Yesterday, I wrote on Jesus' plan to reach the world and argued briefly that the primary way that Christ continued his work is through the church and most of his ministry was devoted to training men to care for the church and train leaders for the church. In other words, Christ trained men to care for and equip the local church and their training was a model that could be (and was) reproduced within the church as a means of growth. As leaders care for the church well and equip the saints (Eph 4:11-12), the gospel spreads. As the gospel spreads, more churches are planted and grow. As that happens, more leaders are necessary to equip those churches and the way those leaders are trained is through the local church and in particular, pastors who have been trained (2 Tim 2:2). I suggested that we can have a tremendous impact through intentionally investing in developing, training, and equipping leaders both at home in our local churches and abroad. I also mentioned that the American church has two particular strengths and suggested that as we think about missions, we need to play to our strengths. So what are these strengths?
As I mentioned yesterday, we need to understand that the American church has been specifically given certain strengths by God. There are certainly weaknesses that we need to be aware of, but how can we play to our strengths? How can we impact the world in the way that Christ modeled while leveraging our strengths? The first step is to identify our strengths. I think there are two in particular that are helpful to identity.
1. Financial Resources - The American church is wealthy because Americans are wealthy. According to an article by Business Insider, America ranks around #12 in the world in per capita purchasing power (and we are probably a bit higher when you consider some of the criteria of the study). America's GDP is projected to exceed 21 trillion dollars in 2019. The wealth of America and American Christians is a strength... or a weakness, depending on what we do with it. Let me suggest that there are ways that we can directly impact the Kingdom through financial resources being leveraged in responsible ways. For example, by partnering with a local church in a 3rd world country to meet a need in the community, we are leveraging our financial resources in a way that directly contributes toward that local church's ability to reach their community. Often, short term missions trips are basically Christian tourism with a side project, leaving little long term impact. Why is this? Because as Americans we think we can simply throw money into projects without thinking this through all the way. Maybe the best approach is not to build a school or dig a well and then leave, but do that through partnership with a local church that will be able to do follow up, care for the well, and use that as a means to share the gospel. If we can find ways to leverage our financial resources to make a legitimate, long-lasting impact for the Kingdom, isn't that something that we would all be willing to help with?
2. Theological training - The second strength we have in America is in the area of theological training. By that I mean both formal (seminary) and informal (discipleship or self-led study). We have unprecedented access to information at the tip of our fingers. In an age where books are inexpensive, we are able to learn from what others have discovered, take free seminary level courses online. We have pastors who have had theological training that is some of the best available in the world. One can get a seminary level education for free here through reliable internet and the only cost is time. Moreover, most churches in America have pastors who have had access to formal theological training and are equipped to lead theologically and have the resources to get equipped in areas where they are not. That is relatively rare in the world. 85% of churches in the world are pastored by men who have not had access to formal theological training. As I've traveled the world to equip these leaders, I've seen men who love Jesus, desire to be faithful, and are hungry to learn and grow so they can help their people grow. It's a blessing to have this much access to solid teaching and training here in America.
So what does it look like when these two strengths come together? I think it can look a lot of ways. Maybe it involves financially supporting a local church pastor in a different country. Perhaps it's financially supporting an indigenous missionary to be theologically trained and then help continue to support in his local context after. One way that I have experienced first hand that I think is excellent, is by sending pastors who have been equipped to go around the world and equip others who don't have access to formal theological training.
The beauty of these ideas is that both strengths are leveraged. We can all spare some extra money every month. Whether it's $5 or $500, we can all do something. By everyone leveraging their financial resources, we are able to send men to go equip these pastors around the world and they in turn are able to equip others. By working together in the area of these two strengths, we are all able to contribute to the Kingdom in significant ways that are essential. Not all of us are able to train them, but all of us are able to help financially to meet this need. Think of the impact we can have if we all commit to financially supporting men to go train pastors who will be able to better serve their churches and equip more men for ministry as God calls them out of those churches. Think of how this might have a ripple effect and impact generations of believers in a country.
You can find out more about how you can partner with me on this effort here and financially support trips around the world to train pastors. $10/month can really make a significant impact on the global church. Through partnerships like this, we can make a significant impact on the church around the world and significantly contribute to the expansion of the Kingdom. Let's leverage our strengths and maximize those to strengthen churches through equipping church leaders. If your pastor would like to go and help train men around the world, I would encourage you to get in contact with me. I would love to talk with him about how he can get involved with this.
Next time I will show how a small amount set aside every month can have a huge impact.
Jon is husband to Carlee, Papa to Finleigh, Ainsley, and Olivia, a pastor at Arbor Drive Community Church in York, Ne, and co-host of The Pastor Discussions Podcast