THE URGENCY OF THE GOSPEL FOR A GROWING WORLD

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India has a population of 1.3 BILLION souls and growing (85% Hindu, 12% Muslim, maybe 2% Christian). Zambia has grown from 12 million to 20 million in just a few short years. Hope Builders Ministries is now working in one southern district of D. R. Congo with a population greater than Zambia! The Continent of Africa will be over 2 Billion by 2050, doubling in population.

The urgency for the Gospel has never been greater. Every generation is a new opportunity and a new challenge for bringing people to Christ and then maturity in Christ. “God has no grandchildren.”

THE greatest impact for the Gospel in any given place in the world is through the native population of believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. Whether here in the USA or any country in the world, the native believers are the key to winning souls to Christ and discipling them to be like the Lord Jesus, displaying His righteousness to the multitudes who need to hear and see the Gospel of Lord Jesus Christ.

In Zambia, Islam continues to grow rapidly and is penetrating new communities. It is not unusual to be wakened by their call to prayer early in the morning. Pastors must be equipped with the sound teaching of the Word of God, so as to not be compromised by the temptation to convert to Islam in order to receive free hospital care and education and other physical benefits while losing their soul. Only the TRUTH of the Gospel will keep souls free.

Materialism is the idol imported from the West. Sincere western Christians help to build this idol trying to “fix” every physical problem with more and more money and stuff. Western missionaries who, for the most part, do not (and can not) live like the natives they have come to serve, unwittingly give and leave a false impression of the Gospel and of God. Then there is the “prosperity” gospel, also imported from the West, which continues to poison multiple millions with its lie of temporal health, wealth and power “in the name of Jesus.” And the perception of wealthy, healthy western missionaries help to reinforce this terrible lie.

To rapidly win communities for Christ Indigenous Christians are the key. By their lives lived out in proper context, in their own culture and language, many are able to see the GOD of the Bible, The Lord Jesus Christ, and hear the message of truth that will save them eternally from the penalty of sin and presently from the power of sin. The “unreached” are reached by their own believing neighbors.  This is the MISSION of Hope Builders Ministries to equip, encourage and empower native Christians to reach their communities and cultures for Christ and make disciples who make other disciples.

It is the reality of missions that native believers effectively win far more of their neighbors to Christ than foreign missionaries do in a lifetime of diligent and sincere effort.

Hope Builders also comes alongside the believers, working through the local church and pastors, to help them with strategic needs like Bibles and training materials, bicycles and motorcycles, clean water wells for their communities and dignity projects – helping the indigenous church care for the poor and needy in their churches.

The Salvation of souls is the PRIMARY goal of missions  and we must be about the Lord Jesus’ Mission to seek and to save the lost. If this is the primary goal then that is where we must put the emphasis, the Message of the Good News from the lips of those who have received it.

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Bibles for India

Sharing the WORD of LIFE
Sharing the WORD of LIFE

Support INDIGENOUS MISSIONARIES in India this Christmas.
HELP provide Bibles to poor Christians in India.
Pictured is Missionary Prabhukiran and wife Swarna ministering in a church in a slum compound in India. These brothers and sisters struggle to survive working as day laborers seeking to provide for enough food for the day. They can not afford Bibles but desperately long for the precious Word that gives eternal life and hope for daily living.

Your brothers and sisters in Christ need the Word of God just as you do. YOU can help. Send a gift to HIMIndia to help support Prabhu and Swarna and other Indian missionaries bringing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to their people in India.

Swarna Praying for Her People
Swarna Praying for Her People

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Shifting Missions

Hope Builders Ministry Zambia
Hope Builders Ministry Zambia

Missions has taken on a different priority in our post-modern western culture. Like so much of politics, we are filled with good intentions and miss the root/primary issue. The real purpose of Missions as defined in the Great Commission is The Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. The buzz words are many, but one phrase rings loudly. That is, doing  missions is “building the Kingdom of God.” But the Kingdom of God becomes something we are building in our own image and according to our vain imaginations. And we are doing it with “good intentions.” But bottom line we are to be getting people ready to enter the Kingdom of God. They must be born again (John 3:3) and they must be holy (Ephesians 5:5; Galatians 5:19-21; etc.). They must be disciples of Jesus Christ (Matthew 7:22).

This could and probably should be a long discussion on “what is the Kingdom of God?” and “what is our part as disciples of Christ in the Kingdom of God?” But right now I want to touch on the “shift in Missions” seen in the last few decades.

