If you seek to imitate the Apostle Paul as he imitated Christ, then consider these lessons from Galatians written by my friend John:
- The message of our ministry is the gospel.
- The challenge of our ministry is opposition to the gospel.
- The motivation of our ministry is love.
- The goal of our ministry is Christlikeness.
John Divito, “Pastoral Lessons from Galatians,” Founders Ministries (Apr 18, 2018) via Southern Equip.
Notes from Dr. Bill Warren’s presentation at NOBTS Colloquium, “Bible Translation as Missions,” Oct. 2014 (“Bible Translation as Missions” Colloquium)
Observations from a Textual Critic
- A call for training in Greek and Hebrew
- A call for awareness of textual criticism
- A call for noting textual information in the translation via notes
- A call for checking the segmentation of the text versus the original text
- A call for notes on the importance of variants for understanding the text even when not original — some are likely original to the setting, but not to the text
- Missions both promotes the translation of the Bible and is moved forward by the translation of the Bible
- Bible translations can become key aspects of Christian life, so need to be done with as much excellence as feasible within the context and time constraints
- Translations need to reflect major textual information both within the translation and in the notes included in the translation
If we’re not involved in Bible translation and Bible promotion, I think there’s a real question about what we’re really doing. It doesn’t mean everyone ought to be involved in Bible translation, but everyone ought to be involved in Bible promotion.
Here is the outline of a “Bibleless Peoples” talk I gave to a group of national church planters. Many of these leaders work among or near people who do not have God’s word in a language that they understand. They were able to identify some of the Bibleless people groups on our list. They also got riled up when I asked what languages they should work in. Some were in favor of using national or state languages, for the sake of unity; some for tribal languages, for the sake of understanding.
- (Theology) What is the “seed” that we sow?
- The seed is God’s word, the gospel of Jesus Christ: “The sower sows the word…” (Mk. 4:14)
- Seed has all the potential for life, growth and multiplication
- Look at “movement” in Acts
- Movement is described as the growth of God’s word
- Acts 6:7, 12:24, 13:49, 19:20, 28:31
- What can a sower do without seed?
- Many people and places have no “seed” available
- The Bibleless are those without God’s word in a language that they understand
- Who do you know without God’s word?
- (Linguistics) A look at languages
- People use different languages for different places and purposes (multilingualism)
- What languages do you use for home, market, school, church, news?
- Each language is strong in it’s area (domain)
- The gospel can move in any language, but which language is priority for the “sower”?
- The language of homes (oikos), houses of peace, where churches are planted
- It’s better seen as “home language” (mother-tongue), not “heart language”
- Look for living (vital) languages, spoken between parents and children
- (Strategy) How to work among the Bibleless
- Train in homes (if religious and home languages differ)
- Houses of peace may speak local and trade languages well
- Make small groups by language
- Trade languages (languages of wider communication) may be enough for God’s word to grow
- Test for understanding
- Ask questions after teaching
- Have people retell it in their own words
- Does it spread between trainings?
- Do they share at home in their language?
- Use Bible stories, songs, pictures and dramas
- Stories translate well
- Stories give meaning to new words and phrases
- Honor people who sing, pray and practice the gospel and testimony in their own language
- Learn and speak the language, as it is the best way to encourage the spread of God’s word
- Some groups will need the Bible translated
- Make disciples according to the Scriptures
- Do you give authority to God’s word in your own life and ministry?
- Do you train from the Bible?
- How does your own strategy compare with the Apostles’s teaching?
- Do you aim for people to have faith in the gospel (not just obedience)?
- When you leave a field, do you leave God’s word in the hearts of the people?
- Our work isn’t done until there is a church that is growing in God’s word in a language that they understand (Acts 20:32, 2 Peter 1:15)
- Who are the Bibleless?
- There are churchless and Bibleless groups hiding around us
- Look at the list
- These are the groups without any Scripture resources (not just a Bible translation)
- Have you seen any? Is this language spoken at home?
- Do you know any bilingual believers or churches among them?
- Do you have churches near to any of these groups?
- Inform your churches
- Tell us if a group needs Scripture resources
- The churchless and Bibleless will be hopeless until someone from outside (us) goes in with the “seed” of God’s word
- Be sure to plant God’s word in hearts and homes because it will grow and multiply
Andy McTazi recast the parable of the Prodigal Son for all self-respecting missionaries and theologians. I cheer when I hear someone bring together theology and missiology like this:
There are two brothers who don’t talk to each other very much. Let’s call the older brother Theology, and the younger brother… Missiology.
… It’s not so much that they are constantly arguing; more that they move in different circles and pretend each other don’t exist.
The younger is adventurous.… The older… is conservative.… The father loves both [and] invites both to his parties.…
Both brothers have their sins. Both also have their gift. But they need each other. Oh for churches and movements that are strong in both!
Read “Two Brothers” at To Win Some.
When I moved abroad I expected to learn a new language to speak with my neighbors. I didn’t come with an expectation to learn a new way to speak with fellow workers. But conversations with co-workers can be just as confusing as conversations in a new language. They both can be noise to my ears and not “comprehensible input.”
Some of the rub comes from professional jargon and business concepts that creep into our work (“comprehensible input” is linguistic jargon, by the way). These new words and ideas are needlessly difficult because so much of our work is already defined in Scripture. But therein is a more basic problem. We have a shared vocabulary of biblical terms and concepts, but we use them differently. And the preaching and teaching of these words is central to our task.
