Imitation: The Greatest Form of Flattery

What an amazing time we live in.  We have all the technology one could possibly need.  One thing that is interesting is all the videos, whether on YouTube or for purchase, that help an individual imitate someone.  Often a young kid picks a superstar athlete in his sport and he decides to pattern his swing, hit, or shot after that person.  The culture accentuates and accelerates that through our technology. 

As ministers of the Gospel we are not exempt.  We may not be as vocal or honest, but many have a personality in mind when they think of successful ministry; maybe preaching patterns, or voice inflections, or mannerisms.

All this to say, as a culture we are constantly looking at someone to imitate!

In Ephesians 5 Paul has some interesting words about imitation.  He provides us with the clear picture of biblical imitation.  Leading up to chapter 5 Paul details theological aspects of our salvation.  He then begins to discourse on the life lived in Christ.  In the end of chapter 4 he mentions the forgiveness we have in Christ, then in chapter 5 he begins with, “Therefore.” 

First, Paul says, “Be” imitators.  His charge comes with a directive that as forgiven individuals we have a command to imitate.  As I mentioned above, this comes naturally.  Wanting to imitate someone is a part of who we are.  Unfortunately, many individuals that profess to be forgiven “chose” to live an inconsistent life. There isn’t a choice in the matter.  In fact, we all gave up that right when we crucify ourselves to sin through the death of Christ.

Second, Paul gives us the person to imitate, and of course it is God.  Who else could there be?  (The Sunday school answer, right?)  However, the fact of the matter is, there isn’t a greater person to imitate.  It could become easy to get bogged down in the simplicity and yet complexity of imitating God.  Where do we start, and how do we know if we are moving forward in our imitation?

Third, Paul helps us out by giving us the example of the specific person of Christ, and not just Christ as a whole, but the sacrificial offering of the life of Christ.  Now it is starting to come to a place that a believer could begin to understand.  From this point we can take the example of the sacrificial life of Christ and draw application to help us see how we are to imitate God.  Jesus gave up the glories of Heaven.  He was selfless.  He became a servant. He obeyed the Father. He didn’t retaliate. He willingly laid down His life.  We could create an inexhaustible list of the examples of the sacrificial nature of the life of Christ, but this is enough to get us started.   If we take this to heart, I think we will begin to better understand Paul’s words in Romans 12:1-2.  We are now a living example of the sacrifice of Christ.  We die to self and live to Christ.  The purest idea of this is when we become imitators of God through the person of Jesus Christ.

This type of imitation doesn’t come easy, and it doesn’t come overnight - just like that childhood hero you wanted to copy.  It isn’t about following a list of rules, but about a passionate commitment to pursue Jesus Christ.  Imitating God takes purpose, and it is a lifelong pledge.  Now we are beginning to talk about the genuineness of a new life in Christ.  We get away from the easy believism and into a life wrought in the agonizing effort of imitating God.  In two short verses Paul sums up the full existence of a forgiven sinner.  

What if we lived for this type of imitation?  What if we trained up a generation of young people who sought to imitate God through the example of Christ?  What if we say all this wrapped up in the “real” disciple making process?     

At Catalyst, that is a pursuit of ours.  We want to train up a generation of indigenous leaders that will reproduce themselves.  All the work we engage in must be sustainable and reproducible.  We would love to have you join with us in some way.  Either consider traveling, giving, or most importantly; praying. 

Indonesia Update

Wrapping up the work…

In September we made our 9th trip to Kupang, Indonesia.  This trip was the last of 8 training modules prepared. As we were making preparations to travel, there were mixed emotions.  After all, this was one of the first locations that we started from scratch, and now we were planning to matriculate these ministry leaders. 

These ministry leaders are from a regional area called Soe, a mountainous area from the more coastal area of Kupang.  I remember the first time we made our way to Soe in 2015.   After a long two days of travel, we landed in Kupang and met our contact person, Hartono.  What a joy to get to know him, his wife, and family over the last 4 years.  The work they are completing in Kupang at House of Hope and the Christian school is incredible. 

As we began to discuss with him that the goal of Catalyst is to train up a generation of godly men to lead the church and catch a vision for church planting, he was on board.  In fact, he suggested that we visit the Soe region as he had contacts there.  These men in this rural area have little access to education, resources, or even everyday things.  They are faced with a slightly more Muslim context than the rest of Timor Island, but God is working in this region.  They shared with us the challenges and joys of ministry there, and I knew immediately that I wanted to help equip these men. 

