put off the exercise of church discipline until the church is mature? Absolutely not, for God commands church discipline to be lovingly administered. It has everything to do with laying a solid foundation of the Gospel. Where loving church discipline is not understood and applied, the foundation of the Gospel quickly erodes.
One of the purposes of church discipline is to emphasize community, unity, and the family identity of members of the local church. This is something that missionaries must think through carefully before heading to the field.
Factor #4: Believers face profound isolation and persecution
In the countries where the most unreached peoples live today, religion is integrated into society at an intense level. This would be true for many Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, and even some Catholic cultures. When a believer in Jesus Christ repents and turns to God from idols to serve the Living and True God, he/she is often choosing to become largely isolated from the community.
Because religion is so pervasive and integrated into community events, there are many things that the new believer now cannot participate in while being faithful to Jesus Christ. In these contexts, it is important to teach God’s people how to involve themselves in the community and show the love of Christ in every way that they can, both for their own sake as well as for their testimony.
Persecution is usually in addition to social isolation. Cross-cultural missionaries serving in places where persecution is more common and severe need to have a thoroughly biblical theology of suffering and persecution (1 Peter). In order to reach people in these contexts, we need to be willing and ready to suffer as well.
Factor #5: Maintaining New Testament simplicity is crucial for church life.
Once baptized, how are believers to function as a local church? What is the cross-cultural missionary to “plant”? The early church provides us with the “ecclesiastical minimum” (J.D. Payne), activities that provide the basic foundation for local church life and ministry.
What are those basic local church community activities that are essential and non-negotiable for new believers? Acts 2:42 gives to us four main activities that occupied the spiritual life of the newly founded church in Jerusalem. I like to refer to these as the Four Pillars of the Local Church. These activities are exemplified throughout Acts and the Epistles. These can be duplicated anywhere that the church can be found in the world, regardless of circumstances:
If these four activities are taught and followed, that local body of believers is giving glory to its Savior. Such local churches will pursue the fulfillment of the Great Commission. Such bodies of believers will mature and take on new aspects of body life and ministry that are appropriate to their context later. Our role as church planters, as disciple-makers, is to teach new believers to understand these four activities as foundational body life in Christ.
When missionaries go beyond this NT simplicity and demand that young churches act like mature churches back home, often their efforts are premature and result in serious dependence upon the foreign missionary.
Factor #6: Misapplications of Bible Truth regarding poverty abound.
How we understand the matter of social justice and how it relates to the Church of Jesus Christ will affect how we perceive ourselves as His cross-cultural servants. It will affect what we think our role is on the field when our host culture is relatively poor. It will guide how we teach the local church to be a light in the world. It is important that we understand poverty biblically, as well as what the Gospel messenger’s responsibilities are regarding poverty.
The Priority of Apostolic Example: How Binding is it? Does it matter?
Apostolic example is what we find the apostles and early church doing as we read Acts and onward through Revelation. Apostolic example includes both what the Gospel laborers did, as well as what they did not do. God’s Spirit recorded for us much from the first sixty years of the Church. What is recorded is significant. It provides for us a methodology for how to obey Jesus Christ by fulfilling the Great Commission.
The apostles were clearly righteous men who were personally full of good works and advocated that God’s people do the same. However, their good works were entirely limited to their personal generosity except for the case of raising funds for the church in Jerusalem. In that case, severe persecution, famine, and a serious need to display unity between Gentiles and Jews were the reasons for the collection. They did not set out to develop foreign countries, relieve world poverty, or live by a holistic paradigm of mission. This much is clear.
Kingdom confusion: What is the Gospel of the Kingdom?
Does the church find its role in the world by applying passages written for the nation of Israel and then applying it to the universal and local churches? Is the role of the Church to do everything we can to solve the world’s problems, particularly social justice issues? What does “preaching the kingdom” entail? Is the goal to extend kingdom influence and urge the unbelieving world to abide by God’s standards? Is making disciples to be inseparably married to social work and aid ministry? There is great confusion about this among God’s people.
The Great Commission is far simpler than many people today want to assume. The Great Commission is this: proclaim the message of the Gospel to all people for the purpose of making disciples for Jesus Christ. This simple understanding of the Great Commission is the biblical one, the one that God’s people in every circumstance and culture can obey regardless of their social privileges and material prosperity. Cross-cultural Gospel proclaimers must prepare to meet these challenges.
To be continued….
Jordan Baun, Coordinator of Outreach & Evangelism
Moments ago, I received a text on my phone that read, “You figured out your long-term plan yet?” When I “dedicated my life to missions” at 12 years old at a small camp in Michigan, this is not where I imagined I would be right now. Ever since then, I had visions of taking the gospel deep into remote African villages where no man has ever heard of Jesus. Today, I answered emails, met with students, ate lunch with our church youth staff, and observed a new outreach opportunity in tandem with my job. Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed today, but it’s far from the picture I had in high school, and it wasn’t what I thought I would be doing long-term.
During my first mission trip to Southeast Asia in 2017, a huge burden was lifted off my shoulders. I was trying to discern if the Lord wanted me on the mission field or to be faithful in the opportunities he provided for me in the States. I saw ordinary missionaries making extraordinary sacrifices to obey the ordinary command of making disciples and teaching them to observe the commands of Christ. During our debrief, I began to realize that my long-term plan was set! It was incredibly freeing to know that what I am called to do is evangelism and discipleship. The only question that remained was “where?”
