So, how do we seek to provide the best opportunity for this child to grow in the Lord, reach her peers and make a difference in her tiny island-nation?
Obviously, we need to infect her world with the gospel. I didn't, likely couldn't talk to this little girl, but judging from where and when I met her--having just come from a children's meeting at church--and by the smile on her face I think there is good evidence that the Gospel has entered her heart.
If people are going to serve the Lord, there needs to be more. What is the best way of providing the people of a particular area the resources to get the job done for the Lord? In particular, let me frame the question this way:
I'm trying to keep this abstract, but I just read a blog that said that this little girl's church is hopelessly deficient. What is needed is a new, different, better, more nearly doctrinally correct assembly of believers. While out on a bike-ride I went by the church founded by the blogging pastor. Is he reaching people for Jesus? I hope so. Is what he is doing--and those who work him--best for the Christian future of my young, photogenic friend? I'm not so sure.
I don't know the pastor of the church I rode by, but do have some acquantence with the mentality that seems to always think that the answer is to start another church. I get the idea that faced with following scenario many of my colleagues would give their standard answer: "What this community needs is a solid New-Testament Bible-preaching (fill in some other descriptive words) Church. I think I'll start one."
- A town of a thousand located at an oasis in the middle of an otherwise desolate, desert Island, surrounded by thousands of miles of ocean.
- In that town there are four churches all which basically teach the Bible, each with a solid attendance of 250.
- However, one church baptizes wrong, another sings wrong, the third associates with objectionable ministries, and the fourth has a pastor who has been married too many times.
In my observation, which is admittedly very limited, before missionary X goes to my fictional village to start a fifth church, he doesn't even know about all four churches. Or, if he does his knowledge is very limited.
Just a question a few questions for thought:
- Is a fifth church really what this community needs?
- Is there a place for a ministry that might help move one or more of these existing churches to move toward a more nearly Biblically-correct position? (I have been pastoring the same church for 35 years. We still don't have it right.)
- We are stewards of the resources God has placed in our keeping. Is this the best way to use them?
We desire to see the church blossom, but the some of the decisions we have to make along the way are prickly! We will not wrestle with these tough choices without some discomfort.
Some friends of mine, missionaries, a while back were faced with some choices along the lines of what I am discussing. Here are some communites with churches, all flawed. What is the best way for us to have a lasting impact? How do we help begin a movement that will result in the Gospel going out for generations? My friends chose to work with those churches and leaders who were willing to be taught. The answer, they concluded was not to start a new church, but help an old one.
Speaking of help, I could use some in clarifying my thinking. I'm not done yet, but I welcome your comments.