Lottie’s Letters

IMB, Portrait of Lottie Moon, 1873.

Charlotte Digges Moon was born on December 12, 1840, in Albemarie County, Virginia.  Southern Baptists know her as Lottie Moon (information about Lottie and global stats taken from imb.org).  She served the people of China with the gospel for nearly 40 years.  She became a follower of Jesus in 1858, and at the age of 32 left her home for China where she would sacrifice her time and life for the sake of reaching the Chinese with the gospel of Jesus.  She, more than any, realized that the task was too great to reach the 472 million Chinese in her day, thus more people were needed to bring the gospel to China.

She would write many letters back home urging Southern Baptists to give and pray, but to also consider going.  For those new missionaries being sent through the Foreign Mission Board (International Mission Board today), she urged the FMB to instruct them that they were “coming to a life of hardship, responsibility and constant self-denial. . . . Let them come ‘rejoicing to suffer’ for the sake of that Lord and Master who freely gave his life for them.”

Years of Lottie letters prompted Southern Baptist women to organize and collect $3,315 to send missionaries to China.  In 1918, Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) named the annual Christmas offering for international missions after Lottie.  Today, the goal of this international missions offering named in her honor is $185 million.  Since the inception of the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, Southern Baptists have given over $5 billion dollars to international missions. 

Lottie discovered in the 1800s that it takes all of us doing our part to reach the unreached with the gospel.  We need churches praying, giving, and sending.  Because Southern Baptists have taken Lottie’s charge for mission cooperation seriously, in 2020 there were 18,380 new churches planted; 144,322 new believers; 769,494 gospel conversations; 127,155 leaders trained, to name just a few ways in which our collective efforts are impacting the nations. 

Lottie was never one to shy away with her words.  On November 1, 1873, she would write: “A young man should ask himself not if it is his duty to go to the heathen, but if he may dare stay at home.  The command is so plan: ‘Go.’”  Let Lottie’s words on November 11, 1878, in Pingtu, sink deep in your heart:

“Oh! That my words could be as a trumpet call, stirring the hearts of my brethren and sisters to pray, to labor, to give themselves to this people. … We are now, a very, very few feeble workers, scattering the grain broadcast according as time and strength permit. God will give the harvest; doubt it not. But the laborers are so few. Where we have four, we should have not less than one hundred. Are these wild words? They would not seem so were the church of God awake to her high privilege and her weighty responsibilities.”

(imb.org)

Lottie’s letters still echo today. God continues to use her life to compel others to pray fervently, give sacrificially, and go boldly.  As the world population exceeds 7.8 billion people with at least 4.7 billion unreached with the gospel, what part will you play in assuring that the gospel continues to advance? 

May we share in Lottie’s unprecedented concern and do our part, as we hear her once again say, “The needs of these people press upon my soul, and I cannot be silent. It is grievous to think of these human souls going down to death without even one opportunity of hearing the name of Jesus.”

Is it really a fork?

Years ago, while following my handy-dandy, trusty GPS late one foggy night on a KY backroad, the path split.  The GPS told me to go in one direction, but my “gut” said go the other.  I followed my GPS.  After winding through the narrow road, which seemed to get narrower and foggier as I drove, the directions from my GPS eventually led me to a metal gate at the entrance of a cow field.  In newfound wisdom, I thought to myself, “This GPS is wrong.”  Lesson learned: never assume your GPS is always right. 

We have all found ourselves at the proverbial “fork in the road,” when a decision needs to be made but we have more than one option.  How do we know the will of God when facing decisions in life?  Do we simply follow our GPS?  Could it be that we flip a coin?  Or maybe we just go with our “gut” feeling. There actually is a better option.  Scripture is not silent about these “forks in the road.”    

The wisdom of King Solomon offers us guidance when facing decisions in life.  He urges, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6, NASB).  I am afraid that all too often we make the “will of God” out to be some mystery that He hides from us, only revealing it to us if we say or do the right things—that is, pick the correct fork in the road.   

To trust in the Lord with all our hearts and not lean on our own understanding and acknowledge Him in all our ways is another way of saying, “walk faithfully with God.”  God’s promise for a straight path—a successful, agreeable, right path, is only after we are careful to trust in Him.  God’s greatest concern in our lives is not whether we buy this car or that car, whether we move here or there, or take this job or that job.  Rather, God’s greatest concern is that we fully rely on Him, that we live our lives in submission to Him. 

