Church Planting: Indigenous & Foreign Seeds

Indigenous, Insiders, Locals, Nationals… these terms refer to the critical resource of those people within a particular target context. Indigenous seeds are able to account for and either benefit from or are able to grow despite of their particular contexts. The soil and environs of a context are part of the uniqueness of indigenous seeds and plants. The indigenous grow, adapt or sustain, and mature to reproduce within their context. Sometimes this growth is only possible by the indigenous as opposed to foreign seeds that would either not survive or at least be unhealthy. Some seeds are able to transplant successfully, but the point here is to understand the inherent abilities of indigenous to grow healthily in their natural context in comparison to foreign seeds.
Spiritually speaking the indigenous people are living in their own context, in accordance with the culture and worldview of that context. As the gospel seed is sown in a given context, the gospel seed will find good soil at times. The gospel with take root in soft hearts of the indigenous soil and will grow into healthy indigenous plants unto a harvest of indigenous crops, namely an indigenous church. The indigenous persons and churches are able to deal with cultural and worldview issues of their context. As the gospel saturates the lives of the indigenous people, the Holy Spirit produces godly fruit in and through the lives of the people living out their salvation, living according to the reality of God’s grace.
This gospelization (gospel effect in the life, culture, worldview, etc.) of the indigenous does not occur without external efforts bringing the gospel truth into the new context by proclaiming and helping application of the gospel in the indigenous disciples.

The foreigner/outsider bringing the truth from outside of a given people or context is necessary, otherwise the truth would not enter within that realm and those lives. Also the outsider may remain and/or continue involvement and relationship in order to fulfill their unique responsibility in their relationship with the indigenous people. As disciple-makers the outsider does not end their relational responsibility with their disciples, although these relationships are dynamic: discipler-disciple relationships develop, change, et al. but also sustain at least in some degree because the disciple-maker commission is a responsibility in relationship. The “relationship” commission of making disciples is not an “event” but a “process.” Process requires ongoing, living or relating together in relationship.
However necessary the foreigner may be and however continual their discipler dynamic may be, the indigenous are uniquely able to address contextual dynamics and appropriate the gospel and purposes of God within their context. The foreigner is responsible in their relationship with the indigenous to model, exemplify, proclaim, learn from and teach, and in any and every possible aspect of life-on-life relationship bring the gospel/good news and mission/purposes and plans of God into the context of the indigenous. This foreigner-indigenous dynamic needs balance of relationshipping: relating together based upon a single reality and hope of the gospel of Jesus provides a foundation of truth and authority for both the foreigner and the indigenous. Neither person has the complete ability to determine how to achieve God’s plans in the target context, but both work together in relationship with an end goal that is actually beyond the indigenization of God’s purposes.

The local people in local church bodies will glorify God by 1) rightly applying the gospel reality to all aspects of their lives and 2) rightly accomplishing the gospel mission by engaging their own people and other people groups with the message of God’s single and unique way of hope for salvation through Jesus. So the indigenization of God’s truth through the lives of a particular people in a particular context is only the initial goal of the foreign gospeler who themselves is engaging in the gospel mission. The foreigner’s intended spiritual DNA or genetics of the indigenous people of God flows from the gospel mission, the purpose of the gospel (John 3:16-17; 1 Timothy 2:3-4; 2 Peter 3:9; Revelation 5:9; 7:9). The ultimate goal of the gospel mission is salvation of the world’s peoples unto every area of earth; therefore, the end goal is for the indigenous to move beyond their own context to other/different contexts, where they will become “foreigners” themselves. This DNA of multiplication unto movement within and then beyond a particular context needs to be brought in by the initial foreigners. These are aspects of the dynamic foreigner-indigenous relationships.

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Church Planting is More Than Harvesting: Plowing

In farming work, the farmer cannot choose their work.

They go to their field and do work according to the needs of the field.

