Friday, June 30, 2017

Challenges of the Mission Field- Confessions of church planters.

I recently had chats with the three church planters that Faith Baptist church has sent out and I asked them to share what general or specific challenges they have faced or continue to face on the mission field. My goal was to do a write up and share with the church so that we are aware of the challenges the men we have sent into the trenches face in order for us to support and pray for them with knowledge and in a sense some of them apply to ministry in general.
It is also important to note that facing or acknowledging challenges in ministry does not necessary mean one is complaining neither does it mean one is unspiritual. Paul and his team often faced challenges in some cases the challenges were life threatening. And though Paul served with a joyful heart and found blessed contentment he often shared the challenges of the mission field with the hope of informed prayers been offered for them.  In their first missionary journey John Mark a member of their team could not endure the challenges faced that he called it quits (Acts 13).

High demands and expectations for success
When an entire church holds a service to ordain you and sends you off into the mission field they often do so with clear outlines of what your responsibilities are and they have very high expectations. Truth be told we expect fruit and in some cases we expect the fruit yesterday! Now expectations are not necessary wrong, because you do not want to be paying a man for lazing around and giving lame excuses. The problem comes in when the expectations are unrealistic and/or unbiblical. Unrealistic expectations often tempt the missionaries to start been “creative” with their reports and conjuring up numbers that do not exist or manipulate salvation testimonies out of people that still spiritually dead!

There is also a sense in which the people you are ministering to on the mission field equally can equally have false expectations of you and your work. They begin to treat you like the super saint who never struggles with sin when in actual fact you struggle with sin daily. As a result missionaries face the danger of keeping up face so that they can keep the super saint image. 

Cultural differences
Moving to a new area comes with its own cultural shocks regardless of the distance from your home. This is true even if you are ministering to your own countrymen. Granted the degree of shock varies the further away from home you are. For instance a person moving from Riverside Kitwe to Wusakile, Mindolo or Kakolo in the same town is still in for a rude shock. The worldview and dynamics are totally different that one has to do some adjusting in order to be an effective minister to the people. Missionaries who fail to adjust and understand the dynamics of their mission field will either become an offense (rendering their ministry effective) or they will abandon the work in frustration. Paul was wise to this and his philosophy was I am all things to all men. To the Jew I became a Jew and the Gentile I became a Gentile.  Missionaries who insist on forcing their culture on the mission field are not fit to be on the mission field. The damage they do to the ministry takes a long time repair.

Uncertainty of financial support
This is probably the biggest challenge or struggle missionaries have to face because it touches on their families livelihood. Generally missionaries have to make do with very little and have to make a lot of sacrifices to remain in the church plants. This can bring a lot of strain on the family and make serving extremely difficult.

Any work requires money and a lack of resources to do actives and do projects can be very frustrating for the missionary. The apostle Paul struggled with this challenge as well and shares his experiences in the fourth chapter of Philippians.  As a sending church it is important that we are not only praying for these men and giving faithfully and generously to ensure that their needs are met while they labor

Loneliness and discouragement
Been on the mission field can feel like out of site equals out of mind. I really admire our missionaries! They willing decide to uproot their families and go to a new area and basically start all over again. Away from friends and family. With the many challenges in ministry both from within and from without it is easy to get discouraged and despair. Especially in moments of personal attacks. The wives and children can also get discouraged and sadly we often forget they have also gone and made sacrifices.

