As Bryan (our Missions Pastor) and I were riding through the high jungle of Peru last May, the missionary with us turned and said, “Satan has had his grip on these jungles for a thousand years, and he isn’t letting go easily”. I am reminded of these words as we have another team in the same area working to spread the Gospel this week. Our church has adopted a specific unreached people group in Peru and is dreaming big about what God may do among them. But as a church plant with just over a year under our belts, are we biting off more than we can chew? Is it wise to get started in international church planting when our own church plant is so young?
For us the answer is yes to both questions! Committing ourselves to an unreached people group is a huge commitment. Training our folks, sharing vision with other churches, staying in contact with the people we meet, and going on multiple trips a year (two trips in 2013 and four scheduled for 2014) is a pretty high bar for us. But while the commitment is high, we truly feel that being meaningfully involved in planting churches overseas is something we must do from the very start.
One reason we have taken on this belief is theological. The Bible clearly calls us to be involved with unreached peoples in hopes of sharing with them the love of Christ. While many texts could be clearly outlined, Revelation 5 is the go to text. As God progressively reveals Himself and His mission to us in the Bible we get the picture that He is working towards having a people for His glory, made up of all the people’s on earth. In the end we see that Jesus “ransomed people for God from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” It was in seminary that I finally began to understand the weight and direction of Jesus call on us to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20). Through the teaching of Dr. Bruce Ashford in my missions class and John Piper’s “Let the Nations be Glad” I realized something important. The mission isn’t so much about the masses, though God desires all men to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4), its about the people groups of the World. Jesus call for all believers then is to join God in working to see Revelation 5 become a reality.
The other reason we are engaging an unreached people group from the start is more practical. Through all my training before we planted Mercy Hill, there was one universal principle in planting that seemed to span different streams of thought: Plant with all your DNA present from the start. The idea really is pretty basic. While everything the church will eventually be isn’t up and running from the beginning, the DNA for those things should be there. In other words, you shouldn’t wait till a certain age or growth statistic before you cast the vision for something that is integral to who you are. So working from that, talking about unreached peoples has been a conversation at Mercy Hill from day one. When the opportunity came up to go, we jumped on it.
Lead Pastor, Andrew Hopper