William Carey: He won one soul in 7 years
10.0 Now let us consider certain critical dynamics of this topic. In the matter of soul-winning, I don’t think it should be a game of numbers. There are some terrains that can be more receptive than others. In many cases, especially in Mission fields, it may take more than one generation of labourers before tangible fruits are reaped.
William Carey is a household name in missionary exploits. He had the first convert after 7 years of intensive labor in India. It was through his God-prompted labour that Christianity reached India. He learned the Indian language with the assistance of a dictionary. He ended up recruiting more labourers for his field, together with whom he translated the Bible into 53 Indian dialects! What if he had given up in the sixth year.
11.0 Similarly, Adoniram Judson spent 7 years in Burma before the first convert was “caught”. Yet, God or angels did not descend on Burma. Mission to rural areas is not a beach party and more often those who venture into it are ill-prepared for the hardships and sacrifices involved. Mary Slessor of Aberdeen, to whom at about 27 years of age God gave a vision of the demon-infested Calabar in the late 19th century took the wild bull by the horns. In fact, some months before her wedding, she broke the engagement when her fiance, prince charming proposed that she would shift to his own field after their wedding. She told her fiance she could not because of marriage alter the vision God gave her. She remained single till she died in Calabar at 69.
John Geddi and his exploits
12.0 When John Geddi landed on a remote Island for mission work, there was no single believer in the town. When he set to return to his country twenty years later, there was no single unbeliever in the town. So, a lot of factors determine the “success” rate of pastors and missionaries in remote areas. Some of them can be classified as where only eagles dare. Even when the call is received and the vision is clear, one still does not go lackadaisically, as one going to shepherd a church in Banana Island.
13.0 In spite of his vision for mission to China, Dr. James Hudson Taylor deliberately went to study Medicine at Glasgow, so that he would be meeting the medical needs of the peasants alongside preaching. Even as a teenager, in anticipation of the hot climates in China, he commenced exposing his body to hot sunlight while still in the UK. And to cope with the hard life in China, he replaced the family’s soft comfortable bed with a hard-mattress type so as to toughen his body.
14.0 The saintly Arthur W. Pink remarked probably one out of ten even within the church is genuinely converted. I won’t dispute this assertion in view of my personal salvation experience. It took more than a dozen responses to altar calls before my real conversion. To support the fact that there can be occasions when one soul won to the Lord may be more beneficial to the kingdom than a hundred others. An old Scottish pastor was asked to resign because there was no conversion for the whole year.
In defense, the pastor responded that there was one conversion. It was a convert, who when the offering plate was passed on to him asked the usher to put the plate on the floor, then stepped into it with his bare feet saying, I’ll give myself, I have nothing else to give.
15.0 Guess what? That convert became the world-renowned Robert Moffat, who along with David Livingstone, gave his life for the healing of the open sore of Dark Africa.
To read the missionary labour of David Livingstone in the dark continent was like a nightmare. He toiled strenuously in spite of constant malaria fever due to mosquito bites. When he was not heard of for nearly a decade, a first-rate organization in collaboration with the American government organized a ship in search of him. When later found, he was like a ruckle of bones but he refused to accompany the ship back to civilization. Years later, he was found on his knees in the heart of the jungle of Africa, but dead
Types of church growth
16.0 Now let us come to terms with the four basic types of church growth:
* Expansion Growth– this is about the numerical increase of membership in a local church.
* Internal Growth– this is about marked and observable heightening of the spiritual content of the flocks in the local church.
* Extension Growth– in which new churches are planted some distance away within the locality of the parent church.
* Bridge Growth– in which new churches are planted in places quite remote from the parent church, say in another local government area and beyond.
17.0 All four above are necessary, but it is the internal growth that determines subsequent inheritors of the Millennial Kingdom and the ultimate New Jerusalem. However, there are about twelve dynamic strategies in Church Planting that can be put in place to advance each of the four basic types of church growth. We need not delve into details of those.
But I can say it for free without demanding for offerings or sowing seeds that it is an aberration for a local church to attempt or advance to the third or fourth type of church planting before maturity in the second.
18.0 It is not miracles per se that mature the local church but life-impacting teachings. About fifteen years ago, a colleague, Pastor D.O. visited me. This pastor operates to a large extent in power gifts. He told me that he came to pick another colleague of mine, Pastor Kolawole, a resident within my estate, who is gifted in Teaching as a ministry gift, to his own church in Lekki, to support in teaching his members. This, he was doing weekly then. He admitted to me that he had realized that miracles, signs, and wonders in themselves do not grow a church spiritually.
19.0 And let us please note that essentially, teachers and preachers who tend only to massage the ego or stir the emotions without drawing people’s hearts in steady progress towards conformity to the image of Christ wouldn’t grow the church.
One may compare the average preaching we often hear to the classic Sermon on the Mount in Chapters 5-7. And it is food for thought to relate the popular texts of sermons delivery to the thrust in Luke 14: 33, Colossians 3: 1-2, Galatians 2:20, and such like.