Pastor Matthew Pottenger and his family recently finished six-years as missionaries helping Pastor Stephen Otieno Nyadenge and his family plant Calvary Chapel Lakeside in Kisumu, Kenya. That church was then able to raise up families to launch more churches.
As the Lord continues to grow the Calvary Chapel Movement, it is most likely it will expand most in international settings and it is in this consideration we thought it good to ask some simple questions of Pastors Stephen and Matthew concerning the missionary and pastor relationship.
What is the best way a missionary can help a church planter?
Pastor Stephen Otieno Nyadenge: there are several ways a missionary can help a church planter. First, is by being sensitive to know when to advise and when to actually come alongside to assist the church planting pastor. Before the Lord raises up national helpers, the missionary should help the pastor identify and disciple those He seems to have a call upon. It is of great importance for the missionary to spend as much time as possible with the planter to understand one another personally, and not only in ministry settings.
Missionary and Pastor Matthew Pottenger: One way that a missionary is able to best help the church planter is to not insert to much of himself in the DNA of the church. I say this as by definition the missionary’s role is usually temporary and also of foreign culture, and the church needs to be local and enduring (long past the timeframe of the missionary’s involvement). Thus in the early stages (when the church is in the greatest vulnerability and neediness) the constant struggle for the missionary is to let the church and ministry grow at a natural rate, and not an artificial one. Often, though not always the case, the missionary may be coming from a history of ministry experience, and the planter may be new in the role he is now finding himself, this can prove most difficult at times for the missionary not to insert himself too much in an authority or domineering way in the functions of the church. But it must be remembered that to whatever degree the missionary builds something on himself, the church will eventually reach a point where it will have to be weaned from his presence… which in the best of circumstances is difficult and in the worst can be detrimental and destructive to the future, long-term health, of the church. So in short, the missionary should play a “supportive” role to the church planter, thus allowing the church and the church planter to grow and develop in a steady, healthy environment.
Can you define the Biblical role and office of missionary and of a pastor and how they complement each other?
When is the time for a missionary to move on from the church plant to the next part of the calling? Are there key signals to look for, or is there another way to know when the mission has completed the mission (at least at that location)?
What should a missionary never do?
Pastor Stephen Otieno Nyadenge: a missionary being from outside the culture can easily believe and trust others, some of whom the pastor may desire to take more time with to develop trust. This can lead him in pushing for people whom he or she wants to be in ministry, yet it’s not so with pastor. A missionary should never do, or say, anything that will make any church member look down at the pastor or disrespect him. This can be difficult, but it is important to be very sensitive in this area. The missionary should always relate the pastor to be as a co-laborer and not as a junior to them. The missionary should be ready to trust the pastor, even with financial issues. In case of a problem the missionary family should not call the pastor’s family and bash the planter before them or anybody else. Instead, the two families should be co-laborers and esteem each other.
Missionary and Pastor Matthew Pottenger: a missionary should never assume he knows it all, or that he is the savior of all that bad or hard things that the church might pass through. There is a great temptation for someone (especially coming from the west, and going into a developing country) to assert that “he knows best” and “he can fix any problem”. This superiority complex is a sure poison for any church work, and inherently lacks both Christ-like humility as well as local culture sensitivity. Though it is possible for the ministry to be “saved” or pushed through hard times at the will power and resources of the missionary, it is only creating a longer-term problem of “dependance on the missionary” rather than a dependance on Christ. Often, when a solution is sought after that is local in origin, culturally sensitive, and spiritually guided by the Spirit, it will be like putting “miracle-grow” on the new church plant, helping it to get a shot or boost of nutrients that will go a long way in establishing its permanency in that locality and among those people.
Anything else you would add?
Pastor Stephen Otieno Nyadenge: the missionary should be sensitive to identify when the Lord is working on the life of the church planter. Do to mistakes, or sin, be sensitive on how to handle that problem without destroying a worthy course. I believe the missionary should be sensitive to also pray for and be involved in the life of the planter, especially as the planter and family get pressed between a hard place and a rock for in the early parts of the church plant. Lastly, the missionary must learn no one is perfect and so put on Christ’s characteristics.
Pastor Stephen Otieno Nyadenge continues to be the under shepherd at Calvary Chapel Lakeside. That church has bounced of God to send out three church planting groups in the last two years. God has moved Pastor Matthew Pottenger from the shores of Lake Victoria in Kenya, to the shores of the Potomac as he is now an associate pastor at Calvary Chapel DC Metro in Washington D.C.