What is the first thing that you think of when you hear of missionary church planting?
Do you think of an American missionary going to a foreign field to pastor an indigenous church? Do you envision the American missionary laboring for years to plant a church and then finally handing the church to a national so that he can begin to plant another church? That has been the method for many, many missionaries, and we do not want to belittle their faithful service to the Lord; however, we would like to present another route of church planting that finds its source in II Timothy 2:1-2, that is, missionary church planting through institute training.
What is the first thing you think of when you hear of a Bible institute?
Unfortunately, what often comes to mind is a “Bible study,” or an advanced Sunday School time for those who want to learn a little bit more than the typical lay person. The Bible institute in consideration in this pamphlet is one that is formal, intense, and comprehensive; one that offers a general but challenging study of the ministry so that the student can become “a workman that needeth not to be ashamed,” gaining through that training the assurance that he is “rightly dividing the word of truth.”
Before outlining II Timothy 2:1-2, allow us to present a question to your mind: Is institute training an effective means of church planting? Consider this scenario: An American missionary goes to a foreign field and starts a church from “scratch.” The Lord prospers that work so that the missionary is able to pass that work on to a national after five years of diligence. According to this scenario, in ten years there will have been two churches planted.
Please ponder another scenario: An American missionary goes to a foreign field and spends his time training seventy students in a Bible institute designed to train future Christian leaders of that particular country. Let’s say that it takes six years for the trained national to plant a church. After four years of training, and then six years for the establishment of a church, that country would see thirty-five churches planted in ten years if only half of the institute students were to go on to pastor national churches.
The advantages seen in the above scenario of institute training are vast. For one, the missionary does not have to look for the “point man” within his congregation to take over the pastorate, because the national is nearly ready to serve as a pastor. Another advantage is cultural, in that the national pastor does not have to overcome the ramifications of an American passing on the leadership to that of the national. Also, who is to train the one coming to the position of the pastorate? In the scenario of institute training, the upcoming pastor has been trained to fulfill the role as pastor. With these items in mind, let us look at the Biblical basis for church planting by institute training.
THE BIBLICAL BASIS FOR CHURCH PLANTING BY INSTITUTE TRAINING
MOTIVATION (II Timothy 2:1) “Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”
Under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, the Apostle Paul continues his instruction to Pastor Timothy, even after sending him out for the work of the Gospel. Paul passionately compels Timothy to find his strength “in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” Paul understood that such a task as he was about to give Timothy could not be done in the strength of a mortal man, but only through the empowering of an omnipotent Savior. When a missionary takes up the task of training others to fulfill the role of pastor, he realizes that he has an enormous task and that the task is simply impossible for him to do through his own limited strength.
MANDATES (II Timothy 2:2) “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men who shall be able to teach others also.”
When one studies missions, he will often become acquainted with the study of the Pauline Cycle, a philosophy of church planting derived from studying the church planting ministry of the Apostle Paul. Second Timothy 2:2 is a three-part summarization of that cycle, given as a mandate by Paul to Timothy.
1) The Biblical Mandate to LEARN of God!
And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses…
Timothy was indoctrinated, or trained, by Paul, and Timothy was able to verify by other sources that what Timothy was learning of Paul was the truth. In a Bible institute, the biblical training of a missionary is duplicated many times over in the lives of national students training for the ministry. There is an added advantage when there are many missionaries working together (“among many witnesses”) for the common goal of training young students for the ministry, in that the students have the advantage of learning from the different experiences and backgrounds of several missionaries (many of whom have been pastoring for years!).
2) The Biblical Mandate to TEACH others what you have learned!
…the same commit thou to faithful men…
Timothy was to entrust to other faithful men what was entrusted to him by Paul. Having now been trained themselves, the national students are able to teach to their new congregations what they have been taught.
3) The Biblical Mandate to challenge those whom you have trained to REPRODUCE in others what they have learned!
…who shall be able to teach others also.”
Timothy was not only to teach others biblical truths, but he was also to commit to them the responsibility to train others themselves! National students who have been trained by missionaries (and subsequently by other nationals, as some who have graduated from fine Bible institutes will in turn be teachers in these institutes as well) will have the tools necessary to teach others what they have learned and will also “pass the torch” of biblical training on to those whom they are training. This process of “multi-plication” (others training others to train others) is a direct application of the Great Commission (see Matt. 28:19-20).
We trust that this pamphlet has been informative and that it has not been taken to be an attack on historic and successful means of church planting by those who were doing precisely what God called them to do. Of course, a short work of this nature cannot begin to address the many questions that could surface. The primary purpose of this pamphlet is to explain an alternate and effective means of church planting that is available through institute training and to present the Scriptural evidence for this challenging means of accomplishing the Great Commission given by the Lord to His disciples.
By Daniel E. Wokaty – Missionary to Instituto Práctico Ebenezer (Ebenezer Bible College) in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico; serving under MGM International. Contact information: firstname.lastname@example.org.
To correspond with the leadership or missionaries of Mission Gospel Ministries International, contact email@example.com.
The Dan Wokaty family