What do we mean by "theologically"?
Paul admonished his disciple Titus to “teach what accords with sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1). But the problem for most is that you cannot teach what you do not know. What we traditionally think of as seminary curriculum, i.e. the biblical languages, systematic and biblical theology, in-depth exegesis of Old and New Testament books, church history, and hermeneutics, are all crucial and highly valuable areas of study for a church planter or pastor called to the ministry.
A pastor or church leader will be faced with hard questions, such as how do I overcome a hopeless addiction to pornography? I have been unemployed for over six months, how do I tell my wife? My marriage is falling apart and my husband says he is leaving me, what do I do? I am losing my teenager, nothing I say can get through to him, what do I do? I love God with all my heart, but I’m also attracted to the same sex, what does that mean? Why am I so angry? I know what the Bible says, but I just can’t believe that God loves me. When faced with these tough situations and questions, a firm grounding and rooting in the truth of God’s Word is absolutely necessary for setting parameters and guidelines to work through these difficulties. Though not a fail-safe solution to all ministerial problems, a seminary level education can provide the necessary tools for a pastor to dig into Scripture, historical theology, and critically process these situations with those under their care.
But should we expect these leaders to pack up their families and belongings to journey to the US, where they must study in a new language, culture, and racial context? Many areas in South America do have small seminaries and bible institutes. However, they are unable to keep up with the growing demand to reach the tens of thousands of new leaders necessary to continue growing the church. So our distribution of materials and training will help them produce their own scholars and academics. Partnering with existing ministries is one core facet of our team. As boots on the ground to champion these materials, we can provide essential feedback to further contextualize their resources. All of this will be done with the long-term vision of having the church in Argentina as an active theological voice in the greater Latin American context of God’s Kingdom.
What do we mean by "ministerially"?
A gospel-centered emphasis within a Christ-like approach to discipleship produces a methodology of training church planters/pastors that includes the academic facet of theology, but also places equal importance on the practical realm of ministry. In the traditional academic setting of theological education, namely a seminary, the emphasis has been on the content. For the most part, seminaries assume a posture toward the professor-student relationship similar to any other institution of higher learning. Although there are always exceptions, the main paradigm of instruction places the weight on the transference of information. A biblically responsible seminary today then would rely on the local church to oversee a student’s growth and spiritual well-being. By contrast, an approach to theological education modeled after discipleship, as opposed to the modern educational school system, would seek to join this two-pronged emphasis (spiritual and academic growth) into one methodology.
More than just content, discipleship molds even the style for how things are taught. Within the last few decades of the modern missionary movement, a healthy focus has been directed toward avoiding dependency between missionaries (and their sending agents/countries) and national or indigenous leaders (and their churches/growth movements). The goal has shifted to creating self-sustaining projects that the recipients can take over and make their own. This should apply to how we disciple as well. The old adage aptly applies here, “Teach a man to fish and he eats for a day; teach a man how to fish and he eats for a lifetime.” The way to train and disciple pastors and leaders should be a reproducible model which they can then apply to others. This is at the heart of a Christ-like model of discipleship. The way in which Christ trained his disciples became the starting point for his commission that they go and do the same.
In order to holistically train church planters as Christ did with the disciples, one would need to see them outside of the “classroom.” Observing how they interact with others, watching their family dynamic, witnessing how they relate with the culture, and seeing them in different situations and contexts to best know their strengths, weaknesses, and areas of growth. In other words, we must really get to know them. But what is of equal importance, they must get to know us. They need to be able to observe, watch, and witness us in all of these different situations. This is what Paul meant when he told the Corinthians, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Cor. 11: 1). Since the gospel applies to more than the initiation of one’s relationship with God, the trainer will need to spend time with those he or she is discipleing (at least more than a classroom will allow) so that the disciple may see firsthand how to make these gospel applications in his everyday life.
