About David Sitton

In January, 1977, David arrived at The School of World Evangelism in College Station, Texas. Within weeks, David encountered a radical pioneer missionary to Papua New Guinea, Joe Cannon. Joe was on a mission; He was looking for young missionaries to join him on the unreached front lines of New Guinea. Joe sauntered into the classroom with bows, arrows, spears, and bird feather head dresses jutting out from his hands and the Melanesian Pidgin language spouting out of his mouth. Joe was tall, lanky and loud. He bounced when he walked and was quick to laugh at his own (corny) jokes. He was eager to give the students a little taste of New Guinea culture and language. Joe proceeded to give a passionate plea that some of the students would turn their attention to the unreached, interior tribes of Papua New Guinea. Between classes, one afternoon, Joe cornered David with a text and a question. The text was Romans 15:20. “I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written, ‘Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.” The question was personal and to the point! “Brother, there are whole tribes of people in New Guinea that have never, ever heard the name of Jesus. Some of them are cannibals and headhunters; some of them have bones through their noses and wear grass skirts. Many of them are wild and reckless and dangerous people. But they need the gospel of Christ!” “Come with me, brother. I will teach you. I can mentor you. There are not many who will go with me into the jungles and rugged mountains to find them. Come with me, brother. Let’s go get some of them for Jesus.” David’s life was set on a course for mission from that moment. Eight months later, just one week after his 20th birthday, David left for Papua New Guinea – October 3, 1977. He departed Corpus Christi with a suitcase, a bible, and a surfboard! Several of the early tribes David encountered did indeed practice cannibalism and were entrenched in violent tribal warfare. Even so, Joe and David (and a few others) endured much hardship to get the gospel established among these remote mountain tribes. Churches still remain in most of these places today. In 1979, David returned to Texas. God was gracious and quick with his answer to David’s prayer for a wife! Within months he met, courted and married (June 27, 1980) Tommi Anne Moses from Harlingen, Texas. Theirs was the first wedding ever performed at the Chapel By The Sea on South Padre Island. Over the next decade, David and Tommi worked together to make disciples and plant churches in remote regions of the highlands and swamplands of Papua New Guinea. A government problem with visa renewals in 1990 prevented the Sittons from returning to PNG to live. From 1990 -1993, David served as director of The Institute of Tribal Studies, a ministry of the U.S. Center for World Mission located in Pasadena, CA. In 1993, David and Tommi relocated to the South Texas town of Los Fresnos, strategically situated just fifteen minutes from the Mexican border. 34 churches have been established through this ministry since 1977. These days, David continues church-planting and leadership training in Papua New Guinea through regular short-term ministry trips and travels extensively speaking at many churches and mission conferences around the world. A prominent theme in his preaching is that the fame of Jesus’ Name will be brought to the remaining unreached peoples through the persecution and frequent martyrdom of those that carry the gospel message. David and Tommi founded To Every Tribe Ministries where he currently serves as president. They also founded The Center for Pioneer Church Planting, which began in January, 2006. This missionary training program is dedicated to recruiting, training and launching pioneer church planters into the far-flung regions where Christ is still unknown. Moreover, Tommi is a precious helpmate to David. All who know Tommi recognize her sacrificial service to the To Every Tribe community and her invaluable encouragement and assistance in nearly every aspect of the ministry. David and Tommi have three grown children and two beautiful grandchildren.

Posts by David Sitton:

The Guts & Glory of Pioneer Church Planting: Part 5

So what is the desired outcome from all of our philosophies and methods of pioneer church planting? By God’s grace, the goal is to see a Christ-worshiping church that is locally led and supported, studying and interpreting the Scriptures, and seeking to reproduce themselves into second, third, and fourth generation churches in regions far beyond themselves for the glory of Christ alone.

Paul says, “…thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written, ‘Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand’” (Romans 15:20-21).

