Category Archives: Missions Philosophy

The Theory of The First Year (2 of 5) Sacrifice

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The reason I am placing the importance of language learning in “the first year” is because you are going to be the most excited and have the most energy to learn it during that time. Everyone eventually gets burnt out from studying and learning the language. My theory is that you have one year to get a good portion of the “language foundation” underneath you before you experience major “burn out”. If you don’t do good in the first year, it is most likely that you will always be learning, but never fully achieve fluency (a term with many definitions).

Therefore, if this is true, you have the opportunity and you are not on the field yet, then please heed this advice. Take language acquisition seriously. Please don’t convince yourself that you have a whole lifetime to learn it, because in reality, even though you will always be learning the language, the theory is that you only have a short window to really “get it”.

It is similar to a young child learning the language. Young children are like sponges who can learn the language of the environment that they are put into without much effort. On the contrary, adults have to put a lot of effort into learning the language if they are put in the same environment. No doubt both can learn the language, but the child will probably end up more fluent than the adult. That is my point in focusing on “the first year” for language acquisition.

If you are somebody who has already passed your first year, and you didn’t focus right during it, this post is not to tear you down in any way. I think there is still hope for you to learn the language, but it takes more effort and work to do so. I know you can do it! You can make certain commitments to work towards continuing your language learning ( <<< that is another post). I am writing this to help those who have not yet arrived on the field. My intention is to save them some trouble by having the right focus from the beginning of their first year.

With that said, let’s get into it:

Be prepared to make whatever sacrifices necessary to learn the language.

As modern-day missionaries, we forget “the practice of sacrificing” once we are on the field. We realize that leaving family and American comforts behind are a sacrifice, but outside of those things, we often don’t live lives of continual sacrifice on the field.

The practice of sacrificing means that you will have to give up things that you like for things that you don’t like. You will give up things that you love for things that you don’t love.

For example, missionary wives who want to learn the language can’t be with their children all day during the first year. Many seem to forget this the day that they land on the field. They don’t want to leave their children (understandably). All the sudden their children become the number one reason why they cannot learn the language. They do not trust the national to take care of their children. They do not trust a school. They stay home and watch their children. They home school their children. They come up with whatever excuse they can, but they are not willing to sacrifice time with their children for learning the language.

Don’t get me wrong, this is hard, but the motivation behind such a sacrifice is good and the necessary to accomplish the goal, so no one is asking you to sacrifice just for the sake of sacrificing!

If you study missionary biographies, you will realize that those who went on before us paid a greater price. Many sent their kids away to boring school (something that is even hard for me to read and image doing), only seeing them once or twice a year so they could do gospel work. Others had many children who died due to sickness and they stayed on the field knowing that each child they had on the field would be subject to the same danger of illness. They fully understood the  practice of sacrifice.

These emotions need to be dealt with before you arrived on the field. You need to make plans about what you are going to do before you come. I mean, you are raising your support telling people you are going to learn the language to reach the people on your field with the gospel, aren’t you?

I call this, “Parent Protection Mode” and it is completely understandable. I am thankful that parents care for their children. But it can also be a curse it you allow it to dictate how you are going to learn the language in the first year.

Moms are the ones usually most effected because they are the main ones who stay home with the children. Mom’s who go into parent protection mode don’t forget they need to learn the language, they just ask create a new language learning plan around watching the kids and homeschooling them. A plan that often won’t end with language fluency. They will learn just enough to get by. Asking around for advice from other wives in parent protection mode usually doesn’t help either.

Fathers, however, usually know that they have to preach in the language one day. Therefore, they hit the field running. But they leave their wife behind to deal with “parent protection mode” by herself. He doesn’t have an adequate plan for her to overcome this struggle, so he just agrees for her to stay home, as long as it frees him to go out and work like he needs to. Besides, he doesn’t trust anybody either and he already has enough stress in his life by this point, so a fight with he wife doesn’t sound appetizing. When we husbands allow this to happen while we run off and spend all day learning a language, we are hurting our wives and the effectiveness of our future ministry.

So it is just as much a lack of leadership for the husband to allow this to happen as it is the wife to give into her fears. The first attack against your family not learning the language during the first year will come from your parental instincts about your children.

The discussion needs to be stared: What are you going to do about your children the first year? Are your prepared? Have you talk with the missionary on the field about it? Have you discussed it with your mission board? Have you discussed it with your pastor? Husband what is your plan?

Here is the more important question: Are you, dad and mom, willing to sacrifice your time with your children to learn the language during your first year?

