In May and July, the Lord gave me the opportunity to travel overseas to teach church history in three different countries. Two of the countries were in Africa and the other was a major Asian country. Two of the countries were new places for me to visit. In all three locations, I was in urban settings. In Africa, one city was a population hub of five million. In the other African city, I was located in the industrial center of the country. In Asia, the city I visited has a population of nine million and it is growing. Estimates are that it could reach twenty million in a few years. I saw dozens of new high-rise apartment buildings being erected—row after row of large cranes building thousands of new apartments. In both of these places, the advance of the gospel is going forward not because of Western missionaries but through the efforts of an army of dedicated nationals committed to reaching their people for Christ. As I made my way home from the final week of teaching, I began to think about the opportunities the Lord gave me. Several things occurred to me as I thanked the Lord for significant summer ministry. I want to take a few weeks to share some of my thoughts on missions in the Nick of Time.
First, there are good, committed men hungry for Christian teaching around the world. One brother in the first country I visited flatly declared “Don’t come here to evangelize! We can do that better than you! Come here to teach us. We need this!” The student was appealing to me to plan to return to teach again. There is a pressing need in all three countries for sound theological education. It is a need I have seen as I travel around the world. Nationals need training—the kind of training we give our American students. Most could never come to the United States to receive this training. If they are to be trained, the education must go to them. I think an important and necessary shift needs to occur in the way we do missions. So many countries do not need Western church planters. They need educators who can teach the national church planters how to rightly handle the Word. I encourage my American students who are thinking of missions to think of teaching globally and prepare themselves to do this. In my opinion, this should be the future focus of missions—training the national leaders to do the church planting! They will do the church planting faster and better than Western missionaries can.
Second, God uses men, nationals and Westerners alike, with unique gifts to accomplish His work. One missionary on my first trip this summer was a building contractor when God called him into ministry. God worked in his heart and called him into ministry. He went to seminary and now he is a coordinator of training in his large Asian country. During my time there, it occurred to me that he was using the same skill set that he honed as an American building contractor, but now he coordinates visiting professors instead of skilled tradesmen. Contractors seldom do the actual building—they hire skilled workers who can do the work and then they oversee their work. That is what this brother was doing—bringing in American professors to teach various classes at teaching sites across his country. His secular work in a very real way had prepared him for his service for Christ.
Third, God is raising up a fine generation of missionary servants who are working around the world. Many of these men and women may be little known at home beyond their small circle of supporters, but they are making an impact globally. I am particularly grateful for the good work taking place at Central Africa Baptist College. This was my fourth trip to Zambia, but it will not be my last, Lord willing. Though our time together was short, we had some good fellowship! The same can be said for the men and women serving at East Africa Baptist School of Theology. They are part of a new breed of gifted younger men and women who are sold out to the cause of Christ. It is a pleasure to see how God is using this younger generation to advance the gospel in Africa.
Finally, if one is going to make a difference for the Lord, one needs a good support network in which to serve the Lord. I am grateful for my wife of almost 34 years who has given me the liberty to take the education that God has given me and share it with the world. Much praise will be hers in eternity for her selfless sacrifice. He that finds a wife finds a good thing! I am also grateful for the administration of Central Baptist Theological Seminary, which has given me the liberty to travel abroad and take my training to nationals who eagerly want the training.
In the next two weeks, I want to share some thoughts and observations about short-term missions. It is a popular thing for Christians to do these days. But does it have real value? Does it make a difference? Is it really worth the financial investment? I plan to answer these questions.
This essay is by Jeff Straub, Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology at Central Baptist Theological Seminary. Not every one of the professors, students, or alumni of Central Seminary necessarily agrees with every opinion that it expresses.
Great High Priest, We View Thee Stooping
Joseph Hart (1712–1768)
Great high priest, we view the stooping
With our names upon thy breast;
In the garden groaning, drooping,
To the ground, with sorrow pressed.
Weeping angels stood confounded,
To behold their maker thus:
And can we remain unwounded,
When we know ’twas all for us?
On the cross thy body broken,
Cancels every penal tie,
Tempted souls produce the token,
All demands to satisfy.
All is finished, do not doubt it,
But believe your dying Lord,
Never reason more about it,
Only take him at his word.
Lord we fain would trust thee solely,
’Twas for us thy blood was spilt;
Praised bridegroom, take us wholly,
Take and make us what thou wilt.
Thou hast borne the bitter sentence
Past on man’s devoted race;
True belief and true repentance,
Are thy gifts, thou God of grace.