Missionaries, Indigenous Leaders, and the Gospel

Editor's note: Disciple and AMG International held the first "Advancing the Gospel Article Contest" for university students during the fall semester of 2013 to write about missions, specifically national workers. Part of the award for winning was having your entry published in Disciple. Here is the first-place entry from Charlie Marquis.

One year ago, I touched down in Kenya with a single-minded mission-to take the hope of Christ to dark, dangerous, and despised places. I met up with a team of six, and we traveled to such places. I felt like we were living out the book of Acts. I felt like one of the 72 disciples that Jesus sent out in the Gospels. I felt like an ordinary nobody used to perform extraordinary exploits for our God-as most leaders in the Bible did.

After preaching in several unreached tribal villages, witnessing natives hear the Gospel for the first time and then commit their lives to Christ, and experiencing God's protection as threats of being beaten were thrown around, we ventured into the late night of Nairobi to discover a red light district. Our team encountered some prostitutes on the street and we eventually found ourselves eating with them in a small chicken restaurant. After buying these women some food, hearing their life stories, and sharing Christ's love with them, we circled up to pray. As we joined hands with these women, who turned out to be single mothers caught up in prostitution as a way to provide for their children, we prayed. Tears began to fall as passionate voices rose to the God of all creation. The presence of the Holy Spirit came upon us so heavily and thickly that we could not even speak as the prayer wrapped up. We stood there looking at one another when the only other man in the restaurant approached us. This man, a Muslim, made a significant statement: "I can really feel God moving in this room." Someone on our team replied, "That is Jesus." The man did not disagree. This is a night I will never forget.

It happened that during the entirety of this trip, we worked alongside nationals in the ministry of the Gospel. During our time among tribal villages, a radical disciple-making Evangelist named Simon partnered with our team. During our time in the city, a passionate woman of God named Esther joined the team. As we spent time with the prostitutes, one of the women named Ruth quit, asserting, "I am done with this lifestyle. I will trust God to provide." The last I heard from one of the nationals, Ruth was attending church and trusting God for provision. This was nearly one year after we met her.

I have seen a compelling case in my experience, as well as in Scripture, that partnering with national workers in the ministry of the Gospel bears much fruit for the Kingdom of God. I have had the unique opportunity to be trained by and partner with Caleb Bislow, author of Dangerous, and founder of Unusual Soldiers, a ministry that seeks to take the hope of Christ to dark, dangerous, and despised places worldwide. The method is to partner with and train nationals to be disciple-makers in such places of the world. The vision is to spark movements by creating disciples to the fourth generation (disciples who make disciples who make disciples). More recently, I have visited Tanzania in order to scout a remote tribal group with no disciple-making efforts among them. I went praying that God would reveal nationals who would be future partners for the Gospel. He answered this prayer. I have certainly learned thus far that working alongside nationals does truly bear much fruit.

Scripture leaves room for much freedom when it comes to the method of making disciples of all nations. According to Matthew 28 we are simply commanded to make disciples, baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and to teach them to obey all that Jesus has commanded us. That last part is very important-teach them to obey all that He has commanded of us! The text actually says "teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." The disciples were to go and create more disciples by sharing with these people their own obedience to God. They were commanded to share with others what God had asked of them. This matches exactly with 2 Timothy 2:2 in which Paul the Apostle says to Timothy "And these things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others." The teaching moves from Paul to Timothy to "reliable men" to "others." This is the prime example of discipleship to the fourth generation and of sharing personal obedience with others.

As Paul the Apostle lived out these scriptures, he traveled from place to place making disciples who would make disciples. But it was not a one man show. He worked alongside partners in the Gospel-often with local believers, those we might today call "national workers". He would venture into a new place, share the Gospel, and train disciple-makers. Paul started movements and passed the leadership to someone who would be more stationary. Ephesians 4:11 reflects such a leadership style: "It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers." Jesus chooses and calls different individuals to different roles of ministry. Paul took on an apostolic role. Timothy-one of his trained disciple-makers-took on a pastoral role. Timothy stayed in his location shepherding a body of believers while Paul moved on at the Lord's leading to start more kingdom movements. All these roles are necessary for fruitful kingdom work. Apostles who pioneer new places need to partner with or create national leaders who will fulfill a pastoral teaching role. Prophets speak truth and evangelists lead more people to Christ.

As God has led me into missions and provided unique experiences in various places I have seen this method lived out. I would not discredit other models, because the Bible does leave room for freedom of style. But, this is the model I am particularly drawn to. I see it as the apostolic model-itinerantly travelling, pioneering new places, working alongside nationals, and sparking disciple-making movements.

Charlie Marquis is a senior theology major at Colorado Christian University in Lakewood, Colo.

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