Argentina 2012 Journal – July 1

This is the last assigned reading: chapter 21 from Evangelism, “Short-Term Missions: Supporting Those We Sent.” It’s a fitting conclusion to an already great book on evangelism, since this chapter deals explicitly with what we, as a missions team, are trying to accomplish. There are many ideas of what a short-term missions trip ought to look like, and how we as a church do it is very different than what a lot of churches do. That doesn’t make it necessarily right (but could be seen as problematic), but it’s been a blessing to know that our church does not simply go with the flow of how things are done, especially when there are a lot of practices within the church that are done simply for the sake of tradition. No biblical considerations are cited as to why certain things are done, and this includes the way missions is done.

This chapter has the healthy tone of dealing with misconceptions many may have with regards to short-term missions, giving some biblical guidelines to remedy the problem. Seeing short-term missions as a replacement for long-term missions, or as a valid form of church planting, or for immature believers to become more mature, or as a poor use of funds are to have accepted an unbiblical view(s) of what many churches seek to do faithfully. What the apostle Paul did on his missionary journeys could be called “Paul’s STM trips” (p. 297). What Paul tried to do is stated well by Clint Archer:

“Some of Paul’s journeys were neither church planting nor primarily evangelistic in nature. Instead he had a goal of encouraging those who were in the church plants” (p.297).

Citing Acts 15:36, he later writes, “This is what STMs do best: encourage, minister, and bring resources to those who are laboring for the gospel away from home” (p. 298). He then goes through the goals of STMs, which is always to reinforce the long-term missionaries’ goals and assist them. How we do that is by selecting the right target (five groups: the missionary, the local believers, the sending church, the local unbelievers, and the STM traveler), the right task (evangelism, labor, camps, and/or specialized ministry), and the right team (spiritually qualified, skilled, and at least one who has travel experience).

This chapter helped reaffirm the plans we have in mind as we go out to Argentina and be a support to Pastor Jorge and IBM. We always hope and pray that we would be of service to them out of obedience to Christ and His truth. Hopefully, that is accomplished on this trip and we can continue to be of service where we are in our own homes and communities. Soli Deo Gloria!

Argentina 2012 Update – July 6th

This is the email I sent out to my family as an update to what’s going on:

Hello everyone!

Sorry I haven’t been able to update you all on the things that have been happening here…it’s been an adventure, to say the least! First off, we are all ok. We left SD Wed morning at 6a to get to LAX at 8a to leave for our flight at 10a to Miami. We got there and then flew from Miami to Buenos Aires that night and arrived at around 6:45a on Thursday. We originally planned on leaving to Tucuman later that day at 3:20p and get to Tucuman at 5:20p, but our flight got cancelled. We weren’t told why, but they had already rescheduled our flight for later (6p). However, that flight was cancelled as well, and then we were originally going to fly out Friday morning at 6a. Cancelled again. Then one more rescheduled flight to 3:20p, but it was cancelled one more time. We are still in Buenos Aires. We spent the night in the airport, because we thought it wouldn’t be worth staying at a hotel and also we would need to check-in our luggage at 5a. The issue has seemed to be something with air traffic control in Tucuman. We have only been told that they are only accepting emergency flights right now, and we are not one of those flights. We don’t know what to expect tomorrow, but we are hopeful that God will still bring us to Tucuman safely. No one is sick, though we had not showered these past few days! =)
We are currently at a hotel for the night, and will head out early in the morning, since it was hard to sleep in the plastic chairs they had inside the airport. Please keep praying for us, that we would all be thankful still for the opportunity to go and share the Gospel to those who do not know it, and be willing to serve one another, as well as the church in Tucuman, to the glory of our great God. Love you all! =)
Cesar

Argentina 2012 Journal – June 23

Coming to the 20th chapter in Evangelism, “International Missions: The Selection, Sending, and Shepherding of Missionaries,” Kevin Edwards gives a blueprint for how a long-term missionary should be sent out onto the mission field when Scripture is consulted. There is a careful selection involved, as well as training, sending, and support…from the local church. This cannot be done apart from a Bible-believing local church, since, as seen in times past with the Student Volunteer Movement, to avoid doing so not only ignores the pattern of Scripture, but can lead to a dilution and ultimately a denigration of the gospel. There must be a greater involvement in the local church than there normally is, and that must include prayer, affirmation, and confirmation of the missionary candidate. God must be sought in guiding the church to find someone to send out and continue the work of the Great Commission. Who they choose must be elder-qualified (Titus 1:5-9 & 1 Timothy 3:1-7), since they would be leading the missionary endeavor, wherever it may lead. Their character must be observed in the corporate life of the local church that they are a part of, and excel in the work of ministry and pattern of holiness. They then must be confirmed, or ordained, for the work at hand, and with the approval of the church leaders.