God is after our lives, not simply the decisions we make with our lives.  He wants us wholly devoted to Him, and in being so, He will make our paths straight. In other words, God is more concerned about the journey along the path than He is the particular choice on the path.  Lesson learned: let’s not be as focused on the “fork in the road” as we are on His work in our lives along the road.  It’s a journey along the path more than it is a “fork in the road.”   

5 Ps of Mission Partnerships

Each local church has the same mission from God regardless of the location or culture of that congregation.  In essence, all churches are called to “make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:19-20).  While we have the creativity and wisdom to nuance how each church carries out this God-given mandate, multiplying disciples is the mission of the church.  No church can be everywhere, but every church is called to make disciples of all nations.  How is this possible?  One practical way for every church to make disciples of all nations is by partnering well with missionaries who serve among the nations. 

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One of our IMB missionary partners helped develop what we call the 5 Ps of partnership.  In other words, how can your church partner practically with missionaries who live among the nations in order for your church to be part of discipling all nations?  While Southern Baptists are part of impacting all nations through our Cooperative Program giving, we also want to make personal connections with missionaries in order to put a “face” to Lottie Moon, Annie Armstrong, and, in our state, Eliza Broadus. 

Here are 5 ways to partner with missionaries for global disciple-making:

  • Prayer– This is where it all begins. No partnership should pursue any of the other four “Ps” without starting here. This is God’s work. The book of Acts describes the early church as being empowered through prayer (Acts 1:14).  Developing a prayer strategy is essential for global impact.
  • Pastoral– Often overlooked, pastoral (soul) care provides missionary longevity. The book of Acts describes how the early church provided encouragement for mission partners. (Acts 14:21-22).  Paul intentionally encouraged his partners, knowing that ministry is a road filled with adversity.
  • Project– Mission trips are what most people think of in terms of partnership.  Project partners (local churches) should listen to their mission partners (missionaries), assisting in their existing platforms and identities to help and not hinder long-term work.  As needed, churches can help missionaries accomplish much in disciple-making through mission trips, particularly as they assist them along the missionary task.
  • People group/Place– The focus here is on the people group/place itself; that is, there is an understanding workers may come and go, but a long-term commitment to supporting a planting effort among a particular people group/place can take different forms and involve different people over time.  The local church commits to that people group/place regardless of whether missionaries come or go.
  • Pioneer– Perhaps the least common among these five, Pioneer Partners take the work on for themselves, mobilizing their own teams to directly engage in the long-term planting effort.  Realizing that the need is greater than there is manpower, Pioneer Partners commit to enter a location themselves with the help of nearby missionaries. 

If the Missions Mobilization Team of the KBC can help your church intentionally develop mission partnerships by thinking through the 5 Ps, please let us know ([email protected]).  We are here to help. 

Great Commission Difference

Gospel work is hard work.  The apostle Paul knew this reality well.  Not long after setting out on his first missionary journey he and Barnabas experienced much opposition (Acts 13:45).  In fact, Paul’s normal pattern of gospel engagement included going where the people (Jews first) were gathered, sharing Jesus, and then seeing a variety of responses (Acts 13-14).  Some believed and embraced the message with great joy.  Others baulked at this message of a Messiah crucified and raised from the dead.  In many places where Paul and Barnabas preached Jesus, they were forced to leave. Yet, in their leaving they often saw a fledgling church birthed from their gospel proclamation. 

To be sure, these new church plants, as we would describe them today, were stationed in locations where the gospel soil was hard.  For various reasons, not least of which Jewish traditions, these new churches faced an uphill climb to reach their cities with the good news of a Jewish Messiah who was crucified and raised to life on the third day.  Let’s face it, Jesus warned his first followers that if the world hated him, they would no less hate them and anyone after them too (John 15:18).

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Nearing the end of Paul’s first missionary journey, he recognizes the importance of encouraging those fledgling churches.  He makes his way back to them “strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith…” (Acts 14:22).  Why is this necessary so soon after these churches were birthed?  Because gospel work is hard work and if churches (and missionaries) are not careful and intentional, they can find themselves overwhelmed by the daily needs of the flock and the opposition of the unbelieving world around them.

