Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Vision for Ministry in Cameroon

I decided to use Making Disciples in Cameroon as the descriptive tagline for my plans to minister among the Bakoum people of Cameroon, Africa. I chose it because it sums up well the truths, heart, and strategic vision that God has molded in me over the past few years. But surely it doesn't answer all your questions. Who will I be discipling? What message will I bring to the Bakoum? What will my strategy be? How long do I plan to do this? Hopefully this post will answer many of your questions, and invite you to ask more.

Skills, Knowledge, Abilities, Gifts, and Passions

In determining what overseas ministry would look like for me, my mission agency World Team (WT) was very influential. In the summer of 2011, I attended WT's candidate conference, where my assessors encouraged me to evaluate my skills, knowledge, abilities, and gifts in order to determine what kind of ministry God was fashioning me for. The underlying thought was that God often (but not always) uses the things we are good at and passionate about to lead us to the good works that he has prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Eph 2:10). In the years prior to candidate conference, the Lord had lit a fire in me that still burns, a fire for his glory to be shown shown as his church lives in holiness and worships him in spirit and in truth (Eph 2:19-22; Jn 4:24). On top of that, several people had told me they thought I had the spiritual gift of teaching, and I have sought to fan this gift into flame by taking opportunities to teach, and by responding to critical feedback (2 Tim 1:6). And so God has put in me a passion to labor to see his church sanctified through the teaching of his Word to the local church for the glory of his name.

The Condition of the Bakoum Church

I was introduced to the idea of serving the Bakoum people of Cameroon through my ministry partners Dave and Stacey Hare. Early on in our partnership, the Hares decided to translate the Bible for the Bakoum people. (You can learn more about the Hares on their blog.) After candidate conference, I was appointed by WT to serve alongside Dave and Stacey, so I began learning more about the state of the Bakoum church. What I learned was heartbreaking. A pervasive mix of prosperity theology, pentecostalism, and animism have combined to stifle the church's growth, silence the true gospel of Jesus Christ, and rob God of the glory he is due. In a recent email recounting the Hare's experience at an Apostolic Church of the Bakoum people, Stacey wrote that it "was four hours of the 'Spirit,' which apparently means no Bible, lots of convulsing on the floor, and prosperity theology. It was not of God, even our kids could see that." Their kids are all age 6 and under.

The gospel has been present among the Bakoum long enough for many churches to be planted and long enough for lots of false teaching and syncretism to infiltrate it. Our Bakoum brothers and sisters need to be discipled in the basics of biblical faith. They need to know the truth about God and his Word. They need to know that when God prospers us, he does so so that we will give him thanks. They need to know that when he does not prosper us, the proper response is not to name and claim his blessings and muster up more "faith," but instead to trust him and cling to him in the midst of suffering. They need to know how the Holy Spirit actually does work in his people, not by making us convulse on the floor, but by giving us new life, by executing his sanctifying work in our inner beings, and by building up the church into a holy dwelling place for God (Eph 5:22). They need to know that the animistic spirits that surround them are actually demonic and that God has triumphed over them in the cross and resurrection of Christ. They need to know that Jesus is the center and object of our faith, and that his gospel must permeate all of life. So, who will tell them?

A God-Given Vision

My passion for a healthy local church that glorifies God, my gift of teaching (which comes from the Spirit and not from me), and the state of the Bakoum church have all combined to give me a strategic vision for ministry: disciple Bakoum church leaders so that they can equip Bakoum saints for the work of the ministry, to the end that the church might be built up in sound doctrine, love, holiness, and unity.

In the incarnation, our Lord stepped into the lives of his disciples as the image of God and the exact imprint of his nature (Col 1:15; Heb 1:3) and lived his life among them as their friend, mentor, example, and Lord. I plan to follow his example and step into the lives of the Bakoum people, living among them as their friend, mentor, and example even as I sit under the Lordship of Jesus. I plan to gather Bakoum church leaders together to teach them the wonders of the true gospel, the sanctifying work of the Spirit, and the freedom we have in Christ over the demonic realm. I want to teach them something of the wonderful mysteries of our triune God and the sufficiency of his atonement. I want to teach them how to be faithful husbands, fathers, and pastors. By God's power and with the Bakoum Bible that Dave, Stacey, and Bakoum believers plan to translate, I want to see his church purified and his name glorified. This is the ministry God is leading me into, the ministry into which I invite you partner with me. God will glorify his name in all the earth, and I humbled to play some small part in him doing so in Cameroon. But no missionary work is complete without gospel partnerships. If the apostle Paul had to rely on them, then I know I need them. So, how can you partner with me in this venture?

So the end goal of my missionary work is to see the Bakoum church transformed into a healthy body of believers that functions like the church we read about in the New Testament. This could happen in as little as 10 years (according to another WT missionary), or the Lord may have me labor among these dear people until I die of old age. That's in the Lord's hands.

I hope I have answered many of your questions by now, but if you have more, feel free to comment below or email me at richie.rice@worldteam.org.