MISSIONS DOESN’T STOP WHEN A GROUP HAS BEEN REACHED – David Sills

http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/missions-doesnt-stop-when-group-reached

“Jesus gave the Great Commission to his church almost 2,000 years ago. He clearly instructed us to make disciples in every people group, to baptize them, and to teach them to obey everything he has commanded. After all these years, more than half of the world’s people groups remain unreached, representing more than one-third of the world’s population. The challenge to reach every people group as quickly as possible resonates in our hearts and prayers, and reverberates in missions conferences. We must reach the unreached because no one can be saved without the gospel.

But subsequent questions easily divide and distract us in our efforts to obey the Great Commission. What does it mean to reach the unreached? What does a reached group look like? And does a people group need any more missionaries once they are reached? Should I feel guilty or mistaken if I believe God is calling me to a group that some consider reached? Discussions about such questions often become more emotional than missiological.

The definition that missiologists often use to describe the term “unreached” is something along the lines of those ethnolinguistic people groups whose population is less than 2 percent evangelical, or those groups without a sufficiently strong presence of New Testament churches or numbers of Christians who could carry on the work without outside help. This percentage metric was devised by missiologists simply to have a commonly embraced benchmark to assist them in talking about levels of evangelical Christianity in various missions contexts. However, it was quickly adopted more broadly as a useful way of discerning which groups had the least presence of Christianity and therefore priority targets for missionaries. Indeed, some even used it to decide where missionaries should go to serve, and when others should leave ministries and redeploy elsewhere.

Certainly those groups with populations that are less than 2 percent evangelical must hear the gospel, and we should use all haste to reach them. Carl F. H. Henry said that the gospel is only good news if it gets there in time. Sadly, for about 50,000 people in unreached people groups every day, it does not.

Crucial Questions and Answers

Still, many questions remain unanswered. If a group is more than 2 percent evangelical, that is if it is not unreached, may we call it “reached”? Does reached mean that missionaries should not be there, that the work is considered complete and should be handed off to nationals? What about people groups that have been saturated in animism or some false world religion for centuries that subsequently embrace a gospel presentation? Haiti comes to mind—though the majority claim to be believers, a greater majority still practice voodoo. One thinks of Rwanda that had more than 90 percent baptized Christians when the worst genocide our age has known broke out; almost 1 million were slaughtered by other “reached” Christians. The lifelong task of discipleship should indeed be handed off to the national church, but only after they have been discipled.

Certainly most would agree that faithful obedience to the Great Commission and reaching the unreached is more than a matter of speaking the gospel message and moving on. But how much more? Jesus answered that question. He said to teach them to obey all he has commanded. That statement must not be abbreviated. The task of the Great Commission cannot be compared to running through a large darkened building, flipping on a few switches and announcing that they now have light even though thousands of other rooms leave most people in darkness. If that is all one understands reaching the unreached to mean, then we must agree that the great tragedy of the world today is not that it is unreached, but that it is undiscipled.

We have unintentionally created the erroneous perception that missions equals reaching the unreached. If one’s efforts consist of flipping on light switches and then hurrying to the next darkened room, that is not the Great Commission; it’s only half of what we have been commanded to do. Jesus said we are to teach them to observe all that he has commanded.

What, then, is missions all about? We are to strive to know God and to make him known. We are to reach the unreached and teach the disciples. The role of the Western missionary is often seen to be simply reaching the unreached, flipping on light switches, then leaving the discipling and teaching task to the national church. However, when the national church has not received deep discipleship, theological education, or pastoral training, the teaching cannot be handed off to them. The 1 Timothy 3 admonition that a pastor should be apt to teach does not just mean that he knows how to teach, it also means that he knows what to teach.