Paul knows this from personal experience, so he models for these new churches an important Great Commission component. Other churches can help provide longevity in the gospel work of others through their encouragement.  Perhaps often overlooked, encouragement of other pastors, churches, and missionaries is a critical piece in an overall understanding of Great Commission faithfulness. 

Missionaries find themselves discouraged at the prospect of reaching a people hostile to the good news of Jesus, as well as all the challenges that come with living in a new culture. Pastors find themselves down over the lack of commitment of members in the church. Those in the church feel deflated at times when the ministry they help lead has few involved in it.  The point is clear: we all need people in our lives to encourage us to keep running, to not grow weary.

So, what is a person to do to bring encouragement?  Think of two approaches to encouragement.  First, pray weekly.  Second, encourage (tangibly) at least monthly.  Identify a missionary, pastor, and/or church (members) that you can pray for weekly and encourage monthly.  Let them know you are praying for them (ask for specific needs from them to intercede for them). Then monthly, find various ways to lift them up: send a text message, write a card, mail them a gift package, remember their birthday(s), make a visit.  In other words, be creative about the ways you can pour into them while they are pouring into others for the gospel.  In doing so, I am convinced that God will use your encouragement as a means for their perseverance.  Never underestimate how your encouragement will make a Great Commission difference. 

Tumbled Walls

Moses had gathered 12 of his finest, most loyal men to spy out the land.  God had brought them out of Egypt by his mighty hand.  He had parted the Red Sea, led them by a cloud during the day and a pillar of fire by night. God fed them manna from the dew and quail from the sky. He even gave them water out of rocks.  God told Moses the land He was leading the people to was their land.  They would receive what they had never worked for—God would provide them a home, a land for themselves.

So, as they gathered themselves on the edge of this promised land, God told Moses to send these 12 spies to check it out.  In stealth mode, they go through the land spying it out—they check out the land, the people of the land and the numbers of people throughout the land. They return from their 40-day scouting expedition with their report for Moses.  He and the people are gathered to hear the news…10 say nay and 2 say yay!

In summary, the 10 nays win the day and convince the people not to take the land—a land already promised to them.  The result of the people’s disobedience is they must wonder in the desert for 40 years, to see the land from a distance yet not be able to enter it. 

Forty years has passed by the time we come to Joshua 6.  A new leader is on the scene because Moses has died.  Joshua is the new commander and was part of the original 12 who had spied out the land over 40 years prior. Joshua is one of the original 2 who said Israel can take the land. 

God has prepared Joshua for this role of leadership and after his Moses-like parting of the Jordan River experience (Joshua 3), he faces his first obstacle in the Promised Land—the impenetrable stone-walled city of Jericho.  But here is what we find in the book of Joshua that is a theme woven throughout the Bible.  God often does the unimaginable, so that He gets the glory and not ourselves.

You know the story (Joshua 6).  God tells Joshua to gather his military, seven priests, and the ark.  They are to march around the city one time for six days and go back to camp not saying a word.  The priests will blow seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark each time.  Then on day seven, they will march around the city seven times, blow the trumpets, and all the people will shout and the walls will come tumblin’ down!  Sounds pretty crazy! But that’s just it.  God loves to do the unimaginable, so that He gets the glory and not ourselves. 

The book of Joshua is about conquest.  By the time we get to the New Testament, the theme of conquest continues to reverberate through the pages of Scripture.  However, the conquest at this point is not with military might, trumpets, or an ark.  Rather, the greater reality of conquest in the Bible is accomplished through the life, death, and resurrection of One who is greater than Moses and Joshua as well as even the kings and prophets.  Jesus came not to tear down stone walls, but to crush stone hearts.  Interestingly, He does this stone-crushing by using ordinary soldiers to take the good news of His life, death, and resurrection to their neighbors and the nations. 

How could this be possible?  The world is so large and the opposition to the gospel of Jesus is so hardening.  But that’s just it.  God loves to do the unimaginable, so that He gets the glory and not ourselves.  Will you spend your life for this unimaginable, but God glorifying cause and watch the walls come tumblin’ down?    

