"And when they had appointed elders for them in every church…" Acts 14:23
We are blessed with a variety of trees in our yard: alamos, gum trees, avocado, lemon, orange, palms; and things like huano (what they thatch roofs with), bananas, habanero peppers, coconuts, aloe vera, guanábana and more. It is just a smattering of what the surrounding jungle holds. We can talk about poisonous snakes another time.
In the midst of this abundant diversity and amenable climate, there is one kind of tree that we don't have in our yard. In fact, I have not found a single one anywhere in Mexico or anywhere else that I have been, for that matter.
There is not a single disciple tree anywhere.
Do you have a disciple tree in your yard? I thought not. I'm not greedy... just one ripe disciple a year dropping into my arms and I would never complain.
Where will we find a true disciple (i.e., potential elder) when we need one? When churches have a need for a new, dedicated servant, they often must look to other churches or seminaries or to men presently occupying other pulpits.
If only the few are raising "Timothys" that the many will have to compete for, won't we run out?
I come from Independent Baptist churches. Independent Baptist pastors like supporting missionaries. They have certain expectations about said missionaries. When talking about how to do mission work, they like to use the word "indigenous". In fact, you will hear that word a lot.
Indigenous means: native to the area, homegrown. It points to a set of principles, a vision, of how we think the Lord's work should be propagated. We tend to not go for using money to grease the wheels of church growth. Buying property, making a big splash with advertising, going out to the pastor market to see if an offer of a better salary will help someone to recognize the Holy Spirit leading them our direction... these are things that we generally find distasteful and, at times, downright unethical.
For me, the phrase "indigenous missions" conjures up an image of starting from scratch, one-on-one discipleship, a church formed of human building blocks with or without a proper meeting place, and ultimately coming full circle by leaving trustworthy leadership in our wake.
So… from whence the double standard?
What if I were to hang on for dear life to what I have and ride it out to the end? Let's say that all that I bequeath to a church is a sketchy set of guidelines for setting up a search committee that must find a way to graft in a new pastor for the shepherd-less flock that I leave behind? Hopefully they get it done in months, not years.
I hear, "God was finished with me there", followed by news of a vacant pulpit and headless body as a result... and I go, "say what?" This was not a Moses-to-Joshua or a Paul-to-Timothy type of transition.
What would be rightly judged as negligent behavior in me on my side of the border would likely be deemed acceptable behavior on your side of the border? Please say it ain't so.
I regret to inform you: lines on a map have little to do with how we responsibly pass the baton to the next generation. "and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also." (2 Tim 2:2) That charge is a burden equally shared by us all.
It is unfortunate that there is such a marked distinction between the role of pastor and the role of missionary. Whatever term is used to describe us, our calling is essentially the same. We are one group of people, not two. Much of the indigenous vision prescribed for "missions" applies to all. Our priorities coming down the homestretch are identical.
It amazes me every time I read II Timothy. Paul's last words, knowing that he would soon be martyred, were not directed to the world at large, to churches in a particular region, or to a convention of pastors. He poured his final words into a letter to one young man of unfeigned faith. No point writing to thousands when what the thousands would need depended more on Paul getting it right in his nurturing of one disciple.
We are supposed to be somebody's Paul.
Where is our Timothy?
Greg was raised near Milwaukee, WI. He has lived outside of the United States since 1976... first in Central America and, since 1982, in Cancun, Mexico.
Concise devotions in Spanish and English, along with some lengthier essays… Designed for personal spiritual growth and to help anyone studying English or Spanish as a second language to improve their skills… Rev 14:6
To highlight one essential facet of the eternal Gospel of Jesus Christ... Rev 14:6; 2 Cor. 5:18
THANK YOU FOR READING!
"Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ." (Philemon 1:20)
Refreshing the Bones by Greg Smith is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.