As God would have it, we started later that year with Module 1, and in September we completed Module 8.  Along the way we got to know these men and have seen them grow in the love and knowledge of God’s Word.  The testimonies of how they have been multiplying the training are indescribable.  For example, after the first training Arbetnah began to teach his church about church planting and then began to start new discipleship groups in an attempt to see new churches.  Now, seven modules later, he has over 100 disciples with 6 training groups and is trusting the Lord to see them birth into new churches.  As an organization we could not ask for more. 

This is one of many similar testimonies.  The spread of Catalyst’s training is like wildfire in Soe.  We could not be more excited about the future there.  We are planning to transition our main focus area to Central Borneo under the leadership of our Regional Coordinator, Iksan Lasmanto.  In Central Borneo exists the opportunity to train in a more urban setting and then send those men into the more rural areas.  The goal is to begin training in this new site in 2019 while maintaining a close connection with the men in Soe.  Who knows, maybe we can get back out there once a year and visit, encourage, and continue to equip.  In the New Testament, Paul seems to always make a roundabout with the leaders he trained. 

I leave you with this reminder from a Soe pastor who completed all 8 trainings and is multiplying the work, “I never completed junior high.”

That His Name May Be Known

“Teach preachers?! Why in the world would we do that? What we need to be doing is real mission work!” This capped a discussion that I had with our church a few years ago about the much needed work of Catalyst Missions. Some church members who would never think about hiring a pastor who had not first gone to seminary can’t fathom training pastors as “missions” work.

A Needed Work

The long term church member who said the above words to me later added “What we really need to be doing is working with more people like Bill Smith [name changed]! That’s what we ought to be doing!” I chuckled internally because Bro. Smith’s primary ministry was training people, most of whom already had seminary degrees, to go into the mission field. It seems that many times people in American churches, pastors included, take for granted all of the resources with which God has blessed us. We can also take for granted the hard work and mentoring needed to prepare men for the work of the ministry. However, it is noted among many different sources across many different theological backgrounds that theological training for pastors world wide, and especially those in Third World countries is severely lacking. One survey done on theological training around the world summarizes some of their main findings like this1:

• There are not enough theological schools in the regions of the world where Christianity is growing rapidly (Africa, Latin America, and parts of Asia).

• Theological education is financially unstable in many parts of the world.

• There is a general understanding of achieving best theological education through a combination of experiential education (in congregations or other places of service) and traditional academic work (in class-rooms or online)

• Issues of theological education are seen as having strategic significance and are "most important" for the future World Christianity.

One author has noted these statics about churches and church leaders in third world countries, or the “Global South”2;

• Eighty-five percent of churches in the world are led by men and women who have no formal training in theology or ministry.

• If every Christian training institute in the world operated at 120 percent capacity, less than 10 percent of the unequipped leaders would be trained.

• Eight out of ten nationals who come to the west to receive training never return home.

• Leaders from every non-Western region say their number one need is leadership training.

Such statistics are not surprising to those who have worked or lived in such contexts. The church where I pastor works closely with a Hispanic congregation. When the Lord allowed me to begin working training pastors around the world he expressed great joy. Pastor Jorge is from Peru and he told me of the poor situations in which many pastors and churches in his home country find themselves. When I told him that there were some in our congregation who did not see that this kind of work was of great need he told me the following. He said that in many places in the world, like Peru, the pastor of the church is the first person who became a christian. He said that in many villages people would hear the gospel for the first time on trips into the cities. By God’s grace, as people heard the gospel and were converted they would go back to their villages and give testimony to the gospel and what God had done in them. These people would then frequently become the pastor of the church that would be started in these villages. They would almost never have any kind of training and at times would not even have access to the whole Bible.