Holding the Ropes in New York City

William Carey is known as the “father of modern missions.”  He was a missionary to India in the late 1700s.  He and his good friend, Andrew Fuller, partnered together for the advancement of the gospel.  While Carey went to India, Fuller stayed back home becoming president of the Baptist Mission Society.  Carey famously said to Fuller before his departure overseas, “I will go down into the pit, if you will hold the ropes.”  Carey went and Fuller held the ropes. 

New York City is known for many iconic markers—the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, Times Square, One World Trade Center, just to name a few.  People flock to this great city for food, entertainment, fame, and fortune.  I recently led a group of church leaders there for a vision trip to meet church planters living in the city for gospel impact.  The city is coming back to life after a year of uncertainty known as 2020.  Manhattan, for example, known as a worldwide center for all things commercial, financial, and cultural, was busy with activity. 

As we met with various church planters to hear their stories and their vision for reaching the city, one theme became clear: we need your help!  Great Commission work is not meant to be done alone.  In a metro area of 22 million people, only 2% follow Jesus.  The massive need of lostness alone can be crippling to any gospel minister without the right support, not counting the challenges of living in a concrete jungle. 

Kentucky Baptist Churches, while very different in context from New York City, can play a vital role in providing a lifeline of gospel advancement in a human sea of lostness.  Every church leader we met expressed the need for meaningful partnerships.  These partnerships are not dependent upon having the same ministry context, but simply a willingness to link arms or as Carey told Fuller once, hold the ropes.

Kentucky Baptists can hold the ropes with gospel partners in New York City through the following examples:

Partner long-term (at least 3-5 years).  Relationships take time and gospel work in New York City is often slow.  Relationships built around encouragement, prayer, teams, and finances provide much needed support. 

Send multiple teams (per year if needed and possible).  Nothing like seeing, smelling, hearing, tasting, and touching the city to understand the great needs of the city.  Short-term teams done rightly can be a huge boost to the planter and the advancement of the gospel.

Be gospel centered.  Partnerships built around the gospel are critical.  While there are many good and helpful ways we can serve others, the gospel must be at the center of all we do.

Follow the vision/strategy of the church planter/church.  Let those who live in the city and know the needs of the city determine how to best reach the city. 

Be a servant.  While New York City is a great place to experience so much, partnering there requires that Kentucky Baptist Churches place priority on serving their partner.

As William Carey set sail for India, he needed the assurance that others like Fuller would be back home holding the ropes for him.  New York City church planters need the assurance of Kentucky Baptists that we will join in the work there by holding the ropes for gospel advancement.  If you want to learn more about your church partnering in NYC, please contact me at [email protected]        

First Responders with Gospel Urgency

A tsunami of debris engulfed the city blocks surrounding the World Trade Center.  Just prior to this wave of debris, smoke rose in the New York City skyline as both towers were struck by hijacked commercial airliners on September 11, 2001.  Thousands attempted to escape the chaos of the enflamed buildings and surrounding area.  While hordes of people were panicking as they ran away from the direction of the twin towers, heroically others ran to the site as the towers eventually collapsed in a massive ruble.

People were right to run away from the danger, but who would run to it and why?  First responders, that’s who.  Thank God for first responders who train and prepare for times such as September 11.  Instead of running away from danger and distress, first responders run to it. 

The Great Commission is about followers of Jesus running to the needs of the world.  We lay down our lives (both figuratively and sometimes literally) for the hordes of people running to escape the chaos of life.  I was recently reminded of this gospel call when a pastor in a large Midwest city told our vision trip team of a shooting in his neighborhood.  Instead of avoiding the location where the incident occurred, his church went and set up on the corner of the street to engage with family members and neighbors.  They were there to proclaim that hope is found in Jesus alone.  This church functioned like first responders.

This same church, on a weekly basis, has “night church” in a section of town that is known as a hot spot for trouble late at night.  They gather near the street and play Christian music, share testimonies of God’s transforming power, and talk with neighbors about the good news of Jesus.   The church is running to the needs in their community.  They are, in fact, first responders bringing hope in the name of Jesus.

Churches across our nation and state can learn much from this Midwest large city new church.  Here are some takeaways that will help us all in our Great Commission work:

  1. Be a church that runs to the needs in your community with gospel hope.
  2. To run to the needs, we need to know our communities. 
  3. To know our communities, we must immerse our lives in the community.
  4. Immersing our lives in our communities requires a continual presence in the community.

