The word philosophy literally means, “Love of wisdom.” Every human being has an intrinsic desire to answer the three most essential universal questions, “who am I, why am I here, and where am I going?” Man has developed all sorts of philosophies attempting to rationalize and explain what our purpose is on this earth. The only problem, of course, with unregenerate man’s philosophy is that it is based on personal opinion and it lacks an authority. For Christians, however, our philosophy is based on our theology. As Christians we don’t have to wander through life aimlessly wondering what life is all about because our Creator and Savior, Jesus Christ, has given us our marching orders and all we need to do is obey and everything else will come into focus. Our fixed point of reference, which keeps us from losing our way in this dark world, is the Word of God. We need to read the Holy Scriptures and discover where to invest our time and energy. Life is too short for us to live without a focus. As a missionary I desire to place the emphasis in my endeavors where God places the emphasis.
1 Corinthians 15:34 leaves us with a sobering thought, “Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame.” The gospel message is a simple message, but how many people have never heard the gospel a single time in their entire lives. The gospel is the good news of salvation for the world, but it’s only good news if it gets to them on time. Oswald J. Smith, a well-known pastor from Canada said, “Why should anyone hear the gospel twice before everyone has heard it once.” God has given us a very clear command in his Word which is well summarized in Mark 16:15, “…Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” If we have been given a command that means we are able to fulfill what God has commanded us to do. So what is it exactly that we are supposed to be doing? Well, I can tell you what we can’t do. As much as we try (and believe me I’ve tried) we cannot save anyone. Only God can save! Ultimately, a lost sinner, when presented with the gospel, must make a personal decision to either accept or reject Christ. Our mission is clear: every creature under heaven must have the opportunity, at least one time in their lifetime, to make a decision about Christ. Our goal is to evangelize Spain in our generation. You may be thinking, “That is wishful thinking; you will never accomplish such a feat.” I don’t know how much the Lord is going to allow us to do in Spain for His glory. All I know is that we need to obey His command. It is His mission, His plan and I want to be involved with what God is doing in this world.
The theme verse for our ministry is found in 1 Samuel 17:46, “…That all the earth may know that there is a God…” The reason that we have chosen this theme is because we believe that this is ultimately God’s heartbeat. We want to be reminded every day of what our main responsibility is in Spain. The central theme of Scripture is “that thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving health among all nations (Psalm 67:2). Whether we read the Old or New Testament the message is the same: the redemption of mankind through Jesus Christ. In the Old Testament God had chosen the nation of Israel to be a light to the nations (Isaiah 42:6). In the New Testament God has chosen the church to carry out His master plan. You may be wondering when I am going to mention church-planting and discipleship. I will discuss both of these topics in great length but I believe it is important for us to keep our focus on the ultimate goal. We are commanded and taught in Scripture that we are to establish churches (“baptizing them in the name of the father, and of the son, and of the Holy Ghost” Matthew 28:19b) and disciple the converts (“teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded” Matthew 28:20a) but the objective is to evangelize the world. Discipleship and Church-planting are the method and vehicle that God has chosen to accomplish the task.
We have recently started a church in Parla, Madrid and our focus is to get the gospel to every person in the city. We didn’t want to have a Field of Dreams philosophy from the outset (if you build it, they will come) but a biblical approach, “…Go out into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in…” (Luke 14:23b). We cannot expect people to take the initiative and search after God or our church. Romans 3:11 clearly states, “…there is none that seeketh after God.” We have to aggressively and proactively find a way to reach every single household and individual with the gospel message. We will personally go soul-winning (house to house, in the parks, in the streets). We will try to build relationships with people in order to break down barriers and share the gospel with them. We will systematically get the gospel, in one way or another, into every home. Because of this goal we have started the gospel DVD project. Spain has certain unique challenges that we don’t find in the U.S. (especially in urban areas). Most people (especially in the main cities) live in apartment complexes. The population of Parla is approximately 150,000. It would take us several years to knock on every door in the city and present the gospel to every person. Even if we gained entrance into every apartment building (that isn’t always possible) most likely not everyone would be home or even interested in listening to us. That is why the gospel DVD project is such a useful tool for us. One thing that you can do in Spain, which is illegal in many other countries, is personally place material in their mailboxes. All of the businesses in Spain are able to advertise their products in that way. All you have to do is ring any doorbell from the apartment building and when they ask, “Quien es?” (who is it?) You simply reply, “Correo informativo” (informative mail) and they will let you in, no questions asked. Once you are inside the building you have access to every single mailbox. The DVD’s that we have produced have a three minute story that catches their attention and a five minute clear gospel presentation. Through these DVD’s we can gain access to many more homes in a much shorter period of time. Because the average household in Spain is comprised of three people we have made 50,000 copies of the DVD. If you multiply 50,000 by 3 the total is 150,000 which is the population of the city. At the end of the DVD we invite them to visit our website, estudialabiblia.com (studythebible.com). This website has all sorts of resources for them to study. Through the website they can learn about our ministry as well as request a free Bible or a personal Bible study. We want to distribute these DVD’s into every household at least once every year and we hope to make new DVD’s in the future. You may be thinking, “What about the people that don’t own a DVD player?” Although the vast majority of people in Spain have the necessary technology in their homes, we don’t want to exclude anyone. Because of that fact we plan to distribute, in addition to the DVD’s, New Testaments, invitations to the church, gospel tracts, gospel CD’s (the gospel message in CD) and much more. We have already placed one billboard about our church in the entrance of the city and would like to put up more. We would also like to advertise the church through the local newspaper. I hope to make it as clear as possible that we will not rest until every person has the opportunity to make a decision about Christ. We must use every tool at our disposal. I know that in the future we will try new things that we haven’t even thought of now. But regardless of the means, the message and our purpose will never change.
