July 3, 2017 | by: Tony Sanelli | 0 comments
There are many ways to fulfill the Lord’s mandate to make disciples of ALL nations. Some believers respond to God’s call, learn a new language and become lifetime missionaries to foreign fields. Others contribute to and support such efforts. Still others may evangelize university students on campus who hail from far away countries.
Yet another way to make disciples from all nations is to send those who can train and equip foreign nationals to make disciples within their native context. In this methodology one travels to equip the many to reach and build up entire congregations of believers. It is this final example that I want to reflect upon in this month’s article.
This past May I was privileged to travel to and speak at a conference in Seville (Sevilla) in southern Spain. This event was the fruit of a relationship formed in the fall of 2015 during a teaching module for Berea Seminary in Leon. I was teaching the subject of Christian sanctification or the spiritual life when I met pastor Migue Prado from Seville.
Migue was in his second year of studies at Berea and displayed a great appetite for truth and longed to grow in his grasp of how to study, interpret and communicate the Bible. He invited me to come to Seville and preach God’s word to a small cluster of congregations in southern Spain. “You will see that the best of Spain is in Seville”, he assured me.
I was able do so this May because our elders are committed to making disciples of ALL nations. Equipping national pastors who have been thrust into ministry with little or no formal biblical education is a key component of our commitment to the great commission. I count it a special honor and privilege to be invited to foreign nations to do exactly what I do here at home at GBC and at Cornerstone Bible College and Seminary. But this honor of an invitation would mean nothing if our elders did not see the value and long-term kingdom benefits of pouring into these men.
Allowing me to go overseas comes at a cost here at home. By this I mean not only the financial costs of travel but the cost of my absence for weeks on end at times.
When I travel, my share of the ministry load here at home gets distributed across the elder team and ministerial staff.
I need to find substitutes for any courses I’m teaching at the Seminary as well. As the travel date gets closer I also need to devote more time to preparation and translation. All of this would be impossible without a team of pastors and ministers committed to this ministry model.
One of the products of our annual elder’s prayer and planning weekend in 2016 was the strategic decision to curtail my seminary teaching for 2017 and focus on opportunities in the Spanish speaking world. There are many more experienced pastoral teachers/mentors with sound doctrine and a biblical philosophy of ministry in the English-speaking context than in the Spanish.
Because of this strategic decision, thus far in 2017, I have trained pastors in Costa Rica and Mexico with our DTP (Discipleship Training Program) materials and methodology. We have had many servants here and abroad translating and editing all the materials we utilize in our program to bring this to fruition. This has required an investment of countless hours. As of this June, two congregations in Costa Rica and one in Tijuana have begun the program within their contexts. The material and training has also been requested in Spain and Honduras.
This August Ben and I are slated to travel to Honduras. Ben will assist them with technical needs within their PA system and visit with our missionaries there. I will teach a seminary level course in Christology. When this is finished we plan to take a short flight to Costa Rica and visit the two congregations to check on their progress with DTP material, bring more books and materials for the next quarter and meet with pastor Edier Urbina in the Guanacaste area.
Edier is in the process of planting a small church and is seeking formal support and adoption by our congregation. It is our hope and prayer to be able to bring him here for a visit soon via a religious worker visa.
Finally, we are deep in the planning stages of our 2nd annual Conference for Pastors and Church Leaders in Ensenada, Baja California in early November. The themes of the messages will be based upon the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. The preaching this year will be shared by some of our own missionary pastors in Mexico. This should round out our mission to the Spanish-speaking world in 2017.
I share these insights and details in order to promote the unity and single-mindedness the elders have regarding our mission to ALL nations within the congregation at large. We want you to be fully informed and hope your hearts beat with the same passion to see Christ exalted and magnified in these foreign lands through the equipping of those called to be pastors who make disciples.
[There are several ways you can become more involved with this ministry as we move forward with plans to translate and formally publish more of our teaching material. Please reach out to Ben Nissen if you have any questions or interest].
Tony Sanelli is a Pastor and Teacher at Grace Bible Church
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