Reaching the Nations Starts with Loving the Local Church - Radical

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Reaching the Nations Starts with Loving the Local Church

I pray that I will never cease to be amazed that God chooses to redeem fallen sinners. He takes men and women at enmity with him, adopts them into his family, and sets them about the family business—namely serving as ambassadors of the kingdom to every tribe, tongue, and nation.

In this article, I want to recall the primary lessons that the Lord taught me while I served on the mission field: Reliance on the ordinary means of grace within the local church and the power of faithful hospitality. The ordinary means of grace are the typical ways that God changes and matures us, such as the right preaching of the Word and the administration of the ordinances in the local church.

Reliance on the Ordinary

My time on the field taught me, above all else, that the local church is central to the Great Commission.

I learned how I ought to love and cherish what Jesus loves most if I want to faithfully serve him, which is his bride, the church! There is a reason that the most powerful narratives throughout history focus on the brave knight defeating a terrible enemy, usually a dragon, to rescue the damsel in distress. The theme resonates because that is the purpose of history as the Second Person of the Godhead took on human flesh in the person of Jesus Christ, lived a perfect life, died, and rose from the dead all to pursue and rescue his bride from the grasp of the evil one.

Any missions strategy that seeks to avoid the ordinary means of grace in the context of the local church is sure to produce dire consequences. During my time in Ecuador, I sought to devote myself fully to being a local church member while teaching theological education classes. 

I did this to strengthen the church’s commitment to the ordinary means of grace that God has gifted his church to grow in maturity, particularly through meaningful church membership, right administration of the ordinances, and faithful expository preaching of God’s Word. I witnessed how an increasing emphasis on God’s chosen method for maturing his people proved faithful and fruitful over and over again. 

God’s strategy for accomplishing his redemptive purpose is through the ordinary means of grace in local churches.

Regardless of whether churches exist in the U.S., Ecuador, or elsewhere, God’s strategy for accomplishing his redemptive purpose is through the ordinary means of grace in local churches. If there is no church in the area where the missionary is going, form a team that can covenant as a local church upon arrival. Ultimately, I learned that no man-made missions strategy is better than God’s design for fulfilling the New Covenant mandate through his chosen means—local churches among every tribe, tongue, and nation.

The Power of Faithful Hospitality

Before moving our family to Ecuador, my wife Heather and I had sought to prepare ourselves to serve in Latin America. I thought I was pretty good at Spanish. Upon arrival on the field, I quickly realized that I could not even order a pizza over the telephone—I had a lot to learn.

After spending significant time with Ecuadorians from our local church, we understood that no matter how well we ever learned the language, the nationals would always know it better than us and understand their culture better. Therefore, we sought to spend as much time as possible with our brothers and sisters to know them more and to learn how to better serve them.

When we are changed by the ordinary means of grace and grow into maturity as disciples of Christ, hospitality is bound to follow.

Many often forget that one of the qualifications God laid out for being an elder is hospitality (Titus 1:8). When we are changed by the ordinary means of grace and grow into maturity as disciples of Christ, hospitality is bound to follow. As a result, we opened the doors to our home and sought to spend as much time as possible inviting them into the chaos of a home with four children, which then eventually turned into six! 

We wanted to learn from them while, at the same time, simply displaying the glories of Christian marriage, the blessing of children, and a family committed to displaying Christ in that community. A wonderful book entitled, The Simplest Way to Change the World, poignantly states, “The end goal of hospitality is not that you simply host people in your home as much as you use your home as a place to display and speak the gospel.” 

By inviting them into our lives, we were able to not only learn their language and culture better, but they were encouraged toward Christian maturity through genuine relationships with us. As a result, many of those younger believers are bucking the trends of their culture, committing themselves to their local church, not delaying marriage, and desiring children to be raised and sent out for God’s glory.

I am confident that missionaries who focus on establishing churches that emphasize the ordinary means of grace while practicing faithful hospitality to live life with others will eventually see the fruit of God’s blessing in their ministry. 

That fruit may not be the pragmatic, numbers-centered results that many modern strategies emphasize. However, as Paul encourages the young believers in the Galtian church, “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9). May we follow God’s strategy for reaching the nations through God’s chosen means—his bride, the local church—for God’s glory as we proclaim the gospel by our preaching, display the gospel through the ordinances, and live out the gospel in our hospitality.

Jimmy has served with Reaching and Teaching since 2015, including several years on the mission field in Ecuador. While continuing to travel overseas to train pastors, Jimmy now also works in mobilization, partnering with churches to send healthy, prepared workers into the harvest. Additionally, Jimmy is the Practicum Coordinator in which he collaborates with RTIM missionaries on the field to host students interested in cultivating a heart for missions. Jimmy is a 4 time graduate of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (B.A., MDiv, ThM, and PhD). Jimmy and his wife, Heather, live with their 6 children in Louisville, KY and are members of Bullitt Lick Baptist Church.

LESS THAN 1% OF ALL MONEY GIVEN TO MISSIONS GOES TO UNREACHED PEOPLE AND PLACES.

That means that the people with the most urgent spiritual and physical needs on the planet are receiving the least amount of support. Together we can change that!