What Makes PMc Unique?
Today we are continuing our Question and Answer series related to missions and missions work in Italy. Specifically, this idea came to us way back when we used to do this at Saints Bible Institute with the previous mission we worked with, and it was a great opportunity. I really appreciated how students were able to interact with missionaries living and serving Jesus Christ here on the field in Italy. We would do a missions panel, and missionaries lined up on one side and students on the other side, and they were able to ask any questions that came to mind. And this, keep in mind, was during a time when they were studying evangelism and studying missions, and then they got an opportunity to interact and ask questions. So they had a lot of questions on their mind. They would bring those questions and whoever was able or wanted would be able to give an answer to their questions to bring some clarity, and to answer those questions that they had related to missions.
So in our own way, at PMc, we're also carrying on this tradition as you know, and we field questions when we're in the States. We also now welcome people to answer or ask questions and receive an answer through the podcast ministry, the media ministry. We invite you to check out the SpeakPipe page for PMc, which takes you to a dedicated page where you can record an audio of your question (like a voice message). So you can click on a button and through your smartphone or through your computer, you can record your question related to missions and missions work in Italy, and then be featured on the podcast. You can remain anonymous if you prefer that (just leave a note), or you can also have your name included as well. In any case, you'll leave your message, and then we'll include it so everybody can hear you asking the question and then we'll go ahead and give our answer to your question.
Our question for today is one that was also taken while in the States during our last trip there. I Finally am getting around to answering these questions. It was a good question. It took me by surprise for a second, because I was representing the mission and talking about the mission when the person asked the question. It was during a group, I think it was a men's group when I gave a talk on missions, a Bible exhortation, shared about the realities of Italy, and the man asked, "What mission are you with?" After explaining what mission we're with, He asked, what makes PMc unique?
I shouldn't have to say much about what mission we are with. If you're reading this, you're aware that the mission is called Practical Missions Cohort. That is the name of the mission for which we work for and with, and we're operating in Italy. Now, what makes PMc unique is a pretty good question. So I'll give a couple-point answer to this. I think there's three things that come to mind now, as I think of this, and I think I mentioned this probably when I gave the answer originally to that question back in the States . The things that make PMc unique among all the different mission agencies out there is,
1. Our Focus is Exclusively in Italy.
The focus of PMc is exclusively in the country of Italy. We could even narrow it down a little bit more and say in the Northern part of Italy, because that's where we're focused and probably will be for at least for the next many, many years. We could branch out into the entire country one day, but in any case, for sure, we are focused exclusively in the country of Italy, and that's not typical for a mission agency and mission association today coming out of America. Typically we have the bigger picture in mind as to where we want to go, that is to every part of the globe and to reach every country and every continent and all these kinds of things. We have big ambitions and so on, and that's really good. There's a place for that. But at PMc, the thing that makes us unique, and to the point where we focus exclusively on one country, one people group and even one part of that country, is that we also see there's a need for very specific work to be done.
Rather than spread ourselves thin and try to do a whole lot in a whole lot of places, we do a whole lot in one place. That's our unique approach.
It's kind of like we see in the book of Acts with the apostle Paul and the band of missionaries who would be with him to execute very specific tasks of evangelizing certain towns, establishing a church there, training elders and moving on... So that being the case, we don't need big and wild things. We need well-trained, good-hearted missionaries who know the Bible, who know the word of God, and are able to adapt in this culture and do the work of ministry in this culture to the end that we have, which is training nationals in the churches to oversee the flock. Then we continue on, which is another thing that makes PMc unique as well. So rather than spread out and try to reach multiple countries and do the same thing in multiple countries, which could be good, (wouldn't be a bad thing), at PMc, we're focused exclusively in one place. We think there is a place for that; a time and a reason to dedicate ourselves to one people group. Rather than spread ourselves thin and try to do a whole lot in a whole lot of places, we do a whole lot in one place. That's our unique approach.
2. Apostolic Church Planting
Another thing that makes PMc unique is that we do, what's known as apostolic church planting. Now let's make it clear. We don't believe there are still apostles today. We believe there were the original apostles and that was it. After them came elders in the local churches, pastors equipped and trained to oversee the flock with the word of God that was contained for us. We're not lacking anything that we need. No additional revelation is needed. We have the eternal word of God, the living word of God to transform our lives, to shape our ministries and to be proclaimed through us to the people groups, taught to the people that then get saved and they continue spreading that same gospel message. There is no new revelation that needs to be given.
By apostolic church planting we mean, we do the approach of the apostles when it comes to church planting. Simply put, that means rather than go and start a church and pastor it forever, we go start a church and train nationals to oversee that flock as soon as possible. That's what we see the apostle Paul doing in every town he went to. They would work in one way or another to see the group of new believers that were evangelized and born of the spirit of God. They would gather them together, train them, teach them how to worship the Lord, teach them the word of God and establish as soon as possible elders from their own midst, men trained and equipped by the Holy spirit who knows Scripture are able to teach the word of God, etc..., and are qualified according to what we see in Timothy and Titus, (those letters from the new Testament), they would then as a plurality oversee the flock together and continue multiplying and spreading and reaching more places with the gospel and training and equipping more people in ministry and so on. So when we say apostolic church planning, that's what we mean, and that is not a typical practice as well today.
Simply put, that means rather than go and start a church and pastor it forever, we go start a church and train nationals to oversee that flock as soon as possible.
