I believe the followers of Jesus that are the local church carry the responsibility that comes with the Great Commission. Jesus said that He was going to build a church that would push back darkness and it is so powerful that even the gates of hell would not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18). The foundation of the church is the 'Christ, the Son of the Living God' (Matthew 16:15). In Scripture we find a powerful church built on a sure foundation.
Our calling to be missionaries is strong and certain: We are to serve our Lord in another culture and plant churches. Our team of missionaries is planting churches in partnership with the local church. Our 'home' culture is the United States of America, more specifically Mississippi. Our new culture is Mexico, specifically southern Mexico. Our conviction is that the work of missions is done by the local church in both of these cultures and the local church pastor and/or leadership in both of these cultures is the key leader for the fulfillment of the Great Commission. The missionaries that God is most counting on are the followers of Jesus who make up these local church bodies.
A mission organization made up of professional, paid missionaries is a great tool that God uses. I work for what I believe to be the world's greatest mission organization. My organization is a 'company' of servants sent by local churches and managed by people sent out by local churches. However, in God's toolbox, the local church and the people in those churches is the preferred option. The local church fulfilling the Great Commission has been God's plan all along.
Sometimes the local church is not the sharpest tool and is, at times, not calibrated correctly but it is still the FIRST option for taking the Gospel to the Ends of the Earth. It is God's responsibility to sharpen His tools. I don't have the option of changing God's plan. If I am living in obedience to the clear commands of Scripture then I must work with imperfect people from local churches to take the Gospel to where it is not.
Could it be that God could use imperfect people to do great things? Could it be that a rag-tag group of believers from a called-out local church that don't know as much about culture, worldview, and language as the 'professional' missionaries can get the job done? Could it be that God might use the 'foolish to shame the wise?' I'm certain that if God can use the church at Antioch and Corinth and Ephesus and Sardis then He can use my church and yours.
There has been a period in our church history when many of our local church pastors and the local churches delegated the Great Commission Task to the sent-out ones, missionaries, and many of these churches simply 'got out of the way' and let the professionals do the work. That makes sense. But, is it the strategy God intended? Could it be the Enemy tried a way to de-rail God's plan by taking the local church pastor away from the missionary task? Perhaps the Enemy tried this but it is not working.
In southern Mexico, and around the world, local churches are re-engaging a very dark world. Local churches from the USA are waking up (Remember the church at Sardis?) and becoming complete. Local churches in other cultures are taking up the responsibility of reaching their people and the rest of the world. My mission organization has a new leader that is a local church pastor (some say with no 'professional' missionary experience and I say 'Praise God!'). The followers of Jesus that make up the local church and the leadership of those local churches have the responsibility of taking the Gospel the the Ends of the Earth.
Would you join me in praying for these local churches from the USA who are taking on a huge challenge and engaging unreached people groups in my little corner of the globe? No, they are not perfect churches and they aren't any different from yours except for the fact that they have been awakened to their responsibility to take the Gospel where it is not. Part of this responsibility is to be trained to understand a culture and how to plant a church in that culture and these churches are committed to being sharp tools in the Master's toolbox.
Please pray for these churches, conventions, and ministries who are committed to the fulfillment of the Great Commission in Mexico:
- First Baptist Oxford, MS
- Community Church Oxford, MS
- Second Baptist Springfield, MO
- Franklin Heights Baptist Church, Rocky Mount, VA
- Shindler Drive Baptist Church, Jacksonville, FL
- Crosspoint Church, Melrose, FL
- Piedmont-Okefenokee Baptist Association, GA
- SonRise Baptist Church, Newnan, GA
- College Street Baptist Church, Walhalla, SC
- Urbancrest Baptist Church, Lebanon, OH
- Koinos Fellowship, Troy, OH
- Church at the Butte, Elephant Butte, NM
- Valley Baptist Church, Bakersfield, CA
- Pillar Church, Stafford, VA
- Central Baptist Church, Wendell, NC
- Springdale Baptist Church, Kosciusko, MS
- Ole Miss Baptist Student Union
Would you also pray also for the thousands of missionaries, the 'sent-out' ones, that are serving around the world? Many of these great servants of God were sent out under an old paradigm that neglected a connection to local churches in their home culture. Sadly, many of our local churches dropped the ball and did not stay connected to the missionaries that were sent from their ranks. These local churches yielded their Great Commission responsibility to the 'professionals.' Thus, we have a large number of missionaries serving around the world with weak or non-existent connections to their local churches. This is not God's plan and a lost world is dying while we correct the problem.
Thank you to all who are 'holding the rope' for us!
Jeff, Liesa, Haylee, and Jackson