In the early years of this ministry, the Mozambique Evangel always included articles on themes related to missions or Mozambique. The goal was to give fellow believers a burden for the people in this part of the world, to stimulate thinking about missions, and to stir some to participate with us as they sensed a commitment to principles dear to them also.
After ten years, as work increased on the field, I ceased writing articles and focused only on keeping people informed of events as they took place. These days, to discern the priorities governing our efforts one must read between the lines. People who have recently become interested in this work may wish they had a clearer explanation of what Grace Missions has represented throughout its 17-year history. For their benefit I have prepared the first of two articles outlining the guiding principles of our efforts in Mozambique.
Purpose for Missionary Involvement
What is our purpose in missions? The great commission in Matthew 28:18-20 defines it. So might I Chronicles 16:24-25, the verse that appears in the masthead of all our mailings. But I like also the Spirit-inspired description Paul gave of his ministry in Romans 1:5. Adjusting it to Mozambique, our purpose is “to bring about the obedience of faith among all Mozambicans, for His name’s sake.” In this declaration, we see 1) the goal of ministry, obedience or submission to God, and 2) the only means of carrying it out, through fostering faith in Jesus Christ.
Our goal too is to see men bowing the knee before their Maker, acknowledging His lordship and obeying His commands. It is not superficial lip service or repeating the sinner’s prayer or making a public profession that counted with Paul, or with us. It was the obedience of faith. We long to see this in the lives of Mozambicans now plunged in spiritual darkness, not only because it is their duty to God as Creator. We know from personal experience and the promise of His word that such trusting submission promotes a vital, personal relationship with Him, and brings great blessing, satisfaction, and usefulness in this life and in the life to come.
As this and other verses indicate, a lively faith is not only the means by which God saves the sinner. It is the driving force of subsequent obedience. No obedience indicates no faith and consequently no salvation, as James repeatedly emphasizes in his instruction on false, or dead faith in James 2:14,17,20,26. It is remarkable that this fundamental, long accepted tenet should be so much debated in our day. Similarly, the Bible is clear that without faith there will be no obedience at all in God’s sight. Romans 8:5-9 is just one passage which teaches that until men are brought to faith in Jesus Christ and become partakers of the divine nature, they will not submit to God or obey Him because they are not even able to do so.
Thus the missionary must proclaim the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ in order that saving faith may be imparted to his hearers. And how does he know when his efforts have succeeded? By the transformed life that issues forth. But until the obedience of faith is manifest, he has no assurance that he has accomplished anything of eternal benefit.
Motive for Missionary Involvement
So the end and the means of missionary endeavor are clearly stated in Romans 1:5. But a third issue shoulders its way into the verse, refusing to be left out, namely, Paul’s motivation in ministry. Why was he doing all of this? What drove him? The verse tells us it was his desire to see God’s name revered and lifted high!
There are a lot of things that can motivate Christian ministry. There were in fact multiple motives working in Paul’s case, but one always stood high above the others – a fervent, unquenchable desire to see God glorified in a way commensurate with His due. “For the glory of God” was not a trite expression Paul self-consciously inserted into his language so people could see he had mastered the first question in some catechism. It was Paul’s passion. He could have said he did everything so that men could be saved. That is an important motive that also drove Paul, and it must drive us if we are to please our Savior. But he was not ashamed to reveal that the glory of God was a motive in missions that eclipsed even man’s great need to be saved.
Those priorities might seem jumbled and even offensive in our day. But that is because Paul had a God centered, or God focused theology and philosophy. American culture is increasingly man centered, and many evangelical churches are being pulled in the same direction. Doctrines and attitudes Paul unabashedly proclaimed in epistles to new believers we in modern congregations of mature Christians find awkward. We fairly blush to speak of them. The doctrines of grace frequently fall into this category. Sometimes they are called “high doctrine” and are relegated to the realm of archaic esoterica unimportant to practical Christian living. In fact they are fundamental truths that must undergird the Christian mindset. They can be readily understood if simply accepted at face value. The real problem is they offend the way man naturally views himself and God, and they are out of step with today’s western culture. In other words, they are God focused, God exalting doctrines, which at the same time humble the pride of man.
