Apoluo in a Missionary Setting
Recently it was my privilege to take the APOLUO seminar that BMW provides to North American sending churches to a group of leaders in Villa Carlos Paz, Argentina. There were three church leaders in attendance due to conflicting schedules for some of the ones originally scheduled to participate. Two of the men were national missionary pastors and one was an Argentine church leader.
Instruction and challenge in the area of missions has been sorely neglected in the work of missionaries over the last fifty years or so and particularly inadequately addressed in Argentina and Uruguay over the last years. While a number of churches have been established, few have grown to the place where they adequately support their pastors. The populations of the churches are often from disadvantaged segments of society, but this does not absolve them from Biblical accountability for the well-being of their pastors and subsequent missionary engagement.
The presence of cell phones in the hands of all but the youngest seems to suggest that disposable income in gradually increasing. When I first went to Uruguay in 2003 many people drove vehicles from the 60’s and 70’s. One memorable car that I rode in was a “57 Chevy Malibu” and the fact that it had a nearly new Nissan turbo diesel engine was a little disconcerting. Now the roads are filled with newer cars from Europe (assembled in Brazil), Japan, Korea and many brands of cars from China. The point: there is sufficient income to support local church pastors if church leaders and their congregations knew the biblical basis for funding ministry.
The Apoluo Seminar brings out three high points that need to be addressed with the churches in South America.
First we looked at Acts 1:8 which says; “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” The question of “Where is Jerusalem?” is critical to the understanding of God’s plan for the church. The North American church has understood that Jerusalem had moved to their responsibility. The North American missionaries inadvertently gave the impression that they had arrived at the uttermost parts of the earth and the cycle was completed. Geographically Jerusalem is in Israel. Philosophically Jerusalem is in our home church. Spiritually, however, Jerusalem is where God dwells and HE dwells in me so in fact, every Christian becomes Jerusalem and becomes obligated to be a witness even to the uttermost part of the earth and that place is very different when one is a Uruguayan or foreign national from some other country.
Secondly, the Acts 13:1 – 3 passage is the seed text for the whole concept of APOLUO. The five leaders of the church at Antioch were a mixed group of men from different backgrounds – ranging from a slave to a member of the ruling class as well as highly trained Bible scholar and some business people. From them the Holy Spirit chose two to go as missionaries. The church sent them out (apoluo) with confidence that they could and would do the work of the ministry.
Thirdly, the Acts 15:1 – 3 passage illustrates the reality that the church would provide resources for the men sent out by the church. Verse three has the men sent out (propempo) with resources for the work of the ministry.
Those three ideas were like a match to kindling wood as the men in the seminar explored the meaning for them and the churches that they led in Argentina.