If the area is merely a mess of rocks, weeds, or trash, then he foolish farmer may leave their target field in order to go to another place where they will be able to harvest, sow seed, or some other stage of the farming work. The field needs are meaningless to the fool. He works according to his own desires . . . an the target field remains fallow, unplowed, unseeded, unwatered, dead, and really nothing like an actual field.
Those foolish farmers either 1) leave their target field searching for–and many times finding–a field where they can do the stage of farming work that they desire and build on someone else’s foundation, or 2) they in effectively and erroneously force their desired stage upon their field. The result of the first error is a loss of working among he target field that was left fallow and uncultivated. Also in the first error is the fool going to some other field with his foolishness.

The wise farmer works only in accordance with the field context. The wisdom of the proper farming work realizes that every aspect of farming is equally important and needed. No one reaps where no seed has been sown. No one should sow seeds where the area is unplowed and filled with rocks and weeds. No one should harvest without using the seeds for the next season of farming. Every stage of the farming work is critical.
Every stage follows a logical and cyclical process, and the cyclical process makes every stage necessary. No one can proceed along the process of farming without fulfilling the required stage preceding the next stage. The wise farmers understand this reality of inter-connectedness within the overall farming process.

The farmer does not choose to harvest. The farmer harvests only when and if the crop is nurtured to ripeness. The crop develops only where a good seed was sown. The seed takes root and grows to maturity only where there is good soil. The good soil is developed through deep plowing, busting up hard surfaces, clearing out the rocks, weeds, and obstacles that will choke out any potential growth. The mice and moles need to be cast out of the plowed fields.

If a farmer desires to see the harvest among a target field, they must commit themselves to the necessity of every farming stage. The farmer must work hard to plow, sow, cultivate, harvest, and use the harvested seeds for present and future seasons.

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God with You: The Gospel is about Relationship

In the perennial discussions of Calvinistic-Reformed theologies and the various other interpretations of soteriological reality, from extreme to extreme, these tertiary issues of “how” one is saved overshadow the main thing: God himself and the fact that he saves [in whatever various way he might actually do that]!
In talking about being gospel-centric, Jesus-centrism/Christocentrism can be lost. Of course this sounds like semantics, but in reality many talk of the “gospel,” the good news that there is salvation available, the response of acceptance of God’s free gift that is needed, and yet they fail to hold up Jesus. Jesus as the Christ gets lost in the proclamation-discussion.

Slipping into legalism or liberalism is a real danger: if we hold too tight to the “rules,” the how of people being saved we can have a legalism-soteriology [it has to be done a certain way], but we could also hold too high a view of the how of salvation and then think that if this “rule”/method has been followed, then we have full liberty to the extent of non-discipleship.
We can become legalistic in holding to our soteriological convictions of how God saves people, not simply regarding the “Sinner’s Prayer” issue [“I prayed a prayer, so I’m saved” Legalism; OR “I prayed a prayer, so I can do whatever I feel like cause I’m saved” Liberalism] but regarding the whole God’s Sovereignty-Human Responsibility issue. If we hold too tightly to our view of whether only God saves based on his own subjective choice with no ability of humans to respond with a positive or negative choice, then we are in danger of adulterating the gospel message itself. We could withhold a proper open offer of salvation, or we could fail to communicate the difficult truths of salvation [i.e. repentance, persecution].

The difference between “religion” and “relationship” is the difference between a true understanding of salvation, of the how of salvation.

When Peter shares at Pentecost in the beginning of the church in Acts 2, he gives a simple summary of what happens:
Acts 2:38-39
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off–for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

In this one passage we see both the issue of Divine Sovereignty-Human Responsibility and the issue, the how, and the perhaps more important what of salvation, the result, the righteous God-human relationship.

Sovereignty-Responsibility:
Humans
“Repent . . . and be baptized,” which is an initial acceptance of the truth of the gospel message about what it means that Jesus is the “Messiah”/Christ/promised one/way of salvation, as well as continuing in a position of one-being-saved [see J.D. Greear’s Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart for further explanation of this idea of salvation]. We are to repent, now, once, as the entrance into the saved relationship with God, becoming once-for-eternity God’s child, becoming adopted by God. And we practice baptism as a response of our salvation, a public way of living out our gratitude, a witness to the world [and ourselves] of what God has done in our hearts, giving us new life, salvation, forgiveness of sins.
God
“in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins . . . all whom the Lord our God will call,” which speaks to a proper understanding of Jesus, who he is and what he has done for us that we could never do for ourselves, as well as the fact that it is God that forgives and God who calls. Later in Acts 5:42, the First Church is said to have gone from house-to-house and in the public square sharing a message that said, “Jesus is the Christ.” Jesus as the Christ/Messiah can be simply understood as speaking of the one way of salvation God has provided through Jesus, which is the unique and only way people are able to have a right relationship with God.