While the evangelization of the world is our ultimate objective, the biblical method to accomplish that goal is discipleship and church-planting. I would like to discuss discipleship first and then get into the matter of establishing churches. It really doesn’t matter which subject we discuss first what matters is that we obey God in both of these areas. In Matthew 28:18-20, which is probably the fullest expression of the Great Commission in the Bible, we find our Lord’s command to evangelize (this is implied because we cannot make disciples if we don’t evangelize), establish churches (although we don’t find a clear command in the Bible that says, “go start churches;” obedience to the great commission necessitates the establishment of churches), and disciple the converts (“teaching them…” verse 20). It really doesn’t matter what our opinions are regarding world evangelization because God has already chosen the method for His mission to be carried out. We are not going to attempt to reinvent the wheel (that is what we are doing when we ignore Christ’s instructions) because we have the biblical model and it works! It may appear the obvious choice, but how many times are these commands completely ignored in our churches today because some “new” method has been discovered. We are in trouble! Bill Hull quotes George Orwell in his book The Disciple-Making Pastor and leaves us with an eye-opening declaration, “We have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.” In other words, the obvious has become revolutionary. We are not discussing something new, but simply restating what has already been clearly delineated in Scripture. Faced with these truths we can either ignore them or obey them. As missionaries we have chosen to obey and trust God for the results.
Much has been written about the Pauline method, but why not go directly to the Master (Jesus Christ) and discover His method for evangelizing the world. Jesus did many things while he was here on this earth. He preached several sermons, He rebuked the Pharisees, He healed the sick etc…, but if we carefully read the gospels it is plain to see that Jesus spent the majority of His ministry investing His life in twelve men. Although many others followed Him, His earthly work was centered on the twelve. If we viewed His ministry through the prism of the majority of today’s church-growth experts, we would have to conclude that the time that our Lord invested training the twelve was in vain. Yet every single Christian today is a result of those twelve men. The early church went from 120 members in Acts 1:15 to 3,000 in Acts 2:41 to 5,000 men in Acts 4:4 to the point that they “turned the world upside down.” (Acts 17:6) So what is the difference between the first century church and the 21st century church? That the first Christians actually believed and obeyed our Lord’s command to make disciples and they evangelized the world (Colossians 1:5, 6, 23). We must go back to the Bible if we will ever accomplish such a feat in our generation. We believe in working as a team. We are working in Spain with my parents Julio and Andrea Velasquez. Our desire is to see more families join us. We know that God has given us different gifts and abilities that we will be able to use for the furtherance of the gospel. Although God has blessed us with a team that will work together to obey the great commission we cannot evangelize Spain alone. We can only do so much before the task becomes insurmountable. We plan to disciple and train those that are saved so that they can join us in the mission. We must reproduce ourselves in other people so that our labors can be multiplied. If all we do as a team is personally add new converts then our reach will be limited. But if we make disciples of men (and women) that are able to disciple others who will reproduce themselves into others etc…then we could begin to multiply and train an army that will turn Spain and the world upside down. Our goal in discipleship is “that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Timothy 3:17). The true measure of success in discipleship is not the number of people attending the church services each week, but the quality of their love for God and dedication to His cause (World Evangelization). We cannot expect the preaching from the pulpit or the Sunday school lessons alone to get the job done. We must follow Christ’s example and invest our lives in people in order to produce fruit that will remain and produce more fruit. This form of discipleship goes beyond written discipleship lessons (we certainly will use discipleship materials to start the process) and into what has been called, “life-on-life” discipleship. Our Lord Jesus Christ lived with the twelve, He ate with them, spent countless hours teaching and preparing them for the awesome responsibilities that would come. You may be asking yourself, “How will they personally spend one on one time with every Christian in their church?” The answer is simple, we can’t. Jesus had great multitudes that followed him; He had the 70 that were a little closer to him and of course the twelve that spent the majority of their time with Him. Even more specifically he had 3 disciples that formed His most intimate circle.
