When we talk about methodology for anything when it comes to evangelism, there is always the danger of looking to the methods verses the person of Christ we seek to proclaim. Furthermore, when it comes to missions, volumes have been written on methodology. It always seems there is a more affective way to do things. “Follow these steps and you will see success in your ministry.” However, as I write this article concerning missions and its methodology, I realize that I to am making a contribution to the numerous things written on this subject. But I would like to ask a question that has been asked countless times: what is the biblical model for missions? Actually, let me rephrase this in a more personal way: Have we ever looked to the scriptures to understand what makes missions “affective”? How can true missions leave a lasting impact on generations to come?
There are many things that need to be addressed when asking the above questions, but for now I would like to focus on one aspect and Lord willing we will come back to the others. Lets jump right into the method. Lets see what the doing actually involves. Lets take a look at the life of Paul – a man who reached continents for Christ even while he was in prison. Lets dissect how Paul went into all nations with the gospel. Lets see what he actually did when he went.
Over the last several centuries, the church has sent missionaries to other countries with the hope of spreading the gospel to the lost. After all, that is what we have been commanded to do: “Go ye unto all the world”. We have raised large amounts of money to support and send these missionaries. The Lord has blessed the work of our hands and His word has not returned void. Countless people have come to know Christ and many stories could be recounted to bring praise to the mighty work of our God through these efforts. However, what happens when the missionaries “retire”? What happens when they leave the country they were serving? Does the work go on? Does it last? Many times it does and that is a testament to their investment to equip the ones who will continue long after they are gone. Lasting fruit can be seen in many countries today from past work of yesterday. However, is this the rule or the exception? It’s a fair question to ask and one that is not asked enough; one that is overlooked in modern missionary work, as we know today.
It is in long-term effectiveness concerning missions that I believe the Apostle Paul gives insight to what really is affective missionary work. Paul as we know was not a pastor but received the special call of the Apostleship. He was commissioned to write the scriptures and as such he had the authority to establish methodology. There are four things that I believe stand out about Paul and his missionary work; four things that stand out about His methodology to which we would do well to pay heed to in the church today…
He stayed for a time
During Paul’s missionary journeys in the book of Acts, we see many occasions were he stayed for long periods of time. Months at a time were the norm. He invested himself day after day to the building up of the saints. Many times it was even at the cost of putting his own life in danger or at the very least suffering brutal persecution in order that the gospel may be proclaimed and go forth in power. Paul was committed to one thing: the advancement of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He gave up all – and by all that means completely and fully. His life was not his own, and His love for Christ and the gospel is unmatched and unparalleled anywhere in history. Some historians say that Paul may have even been married since He was a former Pharisee with one of there requirements being marriage. If he was, we have no idea what happened to her. Did she desert him because of His conversion to Christianity? Did she die? Who knows? We are not told. But what matters is that Paul invested his days into the furtherance of the gospel through His missionary work at a cost. He built the gospel in others through the sacrifice of his time. He was not a fair-weather missionary. He was faithful. He invested. He gave his time. He gave his life.
He helped plant churches
We do not have time to go into the theology of church planting. We will only say this: it is biblical and primary. Paul was a church planter. The first place we see him planting churches in the New Testament can be found in Acts 13 & 14. It was on his first missionary journey with Barnabas that we see the church plants of Antioch, Lystra, and Iconium [as well as others]. More specifically, in chapter 14:21-28, we see that he ordained elders for those churches on his return visit [fair assumption that he established churches on his first visit with the new believers seeing he was ordaining the elders on the second.]. Let us not also forget that most of the books that Paul wrote were specific letters written to the local churches that he had help to establish during missionary journeys [Acts] through the years. Paul was committed to the body of Christ and more specifically to the building up of the local bodies that he help to establish. He occupied himself with establishing churches with the new believers of his missionary journeys. He new that Christ had ordained the institution of the local church for the purpose of building the saints for the furtherance of the gospel. He understood the importance of the continued discipleship in the gospel long after he would be gone. And further more, there was no way he could do it all himself. Other saints must be equipped in order for the gospel to continue you.
He equipped local saints
You will notice that Paul dealt specifically with issues that the local churches were dealing with in his letters of the New Testament. We noticed in Galatians, Colossians, and Ephesians him dealing with the heresy of the Gnostics, antinomians, or the Judaizers desiring to impose the laws and customs that had been fulfilled in the person of Christ. Or we have in Corinthians the believers who were having a hard time breaking the old habits of former lifestyles, which he challenged them to die to. And as we have already stated, he would spend months at a time exhorting the new believers that had come to Christ through the faithful preaching of the gospel on his missionary journeys [Acts 14:21-28].
He trained leaders
Throughout Paul’s life we see him not only proclaiming the gospel but also equipping other men to do so. He trained leaders to lead other people in the work of the gospel. Basically, he discipled, but more specifically he trained men who could fill the role of pastoral leadership within the local churches he established. The first time we see Paul taking someone under his wing is in Acts 16 with a young man by the name of Timothy. As we well know, Timothy would go on to be the pastor of the church of Ephesus. While in prison, Paul would write two letters [1 Tim. & 2 Tim.] to Timothy addressing him specifically as the pastor. He encouraged and challenged him in doctrinal clarity, church matters, the importance of discipleship, how to conduct himself as a young man in leadership, and to not loose heart in the work of the gospel. We also see him doing the same thing with Titus in the letter he wrote to him. And though he is not mentioned in detail as much as the first two, Mark was another individual who received the discipleship and training of Paul [2 Tim. 4:11; Act 12:25; Philemon 1:23&24; Act 13:5]. These men continued the work of the gospel in the places he had done missionary work even after Paul was dead. He followed a biblical structure that would and still does leave a lasting impact.
Paul reached continents for Christ. His missionary work covered most of the known world at that time. This is amazing considering he was in prison much of his life. However, he went unto all nations to make disciples, and everywhere he went he stayed for a time, planted churches, equipped the saints, and trained leaders who would continue the work of the gospel. He made disciples. This “methodology” was Paul’s life. It’s affective. It’s tried. It’s biblical. It’s the way God designed it and commissioned us to do it.
With this lifestyle, empowered by a gospel vision, he spent his life building the kingdom of God for His glory. It was his passion. It was his call. It was his life work. It was lasting. And, it must be ours. Though we are not Apostles, his life stands, as a continuing monument to what our missionary work should be patterned after – preaching the gospel and making disciples in order for the glory of God to continue from generation to generation till He comes again.
For His Glory,