How this looks once the missionary is sent out is one of partnership between him and his missions-sending church. He must be trained to be able to handle the Word accurately, preferably in the original languages, he must be prayed for, shepherded by the church, and finally financially supported by them. Edwards then lays out a model that Grace Community Church practices, which is more involved than the norm. It’s always insightful to see how churches have been going about fulfilling the work of the Great Commission, especially if they have had a longer Gospel witness in their area, and how that leads to full-time missionaries being sent out in full support of the sending church. We have just begun, and are hoping to do it again, and am looking forward to the day, if God wills, to send me wherever He decides to place me. I hope and pray that I am willing to go out wherever He calls me to, if He does, and that I would willingly go for the sake of His name.

Going over chapter 4 of Chantry’s book, “Preaching Faith Towards God’s Son,” repentance is not all that Jesus calls us to. He also calls us to faith in Himself as the One who saves. We must follow Christ, and not just acknowledge Him. This goes against what is standard in gospel tracts, where the idea of believing is boiled down to acknowledging Jesus as God and Savior; however, the implications of such truths do not sink down to the heart of the sinner and call for radical change in thought and deed. As the author writes, many evangelicals would probably be upset with how Jesus approached the rich young ruler in calling him to take up his cross and follow Him. The implications of false fruit can be disheartening and dangerous to the ones who are there to follow-up to those who ‘made a decision,’ as it can lead to a lot of self-deception, as well as conflicts of what determines true, saving faith.

“Preaching Assurance of Acceptance” is the next chapter which deals with how a Christian should understand assurance in an evangelistic context. We cannot provide assurance to anyone who immediately expresses interest in the things of God since we cannot see the heart of who we speak with. In short: we are not the Holy Spirit. It is His role in the work of redemption to assure the believer that he/she possesses true faith in the true God. This is not the standard view of the evangelical today. We are pressured or feel the strong burden of easing the conscience of someone who says they want to believe in Christ at that moment, as if that is our responsibility to do so.

The Westminster Confession of Faith is consulted, giving a great summary of how one can be assured of their faith in Christ:

This certainty is not a bare conjectural and probable persuasion, grounded upon a fallible hope; but an infallible assurance of faith, founded upon the divine truth of the promises of salvation, the inward evidence of those graces unto which these promises are made, the testimony of the Spirit of adoption witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God: which Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance, whereby we are sealed to the day of redemption.

As he writes in correlation: “Faith and repentance are the inward movement of mind, emotion and will. They cannot be measured by simple outward tests” (p. 62). It is more an inward heart response to the call that is made to the sinner that they can have a surer understanding of whether they have genuinely believed in Christ. The person outside of them can only observe fruits in accordance with repentance, yet always cautious to declare one way or the other for a new convert. This is why we must not be so adamant that we proclaim one saved until we see a new life emerging in the heart of a former rebel sinner against God.

“Preaching with Dependence Upon God” continues the discussion, but Jesus is no longer speaking with the rich, young ruler since he left, but now He is speaking with His disciples. He reveals to them that it is impossible for man to enter the kingdom of God out of their own power. Without God, nothing is possible; with God, all things are possible. We need to remember that it is not a limit on God’s power that man is not saved; it is the fault of the sinner who continually chooses to reject God’s truth and embraces their distorted version of it. God calls all to turn and follow; many mock, reject, or ignore His message. This is why we must not think ourselves to be the one who changes the person’s mind. We are messengers with a message not of our own choosing. We are to call all to come to Christ for salvation, and trust that God will display His power in changing sinners from the inside out with His designated message that Paul calls “the power of God for salvation” (Romans 1:16). Once people are made aware and can see the real state of their position before God, God will use that to draw them to Himself. We have the means, which God gave us, and we cannot live or think or act as if it’s any different than that in order to be used effectively by God.

Chantry concludes his work by reminding us that we cannot ignore preaching the character of God, the law, repentance, faith, the cost of following Christ as Lord, and the real tests of assurance in order to be considered a faithful evangelist. This is the one thing we must never compromise on: the gospel. Faithfulness to Christ hinges on this; souls hinge on this; your own life hinges on this. We must be faithful witnesses of the truth to those who are dying in Argentina. I pray to God that, as a team, we can be true to His Word and give honor to our God for all that He has done for us already.