In response to my previous two posts of the FBC-Lewisville medical team, a reader sent me the following questions. I appreciate his asking. One of the reasons I blog is to bring practical and relevant mission, and church planting issues to a broader audience. By answering, it also allows me to shed a bit more light on the exciting things God continues to do here in Ecuador.
How does a medical mission trip fit into the framework of the simple church / house church model? Is a new assembly of 30+ not already a little bit larger than the ideal simple church?
Planting house/simple churches is not our reason for being here. Making disciples of the nations is. Having said that, I personally believe 'making disciples' is best accomplished in small house/simple gatherings. However, I believe just about any kind of NT Christian church is better than no church at all! Such is the case for the area where the medical team ministered last week. We were invited by a traditional church to come help them with their vision of planting churches in the 160 surrounding communities. The inviting church would definitely be described as "traditional" in their ecclesiology. The new church plant will more than likely also be traditional. While there were 30+ in the first meeting of the new church, from experience I can almost guarantee this number will fall to the 8-15 range within a couple of weeks.
Also, is the pastor of the mother church a seminary trained, "professional" pastor, or a lay pastor? Does this new church have a professional pastor or will it be led by lay pastors?
This new church plant is a 3rd generation church plant from the mother church. Yes, the pastor of the mother church is a seminary trained "professional" pastor (one of my seminary students years ago.) The second generation pastor directly involved with the new church plant is an unordained, non-seminary trained "lay pastor." The brother who will be leading the newly planted church is also a "lay pastor" with no formal training.
And PTL for 70+ professions! How was the gospel presented? Many North American gospel presentations share a series of propositional truths. Was storying integrated into the gospel presentations? If so how?
The Gospel was presented differently by each of those sharing. Usually the format is along the lines of sharing one's personal testimony in abbreviated form. This is followed by a few questions to the listener seeking to understand their standing with the Lord. The bulk of the sharing was done with a few key evangelistic verses--call them "propositional truths." And, no, storying was not used.
The Coast of Ecuador is what we would call a harvest field. The Gospel was planted here over 100 years ago. There have been many before us who broke the hard ground, plowed, planted, watered, pulled weeds, etc. Today it is our privilege to harvest what those saints before us worked for so long.
If you caught the numbers shared in the original report of 232 people seen, and 77 professions of faith, that is 33% response rate of those hearing the Gospel presented (1 out of 3.) We are in truth a ripe field ready to be harvested! When the fruit is ripe like this, it doesn't take a lot of fancy methodology, or slick presentations of the Gospel to get one's message across. People are open and receptive to the Good News, and it doesn't take much convincing for them to say "yes" to the love of Jesus.
Having said this, though, I personally do not put much weight into how many pray the sinners prayer to "receive Christ". It is easy to do, and many here will do so out of a sense of not wanting to offend, or will do so to please the person taking the time to share with them. What really counts is when they decide to be baptized. We have a saying, "Baptism does not save, but until they are baptized they are probably not saved."
For us the key is the discipleship process. Within 48 hours of someone expressing an interest in following Christ, we do our best to set up a meeting with them to begin discipling the interested new believer or seeker (as is usually the case.) To learn more about our approach to discipleship click here.
Feel free to interact with the above questions yourself, or with anything I write. I enjoy dialog and discussion about how we might better implement measures to bring in the harvest the Lord is giving us here in Ecuador.