To put it bluntly, Our mission is the sharing of the Gospel to the salvation of souls bound for an endless eternity separated from God in the Lake of Fire.

Christian Missions is about Soul Salvation. Today we have syncretized the message of eternal life in Jesus the Christ with many social programs. Now I know I will/am wading into a muddy pool here, but follow me for a bit. We have syncretized our Christian Mission with social development. The very thing we fought about in the Christian culture wars of the early 20th century with liberal denominational churches we have instituted into our own vision of missions in the missional church today.

Fellow missionary Michael Pfuam serving in Zambia says it this way talking about “Syncretism in World Missions”

In “modern” mission work we come across the intentional “change of the bad circumstances” e.g. the fight
against poverty, fight for democracy, freedom from abuse … These are all good and noble attempts. In focusing on these, missionaries become developmental workers, diplomats and politicians. Home churches collect vast amounts of money for developmental projects and the “eternal soul of the lost” is no longer the central focus of their investment and mission-work.
Values of our secular society take over, leaving the focus of the great commission on the sidelines.

Quoting Hugh Thomas Kerr, “Missions is not about sociology but salvation;
not economics but evangelism;
not reform but redemption;
not culture but conversion;
not progress but pardon;
not the new social order but the new birth;
not revolution but regeneration;
not renovation but revival;
not resuscitation but resurrection;
not a new organization but a new creation;
not democracy but the gospel;
not civilization but Christ.
We are ambassadors, not diplomats.
(Wesley L. Duewel, Ablaze For God, Francis Asbury Press, Grand Rapids Michigan USA, 1989, page104-105.)

Today the church seems not to believe that the Gospel is able to save people from their sin on its own. It needs help and so we use social causes to win the hearts of people so that they can then “hear” the Gospel. Two observations is that the Scriptures are clear that the Gospel is powerful to save in and of itself. Christ and the Apostles did not establish social justice and social reforms to introduce the Gospel to people so that they could “hear it” or “see it” to be saved. Any relief Paul raised was for the starving Church in Jerusalem and not the whole world. Secondly, my observation is that very little real Gospel ministry gets done with the establishment of social relief. I would contend the church has gotten the cart before the horse. Social change takes many years but begins with heart change, a change of mind and only the Gospel of Jesus Christ can accomplish this.

In short Christian Missions is about getting out the message of Jesus Christ, not creating a better world, “the Kingdom of God.” And I would contend that the best way to continue to spread the Gospel is through home missions, i.e. indigenous missions.

We should be evangelizing here at home and incorporating the converts into the local church and teaching them the Word of God so that they in turn do the same thing. That is we should be making disciples who are making disciples…

The Western Church should be helping churches around the world to do this NOT by being the great white savior and going ourselves but instead supporting the equipping of the church in Africa, Asia, South America etc to do the work of making disciples in their cultures. They need sound teaching. They need Bibles. They need help with infrastructure like transportation etc. We need to partner with them to help them do the work that we will never be able to do effectively because of culture and language.

That is the mission of Hope Builders Ministries and why I (HIMAfrica/HIMIndia) have partnered with this ministry. We are a conduit of blessings from the Lord to the church in Africa, India and around the world helping to supply the needed training and Bibles and bicycles and material support they need to do the work in their culture and economy.

The Focus of MISSIONS

Training pastors
Training pastors

What I have observed and concluded to be the greatest need in world missions is the training of native pastors and leaders (men and women) in the Word of God. There are far more pastors than there are opportunities for formal training in many countries. The fact is that most pastors have not been trained in the Word of God. They have not been taught how to study the Bible and then take what they have learned and teach it to the flock among which the Holy Spirit made them overseers.

Add to this need the myriad of false gospels, cults and false teachers/prophets/apostles that are distorting the truth of the Word of God, tempting the undiscerning with gimmicks and tricks and entertainment to grow large “churches” and giving the appearance of God’s favor by the “success” that is seen (oh how western). AND add to this the many (the majority?) Christian missions and ministries today focused on social work in the name of the Gospel. Few focus on feeding the “Bread of Life” which gives eternal life. The Gospel ministry is viewed as a “result” of social ministry, or a secondary event, rather than the primary cause of people “hearing” the Word of truth. “Faith comes by HEARING” the Word of truth. The Gospel is powerful, all by itself, to save anyone who will believe it, that is, Jesus Christ. We cannot add anything to the Gospel to enable it to work. To do so is to dilute it and in fact make it into “a different gospel” which cannot save. (Galatians 1:6-9) Remember that I am talking about “missions” here. I am not talking about what a local church is doing in its local context/culture as it demonstrates the love of Christ and share the Gospel of Christ.

