William Carey Trusting God Through Tragedy and Suffering

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The following story is an excerpt from the book Finishing Well in Life and Ministry by Bill Mills and Craig Parro dealing with the topic of Christian ministry burnout.

William Carey, “the father of modern missions,” faced a ministry disappointment of overwhelming proportions. Only by resting in God’s sovereign purposes was he, like Habakkuk, able to endure and not burn out. Carey began his missionary career in India in 1793. He labored in that country for forty continuous years, never once returning to his native England.

frontispieceCarey was a brilliant linguist, translating portions of Scripture into over a dozen Indian languages. One afternoon after twenty years of plodding labor in that country, all of his work went up in smoke. A fire raged through his printing plant and warehouse. All of his printing equipment was destroyed, but most tragically, many of his precious manuscripts were completely consumed by the fire. Of course, Carey had no computer back-up files or Xerox masters. Twenty years of non-stop labor were gone within a few hours.

How would he respond to this crushing devastation? How would you respond in similar circumstances? Listen to the words which Carey wrote to his pastor-friend, Andrew Fuller, in England:

“The ground must be laboured over again, but we are not discouraged…We have all been supported under the affliction, and preserved from discouragement. To me the consideration of the divine sovereignty and wisdom has been very supporting…I endeavored to improve this our affliction last Lord’s day, from Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.” I principally dwelt upon two ideas, vis.:

1. God has a sovereign right to dispose of us as he pleases.

2. We ought to acquiesce in all that God does with us and to us.”

Strengths and Weaknesses of the Rapid Church Multiplication Movement

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One major trend in missions today is rapid church multiplication movements. There are many organizations today involved in rapid church planting and multiplication.

Here’s what it is: You plant a church and within a very short amount of time, that church is planting another church. It is very discipleship intensive, discipling the new believers, equipping them to share the gospel with others, and encouraging them to immediately go out and share with the gospel with the network of relationships they have with unbelievers.

This helps the churches to grow and, with the church planting mindset, form new churches that form new churches and continue the cycle. Church planting and church multiplication are in the DNA of this movement.

The Good

There are some really good things about this movement:

1. They are very intentional about evangelism and church planting and are people who take the Great Commission seriously by focusing on making disciples and teaching them to obey. Their discipleship is an obedience-based discipleship, which focuses on the Great Commission task of obeying all that Jesus has commanded. This is refreshing because so many churches do not have this focus.

Evangelism is an organic part of this movement and mindset. Some groups have the vision to have a church for every 1,000 people on the planet. That means that if a high-rise in Shanghia has 1,000 inhabitants, they want a church to be planted in that high rise to reach the people for Christ.

2. They are focused on unreached peoples and unengaged peoples (unengaged refers to the unreached that nobody is targeting right now). Of special concern to many in the movement are the unreached people groups and the Muslim world.

3. They are focused on organic growth. Natural and relational connections are used as inroads to share the gospel with pre-made relational networks.

4. They are word-centered. The truth of Scripture is of high value to those in this movement, as it should be.

The Potential Dangers

Even with the many positive motivations fueling this movement, there are some dangers to be avoided.

Many of the dangers stem from one thing: unintentionally deemphasizing pastoral leadership. Churches can focus so much on multiplying that they sacrifice the godly character and abilities of leadership in order to quickly train others to start new churches.

If a church is planted and then left by the planters without proper pastoral training, it can create a vacuum that will either quickly dissolve the church or move them far from a healthy, biblical focus. Often (and this is especially true in Africa), once the church planters leave, the leadership is given to the “big man” of the group, the most natural leader, who may or may not have the biblical qualifications or abilities to pastor faithfully. Congregations led by such men often die or quickly devolve from the biblical model set forth by church planters.

Part of this potential danger might stem from an incomplete understanding of the good doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. The fact that all believers are now able to have special access to God drives some to be dismissive of pastoral and ordained leadership over the church. This should be concerning, because pastoral leadership is a biblical concept.

We cannot throw out the baby with the bathwater: don’t be anti-pastor or anti-ordination, for that may cause us to oppose God’s purpose for His church.

Our organization launches pastoral training movements all around the world (Leadership Resources International) and is a natural partner with church planting organizations. Those in need of a church also are in need of pastoral leadership training. So often the two realms of church planting training and pastoral training are two different silos that do not interact.

Why aren’t we integrating those two things that are so complimentary and vital to healthy church growth and multiplication movements?

Many organizations do successfully integrate these two vital needs. We have been blessed to partner in large Muslim countries with church planting organizations that combine church planting movements with the needed pastoral training.