David Sills, missionary and professor of missions at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has long taught on missions and the need for theological training around the world. He also leads an organization, Reaching and Teaching International Ministries, that “exists to reach the peoples of the world through evangelism and by meeting the great need for deep discipleship, pastoral preparation, leadership training, and theological education around the world.”3 In his book Hearts, Heads, & Hands: A Manual for Teaching Others to Teach Others, he makes this observation,

“There is an overwhelming need for trained pastors to interpret and teach

God’s Word faithfully to His people around the world. In the USA there is one trained Christian worker for every 235 people. Once you leave the USA, that drops to one trained Christian worker for every 450,000 people. It is estimated that although many churches do not have pastors, and many pastors must of necessity serve more than one church in the regions where they live, an estimated 85 percent of the pastors around the world have no theological education or pastoral training.”4

 A Biblical Work

Once we see that training pastors to know and teach the Word of God accurately and to love and lead the people of God biblically, we also need to understand that this a divinely given work. This is a biblical work! The Apostle Paul spends much time and energy into training leaders to train leaders (see 1, 2 Timothy and Titus)! He encourages and commands Timothy to take “what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2). We also see this emphasis in the ministry of Jesus. Jesus cared for and taught the masses but he also spent a large amount of time training the apostles to carry on His work after He was gone. He trained the future leaders of the church so that they could carry out the commission that He would give to them.

Our Work

When Paul commands Timothy in 2 Tim. 2:2, he is also commanding us today. We know that the Great Commission is to make disciples. This making of disciples starts with evangelism but it does not stop there. We are to teach the nations to observe (know and obey) all that Jesus has taught and commanded us throughout His Word. What better place to start in discipling the nations than the head disciplers? What better place in caring for God’s flock than to care for caretakers of the flocks, the shepherds.

-Scott VanNeste


  1. http://www.globethics.net/web/gtl/research/global-survey, accessed April 24, 2018, while this survey includes those from a very different theological conviction than I would have, I believe the findings are very useful. The survey was conducting over a 21 month time frame and includes responses from over 1,650 theological educators and church leaders world wide.
  2. David A. Livermore, Serving With Eyes Wide Open: Doing Short-term Missions with Cultural Intelligence (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006), 41.

  3. http://reachingandteaching.org/about

  4. M. David Sills, Hearts, Heads, & Hands: A Manual for Teaching Others to Teach Others (Nashille, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2016) 6.

The Opportunity to Multiply is Quickly Changing!

The fields of ministry are as ripe as they have ever been.  However, the cost to get to those places is as high as ever.  So this creates a conundrum for workers in those harvest fields.  Catalyst is one such ministry, and we have always sought to be good stewards of the resources God provides us. The question we ask is, how can we maximize resources, people, time, and energy?

The answer? Technology! When we think about the present age of technology, the world is effectively getting smaller.  We are able to connect with people all over the world in an instant. We can connect with multiple people at one time if need be.  While thinking about the prospect of multiplying our efforts around the world, we said, what if we trained regional coordinators online, and then equipped them to deliver Catalyst trainings in country?

Well that’s exactly what we have been developing as part of our ministry. We began this process with our regional coordinator from Ivory Coast.  He was able to use Facebook Messenger to connect on a weekly basis with us for the purpose of training.  For the last several months, we have been teaching the New Testament training each week. James is now preparing to deliver that New Testament training in June to resident pastor/leaders.    

We are also seeing a similar strategy with our Women’s Discipleship coordinator. Our women’s training in Managua was one of the best yet. Representing several barrios, the ladies joined us in teaching a few of the lessons they learned in October. The beauty of a smaller group (15 women) is that we are able to truly build relationships.  Now take that and fast forward a bit.

After the publication of our first two curriculum studies, Spiritual Matchmaking and Strand of Pearls. I would like to introduce you to the five women at the table: Robin Haraway, Joney Caudill, one of our translators and skype teachers, Irene Minor, who is from Honduras, and, Ginny. Then there was Luz Angelica Bohorquez from Colombia. She has translated the Spiritual Matchmaking book into Spanish, and she is using this gospel centered book to disciple a new believer from Mexico. Additionally, she took our new lesson from 2 Timothy 2:2 and immediately translated it into Spanish and will teach it to two women: one from China and one from Venezuela.  

The five of us were joined via Facebook messenger and WhatsApp by Sue Swartz from Bradenton Florida and Cynthia Parajon from Nicaragua, who reported that she is duplicating the training in her home church. And lastly, we were joined by Angelica Freitas Tobias from Santa Cruz, Bolivia (Her testimony is below.) She is making disciples in Argentina and Bolivia and has asked permission to translate the lessons into Portuguese, as she will soon be going to Brazil to go to medical school!