This issue will appear again under the fifth heading, “Commitment to the Doctrines of Grace” and in the article to be included with the next Evangel. It is mentioned here in passing because it so strongly influences missionary motives, as in fact it influences every aspect of Christian practice.
Commitment to Scripture
We are committed to the authority of the Bible. It is the only reliable, infallible, God-inspired revelation to men. It is sufficient not only to bring men to salvation but also to equip them for every good work (II Timothy 3:15-18). Therefore it is our sole rule for faith and practice in the church, in personal life, and in missionary effort.
The above declaration is not made simply to satisfy people checking on our orthodoxy. We truly believe it, and so the scriptures are central in our ministry. Every message in the church, be it expositional or topical, must come directly from scripture. We conduct multiple Bible classes during the week for the purpose of discipling and building up the saints through the word of God. We emphasize time in the scriptures as an indispensable part of personal and family worship, both of which should be a daily habit for believers. Committing key verses or passages to memory has been emphasized from the beginning, and is a major undertaking for a large portion of our congregation. Quite a few keep hundreds of scripture portions memorized and ready for service. But whatever the means, applying the scriptures to people’s minds, and hopefully from there impressing it upon their hearts, is fundamental to our ministry.
Commitment to the Doctrines of Grace
Inseparably linked with commitment to the scriptures is a commitment to the doctrines of grace as scripture reveals them. If we hold strongly to the authority of God’s word, how can we help but cleave to the doctrines it teaches?
The doctrines of grace proclaim the sovereign and gracious work of God to save sinners who through the fall of man have been rendered unable to help themselves. In our day a distorted gospel has gained favor that supposes man is naturally willing and able to come to Christ for salvation. The Bible knows nothing of such a gospel. Indeed, every sinner is responsible to heed the gospel call to come to Christ for salvation, but the Bible says he is naturally unable and unwilling to do so. A sinner is made willing and able to come to Christ only as a result of the gracious willing and working of God, bringing the gospel to his ears, opening his heart to understand it, granting faith to believe it, and evoking the proper response of repentance and obedience. Thus salvation is a work of God from start to finish. This results in much exaltation of God in salvation and no exaltation of man. It produces deep gratitude and love to God for doing for us what we could never have done for ourselves. It fuels a devoted obedience to Him that enables the Christian to progress in sanctification.
These principles affect practically everything we do in ministry. Their far-reaching influence will be taken up in the next Evangel. The most direct way our commitment to these doctrines is seen is through the nation-wide Fiel conferences and the Fiel bookshop that we sponsor here in Nampula. Both these ministries are dedicated to promoting an appreciation for the rich legacy left by the Reformation fathers, men mightily used of God in an age when the church desperately needed to rediscover that salvation was only by grace, only through faith, and all from God.
Love for God
For any ministry to be blessed of God, it must be undertaken in obedience to His call. It is not for us to decide what we are going to do for God, then ask Him to bless our efforts. Rather we present ourselves to Him as lowly servants ready to do anything He wishes, anywhere He sends us. Only then are conditions right for us to see God’s hand ordering our affairs, and hear His voice through scripture and circumstances directing us in the work He has before ordained that we should do.
But God is not interested in joyless submission. His servants serve Him because they love Him and delight to please Him. They rejoice even in tribulations borne for His name’s sake, knowing that such sacrifices show the world that they have a God who is greater and more wonderful than whatever they may be called upon to give up in following Him, more important even than their very lives. It is this kind of ministry, undertaken and undergirded by fervent love for God, that He will bless.