Native Leaders Leading the Mission
Native Leaders Leading the Mission

Concerning the issue of world missions (in the classical sense) I have asked the Lord as I read the Word, “How did Paul and the others effectively establish the Gospel, plant churches and make disciples throughout their world without building buildings, digging wells and establishing social institutions for the betterment of material life?” What was done in the early days of the gospel by the church that so changed their world and OURS?

What was done then is the foundation that we should continue to build upon today. It was not social work. It was by the foolishness of preaching the Gospel and making disciples (maturing believers).  Once the local church was established they were challenged to take care of their own poor and needy. And they die because they had a change of heart and obeyed the Apostle’s teaching from the Word. No longer being self-focused they focused on Christ and others. They cared for their own and lived out the Gospel of Christ in their communities. The Apostles and other missionaries brought the life-changing Word of Jesus Christ.

We should be broken over the poverty of the world which reflects the poverty of the soul without God.
We should be broken over the poverty of the world which reflects the poverty of the soul without God.

Obviously social work has its benefits, but have we gotten the cart before the horse, so to speak? Are we putting the emphasis on the wrong syllable? Have we substituted the powerful Gospel that gives eternal life for a social gospel that only has temporal benefits, if that? Are we prioritizing things that will not last? In the face of horrific poverty around the world many Christian ministries have become NGO’s along with the United Nations and other NGOs .  Though well intentioned, they are terribly inefficient, like most bureaucracies, benefiting the benefactors more than those needing the physical help they are supposed to be helping, spending multiplied millions, even billions and accomplishing little. There is a tremendous transfer of wealth, but the overall social benefit is minimal.

This is a harsh statement but a sad reality I have witnessed in Africa. NGOs (including Christian missions) driving big SUVs, living in nice homes, staying in nice guest houses, eating well, dressing well, basically living large while the poverty and misery increases all around. Christian missions can profoundly distort the Gospel with this kind of picture. Poverty stricken desperate people misunderstand the gospel and project onto it what is not true… health, wealth and comfort, instead of “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and your sins will be forgiven and God will no longer be your enemy but will in fact usher you into His eternal glory.” BUT until then it is toil and trouble and even death for His Name sake. Or have we forgot this? Or did we even know this was part of the equation? Sadly, most of us do not.

What are we to do? In spite of Christianity shrinking in the West (because of our idolatry of “me” and my comfort), it is growing in much of the rest of the world. Africa, China, India, Asia, Central and South America in general continue to see tremendous growth in the number of converts. But many never grow spiritually because they have no shepherds and many misunderstand the true nature of the gospel because of the “foreign” picture portrayed by well meaning “missionaries.” And few are lifted out of poverty, but instead become dependent as social ministry replaces Gospel ministry.

(Have you ever contemplated/calculated the cost of a short-term mission project to travel to a foreign country to build a building and conduct a VBS, for example? We are talking about thousands of dollars in airfare alone. How many “long term” native missionaries could be helped/supported/trained with the kind of money do a better job knowing their language and culture. HBMZambia (all Zambian plus 1 American “ambassador”)  is presently training 2000 native missionary-pastors who will in turn disciple their churches and other pastors with an annual budget under $100,000. About half of this budget helps 25 indigenous disciple making missionaries (overseeing the 2000 in training) and the other half buys and distributes training materials and Bibles.)

What is the answer? What should be the focus of Missions from a western perspective? How can the western church, the American church, make the greatest impact for the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the waning days of western civilization and a post-Christian culture? How can we best use the wealth of resources (dollars) and knowledge we have been blessed with to further the Gospel of Jesus Christ around the world?

Local missionaries know the Language and the culture because it is theirs.
Local missionaries know the Language/s and the culture because it is theirs.

“In a nutshell” the answer is for the western church to focus on equipping the local indigenous church around the world to spread the Gospel. That means entrusting the local leaders whom God has appointed to shepherd their churches with training and material so they can be better equipped to equip their flocks to do the work of the ministry and reproduce more sheep! And this can be done with efficiency both in time and money.

Grassroots, indigenous, biblical discipleship is the key. Equipping indigenous leaders in the Word of God is crucial. Mature leaders develop (disciple) mature Christians. The local church is the foundation of Christ’s gospel ministry around the world. The equipping of indigenous leaders in the Word of God grows the Church and by extension grows the witness of the Gospel around it.

