Sunday, June 17

What kind of churches are we planting overseas?


I guess it just needs to be said over and over, but the churches being planted on the field do not look like those back home in the States.

We do not plant Southern Baptist churches overseas. We plant New Testament churches that generally tend to be baptistic in their practice, doctrine and outlook. They resemble more what churches looked like in the book of Acts, and less what First Baptist Church back home in the States looks like. Other than the language barrier, I truly believe most Baptists would feel quite comfortable being part of one of these churches.

These simple churches usually meet in homes. They have their own leaders, baptize, teach the Word, nurture one another, take up offerings, worship, make disciples, and are FAR MORE evangelistic than their counterparts in USA churches. (Just compare their 3:1 baptism ratio with the 44:1 in the SBC! They are talking less, and obeying more!) No, we don't have mega-facilities with bowling alleys and waterfalls, nor multi-million dollar budgets, and paid professional staffs. Their standard of excellence is living the "one another's", LIFE in Jesus, and a passion for winning souls. All other things are considered non-essential.

We welcome any doubters to come visit us. But to save you a bundle of money in travel expense, allow me to walk you through a typical Guayaquil house church experience. Judge for yourself whether or not this is the kind of churches you want to see your missionaries planting overseas:

1) 6:30 pm we began with around 20 adults and several children, meeting in the home of the church planter which also doubles as a beauty parlor during the week. All the hair dressing equipment had been moved to another room to make space for the plastic chairs that were set up in a circle around the small room. It was very hot and crowded, but nobody seemed to mind (except the visiting missionaries!)

2) Several hymns, psalms, and praise choruses were sung a cappella. All were chosen at random by those present from tattered song books and a few xeroxed copies. No instruments--nobody there could play--no praise band, orchestra, choir, microphones, pulpit, or any of the other "essentials" that might be considered necessary in order to have "church". The singing was off-key, but it was a joyful sound!

3) Several people shared testimonies of how God is working in their lives and experiences from the week. There was an open time of prayer.

4) The church planter led a participatory inductive Bible study of Matthew 10. The focus was on how Christians are to deal with persecution. There were no theologians quoted, books referenced, Greek word studies--just pure Bible, verse by verse. The illustrations were all from their own personal life experiences. Lots of participation, questions, and dialogue. The visual aid was a piece of newspaper print with the main points handwritten and taped to the wall.

5) Next, we observed the Lord's Supper. 1 Cor.11:23ff was read, followed by several moments of silent confession of sins. 3-4 shared testimonies of what Christ meant to them and how grateful they were that Jesus had saved them. As they partook of the elements we sang a love song of thanksgiving to Jesus for what He has done for us. Here one might have reason to criticize--they used Ritz crackers and grape koolaid instead of unleavened bread and wine--but nevertheless what was done was done in remembrance of Jesus!

6) An invited guest was introduced and it was quickly ascertained she was not a believer. At that point 2-3 shared with her their testimony of how they got saved. A couple of others shared several salvation verses. One person took the lead in extending an invitation. The lady did not accept the Lord, but did ask us to pray for her sick husband. Several people did so.

7) The offering was prayed over and collected with nearly everyone putting something in the basket. I was one of the last to put money in. It looked like there was less than $5 in total. All the proceeds of the offering were to go for #8 below.

8) Announcements were about next Sunday's evangelistic blitz of the whole neighborhood. Several minutes were spent going over the details and making sure everyone would be able to participate in the door-to-door witnessing blitz. This little church is dead set on winning their whole community to Christ. The offering will help buy some tracts for the event and hopefully something left over for refreshments afterwards.

9) Refreshments were served consisting of a half slice of white bread, an empanada (fried meat pie), a spoonful of tunafish, one tiny cookie, and a small glass of soda pop. There were only eight glasses for 20+ people so most had to share a glass (as guests we got our own glass and didn't have to share :) We sat around visiting, laughing, and sharing for about a half hour. One sister went over and continued to witness to the unsaved visitor while we ate, still trying to get her to accept the Lord.

10) They next invited the other IMB missionary who accompanied us to share about her work with the Chinese. We learned a song in Chinese, prayed for the Chinese, and asked questions about all the Chinese who live in our city. Everyone was moved that there are so many Chinese in Guayaquil who do not know the Lord and actually are Buddhists rather than Catholics.

11) A little after 9pm we broke up, everyone hugged, kissed on the cheek and we went home happy that we had been in the "house of the Lord."

