GOD MESSENGER – MINISTRY
It is time now to consider the ministerial focus of the missionary. When we turn to New Testament missions, we find that Paul’s involvement was exceedingly temporary. He came, stayed a few weeks or months, or at most a few years, and left to go into new areas. The churches he planted did not remain in his control. Even if a heretical influence came into the churches, Paul could only exhort the Christians to walk in truth. He had no funds to cut off. The believers were totally free. Certainly the contemporary picture of missions is different from Paul’s day.
Lesslie Newbigin writes about Paul totally entrusting leadership into local hands. He pungently comments that Paul did not do what modern missionaries have done: “He does not build a bungalow.”6 George W. Peters maintains that Paul could have rightfully said, “Here is enough work for me to do. This is where I am.” Paul resisted the temptation and kept on the move.7 Roland Allen points out that Paul did not neglect the churches. He continued to visit and correspond with them. But the basic leadership responsibility was all put in local hands.8
The missionary must move on as soon as possible after worshiping groups have been established. Converts must not transfer their dependence onto the missionary and away from the Lord.
Having travailed, given birth, and cared for young churches, the missionaries (whether Tamil or Naga or American or Australian) should turn authority over to indigenous leaders. Travail must not go on too long. It must be followed by weaning and pushing out of the nest. Then the missionary goes on and repeats the process.8 He must keep before him constantly the imperative of pressing out to new frontiers.
A beautiful picture of a ship on an ocean in the midst of a storm graces my bedroom door. The inscription reads, “A ship in a harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” The frontline of a battle is risky, but no victory has ever been registered in the annals of history as having been won solely by those sup-portive people who linger far behind the range of enemy gunfire. Our task calls for reflection, decision, and engagement.
6. The Open Secret (London: SPCK, 1978), p. 144.
7. “Issues Confronting Evangelical Missions,” Evangelical Missions Tomorrow (Pasadena, Calif.: William Carey Library, 1977), p. 162.
8. Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours? (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1962), p. 151.
9. Donald McGavran, Ethnic Realities and the Church (Pasadena, Calif.: William Carey Library, 1979), p. 130.