Teach Them Sound Doctrine

God has greatly blessed the churches of the West with centuries of Christian reflection on revealed truth. Western theologians and biblical scholars stand on the shoulders of all those who came before them, incorporating the insights revealed and lessons learned from schisms and heresies. All that God has providentially allowed or sent, and the ways that he has sovereignly guided the Western church, has resulted in what we Western believers understand evangelical Christianity to be. Wise stewardship must not treat this heritage lightly but should seek to share it in ways that are biblically faithful and culturally appropriate so that others may know. The core principle of discipleship is that the one who knows teaches the one who does not know (1 Tim. 2:2).

Every people group must have the Bible in a language they can understand. They should have biblically qualified and trained pastors. They should have their own theologians and authors who are well-equipped to reflect on the Scriptures in the context of their people’s worldview and write in their heart language. But this ideal world will not exist until we obey our commission to disciple disciplers, train trainers, and teach teachers. Nationals will one day be the best teachers, theologians, authors, and preachers for their national church—but only after they have been prepared. The background developed through generations of being steeped in pagan worldviews and false religions does not evaporate on praying a prayer of salvation. This is why Christ commanded us to disciple them.

Unchanging Truth in a Changing Culture

My grandfather taught my dad much about life, and my dad embraced this teaching, improved upon some of it, and then adapted it to the new methodologies of his generation before teaching me. Likewise, I learned their values and primary lessons but made adjustments to the world I live in to practice their wisdom faithfully. Many of the missionaries who brought the gospel to Europe had studied the writings of the early church fathers and learned from previous generations, but they made adjustments to embrace new languages and worldviews without changing the gospel. Music and liturgies the missionaries had learned in their past were often ineffective on newer mission fields. The Christianity that came to the New World continued to adapt and morph, but it has remained faithful to the original Word once for all delivered to the saints.

When missionaries share translated books, sermons, and lessons with peoples who have yet to prepare their own, they are not theological imperialists or imposing their particular beliefs on others. They are faithfully sharing truth they have learned with the full knowledge that their hearers will do the same. Reaching the unreached is a lifelong process. The pioneer missionary may begin the process and then change his approach to meet the evolving needs for the rest of his life, or he may plant a church and invite others to come behind him to do the deep discipleship and pastoral training. Teaching those we reach is not an optional component of missions. When Jesus said to teach them all he has commanded, he is saying, “Tell them all that I told you.”

Lost people of the world must hear the gospel to be saved. That is true whether they are in an unreached people group or not. Lost people in reached people groups are still lost, and everyone who dies in a lost condition will go to hell for eternity. Their only hope is to hear the gospel and repent. The task of missions is not simply to reach the unreached, allowing every missionary to define what that means for himself; it is reaching the lost and teaching them to obey all that Christ has commanded.”

David Sills serves as professor of missions and cultural anthropology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, and is president of Reaching & Teaching International Ministries. Sills has also served with the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention in Ecuador as as church planter and general evangelist among the Highland Quichua people in the Andes, and as a seminary professor at the Ecuadorian Baptist Theological Seminary. He also served as rector and professor of the Baptist seminary as a missionary with Global Outreach International.

Our December 2014 Newsletter

madewithOver

Merry Christmas from Minneapolis!

Here is our December 2014 newsletter (click here 13.4MB). Thank you so much for all of your prayers and support in 2014!

Some of the highlights from this newsletter include:

  • A review of our year – God’s faithfulness in the midst of some losses and gains
  • The birth of our second son, Samuel Henry Dearth
  • Encouraging news about the CROSS Project – testimonies, an HIV Feeding Program, and the Bethlehem Baptist Short-Term Team
  • Derek’s changing role from CROSS Project Coordinator to ACTION Zambia Country Director

We are so thankful to God for you and hope you have a very joy-filled Christmas and New Year’s season in the Savior. We have been so encouraged by seeing so many of you over this Home Assignment and continue to covet your prayers as we head back to Zambia on January 14th in a new role and with a new baby!

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11 ESV

That Zambians would know Jesus,

Derek, Kristin, Charlie and Sam

World AIDS Day

IMG_1039

27 years ago, in 1987, World AIDS Day began to help raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and mourn those who have died of AIDS-related causes.