HIMAfrica and HIMIndia, working in association with Hope Builders Ministries, focus on indigenous discipleship (maturing believers) and because of this a huge army is being equipped to “do the work of the ministry.” Local Christians become the source of local ministry living out and speaking out the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ in their communities. They demonstrate the love of Christ as they live sacrificially for the Lord in their own context and culture. As they love God they love people. The people see, as well as, hear the Gospel and they are responding by the thousands.

Mozambique Christians sharing the Gospel with their neighbors
Mozambique Christians sharing the Gospel with their neighbors

Using the “HUB” model of discipleship HIMAfrica and HIMIndia train and equip key leaders to train others who in turn train others.  One man discipling three other men is the model we use. (Or one woman discipling three other women. We encourage pastors to make their wife their FIRST and most important disciple.) Jesus had 3 disciples who were his “inner circle.” Can we see the other 9 disciples as being discipled or led by Peter, James and John?  If we follow 2 Timothy 2:2 and make disciples to the 4th generation (Paul, Timothy, faithful men and others) the discipleship model grows very rapidly. As the Church makes disciples instead of converts the society around them will be affected for the better. As the community becomes Christian and matures they will take better care of themselves, their families and those around them.

Evangelism cannot make the profound difference in the lives of people that disciple making can. Converts rarely become mature Christians without intentional discipleship. In fact, many converts fall away as the devil steals the seed or troubles and cares discourage the new believer because they have not been discipled in the Word of God.

In fact, if ONE Christian would make three disciples this year who in turn make three disciples each next year etc… The world could be totally evangelized in a very short amount of time. Disciple making is multiplication whereas evangelism is addition. If I win 100 people to Christ every year for the next six years there will be 600 souls saved and going to heaven! Praise the LORD! That is great but it is not BEST. However, if I make JUST 3 disciples this year pouring my life into them the rest of my life, teaching them and modeling the ways of Christ from the Word of God, challenging them to follow me as I follow Christ and to make disciples also what would the impact be?

My three disciples could become over 1000 disciples who are making other disciples within 6 years! YOU + 3 + 9 +27+ 84 +252 + 756 = 1231! Imagine that kind of Christ-honoring, God glorifying, life changing, world impacting ministry that would be!

Jesus has called us to make disciples. He saves people and makes them into HIS disciples but we are a crucial part in all of this. He uses our mouths to share the good news and he uses our godly, obedient and holy lives to disciple them. All of it done by the grace of God working in and through us in obedience to the Great Commission in the context of the local church. That should be our personal mission. Matthew 28:18-20 teaches each of us to “Go” in the authority of Jesus Christ with His Gospel to everybody, everywhere, all the time until Jesus Comes. Those who believe this Gospel, trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ for eternal life, are incorporated into the local church (water baptism is a reflection of the spiritual baptism the new convert has just received), where they are then intentionally taught “all that Jesus commanded, i.e. the Word of God. This is what Jesus has promised to help us do until He returns.

I know that some will take offense at my description of much of modern missions today. For this I am sorry. But without a doubt we know that the Word of God teaches us to declare the Gospel. It must be understood to be believed. Therefore people have to hear it. And we should live in a manner that adorns the Gospel. Yes we should be selfless and sacrificing and caring, but oh let us be careful to not build idols that lead the very ones whom Christ would save away from the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Don’t let sentimentality and good intentions replace or overshadow the Gospel which is the ONLY way a person can be saved. When you give someone a drink of Water or a piece of bread do it in “Jesus Name.” Make sure they know where the blessing is coming from. Be sure to share the Water of life, the Bread of life who gives eternal life.

My prayer is that our ministries and missions will bring great glory to our Lord Jesus Christ and encourage His people around the world to make many disciples of Jesus Christ. That is, people who love God supremely and love others selflessly as they share the Gospel that saves eternally.

Blessings,
Jeff Hawkins.

Jeff Hawkins/HIMAfrica is an independent missionary networking with Hope Builders Ministries in Zambia. He founded HIMIndia (Helping Indigenous Missions in India). Through the generous gifts of scores of Christians and several churches in the USA over 2500 men are being trained as pastors in Zambia and India. It is projected that over 4000 will be in training in 2015. By God’s grace thousands of Bibles have been distributed to the Church in Zambia and India, as well as scores of bicycles to indigenous missionaries. HBM Zambia also supports several indigenous orphan projects operated by native Christians in Zambia.