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The Theory of The First Year (1 of 5) Language

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The following is my theory of the first year of being on the mission field. This is in the context of a missionary learning Chinese in China (though it can be applied elsewhere).

The general idea is the first year is going to be one of the most difficult years on the field, but also the most foundational. This is not a new concept, and many come to the field prepared for it, but it seems many forget everything they were taught the second day on the field.

Everything seems adventurous and fun when you land with tons of money to set up your house in a new place. But it is scary. The setup process seems to catch people off guard: spending large amounts of money, being pressured to find things they like in a short period and having no idea where to find them. But this isn’t really about “how to setup with the least amount of stress“. There is something else I am aiming towards.

Instantly upon arriving on your new field you will experience “culture shock“. Many deny culture shock, but it starts the first day that you’re on the field. It is the source of many of the crazy things people will do in their first year. It is the source of many tears. It is the source of what just caused a person who seemed to be doing well in America to be a wreck on the mission field. (Honestly, getting to the field and realizing that a restaurant does not serve cold drinks and does not have ice for your drinks is enough to make most Americans crazy.) But this isn’t really about, “how to deal with culture shock on the mission field.” There is something else I want to discuss…

…the goal of the first year.

What is the goal of the first year? It is to learn the language and the culture. Correct! But more importantly, the language. What I mean is: if in one year you can carry on a basic conversation in Chinese, but you still don’t know how to use chopsticks, you have succeeded. On the contrary, if in one year you know how to use chopsticks, but you can’t carry on a basic conversation in Chinese, you have not succeeded. Therefore, the theory of the first year that I want to write about is not as much about culture adaptation as language acquisition.

So let’s talk language.

The theory of the first year is simple: if you do well in the language during your first year, you will be working towards fluency, but if you don’t do well during your first year, then you most likely won’t become fluent. The first year will set the pattern for the rest of your language learning time and is foundational for future ministry impact. Language is the most necessary part of the equation, but also the hardest to do and easiest to neglect.

Now, of course, I don’t know everything about it. I don’t even claim to be an expert, but I have lived in China for five years and I have been learning the language ever since. I’ve have “studied” for about 2 1/2 years full-time, then started a Chinese ministry.

I have learned Chinese “okay,” but even that is questionable.

So why am I writing this? Because I have learned a few things, and I want to help. I have watched other people. I have drawn some conclusions. So in these posts I want to help you focus on learning the language in your first year. (Yes, this sounds like a given, but if it were so easy, then I wouldn’t have to be writing a post about it, so stick with me.)

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Church Organization (4 of 4) How?

Part of a church organization is “getting organized!” What exactly is involved in a church organization? The principles of church organization are found in Scripture, but it doesn’t give us an outline on what must be involved. Obviously, a group of believers desiring to become a local church will be committed to do everything the Bible requires of them to do as a church. The following list are suggestions to help a church fulfill those requirements in an orderly manner:

  • Church Constitution: A church constitution is a document that states the churches name, the foundation, object, and priorities of the church, affirmation of their faith, the church covenant, membership, leadership, organization, and church property guidelines. This gives the church direction in how to handle its affairs.
  • Church Doctrinal Statement: This is a document that states that main doctrines of the church. Every person who desires to become a member of the local church must agree to these Biblical truths.
  • Church ByLaws: The church bylaws is a document that states the procedure a church will take when adding or disciplining church members to it’s fellowship, choosing church leadership, handling church employees, finances and other necessary areas of concern.
  • Church Charter: The church charter is a document that states the purpose of the church, the expectations of it’s members, and a description of it’s function. It is encouraged that the founding members will sign it.
  • Attitude of Independence: This is a document that states the attitude our church has towards the government and the reasons why we can’t completely comply with the State-organized churches.

After the service was turned over to me as pastor, I thanked the church and then called on a young man to come to the front and read the church charter. After he read the charter, we invited everyone who was standing and willing to make the commitment, as the charter stated, to come forward and sign it. These few became the “founding members” of our church (we had around 10). Then after the service, we took the charter and hanged it inside the church building as a reminder of the covenant made.

The reading and signing of the Church Charter is probably the most important parts of the ordaining service… here is the text of the church charter we used:

Today, Sunday, November 9, 2014, in Dalian, Liaoning, China, the signers of this document desire to form an independent Church for the glory of God.

Through the Word of God and the Holy Spirit’s leading, each of us affirm that we have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God, been baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and now enter into covenant with one another as one local church.