On this World AIDS Day, I wanted to share with you our video that we have been showing on Home Assignment about our ministry area within ACTION Zambia – The CROSS Project HIV/AIDS Ministry. CROSS stands for Churches Ready to Overcome Silence and Stigma.

Please pray for Zambia and so many other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa which are affected by HIV/AIDS this World AIDS Day.

To learn more about the CROSS Project go to: http://dearthtodelight.com/crossproject/

You can donate and support the CROSS Project monthly or one-time through your Credit/Debit card here.

Announcing ACTION Zambia’s Next Country Director (Me!)

AZ logo BEST transThe last three weeks have been incredibly busy for us. Our second son, Samuel Henry, was born on October 30th; Derek traveled back to Zambia for 11 days the beginning of November; and then right after Derek got back from Zambia, he traveled to Marshfield, WI for the day and shared with one of our supporting churches. So, in the last couple of days, we finally feel like we’re catching our breath a little bit!

The reason for Derek’s return to Zambia was to train with Tim Hilty (AZ’s current Country Director) about Derek’s transition from the CROSS Project Coordinator to the next ACTION Zambia Country Director. As many of you know through Facebook and word of mouth, Tim and Andrea Hilty and their family, will be leaving the field and ACTION Zambia at the beginning of December. Tim leaves under totally good terms, and their entire family will be extremely missed by AZ. We are all so thankful for their faithful and sacrificial service to ACTION Zambia for eight years! God has used Tim’s unique gifts and abilities to strengthen and establish AZ in very important ways. Upon their return to the States, Tim will be working for their family business back in Illinois.

When Tim talked to us back in the Spring of this year about their leaving, we immediately began praying about ACTION Zambia, its future leadership, and also for the Hiltys. We always felt that if we were in Zambia long enough that God may call us into more of a leadership role within AZ. So, we began praying if God was doing this now, sooner than we thought, through Tim’s departure. Through a lot of prayer, talking amongst ourselves, and getting sound spiritual guidance with trusted friends, we felt confirmed that God was leading Derek to put his name forward to the AZ Board to be willing to serve the AZ Team in the Country Director role.

IMG_0197Singing and praying for the Hilty’s during our last Staff Meeting together – November 11, 2014. 

God continued to confirm this leading through unanimous approvals among the AZ Board, the ACTION Zambia Team, and the ACTION International Director. As we finish out our Home Assignment, Tracy Singleton, ACTION Zambia’s Deputy Director, will be the interim AZ Director, and then Derek will assume the role of AZ Country Director when we return to the field on January 15, 2015.

Please PRAY for us as we, and Derek, step into this new and challenging role. We both feel very humbled and do not take the confidence placed in us and in Derek lightly through this decision by our AZ Board and fellow missionaries, and we look forward, by God’s grace, to serving the AZ Board and AZ Team in this new role.

What Will Be Changing and What Will Not

Derek’s primary ministry area will continue to be the CROSS Project HIV/AIDS ministry working with Pastor John Chitambo and Eta Imasiku, our two national workers. There will also be the addition of a host of new country director responsibilities related to the overall vision and direction for AZ, in conjunction with the various Ministry Coordinators, as well as administrative responsibilities and recruitment for the field, etc.

Thank you so much for your prayers and support as we transition to this new role! We love AZ and its mission, and we continue look forward to serving with an amazing group of missionaries, national workers, and board members! We are so thankful for all those who have gone before us in ACTION Zambia to get us to this point in the mission. 1 Corinthians 3:6 rings so true for us: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.”

Our mission is not changing as we undergo this leadership transition. ACTION Zambia still exists “to glorify God by strengthening local churches and equipping them for ministry in the fulfillment of the God-given gospel mandates of proclaiming Christ to sinners, ministering to those in need, and discipling the saints to godliness in word and deed.” We do this through four ministry areas: Pastoral Leadership Development, CROSS Project HIV/AIDS Ministry, Ciyanjano Christian Campgrounds, and Children in Crisis Ministries.

