The Unknown Missionaries

As I was reading this morning, I came to this account of Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem the week during which He would make atonement for the sins of His people through His death and resurrection. Matt. 21:1-7

“Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.”  This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,

 ‘Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them.  They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them.”

When I read of this event, I rarely give thought to anything other than the context, the prophetical significance and the movement of events leading to the cross. However, this time two interesting things drew my attention as I thought about the unnamed owner of the animals mentioned in this passage. First: The indispensable contribution made to the plan and eternal purpose of God by a man whose name the Holy Spirit chose not to reveal to us. As a result, his name is unknown in the world.

His fame, in this world, will never match that of  apostles like Peter, Paul or John but his contribution to the kingdom of God was absolutely necessary. He owned and cared for the very donkey that would be ridden by the Messiah as He presented Himself to Israel (Zechariah 9:9). In doing so, this un-named servant of God was instrumental in magnifying the name of Jesus.

What does this have to do with missionaries? A lot! We all know the names of great missionary heroes like William Carey, Adoniram Judson, Hudson Taylor and many others. The Ecuador Five are known by name because of their martyrdom in the cause of mission. However, there are thousands of unknown, unsung heroes of the faith who gave their lives in years of faithful struggle against seemingly insurmountable odds to make the name of Jesus known to the lost. Their names, like the man in our Biblical account, are unknown and their biographies unwritten but they are just as important to the advancement of the kingdom of God as a Brainerd or a Livingston.

Unknown and their stories untold. This will likely be the earthly legacy of the majority of missionary trainees who pass through the Center for Pioneer Church Planting. Though they will probably not be famous, their contribution is no less vital to the kingdom. Moreover, in the place where it really matters, their stories and sacrifices will be told and celebrated in the presence of the King.

Also, as I considered this passage of Scripture, I thought about the value of every day labor. As the owner of the animals, mentioned in this account, daily carried feed to and cared for the Jenny and her foal, he may have had no idea how important his work was to God. He probably had no inkling that the King of glory would sit on that little donkey as He entered Jerusalem on the week of His crucifixion. This reminds us that, no matter how menial and insignificant our work may seem, it is God’s work.

All of the Christian’s work is for God. If you have been providentially placed in a circumstance that requires you to work a regular job, just remember that you are ultimately not working for your earthly employer. You are working for God. If you are treating your daily work as your service to God, you are contributing everything to the advancement of His kingdom that He demands of you. Your work is as important to gospel advancement as that of any more recognized servant of Christ.  The great orator, Martin Luther King once said:

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michaelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”

Preach on and serve well, unknown missionary. Your heavenly King is paying attention and being glorified in your ministry. Serve on and work faithfully, unsung laborer. Your service to the King is beyond any earthly value.

“And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”
Galatians 6:9

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.

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