As we can clearly see, Jesus did not spend equal amounts of time with all of those that followed Him (this would include the multitudes that followed him, the 70, the 12 and even the 3). How can we expect to do more than our Master? Jesus is our supreme example on how to make disciples and so we must be careful to follow in His steps. We really will have two general goals for the discipleship ministry in our churches (I say churches because our desire is to establish multiple churches throughout Spain and the regions beyond). On the one hand, we share the same desire as the apostle Paul in Colossians 1:28, “that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.” The only problem with that, of course, is that not every Christian in our church is going to cooperate with us in that process. We want every born again believer to love God and be actively involved in carrying out the Great Commission, but we know that unfortunately many “Christians” will remain spectators (from the outside looking in) of what God is doing in and through the rest of the church. This will not impede us from trying to present perfect (complete, mature) in Christ Jesus as many as possible. On the other hand we find Paul writing to his disciple Timothy in 2 Tim. 2:2 and he says, “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” Here we are commanded to train faithful men who will become disciple makers themselves. In other words, these men will become the future leaders and pastors of our churches. As we have heard many times, “The cream always rises to the top.” This group of people will receive more one on one time with us because they are faithful, proven men that are hungry for more involvement and responsibilities in the church. It may seem like we are playing favorites but that is far from the truth. As soon as someone is saved in one of our churches we will immediately seek to involve them in the discipleship process. Already in this phase we will have people that will refuse to receive even basic discipleship lessons. But many others will begin learning the basics of the Christian life and start growing and maturing. They will start learning how to read and study God’s Word, how to pray, how to give biblically to the work of God etc…. But once they reach a certain level of growth many will refuse to take that extra step into service and teaching others. Only a select group will want to go further and become disciple-makers. This group is not content with sitting in the sidelines will others get the work done. They want to be like Christ in every way possible. Not all of these believers will become pastors but they will all have a very important part in the ministry in Spain. It is only natural that we will spend more personal one on one time with them. It would be a mistake for us to beg and plead the others to move forward for Christ (we can’t force people to serve) when the faithful men (and women) are willing and desiring to take the next step. What’s amazing is that the more mature and faithful Christians will begin to impact and influence the rest of the congregation so that some will venture out of their comfort zone and begin to do more for Christ.
We are church-planting missionaries. We understand the command in Matthew 28:18-20 to evangelize, baptize those that are saved, and teach them to be like Christ (discipleship), but these demands can only be fully obeyed within the context of the local church. The first century Christians comprehended that they would be unable to reach the world (“…Jerusalem…Judea…Samaria, and…the uttermost part of the earth.” Acts 1:8) without establishing churches in every corner of the earth. That is why they naturally were involved in church-planting. They understood it to be the obvious and practical conclusion of our Savior’s command. We have a mission and God has chosen the church to carry out that mission. If a “church” is not obeying the Great Commission then it cannot biblically be defined as such. We understand the church to be a group of baptized believers gathered together to carry out the Great Commission. We are pioneer missionaries (we are starting a new work from scratch) that have moved to Parla, Madrid and have begun to proclaim the gospel to every individual in that city for the purpose of establishing a church that will obey and fulfill its mission. We are not in the business of constructing church edifices, but of organizing (directly or indirectly) visible groups of believers (starting churches) in every city to shake up Spain for Christ. As we start more churches our reach will be greater and we will be able to effectively evangelize more places than just Parla. We will reach Madrid as well as the other provinces in Spain, Southwest Europe and the world. In other words, we must start churches in order to reproduce what we are already doing in Parla, Madrid in other places around the world. Our desire is to establish churches that will fulfill our three basic and essential ministry goals.
1. Evangelize the lost:
Every single individual within the reach of the church must have the opportunity at least one time in their lifetime to accept or reject Jesus Christ. The church must find every way possible to accomplish that task.
2. Enable others: This means that we are to follow our Master’s example in training faithful men who will reproduce themselves in other Christians. This is not an option, but our solemn duty.
3. Establish Churches: We must start churches that will perform the first two goals in other places. The ideal would be a church for at least every 50,000 people.
We could go to Spain for a short period of time and carry out massive evangelistic campaigns and distribute millions of bibles and gospel tracts. Although through these efforts many would hear the gospel and some would be saved the effects of this style of evangelization are short-lived. The only way to make a lasting impact for Christ in this world is by establishing churches. A bible-believing, gospel preaching church will faithfully and continually evangelize until everyone within the reach of the church has heard the gospel. But then the church will disciple and train the converts and involve them in the work of the ministry and the cycle will be never-ending.
