A Church is Born

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A Church is Born

Eighteen people from many different backgrounds filled the main room of the church, joining as the Body of Christ in Alpedrete.

One lady told us she couldn’t believe a church was finally in her town. The tears streaming down her face reminded us God had providentially placed us in Alpedrete, a town where the motto is “Heart of Stone.” Many stone-cold hearts in this small pueblo needed to be softened. And this was just the place God planned for people to come and find out about His love for them. It’s a church!

The early days were filled with late nights of preparation, little sleep, and lots of spoon-feeding as we taught members how to grow as a church. As missionaries, we led music, taught classes, preached sermons, cleaned the church, and spent many hours laying the groundwork for what would become a new church plant.

As we busily ministered, we also tried to teach others to do these things. Soon, they began to try out their training wheels. They took on new responsibilities like sponsoring ladies’ meetings, organizing evangelistic events in a local fair, and working with the Evangelical Olympics in Madrid. They found their God-given talents and used them each Sunday to teach children’s classes, lead music, preach sermons, and do what needed to be done in the church. They attended Bible studies where they learned about spiritual gifts and doctrines and apologetics. They soon became a mature group of believers, serious about loving God and ready to share His love with those around them. This newborn church was growing.

We are almost to the other side of planting a church in Alpedrete. As we look toward this transition, we remember the admonition Paul gave the new church at Philippi: “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (1:6). May God fill each person in the Alpedrete church with this vision as they walk into the future and continue to fulfill the good work God began in them a few short years ago.

We couldn’t be prouder to announce: “It’s a CHURCH!”

Excerpted from an article by Kristi Johnson in ONE Magazine. Read the full article where Kristi compares raising her children with the development of the Alpedrete church.

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Internationals Serve Cross-Culturally

Deborah St. Lawrence

Internationals Serve Cross-Culturally

Often, believers in countries with established Free Will Baptist works feel God tugging them toward cross-cultural ministry but do not have the resources to make it occur.

Gnarkité Jonas Kambou, a student at the Bible institute in Bouna, Côte d’Ivoire, was awarded an internship with Pastor Appiah in Tiassee, Ghana. He will spend a year working in Ghana, putting to practical use the lessons learned in the classroom. Pastor Appiah began planting this Free Will Baptist church in 2017. Though he has seen some success, Jonas’ help will greatly boost the effort.

It took almost two years for all the paperwork to be approved, but Pastor Yosniel and Dr. Katiuska (with their two children) and a single lady, Lázara, are now serving in Ivory Coast, Africa. Dr. Katiuska, a physician, and Lázara, an X-ray and ultrasound technician, serve in our hospital in Doropo. Pastor Yosniel works in evangelism and discipleship.

Former students at the seminary in Chame, Panama, initiated a ministry that serves in the dangerous village streets of Colombia. They continue to share the gospel despite threats and curses by a witchdoctor.

Pastor Yosvanys Quiñones, his wife Anita, and their two children recently moved from Cuba to Uruguay to serve as missionaries. Uruguayan Free Will Baptists invited the family to work with them to revive and stabilize the Malvin Norte congregation in the metropolitan area of Montevideo.

Gifts to the World Missions Offering assist efforts to reach the unreached in neighboring countries and around the world.

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Planting Churches

Don Matchett

Planting Churches

Church planting efforts are advancing in Brazil, Cuba, Ivory Coast, India, Nepal, and Central Asia as a result of gifts to the World Missions Offering. Evangelism and church planting are the lifeblood of missions ministry. Without the World Missions Offering, evangelism and church planting in these countries and among our partners would be severely hampered.

Recently, the national association of Free Will Baptists in the Ivory Coast sponsored a new church plant in Burkina Faso. Located just north of Côte d’Ivoire, Joshua Project indicates Burkina Faso is home to 81 people groups. Among those, 27 people groups are categorized as unreached. They have no gospel witness.

Islam, at around 60%, is the largest religion. Let that sink in. This majority-Muslim country has a church plant begun by Free Will Baptists.