We declare, as saved and scripturally baptized believers, that this church is founded, on the Word of God and Jesus Christ, who is its Head. We believe in the historic Baptist principles summarized in our doctrinal statement, and with the blessing and authority of our sending church, Vision Baptist Church, we are organizing into a Baptist Church.

We promise to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind and to love our neighbors as ourselves.

We promise to be responsible for our church, to edify our church, to fulfill our church’s Scriptural duties and ordinances, as well as, obey the great commission of making disciples of all nations.

This document will be the official charter of our church, which shall be named the: Dalian Grace Baptist Church.

This charter will be a living testimony for future generations of our commitment to and celebration of our Sovereign God.

Church Organization (3 of 4) Who?

Who organizes a church? Jesus established the first church with His disciples and it was empowered on the day of Pentecost. Since then it seemed only natural that churches start churches. The church, as commanded by Jesus, has the authority to send out qualified men to make disciples through the preaching of the gospel, baptism and the continued teaching of the Scriptures. Once enough disciples are made in a certain place then a church can be organized.

Since I was the man who was sent out to make disciples (who was given the authority and blessing of his sending church to establish like-minded churches), I assisted the local believers in organizing into a church.

My Pastor was also there to help us with the organization. The authority of each local church is within each of the local churches themselves as they are ultimately organized under the headship of Jesus, submit to the authority of the Scriptures, and are guided by the Holy Spirit. A sending church is for accountability. Our home church has prayed for and assisted us in starting this new work and it is out of Vision Baptist Church that we started Dalian Grace Baptist Church. So it was an honor to be able to have him with is for this special day and the support of our home church as we became recognized as a Local New Testament Church.

He first preached and challenge the people and had all those who were willing to follow Jesus and become members of this church stand up. The first order of business was the church needed a pastor, and so he had them vote on me as the pastor. Once they voted me in; he turned the service over to me, and I continued with the organization process that we chose.

Also, we also had two Chinese pastors from other churches of like-faith that participated in the organization service. We were glad they could come for this time of celebration and commitment.

Church Organization (2 of 4) When?

We have worked at planting a church in this city for two years plus now. We arrived here not knowing anyone. One Chinese friend of our family moved with us to help with the kids and around the house, she was our first attendee, but after about a year she rejected the faith and turned away. Needless to say, planting a church isn’t easy.

We have worked at making disciples. We started the church with just my family and a couple of contacts. From there, we saw some growth, but also started reaching out to a new part of town with an evangelistic Bible study that also turned into a small church. Over time, it only seemed reasonable for us to merge these two works together.

So the question is, “When should a church be organized?” Every church is different and may choose to do this at different times. We know that Jesus said (in reference to church discipline), “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20), so there needs to be two or more believers who are willing to unite together for the purpose of establishing a local church.

Next we see that, “They that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:41-42). New believers were baptized, added to the church and continued together in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship. These are the very basics from which a church is started: (1) born-again believers who are (2) baptized, (3) starting to regularly assemble (4) willing to continue in the apostles doctrine and (5) desiring to fulfill its purpose as a church.

Where this group of believers exist and desire to become a church, they should organize so that all things will be done decently and in order.

For us this meant that we waited until we had a core of people who met these requirements. After merging the churches together, we seemed to have this core and were ready to make this public commitment.

If you are wanting to know dates and actually time frames, here you go: Gospel held its’ first service on April 7, 2013 and Grace had its first service as a church on April 6th, 2014. They merged together and held the first joint service as Dalian Grace Baptist Church on September 28th 2014. So that is about 22 months from the first service to the Organization service on Sunday, November 9, 2014.

Church Organization (1 of 4) What?

On Sunday, November 9th, 2014 we officially organized our first church here in China. It was a great day of celebration, especially in the face of all the adversity that the church had faced in the previous months. (They had a run in with the police in July and October.)

What exactly is Church Organization? Church organization is when a new church (that has been recently started, like ours) decides to officially become recognized as a Local New Testament Church, uniting around a common Biblical purpose, affirmation of faith, members covenant, etc.

The Bibles say, “Let all things be done decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40). This isn’t just limited to the church services, but also to the church as a whole in all it’s dealings. Paul tells Titus “For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee” (Titus 1:5). We desire to “set in order” all the things that are wanting so that we can fulfill our role as a church.

Also, through church organization, a new church tries to reflect the character and nature of God by giving order and clarity to its foundation, object and priorities which should result in harmony, not confusion or strife.

This led us to have a special day where those who were going to be joining the church would stand up and join together for the common purpose of forming a local church for the glory of God!

