This week I find myself in Oaxaca for the second time in a month. Last month, I led a mission team of 15 down to Oaxaca, Mexico to work with our national partners in seeking to reach groups of people that have never heard the Gospel/never had a follower of Jesus. According to IMB guidelines, "Mexico" is reached. However, the board has recently changed their view of this, and understood that there are groups of people living in distinct villages, living in their own distinct culture, speaking their own distinct language, that have zero Jesus followers. According to John Piper in Let the Nations Be Glad (and according to the Bible...), THIS is missions. Pauline missions. Going to where there is no Gospel, and seeing it developed. I am here this week meeting with our national partners, the one's that are absolutely getting the job done. It is an honor to be meeting with them and hearing updates on their efforts and encouraging them.
The wonderful thing about it is that primarily, this effort is not up to caucasians going to a village and taking "the white man's Gospel". It is not about us going on a mission trip a few times a year and feeling good about ourselves, then going back to our normal lives. We partner with indigenous movements, where men and women YOUNGER than myself are risking their lives in villages where evangelical Christians have been driven out of town, and sometimes even killed. This week we have met with our national, indigenous partners, and I continue to be heavily impressed by them. They are sacrificing like we don't understand in America. They are risking safety, comfort, finances and many times putting their very lives at risk for the Gospel. Their stories sound as if i'm reading a letter from Paul.
Many times in America we think of missions as "we go from the West/America with our Gospel" and every other country/culture is inferior. How terrible this is. Many times, such as this case, it does not make a lot of sense for a white, overweight man from America to enter these villages as what we know as being a "traditional missionary". Instead, as God has blessed our church, we MUST support these local believers who have been radically transformed by the Gospel, and support church planting movements in these regions, allow them to flourish under the nationals leadership, and have little visibility. For some churches in America, this is not an interest. They believe they have to do it, and there is a subtle superiority that comes out. I am learning ever more that we must repent of this. I am so glad that I am a part of a church that embraces and supports these local, indigenous missionaries/church planters. Second Baptist is working in unreached people groups in multiple places around the world. It's thrilling to say the least.
At this point, I believe I have more to learn from our national indigenous church planters that I have to offer them. They are teaching me about faith, and advancing the Gospel no matter the circumstance. They are teaching me that the Word of God is where we begin, and where we end. They are teaching me that I can come up with some wonderful new "church missions method" in my American head, but it is a complete waste of time if the scriptures are marginalized at all.
So when we are talking about missions, this is it-crossing cultural and language barriers, taking the Gospel to a place where there is no Gospel presence, and building a sustainable church planting movement/network there.
I contend that this is the most important thing my church is involved in right now. All of our mission effort is important, and I don't play favorites. However, each time I come here, I realize more and more that this is the Great Commission in action. This is the real life, cutting edge of fulfilling the Great Commission.
For the Glory of God.
Matthew is 34 years old and currently lives in St Louis, Missouri with his wife Leslie. He serves as the Associate Pastor at The Groves Church, in Webster Groves, Missouri.