This is what To Every Tribe is about as a ministry: locating, researching, and targeting unreached regions, then preaching Christ, evangelizing, and establishing locally led communities of believers in places where there is no witness for Jesus. This is the heart and soul of To Every Tribe.

In Psalm 46, God declares, “I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” Holding fast to this truth, we look forward to the day when we will witness what John describes in Revelation 7: “…a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’”

Part of that God-glorifying multitude will be the members of churches that were planted by faithful pioneer missionaries in people groups that, at this moment, remain unreached with the saving gospel of Jesus Christ.

Planting churches, left and right
Planting churches,
day and night
Planting churches with all my might
Joe Cannon, Pioneer Missionary

*Check out part’s 123, and 4 of this article.

The Guts & Glory of Pioneer Church Planting: Part 4

Besides the grit of a pioneering leader, the guts of effective pioneer church planting include both a certain philosophy and the accompanying methodologies. To Every Tribe’s philosophy of church planting centers around the importance of planting indigenous churches.

The word “indigenous” means native and local. Missiologists use the word “organic” to describe the sprouting out from within nature of the gospel that shoots out in unexpected, unpredictable, unorthodox ways as the gospel moves from individual to individual and then as it spontaneously reproduces itself into other surrounding people groups. We want this to happen. But, too many missionaries don’t truly want indigenization because of their fear that they cannot control what happens.

Unless missionaries are trained in a better way, they will naturally plant a church that is culturally comfortable for themselves. This is because the way we live our lives is the direct product of the beliefs and values of our worldview. We have a particular worldview that oftentimes we are not conscious of and we rarely question its validity. It’s only with concerted efforts to act and react differently, think and operate cross-culturally, and work in culturally sensitive ways that we’ll be able to do an effective job of pioneer church planting.

We want to purposely not plant congregations which are transplants of Westernized, American culture Christianity. We are not church transplanters, we are church planters! We want our churches to be indigenous, that is, born from and shaped by the local cultures of the people to whom we go. What the church looks like should be consistent with local expressions of the true gospel being lived out within their own cultures, not in the culture of the foreign missionary. The more this is the case from the early stages of pioneer church planting, the more likely local believers will be equipped and empowered to take ownership and develop into healthy, culturally appropriate churches.

*Check out part’s 12, and 3 of this article.

The Guts & Glory of Pioneer Church Planting: Part 3

The world is a dangerous place for Christians, especially for pioneer missionaries. We’re going into battle with the enemy of our souls. This is spiritual war. It is certain there will be casualties, persecutions, and martyrdoms. However, it’s not an accidental providence that God turns evil around for good; it is His “Plan A” strategy. It’s God’s way, His chosen method to save the world through His cross and through our crosses. Joseph Tson said it so well, “His cross is for propitiation. Our crosses are for propagation.”

If God spared not His own son, but freely gave him up to death for us all, then what makes us think we’re exempt from it? Jesus didn’t walk the hard road of suffering and death so that we can walk the soft road! We walk the same road. This isn’t just a missionary calling, this is the calling of a Christian.

If the gospel is as precious as we say it is, then it’s worth every hardship, every sacrifice, every suffering, and every effort that we can muster. The gospel will go to the ends of the earth by “fools” who throw away their lives for the gospel, not by “wise men” who seek to save them. That’s what Jesus did. He came to earth to die. He was dedicated to death from the beginning, that was “Plan A” and there was no other plan. And just before His ascension, Jesus turned to His disciples and said to them, “As My Father sends Me, so send I you.”

As new missionaries train for the frontline, they need to be prepared for the very real possibility that they may be called upon to lay down their lives, all the way, even to death. The pioneering missionary must be absolutely convinced of this truth: because God is Sovereign, Christians are absolutely indestructible until God is through with them on this earth. We cannot be killed prematurely because the Lord has already numbered our days; He knows the moment of our death. The enemies of the gospel can’t change that. Satan is God’s puppet. Our persecutors are God’s puppets. They can only touch us as the Lord gives them permission, and none of their torments will last one second longer than our loving Father will allow. Let’s trust Him with that. Whatever God does with my life is good with me. I’m safe in His sheep pen.

