Development Strategies for Long-term Poverty Alleviation

la semilla ministries

I want to take you to the village of Berlin of Diriamba, Nicaragua. In a clearing in the lush tropical forest is an area of crop production – beans mostly, the staple food source for Nicaragua’s poor. Backbreaking labor of preparing the land with machete and axe, oxen plowing certain fields, threshing of mature crops with wooden poles…’s like being transported back to an ancient time.

In 2014 La Semilla Ministries began working with one producer, Juan Manuel in his production of 1.5 acres of beans. His yield on average was eight sacks. Sustainable change takes time and investment but through the diligence of our agronomist for that area, over a period of 3 years Juan’s yields grew to an average twenty-eight sacks from that same 1.5 acres. Juan was very encouraged and shared his successes. He shared with his family by making improvements to their home. He joined the village church and helped put a roof on their modest structure. He encouraged his neighbors to get involved with La Semilla and implement new agricultural technologies. He hosted bible studies in his home. Now in 2023, everyone of the eighteen farmers in the community of Berlin are active participants in La Semilla agriculture programs. Juan himself has expanded is now growing seven acres of mixed crops for a diversified, stable income.

My wife Leslee and I have been working as EFCC missionaries in Nicaragua since 2010, leading La Semilla Ministries which focuses on integrated agriculture development. Wow, that’s a mouthful, right?! Sounds technical, difficult. Well yes, it’s both of those things, but also a bit logical and practical. Here is our ministry vision in a nutshell: Attending to the practical financial needs of rural Nicaraguan families, we use a technical agriculture program (led and taught by our Nicaraguan agronomist team) of quality seed, proper nutrition, and crop care products to help increase yields and family incomes. Each of our five agronomists have about eighty producers to attend to and form a bond, a relationship with. As much as each agronomist teaches about agriculture, they teach as clearly about faith – how we can apply Biblical principles to everyday life and situations. This relationship is used to encourage attendance at workshops, bible studies and seminars led by our two pastoral couples on staff to lead each farmer and their family into faith in God through Jesus, or to grow in their faith.

La Semilla Ministries is encouraging spiritual growth through practical interactions leading farmers and their families to local churches local churches get involved with La Semilla to reach more of their communities through targeted ag-related evangelism strategies.

So, can agriculture development lead to poverty alleviation? YES! God has a plan and purpose for each of our lives! Poverty exists as material but there is also poverty of relationships, of faith in God, of low self-esteem. Our development strategies touch on each of these issues. God is using our team to grow His Kingdom! God is using our team to share the Love of Jesus in practical ways!

In Berlin of Diriamba we’ve made a difference! Ag production has increased. Incomes have improved and stabilized. Young people see a future in agriculture. We’ve hosted numerous workshops and Bible studies, where many farmers and their families are engaged for their spiritual growth. Imagine: Juan, Alicia, Jose, Leonardo, Isabela, Melvis, Abraham, Carolina…….and hundreds more farmers experiencing the love and grace of Jesus through expanded crop production! Amazing God, how you draw people to yourself!



Rob & Leslee Oudman
ServeBeyond Mission Associates in Nicaragua

Leadership is a Calling

leadership is a calling

The Bible discusses the means for the church to accomplish its God-given tasks. The Bible describes these means as spiritual gifts, one of which is the gift of leadership. The spiritual gift of leadership appears in Romans 12:8 and 1 Corinthians 12:28. Leadership is an essential part of the success of churches and mission organizations.

Leadership in church or organizational development is essential. Leadership is so important that everything rises and falls with leadership in organizations. The more skillful and effective the leadership, the better the organization runs and the more the potential for growth increases. David showed us how he developed as a leader. In Psalm 78:72 David “shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them.” Biblical leadership involves character and competence.

What does it look like for someone who has a gift of spiritual leadership? People with spiritual gift of leadership recognize that their position is by appointment of the Lord and is under His direction.

They understand that they are not absolute rulers but are themselves subject or accountable to the One who is over them all, the Lord Jesus who is the head of the church. Recognizing that the gifted Christian leader is subject to Christ, he can be prevented from succumbing to pride or a sense of entitlement. Like the apostle Paul, truly gifted Christian leader recognizes that he is but a slave of Christ and a servant of those he leads. A gifted Christian leader also recognizes that God has called him to his position and has not called himself (1 Corinthians 1:1). His call is by the will of God.