The result of salvation:
Peter says that when we accept Jesus self-sacrifice for our sins, in our place–Jesus in my place, then we receive 2 things:
1. forgiveness of our sins
We have a judgment passed upon us: we are justified, declared “forgiven,” given Jesus’ righteousness/innocence/holiness (Romans 3:21-26). This is a declaration, a position of judgment we given.
It is like a judge, the Judge, saying, “Ok, we find you not guilty.”
This is of course AWESOME!, but it still leaves us in a lonely place; therefore, the second aspect is all the more incredible. This could be a part of a “religion” if only “declaration” was what happened in salvation.
2. the Holy Spirit
We also receive the Holy Spirit, just as was promised by Jesus (John 16, Acts 1). We receive God himself. We are not left forgiven to only be alone in the rest of our suffering and demanding world. We become God’s children! We are adopted. The Holy Spirit comes inside us to regenerate us, to give us new life, to guide us and instruct us. We have a God that hears us; moreover, we have a God that is with us. We get God too!
This is like a judge, the Judge, saying, “You’re not guilty, AND I’m coming with you to help you and comfort you and love you as your adoptive Father, brother, and friend who is perfect in all ways for always!

In salvation we get forgiveness and we get God with us.

The gospel message that Jesus is the Christ is about how we are forgiven of our sin and that God is then with us forever.

The gospel is about our relationship with God.

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A Call to the Church for the Unengaged & Unreached from 1645: Simon de Figueiredo & Jesuits in Tibet

silk road caravan

silk road caravan

After about 15 years of Christians engaging the Tibetan world, in Ladakh, Guge [a former kingdom in western Tibet], and Utsang [central Tibet].
The Portuguese mission work in India and China was coinciding with the European-Asian trade, and as new trade routes and opportunities were learned of, the Jesuits were always looking to go and explore in order to bring the good news of Jesus to those who had no Christian work. As exploration developed better and fuller information regarding unengaged and unreached peoples, Jesuits in India followed up with missional intent.
After about 5 years of successful work these first Christians living among Tibetans developing relationships, leading their Tibetan friends to the truth of Jesus’ love and provision of relationship with God, disciple-making through language-learning, writing, teaching, and forming churches. These brothers of the 17th century showed a great, death-defying love for their Tibetan brothers, at times sacrificing their lives and positions in order to cross the Himalayas, to stand up for the purpose of the gospel while under threat of death from locals and from conquering warlords.
After the fruit of the early Jesuit’s efforts in western Tibet, the conquering Ladakhi kingdom exiled the pro-Christian king and an estimated 400 local Christians. Even though this seemed an enormous tragedy, the Ladakhi king was not interested in any religious conflict but simply a political power struggle with Guge. After Jesuits ventured into Ladakh, they were given full permission from the new ruling power to continue and start new Christian teaching throughout the Ladakhi controlled areas of Ladakh and western Tibet.
The real tragedy came with the negative report from an outsider Jesuit reporting on the Tibetan work, as he advised the Jesuit authorities to recall all Jesuits from working among Tibetans due to the difficulties and threats from corrupt rulers [i.e. the new Ladakhi-appointed governor of Guge held several Jesuit brothers for ransom, whose fate is unrecorded]. The entire work among Tibetans was abandoned for nearly 60 years. One writer says of this brother’s negative report and failure to call for support, that perhaps this was an obvious case of him being the wrong man at the wrong time in the wrong place.

One final plea was sent to Europe by an elder Jesuit brother who was unable to go himself into Tibet because of the strenuous nature of the expeditions. In an annual report from Indian mission work sent back to Europe, Simon de Figueiredo calls for the sending of new young Christians into the Tibetan world so that the good work begun there will not end, and in one final statement, he says,

“Ite angeli veloces, ite ad gentem exspectantem!,”

which translates to:

“Go swift messengers, go to an expectant nation!”

