In Titus 1:5, Paul explains that the reason he sent Titus to Crete was to “straighten out” the churches. The churches themselves had already been planted, yet there were still matters to be set in order so that the churches would be strong. Appointing elders is the specific issue mentioned in the text, but no doubt there were other matters to be set in order in this infant congregations.
This strengthening of young church plants and setting things in order is essential to Paul’s missionary strategy. It is the reason he revisits his churches months or years later during the course of his journeys.
So missions, in the Pauline model, is more than evangelism and church planting, although it is certainly no less than that. Pauline missions necessarily includes the strengthening, building, and ordering of the new churches. This often involves teaching, training, providing resources, and modeling.
When we think of missions today, we mostly think of evangelism and church planting, and for good reason. This is the heart of missions work. A missionary who is not in some way involved in spreading the gospel and seeing churches formed is no missionary; he may be a social worker, a orphanage director, or a medical provider–all noble endeavors–but if he is not active in church planting, he is not a missionary.
Yet once churches are planted, true missions work does include more than just evangelism. True Pauline missionaries will give necessary effort to strengthening and setting in order the churches they have planted. This is no less important than the evangelism and planting efforts themselves.
Among many other things that were impressed upon me during our recent trip to Brazil, I was made further aware of the importance of music instruction and resources as one of these “strengthening” matters in missions. The Alexanders explained to me how churches very easily fell into theological error or even collapsed when they were not carefully taught a biblical philosophy of worship and music. When churches became enamored by pop culture, they often threw off any pursuit of purity; when they embraced the contemporary music of Pentecostalism, they often bought into the whole theology. And many times this would create a disorder that was impossible to remedy.
So among many other important “strengthening” activities to which missionaries must give their attention–things like theological education, cultural analysis, and practical life training–providing teaching on worship and music philosophy as well as providing good music resources is as necessity in missions contexts for the stability of the new church plants.
Yet as the Alexanders explained to me, churches in the States are often hesitant to financially support endeavors to strengthen church plants in foreign fields in the area of music. They told me of one man who tried to get missions support from American churches so that he could teach music in a missionary Bible College, but he couldn’t get support. The Alexanders translate music from American publishers into Portuguese so that their churches have good resources to use, but they often have a difficult time working with those publishers. And when they seek financial support for music conferences, music publishing, or music teaching on the mission field, they often find hesitation from American pastors. I even experienced this; I had a hard time raising financial support for our mission trip since we were “just” teaching at a music conference.
This should not be the case! If missionaries like the Alexanders see people come to Christ and plant churches, but do not have the means to strengthen those churches in an important area like worship and music philosophy, they are being hindered from accomplishing the complete kind of ministry that Paul modeled.
So I urge those of you who are pastors to find ways that you can support this and other church strengthening aspects of missions work. This may be by financially supporting music publishing in foreign fields, sponsoring a music conference, or taking on a missionary for financial support whose primary activity (among regular evangelism, too) will be to teach music in foreign church plants or in a missionary Bible college.
Planting churches is not enough if they are not strengthened. Let’s commit to supporting both the establishing and the strengthening of churches in foreign lands.