One of the gifted leaders in the early church is James, the half brother of our Lord. He led the church in Jerusalem. He referred to himself as a “servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (James 1:1). As a gifted leader, James exhibited the ability to sway others to think rightly, biblically, and godly in all matters.

At the Jerusalem Council, James dealt with the controversial issue of how to relate to Gentiles coming to faith in Jesus the Messiah. “And after they had become silent, James answered, saying, ‘Men and brethren, listen to me: Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His Name’” (Acts 15:13-14). With that opening statement, James led the delegates to think clearly and biblically, enabling them to come to a right decision on this issue (Acts 15:22-29).

As shepherds of God’s people, gifted leaders lead with diligence and possess the ability to discern true spiritual needs from “felt” needs. They lead others to maturity in the faith. The Christian leader leads others to grow in their ability to discern for themselves that which comes from God versus that which is cultural or temporary. Following Paul’s example, the church leader’s words are not “wise and persuasive” from the viewpoint of human wisdom but are filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, leading and encouraging others to rest their faith on that very power (1Corinthians 2:4-6). The goal of the gifted leader is to guard and guide those he leads “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).

The spiritual gift of leadership is given by God to men and women who will help the church to grow and thrive. God has given the gift of leadership not to exalt men but to glorify Himself when believers use His gifts to do His will.

Ike Agawin
ServeBeyond Director

Obeying the Call of Jesus to Make Disciples of All Nations

obeying the call of Jesus

In October 2017, Barna released a study[1] asking a thousand church-going evangelical[2] believers, “Have you ever heard of the Great Commission?” The study’s results were shocking: 51% said they had never heard of it. And alarmingly, another 25% said they thought they had heard of it but did not know what it meant. Only 17% of the people could say they had heard of it and knew what it was about.

The command of Jesus in Matthew 28: 18-20 is to make disciples. This is normally called the Great Commission. It is interesting that if you study the life of Christ, you will discover that each of the four gospels, plus the book of Acts, has that commission recorded in unique ways. In John 20:21, Jesus said, “just as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” Here we have His model of the mission. If you look at Mark 15:16, Jesus commanded His disciples to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” Here we have the magnitude of that commission. In Luke 24:47, Jesus again commanded His disciples that “repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” Here we have the message of the mission. And then, if we go to Acts 1:8, Jesus said – “but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and Samaria, and as far as the remotest part of the earth,” here we have the means of the Great Commission.

But in Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus is showing us the method of the Great Commission, the most precise approach of Jesus and how He made disciples.

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

The central command in this text is to Make Disciples. If you ask pastors and Church leaders what the command in Matthew 28 is, almost half will say that the imperative is to go to evangelize and count decisions for Christ. But in Greek, the command is not to go but to make disciples who make disciples.

But how should we make disciples? The three participles are to go, literally, as you go – as you go to work, as you go to school, etc., it’s an everyday commission for every believer of Christ in every moment of their life. And then He said to baptize. Baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Baptism is an external expression of a new internal belief system. Go is to win the lost; baptize is to root and establish these believers in their newfound faith like Jesus did with His early disciples. In baptism, new believers identify with the work of Christ and the mission of Christ. And lastly, teach them to obey all that Jesus has commanded them.

In the life of Christ, there are 405 commands. 260 plus of them is disciple-making commands.

Teaching them to obey means equipping them in every area of their life to walk as Jesus walked.

So, the commission is clear: to make disciples. How? By going, baptizing and teaching to obey. Jesus commanded the Church, then and now, to make disciples. The Church is God’s instrument in fulfilling the task of discipling the nations. There’s no plan B.

While the churches in Asia, Africa and Latin America are rapidly multiplying, the Church in Canada is in decline. The latest survey by the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada[3] indicates that in 1996 Canada was 12 percent evangelical Christian. In 2015, Canada was 9 percent evangelical Christian. Today, the number of evangelicals in Canada dropped even further to 6 percent.

