We spend the bulk of our time
searching out, discerning, and strategizing new methods
for completing the Great Commission.
Could it be that a return to the historical methods is whats needed?
Our annual Radius Day, when our campus is wide open, is over now. For the last two days, the campus was filled with over 100 incredible visitors. From Alaska, Michigan, North Carolina, Montana, North Dakota, Texas, Alabama, Louisiana, Kansas, Oregon, Arkansas, Washington, Minnesota, Iowa, Oklahoma, Texas, Ontario, Toronto, Illinois, Colorado, Taiwan, Ontario Canada, and all over California folks came to Mexico to see first hand this place that is training missionaries. For the majority, it was their first time here and a hearty lot they were!
As the hours went by pastors, missions leaders, and future students heard from many Radius students and staff. During long coffee breaks and formal Q&A times a common realization began to set in… ‘Radius has NOT discovered a new method.’ One pastor finally just said it in a Pastors/Missions leader break out session, “So really you’re not doing anything new here. If we’re hearing you correctly this is actually a return to historic missions?” He nailed it. Of course ‘historic’ can be seen as being culturally imperialistic and overbearing. But that’s clearly not what we are talking about. Doing the hard work of learning the language and culture fluently, and thus being able to spot the appropriate relational and gospel starting points within a particular culture, goes a long way to ensure Radius trained workers will be culturally appropriate. Nope, we do not want to be blind towards the imperialistic lenses that some foreign workers have seen the world through but we are also not afraid to be labeled as ‘historic’ in our methods. We would call it being ‘Biblically’ driven.
When we say ‘Biblical’ we are speaking of methods we see in scripture, which historically were unquestioned. What would those be? I’ll list some of them…
- God communicates clearly. Except when Jesus deliberately used parables to veil meanings. God is a clear communicator.
- God’s prophets, priests, disciples, and apostles did not use translators, or persons of peace, as their go-between.
- Making the gospel understandable was the responsibility of the communicator; bringing conviction and conversion is the domain of the Holy Spirit.
- Error or heresies don’t ‘self-correct’. The Ethiopian eunuch could read and was open to truth, but he needed a competent teacher.
- We thank God when miracles, dreams, and visions occur, but we do not wait for, plan on, or expect miracles or healings as a strategy to do evangelism.
- Evangelism is different than discipleship.
- We do not see New Testament apostles or church leaders ‘facilitating’ Bible studies. The New Testament norm is that competent teachers clearly taught God’s Word.
- Conversion is a New Testament concept. The point in time may be ‘blurry’ in some people’s memories, but the ‘conversion process’ does culminate at a point in time when a person moves from death to life. It matters because that is when discipleship begins.
- We disciple towards spiritual maturity those who embrace the gospel and have the Spirit of God within them. Only those who embrace Jesus would we teach to live in obedience to Him.
- We do not teach, exhort, hint at, or desire non-believers to ‘obey God’. We realize that to do so we fuel the already existing idea that ‘I can please God in my current state’ by doing good works.
- Those who understand the gospel are broken by it and find forgiveness of sin in its message. They do not add Bible truths to their pre-existing worldview.
- Followers of Jesus do not remain enmeshed in their previous religion. Spiritual growth is accompanied by moving away from Animistic, Islamic, Hindu and Buddhist ideas and identities. Such ideas and practices that show allegiance, loyalty, or worship to other religious entities are moved away from as new believers understand their new identity as Christ followers.
- Discipling people to spiritual maturity takes time. The further their previous religious view was from the biblical view the longer this will take.
- Having recognized biblically competent elders takes time. Without such leaders, there is no ‘church’.
- Forming individuals into actual churches that reproduce takes time and teaching, especially where no pre-existing Judeo-Christian worldview is in place. (New Testament time frames give little guidance to today’s cross-cultural situations.)
- Humanitarian, business, educational and other ways of improving the lives of needy peoples were not the primary thrust of Jesus parting mandate. Although the gospel worker must demonstrate his love and concern for his people in tangible ways (and today this is legally mandated in many situations) unless there is a church left behind all other efforts are temporary helps.
- Marriages and children being adversely affected by the sufferings of the apostles were a given. Long-term cross-cultural missionaries today will not minister effectively without their share of sacrifices.
These are some of the core understandings that Radius is seeing students become biblically convinced of. Over the last couple of days, truly the most impactful times were hearing students share their own convictions in each of these areas. Hearing how God’s Word has re-shaped their hearts as they’ve thought through the difficulties associated with cross-cultural church planting was powerful.
Yes, Radius is somewhat ‘out of step’ with some of what is going on in missions. However, nearly every one of the above 17 areas are being rethought in missions’ circles. What seems obvious from a straightforward reading of scripture is today ‘under discussion’.
The number of churches becoming aware of the state of affairs in missions today is encouraging. Good questions are being asked more commonly. The Pastors and Missions Leader session was candid and the concern over “What can we do? What DO we do?” was great to hear.
Founder of Radius International