Survey Trip Basics (4 of 4) Questions

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The following are a list of questions that you should be asking during your time in country. By the end of the trip you should be able to explain from your notes a summary of the cities you visited, different types of transportation, the cost of buying a vehicle, the living expenses, renting cost, how to rent a place (contract, down payment), basic utilities, setup cost, what kind of foods are available or unavailable, what kind of clothing stores to they have, schooling for your children, where will you go to language school, how to get a visa, a general consensus on medical treatment, etc. This list is adapted from Austin Gardner’s “Frequently Asked Questions for those Preparing to go to Peru as Missionaries“:


  • What things should I take with me to “Country”?
  • What do I wait to buy in “Country”?
  • What are the pros and cons of taking a container of my personal items to “Country”?
  • What is shipping my goods to “Country” going to cost?
  • Should I take a vehicle from the states or purchase one in “Country”?
  • What kind of vehicle will we be able to buy in “Country”?
  • What is the cost and availability of parts?
  • How do we send our books (personal library) to “Country”?
  • How much are appliances (Refrigerator, Washing Machine, Dryers, etc.)?


  • What kind of house can I expect to live in?
  • What will it cost me to set up my house in “Country”?
  • What will it cost to live in a house vs. apartment?
  • What kind of electric current will we have?
  • How do I rent a place to live? What is the process?
  • What kind of contract do I have to sign?
  • What is the cost of hotel or where to stay until you find a house etc.?


  • Do I need a visa to stay in the country long-term?
  • What kind of visa can I get? What kind of paperwork is involved?
  • How much does a visa cost and how often does it need to be renewed?


  • How long does it take to learn the language?
  • What is the best way to learn the language?
  • What language schools are available and recommended?


  • How do you buy your groceries?
  • What kind of grocery stores and markets do they have?
  • How do we prepare the food that we get at the market?
  • What kind of food will we be eating?
  • What kind of “Western” restaurants do they have?


  • What is the weather like?
  • How do I need to prepare for the weather?
  • What is the air quality and pollution like?


  • How safe is it? Will my children be safe?
  • Can we have a pet for our children? Can we take our dog with us?
  • Who will my children play with?
  • What activities will my children be able to take part in?
  • Where will my small children be while I am in language school?
  • What school will my children go to?


  • What is kind of churches are in “Country”?
  • Can we openly preach the gospel? If not, why?
  • How long before I can start my ministry?
  • What are things you have done that have been effective?


  • How will we be able to communicate with the States?
  • How will we get our mail?
  • What kind of services are available (internet, cell phones, radios, etc.)?


  • How are the medical facilities and medical care?
  • What if I have to take medicine on a regular basis (i.e. insulin, etc.)?
  • Will we get sick? What is a common sickness in “Country”?
  • What are the pros and cons of having a baby in “Country”?


  • How will I get my money, banking, etc.?
  • What preparations can we make before leaving for the field?
  • Do I need a will? Why?
  • How do you do laundry and dry-cleaning in the country?
  • Can we drink the water? Do they have water purification?
  • What kind of clothing can I buy in “Country”? Do they have my size?

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Survey Trip Basics (3 of 4) Research

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With today’s technology the answer to many questions can be found by searching the internet. Therefore, you need to do your homework before taking the trip. You can use this information to better understand your country and can check it with those who you visit in the country.

Below is a list of ideas (adapted from Austin Gardner’s “Spy Out the Land“) that will get you started in your research:

The Geography of the Country

  • What is the Climate?
  • What crops are produced?
  • What types of roads do they have?

The Politics and History of the Country

  • What type of government do they have?
  • How is their social development?
  • What are some major conflicts?
  • What are their notable Constitutions?
  • What is their attitude towards the government (Communism, Socialism, Democracy)?
  • What is their attitude towards North Americans?
  • Do they have a respect for the law?
  • Is there a history of unrest?
  • How does the country functions?
  • How did the country get to where it is?

The Economics and Development of the Country

  • What is the salary of the people?
  • What menu do the people have?
  • What type of housing do they live in?
  • How is their healthcare, hospitals, etc.?
  • Banking, how will you get money?
  • How stable is the economy?
  • What is the main source of income?

The Demographics of the Country

  • Where do the people live?
  • How are the classes divided?
  • How many people have cars, telephones, TVs, cell phones, etc.?

The Psychology of the Country

  • What are they like?
  • Are they organized?
  • Are they open or closed?
  • Are they warm or cold?
  • Are they trusting or distrusting?
  • What is the family situation like?
  • What is their attitude towards missionaries?
  • What have missionaries done that has caused hard feelings and problems?