The International Mission Board (IMB) has recognized the need for its workers to share a vocabulary of key terms and concepts for missions. The organization just published a document of these definitions with a stated purpose:
The purpose of this document is to provide biblically faithful and denominationally loyal definitions for terms and concepts that profoundly affect who we are, where we go, what we do, and how we train. We want a biblical understanding of these terms and concepts to be clearly articulated and consistently understood across the IMB so that we can wisely apply God’s Word in all of our work together.
The document defines these ten words and ideas for missions: gospel, evangelism, conversion, disciple, disciple making, calling, missionary, missionary team, unreached peoples and places, and church.
Below are brief versions of the definitions in the IMB document (in total, 500 words). They are a great place to start. For the full definitions and Scripture references, see www.imb.org/beliefs-key-terms/.
- The Gospel
- is the good news that the only true God, the just and gracious Creator of the universe, has looked upon hopelessly sinful men and women and has sent his Son, God in the flesh, to bear his wrath against sin through his substitutionary death on the cross and to show his power over sin and death through his resurrection from the grave so that everyone who turns from their sin and themselves and trusts in Jesus alone as Savior and Lord will be reconciled to God forever.
- is the proclamation of the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit with the aim of persuading people to repent and believe in Christ.
- is the divinely enabled personal response of individuals to the gospel in which they turn from their sin and themselves and trust in Jesus as Savior and Lord.
- are followers of Christ. They have turned from their sin, trusted in Jesus as their Savior, have died to themselves and surrendered their lives to him as Lord. Christ lives in them, resulting in six primary marks of a disciple: transformed heart, mind, affections, will, relationships, and purpose.
- Disciple Making
- is the Christ-commanded, Spirit-empowered duty of every disciple of Jesus to evangelize unbelievers, baptize believers, teach them the Word of Christ and train them to obey Christ as members of his church who make disciples on mission to all nations.
- Call to salvation: The gracious act of God by which he draws people to become disciples of Jesus and members of his church.
- Call to mission: Everyone who responds to God’s call as a disciple of Jesus receives Christ’s command to make disciples of Jesus.
- Call to station: Christ calls disciples to specific stations in and through which they exalt him on mission: family, singleness, church membership.
- Call to service: God directs disciples to make disciples in a certain way, at a certain time, among a certain people, in a certain location or through a certain vocation.
- A Missionary
- is a disciple of Jesus set apart by the Holy Spirit, sent out from the church and affirmed by the mission organization to cross geographical, cultural and/or linguistic barriers as part of a missionary team focused on making disciples and multiplying churches among unreached peoples and places.
- A Missionary Team
- is an identifiable group of disciples who meet together regularly, care for each other selflessly and partner with one another intentionally to make disciples and multiply churches among particular unreached peoples and/or places.
- Unreached Peoples and Places
- are those among whom Christ is largely unknown and the church is relatively insufficient to make Christ known in its broader population without outside help.
- A Church
- is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel; observing the two ordinances of Christ, governed by his laws, exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by his Word, and seeking to extend the gospel to the ends of the earth.
Highlights of Zane Pratt, “Obedience-Based Discipleship,” Global Missiology, Vol. 4, No. 12 (July 2015).
[O]bedience based discipleship stresses the importance of teaching people to obey the Bible, rather than simply teaching people Bible content.
There are two features about this emphasis on obedience as the basis of discipleship that need to be noted. First, they privilege the commands of Jesus over the rest of the New Testament. … However, it is not essential to the concept of obedience-based discipleship, and others who share this methodology do not share this prioritization of the actual words of Jesus over the writings of the apostles. Second, [George] Patterson and [Richard] Scroggins [an early example of obedience-based discipleship comes from their book, Church Multiplication Guide] stress obedience alongside and even above theological knowledge. … ¶ The foci are clear. Bible doctrine is “heavy,” and it can be dangerous. “Simple, loving, childlike obedience” is the goal of both discipleship and leadership training.
[I]t is one thing to say that biblical discipleship should issue in obedience, and another thing altogether to make obedience the basis of discipleship. It is also one thing to say that knowledge without obedience is dangerous, and another thing to set obedience above knowledge or at odds with it. This was certainly not the pattern of the apostles. ¶ The letters of the New Testament were part of the apostolic missionary method.
Three things may be observed from the apostolic letters of the New Testament. First, theological knowledge was given as the basis for practical obedience. It is particularly true in the letters of Paul that he often begins with an extended discourse on gospel theology, and then transitions with the word “therefore” into the practical sections of his letters. Clearly, the truth about God and his gospel is the essential foundation for Christian obedience. Paul does not simply issues orders to be obeyed. He explains the theological truth that motivates and enables obedience before he exhorts people to that obedience. This is a crucial difference between legalism and Christian discipleship. The biblical pattern puts knowing (the message of the gospel, and the larger biblical theology that stands behind it and around it) and being (being a new creation in Christ, in union with him and indwelt by his Holy Spirit) as the necessary foundations for doing, not as secondary or extraneous to it. ¶ Second, the apostolic letters of the New Testament present deep theology to ordinary Christians, many of whom were recent converts. … To regard the great theological themes of the Bible as unnecessary for new believers is to disregard what the Holy Spirit, through the apostles, thought essential for the new believers of the early church. ¶ Third, the vast majority of the obedience enjoined by the New Testament is altogether mundane in nature. There is actually very little about evangelism and church planting, and a great deal about ordinary life. … Based on who God is and what he has done for us in Christ, discipleship must lay the same emphases as the New Testament on godly living in every area of life.
So what should we think of obedience-based discipleship? First of all, biblical discipleship should most certainly teach and expect obedience. … However, obedience is not the basis for discipleship, nor does it stand alone as the main aspect of discipleship. The basis of discipleship is the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ… ¶ Biblical discipleship therefore involves knowing, being and doing in an inseparable union.