While this is not a comprehensive discussion on how God is allowing us to use technology to multiply our work, we think it is a wonderful picture of stewardship and sustainable ministry. Further, while we still believe in-person training is absolutely necessary, why not couple residential training with the tools that are now available? Why not find a better way to use the resources? God is multiplying His Word for His Glory! If you would like to partner with us, please visit www.catalystmissions.org

K-PACT

Goodby, Pastor Benjamin. This past week an international friend of Catalyst Missions passed away after a long illness. Pastor Benjamin Sanam served at House of Hope, a children's home on Timor island in Indonesia. House of Hope is run by K-PACT Ministries. When Catalyst Missions makes oursemi-annual trips to Indonesia to train pastors, we stay at K-PACT. This is where, in 2015, we met Pastor Benjamin. Pastor Benjamin served with his wife Nining as a house parent to over 60 children. Some of these children have no parents at all. The majority come from families who cannot afford to care for them, often because their fathers have abandoned their mothers. At House of Hope they are loved and cared for, taught English, and hear the Gospel regularly. Pastor Benjamin played an important role in caring for the children’s physical and spiritual needs. Every night he would sit with the children and help them with their homework, just like any father would. However in his case he was aiding dozens of children each evening. His love and compassion towards the House of Hope children was just as obvious as his love for his own daughters.

The school age children of House of Hope attend Kasih Karunia, a theological school located on-site at K-PACT. Over 200 children, grades K-11, attend the school. Each year the school is growing in number, adding grades, and constructing new buildings. It is a gospel ministry to the community. For many Indonesian communities the best schools are Islamic schools. K-PACT aims to offer education as good, or better, than the Islamic schools while teaching students a Christian worldview. In 2019 Kasih Karunia will graduate it’s first class of seniors.

The presence of so many children make K-PACT a delightful place to serve. One of our trainers described it as, “Maybe the happiest place I’ve ever been in my life.” Words do not do it justice. Children playing. Children working. Children studying. Children singing. Everywhere children, but always laughing. If you travel with Catalyst to K-PACT you can leave your alarm clock at home. By 5:00 AM you are awakened by the sound of the children singing their morning devotional songs. (Or occasionally by an early riser practicing the drums!) At night the children gather for evening devotional. Older students take turns leading the songs by guitar and calling out whose turn it is to pray.

During the daytime hours all the kids at House of Hope have chores. Everyone at K-PACT chips in to do the work of the ministry there. You will see children as young as 5 sweeping. A group pre-teens routinely gather to peel garlic. Older kids make a weekly trek to the river to wash clothes. Students learn valuable life skills such as gardening and cooking. All of it is done in peace and joy. 

This week the joy will be mixed with sadness. Pastor Benjamin will be deeply missed. For many children at K-PACT he is the only father they have ever known. We grieve for House or Hope. Still, we do not grieve as those who have no hope. We know that in addition to being healed of all his infirmities, Pastor Benjamin has heard the words of the Lord, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” We thank God to have known him.

On March 2 a Catalyst team departs for Indonesia to train pastors in Church History. This will be the 7th Module at this location. Please pray for our team. September will be the graduation trip for this group of trainees! The leaders of K-PACT have asked us to bring a large team that can teach the students so that the school teachers can attend our final training. We need teachers! Consider joining us. This trip is one of our family friendly locations. One of our pastor trainers routinely takes his spouse, who teaches choir to the students. Middle and High School students have traveled with us to serve in House of Hope. Opportunities to serve this fall include teaching English, Bible, arts and crafts, music, and sports. The possibilities are as endless as the needs. Will you consider joining us? To find out more, email info@catalystmissions.org.

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Project Locations

Catalyst Missions exists to glorify Christ through the building up of believers to lead the church around the world.  The desire of all Catalyst personnel is to see biblical discipleship and leadership reproduction taking place.  As an organization, we do not want to do anything that is not sustainable or reproducible by the indigenous leaders.  That being said,we have much work taking place in much of the Global South. 

Do you know the term Global South?

