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LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT THROUGH THE LOCAL CHURCHES FOR ASIAN MISSIONS

Suraja Raman

INTRODUCTION:

Christian leadership is a high calling, because of its involvement in the development of the church. Scripture makes references to leadership through the use of metaphors.[1]

Leadership is Servanthood, and we see this as an example modeled by our Lord Jesus Christ (Mk 10:35-45, Lk 22:24-27). An example from the Old Testament is that of a leader bearing the burdens of others (Lev 16: 10-26, Jn 11:50).

A leader is like a Shepherd watching and protecting the sheep grazing in the field (Psa 23:1- 5, Jn 10:1-5, Acts 20:28, 1 Pet 5:1-4).

The leader’s task is also like that of a Steward, to care for the resources of the Christian community (Lk 19:11-26, Acts 20:35, 2 Tim 1:11-14).

The Lausanne Movement has observed a great shortage of mature leaders.Leadership training programs of all kinds have multiplied, but the problem (of a lack of discipled leaders) [2]Two reasons were identified for this: appointing leaders who have not been adequately discipled, and using programs which focus on packaged knowledge, techniques and skills to the neglect of godly character.

Effective leadership development is embedded in discipleship – the maturing of the saints, their equipping for the work of their ministry, and above all, bringing them to be followers of Christ. This is a process which is a primary role of the local church,             and sadly one that many churches fall short of in their pursuit of program driven  [3]

As a result, there is still a great lack in the reproduction of godly, bible based, disciple-making leaders who are equipped for effective ministry in the Asian mission fields and the local church ministry.

The urgency of ministering to Asian believers

The heart of biblical theology is God’s transformation of people.[4]The old has passed away (2 Cor 5:17). God is doing a new work in the lives of the people living in Asia. Human relationships are at the heart of a leader developing church members for the ministries in missions. A leader should be constantly learning and listening to the voices of the Christian community (Ezra 7:10, Acts 20:17-21, 2 Tim 2:15). Leaders need to be motivated because of the urgency of reaching today’s populated world (Num 14; 6-9, 24, Josh 14:8, 2 Tim 1:6-7).[5]

In this century, the world population growth will be almost entirely concentrated in Asia, Africa and Latin America. (see chart below). Today, Asia is where we find two-thirds of the world population. In every part of Asia, we see the presence of believers because of the symbol of the cross. This draws every individual located in the urban and remote places for worship into the Christian community. Therefore, there is an urgent need for more leaders to be constantly developed through the local church.

…to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…(Eph 4:12-13, ESV)

Chart 1. World Population Growth, 2000-2100 (chart by Haggai Institute)

 chart1


[1]Adeyemo, Tokunboh. Africa Bible Commentary. (Word Alive, 2006), 546.
[2] The Lausanne Movement. The Cape Town Commitment: A Confession of Faith and a Call to Action (Didasko Files, 2011), Section IID, 56.
[3]Mark Syn, the Executive Director of Pioneers for Asia, in an interview.
[4]Tan, Siang-Yang. Full Service: Moving from Self-Serve Christianity to Total Servanthood. (Baker, 2006), 134.
[5]Hibert, Paul. Anthropological Insights for Missionaries. (Baker, 1985), 255.


EMPIRICAL ASPECTS OF LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT

Several Asian leaders have had Ted Ward, an educator and missiologist, as their mentor, colleague, and friend. We were often challenged to look for the model of leadership that it must be drawn from the Scripture and evaluated in terms of accountability to the Lordship of Christ.[6]Ward further suggested this concept in one of his models, the Hand model as illustrated below. The hand represents us, and reminds us that each one of God’s creation is precious in His sight.

Ward reinforces that theologians for centuries have described this spiritual essence as being the center of the image of God in humankind. We must represent the spiritual nature not as merely one more of the empirical aspects-but rather as the special center of what it means to be a human being.[7]The spiritual core is represented in the center of the hand model. As God’s special people created in His image for a purpose, we are His co-workers for the salvation of men and women. An active participation in Asian missions becomes a joy and a privilege. The leader becomes excited in the ministry of discipleship.

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Figure 1. The “Hand” Model by Ted Ward

 

1. THE ROLE AND FUNCTION OF THE LOCAL CHURCHES IN LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT

. . for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? and how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, how beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news! (Romans 10:13- 15)

The Church of Jesus Christ is given the task of sending missionaries into the world. God’s plan of salvation, which must be heard, is made possible through the lives of men and women, children and youth, who are instrumental in sharing the Good News with their families, friends, and neighbors. A missionary church that is “alive” is aflame with passion for the lost.

The late Dr. GD James, who served as a leader, evangelist and Bible teacher, testified of his miraculous encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ: “I was a Hindu studying in a Christian school. Soon I accepted Jesus Christ into my heart as my Savior and Lord. Witnessing began as a delight,” and when he heard God’s voice, Dr James was faithful in giving himself to the task of the preaching of the gospel in the continent of Asia.[8]

Tan Kok Beng, an Asian church leader, challenged Asian leaders during a missionary conference on two important concepts which will empower the leadership development of the local church actively involved in Asian missions:[9]


[6] Elmer, Duane and Lois McKinney. With an Eye on the Future: Development and Mission in the 21st Century. (MARC, 1996), 34-35.
[7] Ward, Ted. Values begin at home. (Victor Books, 1989), 19.
[8]Tay, John. A Short History of Indigenous Mission in Singapore. (Armour Publishing, 2010), 10-15.
[9] Raman, Suraja. The Heartbeat of a Missionary Church. (Armour Publishing, 2011,2nd edition), xx.