Worldwide, missiologists and mission researchers estimate that one-third of the world’s population, which represents 2.6 billion, are still unreached because the Church in the reached areas is not sending missionaries to them. The significant imbalance of missions is that most missionaries go to and are sent to reached areas of the world – regions where the Church already exists, and the name of Jesus is known. On the flip side, there are very few missionaries working among the remaining unreached people groups who have yet to hear the name of Jesus.

Are you making disciples who make disciples as Christ commanded? Are our churches and denominations making disciples in Canada and beyond? Jesus is calling the Church to obey what He commanded us to do – to make disciples who make disciples. May we be obedient to His call to disciple all the nations of the earth, beginning in our Jerusalem.

Ike Agawin
ServeBeyond Director

[1] Barna, Translating the Great Commission Survey 2018 [2] Evangelicals are believers in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and take the Bible seriously, not a political and religious identity. [3] Faith Today,

Called to be On Mission with God

called to be on mission w God

What is the Biblical calling of the Church? Depending on their giftings and agenda, this question has different answers to diverse Christians and leaders. But throughout history, the calling of the Church has been defined and shaped too often by its cultural context.

To answer this question biblically, we need to look at the biblical story. As we examine the Scripture closely, the biblical calling of the Church is to be on mission with God. Being on mission with God is the very essence and identity of the Church as it takes up its role in God’s story in the context of its culture and participates in God’s mission to the world.

In the biblical story, beginning in the Old Testament, there is an expectation that God’s people be involved in His mission to the world. The account begins with Abraham’s call (v. 3 – And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed) in Genesis 12 and continues in Exodus 19:3-6, showing that God calls his people to live in holiness and be a blessing to all nations and creation.

And Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, “This is what you shall say to the house of Jacob and tell the sons of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.” (Exodus 19:3-6)

God also made it clear that the calling of the nation of Israel, God’s people in the Old Testament, is to be a light of the nations. Isaiah 49:6 says, “It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the protected ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations so that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

While Israel’s history shows God working in their context to enable them to be on mission with Him, each stage in Israel’s story produced failure. By the time of Jesus, the Jews basically hated the Gentiles, seeking separation from them rather than being a light to them.

In the New Testament, from the Gospel accounts, Jesus’ ministry was a call to Israel to renew its role to bring salvation to the nations. Yet they still failed Him. The death and resurrection of Jesus are the means by which the community of believers, which becomes the Church, is empowered to be on mission with God and live a distinctive life that leads to not just individual salvation but to the creation of transformed communities of disciples in all places.

The Church in Acts is the continuation of the ministry of Jesus through the Holy Spirit as a witness of God’s work in Jesus to the whole world. The calling of the Church to be on mission with God is found in Luke 24, Matthew 28, Acts 1:8 and other “Great Commission” passages. In the Epistles, the writings of the Apostle Paul reflect the missional nature of the calling of God’s people. As the people of God in the New Testament, Paul linked the Church to the work of Christ and the Holy Spirit as God’s way to share the message of salvation through Jesus.

The Church is to live holy lives to attract and be missionary people to carry the message to others.

Peter reiterated the calling of the people of God in 1 Peter 2:9, But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. (cf. Exodus 19:5-6)

The biblical calling of the Church is to participate in the mission of God. This is our identity and the very essence of the Church. Let’s reclaim and obey our biblical calling for the glory of God.

Ike Agawin
ServeBeyond Director

Leading with Love

leading with love

The Bible is a book of love. The Apostle John summarized the story of the gospel in John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son.” The story of the gospel is the most incredible love story ever told. Because God loves us, we are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31). Loving God and others is a requirement upon all true believers, particularly Christian leaders, pastors and missionaries. Christian leaders are to lead in love.

When addressing leadership competencies, leaders do not typically focus on love. Many excellent materials have been written describing leadership qualities like courage, charisma, conviction, visionary thinking, self-discipline, decisiveness, and many others. Yet little literature is written about leading in love. The New Testament makes it clear that love is indispensable to the gift of leadership. The New Testament mandates that spiritual gifts are to be exercised in love. The Apostle Paul states that any attempt at leading apart from love is like “a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1). A church leader with excellent leadership skills and qualities but not love is bound to fail (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).

When leaders are lovers of God and people, their followers will likely be lovers of God and people.

If leaders are self-centered, critical, proud, angry and impersonal, the people will adopt these ugly inclinations.

