I love to read about missiology and study church planting movements throughout the world. It is amazing to see how God is redeeming people from every nation, tribe, and tongue. He is doing it by His power, according to His will, for His glory and good of the nations. As someone who is living in a cross cultural context, I get to hear the encouraging testimonies of pastors and missionaries from almost every continent. They also share their needs and difficulties of ministering in their native contexts. What I hear most often is the need for 3 things: expository preaching, systematic theology, and the training up of leaders. Now there is a lot that can be said about these things, but today I’ll discuss them briefly.
Mark Dever defines expository preaching as “preaching in which the main point of the biblical text being considered becomes the main point of the sermon being preached.” An expository preacher who be someone who keeps his sermon grounded in the text at hand. Please understand that I am not a stickler when it comes to expository preaching. In fact, I believe that topical sermons and even biblical storytelling have their place within the local church. But the majority of our time spent preaching should be devoted to expository preaching, preaching verse-by-verse through every book of the Bible. It is the responsibility of the pastor/teacher to preach/teach the whole counsel of God to his congregation. It is especially important in church planting to explain and teach how all of Scripture fits together in order to provide the local church with a strong, biblical foundation. Yes, the Bible consists of 66 books, but it is telling 1 story. The goal of expository preaching is to help people understand what any given text means and how it applies to us today.
Systematic theology involves “organizing the teachings of the Bible into categorical systems.” Let’s say, for example, that you are leading a Bible study on the subject of angels. If you only talked about what Revelation said about angels, you would have a rather lopsided view. Furthermore, if you only taught from the New Testament much of what the Bible teaches about angels in the NT can only be understood with some background of the Old Testament. Systematic theology is the response to the problem of doing theology in the vacuum of one book or testament. It is important that we look to all of Scripture gain a fuller understanding of what it teaches. It is my personal opinion that the teaching of systematic theology is effective for making mature disciples.
In our context, there are few systematic theology resources in Thai. There are some theology books that have been translated from English to Thai. And now we are beginning to see some Thai theologians take on the challenge. Yet, the number of options is still relatively small. As an American, I feel spoiled with the amount of resources available to me in English. It is my desire to see more godly Thai men devote their time and efforts to developing a systematic theology that is wholly biblical and distinctively Thai.
I think sometimes we assume that future church leaders are going to make themselves, as if people will become prepared by some sort of osmosis. Not only is this foolish; it isn’t the example set in Scripture which is far more intentional (see the relationship between Paul and Timothy). To be clear, I am referring to the training of young men to become pastors, teachers, elders, and deacons. It is imperative that we train them how to preach, teach, and serve. Frankly, this responsibility shouldn’t fall to the Bible colleges and seminaries; it is the job of the local church.
In addition, pastors should always be on the lookout for future church planters and missionaries within their own congregation, starting with the children’s/youth ministry. It is never too early to get people thinking about how they can participate in reaching the nations for Christ. This is just as true overseas. One of our hopes as missionaries is to see more Thais sent out to reach the nations for Christ as well. The Great Commission is the task of the Church, not the responsibility of a select few. Training qualified leaders involves helping them to come to understand the mission of God.
Certainly this list is not exhaustive. There are plenty of other things that are important when planting churches; however, if these 3 things a neglected, the churches we plant won’t be healthy. There are plenty of church plants in the world. The problem is that few of them are rooted in the Word of God. Please be praying for the church planters and missionaries all around the world who diligently devoting themselves to these 3 things.