God bless and please feel free to contact us with any questions you may have.

Introducing Samuel Henry Dearth

We are thrilled to announce the birth of our second born son, Samuel Henry Dearth!! Sam was born on October 30th at 6:28pm CST. He weighed 8lbs 10oz and was 21 3/4 inches long.

Both Sam and Kristin are doing really well, and we praise God for a quick delivery after Kristin was induced yesterday at 2pm. Charlie is also doing well and is interested in this new addition to our family, but he’s not too sure about him yet and is still keeping his distance right now. We were able to get Charlie to give him a little kiss today though. :)

Please pray for us as a family during the next three days before Derek needs to go back to Zambia for a little trip from November 4-13. More on the need for this trip in the next couple of days.

Thanks so much for all of your prayers the last few days. God has been so faithful and gracious to us, and we praise Him for this precious little baby!!

 

Please Pray for Zambia – “Zambia president Michael Sata dies in London”

 

Michael-Sata_2117184bArticle from The Telegraph – found here.

“Michael Sata, the 77-year-old Zambian president nicknamed King Cobra for his tough-talking, has died in a London clinic after a long spell of ill health that has caused uncertainty in the copper-rich southern African country.

Under the constitution, Mr Sata’s white Vice President Guy Scott should now take over until elections in 90 days, but he is barred from taking office because his parents were not born in Zambia.

Diplomatic sources said the president’s death in office, and jostling for power within his Patriotic Front party as well as among those in opposition, could spell a period of instability in the former British protectorate and possible outbreaks of violence.

Mr Sata, a staunch Catholic and father-of-eight, passed away at 9pm on Tuesday night after being admitted to King Edward VII Hospital near Regent’s Park in London., the Zambian government said.

Dr Roland Msiska, Secretary to the Zambian Cabinet, said Mr Sata’s wife Christine Kaseba, a doctor, and his son Mulenga, the mayor of Lusaka, were at his side.

“It is with a very heavy heart that I address you today, to inform the nation that our beloved President and Leader, His Excellency, Mr. Michael Chilufya Sata has passed on,” he said in a statement issued at 8am this morning, around three hours after reports began to circulate.

“President Sata’s demise is deeply regretted. During this difficult period, I urge all of you to remain calm, united and peaceful during this very difficult period.”

At present, the acting president is the defence minister Edga Lungu but several ministers including the former Justice and current finance ministers have been tipped to take over.

Mr Sata was a chain-smoking former Victoria Station railway porter and trade unionist who famously challenged growing Chinese dominance in his country before ousting incumbent Rupiah Banda from power in elections in September 2011.

His victory saw the former British protectorate take its place among a select few in Africa who changed their ruling parties change twice, democratically and peacefully, since independence 50 years ago.

Diplomatic sources said his death, after two unsuccessful attempts at the presidency and just two and a half years at the helm, was a “Shakespearean tragedy” which could prompt some instability.

Under Zambia’s constitution, the Vice President should step in as Acting President until an election for a new leader within 90 days of the death of the president.

Mr Sata had been largely absent from the public eye for two months and had stopped chairing cabinet meetings or seeing journalists outside of the state media.

In June, there were reports he had died after he disappeared without explanation, and then was reported to be receiving medical treatment in Israel. Mr Sata missed a scheduled UN General Assembly speech because he had fallen ill in his New York hotel.

At the state opening of parliament in September, he joked about the false reports of his demise, but journalists were prevented from going too close to him or speaking to him.

One minister was overheard complaining that the country’s leader was an “absentee landlord”, while opposition parties sought court orders to try to force the government to explain his state of health.

Among those who paid tribute to Mr Sata yesterday was South Africa’s African National Congress, which described him as “popular for his modesty and focus on the poor and disadvantaged”.

James Thornton, the British High Commissioner to Zambia, said Mr Sata had “cared deeply” about his countrymen and his country’s development. “During his Presidency Zambia continued its rapid economic growth,” he was quoted as saying in the local media. “His government invested heavily in developing Zambia’s infrastructure, and has made some good recent progress in areas such as civil service reform. His Government was particularly active in promoting the rights of women and girls.”

