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FIRST-PERSON: Holy obsession

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–The Apostle Paul might not have been the easiest person to engage in relaxed conversation, speculates missionary Carter Bolin*, strategy coordinator for the 27 million Muslims of West Bengal and neighboring areas of India.

For patient counseling or the personal touch, disciples who knew both men may have sought out Barnabas rather than Paul.

Paul was a visionary, a big-picture guy -— always looking beyond the horizon toward the next mission, the next Gospel journey. His eyes were ever on the prize: evangelizing the Gentiles and establishing the church among them.

Bolin and the other missionary strategy coordinators share the same holy obsession for the peoples they seek to reach. That is the calling of a strategy coordinator: to tirelessly advocate the cause of evangelizing his people, to bring every available Gospel resource to bear on the task of beginning a church-planting movement among them.

Paul’s ministry resonates among strategy coordinators for another reason.

“We’re in the Book of Acts right now,” Carter says. “You don’t have to read it; I can take you and show it to you.”

It’s unfolding among Bengali Muslims who make history-changing decisions to follow Christ and proclaim Him to their extended families and communities — regardless of the consequences.

“There will be a time when First Timothy needs to be written in West Bengal,” he adds. “That letter was written to an established church about all the issues that came as a result of years of practice, experience, failure and success. But right now, the Holy Spirit is moving so fast, and with so much response, that you can rest assured the same God who tended to the early church can tend to His church now.”

That’s why the pursuit of a church-planting movement — a self-sustaining movement of indigenous churches starting other churches with multiplying momentum — is Carter’s first, second and third priority as a strategy coordinator. He believes the strategy coordinator role is the most effective way to help believers — new Bengali converts, other missionaries, Asian Christian partners, Southern Baptist churches — develop a people-group mindset. He also believes his laser focus on starting churches and launching a church-planting movement is the most effective way to get the Gospel to Bengali Muslims.

“It’s not that other things like hospitals and schools and orphanages aren’t good,” he observes. “But right now we’re seeing a great harvest, and we’re putting our time and energy into what yields the most fruit.”

Toward that end, he acts as a coach, an encourager, a catalyst, a networker — constantly connecting people and resources with his harvest field. And while a strategy coordinator needs to know his people’s history and culture, he doesn’t just research and write reports for others to act on.

“In the final analysis, what brings radical change and conversion is two feet walking into a village, finding where God is at work and joining Him there,” Carter stresses. “You don’t have to have all the answers to everything in Islam or all the answers about a person’s ancestry. You just need to know what his needs are. Basically people are lost and need hope. The Holy Spirit is already at work drawing people to Christ.”

Training others to walk into those villages — preferably Muslim-background Bengali believers with a passion to reach their own — is better still. Carter describes his own village journeys these days as opportunities to watch Bengali church planters in action, verify their results and “have some fun” seeing God move. The enormous task of evangelizing Bengali Muslims ultimately belongs to Bengali believers. They will carry it out long after Carter departs the scene — perhaps to start another movement among another people.

“I’m there trying to gently move a group or a person in a direction until they conclude they were going there all along,” Carter explains. “That’s what you want to do in discipleship — model, assist, watch and leave — in the real world, not in a classroom. That’s every pastor’s dream, to get his people to own their faith” — and act on it.

“That’s real transmission of the Gospel.”
* Name changed for security reasons.
To learn more about the revolutionary calling of missionary strategy coordinators in church-planting movements, visit http://churchplantingmovements.com.

    About the Author

  • Erich Bridges