In detail

Not many congregations exist today where Paul the missionary could do this kind of a report:

When Paul had greeted them, he began to explain in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry, Acts 21.19.

Granted, maybe a missionary or two could use some coaching on how to explain what God does through his service. Anybody to give Y.T. some advice?

Where do church buildings fit in?

Jerry Hill, on his perspective on church buildings and what they did in Guatemala:

Where do church buildings fit in? They are not mentioned in the New Testament. With “all creation” as the goal, God’s army moved swiftly over the earth, leaving behind Christ’s church meeting in homes. Financial resources went to preaching and to helping circumstance-stricken people. World evangelism was accomplished. Since then, our systems have not duplicated that all-important feat. Respectfully speaking, church buildings and the struggle to get the gospel to every human are comparable to a pentagonal, permanent structure in Washington and the invasion of Normandy. I think a better question would be, How fast do you want to move? In our preaching in Guatemala, we opted to leave the decision of a meeting place up to the troops.

From his book on the first years of their work in Guatemala, unavailable on the internet or in print form, as far as we could discover.

Preach and follow the leads

Jerry Hill, again, in his book about their work in Guatemala, which I’m enjoying:

A chain of events like this begins with someone preaching the gospel. It is predictable that important reactions will occur. It is impossible to know what they will be, whom they will involve or where they may lead. The preacher will be disappointed at times that his plans for certain people in certain places were not realized. But he will be elated many times over when the unpredicted events bring in people, at places, and with results that no one foresaw. I believe this is fundamental to preaching the gospel to all the world in each generation: preach, and follow the leads! p. 44.

Great advice! God will open doors that we never dreamed of.

Jerry Hill: sending nationals to train in the US

We haven’t learned this lesson yet. Actually, it’s ignored. There are unspiritual interests behind this practice that continue to harm the church.

By that time, we had heard of others who had been sent to the U. S. to study who would not go back home. We began thinking that it was not a good idea to educate our converts in the U. S. For one thing, you lose all they could have contributed to the local work during the time they were gone. Too, the local studies would be tailored to local needs, while in a foreign college, the foreign curriculum would be followed. And if they didn’t come back at all? Or if they came back with an attitude? No, we thought the church would be better off if we taught them ourselves.

Jerry Hill shared a negative experience that convinced them of this.

Preaching in Acts and today

Reading Jerry Hill’s book on their work in Guatemala. He wrote on page 23,

That preaching [in the book of Acts] was not our Sunday morning and evening lecture to believers. We’re prone to interpret biblical activities by our present practices. The word preach is used in Spanish and English versions to relate how Philip communicated the gospel to the eunuch (Acts 8:35) and how it was related from house to house (20:20), at Paul’s prison-house (28:1), as well as situations that involved many hearers (9.20). During my lifetime, it seems to me that preaching is the common verb used to express what happens in a church service and a campaign. We may overlook that those who teach their spouse or neighbor the gospel are preaching in a biblical sense. And aren’t those who do so preachers? We thought we saw in these simple truths that Guatemalan preachers were going to be prepared more quickly than the modern orator that each congregation likes to have and call the preacher nowadays. It seemed, too, that there should be no limit on the number of preachers in a church.

He’s spot on about the way Americans use the words preaching and preacher. It’s a bad reflection on the church. Very bad. Points up some unbiblical practices.

The work will probably die

I received a missions newsletter from a good brother working in a hard place. I’m in no position to evaluate his work. Each worker stands or falls before the Lord who is Judge of all. At the same time, I see comments like the following one repeatedly. This one was made after 25 years of work in the same place:

If our support is not continued the work will probably die in the places where we are working because our full-time preacher and his family will not be able to continue to work there.

It is possible that this is true because, in part, of the methodology used in that place. Across the board, American Christians are reproducing the bad habits they practice in the U.S. They go in, build a building, hire a full-time preacher, ship in American preachers for a week at a time to teach, and develop their work in this way.

Friends, there is a better way than using large amounts of American funds directly in a mission effort. We hope to develop works that, after years of our investment, will finally become self-supporting. But here’s the catch: As a work begins, so it will continue. This is a principle that has proven to be true time and again.

As a work begins, so it will continue.

So start a work in the manner that you want to see it functioning 10 and 20 years down the road. That means, in part, not creating a dependence upon foreign funds. This has been repeated through the years, but we don’t seem to be making much progress on it, because we are reproducing a failed American model.

Help all the traveling evangelists

Last night as I bedded down, I read three chapters of the Bible, one of them 3 John. Imagine my pleasant surprise to read this morning Ed M.’s devotional thought for June 3 on 3 John 6. Every saint ought to read this one-page meditation. (I recommend the entire yearly work.) Among other things, he wrote,

Christian obligation. Gaius gave travel assistance to some fellow believers (though they were “strangers” to him), III John 5. These itinerant preachers had mentioned his goodness while visiting John, III John 3. So the venerable apostle asks Gaius for another favor. “Send them on their way” in a manner that God would approve, III John 6. These traveling evangelists were worthy of such help because “it was for the sake of the Name that they went out,” III John 7. Christians have an obligation to underwrite the work of those who minister the word, I Corinthians 9:7-12a.

Why cannot every church help every missionary who seeks support, with some amount, at least? (The reason why not: they’re spending their monies elsewhere, mostly on themselves.)

Focus question: Am I going, letting go, or helping to go?

Textual note: NLT translates “brothers” as “traveling teachers,” vv. 3, 5, 10. Quite interpretative, but they were indeed traveling evangelists, what we today call missionaries.