Exploring Evangelism and Church Planting

Welcome to Asked and Answered, the podcast series that answers all your missions-related questions. With me in the studio today are Ron and Charis Pearce. Welcome, guys!

Ron, Charis — Hi, Joy.

Joy — Ok, so today’s question, we know that there are revivals happening in the spiritual hotspots, and lots and lots is going on, and God is doing a mighty work. The question within that is, can you tell us the difference, and all of our listeners, between evangelism and church planting when it comes to these national workers?

Ron — Ok, well, it’s rather simple. I’m afraid in the West we make it much more complicated than it is overseas. When we talk about evangelism, it’s basically from an overseas perspective, just a matter of introducing these people to Jesus and having an individual, or we’ll say a family, accept the Lord. Which means that you have a front-end explanation, you have to have some sort of developing a relationship of trust so this person really doesn’t think you’re making this up, which means they usually point to the Bible as the authoritative manual as to how to know God and then you have some sort of decision-making process where the person will make a decision for God, and we call it being born again or crossing the line into knowing God. And therefore, once they’ve been saved, the family and the situation, then you go on after that and you would be talking about discipleship, and therefore you can’t just do evangelism and leave them standing on the sidewalk and walk away. There has got to be some sort of follow-up so that they follow the Lord and that they grow in Him and that they study the Word and that they develop a relationship of talking to God in prayer and all those things that are involved in us growing in Christ. So, I personally overseas, and I know I’ve learned from them over all these years, they consider it all one package. Finding a way to tell them, showing them, explaining it, leading them to the Lord and then following up afterward, it’s all one package. But, what you have to do is realize that there are so many people coming to the Lord overseas that these pastors, evangelists, workers, whoever it is, have got to pull them together in manageable groups in order that they can disciple and lead other people to the Lord and minister to the children and all the churchy sort of things that go around a person being born again. They have to do it in a group simply because there are just too many people accepting Christ, they can’t do one-offs everywhere. That is what we call church planting. That is the ABCs of it. In other words, you do your evangelism, yes, you do your follow-up, yes, and then you get a bunch of them together so they can have fellowship with one another. There is strength in numbers, there is a family attitude within the body of Christ that has to be developed and that is when they become a church. And then if you have that mentality within the leaders of the group that is doing all this evangelism and church planting, if this same sort of idea is well, what we need to do is multiply churches all over rather than just multiplying individuals all over, you are going to have something that will grow in longevity and stability for long-term growth.

Charis — I find it interesting too that a lot of times we think that it’s the church planters or the evangelists that are doing all the work, but once there is one family that comes to know the Lord, the excitement that spreads, they are the ones doing the evangelism too. So, it’s not just all on the evangelist or the church planter’s responsibility.

I’m afraid in the West we make it much more complicated than it is overseas.

Ron — Exactly, and you will find that people of like mind will get together even without the pastor involved. We have walked into many situations where a group of people all accepted the Lord and the pastors went back afterward, as in a couple of weeks, because he was just overwhelmed, and said we better go back and put a church together here. They already did! They had a Bible or New Testament and started to read it, they started to organize themselves. It’s really not rocket science. It’s a matter that these people will find a way because it is a true-born-again experience, they want to share their experience with one another, and they want to explain it to others. So, in many regards, and Joy this might seem simplistic, and I don’t mean it to be, over here we have to have manuals and we have to have instruction booklets and we have to have a system all set out in order for us to organize ourselves. Around the world it doesn’t really work that way. You give them a Bible; they will study it and they’ll just use that, and it becomes natural for them to get together. Because they usually come out of other religions that have gatherings. In other words, they would come from a Hindu religion, those people get together, in Islam, they get together, in Buddhism, it’s a little bit different but they do have these monasteries where they have some sort of social activity, so they get together. So, therefore, these people are not left without hope. And we’ve got to go back here a little bit to the early church. There wasn’t a manual coming out of the Old Testament outlining what the church is going to look like. It developed under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and they just put it together on the fly. This was really, really good! They took it from the synagogue sort of situation and then they brought it into a New Testament sort of context. But they didn’t worry about it. Over here, man, if you don’t do it in a certain way, you’ve done it wrong and therefore it’s really out of sorts here. I can’t even compare it sometimes; what I see overseas with the way we imagine it should be. And they get a lot of criticism from folks back here at home, leaders here at home when they don’t do it the Western way and that is really bad. I differ with that completely because these people in their cultural setting will organize themselves.

Joy — So, to look at it a little more broken down and nuanced, are the church planters the pastors that end up staying and discipling the new believers?

Ron — Yes and no.

Joy — It must look different in different countries.

