Last week we sent out a newly formatted newsletter entitled The Mandate. In it we shared about our upcoming conferences in northern and southern Malawi in April, and the inspiring story of a group pastors from Mozambique who made a two-day trek to join us at last year’s conference on bicycles. In case you missed it, you can access the letter HERE.
One question that was not addressed is why we have chosen to call our newsletter “The Mandate”? The reason is actually quite simple: we believe that ELLS International has a very specific mandate given to us by the Lord, namely to strengthen the global church by equipping pastors and leaders in the developing world. However, our particular calling actually flows out of two deeper scriptural mandates, one given by the Apostle Paul and the other by the Lord Jesus Himself.
The first one comes from Paul’s second letter to his young disciple, Timothy, where he states the following:
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).
Here Paul calls Timothy (and by inference, any and all who teach God’s word on a regular basis) to do their very best in presenting themselves to God as an approved worker by interpreting and teaching God’s word in a manner reflective of what the Spirit-inspired author intended the text to say!
The second mandate, given by the Lord Jesus, is more general in its orientation though no less important:
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:18-20).
Here Jesus gives His final command to His disciples before ascending back to the Father, from where He continues to exercise His saving reign over the nations. The term “nations” comes from the Greek word ethne (from where we get the English words like ethnic and ethnicity), and refers to the various socio-linguistic and ethnic people-groups scattered throughout the world. In short, the mission Jesus calls His church to is the reaching and discipling of every people-group, thus bringing to realization the future scenario described in Revelation 7:9-10:
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
How does Christ’s mandate relate back to Paul’s? Simple: if the health and vitality of the church is dependent upon being well-fed by God’s word, then it is incumbent upon the shepherds of Christ’s church that they be well-trained and equipped to do so. Conversely, if Christ’s church is weakened due to poorly trained leaders, then His mission in the world will ultimately suffer.
And so we come full circle back to the mission of ELLS International and the twin biblical mandates which guide our mission: we train and equip pastors in the developing world to rightly handle God’s word so that they in turn will feed their congregations well and pass the training on to others. In so doing, we anticipate that within these churches a new generation of missionaries will be raised up to continue pressing the gospel into places and amongst the peoples who have not yet heard.
This is our vision. These are our mandates. It is the ELLS way. Will you join us in help making it happen?