Because Free Will Baptists have been faithful to give, our Ivorian partners have been empowered to plant a church in a majority-Muslim African country.

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“If you want, I will show you your money, too.”

Clint Morgan

“If you want, I will show you your money, too.”

Pastor Ernest was a member of the first graduating class of the Bible institute in Bouna, Côte d’Ivoire, Africa, in 1990.

Shortly after finishing his studies and a subsequent one-year internship, he became pastor of the church in the village of Flakiédougou (fla-key-ay-doo-goo). Ernest was committed to winning people to the Lord and planting churches. Within just a few years, the church had planted six new churches in surrounding bush villages.

Known for clear, powerful preaching, he fearlessly dealt with sin. On one occasion, he called a meeting with four men in the church to deal directly with sin in their lives. He looked to the first man and stated, “Every day, when you come in from the fields, you stop and drink ‘kou-tou-kou’ (homemade white lightning) at the place at the end of town.” The man sat stunned at the pastor’s knowledge of his wrongdoing. He wisely remained quiet.

Turning his attention to the second person, Pastor Ernest declared with assurance, “You have been going to the witch doctor on a regular basis. This is not acceptable.” He, too, chose silence over rebuttal.

At this point, all four men sat silent, dread on the faces of the two yet to be confronted. Pastor Ernest spoke to the remaining two men and warned, If you want, I will show you your money too.” Immediately, they simultaneously assured him they would pass on that offer.

The pastor spoke straightforwardly to all four men, saying, “You all claim to be Christians…but you are living like pagans. If you were to die, the pagans would not bury you because you claim to be Christian. And, you also need to understand, if you were to die today, the church would not bury because you act like pagans. Now, if the pagans won’t bury you and the Christians won’t bury you, then you will just have to bury yourself and that will be hard to do. So, you need to make up your minds…are you going to be a Christian or pagan?”

Church discipline is not something we see practiced in many churches in America. However, the Bible does address this issue in several contexts (see Matthew 18:15-18, 1 Corinthians 5:5, 1 Corinthians 5:11, Galatians 6:1).

It appears believers should give serious consideration to how we deal with those who call themselves believers, but live in ways obviously not pleasing to God…whether in the U.S. or on the mission field.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

How do you feel about the way Pastor Ernest handled these men? Do you think he was biblical in his approach?

Do the missionary (or missionaries) you support practice church discipline? (Talk to them about this.)

Does your church practice church discipline?

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STRATEGY AND MISSIONS: Accountability and Reporting

Clint Morgan

STRATEGY AND MISSIONS: Accountability and Reporting

As field missionaries work through the process outlined earlier in the series, they can track their progress each step of the way. Some lean more to extensive record keeping while others prefer the less detailed, broad stroke picture.

Advancement through this strategic process can be marked by keeping records of pertinent information, as people move from one step to another. However, it should be understood it is not obligatory to keep copious records because the real focus is on people, relationships, and bringing a message of hope to the lost.

Can you picture it unfolding? As missionaries develop a meeting place (for example, an English class) and 20 people show up, they build strong relationships with 12. They find ways to minister to their needs and develop opportunities to witness to eight of the 20. Six of these accept Christ and are discipled. These six gather to form the basis of a new church.

For many people, one of the primary arguments against strategy development is it appears to eliminate the direction of the Holy Spirit. I totally disagree with that premise. I can clearly see the Holy Spirit leading the missionary every step along the way, as well as preparing the hearts of unbelievers to receive the Good News of salvation.

It should cause no confusion to think the Holy Spirit does direct His people, even in the development and execution of a good strategy. The fact is, only under the leadership of the Holy Spirit do we at IM dare undertake the enormous task of preparing a strategy to “labor with the Body of Christ to fulfill the Great Commission.“

This is part five in a series of five posts. Begin at the beginning here.

