by Abe Wiebe
What do we mean when we speak of the “churches” in North Africa and elsewhere on the mission fields of the world?
What do we mean when we speak of the "churches" in North Africa and elsewhere on the mission fields of the world? According to the Word of God, the church consists of all those who, through faith in the atoning work of Jesus Christ, have entered into a unique spiritual position "in Christ". Thus, one is in union with all true believers in the "Body of Christ" – the universal church. It is this position of being "in Christ" which lays the groundwork for a host of new relationships. It is the corporate manifestation of these new relationships, involving privileges and responsibilities, which is commonly called a local church.
The marks of a biblical, self-sustaining local church should be:
1. The presence of a number of baptized Christians who reside in a given locality.
2. The presence of recognized elders or leaders who care for the group needs.
3. The presence of two or more families, where both husband and wife are Christians, participating regularly in the local church life.
4. A place for the group to meet together-which is not provided by missionaries. 5. The believers’ assuming responsibility for the church’s spiritual activity, administration of the ordinances, church discipline and church finances.
What are the steps or stages through which any local group must pass in order to become an indigenous church? What are the steps that a missionary must keep in mind as he seeks to fulfill his holy calling as a faithful evangelist and a church planter?
The missionary draws to himself persons interested in the gospel message. They may be the product of his interaction with people in his locality or perhaps seekers prepared through study of correspondence courses. Recently, one NAM missionary landed in a city with no visible witness. He has begun Bible studies with individuals and small groups, allowing them to hear what the gospel is all about.
The decision for Christ and willingness to follow in baptism. A wise witness knows when to call for a response. He does not rush such a decision, knowing that the message itself calls for it. He prayerfully moves the interested Muslim through basic gospel truth until the time is ripe to ask, "And what do you say about Christ, the Savior of the world?" Once a Muslim gives allegiance to Christ, the missionary shows him how to follow the Lord in obedience.
The teaching of basic Bible truth. This means laying the foundation for stability in the new believer’s life, helping him to understand his relationship to Christ, and the total process of salvation. It means helping him appreciate the person and beauty of God; grasping an overview of the Bible and learning how the Holy Spirit inspired it. It includes teaching on prayer and actually, praying with him. It’s leading out in witness, demonstrating how to live the life of a disciple.
Leadership training. It is necessary to find men who have the gift to lead others, and to train them. "Finding faithful men who shall be able to teach others. " (2 Tim 2:2) These men will shepherd the flock, and help others through their suffering. They will preach the Gospel, and the group will grow.
Emphasis on family witness. North African culture revolves around the family. Therefore, missionaries encourage believers to witness to other family members. Since the church is a spiritual family, it provides a strong family atmosphere, offering teaching on the home and spiritual training for children. It helps young believers find Christian mates and establish Christian homes.
Is this really possible? Will such a process take place in North Africa? Yes, it will, for God himself has determined it, having said in His word in Psalm 33: 11, "The Counsel of the Lord stands forever, and the plans of His heart from generation to generation. " He who has said, "I will build my church" will surely accomplish all that he purposes. Let us place ourselves at his disposal to accomplish his will. As it was said once long ago, "Whatever he says to you, do it."
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