The Scripture insists that leaders be examples of love. 1 Timothy 4:12 says, “Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.” Love is vital to the local church and essential to its evangelistic witness to the world and spiritual growth for the true believers in Christ. Ephesians 4:15-16 therefore, command us to “15…speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, that is, Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”

Leading with love pleases our Lord. Let us grow our love for the Lord and others as we lead in our circle of influence. Love is indispensable to you as a leader and to your ministry.

Ike Agawin
ServeBeyond Director

Finishing Well in Leadership

finishing well in leadership

“Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” (Matthew 25:23)

Every leader would want to hear this commendation from the Lord at the end of their time here on earth. Every leader wants to finish well.

But in Dr. J. Robert Clinton’s research on biblical leaders, historical leaders, and contemporary leaders, he concluded that few leaders finish well. About one in every three leaders finishes well. We can observe this in the Bible; even today, many Christian leaders fall from grace and do not finish well.

We know very well why many Christian leaders do not finish well. I John 2: 16 tells us that the lust of the flesh (illicit sex), the lust of the eyes (abuse of money) and the pride of life (power & pride) are the common causes of the downfall of leaders. However, in Dr. Clinton’s study, he outlined six characteristics of effective leaders who finish well, lessons we can all learn from.

Six Characteristics of Leaders who finished well[1]

  1. Leaders who finished well maintained a vibrant personal relationship with God right up to the end.
    Daniel in the Old Testament and Peter, John and Paul in the New Testament demonstrated this in the tone of their writings. They all demonstrated the touch of God, the revelation from God and their trust in the enabling grace of God in their lives that made them finish well.
  1. Leaders who finished well maintained a learning posture and can learn from various sources – life especially.
    They continued to study and learn from the Scriptures and were life-long learners. Futurist Alvin Toffler once said, “The illiterates of the future are not those who can’t read or write but those who cannot learnunlearn, and relearn.”
  1. Leaders who finished well manifest Christlikeness in character as evidenced by the fruit of the Spirit in their lives.
    In the New Testament, for example, we note the evidence of character transformation in the life of the Apostle Paul. Over his lifetime, Paul moved from a strong personality with roughness in his leadership style to a strong personality with gentleness.
  1. Leaders who finished well lived out the truth in their lives so that convictions and promises of God are seen to be real.
    Joshua’s statement about God’s promises having never failed him in his closing speech demonstrates this characteristic of someone believing God and staking his life on God’s truth. (Joshua 23.14).
  1. Leaders who finished well left behind one or more ultimate contributions.
    Effective leaders left behind lasting legacies.
  1. Leaders who finished well walked with a growing awareness of a sense of destiny and see some or all of it fulfilled.
    Over a lifetime, a leader is prepared by God for a destiny, receives guidance toward that destiny, and increasingly completes that destiny. No biblical leader who accomplished much for God failed to have a sense of destiny, one that usually grew over his lifetime.

These are some of the characteristics of leaders who finish well. Finishing well in leadership involves intentionality in the leader’s life. It just does not happen by chance. Above all, God is also the One who develops the leader over his lifetime. Leadership evolves and emerges over a lifetime. Leadership is a lifetime of God’s lessons. This is why Dr. Robert J. Clinton defines leadership as a process rather than a formal position:

Leadership is a dynamic process in which a man or woman of God with God-given capacity influences a specific group of God’s people toward His purposes for the group.[2]

Do you want to finish well as a leader? We can learn from these characteristics. The Apostle Paul warns us in I Corinthians 10:12 – “Therefore let the one who thinks he stands, watch out that he does not fall.” This is a piece of sound advice for us all.

Ike Agawin
ServeBeyond Director

[1] Clinton, Robert J. The Making of a Leader: Recognizing the Lessons and Stages of Leadership Development, 2nd ed. (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2012). p. 204-207
[2] Ibid, p. 10.

How Jesus Made Disciples

how Jesus made disciples

Many Christians and churches in North America do not reproduce themselves. Nearly four thousand churches close every year in North America. Ed Stetzer estimates that 70% to 80% of all evangelical churches in the U.S. have either stopped growing or are in decline![1] The main reason is this: North America’s church is not reproducing. In contrast, the church in the global south (Asia, Africa, and Latin America) is exploding in number simply because they are reproducing. The Disciple Making Movement (DMM) that we hear about in North America is based on the experience of the disciple-making movements in the global south. We need to learn from the global south and our Lord Jesus how existing churches in North America can become a reproducing disciple-making movement once again.