For example, in ministry the best way to teach someone how to witness to others, preach a Christ-centered sermon, pray, or love their neighbor is by modeling that before them. By that I mean, there could still be a time beforehand where there is discussion and dialogue about certain strategies, concepts, and ideologies involved in a particular area of ministry. But the instruction should not stop there. After discussing a ministerial aspect conceptually, it is most effective to then demonstrate the aspect in real life. This would be followed up by more discussion and questions. Finally, an observation of them practicing that aspect would be followed up by discussion, feedback, coaching, input, instruction, and encouragement. The overarching theme of this methodology is more practical engagement with the disciple than is traditionally stressed within a seminary environment.
A common concern proposed by those who wish to produce a more seminary-like model on the mission field is that this will significantly reduce the number of people one may have in training. As mentioned previously, one must avoid any pragmatic tendencies dictated by cultural trends and look to the Word of God as the guide. If Christ saw as sufficient only twelve disciples, then where should one’s preoccupation with quantity influence the methodology? I believe we see several responses to this concern in Christ’s example. First, he created disciples who made disciples. Inherent in a Christ-modeled approach to discipleship is the idea of multiplication. Intentional encouragement of disciples to find people whom they could disciple would result in a holistic imitation. Second, Christ had three disciples with whom he was more intimate than the Twelve. He had seventy others with whom he was less intimate than the Twelve, and finally he still taught the multitudes/crowds. So we are not advocating a teaching ministry that intentionally denies a “public” aspect, especially in preaching. There is still room for a large group aspect within the discipleship model (sit and get), which is hopefully within the context of a local church.
What do we mean by "greater voice"?
Since the Reformation left Europe and increasingly took root in the New World, more and more pastors and academic authors have benefited the world with an English-speaking voice in the Kingdom. During the modern mission’s movement, the church has labored tirelessly to translate this literature and materials into more of the world’s languages. New mediums for distributing these resources are making the task less cost prohibitive as the world becomes increasingly digital. There is no doubt that this has been a benefit to the global church.
As valuable as the English-speaking, Western church has been over the centuries, it is but one voice at the table that makes up God’s global Church. We have a vision to not only be a blessing to the world but to equip Latin America to be a blessing to us and the Kingdom, as well. As the US becomes more and more international then the need for the Spanish-speaking church to speak into our context is also rising.
We envision this national voice taking form through traditional means, such as books, pamphlets, articles, and curricula. With the increasing digitization of our time, these will not only be easier to distribute and produce, but they will also open doors for other means. Blogs, videos, and software from the national, Spanish-speaking world must be developed to reach a new generation of people: inside and outside of the church. This South American voice will highlight a facet of the Kingdom inaccessible to our own cultural perspective. We need this voice.
Buenos Aires is the second largest city in South America, after São Paulo, Brazil and the fourth biggest city on earth. In Latin America, they are the third largest stimulator of the economy.
Based on land mass Argentina is the eighth largest country in the world.
Ushuaia of Argentina is the southernmost city in the world.
It also has the highest and lowest elevations in the western hemisphere.
Buenos Aires has the highest concentration of theatres in the world.
Argentina is known as one of the highest literary countries in the world, and prides itself in producing highly literate citizens that can easily maneuver around and succeed in the global business world.
They had 5 presidents in 10 days in 2001.
Argentina’s workforce is 40% female, and women also hold over 30% of Argentina’s congressional seats.
In Lionel Messi’s hometown Rosario, Argentina, the government officials have banned parents from naming their children “Messi” to avoid mass confusion.
Argentina’s retired soccer legend Diego Maradona has his own religion made up by his fans.
The second highest rate of anorexia is found in Argentina, after Japan, and 1 out of every 8 patients being treated is male.
At least one in 30 Argentines have undergone cosmetic surgery.
Argentina was the first country in Latin or South America to legalize same-sex marriage, in 2010.
Argentina is said to possess the highest infidelity rate in all South America. Divorce has been legal in the country since 1987, and now the country holds the highest divorce rate as well.
This may explain why they have per capita more psychologists than any other country in the world.
Finally, MTW has never had a missionary sent to work in Argentina.
Among the interesting historical facts and geographical superlatives, lie troubling and dark trends within the Argentine culture. This South American society reflects well the polarity of dignity and depravity that is present within us all. Some of the best and worst of human nature has played out in Argentina’s history.