The Global South is all area south of the equator, including South America, Central and Southern Africa, and Southeast Asia.  Given the need in this part of the world, Catalyst seeks to focus our attention in these areas. Catalyst is currently working in Indonesia, Nigeria, South Sudan, Ivory Coast, Nicaragua, and Bolivia.  

The following is background information and 2018 goals for our ministry locations:

Indonesia: The work in Indonesia began in 2015, with a brief vision trip by our Director of International Ministries and a current board member.  We were connected through the current VP of Academics at Jakarta Baptist Theological Seminary, Iksan Lasmanto.  A local ministry that supports a children’s home and boarding school agreed to partner with us.  We have held 6 trainings at this location over the last 2.5 years, and are planning to wrap up the training in Sept. 2018.  Over the last 2.5 years, over 60 different ministry leaders from a local regional area have been trained using the Catalyst Missions 9 module training material.  As we prepare to end the work in Kupang, we are anticipating the work moving forward in Indonesia.  Exploration for online training has begun to take place.  In March, there will be a meeting with potential trainers from Jakarta that would allow the Catalyst work in Indonesia to exponentially multiply. 

Nigeria: The work in this West African country began in 2016.  Andy, the Director of International Ministries, took a vision trip to Kaduna City in Kaduna State.  After connecting with a Nigerian pastor studying in the US, Andy made the long trip to meet with ministry leaders of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) denomination.  What he found was a very well structured denomination that lacked a focus on biblical discipleship for church and ministry leaders.  After 3 days of meeting, seeing the city, and hearing about the desire for training church planters, Catalyst Missions personnel decided it was clearly God’s direction to partner.  In 2017 Catalyst made 2 training trips to complete the Old Testament and New Testament trainings.  These are the two beginning modules.  Right now, Catalyst has a talented and gifted Regional Coordinator who is helping direct ministry in this country.  Catalyst is looking forward to two more trainings this year, Biblical Theology and the History of Christianity.

South Sudan: While the work in South Sudan is currently on hold, the work continues to go on through our Regional Coordinator. In South Sudan, Catalyst has been able to complete 4 trainings.  Given the critical nature of the country’s stability, we have not been able to be in country for over a year. During the trainings that have taken place, we have seen a good number of refugees from the North soaking in the material.  We desire to go back to South Sudan in 2018, but we will have to wait and assess the country’s stability.

Ivory Coast: The wonderful French speaking country has yet to be visited by Catalyst personnel.  However, in February, we are sending a small team of 2 to accomplish two things.  One, establish a new training site in Yamoussoukro, Ivory Coast.  The second is to give James Wheager, our on the ground Regional Coordinator, the materials needed to continue to the work.  The plan is to equip James to execute modules 2 and 3 with the same leaders as training one.  Currently, James is training online with Catalyst personnel, which is a cost effective way to multiply the work.  We are very excited about the prospect of the work moving forward in West Africa.

Nicaragua: The work in this country is still in its infancy, but there is awesome potential.  Catalyst Missions has partnered with a local missionary to help establish the work moving forward.  Later this year the first 2 trainings will be taking place with local ministry leaders.  Our Executive Director recently made a trip to the country to help establish our plan moving forward, and he came back encouraged about the opportunity to have a significant impact.  This country may be considered “evangelized,” but to what level is that equipping biblical?  That is the real issue we are facing in many of our training locations.  Some teaching, training, and evangelizing has taken place in the past, but unfortunately much of what has been taught is not truth.  Needless to say, we believe the need is great.

Bolivia: In some ways this has been our most successful work.  When we arrived in Bolivia a little over 2 years go, there was a foundation that just needed a little leadership.  Doug Landrum, our Executive Director, provided guidance and instruction to local ministry leaders.  In 2018 we are planning to see our first matriculating class in Bolivia. Many of the ministry leaders have already begun to multiply the trainings they have received, and several new training sites have been started without the need for Catalyst Missions personnel being directly involved.  We currently have two Regional Coordinators in country, and they are multiplying themselves in significant ways.  We have work going on in a local prison and across many cities throughout the country.

I want to encourage you to stay tuned as we will unfold greater details about each location, Regional Coordinators, and future work.  We have some fantastic testimonies and wonderful stories that we will share over the next year.  If you would like more information about Catalyst Missions, please feel free to reach out to us and check out our website, www.catalystmissions.org.  Thanks for reading, and we hope you will consider partnering with us!