Psalm 100:2 says, “Serve the Lord WITH GLADNESS.” Those last two words mark the difference between ritual, which God neither desires nor accepts, and true worship. And why are we glad to serve God? Because we love Him. The foremost commandment is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength – Mark 12:29-31. Christ says if we love anything or anyone more than Him, we cannot be His disciples – Luke 14:26,33. The Ephesian church was in danger of being cut loose by God because they were doing everything right, but not out of love for Him – Revelation 2:5.
We must first love God before we can possibly stir such love for Him in the hearts of others. Any ministry that is not undertaken first and foremost out of love for the Lord will come short of His blessing. A guiding principle therefore of this ministry is that our endeavors must be carried out in response to God’s leading (not our deciding and then asking Him to bless), and that our service to Him must be motivated out of love for Him.
God has been gracious in blessing this philosophy. People who have followed our reports from the beginning surely rejoice with us in the remarkable ways God has made His purposes plain along the way. His call to missions was clear and verifiable. His direction to Mozambique was unmistakable. The establishment of Grace Missions was obligatory due to circumstances God brought to bear at the outset. The provision of a wonderful facility from which to carry on the medical-evangelistic work in the early years and the faithful provision of all the supplies and medications necessary was not even anticipated by us before God arranged it. Authorization to build a private, Christian owned and operated hospital was the culmination of a nearly miraculous series of events only God could have orchestrated. Provision of land, development of the property, and the buildings constructed so far have all surpassed anything we originally imagined, because God has led and we have followed His plan, not our own. The assignment of Arnaldo, the nominal Muslim who was first to come to salvation and whose remarkable transformation qualifies him to serve today as pastor of our church, to be my constant surgical assistant from my first day on the job 12 years ago, can be nothing short of providential. The establishment of Comunhão dos Crentes and its acceptance as a recognized church in Mozambique was accomplished in ways that left little doubt about God’s hand in the matter. The way the Fiel conferences were birthed in Mozambique and how God has since blessed them confirm this new ministry is His doing, not our own. The details supporting these conclusions have been related in our newsletters and cannot be repeated here. But we give thanks to God that He has been pleased to lead as we seek to follow Him out of love for who He is and what He has done in saving us.
Devotion to the Brethren
We are committed to the importance of the local church. It is in and through the local church that God does His work. It is in the local church where believers are built up in the faith. It is in the local church where we learn to love and serve one another. God saves men through the preaching of His word, and it is in the local church where that word is proclaimed week in and week out. Thus, while medical work has been a sort of specialty with Grace Missions, and the medical ministry has frequently generated much excitement, our first priority has always been to serve the brethren through the local church.
God has granted us rich opportunities to develop this priority. In 1993, several men saved through the hospital evangelistic ministry and already involved in various congregations asked to form a church along the lines of what they were learning in our discipleship classes. In 1999, God was pleased to give us official recognition by the government, which opened many doors for increased ministry. Though the church work has been arduous and often disappointing, I am encouraged that God is building a strong spiritual nucleus that one day may bear the fruit we long for. I do not believe anyone could ask for a more devoted, pious brother than we have in Arnaldo, our national leader. Gustavo, our second leader, is another strong believer who has completed three years of Bible school. We are delighted to have another missionary, Richard Chiorino, who has joined us this year. Kwacha and Kondwane are now in seminary in South Africa and may return to us in four years. And this month God has sent us a dedicated Mozambican brother in Baptista Boa who has just finished training at the seminary where Kwacha and Kondwane are now studying. Surely these gifts to the church indicate that God will satisfy our desire for a congregation of transformed men and women through whom love to Him and love of the brethren may be abundantly seen.
Passion for Reaching the Lost
This clearly is a high priority with God and must be with us if we would please Him and experience His blessing in ministry. Ezekiel 33:11 says God has no pleasure in the destruction of the wicked, but rather in his repentance and salvation. Christ said there is more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 believers walking blamelessly. The wronged father falling upon the neck of his prodigal son as he returned home, kissing and embracing him, is the picture Christ gives us of God’s joy over the salvation of just one sinner. If we want to delight our Lord, we can focus on walking well in our daily life, minding all the spiritual rules we set for ourselves, even fueling our love and devotion to Him. But if we want to REALLY see rejoicing in heaven, we will strive to come before Him bringing a repentant sinner at our side.