I have tried hard to figure out the “where” over the past couple of years. Today, I have no idea where God is leading me long-term. I have an immense burden for the 10/40 Window. I think that is incredibly healthy. We should be concerned about the disproportional statistics of unreached/unengaged people to the number of missionaries and mission money that is sent to that gospel deprived region of the world. However, statistics alone can’t drive us there. If that was true, every one of us should be packing our bags (and many probably should).
As I returned from my second trip to Southeast Asia this summer, I had itching feet. I wanted to go but didn’t have a clear direction to go. I met with several missionaries and missions-minded pastors/teachers. I was certain they would launch me out and I was excited about the possibilities. In the end, the overwhelming advice was to be “all in until God moves you.” It wasn’t the advice I was expecting or even hoping for, but it was the advice I needed.
Not too long after, I was reading the gospel of Mark. In chapter 5 you meet the demon-possessed man. What a miraculous conversion! The story then takes a strange turn in my mind. The once demon-possessed man begs to go on mission with Jesus. What a great response to the gospel! Mark tells us that Jesus “suffered him not.” Unlike other parts of the gospel, Jesus does not turn this man away because of misplaced motives. Jesus commissions him to take the gospel to those at home.
This was the passage I needed this summer. Certainly, many of you reading this should go! However, it is ok to stay. It is ok to live on mission here. It is ok to “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you” (Mark 5:19). Jesus does not call missionaries to do something foreign he calls them to go somewhere foreign. We have all been commissioned to make disciples and to teach them to obey Christ’s commands. Find a place you can do that strategically for the glory of God!
Staying is not a permanent calling. Don’t be discouraged if you want to go but haven’t yet. Stay connected with what God is doing globally. Love your missionaries. Love their kids. Have a missionary mindset in the town or city God has you now. There are people that need the gospel where you are. Find ways to reach them where they are at, just like a missionary would in his unique culture. As you radically live on mission here, the church is likely to send you to live on mission in a strategic place.
Every single Christian should wrestle with the location God has called them to make disciples, but we should never wrestle alone. In the Church, God has given us so much more than most Christians realize. Your church should be the launching agent in your life. Do you have a burden for missions? Find ways to evangelize and disciple in your church context! We have the church to exercise our spiritual gifts for the mutual edification of each other. Part of that gift is to supply wisdom to young, zealous students as we try to discern where God is directing us.
As you try to discern your long-term plan, lean into your church. Don’t get so set on staying that you could never imagine leaving. On the other hand, don’t get so set on leaving that you can never imagine staying. Hold your plans loosely, allow others to speak into your life plans, and “be all in until God moves you.”
Drew Williquette, Children's Pastor at First Baptist Church (Glen Este, OH)
I look back at the last few months in awe of where God has taken us.
It was just a few months ago that I was a senior at Bob Jones University. I was working on finishing a degree in Bible and trying to prepare for whatever was after college.
On top of that, I was planning to get married, serving in a local church and in a student leadership position on campus. I was completely overwhelmed but excited at the same time. I knew I would be walking across the graduation stage soon and taking the next step into the future. What I knew then but didn’t always see was that God was preparing me through everything I was doing at BJU for what I’m doing today.
Every major experience I was involved in during my time at BJU—whether it was society sports, leadership positions on campus, dorm relationships, or church involvement—were all crucial in shaping me to do everything that I do now.
So, what do I do now and how do those experiences shaped me?
Simply put, the mindset which was formed while attending BJU has shaped my ministry perspective in so many ways. The emphasis that was put on hard work, perseverance, and most importantly a careful understanding of what the Bible says and how to live it out are things that I learned the most clearly during my time at Bob Jones that I’ll take with me forever.
I learned these and these taught me. I understood these because they were taught to me in classrooms, and I understood these because they were ingrained to me through experiences during my four years of college. Although it was extremely difficult at times, I wouldn’t trade any of it.
Today I have the privilege of serving as children’s pastor at First Baptist Church of Glen Este, Ohio. It has been an incredible journey of God’s grace in bringing my wife and I here and giving us an opportunity to serve parents and 3 to 12-year-old kids. We spend most of our days now planning activities for kids, prepping Sunday school or junior church lessons, holding meetings with our children’s ministry workers, and communicating the direction of our children’s ministry to parents.
Again, it is all the Lord’s working through those situations so glory to Him, but I can’t help but be very thankful for my time in school and how God used every situation to shape my life and prepare me for my calling into full-time ministry.
My challenge to you—freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and even seniors—is to never give up. We should always be growing, always be learning and looking for ways to improve for the glory of God and to be used by Him in whatever way possible. Never give up! Persevere through the difficult times in college because there will be blessings down the road, but also remember that we’ll never “arrive” until we get to heaven.
Just because I have had the opportunity to go through college and now get to serve God in full-time ministry at a local church does not mean I have arrived. It just means I need to work even more to learn and grow in this position that God has given to me. He has given this position to me as a steward for His glory and learn how to better serve Him and others.
What a privilege!
One thing that drives me is to remember that whatever I do and whatever happens, I must do all to the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 10:31 says “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God”. It is this verse that drives me in ministry, and it should drive every Christian as they seek to find and do the will of God for their lives—as they seek to do what God has specifically given them to do.
Drew Williquette is the children’s pastor at First Baptist Church of Glen Este, Ohio. He has served in this capacity since June of 2019. He and his wife Jenna love serving the parents and children at First Baptist. You can read about their children’s ministry through the blog “Kids Korner” at http://fbcge.org/kids-korner/.
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The CGO Blog
Written by the CGO staff, with guest posts from students and other faculty/staff at BJU to provide thought leadership for missions in a new millennium.