November 22, 2017

Doubling Our Efforts

Dan Wokaty

When I was a missionary appointee preparing to serve at the Instituto Práctico Ebenezer in Hermosillo, Mexico, I sometimes received rejection letters stating something like this: “We are sorry, but our church supports only church planters.” Although I am involved in church planting, my main ministry focus is the Institute. Sadly, this misunderstanding of the dynamic relationship between church planting and institute training has prevented some congregations from supporting an exciting and vital ministry, a ministry through which churches have been planted in Hermosillo and many other parts of Mexico.

Unfortunately, the words “Bible institute” often bring to mind a “Bible study” or an advanced Sunday school for those who want to learn a little more than the average lay person. However, the Bible Institute in Hermosillo offers a formal, intense, and comprehensive study of the ministry so that the student can become “a workman that needeth not to be ashamed,” gaining through Bible college and seminary training the assurance that he is “rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). Our institute is not unique in its endeavors; there are several quality seminaries and Bible institutes in countries such as Russia, India, and Puerto Rico, to name a few.

But how can Bible institute training be considered an effective means of missionary church planting? Consider the following scenario: An American missionary travels to a foreign field and starts a church. The Lord prospers that work, and the missionary is able to hand the church to a national after five years of labor. According to this scenario, in ten years two churches could be established. Thank God for faithful missionaries who plant churches in this manner, and praise Him for the countless souls converted and discipled one by one.

Now consider another effective means of church planting. In this scenario, the missionary spends his time teaching seventy students in a Bible institute that is designed to train future Christian leaders of that country. Let’s say it takes six years for a trained national to plant a church. If only half the institute graduates were to go on to pastor national churches, at the end of ten years (four years of training plus six years to establish a church) that country would see thirty-five new churches.

The advantages of the second scenario are vast. For one, the missionary does not have to look for the “point man,” a national within his congregation who has matured spiritually to the point of being competent to take over and serve as pastor. There is a cultural advantage as well in that the national pastor does not have to overcome the ramifications of an American passing the leadership to a national. In countries such as Mexico, where one’s status is greatly influenced by the color of his skin, people tend to prefer the leadership of an American rather than an indigenous pastor. This situation can make it difficult for the American missionary to hand over the work to a national.

Not only does the Bible institute provide the missionary with an effective means of preparing a national to take over a ministry, but it also provides the national pastor with a means of training potential Christian workers for full-time service. With the benefit of institute training, an upcoming national pastor is adequately equipped to fill the shoes of the missionary pastor. Upon graduating, those who have been called to work in the church full-time are ready to return home and serve faithfully. Each student represents a pastor or missionary who has sent that young person to receive a sound Bible education so that he can return to the ministry ready to stand in the gap.

Because these national teachers and missionaries have such a sacred charge from the pastors and parents of these young students, they must base their philosophy of ministry on the Bible in order to keep from leading these young disciples astray. The philosophy of ministry of the Instituto Práctico Ebenezer has enabled the school for thirty years to prepare men and women to serve God, most of whom have remained faithful to the Lord and faithful to their calling.

Second Timothy 2:1 presents the Biblical basis for institute training. First we see the missionary’s motivation, or driving principle: “Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” Under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, the apostle Paul continues his instruction of Pastor Timothy, even after sending him out for the work of the gospel. Paul passionately urges Timothy to find his strength “in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” Paul understood that such a task as he had given Timothy could not be accomplished in the strength of a mortal man, but only through the empowering of an omnipotent Savior. Likewise, when a missionary takes up the task of training future national pastors and Christian workers, he realizes that the task is simply impossible for him to do through his own limited strength. He must rely on God’s grace and wisdom as he participates in molding young lives for God’s glory.

The following verse also sets forth the missionary’s threefold mandate to learn, to teach, and to reproduce: “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” Paul first gives an implied command that the teacher must learn God’s truth (“the things that thou hast heard of me”). Timothy had been indoctrinated, or trained, by Paul, and he could verify by other sources (“many witnesses”) that Paul was teaching the truth. In a Bible institute, the Biblical training of a missionary is duplicated many times over in the lives of national students training for the ministry. In receiving instruction from many missionaries working together, the students gain the added advantage of learning from the diverse experiences and backgrounds of “many witnesses,” several of whom are experienced pastors themselves.

With a solid foundation in the truth of God’s Word, the missionary is now commanded to teach other “faithful men” and then to teach those students to reproduce their training in the lives of others. Paul told Timothy to win and disciple others, committing to them that which Paul had entrusted to him. Not only was Timothy to teach Biblical truth to these new disciples, but he was also to give them the responsibility of reproducing that truth in others. Nationals who have been trained by missionaries (or by other nationals who have graduated from Bible institutes) will have the tools necessary to teach others what they have learned and will also pass the torch of Bible training to those whom they have won to Christ. This process of multiplication—disciples training others to train others— is a direct application of the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:19, 20.

In recent years, Mexico has seen countless people won to Christ and scores of new churches planted. These churches are thriving, and young people are being called into full-time ministry. Many of these young, new believers have answered God’s call to be missionaries in countries all over the world, and they are receiving their education in fine Bible institutes and seminaries such as the Instituto Práctico Ebenezer.

Today, workers all over Mexico are reaping the harvest sown thirty years ago in Hermosillo by missionaries who, working under Mexican Gospel Mission and the local church, opened a Bible institute to train the leaders of the future. God is greatly using this Bible institute in Mexico as missionaries and pastors work hand-in-hand to win people to the Lord, to train these converts in a quality Bible institute, and then to send them out to repeat the process of learning, teaching, and reproducing. The missionary who chooses to fulfill the Great Commission in this manner is one who sees a vision of the future with many churches planted and many serving the Lord, all laboring together in God’s great field to bring in a plentiful harvest.

Article Bio as originally published: Dan Wokaty is a missionary serving under Mexican Gospel Mission (Dr. Dick Mercado, Director). He serves as a teacher and financial administrator in the Instituto Práctico Ebenezer in Hermosillo, Sonora. Mexican Gospel Mission is a Fundamental Baptist mission board based in Phoenix, Arizona.

(Originally published in FrontLine • July/August 2003. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)

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