Regarding Argentina’s church growth needs, Operation World writes “church leadership remains a critical bottleneck in further growth. Leaders who train, disciple and release other leaders into ministry and who minister in the Word and the Spirit are always needed.”
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations,” Matthew 28:19.
One of the farthest places someone could travel from where Jesus was when he commissioned his disciples is Argentina. Their high literacy rate and immense regard for continuing education make them an ideal contributor to a greater voice for Latin America within God’s kingdom. Their recognition of deeper relational needs, broken relationships, and a long history of political mistrust make them exceptionally ripe for receiving God’s grace and hope through Christ. They long for a transformation they will never find in psychoanalysis, cosmetic surgery, economic policy, or sports heroes.
After first traveling to Buenos Aires over 18 years ago, it left an indelible mark on my heart. They say that whenever you travel somewhere overseas that you leave a piece of your heart there. Argentina is where God took the "stars" out of my eyes in regards to cross-cultural ministry. During the 6 months we spent there as a family in 2007, God taught us invaluable lessons about missions. One of those was the need for partners in prayer. Would you commit to support us in prayer as we seek to bring the transforming power of the gospel to the Argentine people?
Argentines are desperate for spiritual awaking, but have very few people teaching them the word of God. There is an urgent need for evangelists and disciplers to share the hope of Jesus Christ. Would you join us in seeing the church multiply and advance theologically and ministerially in Latin America through Argentina for a greater voice in God's Kingdom.
What do we mean by Kingdom?
“For the one who is not against us is for us.” – Mark 9:40
“Denominations will always exist as long as Christians are concerned about both unity and purity.” By this I think pastor and author Tim Keller is saying that if we were only concerned about one of the two, unity for example, then we could all meet together in one church and put all our differences aside. However, if we were concerned with only purity in our theology and doctrine, at the expense of unity, then we couldn’t meet with anyone at all! So what we are left with is a denomination, a balance where we can agree enough with one another theologically to work together and be unified enough that we can live with the remaining differences.
A kingdom mindset in missions (or even within a local US church setting) says that the denominational differences are great enough that my conscience compels me to align with a particular group, but not so great as to keep me from working alongside another because our ultimate goal is the same. There is something unifying within the idea that we are all laboring under the same banner. And it smacks of pride to imagine that our group alone will fulfill the task Christ commissioned all his disciples.
In the preface of his book Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis describes a hallway with many doors that branch off from it that lead to separate rooms. He writes that the hallway is mere Christianity and that the rooms represent all the individual churches that originate from the central core of the hallway. He makes an important warning to those that would reject the uniqueness of the different expressions of the kingdom:
“It is in the rooms, not in the hall, that there are fires and chairs and meals. The hall is a place from which to try the various doors, not a place to live in. For that purpose the worst of the rooms (whichever that may be) is, I think, preferable.”
What I think we should take away from this well-crafted admonition is that our pursuit of doctrinal purity must always be balanced by the fact that we all entered from the same hallway. We are not advocating an abandonment of why we chose our room to begin with (Reformed distinctives and gospel standards), but rather embracing a truly evangelical mission to establish God’s kingdom in the whole world and in new generations.
“When you have reached your own room, be kind to those who have chosen different doors and to those who are still in the hall. If they are wrong they need your prayers all the more; and if they are your enemies, then you are under orders to pray for them. That is one of the rules common to the whole house.”
What this kingdom mindset will look like from our team is a willingness to cross the hall and join in working side by side to train, disciple, coach, and resource those from other apartments. We actively seek ways to collaborate with other organizations in the Spanish-speaking world to further the vision of seeing churches in Argentina multiply and advance theologically and ministerially for a greater voice in God's Kingdom.
The church in Latin America needs to learn from the church in Asia just as much as the church in Europe needs to learn church planting principles from Africa. The church in the US needs the Latin American church’s voice to speak into how the kingdom can expand and spread within our ever changing cultural and ethnic makeup. We need one another. The next generation needs the previous one. The PCA needs other voices to speak into it from other rooms that it may express the Gospel in ways that are both reverent and relevant.