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STRATEGY AND MISSIONS: Simplified Strategy, Part 2

Clint Morgan

STRATEGY AND MISSIONS: Simplified Strategy, Part 2

In the last blog, we looked at the launching point of our simplified strategy: finding those places where people already meet or creating a reason for people to come together.

If we have many meeting places but do not move to the next step, we have not accomplished our mission. Let’s move on to the other elements of the simplified strategy.

            RELATIONSHIPS: Meeting people is never meant to be an end in itself. We will seek to build relationships with people we meet through the various programs, activities, and meeting points. Some relationships will grow deeper and open other opportunities. At times, these relationships may appear to be the end within themselves. Loving and caring for people is right, even if the person never accepts Christ.

            MINISTERING: Through our relationships, we will discover the real and felt needs of people. Under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, and in consultation with our team members, we will minister to the people to whom God has called us by meeting their needs. Our acts of kindness with humility and joy will be a shining and real example of God’s love and care for those lives we touch.

            WITNESSING: We know that every relationship will not develop into a witnessing opportunity. However, we are convinced through deep relationships we can find a means to minister to the real needs of people. We want all witnessing to be completely Spirit led. Through ministering, we often earn the privilege of sharing our faith. Ministering without witnessing is a half accomplished task and vice versa.

            DISCIPLING: The goal of witnessing is to see people come to Christ. Once a person has committed to following Him, we engage in an ongoing discipleship to ensure they are founded in the Word and their life is a reflection of Christ through daily obedience to the direction of the Holy Spirit. This part of the process

            GATHERING: We believe a gathering of believers will emerge as they are properly discipled. The context in which the ‘gathering’ takes place will greatly determine the practical application of biblical truths. We do not see it is necessary to push believers into western patterns of worship and service. We will set up structures that will allow them to gather and express their faith in a contextualized manner without compromising biblical principles.

Part four in a series of five posts

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Thriving or Dying?

Clint Morgan

Thriving or Dying?

Do you remember the last time you drove down the road and passed a church that was closed down? Did your mind drift to the obvious question, “What happened here?”

Maybe your imagination took you back to another day and time when this place of worship could have been a scene from a painting. You know, the little white church on a grass-covered knoll with an appropriate steeple perched on top. The surrounding rolling hills provide an idyllic setting and announce the coming and passing of each season in vibrant color. Maybe just a few short years ago, we’d have seen the pastor smiling warmly as he shook the hands of his happy members on the steps of this quaint church. We would have seen men and women in their Sunday best catching up on the week’s news while their children played “Red Rover” in the church parking lot. That’s the way it was, but that is not the way it is.

That is simply a picture of a disturbing cycle we find quite often in our world today…

  • Churches thriving
  • Churches struggling
  • Churches dying
  • Churches closing

The Church should be a vibrant, living organism made up of His people bringing as much life to the church as Christ has brought to them. Only at His return should the Church on the earth fall silent.

The Church should ultimately be the instrument by which God accomplishes His plan in the world. We must give time and energy to understanding what God says He wants the Church to be if we are to “be” His Church.

All Bible-believing, God-fearing, born again believers, and the churches they are a part of, should be doing their part in fulfilling the Great Commission. However, the truth is that this is not what we are seeing in our world today.

Thomas Rainer, president of Life Way Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention reports:The challenge is that more than three-fourths of our congregations are in need of major revitalization. Many of them are ill-equipped and ill-prepared to move in Great Commission obedience to reach the lostness of their communities.”

Revitalization has become a buzzword in today’s evangelical churches. From Rainer’s statement we can easily conclude that this needs to be more than a buzzword.

If we see the condition of many churches today, grasp the reality of the lostness of man, and accept that God has commissioned believers to take the message of hope to the world we can quickly conclude that revitalization must be more than a trendy buzzword. We desperately need to see strength, energy, vigor, and much more come back to our churches.

