A couple of our men (Marcos Sosa and Carlos Santos) in Guatemala sent me these pictures yesterday. They were working on a sustainability project at our newest church plant in Santo Tomas. We are currently renting this property but doing our best to raise the $120,000 that we need to buy the two buildings and land that you see in the photos. I laughed when I saw the photo and the caption he sent. He said, “This is hard, laboring work.” And it is. Their present project is to plant the field behind the buildings in corn and other vegetables that they can sell to help supplement their personal incomes and the church ministry. It is a worthy effort. I commend them. It is necessary. It is a step in the right direction of autonomous ministry.
For over 20 years I have worked in impoverished countries, evangelizing, discipling and church planting. It has been a tremendous blessing but has always been filled with special challenges. Today I am addressing just one of these challenges, that being the work of teaching and realizing autonomy for the churches we plant. Every place, every pastor and every church is different, even within the same country. In some cases there is a genuine desire in the heart of the pastor and the people to become self-supporting, self-governing and self-propagating. In others there resides a difficult and often times hard resistance on the part of both the pastor and or the church to take on the mature responsibilities of caring for themselves. They quickly grow complacent with having someone else take care of them and bear them along in life.
I know what it is like to be both a pastor planting a new church, a husband, father and provider for my family. I have had to work secular jobs outside the church ministry, as has my wife (more than I) in order for us to make ends meet in our home and to carry forth the church to sustainability. It is not easy. But it is at times necessary. I am writing these words, which will also be translated so that those I am presently working together with in various places and in diverse situations will consider long, pray and work much in order to come to the place where they have a biblically based church. As much as a pastor may want to be the lead, to be the head, the senior, the boss or whatever – as long as they have outside support they are never fully autonomous. We need autonomous churches. Brethren, pray for us!