*Check out part’s 1 and 2 of this article.

The Guts & Glory of Pioneer Church Planting: Part 2

The Pioneer Church Planter
A pioneer church planter is one who is wired with a kind of “apostolic DNA.” Not every believer has an apostolic gifting, but even if someone doesn’t have it, that doesn’t mean they can’t be a vital part of a pioneer church planting team. All Christians have gifts to exercise which are absolutely necessary for success in church planting, however, the characteristics of the apostolic leader are distinct. They have robust vision, coupled with faith and boldness to charge forward into danger. Pioneers require courage to embrace a lifestyle of physical and spiritual hardship and remain undaunted by initial failures.

Alexander MacKay was a Scottish missionary to Uganda in the late 1800s. Before his team even left Scotland, he wrote a letter of instruction for others to follow when he was killed: “I want to remind the committee that within six months you will probably hear that one of us is dead. But … when that news comes, do not be cast down, but send someone else immediately to take the vacant place.”

It happened just that way. Within three months, one of their team of eight was dead. Within a year, five more had died, and by the end of two years, MacKay was the only one left. MacKay led his team on an 800-mile overland trek heading for the south end of Lake Victoria. Severe malarial fevers knocked him out and he was hauled back to the coast to recuperate. Once he recovered, MacKay and his team hacked out a bush road from the coast to Mpwapwa—230 miles inland.

Pioneers are like first-responders. They are the first ones to respond to a crisis. They are the ones who charge into burning buildings and jump into frozen lakes to rescue dying people. I call them Revelation 12:11 missionaries: they are among those who “loved not their own lives even unto death.”

Pioneer missionaries are spearheads. A spearhead is the tip, the initiator, and the first part of the spear that punctures a target. The head leads and the rest of the spear follows hard. The pioneer is always moving their feet toward the fields where Christ is not known—always pressing for the regions beyond. That is pioneer mission.

Pioneer missionaries aren’t superheroes, they simply have a specific gifting. Apostolic leaders also have weaknesses, so they need a team. But if that person is to last very long as the leader of their pioneer church planting team, it is essential that they have the right blend of these DNA characteristics.

*Check out part 1 of this article here

The Guts & Glory of Pioneer Church Planting: Part 1

The following is adapted from a charge that David Sitton gave during To Every Tribe’s recent orientation week for a new group of missionaries starting their training at the Center for Pioneer Church Planting and was recently featured in To Every Tribe’s latest edition of Ekballo Magazine.

The reason To Every Tribe began, and the reason our training arm, the Center for Pioneer Church Planting exists, is the compelling conviction that pioneer church planting is primary and essential to complete the mission of the Great Commission. Many things are important, but none in mission are more important than this.

Paul emphasizes the point in Romans: “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?” (Romans 10:14-15b).

A pioneer, by definition, is one who begins something new and prepares the way for others to follow—one who is among the first to explore new regions. One cannot be a pioneer and also demand infrastructure to be in place before one’s boots are even on the ground. Pioneers oftentimes don’t have roads—sometimes literally, but always figuratively. Pioneers carve out the first roads themselves so that others may follow. Someone has to go first.

The Guts
The guts of pioneer church planting are the essential elements of establishing a community of believers within a culture where a witness of Jesus has never existed. These gut ingredients include a variety of things such as vision, philosophies, strategies, methodologies, and, not to be overlooked, the actual apostolic church planters necessary to enact these priorities through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Death of a Chambri Chief

Wapi Death

Wapi was knee high tall when World War 2 soldiers occupied Chambri Island in Papua New Guinea (1942-43).  During late night pow-wows, he detailed for me the atrocities of war and the hardships of growing up in a war-ravaged village. Eventually, Wapi ascended to chieftain status as a fierce warrior and leader among his formerly headhunting people. More

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