Catching up today in a wedding with a long-term church-planting missionary in Belgium whom I much respect, we talked a bit about ministry as modelling - how in a country churches may not grow as they could because those who minister have only had the one model of ministry for the past century. But that is the gospel modelled and gospel ministry modelled in a variety of ways - as Paul did among the Thessalonians. In the absence of this, people are so keen to turn to programmes and products, and serve them rather than use them. Perhaps this is because rather than moving between countries, living out the faith and ministering, in the way Paul commended, we see church maturity as 'We can do it on our own now, without outside help.' So the churches in one country then ponder, "Hm, how do we do evangelism?" and inadvertantly find their eyes drawn to the church in surrounding countries. What do they see? Programmes and products - not that that is what is predominant, but because it's most easily seen from outside. You don't see one-to-one discipleship, older Christians teaching a new Christian how to study the Bible, personal evangelism in the workplace, inviting someone to read the Bible with you, etc., etc.: you don't see those sorts of things from afar. Besides, programmes and products seem more manageable, tangible, and promise to deliver results. Long-term, patient personal ministry cannot be managed by a time planner, isn't countable or materially tangible often, and doesn't have a results tick-chart. And yet we're told to go and make disciples of Jesus Christ. Not, 'stay in one place because you're independent of outside help now, and put in place programmes to mark your progress'. Go and make disciples of Jesus Christ.
A missionary doctor working with Muslims writes a post which is helpful for all of us, whether 'missionary' or not: Nothing works, so try everything.
My Joy in the Desert
13 hours ago