Folks, these are real churches. Is there anything above that isn't Baptist? I guess I could confess the part I left out about the tongues that were spoken in public since this seems to be one of the big issues these days. The ENTIRE MEETING WAS DONE IN TONGUES--the Spanish tongue! The tongue they are all positive will be spoken in Heaven!

11 comments:

jeff w. said...

Guy,

I don't care if it is Baptist, baptistic, or any other title - I like it! More important, I think the Father approves.

If it ever comes to the point that our convention will not support this type of effort, my prayers and money will go to this type of effort. I just wish more in the States had a view and desire towards an authentic experience of God through an authentic experience of koinonia.

May their tribe increase.

Blessings,
Jeff

Tim Sweatman said...

Guy,

If these are the kind of churches you all are planting overseas, then I feel blessed that a portion (albeit a too small portion) of what God has entrusted me with is being used to help plant them. I have been struggling with the whole issue of what a biblical church looks like, and I am (somewhat reluctantly) growing more persuaded that our expressions of the church need to be simplified. I suppose part of my reluctance is somewhat self-centered; I feel like God has called me to make my living as a pastor/teacher, but this seems to be unlikely in a simple church structure. Pray that God will help me get this figured out a little better in my mind.

Strider said...

No fried chicken? I don't think it can be Southern Baptist without fried chicken.
But seriously, I love what you described. It is what we also aspire to. I have seen it a couple of times here but not nearly as often as we would like. Keep going Guy! SB's discuss 'doctrine' and ivory tower theology but when the rubber meets the road this is what most of them are excited about.

Tim Patterson said...

Guy,

That sounds similar to our experience overseas... especially in new churches. Baptist identity should not be an issue until further along when churches see the need for more structure. In the beginning we should keep it simple and let the Bible be the guide (not the BF&M).

I think the problem for most in the U.S. is that they picture church planting like transplanting a mature oak in a foreign soil... instead of planting a small sapling in the indigenous soil. They are looking at the external organization and not the internal organic process.

Alan Knox said...

Guy,

Thank you for sharing this! Any chance some of those saints would be willing to travel to the US to help their brothers and sisters understand what it means to live as believers and encourage one another when they meet together?

-Alan

bryan riley said...

That sounds like a service I'd like to attend. We might see our baptisms go up, too, if church were real again.

GuyMuse said...

Jeff,

As I shared in the post, I honestly believe most Baptists would be comfortable as part of one of the house church settings. It does take some adjustment in that there are no professional clergy amongst us. What we practice in its place is a literal "priesthood of believers" where all of us serve, minister, share, contribute, etc.

Tim,

Indeed you have been part of each and every one of these churches being planted. That is the beauty of praying for your M's, giving to the LMCO and CP. We're all in this together! BTW, you are most welcome to come and share your teaching gift with us anytime!

Strider,

Sometimes I wonder what it is that excites us more, the doctrinal/theological debates, or the wonderful things God is doing to reconcile the world to Himself? by the amount of ink, it would seem the former, but I hope you are right in that what really captures our fascination is what GOD is doing in our midst!

Tim,

I like your analogy of a "small sapling in the indigenous soil". I think if more people were more involved with actually planting new churches, they would see these issues from a whole different perspective. The chuch is more a living organism, and not so much an organization we belong to.

Alan,

I'm sure a lot of them would LOVE to come visit the USA. One of our church planters will be moving to the USA with her family in a couple of months. She sees herself as a missionary going to the States to plant churches. I love it!

Bryan,

Your own recent "One Another" post is a good example of what churches should aspire to. The simple/house churches we relate to take these admonitions seriously as things they are commanded to do, rather than just things to "believe".

Burkhalter Ministry said...

Hi Guy-
The part I like about your description is what happened when the lost person entered the gathering. The other believers started sharing testimonies and scripture. I also like how they are focused on evangelism and reaching their community. Right on- this is something I desire to see in the simple churches we are a part of in Ft. Worth. I can't wait to experience it first hand. See you all Friday!
Beth

GuyMuse said...

Beth,

You will be working alongside some of these same people next week. We too are excited about your coming!

Cyle said...

Hey bro., I hope the PTB (powers that be) keep letting you plant scriptural churches over there and don't get upset about the lack of a tradmark (SBC) in the name. Stay busy.

GuyMuse said...

Cyle,

Thanks for stopping by and for leaving a comment. Come by as often as you like. Your thoughts are always welcome here.