The Spiritual Condition of the Country

  • How many churches are there in the city? Baptist? Independent?
  • What missionaries are working in the city, from what boards, what type of ministry do they have?
  • What national missionaries are working in the city?
  • Are there Christian bookstores and Christian radio or television?
  • Other types of churches and ministries in the city or area
  • What is the history of missions in the country?
  • What is the church history in the country?
  • What you will need to know to live there as comfortably as possible?

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Survey Trip Basics (2 of 4) Implementation & To Do’s

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  • Visit the Country – See the country through your own eyes. There is nothing magical here but it helps take out the mystery of what the country really is and isn’t. This is a reality check.
  • Take Someone with Experience – Take a mentor or a missionary friend who has experience in survey trips and let them give their perspective on everything. Since he isn’t moving there he will probably notice things you won’t or choose to look over.
  • Ask Questions – Ask as many questions as possible and record the answers. Always have a notebook on you or electronic device to record everything. Prepare all of your questions in advance and write them down and take them with you, otherwise you will forget.
  • Take Notes – As you are doing research before your trip, you should start taking notes and making a notebook that can help you not only plan the trip but that will also aid in forming your strategy. Make a detailed outline of everything that you do on the trip and write as many thoughts about each part of the trip as you can. For example, as you visit different cities write your first impressions and things that you see.

To Do’s

  • Meet Missionaries – You are going to the country as a missionary and so you need to meet missionaries in the country to find out what their circumstances and get answers to your questions. They are going to be the most valuable asset when asking questions. But missionaries say a lot of dumb things so you have to ask a lot of them a lot of questions and come to your own conclusions. Visit their houses, ministries and ask about support, adapting, language, etc. Ask the missionary who they who would talk to if they were moving there and then get other contacts and phone numbers to make other appointments.
  • Visit Churches – Find out what is being done and what they say can and can’t be done. You can visit a missionaries church and a national’s church. If the national doesn’t speak English and there is no translator, then don’t go. Ask question while you are there and find out as much as possible.
  • Visit Language Schools – Within 45 days of leaving for the field you need to be in language school, therefore you need to know where yo start. Visit several different schools to see what options you have and find out the price and application process. You can always change schools alter but you need somewhere to start.
  • Look at Houses or Apartments – Find a real estate agent that can take you to look at a place for rent, visit a missionary’s house or ask them to take you around and looked at different neighborhoods. Collect information about prices, areas, size, etc.
  • Visit Temples Etc. – See the religious culture firsthand and found out what it is they actually believe.
  • Visit Grocery Stores, Appliance Stores and Markets – Visiting these places can give you a quick note to what is easy to find and home much things cost. You can easy price things, write it down for a later reference and see what appliance are available and how much they cost.
  • Transportation – Take as many transportation options as you can and that don’t inconvenience the trip. I prefer to take taxis since it is the easiest way to get around but also check out the other options available and see how easy or hard it is to use them to get around.
  • Get a Bird’s Eye View – Find the tallest point in the city and go there to get a view of the city. Pray over the city and realize the task ahead of you.

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Survey Trip Basics (1 of 4) Objective & Goals

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I write about taking a survey trip in 2012 when we my co-laborer and I took a survey trip to the city I now live in. It gave a quick “how to” and what the application of the steps looked like for us.

You can read that series also, [ 1 | 2 | 3 ], as I think it will complement this set of post on the subject.

We were looking at a city and not a country, since I was looking for a considering the city to start my ministry. Therefore, because of a recent trip to Japan to help some friends with a survey trip, I thought I would write a more extensive outline covering all the “Survey Trip Basics.”



A survey trip is to learn what you will be facing when you go to your mission field and to form a strategy that will help you adjust and set the course for your future ministry.

Therefore, you will need to gather information, firsthand knowledge and personal experience that will help you:

  • learn about being a missionary there
  • learn as much of the practical side as you can
  • learn what it is going to take to get started.


  • Cost of living – How much support do you need to survive and thrive? Can you raise the support?
  • Language – How hard is the language and where can you learn it? Can you learn the language?
  • Missionary Mentor – Is there someone you can work with? Can you work on your own?
  • Right Location – Is the city a large strategic city that you can send people out from to reach the entire country? Where do the middle class live? Can you start a ministry there?


  • Gather Resources – Take video, pictures and buy items that will help give voice to your burden.
  • Greater Burden – Let your eye affect your heart. You have studied about this people and now you are going to be among them.

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