The ultimate goal of discipleship is to reproduce disciples with the gospel through developing disciple-making leaders and church planters.

Reproduction ensures that a movement will live past its founding stages. The church was never intended to be an end in itself; instead, it is called to reproduce and fulfill the Great Commission to make disciples. Reproduction is the goal of every living thing. We see this throughout the pages of the Bible. The Bible is full of reproductive language. God created humankind, animals, and plants to reproduce. Reproduction is also seen in Jesus’s agricultural language throughout the gospels.

The Evangelical Free Church of the Philippines has a vision of planting two hundred churches in the Philippines and internationally, including Canada and the U.S., by 2026. The Evangelical Free Church of Canada is part of this exciting project. To put it simply, their plan is for each local church to reproduce, at least to plant one church within four years!

Intentionally reproducing disciples’ results from selecting, training, and empowering leaders and church planters who will reproduce themselves in others. This begins locally with the church and then can take place on a larger scale through the reproduction of church plants regionally and internationally. You and I can be a part of a 21st-century disciple-making movement that can change our world for Christ. Let us reproduce and multiply!

Ike Agawin
ServeBeyond Director

[1] Ed Stetzer and Mike Dodson, Comeback Churches: How 300 Churches Turned Around and Yours Can Too (Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing, 2007), p.18

The Methodology of Mission – Making Disciples

the methodology of mission

Our Lord Jesus tells His disciples what the specific task of mission is to be:

19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to follow all that I commanded you, and behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

This is the focal point of the Great Commission. The highest priority of Jesus’ mission is evangelism. Jesus tells what specific outcome evangelism is to have – making disciples. What that means and how it is to be done is clarified by Jesus.

An examination of Matthew 28:19-20 shows that this Scripture text consists of four verbs. It consists of an imperative tied to three accompanying participles. The central imperative or command is not the first verb to “go” but “make disciples.” The centerpiece of Jesus’ command is the making of disciples.

How is disciple-making to be done?

Jesus tells His disciples that making other disciples is a three-step process: first, by going to those who had no exposure to the gospel; second, by calling them into a relationship with Jesus that culminates in baptism; and third, by teaching them to observe Jesus’ commands.

All three activities – going, baptizing, and teaching – are necessary components of transformational or real-life discipleship. When done correctly, lives are genuinely changed. This is the ultimate objective of disciple-making – the transformation of lives.

However, the greatest omission of the Great Commission worldwide is the lack of changed lives. All too often, decisions and proselytes are made instead of disciples.

When this happens, churches are filled with bodies that exhibit little evidence of changed beliefs and behaviors. This results in spiritually apathetic “believers” who deteriorate into nominal Christians. And nominal Christians, although wearing the tag “Christian,” are not Christ-followers at all. They are superficial followers of Christ in need of conversion experience.

It is incumbent on every disciple of Christ to reproduce themselves and to engage in the process of making disciples that have the transformation of lives as the final goal. Only then are people genuinely disciples of Christ. Only then is the intended outcome of the Great Commission achieved among all nations.

Ike Agawin
ServeBeyond Director

Rebuilding Our Vision for Ministry

rebuilding our vision for ministry

Vision is crucial for organizational and leadership success. Without a clear vision, leaders and organizations will stagnate and go nowhere. If leaders do not see where they are going, they are unlikely to get there.

Vision can serve as a True North for organizations and help leaders keep their bearings as they lead their people forward. Any organization with no clear vision of where it is going is in danger of mission drift and being sidetracked and failing to accomplish its purpose. A leader or an organization without a vision to serve is at risk of becoming self-serving.

Helen Keller was once asked, “What would be worse than being born blind”? She replied, “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.”

A clear and compelling vision is critical for leaders and organizations. But where do ministry leaders get their vision?

I once led a national mission organization and was expected to have my vision to move the organization forward. There was tremendous pressure for me to come up with a personal vision. It was very stressful, especially when my vision did not match other leaders’ visions. Leaders are expected to generate a vision, envision a desirable future for their organization, and then develop a plan to achieve the results. The leader is responsible for interpreting the rapid global changes around them and looking into the future to determine the best approach for their organizations.

