The first core ability of All Nations church planters is the Ability to Abide with Jesus Christ. This might seem obvious at first, but it can’t be overemphasized. If we can’t abide in Christ, then we can’t do anything. (John 15:4).
But, what does it look like to Abide in Christ in the middle of pioneer church planting situations? In other words, what does it look like to abide in Christ in the middle of evil and darkness? This looks different than many of us are used to. Many of us are used to worship experiences that are comfortable and well-orchestrated and are focused on bringing us a new shot of Holy Spirit power. However, church planters in All Nations might literally be the only followers of Jesus for hundreds or thousands of miles. They will have to learn to Abide in Christ during the intense confusion, persecution, and lack of resources. This is a whole new kind of abiding for most of us, and no one knows if we will pass that test until it comes. But, if Jesus is not beautiful enough to worship in the midst of the worst slum or in the midst of the persecution, then we have failed to behold Him properly.
Most church planters will go through an intense season of confusion on the field. They will find that they have given up everything to move to a far-away place and they are hoping for an adventure with Jesus. What they often get instead is difficulty, danger, and what seems to be a pointless existence. They wonder if God has forsaken them or abandoned them. This is because hope deferred is hard on the heart (Proverbs 13:12). So, can our church planters have hope against all hope? Can they join the hall of the faithful who remain faithful even if promises are not seen in their lifetime (Hebrews 11)? Some will, and some won’t. Those who can’t usually quit, and may even become hostile and bitter towards Jesus, the church, their agency or even the missionary enterprise. Those who do make it through this time find Jesus strangely sweet and may even seem to have an air of contentment about them that other believers do not understand.
This kind of abiding has been refined in the fire until all the dross has been burned out. This is the kind of result mentioned in 1 Peter 1:7: “These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So, when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” It’s a kind of Abiding born out of being in the trenches with Jesus and finding Him to be a faithful partner in battle, even though we might have gotten injured or even died on this earth.
This abiding understands that even if the earthly body wears away that the heavenly spirit is always and forever safe with Jesus and can never be separated from him. Missionaries often get the chance to be refined in this way because they deliberately put themselves in dangerous places and then they are able to discover that Jesus truly is beautiful enough, despite any and all circumstances. So, they can learn to give thanks in ALL things (1 Thessalonians 5:18). This is Abiding in Christ.