The chaos of sin is sweeping across the communities of our state and nation like a tsunami.  It would be easy for the church to simply quarantine itself from the debris and mess.  However, this is not the Jesus way.  He calls us to run to the need, not away from the need.  How will your church respond to the chaos of sin in your community?  Will you be a first responder with gospel urgency?   

Should We Plant or Revitalize Churches?

As I have the privilege to meet with Kentucky Baptist Churches and their leaders about the Great Commission, we regularly discuss matters of church planting and church revitalization.  When it comes to the Great Commission, a primary part of the church’s faithfulness to that call involves healthy church formation.  As Jesus instructs His disciples before He ascends back to heaven, He commands them to make disciples (Matt 28:16-20). 

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IMB Photo- A church meets in a small building in South Asia.

While we love to tell people that we are all about making disciples, what does that actually mean?  The best way to know what that means is to examine what Jesus’ early disciples did to make disciples.  In short, the book of Acts demonstrates their understanding of Jesus’ command as that of birthing or planting churches and strengthening existing churches (Acts 14:19-23).  Great Commission obedience is done in the context of forming healthy churches.    

So, as I meet with churches across the Commonwealth of Kentucky to discuss the Great Commission and a strategy for obeying Jesus’ command, we inevitably discuss church planting and church revitalization. Here is the question I most often ask: Are we called in the Great Commission to plant new churches or help existing churches become healthier?  The answer is clear—Yes!

Great Commission work involves the planting of new churches and the revitalization of existing churches.  The Great Commission expands as churches are planted and strengthened.  Why?  Because more churches are needed to reach an ever-increasing population.  Yet, churches that are not healthy will never focus outward, but only inward.  For example, one NAMB stat reveals that there is only 1 SBC church for every 6,505 people.

Intertwined in Paul’s missionary journeys in Acts is the planting of new churches and the strengthening of existing churches.  Scripture never puts church planting and church strengthening at odds. We could say that they are two sides of the same coin.  Paul’s concern in Acts is for the spread of the gospel through planting new churches and the strengthening of existing churches.  Thus, in Acts 14 Paul plants new churches and then circles back around to these same churches to ensure that these churches are in fact healthy. 

While healthy churches seek to build disciples within their own congregation, they also look outward to reach other peoples and places through the planting of new churches.  This Great Commission focus requires a Kingdom mindset that says it’s not simply about our own local congregation, but about the spread of the gospel through many congregations. 

So should churches be about planting new churches or strengthening existing churches.  Yes!  Great Commission work is the making of disciples through the context of local churches planting new churches and strengthening existing churches.

Partners in the Mission

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Every church and follower of Jesus has one and the same mission in life—makes disciples of Jesus locally and globally.  That is, every believer through his or her local church is called to both grow as a disciple of Jesus and help make disciples for Jesus.  Each church must think carefully about how best to make disciples of their own members as well as how to make disciples elsewhere. 

Discipling believers in each local church is no easy task.  However, even more difficult is being part of disciple-making beyond one’s own location and church.  After all, how can you make disciples where you have no on-going presence?  Yet, let’s not forget that the call of the Great Commission is one of disciple-making “of all nations” and throughout “Jerusalem, and all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Matt 28:19 and Acts 1:8).

For local churches to make disciples beyond their own locale, there must be intentional effort.  Disciple-making requires time and relationship.  Churches seeking to follow Jesus’s call to make disciples “of all nations” will do well to partner with trusted missionaries and churches to accomplish that end. 

But what should such a partnership entail?   As Southern Baptists and Kentucky Baptists, we call ourselves a Great Commission people, a people who cooperate in the mission.  While our partnership in the mission certainly involves our dollars as we give through Cooperative Program, it must be more than that as well. 

As a denomination with thousands of missionaries in our states, nation, and world, linking arm and arm with them is vital for Great Commission impact.  Let me suggest five practical ways for churches to partner with our missionaries in the mission of making disciples locally and globally:

1. Develop long-term partnerships (3-5 years minimum).  Relationships take time to build.  We want to invest in peoples and places for ongoing gospel work. The greatest impact comes over time.  These partnerships involve such things as: prayer, encouragement, finances, short-term teams, resources, etc.

