Having suggested in my last article that the relationship between gospel and God's kingdom points toward a notion of evangelism that moves beyond simply bringing someone to personal faith and salvation, I want to look at the way we use some related words. The verb "to evangelize," which is a Greek word borrowed into English, entails proclamation in the original usage. In this sense, it will be difficult to be "evangelistic" without being prone to proclamation.
The first three months of our time at Shiloh have passed, and boy have they been busy! We’ve been teaching and preaching, fellowshipping, mentoring, praying, planning, plotting (just kidding), and preparing. Some accomplishments are more tangible than others, though, and I’d like to give an update on one of them. For the past two months we have been planning, dreaming, and praying about forming the Shiloh Mission Support Team and have already had two meetings! For those of you who aren’t sure what a Mission Support Team is or what they do, that’s okay--I really didn’t know myself until we started this process. Let me share our process with you.
When we made the decision back in June to move to Tyler we came up with a few big picture goals: obtain ministry experience, form a missions policy, form a missions committee, form a relationship with church body, and obtain a 5 year commitment from the church. Two of these goals-- obtaining experience and forming relationships-- are ongoing processes, and I think they are going pretty well. Two of these I can say are accomplished. As you will read in more detail elsewhere, Shiloh Road has joined Cedar Lane in committing to support the work in Arequipa for at least 5 years! As a team we feel incredible joy at having both of our home churches support us. God is good! Our other completed task is that of forming what we have come to call our Missions Support Team.
A lot of thought and prayer went into this project before we got started. While one of the responsibilities of the support team will be to recruit new members at need, it fell to us to draft the initial group. We asked seventeen people, from high school up, to prayerfully consider being a part of this group, and after a time of consideration twelve came back saying they wanted to join.
We are humbled by their desire to serve not us but the church in this role, and are grateful for their dedication to God’s mission. We have already met twice with this group, and projects are getting underway. Committee leaders have already been chosen for some, with more to follow.
Some of the projects that the group has started working on include the formation of a standing missions policy, planning an Peruvian Cuisine Dinner night, developing a regular “Missions Moment” for Sunday mornings, and preparing for our sendoff in February. The Support Team will also be our primary contact while in the field. Anything we need of the church will be asked through this group, with the knowledge that they will take it from there. The reverse is also true in that communication from the sending church will be funneled through the Support Team to us in Peru. By having dedicated advocates of the mission stateside, we hope to maintain a high level of awareness throughout the congregation.
I purposefully used the term “advocate,” because its meaning (to support or speak in favor of) really resonates with me. This Support Team will support us with their time, thoughts, prayers, actions and words. They will be the first to send us birthday cards or care packages. They will organize trips to visit and encourage us, and arrange for our needs when we return on furlough to visit and encourage them. They will be our advocates at Shiloh Road; they will be our coworkers. We thank God for them and hope that you will join us in prayer for their tasks and decisions. May God bless their ministry to Peru and the church.
The following are comments made by David Litton on behalf of the Shiloh elders on Sunday, October 28, 2007 announcing Shiloh’s support of Team Arequipa. (All the elders stood at the front of the auditorium and were joined by others during the service.)
“When a country goes to war today, national leaders stay on home turf and send young men and women into the battlefields. It takes many people to provide food, weapons, transportation and other support for each person on the front line. In a parallel sense, we are in a worldwide spiritual battle, and the Shiloh elders today are announcing our decision to support and send young men and women into the spiritual battlefield of Arequipa, Peru. (The team was asked to join us up front.) Many of you know them already: Greg and Megan McKinzie and Kyle and Larissa Smith.
To Team Arequipa – On behalf of this church family, we are announcing our support for the team for at least 5 years. The financial amount is being determined during our budget process, but more importantly, we pledge to support your work in prayer. A mission support team is already forming to provide advice, encouragement and other means of support.