Ron — It looks totally different. Sometimes the same one stays, other times they give a handoff to somebody with the football and he comes in and does it. Sometimes they have to organize differently than anybody has even imagined. In other words, in India many times they will have Jesus festivals and that is where people from all over the region come from a big party. And when I am talking a lot, thousands, Charis.

Charis — Yeah, they are huge!

Ron — They are huge. And they will all come together, and they will do weddings at those, they will do various teaching times, they will do worship. It’s just like an old Jesus festival where they all come together. And at that time, they will organize more. In other words, ok, we’re going to put you folks over there in this and you can do this. So, everywhere is different in whatever setting it is but there are always churches being created. This is the bottom line, there are gatherings based upon evangelistic outreach, people accepting Christ, there is organization, it just looks different than maybe we would do it and it looks different according to what country you’re in.

Joy — And what about the sound Biblical principle and teachings. I mean, that is never a concern.

It is the fact that they are so concerned with people dying and going to hell without Jesus that the Holy Spirit just gives them this energy

Ron: Not with us, not with the people we’re tied together with. They are as Biblically solid as you can ever believe; they are knowledgeable in the Word. We don’t partner with people that are shallow, let’s just put it bluntly. We always search out very, very well-equipped, anointed, Bible-believing solid ministries, and they are as strong as can be. So no, we never have a problem with that.

Charis: And I think a lot of times, going back to what you were saying, in North America, we think that if they are not using this specific program, then it can’t be working or it can’t be deep enough. We look at everything through our North American lenses.

Ron: We also try to, Charis, as we realize, there are various systems over here, manuals, ministries, that have created the ABC’s of doing church planting and evangelism, follow this model. And they try to export that overseas to these other areas. It doesn’t work. They can read them, they can maybe get some ideas from them, it’s not like it’s wasted, but they shouldn’t try and transplant a western system onto an Asian system. It just doesn’t work. They do force it in there sometimes, but it is not as effective as when it is nationalized. And this is the big thing as well and people will sometimes take offense at this, but it’s true. It is important that all the Western operations overseas, we will call them Western missionary church planting operations, there is a point in time when they have to be nationalized. They can’t be transporting on jets pastors and speakers over all the time to maintain a western-style church with western teachers and a western identity in these countries of the world and expect it to thrive. You have to let the nationals take over their own churches at a certain point because I walk into these situations, usually in larger cities, capitals of countries, and they have created a western church in the middle of it, and they are expecting all the nationals to come and become western first and Christian second. It really doesn’t go over well. After a while, let them do it themselves. Introduce them, help them, bring them into the light, but then after that give them the spotlight. That is the big thing.

Joy: And we have on our website for all of our listeners, Ron has gone into great depth about the national workers, what they look like, their characteristics, and if you are interested in that, you can just head right to our website at ron​pearce​.org and empower ministries.

Ron: Before we quit this section and move on, there is one other thing I should throw in. When we talk about pastors over there having a mindset for doing church planting, it’s fueled by an incredible energy that they will go out and they will work, work, work, all night, all day, as often as they can to win people to the Lord. This is sort of the fuel that energizes all these church planting movements around the world. It is the fact that they are so concerned with people dying and going to hell without Jesus that the Holy Spirit just gives them this energy to go out there, witness, witness, witness, lead people to Christ, start churches, and then let’s do another one, let’s do another one, let’s do another one. Therefore, it’s not like they sort of retire or slow down after doing twenty churches. It’s not that way. They can do fifty, sixty, I’ve heard of a hundred churches in their ministries, and when I’m sitting with these leaders all around the world, the top leadership is not driving them but are trying to ride herd on all these guys out there who are just so energized by the Spirit of God to win the lost that these guys are just trying to direct them. But this is a team of horses, I like old westerns, and you know I picture this stagecoach and you’ve got these six horses out in front of this little stagecoach and the driver is up there, and these horses are running wildly, and it’s like the guy up at the top is just trying to hold on tight and give them some direction. That’s what we’ve got!

Joy: And for the sake of the metaphor, the horses are the church planters, right?

Ron: Exactly, right, I’m glad you clarified that. But this is what I’m trying to tell people, you can’t compare that sort of to western styles whereby a pastor would do a wonderful job at starting a church, growing a church, they will multiply a church maybe in the same city to various, I think they call them campuses now, and they will divide up into campuses and everything like that. That’s great, wonderful, nothing like we see overseas. Nothing.

Joy: It’s just incomparable.

Ron: It is, and therefore, until someone like myself comes along and tries to explain it, you can’t even imagine the energy being released by the Spirit of God in these countries. And that is why Empower tries to come alongside and feed the horse.

Joy: Feed the horses, that’s a great ending, just like that!

Ron: There it is.

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