This is the impetus of Jesus’ final words to his disciples: Go!, knowing that Jesus has all the authority of both heaven and earth, AND Jesus is with his people [Matthew 28:18-20].
This is the call of God upon his people, upon the churches! Go to and send out your people to live among, befriend, speak of and live out your faith in the awesome! news of Jesus’ life, death, and Resurrection to the world! [1 Timothy 2:3-4, 2 Peter 3:9, Revelation 5:9/7:9]
Jesus in our place: living the sinless, perfect, righteous life we should but don’t live, taking the punishment of our sins, raising to life again having conquered death and promising new life to all who accept God’s free gift of salvation from our sins through the sacrifice of Jesus in our place [Ephesians 2:1-10].

Go swift messengers, go to expectant nations, people groups, tribes, and languages!

 

Desideri, Ippolito, and Filippo De Filippi. An account of Tibet the travels of Ippolito Desideri of Pistoia, S.J., 1712-1727. The Broadway Travellers 1. London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2005.
Huc, M. L’Abbé. Christianity in China, Tartary and Thibet. Vol. 2. New York: P. J. Kenedy, 1897.
Komroff, Manuel, ed. Contemporaries of Marco Polo: Consisting of Travel Records to the Eastern Parts of the World of William of Rubruck [1253-1255]; The Journey of John of Pian de Carpini [1245-1247]; The Journal of Friar Odoric [1318-1330] & The Oriental Travels of Rabbi Benjamin of Tudela [1160-1173]. New York: Liveright Publishing Corporation, 1928.
Vine, Aubrey R. The Nestorian Churches: A Concise History of Nestorian Christianity in Asia from the Persian Schism to the Modern Assyrians. London: Independent Press, 1937.
Wessels, C. Early Jesuit Travellers in Central Asia 1603-1721. Delhi: Book Faith India, 1998.
Yule, Henry, ed. Cathay and the Way Thither: Being a Collection of Medieval Notices of China. Vol. 2. Cambridge Library Collection. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

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Relational Proclamation of the Word, Personally and in Church: Practical “Distractions” for Sharing Christ in the 3rd World

Following a blog post from ThomRanier.comhttp://ow.ly/k8vh1–I was reminded of a very real issue for expectations and reality of being a faithful Christ follower in the non-West cultures.

Talk about “First World Problems,” Ranier’s list and the subsequent comments show the contextual issues of preaching in the West, or at least in the States. In Asian villages and even in Asian urban contexts, not a single one of these listed by Ranier would be problematic. It’s not that his list is invalid: those are real issues in the Western cultural context. In the East, especially in a near-village or village context, there is a much different context.

PRACTICAL “DISTRACTIONS” IN AN ASIAN-VILLAGE CONTEXT
In preaching in our little slice of Asia, we have a saying: “You haven’t really preached unless there was at least one woman nursing a baby in the group.”

Whether preaching, sharing the good news of God’s provision of right relationship with himself through Jesus, or really whatever, all these situations have great potential for a very different set of “distractions”:
1. animals of all kinds (dogs, cats, mice, spiders, flies, goats, cows, water buffalo, yaks, monkeys . . .)
2. [the aforementioned] breast-feeding
3. children, doing whatever they might and surely will do
4. people talking in “normal” voices about whatever: there’s no such thing as whispering
5. people coming and going all throughout
6. no excuses, no “Pardon me, Sorry,” etc.
7. phones going off, being answered in loud voices so the person on the line can hear [and there are plenty of phones: more than toilets]
8. question & answer, commenting, laughing, talking to each other, discussion, etc., etc.
9. changing the message midway, because of issues raised from the audience
10. arguing back at the main speaker/preacher/sharer

Only the last one is really an issue, but this can usually be used as a tool for better applying the Word to the audience!

As one commenter on Rainer’s blogpost mentioned: it is erroneous for us [the speaker] to have the attitude that it is our message, that the people just need to hear what we have to say. In that case, where is the Holy Spirit? Whose message is it really?

