What is the purpose of Village Missions and CDI?
Ronnie Burnett, one of the students that completed the first Contenders Discipleship Initiative (CDI) course, “Bibliology and Bible Study Methods” at our field in La Pine, OR, spoke about the purpose of Village Missions in his final evaluation. When asked, “What changes happened in your attitude, your confidence, your perspective?” he responded:
Through this first session, I was going through a very difficult period of my life at work, one that in the past may have caused me to quit my job or drop out of the study and take the easy way out. But I learned to truly rely on the Lord and lean on him through prayer and each time I was feeling a little discouraged, diving into this study and the word of God would change my attitude and lift me up and give me encouragement. I have gained a confidence in relying on God for all things that I struggled with before, and this has only served to strengthen my faith and confidence in Him!
Those are wonderful changes! What relationship, however, do the results of CDI and its promotion within Village Missions have to do with our purpose and historical approach to ministry? Are we changing our traditional approach to ministry in rural communities in which the Village Missionary not only ministers to the local church congregation but also to the community at large, especially through relationship building and community involvement?
To begin to answer that question, let me quote from a letter written by Rev. Walter Duff, our founder in 1976 to a missionary who asked him if it was time to move.
Thank you for your letter of April 1 discussing the possibility of a move, if it is the leading of the Spirit. I believe in moves!
He then contrasts the approach of the Presbyterians who did not move their men with the Methodists who did. He maintains that the Methodists were much stronger because of their frequent moves. What is his answer to this missionary?
It is my recommendation that you move—not because there is a problem or that the work is lacking—but the American people respond to change, as no other race. Where one man cannot reach certain individuals, his successor may reach them very successfully. Especially in the West Country moves are exceedingly advantageous.
Most reading this would know that I would have given a different answer to that missionary. In that sense, our historical approach to ministry has changed.
I have a passion for the local church. Carole and I began attending the Fernwood Community Bible Church when I was only a one-year-old believer. Village Missionaries Ray and Martha Bell, and for a short time Terry and Martha Major, as well as the church body helped me to grow spiritually. I became involved in various aspects of the church life including serving on the church board. I remember the District Representative, Don Kunkel, coming to meet with us. The Village Missionaries modeled both a community involvement and an equipping ministry in the local body so that many were involved in ministry in the community. At one point, eleven Bible studies were taking place.
As a Village Missionary, I naturally followed the model of ministry I had witnessed. I would visit anyone in the area who was at the hospital and often go door to door. I joined the Fire Department at Red Feather Lakes and was involved at the local school. I also stressed the importance of expositional preaching and devoted much time to preparation. My preaching was almost entirely through books of the Bible.
Although my emphasis on equipping placed great stress on preaching, I also worked with the congregation to develop its spiritual health in other ways. At Morning Star Community Church in Colorado, we developed what we called the “Five Points of Our Star.” Those points were “Evangelism, Fellowship, Instruction, Prayer, and Worship” and were based on Acts 2:42-47. We had an elder over each of the five points and it was his responsibility to oversee progress in his area and work with others to suggest improvements. I felt it was my responsibility as a Village Missionary both to reach out into the community and to equip the saints for the work of the ministry (Eph. 4:12). As I reflect on my ministry as a Village Missionary, however, I wish I had the CDI!
When I first became Executive Director, even before I was installed, I developed an acrostic called “F.I.R.E.” that described the way I believed Village Missions would strategically advance. We would have to address all four areas (Finding New Fields, Investing in Individuals and Communities (fund raising), Recruiting New Missionaries, and Equipping Missionaries and Churches to Reach Their Communities for Christ). Of course, the CDI falls into the area of Equipping.
In addition, early on I worked with the Board of Village Missions to develop a Purpose Statement and a Statement of Values. The previous purpose statement was too lengthy and described what we did, not our mission or purpose.
The purpose of Village Missions is to provide full-time, qualified, spiritual leadership to rural areas in the United States and Canada where there exists a definite need to win and disciple people to Jesus Christ through the proclamation and demonstration of the Gospel; and to continue such leadership as long as requested.
What was Village Missions trying to accomplish? What was our God-given mission or purpose for being? The Board approved a new purpose statement in 2005 that read, “Village Missions exists to glorify Jesus Christ by developing spiritually vital churches.” This simpler statement captured what we were trying to achieve in supplying leadership to rural churches.
At the same time the Board approved a Statement of Values that included some of the values found within the original purpose statement but also added what we felt to be a “Spiritually Vital Church.” Spiritually vital churches are churches that “are making substantial progress in the areas of evangelism, instruction, prayer, worship, and fellowship.”
The changes made by the Board in 2005 are a departure from the sentiments expressed in Rev. Duff’s letter. However, I certainly believe that they derive from the Bible and reflect a true view of the church. I also believe that they substantially express what many Village Missionaries have been trying to achieve since we began as a Mission.
How then does CDI fit with our purpose, statement of values, and the somewhat more nebulous “historical approach to ministry?” The CDI seeks to equip the body of Christ for ministry and outreach, moving her towards spiritual health. It recognizes that a spiritually healthy body will not only reach its local ministry area but will also send out equipped workers for the harvest of souls. We assume a particular responsibility (as Village Missions always has with the 10% giving requirement) for the churches served by Village Missions to reach the rural areas of the United States and Canada. Not only are the rural areas of our country the responsibility before God of Village Missions but it is also the responsibility of the churches served by Village Missions!
Thus, the CDI contains a two-fold element of equipping the local body and sending out workers. An ill-equipped body will not send out workers. How effective the CDI is in equipping is a topic for another article. However, certainly the CDI fits within the realm of the “E” of Equipping, and seeks to achieve our purpose. It is also consistent with our values.
Our approach once emphasized the Village Missionary as the “Lone Ranger” who arrives in town seeking to win as many people as he can to Christ. The church would then wait for the next “Lone Ranger.” If that summary accurately reflects our historical approach, then we have departed from it. Instead, we now envision fully equipped believers within the body joining with the Village Missionary to reach their community and other rural areas for Christ. Reaching rural communities for Christ has always been part of our purpose, values, and approach. With CDI, we are enlisting the body of Christ to join with us in doing what we have always tried to do.
What an exciting time in the life of our mission when the “Ronnies” on our fields join with our Village Missionaries to accomplish our purpose!