This is the motive that drives the medical ministry. That arm of Grace Missions’ endeavor requires much effort and entails considerable expense. But it is worth it, not because bodies are healed, as worthwhile as that is. The great satisfaction and the great value of the work is seeing the gospel proclaimed to lost sinners with no prior inkling of spiritual truth who would never consider stepping inside a church. While Grace Missions supported the government hospital of Marrere thousands of people heard a full presentation of the gospel yearly. Never did a Sunday pass without an evangelistic service. Thousands of gospel portions were distributed and hundreds of Bibles were sold every year. We are hoping that in the future mission hospital the evangelistic ministry may be increased many fold. Because it is first and foremost a passion for reaching the lost that drives the medical-evangelistic ministry.
Concern for Practical Holiness
Seeing the lost come to salvation is only the beginning of the work. In the great commission Christ said we are not only to evangelize, but to teach “all those things which I commanded you.” However, the goal of instruction is not merely to fill our heads with truth. Specifically, the great commission says, “teaching them to OBSERVE all those things which I commanded you.”
Practical holiness is indispensable. Knowing the truth does not influence people for Christ. But practicing it does. Knowing the truth does not bring blessing into our lives. But practicing it does. Knowing the truth does not please our Creator. But practicing it does. And knowing the truth does not mark one out as a Christian. But practicing it does. The proof that we possess a genuine saving faith that comes from Christ is that we bear fruit, and do so with perseverance (Luke 8:15). Without practical holiness, scripture says, no man will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).
Churches that recognize this reality sometimes err in seeking to drum up a semblance of holiness through giving their adherents rules to observe. These rules may come straight out of scripture, but rules are not the way to produce holiness. That was the great delusion of the Pharisees. Thanks to their example, many of us are now able to recognize and avoid this error. But there is another, perhaps more sophisticated error, that today is replacing legalism in providing a false hope of generating holiness. In this error, the emphasis is no longer on rules, but on methods. Methods are not wrong in themselves, any more than rules are wrong. We each have rules that guide our decisions, and methods that help us carry them out. The error comes in thinking that applying the method, or adhering to the rule, produces holiness. Holiness does not come through methods today any more than it came through rules in the Pharisee’s day. Holiness comes through Christ living in us.
When Paul realized that his rules as a Pharisee were no use in producing the righteousness God required, he says in Philippians 3 that he tossed it all aside as rubbish. But his new preoccupation was not methods. It was “that I may know Him.” This is the desire we seek to awaken in our people, a desire to know Him. The root cause of sin and failure for believers is more to be found in our indifference to Christ than our lack of methods or rules. So we seek to bring about practical holiness through awakening a longing to know Christ living in us, and this by preaching a glorious Savior who brings us to an awesome and majestic God.
Watchfulness of Self
A final, personal principle pressed home to every missionary and church worker is that you cannot separate the man from the ministry. What we are is how we will serve. A weak Christian will have a powerless ministry. A carnal “Christian” will produce a carnal ministry. An unloving Christian will have a cold ministry. A selfish Christian will build an empire that revolves around himself rather than the Lord. A prayerless Christian will have a dull, insipid ministry where the divine hand is rarely seen.
Surely for these reasons Paul told Timothy to pay close attention to himself and to his teaching. It isn’t only what we teach but who we are that produces fruit, or weeds, in a ministry. We have seen this first hand in Nampula, and those reminders keep us calling to God to perfect the work He has begun – not just in the ministry, but first in the missionary!
These nine principles strongly influence the nature of our work in Nampula, as they influence any Christian ministry in accordance with how they are each perceived and applied. In our case, some of the principles are better expressed than they are practiced. However, the missionary reports of the past many years have already shown you where we have come so far. May this article clearly indicate where we are heading.