What then happens for someone now used to sharing in the Asian village context is that preaching in the West, namely in the States, becomes weird. Where is the dialogue, the interaction? Where is the body, the community? What is the church . . . a one-voiced group of many ears?
The post from BetweentheTimes.comhttp://ow.ly/k8tgc–is an interesting indicator of this issue in the States: the “Call-Response & Celebration” practice in the black congregations of churches in the States speaks of the dynamics of relational church-gathered.

THE ASIAN CONTEXT IS RELATIONAL
The Asian context with all its “distractions” actually brings the message to the center.
Why else would everyone endure all these pressing realities of life just sitting there listening and discussing? If there was no impetus to stay, the “distractions” would have long-before led them to their work or play. Instead, the message, the truth, the call to hear and see and taste the goodness of God’s holy love draws them in. Life continues along all throughout the message, but all the things going on around them only serve to affirm their awareness of the message of good news of Christ being brought near to them!

Also, the Asian village context serves to create a church dynamic in keeping with the New Testament cultural church. The people are involved in the preaching, not merely as a passive audience of receptors but as collaborators in the sharing. Their questions and comments lead the message on. Their stated issues and responses draw out specific applications of the Word. We can see this in the sharing of Jesus and throughout Acts, as the sharing was done in dialogue and many developments of the messages were based on the audience’s comments or situations.

It is a beautiful thing to be in relational proclamation!

There is relationship between the speaker and the hearer, and this helps not only to tailor the message to the specific issues of the context but also for the receiver of the message to have an un-escapable point of decision and obedience. Whether in one-on-one gospel sharing or in a church body sermon, relational proclamation is the nature of a familial body of Christ, the familial community of God’s people discovering the Word’s application to their reality!

Church is a relational family, and the proclamation of the Word in it’s midst should look like it.

The good news that God has provided a free gift of relationship with him through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, one time for all sin, one time for whoever will receive it, is also an invitation to the relational family of the church. God’s people should accompany their sharing of the good news with compassion and love for those potential siblings of the church; otherwise, we look like the Older Brother in the Prodigal Son parable! The sons’ Father says, “But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”

Are you speaking about your life and faith to a gathering of people, or are you speaking and living out your salvation with your brothers and sisters?

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Joseph to Mary

Mary, Mary,
It’s really so scary.
In a dream,
An angel told me
The baby in your tummy
Isn’t quite what it seemed.

Oh Mary, Mary, Mary,
What will we, Oh, how will we
Be able to be
What our little one needs?
He’ll be holy, holy, holy.

Oh Mary, Mary, Mary, Mary!
How can it be!
Oh glory of glories!
So holy!
So wholly lovely
To be our saving
God’s grace . . . our faith . . .

God has smiled down:
His love is all around.
I feel I’m floating above the ground.
Listen to that sound:
The cry of the Savior echoing through the streets of town.
Bethlehem,
Do you hear this sound?
Do you hear His sound?

His cry of life,
Later to be the cry
Of his dying
For our sins’ atoning.

Oh Mary, Mary . . .
Mary, Mary, Mary!
Will this be our child?
Who are we?
Surely it cannot be!

Oh Lord, be with us:
Oh little Jesus,
God be with us!
Save me, save me, save me, my Lord!
You I adore,
My Savior,
My Lord!

My sweet baby,
My sweet Savior.

Oh Mary, Mary.
He’s so loving . . .
So loving.

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Why does International and North American Church Planting look so different?

What is it about International church planting (CP) that it gets so much assistance and teaching from looking at the “apostolic” role in Acts, like Barnabas, Paul, etc.? Why do the works written about Int’l CP teach so much from this perspective, this role-model from Acts?
Because it is the role-model we are given and clearly, undoubtedly see in Scripture in regards to planting churches.

So why does North American CP look so different from Int’l CP? The teaching is so based upon the “pastoral” roles of the NT, like Jesus and his disciples, Peter/Apostles of the Jerusalem church, Paul’s letters to Timmy and Titus. Why the disconnect? Culture?
A historical diversion from the New Testament practice by “The Church” as Christendom became pre-Reformation could be traced. I think a major point to be learned and applied from the Reformation is to look back to God’s Word for our checking our approach to doing/planting church in NA.

Thoughts?

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