But God does not ask His leaders and followers to operate this way. When it comes to vision, no statement is more frequently quoted or misquoted by many Christian and non-Christian leaders than King Solomon’s famous observation: “Where there is no vision, the people perish (Proverbs 29:18 KJV). A more accurate translation in Hebrew is, “Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint (Proverbs 29:18 NIV). People come up with a vision, while revelation is something people receive.

Great leaders can dream a vision but cannot discover God’s will. God must reveal it. Leaders who ignore God’s will project their vision and accomplish their own agendas.

Great leaders in the Bible like Abraham, Moses, David, Paul, and Peter received visions from God. Abraham did not become the father of many nations because he had a vision for it. God called him and revealed God’s vision to him. Abraham obeyed and led with God’s vision. Moses became the deliverer of Israel not because he had a leader-generated vision. God revealed to Moses His vision to deliver His people from Pharaoh. Moses obeyed and ran with God’s vision. It was not Paul’s vision to become the Apostle to the Gentiles. He persecuted the Church, but God called him on the road to Damascus. God revealed His vision to Paul. Paul obeyed and embraced God’s vision. Great leaders in the Bible did not come up with their vision. They did not create their vision. God revealed His vision to them. They obeyed, and God’s vision was their vision.

God has revealed His vision for the Church in Revelation 7:9-10:

After these things, I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all the tribes, peoples, and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes and palm branches were in their hands; 10 and they cried out with a loud voice, saying,

“Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”

This is God’s vision for the Church, and He calls His leaders to obey and run with His vision to become a reality. Today, God’s vision has not changed. As we rebuild our vision for ministry in the 21st century, let us renew and rebuild our vision with God’s vision.

Ike Agawin
ServeBeyond Director

Building and Rebuilding the Foundation of Mission

building and rebuilding the foundation of mission

Japan is located in the world’s most active earthquake zone. Because of the many seismic activities that happen every year, constructing a skyscraper in Japan is a work of engineering. It is said that the foundation is the most critical aspect of building a skyscraper in Japan. The building foundation is very deep and made of cylinders of concrete, steel, or both that penetrate the earth until they reach a stable bedrock layer to prevent the building from sinking or toppling in an earthquake. The higher the building, the deeper the foundation.

The Lord has given the Body of Christ, a mandate for mission. It is essential to have a good foundation if we were to accomplish the task the Lord has commissioned us to do. There are critically important foundations the Church needs to recapture to build and rebuild. To do mission successfully, there are four essential foundations that we need to consider:

1. Biblical Foundation

The actual word mission is not found in the Bible. Neither are familiar words like trinity or rapture. These are all terms that represent concepts that are present in the Bible. However, we cannot study mission in the Scripture by looking at a concordance, though all Christians would agree that the concept of mission is in the Bible.

If mission is not in the concordance, are there direct ways to trace it? Are there other words that we can study? Is mission merely a minor theme in Scripture, or is it of major significance? Many Christians assume that mission begins with Jesus in Matthew 28:19-20: 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. Jesus gave these clear marching orders to His followers before returning to His father. Yet, if we seriously examine the Bible, God gave these marching orders from the very beginning – in Genesis, all the way to Revelation.

Therefore, if the global mission is a topic of serious biblical concern, it should appear before Jesus’ last moments on earth. The Old Testament contains 75% of the Scriptures. Is mission found in the Old Testament? On the other hand, if mission is God’s “big idea” throughout the Bible, why don’t we preach and teach about it and talk about it more often? In our study of the Word, wouldn’t we have noticed such an important topic? Only very few theologians actually expound on such an idea.

Mission is more than just a minor addendum to God’s overall intent. Nor an optional ministry department in the Church. Mission is the very reason written Scripture needed to be given to us in the first place.

We need a missional reading of the Scripture using missional hermeneutics as our tools in developing a Biblical foundation for mission.

2. Historical Foundation

The presence of a mission mandate throughout Scripture becomes visible once we know what to look for. When this is understood, the mission theme connects Scripture into a meaningful whole. The Bible emerges as a singularly focused book instead of a seemingly scattered collection of laws, stories, poetry and chronologies. God’s goal is to reveal Himself not only to Israel but also to the nations. When His intention to reach all nations becomes clear, the Bible fits together sensibly and purposely.