This is an exciting time for Shiloh. One of the priorities of this church is that we are committed to teach and prepare the next generation. We love and appreciate all of the kids that grow up here. We have been blessed to see an increasing number who choose full-time ministry whether in the inner city, in youth ministry or going to the mission field. And now Greg, Larissa and Kyle are added to that list. Megan, we know Cedar Lane is equally proud of you.
Speaking as a parent, what greater blessing could there be, besides really cute grandkids, than to see a child grow in faith and make such a courageous commitment to go and share the good news of Jesus. As I look across the Shiloh family this morning, there are many faces who have been a part of raising these team members. Thank you.
There are two that I would like to ask to join us here and stand beside the team – Tim Henderson and Bill Richardson. Tim through high school and still today has been and is a mentor of 3⁄4 of the team. He led Greg, Kyle and Larissa on numerous mission trips and helped nurture a servant’s heart. Bill has been a mentor during their college years. During the summer of 2002, Bill led a Caleb project where he took a number of Harding students to South America where they spent the summer spying out the land looking for receptive places to go and take the good news. Greg was one of those students and that was the genesis of Team Arequipa. Please join me in showing appreciation to these two men and their families for the way that they influence hundreds and literally thousands of students to have a closer walk with God.
Although our youngest students, whom we call ‘Shiloh Souldiers,’ have already left the assembly, there are many other students here that we hope someday will be deployed all over the globe in various vocations and ministries to be about God’s mission. Will the Shiloh family please stand with us as we pray for Team Arequipa?”
To the readers of the newsletter, please join us in praying for the Team and what God will do through them in the coming years.
In His Service, David
(For those of you that don’t know, David Litton is Larissa’s father.)
There are things that basically all Christians know to be true. Jesus came to save all men – check. There are lost people throughout the world – check. However, despite knowing the right answers to such questions, we often fall victim to our desire to be comfortable and pat each other on the back for being such good, faithful Christians. Sometimes we just need someone to bring the truth and power of God’s call right to our own doorstep so that we can’t brush it off as someone else’s job anymore.
Thankfully, those of us at Shiloh had a chance for just such an experience when Dr. Bill Richardson came for the weekend. About 50 people came to the Friday night and Saturday morning sessions in which he covered different ways that churches should be involved in God’s work in the world, many that are not our first choice.
He talked about being a church of missionaries, made up of people who are ready and willing to take up arms and infiltrate their own communities with the saving power that Jesus provides. The Lord’s people are given the power to storm the gates of hell and snatch back the lost to live in His Kingdom, and Bill challenged us to mobilize and join that battle.
Then he spoke of what it takes to be a church for missionaries, the kind that understands the job to be done and works hard to provide the support that is needed, well beyond financial contribution. This involves prayer, prayer and more prayer, knowing the struggles the missionaries are having and striving to uphold them, encouragement, and providing any tools that would smooth the way. He challenged us to have a new perspective on how we measure success on a mission field and to rejoice with every new believer.
He didn’t stop there. After a lunch that included Bill, the team, and the elders and their families, we moved to a meeting with our newly formed Mission Support Team. Bill spent time walking through how they can best serve their field workers and what is necessary to make the work an active part of the home church’s life. Having a mission team on the field should affect the church family as they take ownership of their part in God’s mission. The MST will be an integral part in keeping awareness and prayer a regular part of the church’s life.
The weekend still wasn’t over; we had more time with Bill and took advantage of it. Bill preached the sermon on Sunday and taught a combined adult class. He covered how involvement in missions is a step of faith and then gave an overview of Latin America, discussing signs within those countries that indicate readiness to receive the Gospel.
On Sunday morning, the elders officially announced that they have committed to supporting us, Team Arequipa, for at least 5 years. We were very blessed by their desire to be involved with us in this work, and we are eager to get started, confident in their love and prayers.
All in all, many of us came out of the weekend motivated to take action for the Lord, to be bold and draw on the power He has provided to break down walls and reach hearts. We have been reminded that the Gospel holds power in itself and does not rely on skilled teaching and perfected methods to have an impact. God does the work; we must merely take Him with us where He is needed and let Him do so. Check.