A) Missions is the heartbeat of God

God’s heart beats for missions. He is the Missionary God who initiated missions in His plans for the salvation of the world, culminating in the sending forth of His Son to earth. [10]And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. (Isa. 60:3)
And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)

In God’s beautiful creation of man and woman, we see His heartbeat which is founded on the importance of human relationships. The coming of God’s son, Jesus Christ, into the world underlines the passion of His heartbeat for the people of the world to be saved from eternal condemnation. Individuals thus need to make wise choices.[11]

The greatest story of Asian leaders serving as missionaries is that of their encounters with the living God, which shaped them and prepared them for the mission field. A missionary leader, who is serving in a difficult part of Asia, testified that, when I heard God’s call for the unreached people’s group, I was assured that the path would be straightened. Every obstacle will be removed. Today, I continue to be there for the people.

A leader who travels regularly to a remote province in Asia testified: I had taught a team of teachers on the methods of evangelizing. I was encouraged to see their eager efforts and participation. A teenager turned up for the training. During a trip out in the hottest time of the day, they made their way to the village to share the Good News. This incident touched my heart. The trainees were eager to ensure that everyone had an opportunity to hear the Gospel.

A leader together with a team of church members went to a difficult area in Asia and reported: “The place remains a popular destination for both locals and tourists, because of its well-preserved old streets (with architecture from the 19thCentury) and its history as an important trading centre along the river. While it is a quiet town on weekdays, it is very crowded on weekends. As the church is located prominently where the old streets are, beside the river, it sees an endless stream of people passing by its door on weekends. The church has also preserved some of its original architecture from that era, making it quite attractive to tourists who enjoy exploring historical sites.”

A team leader narrated: “Almost every Christian in the church had a powerful conversion experience. Several of these members were at the point of ending their life before they found faith in Jesus Christ. For example, a man found life so hopeless that he was about to commit suicide by jumping into the river. The church pastor brought a few people to minister through the ministry of music about the love of Jesus. He decided to listen to their messages and was saved. He is very contented to testify to his family that he is alive because of the ministry of the church leadership.” The leaders and team members recall that, this is an amazing story of how the message of salvation brought hope to many through the life and ministry of the church. Upon listening to their testimonies, we could not contain our tears.

Another leader serving in a poverty stricken area in Asia reflected on a local church: There is a great sense of the church being a welcoming, accepting, and redeeming community. Several of the active members were marginalized in society – the handicapped, the mentally-challenged, and families of prisoners. But to their joy, they continue to experience the joys of belonging in a Christian community. And they are trained to serve one another. The transformation seen in their lives is amazing. The church is testifying to the society that these are the greatest in God’s kingdom.

The heartbeat of a church is in world missions. When we come to Christ, others will look at us and notice changes in our life. By committing oneself to Christ, He gives identity to our experience (Rom. 6:5). The focus of a life in Christ is the reason to rejoice, and the fulfillment of all we want to become. Christian leaders must lead the local church to take the whole gospel to the whole of Asia.

B) The Mission of the Asian Church is Missions

Luke records the reading by Christ: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. (Luke 4: 16-19). Christ set the example when He took upon Himself the responsibility of being the anointed Messenger of Good News. The name Jesus means “salvation,” or “YHWH is salvation.”

The mission of the Asian church is the same as that for which Christ came, ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.’ This is the main objective of the church.[12]The church exists to win the world for Christ. Mission is the implementation of this objective, “to preach the gospel and make disciples of all nations.” The gospel is to reach the unreached peoples for Christ wherever they are found.[13]

Christopher Wright, International Ministries Director with Langham Partnership, reinforced that, Churches are to be communities around the world, planted, nurtured and connected through ministries of sending, going and supporting-for the sake of the name of Christ and the truth of the gospel.[14]Leaders are called and used by God’s Holy Spirit in praying and sending their members into the mission field.

An Asian couple serving as leaders for their organization and sent by their church as missionaries to Mexico, reported, we felt God’s call to South America, and that our mission field was going to be a Spanish-speaking country. He revealed to us through His Word and confirmation from leaders of our church, circumstances, and inner peace.[15]

Ravi Zacharias, international apologist, has said that, the greatest obstacle to the impact of the gospel has not been its inability to provide answers, but the failure on our part to live it out.[16]The leaders and believers’ lifestyle (Matt 5:13-16) that is Christ-like leads to a compassionate response to the pain and suffering of the lost by giving them hope through the preaching of the gospel.


