Now that Harvest International Missions (HIM) is two months old, I have been thinking and praying through what an ongoing missions ministry in Mexico will look like. Foremost in my mind is to see the impact of the gospel on the community in Valle de la Trinidad and the surrounding townships. We have been ministering in the area for about 20 years, and my involvement in the mission has been eight years. In order for any ministry to be successful, it has to be bigger than the leaders, it has to be something that the community will buy into, and something the church(es) in the community can take ownership in. The following are my hopes for the future of Mexico Mission.
A. Development of future missionaries. It is one thing for AZ/MX to remain a project, however, it has to become much more than that. Sending groups of youth and young adults for one week in the summer is a tremendous blessing to the people of the city, and especially the children we minister through our Vacation Bible School (VBS) program. However, the long-term perspective of HIM needs to head in the direction of raising up future missionaries from the groups we send. How we do that will become more clear as the Holy Spirit leads us in that direction.
1. Central Training Location: One approach I propose is to partner with All-Nations Holy Mountain in San Bernardino, California to establish a training center for future missionaries.
a. Aspects of Missionary Training
1) Personal Spiritual Development – So often missionaries finish seminary then go on the field. Often they are so busy giving and leading that they neglect their own personal growth. In order to ensure the positive growth of our missionaries, I suggest creating a set of Spiritual Growth materials that are suited for their respective countries. I also suggest that separate materials be developed for individuals and families. Our goal would be, to quote a friend, “not raise a missionary family, but to raise a family of missionaries.”
2. Culture and language development – Cultural integration and language acquisition are key to developing healthy long-term missionaries. Upon arrival to their host countries, missionaries should be required to 1) maintain language classes for one full year, with an option to add a second year. (The cost of this must be figured into their financial profile). 2) The missionary must be involved in a community activity on an ongoing basis. For example, a male single missionary can join a local soccer club, or a biking club. Not only will this allow him access to the community, but it will also be an effective tool in curbing culture-shock upon arrival.
2. Support Raising: Another aspect of raising up future missionaries is to establish a system in which full time missionaries would raise support through HIM.
B. Raising up Future Leaders in Host Countries. It has been our sad experience in BC, Mexico that churches and pastors don’t seem to be able to work with each other. Certainly, denominational isolationism seems like a large barrier, but even more so, it seems that pastors are territorial when it comes to their ministries. One way to overcome this is to re-instill a sense of Kingdom values. Pastor’s need to understand that the kingdom of God is so much larger than denominational distinctives, and the small visions and goals of local pastors.
1. Equipping Local Pastors – One of the key values that AZ/MX Ministries has upheld is that it is not our role to tell the local national pastors what we want to do, and what we think they should do. Rather, we have always gone in by invitation from national churches and pastors, and have come alongside to assist in their outreach ministries. Therefore, our ministry has always been an extension of the national churches outreach within it’s own community.
In the same spirit, our future ministry will be geared toward answering the question, “How can HIM equip the national pastors and their churches to be more effective in their ministry?”
2. Raising up New Leaders – One aspect of ministry I’ve observed in Mexico is that there is a fast turnaround of pastors and churches–churches can die as quickly as they start. I don’t know much of what causes the death of a church, or the reasons why many pastors abandon their ministries. I believe that one reason may be the lack of help and support that pastors receive, and another reason may be the lack of training and experience that these pastors have. I suggest two approaches which may help to curb the dramatic turnaround of pastors.
a. The national pastor will select from within his congregation or community a leader whom he can mentor.
b. The local church will validate the selection of that individual for future ministry (Commission him for training in ministry).
c. The individual will commit to whatever period of training is required by the church, while at the same time serving in the local church as an apprentice. HIM will contribute to the raising up of future leaders by raising a portion of the support for each apprentice serving under the pastor. The local church can also help to support the apprentice.