Many churches here in the United States have not truly reached the point of even doing this (becoming truly indigenous.) However, we must consider that if we are ever to reach a country with the gospel the nationals will have to do it and to do so they will have to have the tools to do so. That means they will have to have an indigenous church that can and is doing the work of winning, baptizing and training people to do the work. The goal is that without the missionary or the United States or outside help one day the national church will begin another national or international church using its own money and its own personnel.
We must make the forming of an indigenous church the PRIORITY of our ministry. Without the indigenous churches we have no true way to fulfill the great commission. The evangelist who goes to the foreign field and preaches campaigns is doing a good work, but when he leaves and goes home, who can carry them to maturity? His is a good work, but the best work is to win them and then train them.
This is really what it takes to fulfill the great commission. We also find in the New Testament that the ministry of the apostles was always to form local New Testament Churches. It is therefore also the pattern of the New Testament that we follow. This must be our priority also because it is the only way to have a lasting ministry. When the evangelist leaves after having led many to Christ, what will happen to the new converts? If I go as a missionary and even start a church, but never lead it to a place that it can carry on alone, what will happen the day I leave? We must form indigenous Baptist churches that need only to depend on the Lord to do the job God has called them to do. Of lesser, but still great importance we must recognize that one of the Baptist distinctives is that of a local autonomous church. We have no head quarters, no Vatican, not even the mission board or the missionary’s house.
Our priority is to form indigenous local churches because that is the Principle laid down in scripture.
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, [even] unto the end of the world. Amen. Matthew 28:19-20
Without any doubt, He did send us out to preach the gospel and win souls. However, that was only the first step. We are then to baptize them and to teach them. They need not only to have head knowledge, but also a practical faith. It doesn’t take much time to preach a salvation message but to teach people to observe the message calls for a life time. We find Paul affirming this truth in
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we [henceforth] be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, [and] cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, [even] Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.
The work of the missionary is to perfect the saints. We are to carry them to the point of maturity that they will be able to do the work of a local church. That is God’s plan. We need evangelists. We need every gift that God has given to his church but the end result of our ministry ought to be a local, indigenous church that will be able to carry on the work of winning souls and discipling them.
Therefore tract distribution, Sunday school, vacation bible school, street preaching and literally every ministry we have should produce the end result of indigenous, local churches. The missionary must win souls, he must train them, and he must do the work of a pastor at least for a time. Everything you do should have as an end result the preparation of men and women to carry on the work of our God in a local church.
Secondly, we find that the indigenous church follows the New Testament pattern. Wherever Paul went, he left a trail of local assemblies that were carrying on the same work that he did. The word “church” or “churches” is mentioned in the bible 114 times. Nine of Paul’s letters were written to local churches and the others to individuals. In the book of Acts, Paul leaves a trail of local churches in his wake and even speaks of how he organizes them.
And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church. And when they were come to him, he said unto them, Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, Serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews: [And] how I kept back nothing that was profitable [unto you], but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house, Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more. Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I [am] pure from the blood of all [men]. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified. Acts 20:17-32.
As Paul plans to leave he calls several pastors or elders to him and explains everything to them. He is concerned for the church which Jesus purchased with his own blood. He leaves instructions to care for the church and to see that “his flock” is cared for.
Paul also wrote to one of his disciples and let him know that his job was to set the churches in order and help them ordain pastors, etc. Paul was concerned for the local church. He took time to organize and even when he didn’t or couldn’t he left one of his disciples to do so. The indigenous church is the New Testament pattern.
Titus 1:5 For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:
A study of Paul’s first missionary journey shows that he organized local churches and commended them to the Lord. The book of Acts reveals him returning to the churches that he founded to see that all still goes well in each church and that the folks are staying faithful. We see him writing letters to his churches for the very same reason.
And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and [to] Iconium, and Antioch, Confirming the souls of the disciples, [and] exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed. And after they had passed throughout Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia. And when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down into Attalia: And thence sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled. And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles. Acts 14:21-27
Those who do the work of the New Testament missionary must concern themselves with the starting and maturing of indigenous, Baptist churches. Our Bible Institute can never be an end in itself, but rather must be a “means to the ends” of planting indigenous, Baptist churches.
Jesus was concerned with the building of the church (Matthew 16:18), as were apostles. Throughout history the local church is what has shaped our own country. History shows the influence of the Methodist circuit rider and his small churches, as well as the Baptists who did the same thing. It was small groups of people gathering together to study God’s word, obeying him in winning souls, and observing ordinances of the local church that has carried the gospel to each of us. We must teach those who follow us to do the same.
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