2. Let the missionary determine the strategy.  Those who live in certain locations among certain peoples know best the needs and how to engage them with the gospel.  Working alongside of our missionaries to help with their strategy rather than against their strategy is crucial for long-term impact.   

3. Multiple teams per year (if needed). As partnership is about relationship, relationships occur over time and through interaction.  Rather than sending a team of 10, perhaps a church can send two teams of 5 at different times in the year.  Smaller teams allow for easier logistics.  More teams allow for deepening of relationships more than once a year.  However, as with suggestion #2, let the missionary ultimately determine the size and frequency of teams.

4. Be gospel-centered.  This may seem like a no-brainer.  However, we have all heard of short-term teams that paint, clean, build, play, and the like.  While all these elements and more can be valuable to short-term missions, we do all that we do for gospel advancement.  At the end of the day, the number one issue is whether we clearly explained the gospel and called people to follow Jesus.  Even our gospel-centeredness must be sensitive to the strategy of our host missionaries.  We know that the gospel is offensive to some (2 Cor 2:14-17), but we ourselves in our mannerisms and tactics don’t want to be.  Be gospel-centered as we rely on the guidance of our host missionaries and their strategy.   

5. Be a servant. Just as Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve and give his life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45), short-term mission teams partner well by going to serve and not be served.  Seeing new places and experiencing new cultures is thrilling but doing so to the detriment of the mission is costly.  This is not to say we should never see new sights or experience new cultures. Rather, set aside time to do just that, but give priority to serving both the missionaries you partner with and those who need the gospel. 

We all have the same mission—make disciples of Jesus locally and globally.  To do so well requires intentionality both here and there. As we partner for the sake of the gospel “over there,” let these five guiding principles direct you to partner well in the mission.

Churches and the Missionary Task–Exit (and Partner)

The work of the gospel does not end until Jesus comes again.  As churches partner with missionaries across the globe to advance the Kingdom of God, the goal is to complete the missionary task among each people group and place. 

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Why Exit?

Missionaries sent out by local churches enter unreached and underserved places for gospel impact.  These missionaries evangelize unbelievers and then disciple those who come to faith in Jesus.  From these new believers, healthy church formation occurs along with leadership development.  Lastly, in the missionary task, the missionary exists that people group and place as partners with the new healthy church to repeat this process elsewhere.   

In fact, “an IMB missionary team’s goal is to carry out the missionary task among each people group or place and then hand off the job of leading the churches to those national leaders they have trained. . . . Following the example of the apostles, we continue to watch and advise after we have physically moved on to another work.  Yet, from the very beginning of our work, our aim is to work ourselves out of a job.  We begin the missionary task with exit in mind” (D. Ray Davis, “The Missionary Task: Working Yourself out of a Job”).

When to Exit

The decision to exit is no small matter.  The criteria for exiting the work among a people group and place corresponds with the missionary task (IMB Foundations):

  1. Evangelism—Are indigenous believers and churches carrying out faithfully and effectively the work of sharing the gospel within this people group or place?
  2. Discipleship—Are the churches within this place or people group faithfully and effectively discipling the believers whom God has entrusted to them?
  3. Church Planting—Are the churches within this people group or place displaying the twelve characteristics of a healthy church? Are these churches faithfully planting other healthy churches?  Are they able to sustain church planting on their own?
  4. Leadership training—Do these churches have trained leaders, and do they have systems in place to continue to train leaders in an effective and biblically faithful way?
  5. Missionary involvement—Is the church effectively training and sending cross-cultural missionaries to other people groups and places?

For further consideration on exiting, missionaries must ask the dependency question: “Would our continued presence foster dependency on the part of local churches who are capable of fulfilling all of the tasks of a healthy church movement but who are reluctant to do so out of habit or out of deference to us” (IMB Foundations)? 

Leaving one location in order to repeat the missionary task in another location boils down to healthy local churches being self-led and self-financed in order to evangelize the lost, disciple new believers, plant new churches, develop their own leaders and send out missionaries cross-culturally. 

Until He Comes Again

Just as the Apostle Paul exited certain peoples and places to carry the gospel to new peoples and places, missionaries do the same today.  Like Paul, they do so not to abandon those prior peoples and places but to continue a new phase of partnership with them in order for the Great Commission to be completed.  After all, the work is not done until Jesus comes again.