“The vision of the whole field, the whole world must always be kept in view. As soon as converts are won to Christ and a church formed, elders should be appointed to act as overseers of the flock, and the missionary passes on, following the example of Paul, to evangelize other fields.” (1)
Over the years, there has been a practice of missionaries staying in one location for long periods and eventually the missionary becomes a pastor of the native church. This was NOT Paul’s practice. Acts 14:23 clearly shows that Paul and Barnabas equipped the newly planted church with their own “elders…in every church, with prayer and fasting, they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.” For any church to become spiritually healthy, they must be encouraged by this action so they take responsibility for their own growth and maturity, self-sustaining and self-propagating. No child will learn to walk on their own unless we take our hands off them. Will they struggle to start with? Yes, but through the Holy Spirit in them, they will be strengthened.
The act of prayer and fasting is an indication of the level of trust Barnabas and Paul had in the Lord Jesus as the Head of His Church and the Holy Spirit who sealed the Church as belonging to Christ. I firmly believe that following Paul’s model is an indication of how we trust divine persons.
(1) Oswald J. Smith, The Challenge of Missions, page 132.
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