Mr Sata moved to Britain in the early 1960s and worked first in a laundry in Bromley, then at the Vauxhall car plant in Luton, then at Victoria Station and London Bridge first as a porter, then a shunter, then conductor and eventually British Rail driver.

“I swept London Bridge, I swept Victoria and I enjoyed it. If I went to England and I was treated like a gentleman, I would not have had any resolution to look after this country,” he told The Telegraph in an interview shortly after coming to power.

A dominant force in Zambian politics for more than 20 years, the former trade unionist defected from Kenneth Kaunda, the independence leader’s party, to join the opposition then served as Minister for Local Government, Minister of Labour and Minister of Health under President Frederick Chiluba.

A diplomatic source said Mr Sata’s death in office was “tragic”. “It’s a real Shakespearean tragedy because this is someone who spent his whole life looking to be president and he finally got the reins of power then was too sick to govern and died in office,” he said.

The source said it remained “unclear” what will happen next. “The cabinet will need to vote on who will be acting president,” he said. “There’s no doubt there will be some infighting and there is also a tribal element but it’s never come to the fore before.

“The Patriotic Front winning the next election is not a certainty although opposition groups are also divided.

“So far it’s business as usual but it will be a few tense days as we watch for the smoke from the chimney to announce an interim leader. I would expect some isolated cases of violence but they will most likely peter out. Zambians have a peaceful history, have already lost one president in office and the country’s police and security forces have always behaved professionally.”

Our Latest Prayer Requests

IMG_3762Thank you so much for praying for us as a family and for our ministry (The CROSS Project) as we have been back in the States now for almost a month and a half!

We PRAISE God for a wonderful and encouraging time with family, friends, and supporters as we traveled around the midwest (WI, MI, IN, KY) in September and shared about our ministry and what God is doing in Zambia. Now we are back in the Minneapolis area and are hanging out with friends and family here and waiting for this baby to arrive.

-Please pray for Kristin and baby boy #2 as we are getting very close, Lord willing, to this little guy arriving! Kristin is technically due on the 27th of October, but we are praying that he comes sooner (see why in the next prayer item)! Please pray for a safe delivery and a healthy baby and mom. 

-Please pray for me (Derek), as I will need to make an unexpected trip back to Zambia from November 4-14. There will be more on why this is happening later, but it’s nothing bad. We all head back to Zambia from this Home Assignment as a family on January 14th. 

-We are praying for additional monthly prayer and financial partners for us personally. Please click here for giving options, if you feel so led to donate to the Dearths. 

-Please pray for John and Eta (our two national workers in the CROSS Project), as they teach our new 4-week Domestic Abuse Lesson at two locations this Fall as well as teach the normal 16-week CROSS Project curriculum at one church this Fall and also get some well-deserved rest while we are here in the States.  

-Pray that God would work mightily in hearts, minds, and actions as people think and pray about how should they respond as a Christian and glorify God in HIV/AIDS and domestic abuse in their lives, their families’ lives, churches, and communities.  

-Pray that God would pour out His grace on the Zambian Church and that it would glorify God in how it relates to HIV/AIDS and domestic abuse.

-Pray for unity, endurance, hope, and joy in Jesus for the ACTION Zambia team and sweet times in the Word each day. 

-We would really appreciate broad, general prayers for our entire ACTION Zambia Team as well as their ministries.

-Please continue to pray for more funds for CROSS, CROSS Graduation Bibles, and the George Feeding Program. 

Click here if you would like to donate to help get Bibles future CROSS Project graduations. In the Comment box at the bottom of the page, type “Bibles.”

Click here if you would like to donate monthly  or one-time to the CROSS Project.

Click here if you would like to donate monthly or one-time to the George Compound Feeding Program. In the Comment box at the bottom of the page, type “FTC George Feeding Program.”