If you know much about All-Nations Bible Translation, you will have no doubt heard how All-Nations partners with churches to do translation and church planting. All-Nations stresses its role as a facilitating organization, placing a large responsibility on the sending churches to support their people on the field. This partnership is important, and I believe it sets the stage for sustainability and success in All-Nations’ projects. As an All-Nations field member, I get to experience firsthand the practical side of this partnership and benefit from All-Nations and my home church working together. But as important as this All-Nations/sending church partnership is, there is another partnership even more vital. This is the partnership with Jesus.
In the New Testament we see “divisions of labor” in church planting. Jesus stated the role that He would play in Matthew 18:16 where He tells Peter that “… I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” In Acts 2 we hear how “the Lord added to the church daily.” Church-building is God’s thing. The Christian’s role in church planting is teaching and making disciples. Jesus commanded his disciples to teach when He sent out the twelve and later when he sent out the 70. Right before His ascension, Jesus commanded those around Him to “Go … and make disciples, teaching them to observe all things …” Jesus’ role in church building did not end with His ascension even though His role as an active teacher did. As His disciples went about teaching the Gospel of the Kingdom in Jerusalem, Samaria, and the ends of the earth, the Lord continued adding to the church those who were taught and believed in Him. Even though not physically present, Jesus partnered with His disciples to spread the church across the world. This partnership between the Lord as the church builder and us as teachers of the Gospel continues to this day. What an exciting opportunity we have to partner with Him in the expansion of the Kingdom!
My wife and I are discovering to a greater extent just how much God has been building His church in our Mixtec town. When we moved here eight months ago we knew that there were some Christians here, but did not know how many or if they gathered for meetings. We did not seek out the Christians, but chose to make acquaintance with anyone we could and see how God directed. After six months of “random” acquaintance making, we met a family who told us they were Christians and invited us to attend a service with them. We accepted, of course, and were amazed at what we found. It turns out there a several Christian meeting places across our town, separated geographically so no one has too far to walk. As we have only attended services at the one meeting house, I do not know the exact number of people in town who have rejected Catholicism and joined the Christian church, but, based on what we have seen, I expect that it is over 100 individuals.
When I first realized how many Christians were here, I felt like half of my job was being robbed from me. After all, I am sent by All-Nations and my home church to do Bible translation and church planting. How can I do church planting if a church already exists? This question led me to ponder the truth I shared above. I realized that the presence of a church does not change my job at all. My calling is (and always was) to make disciples. This means discipling the Christians that are here and being discipled by them. This means sharing the truth of the gospel with those who do not know it yet so they can chose to become Christ’s disciples. The Lord has been building His church here for two decades already. I have entered the partnership partway through Jesus’ church building project rather than at the beginning. This may change the dynamics of the partnership, but my role as a disciple maker does not change.
It is exciting to see how the Lord has built His church through the discipling efforts of others. At the same time, it is quite obvious why the Lord called us to live here. With the Spanish Bible as their only resource, the Word of God is still inaccessible to many of the Mixtec Christians. Those who cannot read or understand Spanish must rely on the teaching of the few who have a better grasp of that language. These teachers are still reading the Bible in their second language, and one acknowledged to me that he sometimes encounters words which he does not know. Clearly the Bible in their mother tongue will help these dear Mixtec Christians grow in their understanding of God and how to follow Him. We look forward to seeing them grow in the faith and partnering with them in making more disciples.