Church Planting is definitely a growing thing, almost like a trend, but typically what's known as church planting in the US context is what we would consider pastoral church planting. Perfectly good, perfectly fine, also Biblical, but it's different. It's when you go and with a group of other baptized believers who self-identify as the body of Christ, understanding the gospel, living for Jesus Christ, and there's a pastor or pastors overseeing that flock. In the new area you just continue to grow and multiply as God leads. And again, what makes apostolic church planting different is that intent of getting in, exectuting a task, and getting out. We oversee the flock as we see it formed and started, and it's the work of God, but we train other men to take our place so we can move on and get out and continue evangelizing other towns, other people groups, making more disciples and seeing more churches planted. Then the new churches become sister churches in effect of the other churches. And they all work together to be the witness of Christ in our areas.
So as apostolic church planters, our focus is predominantly on evangelism, discipleship, church planting, and pastoral training and equipping. We don't do a lot of the other things that are typically understood today to be part of missions; medical things, digging wells, and those kinds of things. In our context, this is not what we're about, and it's not what we need to do. We do the essentials like the apostles did to see churches realized, started, planted, soundly planted with a firm foundation. And then all the typical things that we associate with regular church life, the different activities and programs and all this kind of stuff typically comes after the fact. The nationals put that stuff into order by building on the foundation we laid for them.
3. We are of the Reformed Faith
Lastly, I would say the third thing that makes PMc unique as a mission agency is that we are of the reformed faith. That is not typical in our day as well. The key distinctions of the reformed faith are often known also as the Five Solas: grace alone, faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone, and all that based off of Scripture alone. These five solas do give definition to what is the reformed faith, and at the heart of the reformed faith is the reality that God ultimately is sovereign. He's never learning anything new. He doesn't decide to save people based on what they do or what they don't do. He knows from eternity passed, those who are His, those who He predestined, and He knows the time they'll be saved, when they'll be saved, through whom they'll be saved, and who's going to bring them the word and so on.
Our God is not learning new things. The God of the Bible is sovereign over all. He decrees all that comes to pass. He's entirely in control of all things, and for the believers, it's great comfort because we know He's working all things together for our good and for His glory. These things go hand in hand and ultimately at the heart of this also is the new birth. Many people in our day, as I even mentioned in a recent podcast episode, don't really think much about how did that new birth come about? How did I get these new desires for Jesus Christ and this new hatred towards my sin? Where did that come from? Did I cause myself to be born? Did I do that? Was it because I acted in a certain way or believed and did something.
Many people in our day, as I even mentioned in a recent podcast episode, don't really think much about how did that new birth come about?
In the reformed faith we understand that actually all of us were born spiritually depraved. We're born dead in our sins and in our trespasses, slaves to Satan even. We're at enmity with God as the Bible describes it. We're slaves of our sin and we're slaves to Satan and we cannot choose Christ in our own abilities. We're just not able, but when God sovereignly acts and changes our heart, the miracle of rebirth, the miracle of regeneration, all of a sudden, he breathes life into us. In Italian we have this beautiful word, "Vivificare", that says God brings us to life - Ci vivifica... He causes us to come alive and because of that, we now desire things as God wills. We love to do His will. We want to live for His glory and all the rest, but that's because He first, as we read in 1 Peter, He caused us to be born again. He did it to us. We didn't do it to ourselves, and because of that, we can say from our hearts, "all glory to God alone". We did nothing, absolutely nothing, to earn favor with God, to earn salvation. We earn condemnation. Justice for us is eternity in hell, but He gave us great mercy. He came after us. Who am I that he would choose me? Who am I that He would come after me. Our hearts in this way, are made humble. We are overwhelmed by the goodness of God towards us, what we don't deserve.
He gave us eternal life when we deserve condemnation! It's really astonishing. This motivates and moves us to spend ourselves entirely for Jesus Christ. It even affects our evangelism as well. Without an understanding of the reformed faith and how salvation works and so on, what typically happens in mission associations, and in evangelism through them, is that they're engaging the lost, thinking that man is able to save himself, thinking that we can just, if we say the words in the right way, if we have the right kind of persuasion or right kind of character and attitude, or we're charismatic, that will get more people saved when that's not true at all. Actually, salvation is a sovereign work of God. He saves whom He wills, when He wills, and how He wills. We're just happy to be able to be at His service.
The true call of the disciple is to proclaim the word, to exhort with all his heart, and to go to the lost. Ultimately, we know God knows who His sheep are. He calls His sheep unto himself. He gives us the privilege of participating in what He's doing. If you think about that, you ponder that, and you go and study that subject much more in depth, you see it's a great motivator for Biblical and healthy missions to take place, with biblical evangelism as well. It helps us avoid two dangers as well when it comes to evangelism. You can see a bunch of people get saved because of your efforts, and you might, you will most likely become proud, if you don't understand this concept well. Or the opposite could happen when no one gets saved through your evangelism and you give it up and you feel down and discouraged.
When you understand it is God the Holy spirit who does regeneration, who causes people to be born again (that it's all His work and it's all for God's glory), you can have great peace, great comfort, and great motivation to obey Jesus Christ and go. You know He has lost sheep out there, that He desires to save, and nothing will hinder them from coming to Him.
So those are the three things that make Practical Missions Cohort unique. To summarize, our focus is exclusively in Italy. That's not a typical thing for a mission agency - to focus in one place only. The second thing that makes us unique is we do apostolic church planting. This also, is not very typical in missions today and in church planting, but that's what we focus on here in our context. And lastly, we are of the reformed faith. We have a particular understanding of God and His sovereignty and His goodness. We can say in all things, "all glory to God", because we know we don't deserve anything from Him, and yet He's given us everything in Christ. It wasn't anything of our doing, but it was all His. For that reason, we say, "glory to God alone", as the reformers said, "soli Deo gloria".
Written by Jesse Schreck
Based off of the PMc Podcast episode 235
Useful Link for a simple overview of Reformed Theology:
Suggested Article on Reformed Faith - by Joel Beeke