The 'Unqualified' Farmer

West Africa: The ‘unqualified’ farmer

“Church planting is the result of simply sowing Jesus,” says Canadian missionary Andy Rayner who blogs at The Invisible Humanitarian.

Rayner, a former ordained theologian and local church minister who “jumped off the steeple to live among the people” as he calls it, heads up Man Of Peace Development, a non-profit humanitarian organization. He lives two lives: in the drought season he does hands-on development field work in Mali, West Africa, while in the wet part of the year he captains a commercial lobster fishing vessel from Prince Edward Island at Canada’s East Coast.

‘My guiding philosophy is: Simple, economical, easily repeated.’

“My guiding philosophy for everything is: ‘Simple, economical, easily repeated’,” Rayner says. “In West Africa I learned the hard way that most approaches to community development are too complicated and expensive to be repeated by locals. I’m trained in theology, but God made it clear to me that our western style of leadership is not needed to advance the church. I have observed that the mass people movements taking place today have many common characteristics. The most interesting, and humbling, is that every one of them spread apart from theologically trained people or association with theological institutions.”  

In Mongola the Gospel was spread by young school girls. On weekends and school vacations one girl’s family would invite another friend home. And the young girls would tell their other friends the bible stories while they played. Not a planned thing. It just happened, as missionary Brian Hogan vividly described in ‘There’s a Sheep in my Bathtub’. The adults overheard them tell the stories in their yurts and listened. By this the Gospel spread in a region formerly impenetrable to foreign mission activity.

‘No gift qualifies or disqualifies anyone from sowing Jesus.’

“There is no talk about leadership or the five-fold ministry in these circles,” Rayner comments. “Old women of no apparent leadership attributes have planted more churches than I have. I’ve come to believe that no gift qualifies or disqualifies anyone from loving others, sharing Jesus, or planting a church. Church planting is the result of sowing Jesus.”

He illustrates his point with an anecdote from West Africa. “We turned over a new work of 18 communities of believers to a mission agency, and moved on to start another new work. The agency sent five mission families in… and the expansion of communities stopped instantly. Four years later the westerners asked me to come back and do something, anything, to get mission and church planting to begin again. I spent 30 days in the bush with the local men and listened and listened some more. After that I did the same with the westerners, and learned that they were very critical of one farmer.”

‘That farmer you criticized brought the Gospel to nine villages.’

“So I asked the five families how many church communities they had started here. ‘None’, they said. ‘How many communities have you started anywhere in your life?’ I asked. ‘None’, they said. I replied: ‘Well, that farmer you are criticizing has brought the Gospel to nine villages. With no pay, no salary, no expense money, no bible college training, and he did it without your fancy training programs designed to teach him how it’s done. This farmer has more Gospel living and church forming experience in his pinky fingernail, right now, than all five western families will ever have in a lifetime, combined. So why don’t we get out of the peoples way?’”

“The uneducated rural farmers were defaulting to the educated important people, as they always do in those cultures,” Rainer explains. “The farmers were submitting to all of the westerners meetings, classes, and training programs. But for four years the advancement of the Gospel slowed to a trickle, not one new community was started.”

The five family mission team agreed to step back. Rayner and his team went back to the bush, and all of the villages met. Within thirty days a new community sprung up, and by three months there were four new Jesus communities.

Source: Andy Rayner

Joel News International, # 1034 | April 18, 2017

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