[10] Stott, John. Christian Mission in the Modern World. (Inter Varsity Press, 2008), 39.
[11]  Raman, Suraja. The Heartbeat of a Missionary Church. (Armour Publishing, 2011,2nd edition), xxi
[12] Raman, Suraja. The Heartbeat of a Missionary Church. (Armour Publishing, 2011,2nd edition), xix.
[13]Keener, Craig.The IVP Bible Background Commentary. (IVP Academic, 2014, 2nd edition), 125, 445.
[14] Wright, Christopher. The Mission of God’s People. (Zondervan, 2010), 221.
[15] Raman, Suraja. The Heartbeat of a Missionary Church. (Armour Publishing, 2011,2nd edition), 17-18.
[16] Zacharias, Ravi. Beyond Opinion. (Thomas Nelson, 2007), 53. This material is for ASM Bangkok 2015 participants only. Do not distribute.


2. ACTIVITIES OF ASIAN CHURCHES IN LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT FOR ASIAN MISSIONS

An author conducted a survey of local churches in Asia concerning mission activities. Asian leaders continue to explore creative activities so as to involve active participation of members in the many challenges for the cause for missions. The following activities were mentioned in the survey responses, and they may be classified as Long-term, Short term, Formal training and Informal mentoring.

a) Long-term mission ministries

  1. Conduct an annual mission emphasis month to provide biblical teachings on a theology of missions during regular worship services. A follow through on other subjects pertaining to Issues and Perspectives on Missions in the 21stcentury is a relevant learning experience and a challenge for the congregation. Organize a book table of mission subjects of reading resources and literature.
  2. Organize a Mission Sunday featuring home-made cuisines of different nations for a fellowship meal. Provide information on the projects pertaining to the poor and needy.
  3. Introduce missionary prayer calendars to encourage prayer for missionaries and nations, and a “Prayer network” for prayer meetings.
  4. Provide a bulletin board with a map of the world for information on missions, missionaries, and prayer news on missions around the world, and also for persecuted Christians and missionaries.
  5. Inform and encourage members of a congregation to attend mission’s conference such as Go Forth in Singapore and the Asian Society of Missiology. This will enlarge their horizon by providing greater in-depth understanding of global missions.

b) Short-term mission ministries

  1. Experience the privilege by living and working with missionaries on a short-term mission. As a result, new lessons will be acquired such as seeing how other believers    worship in a cross cultural setting.
  2. Join efforts with organizations helping in the distribution of food and medical work to earthquake victims and their families.
  3. Encourage all members – children, youth, and professionals -and families- to participate in mission ministries where the needs are greatest.

c) Formal missions training

  1. Consider supporting needy theological students studying in the area of missions.
  2. Consider supporting staff in mission organizations for their development and spiritual 
encouragement.

d) Informal missions mentoring

  1. Introduce the concept of ‘adopting’ a missionary by every fellowship or bible study group.
  2. Have local missionaries visit the respective church ministries to interact with members and share their field experience. The testimonies of these missionaries are a source of inspiration to the 
leaders and members of a local church.
  3. The availability of the autobiographies of Asian missionaries in the church library provides an 
avenue for the future generations to consider the importance and urgency of missions in the vast continent of Asia.

3. WORKING AND ADDRESSING THE ASIAN CONTEXT OF OTHER FAITHS

Inter-Faith Dialogue in Singapore

Since receiving independence on 9th August 1965, Christians living in Singapore continue to experience religious freedom. The different existing religious groups are Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism, Taoism and Confucianism.

In 1992, the Singapore Parliament passed the Religious Harmony Law, which forbids any religious group on infringing (overbearing or forcing one’s beliefs on to another person) on the rights of another group.[17]The leaders in the government had organized forums to bring together the different religious groups by having regular inter-faith dialogues and forums. This is to create an understanding and tolerance of each other’s religious beliefs

The leaders in the National Council of Churches in Singapore (NCCS) would represent the local churches at these dialogues and forums since this is by formal invitation.[18]The Singapore Centre for Global Missions (SCGM) encourages leaders of the local churches to participate in seminars pertaining to different religious context. Members from the local churches had also participated actively in these seminars. Such events have been an eye-opener to some leaders and members of the local church. To others, it offers fresh perspectives on the importance of fostering harmony in a multi-racial society.

The inter-faith dialogue reveals the experiences of reconciliation and collaboration in the importance of spreading the gospel while maintaining and promoting peace through the greatest story in the world, the Death and Resurrection of Christ.


[17] www.RacialharmonylawinSingapore.com
[18] www.ChristianToday.com


CONCLUSION

The heartbeat of missions is now in Asia, moving towards the continent of Central and South America, then to Africa, and finally to other parts of the world. The Apostle Paul’s prayer for the unbelieving world is “that they might be saved.” (Romans 10:1).

May that be our prayer also for the ministry of leaders developing the churches for Asian missions. May our feet not grow weary of travelling to the utmost parts of the world with the Good News! The Christian faith and Christian missions are inseparable!

Bibliography

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Dr. Suraja Raman is involved with the Association of the Evangelicals in Africa since 1997 to present. She is a member of North American Professors of Christian Education, 1989-present, Evangelical Teacher Training Association from 1982-present and Evangelical Fellowship in Singapore from 1978-present. She received her Ph.D. in Christian Education from Trinity International University.surajaraman@gmail.com


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