This past Sunday a missionary couple visited our church to share with us about their lives and work in the place where the Lord has sent them to labor for the cause of Christ. Because this couple serves in a country whose government persecutes Christians, and because this oppression has intensified in recent months, I cannot use their names nor the name of the country where they serve. Though they themselves have not suffered arrest, imprisonment, or deportation, many of the native believers with whom they worship and work have been arrested and some are still in prison.
The missionary presented his work to us during the Sunday School hour. He began by reading from Titus 1:5 – “This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might appoint elders in every town as I directed you.” He then went on to explain how his particular calling was to train and examine men for the gospel ministry. He has been involved in the ordination of several men, and has also served in different ways to help develop what will, Lord willing, be a national Presbyterian church in that nation.
Here is an aspect of missions that may be overlooked. Whereas the heart of the missionary endeavor is to proclaim the good news of the salvation in Christ Jesus to those who are perishing in their sins, that work must be accompanied by efforts to build a church. The New Testament Scriptures show a great concern for the structure and leadership of the church. Thus, Paul’s instructions to Titus were not to evangelize (though he certainly engaged in that) but to appoint elders in every town where there was a community of believers in Christ.
I am grateful for the work of this missionary to help establish a healthy, biblical church with qualified and faithful pastors and elders to lead it. If the persecution continues there to the point that all the missionaries are removed from the country, the native church will be on much surer footing to grow if she has developed a biblical structure and leadership.
Soli Deo Gloria!