Our desire is that the churches planted through our ministry in Spain would have the same impact as the church in Thessalonica did in the first century of Christianity. The Bible says in 1 Thess. 1:8, “For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not speak anything.” This church performed exactly what we desire to do for the honor and glory of God in Spain. Our vision is that every man, woman, boy and girl in the city of Parla and beyond would have the opportunity at least one time in their lifetime to hear the life-changing message of the gospel. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could write a letter to all of our friends and supporting churches sharing how we don’t need any more missionaries in Spain because it has been evangelized? Once again, you may be thinking, “these missionaries are going to be very disappointed when they realize that their dream is impossible.” Well, I’m glad that it’s not my vision or my plan; it’s God’s. We just have the awesome privilege to be involved with what He’s doing in this world. All we can do is offer Christ our lives and obey Him with every ounce of our being and trust that He “will build His church.” (Matthew 16:18) In the 15th chapter of Romans we find the apostle Paul giving a summary of his missionary endeavors. All he did was faithfully obey the Great Commission until he found that there were certain regions were the gospel no longer needed to be proclaimed. Paul writes, “Yea, so I have strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named…but now having no more place in these parts…(Romans 15:20, 23) Do we serve a different God in the 21st century? Scripture declares that Jesus Christ is “the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” (Hebrews 13:8) I believe that we need to get back to the Bible and we will witness the same works performed in our midst today.
The Lord used the second chapter of Ezekiel to reconfirm his calling in my life. Verses 3 and 4 declare, “And he said unto me (Ezekiel), Son of man, I send thee to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that hath rebelled against me: they and their fathers have transgressed against me, even unto this very day. For they are impudent children and stiff-hearted…” I see several similarities between Ezekiel’s ministry and ours. Spain is a country that has historically been resistant to the gospel. I remember studying Baptist history and when it came to the section describing the Baptist presence in Spain down through the years it occupied a small paragraph in one page. As a matter of fact Spain has been without a major Gospel preaching movement for at least 1600 years (that includes all evangelical and protestant denominations). Spain has been a Catholic stronghold for centuries. The Society of Jesus (the Jesuits), one of the most militant orders within the Catholic Church, originated in Spain. The few true Christians in Spain during the Reformation were persecuted and kicked out by the Spanish Inquisition. Even though Spain became a democracy and provided religious freedom to its citizens in 1978, the people still remained very faithful to their Catholic faith. In recent years, the country has gone from 98% Catholic to 73% and most of them never go to church. The latest wave of opposition to the gospel has come from a new generation, which has rejected Catholicism and embraced Atheism and Humanism. It is sad that many of these young people have turned away from God altogether because the true gospel of Jesus Christ has been unavailable to them.
I don’t write these things to discourage you or so that you may feel sorry for us, on the contrary. We have a great open door in front of us. We must evangelize Spain! I will be honest, the people in Spain are not lining up in front of our little church waiting for us to give them a Bible or share the gospel with them. They have become hardened as a result of neglect on our part (they have had almost no gospel witness) and persecution. Just like Ezekiel, God has called us to work with stiff-hearted people. The middle section of verse 4 (Ezekiel 2) says, “…I do send thee unto them…” This reminds me that He is “…not willing that any should perish…” (2 Peter 3:9) No matter how hardened and disobedient the nation, He is so merciful that He sends a prophet (in our dispensation he sends missionaries) unto them. A good example of that is when God sent Jonah to preach to Nineveh. God loves the people of Spain although they don’t seem to love Him too much. Let’s look at the last part of verse 4, “…and thou shalt say unto them, thus saith the Lord God.” Do you know what the people of Spain need? It’s the same thing the people in China need, the same thing that people in Africa and India need. They need faithful men and women to be God’s mouthpieces and unashamedly proclaim the good news of salvation.
Then verse 5 says, “And they, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, (for they are a rebellious house,) yet shall know that there has been a prophet among them.” In other words, whether they accept the message or reject it is not up to us. We cannot save anyone. All we are called to do is make sure that in the Day of Judgment not a single unrepentant Spaniard has an excuse. This is something that we can do in our generation. We are certainly praying for a sweeping revival and that many, many souls will be saved, but whether or not these things come to pass will not determine our success. We will be successful when every individual has been completely evangelized. C.H. Spurgeon said, “If sinners will be damned, at least let them leap to hell over our bodies. And if they will perish, let them perish with our arms around their knees, imploring them to stay. If hell must be filled, at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go there unwarned and unprayed for.” You see, inevitably many people will reject the gospel. We cannot control other people’s choices. What we can do is make sure that we have done everything in our power to keep them from Hell. All we ask is that you would pray for us as well as the other missionaries in Spain (and those preparing to go). We have big task before us, but guess what? We serve a big God. Our philosophy is based on our theology. It is impossible to read God’s Word with an open and sincere heart and not realize that we have a purpose to be alive. And that purpose is not to warm a bench week after week, but to worship and glorify God with our lives and obey His commands until He comes. “…As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.” (John 20:21)