If mission is the focus of all Scripture, then it must also become our focus. By studying biblical history with this understanding, we see these principles worked out in real time and human space. Looking at history in light of God’s global objectives transforms our view of what happened and why. A study of events that formerly seemed dry, dull, and tedious is now filled with relevant lessons.

3. Strategic Foundation

God is accomplishing His worldwide mission and instructing His kingdom people to join Him. His desire to reconcile nations to His loving rule is the primary moving force behind all history. Each of us has a part to play until His mission is completed. Having comprehended His plan in Scripture, we now move to the next step: finding our part and carrying it out in obedience to Him.

With a daring and dangerous charge before us, we need clear and well-thought-out plans and strategies. Some people think that having a strategy might prevent them from being led by the Lord or that it might put them in the position of “running ahead” of God’s will. But God is a strategic God. Made in His image, we are called to be strategic people. Rightly understood, strategies can come from Him and be used by Him. We must determine where the least-evangelized peoples are and then begin to strategize to reach them.

4. Cultural Foundation

Our mission foundations received light from many insights. First, God desires to reach all nations of the world with His truth. Next, He is working through the ages toward that end. Then He desires that His people connect with the remaining unreached peoples. Now we come to the challenge of culture.

Each of the people group who needs to receive God’s message has their unique way of life, its own distinct mode of operating, and its own ideas and stories. From their history, circumstances, and experiences, they have developed their particular culture. Simply reciting John 3:16 in their language will not suffice.

Missionaries shared John 3:16 in many animistic cultures, but people from these cultures were not concerned about love. They were concerned about protection from the spirit world, and until their needs were addressed, the gospel message was not of interest. When people from animistic cultures learned that Jesus had power over the spirit world, the message had value.

To successfully reach people from all nations in Canada and beyond, we must build or rebuild these four critical foundations for mission. Together as a Church, we can finish the global mission task in our generation!

Ike Agawin
ServeBeyond Director

Rebuilding the Church’s Missional Identity

rebuilding the missional identity of the church

Dr. Darrel Guder coined the word “missional” in His book, “Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America.” In that book, he chose the term “missional” to talk about the missionary nature of the Church, that mission is not a program of the Church but rather the essence, purpose, action and character of the Church, all wrapped up in this larger understanding of God as a missionary God. God is engaged in the mission of redeeming all of creation and has commissioned His Church, the Grand Collective, to be on mission with Him.

Unfortunately, the term “missional” became so popular and became a cliché in our churches today. “Missional” seems to be used to describe almost anything. We have missional communities, leadership, cohorts, cafes, and countless books which claim it in a title. The term became a fad or an attempt for relevance in our current ecclesial environment. There is no end to problematic use of the word especially to imply that if everything is mission, then nothing is mission.

But the term “missional” is still significant and crucial in our understanding of our missional identity as God’s people. The call to be missional is also timely because of the significant changes that have been happening in our world today. There had been a shared consensus among theologians and missiologists that we are living through the end of Christendom in the West, and yet we are still living as though Christendom were intact.

The context where the Church is located has already changed. We live in a society marked by religious pluralism, ethnic diversity, and cultural relativism, yet we are not doing enough to reach our next-door neighbour.

We know Acts 1:8, which commands us to be God’s witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and the ends of the earth. Yet, the reality is that Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth are now in one place, and frontier missions can now be done right where we are! God has sovereignly brought many unreached people groups right on our doorsteps (Acts 17: 26-27), yet very little outreach is done among them. We now live in the glocal (global and local) era where the paradigm of global and local mission exists together.

In light of this present context, the call to be missional is as urgent as ever. If God is a missionary God, it follows that God’s people, the Church, are also missionary. In the Triune God, God the Father sent His Son to the world on a mission to redeem His creation; Jesus sent the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is sending the Church to the world on mission with God. Jesus said, “Just as the Father has sent Me, I also send you (John 20:21). That is the Church’s missional identity in Jesus.

The question is, how do we rebuild our missional identity?