A lot of these churches are house churches and don’t have an official pastor, but they have pastoral leaders, teachers, people with the gift of pastor/teacher as outlined in Ephesians 4. The idea of nurturing pastoral leaders can be lost quickly when you move as fast as they do in planting churches.

One mission leader commented, “I wonder if we are accelerating cult multiplication movements worldwide rather than church multiplication movements.” That is a sobering question!

This strategy can move so rapidly to plant churches and move on that pastoral training is set aside as secondary. A question every planter of churches needs to ask is, “How do we foster the long-term doctrinal integrity and health of the churches that we plant?” We see in the Pastoral Epistles that the apostle Paul saw this as a fundamental issue and repeatedly warned Timothy and Titus against syncretism and forms of false doctrine.

Pastors need to be adequately equipped to carry on biblical ministry and to teach and live in accords with sound doctrine (1 Timothy 4:16). Proper pastoral training will equip pastors and church leaders to have doctrinal roots in the Word of God and to live according to the Word.

There is something else that troubles me. I sometimes feel that when hearing this movement express their ideas, I’m hearing more vision-driven and strategy-driven approaches than a specifically Word-driven approach. This group does take the Word of God and the Great Commission seriously, but they may not be giving adequate weight to other equally inspired portions of Scripture, such as Paul’s emphasis on teaching, reproof, correction, training in righteousness and equipping for ministry (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

It is significant the way Luke describes the fruit of the apostle’s ministry in Acts:

  • “But the word of God increased and multiplied.” Acts 12:24
  • “And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region.” Acts 13:49
  • “So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.“ Acts 19:20

What is multiplying and prevailing in the apostle’s ministry? It is the Word of God that is emphasized. The Rapid Church Multiplication movement needs to be completely driven and saturated by the Word of God to truly achieve their intended results.

Summary and Conclusion

Overall, the two main concerns I have are a lack of emphasis on pastoral leadership development as well as an over-reliance on human means and not being driven enough theologically.

We don’t want a wide reach for shallow churches; that is churches with leaders ill equipped for the work of ministry.

Rather, we want rapid church multiplication movements to happen in tandem with the needed pastoral training so that churches can be planted by men well equipped to faithfully preach the Word of God with the heart of God, creating strong and sustainable churches–and movements.

E.M. Bounds on Prayer and a Pastor’s Ministry

“It was claimed for Augustus Caesar that he found Rome a city of wood, and left it a city of marble. The pastor who succeeds in changing his people from a prayerless to a prayerful people, has done a greater work than did Augustus in changing a city from wood to marble. And after all, this is the prime work of the preacher. Primarily, he is dealing with prayerless people—with people of whom it is said, “God is not in all their thoughts.” Such people he meets everywhere, and all the time. His main business is to turn them from being forgetful of God, from being devoid of faith, from being prayerless, so that they become people who habitually pray, who believe in God, remember Him and do His will. The preacher is not sent to merely induce men to join the Church, nor merely to get them to do better. It is to get them to pray, to trust God, and to keep God ever before their eyes, that they may not sin against Him.

Embounds-quotes-on-prayer-pastoral-ministryThe work of the ministry is to change unbelieving sinners into praying and believing saints. The call goes forth by Divine authority, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” We catch a glimpse of the tremendous importance of faith and of the great value God has set upon it, when we remember that He has made it the one indispensable condition of being saved. “By grace are ye saved, through faith.” Thus, when we contemplate the great importance of prayer, we find faith standing immediately by its side. By faith are we saved, and by faith we stay saved. Prayer introduces us to a life of faith. Paul declared that the life he lived, he lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved him and gave Himself for him—that he walked by faith and not by sight.”

–E.M. Bounds in chapter 2 of The Necessity of Prayer

TNT Update: Results of Our Pastoral Training in Brazil

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Our 2011 banquet called “Taste of TNT Brazil” shared the transforming work of God all over the county of Brazil through our Training National Trainers (TNT) Program. Hear about God’s work in the eight videos below that:

  • Explain the organic multiplication of our program
  • Share four stories of individual transformation (including the wife of a TNTer!)
  • Give a glimpse into the future of TNT in Brazil
  • Show God’s name being praised!

You can help train pastors all over the world! Learn how your church can make a difference or make a donation.

Explosive Growth!

Ricardo’s Heart Transformed!

 

Fabio’s Testimony

 

Ronaldo’s Testimony

 

A Spouse’s Testimony

 

What is the future of TNT Brazil?

 

Reaching our Goal: God’s Name Being Praised

 

“I Could Sing of Your Love Forever” in Portuguese

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