Balancing Growth and Maturity

There are many convictions that come from trying to follow the last command of Jesus. He tells us to go into all nations making disciples, baptizing them and teaching them to obey all of his teachings. Most believers understand the necessity of going to all nations with the gospel message. But many missions sending organizations, feeling tasked with the burden of the world’s souls, have traded an emphasis on mature believers who are grounded in their faith for multiplying believers who are competent in evangelism but lacking in theological discernment.

In the most recent Southwestern Journal of Theology, John David Massey discusses the growing need for foundational Bible scholarship among rapidly growing Christian groups. East Asia in particular has seen rapid organic growth in recent years. Massey says:

The repeated response of national pastors was similar to this summarization, “We do not need you to teach us how to do evangelism or church planting. What we do need is for you to help us to train our pastors so that churches can be strengthened on a firm biblical foundation.”

These believers love God and the grace that has been given to them, but more than anything they desire for their leadership to be educated in biblical scholarship and church administration. A strong biblical theology would prevent more congregations from falling in with the growing number of heretical and liberal groups. And a proper understanding of church leadership and administration would improve the longevity of congregations and quell divisions occurring on a whim.

Massey points out that many who have argued for rapid church planting strategies point to the apostle Paul as an example. But in truth Paul was very careful to nurture groups that started from his ministry. Whether through personal teaching and correspondence or sending church emissaries, he did his best to criticize unrighteousness and foster proper discipleship.

There are many ways that efforts could be improved globally, but missions strategists and those working in the field must recognize these two needs:

  1. The need is for a church planting strategy that provides a robust articulation of what New Testament church looks like and what constitutes church leadership.
  2. The need for theologically equipped personnel tasked with fostering mature believers.

Further discussion found in John David Massey’s article “Theological Education and Southern Baptist Missions Strategy in the Twenty-First Century” in the Fall 2014 Southwestern Journal of Theology.

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