First, we need to have broader mission theology that will help us define our missional identity in Christ. In the past, there was no theological framework that could provide the basis for mission. Systematic Theology and Biblical Theology are good, but they are inadequate. As you can observe in most Bible Colleges and Seminaries today, mission theology is not being taught. Missional identity development should be an intentional effort of the Church and needs to be emphasized in the discipleship process in our local churches.

Secondly, our missional identity begins with recovering a missionary understanding of God. By His very nature, God is a “sending God” who takes the initiative to redeem His creation. Understanding the Missio Dei will cause us to redefine our understanding of the Church. Because the Church is comprised of the “sent” people of God, the Church is the instrument of God’s mission in the world. However, most people believe that mission is just an instrument of the Church, a means by which the Church is grown. Although Christians frequently say, “The church has a mission,” but according to missional theology (Alan Hirsch), a correct statement would be “the mission has a church.” This understanding is essential in rebuilding our missional identity.

Thirdly, “missional” or “missional living” is a Christian term that describes a missionary lifestyle. Being missional includes embracing the posture, thinking, behaviours, and practices of a missionary to reach others with the message of the gospel. The basic premise of this thinking is that all Christians should be involved in the Great Commission of Jesus as commanded in Matthew 28:19-20.

And fourthly, to rebuild our missional identity, we need to understand that the Church is sent to every culture wherever they may be found. The scope of the imperative to make disciples is to all nations – (Grk. panta ta ethne in Matthew 28:19-20). We are to engage the nations with the gospel locally and globally.

The task of reaching the nations for Christ often feels overwhelming and insurmountable. Nevertheless, God has gifted people in local churches to fill every need and conquer every obstacle. The task of reaching the world can only be accomplished by renewing Paul’s vision of developing every Christian for his or her place in God’s kingdom. This can be done by developing or rebuilding the missional identity of local church members so that they as a church can represent Jesus to the world by “attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13).

Ike Agawin
ServeBeyond Director

The End of Mission

the end of mission

Some people believe that mission is over. Jesus said in Matthew 24:14 that “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.” The Gospel has indeed been preached to all the countries of the world, but Jesus is referring to the nations – the ethnic or people groups with their distinct cultures and languages. Almost half of the world’s population, representing many people groups, are yet to hear the Gospel.1 The Gospel has not been preached to them. Mission is not over, and the task of world evangelization is still in effect for the Church. But when will mission end?

Throughout the Book of Revelation, John records his vision and revives the confidence of the Churches in the certainty of the spread of the Gospel throughout all the nations. Persecutions and slaughter cannot stop the spread of the Gospel until all that dwell on earth has heard. The song of the twenty-four elders addressed to the Lamb of God celebrates the redemption of men from all nations. They are redeemed out of all peoples of God’s purpose: He has “made them a Kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth” (Rev. 5:10). In another vision, John sees “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people, and language” in worship before the throne of God (Rev. 7:9). Representatives of all nations will be there in heaven worshipping the Lord and thus fulfill God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 12. This is where history ends. God is moving all history towards the completion of world evangelization.

In Revelation 21:24, John describes his vision in heaven “The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendour into it. The glory and honour of the nations will be brought into it (v. 26). The worship of God by people from every nation, tribe, people, and language will bring the highest glory to God! This should be our guiding vision of ultimate purpose, that God would be most glorified in every people by a movement of obedience and worship to Christ.

This multicultural worship in heaven will happen because this is God’s unchanging purpose on earth.

We read in Hebrews 6:17-18 the two unchanging purposes of God; (1) To bless Abraham and his descendants, and (2) To bless all peoples or nations of the earth through His descendants or seed. So, between Abraham in Genesis 12 to the worship in heaven by all the nations of the world in the Book of Revelation is mission. The worship in heaven and the completion of God’s promise to Abraham will only be realized through missions.

The Book of Revelation closes with a vision of new heaven, new earth, and the eternal city in which the Lord Himself is the Light. There once more, we meet the nations. In the new Paradise is the tree of life with leaves for the healing of the nations (Rev. 22:2). And so, history is complete. Mission is over. The nations, the families of the earth who have always been the object of God’s love, redeemed and preserved, have a place in God’s creation. The Lord will be their light, and they shall reign forever and ever (Rev. 22:5).

Ike Agawin
EFCC International Mission Director