Despite these and I am sure many other challenges, we thankful that there are families who are still willing and ready to go and labor for the gospel. We grateful that these men and women do not throw in the towel when the going gets tough. I am positive the Lord the righteous judge has many crowns waiting for them on that great day. As for us who have remained. Pray, give and visit these families. Assure them that out of site is not out of mind. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Biblical Truths on Time for African Christians

Let’s be honest. We are generally terrible with time as Africans (with some notable exceptions). We never really keep appointments, our meetings start and end late and generally all our programs start with an apology about it starting an hour or more late and official programs have a starting time but no ending time. That in itself says a lot. I was at a pastors conference where some speakers where from several African countries and a few from the USA. As we were putting final touches on our notes in the speakers lounge two brothers from the USA were frantically working on theirs because they had a meeting coordinated by African brothers in a few minutes (the meeting was planned at 13:00 hours), or so they believed! They finished going over their notes and said yes it’s time for out meeting. They waited for a few minutes then went out to look for the coordinators. To cut the story short they came back clearly frustrated and continued studying. One of them remarked “I guess that’s how things work in Africa” as painful as that was, it was actually very true. That meeting eventually took place at night!

If you have lived in Africa for any period of time, you know that’s the order of the day. Not only don’t we keep time, but we generally struggle with using it wisely or in the words of scripture making the most of our time. There are two reasons why we are often not mindful of how we use our time.  The first is a worldview issue. In the African worldview, time is not viewed in terms of seconds, minutes or hours but in blocks of time. So if you typically ask an African what time you are meeting instead of saying specific time i.e. 10:00 hours, they will say in the morning. Consequently, as long as its morning the appointment stands. Furthermore relationships are more important to Africans than time. So if someone pops in unannounced you drop what you were doing and attend to them. Similarly it’s more important that the person has come than that they have come on time.
The second reason we are not mindful of time is a failure to grasp biblical teachings on time. When one surveys the scriptures you soon discover that the bible has quite a bit of truths or principals for Christians to live by. Let me share three of them and then we will look at the implications.

Time is our greatest asset- Matthew 25:14-18
The parable of the steward primary teaches us the need to be prepared to give an account to the Lord our master and use the gifts he has blessed us within the time he has given us wisely. It is interesting that though the talents were different, the time was the same. We may differ in gifts and abilities but we have the same amount of time. The same minutes, hours, days and weeks. The really difference is how we use and manage our time. In other words, the Lord is actually going to judge us on how we use and manage our time. Hence the need to make most of our time because time is our greatest asset the Lord has given us. So where relationships are important and it’s true we should not become slaves of time, we definitely should not waste our time.

Time is a non- renewable resource- Psalm 90:10-12, 78:39
Don Whitney once tweeted “If we wasted our money the way we waste our time, we would say that person is made”. Of all the resources on earth, time is the only one you can never recover. The moment time is gone it is gone. The years you have spent here on earth are over, you will never get them back. The few minutes you have spent reading this blog are gone. I hope it was worth your time J. If we actually grasped this truth about time, we would place a high value on time such that we would desire to make the most of it. We need to truly develop the heart to number our days. In other ways live in light of eternity and pending judgement. Value your time.

There is a time for everything Proverbs 24:27, Ecclesiastes 3:1
God is a God of order. He gave us an example in creation. He worked within time and days. And when he created he ordered that there be a time and a season for everything. The seasons have their time and the sun and moon have their order of operation. Anything less would be chaos. What is actually interesting is that in the villages this truth is grasped and practiced when it comes to farming. The farmers know that there is a time to prepare the land, a time to till the land, to plant, weed and harvest. How we miss this concept in other aspects of our lives I have no idea.

The heart of the issue
When you actually think about it, a lack of regard for time is pride. It is reveals a high view of self and low view of God and others. Why do I say so? A person who does not make the most of their time is refusing to realize and acknowledge his stewardship to God. It is also a total disregard to others. Failure to observe time is implying other people have nothing to do with their time and you are so important that they should simply wait for you. Whenever a meeting starts and ends late, the people who suffer are those who keep time. We punish the time keepers to please the late comers.
Another important thing to note with people who are poor at time management is the plain fact that they are disorganized. People who cannot keep time or use their time wisely are often times disorganized individuals. These are people who do things at the last minute and appear very busy running around when in actual fact they did not plan and prepare in advance. We also need to learn that just because you have an excuse for your poor time keeping does not mean your disorganization should be excused.

The Lord has blessed us with time. Let us learn to number our days and make the most of our time.