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More Laborers Needed

Clint Morgan

More Laborers Needed

THEME VIII: PRAYING FOR A VISION FOR THE FUTURE 
(NOT OF THE FUTURE)

DAY 28: More Laborers Needed

The Lobi people live in Côte d’Ivoire, Africa. They are the people God gave us the privilege of working with for nearly 30 years. The Lobi are known as warriors, hunters, and farmers. I’ve never seen them go to war, but I have seen them hunt and work in their fields. Seldom do you see a man hunting alone. They go out in large groups with their dogs, bows and arrows, throwing sticks (called a gourdin), and handmade muzzleloaders. 

When a man wants to clear a piece of land, he sends out word for others to come and join him. Clearing the land is the most difficult part of the fieldwork. On the designated day, 15-20 guys will show up and they go out together to work. Often, someone will break out in extemporaneous song that tells a story. Once the field is cleared of stones, thorns, trees, and stumps, the workers gather for a celebration. 

Jesus often used agricultural illustrations. He knew those listening could readily relate to the story and easily grasp the clear and hidden meanings. 

Luke 10:2 provides an example of Jesus calling for more laborers: “Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest.” (See also Matthew 9:37, 38)

Any of us who have hoed weeds in fields of cotton, peanuts, or corn know just how hard that work is. The more workers in the field, the more work accomplished in a shorter amount of time. 

Remember:

  • 2.6 billion people do not have religious freedom.
  • Of the 6,468 languages spoken in the world today 4,024 do not have a complete Bible.
  • 22 countries absolutely forbid preaching the gospel.
  • 4 billion people without a gospel witness.
  • 6,600 unreached people groups dot the fields.

These facts paint a picture of a huge field in desperate need of laborers!

Pray God will raise up an army of laborers who will go into the fields of the world to plant, water, and harvest for His glory. 

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Living at Peace Within the Body

Clint Morgan

Living at Peace Within the Body

DAY 16: Living at Peace Within the Body

Our partners in Central Asia, Bible Mission International (BMI), sent out an appeal for churches in the former Soviet Union to set a goal of planting three new churches each. Of the more than 4,000 Baptist Union churches in that area, 400+ churches signed up for the challenge.

The BMI leadership placed three qualifiers on those who joined this effort:

  1. The church must believe and practice sound doctrine.
  2. The church must have already demonstrated a heart for outreach.
  3. The church must be living at peace with one another (this included the local church, district associations, and partners).

I totally agree with all three of these criteria. An obvious pattern develops in our ministries—we reproduce what we are. This applies to discipling, church planting, leadership development, and all other aspects of the church.

It is imperative that our missionaries, believers, and church leaders live in peace with one another. The end result will, in all probability, be churches emerging that also live in peace.

The Scriptures emphatically present the call to live at peace with one another (Psalm 34:14Romans 12:18Romans 14:191 Corinthians 13:111 Thessalonians 5:13Hebrews 12:14).

We need to pray diligently that our missionaries, believers, and church leaders will live in peace with one another and the world around them. 

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Churches that Birth More Churches

Clint Morgan

Churches that Birth More Churches

DAY 15: Churches that Birth More Churches

It is possible to gather people into buildings, carry on seemingly religious ceremonies and rituals, and have absolutely nothing going on that is guided by the Holy Spirit. This may feel like an overstatement, but I fear enough anecdotal evidence exists to cause us to stop and ponder this.

On the other hand, we can rejoice that God has called and churches have sent missionaries with a clear biblical perspective of what the Church should be. Commensurate with their calling and God’s heart for the nations as they plant churches that plant churches.

We praise His name when we hear of what He is doing among the people where FWB planted churches. The 11 churches in Panama have over 30 church planting projects going on right now. Under national leadership, the FWB churches in Côte d’Ivoire, Africa, have more than doubled—from 53 to 112—in the last 10 years. According to our statistical report from 2014, Free Will Baptist churches outside of North America have over 500 mission points (church planting projects).

Certainly, it is not all about statistics. But, when it is clear we are planting churches that are planting churches, we have a lot for which to be thankful.

Pray we will never lose sight of the objective to plant churches that plant churches. 

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