Some years ago a small group of well-meaning young missionaries wanted to plant a church in Mauritania. Before they departed for the field, an older missionary came to give them his best advice. He had worked there among the Muslim people for more than two decades with little results. As the old man spoke of the needs and opportunities, the team got more and more excited. Finally, their leader was unable to contain himself and jumped to his feet.
“I think I have a plan,” he said. “We go in fast … we go in hard, and we plant the church in 18 months!”
The team went wild with enthusiastic agreement.
When they finally settled down, the old missionary spoke again: “Pioneer evangelism and church planting is hard work. You need to learn the language, understand the culture, love the people, and most of all commit yourselves to Christ Himself and doing whatever it takes … for as long as it takes.”
“How long might it take?” asked the team leader.
“Probably a lot longer than 18 months,” answered the old man.
The team never went.
Noble dreams, ambitious vision, impressive ideas, strategic plans, and even our zealous efforts are simply not enough. Beyond all these, pioneer missionaries must remain committed to the living Christ Himself—heart and soul—and persevere day after day after day.
Pioneers’ passion is to glorify God by partnering with local churches to send missionaries to places and people of greatest spiritual need and least opportunity to know Christ. In places just like Mauritania, a needy desert country in Africa’s northwest corner, Islam has been entrenched for 1,000 years. Statistical reports say the country is 99.84% Muslim, and there is officially no freedom to convert to another religion. Yet, in obedience to Christ, and in the face of such overwhelming odds and impossibilities, a Pioneers team seeks to do whatever it takes … for as long as it takes to plant a church.
For many of our missionaries, so-called “success” in ministry is not found in quick results or the amount of visible fruit. More often, success is discovered in tough tilling of hardened soil, in the number of seeds of the gospel that are faithfully planted, and in a long incubation period during which the workers pray and trust God alone for a harvest—even if it is a future harvest viewed only with eyes of faith.
Jesus illustrated an important lesson about the Kingdom of Heaven in His parables about the mustard seed and yeast—it begins small and grows quietly. And almost without being noticed, it grows big. So also, the gospel and Christ’s Kingdom are working their way around the world to all people groups.
Pioneers holds unswervingly to ancient promises of a glorious future—that “the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” (Isaiah 11:9). “People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God” (Luke 13:29). Revelation 5:9 and 7:9 picture the victory of the cosmic battle of the ages as The redeemed of all nations, peoples, languages, tribes, will gather around the Lamb’s throne and worship King Jesus.
I like the way my colleague, Dr. Solomon Aryeetey, a medical doctor who led a Pioneers team among the Fulani Muslims in Mali and later started Pioneers-Africa, expressed it:
“Some say that Islam is a threat to the Church. No one threatens Jesus Christ. The God who said, ‘Let there be light’ and there was light has also said, ‘This gospel will be preached in all nations,’ and that will happen even in Saudi Arabia.”
Today we live in the Acts 29 era of Kingdom expansion, praying “Do it again, Lord, just as you did in the early Church.” Let us so live, then, as the first believers did. Committed to Christ. Committed to each other. Committed to seeing the task continued and completed among the unreached—whatever it takes … for as long as it takes.