Philosophy of Ministry
International Project exists to initiate church planting movements through diaspora unreached people groups. All tasks within International Project should contribute to this purpose.
Our strategy is to start discovery Bible studies and house churches among diaspora peoples for the purpose of evangelizing, discipling and training seekers/believers, within the context of simple and reproducible structures, in order to see a movement of churches within their diaspora communities as well spreading to their native countries. We believe that churches planted through the diaspora are strategically important as radiating centers for the dissemination of the gospel and the establishment of churches both among diaspora communities and in homelands.
Our team members use recognized best practices that have led to the facilitation of church planting movements. We examine all our ministry practices in terms of reproducibility. Disciple Making Movement principles have a high value in our ministry philosophy. Discovery Bible Study methodology is the primary plan for evangelism and discipleship. Other methodologies such as T4T may be used depending on the people group, culture and situation. We seek to demonstrate inordinate amounts of prayer, abundant gospel sowing and searching for spiritually interested people of peace who will gather their communities. We will seek to invest our time with those who are spiritually interested rather than with those who have demonstrated spiritual hardness. We will also seek to train cultural insider believers to reach their own people and initiate movement.
Our primary ministry focus is diaspora unreached people groups. We have different teams reaching different ethnic groups and at times different teams reaching different categories of people (i.e. international students). Our primary ministry focus includes:
- International Students
- International Business Persons
- International Diplomats in the
- United Nations Community
We have a high view of the Church as the Bride and Body of Christ. We believe that it is through the Church that the manifold wisdom of God is displayed to the spiritual realm and to the world. The glory and wisdom of God is displayed through the many different cultural and structural expressions of local churches. We believe that different expressions of church have strengths that they bring to the larger Body of Christ. We also highly affirm that God has gifted leaders within local churches to help believers display the manifold wisdom of God as they live in community and fulfill the Great Commission.
We believe that the mission of the church is to glorify God by fulfilling Jesus’ mission on earth; to seek and save the lost and prepare for Himself a glorious Bride. We believe that the church does this in two primary ways:
- By teaching, discipling, edifying and building up every individual member of the Body of Christ to spiritual maturity. The Church glorifies God by equipping every member for ministry.
- By the proclamation and demonstration of the gospel to the world. We believe this is the mission of the church.
House Church (Simple Church)
The house church is the primary, foundational and focal ministry of International Project teams. We value the house church structure for several reasons. First, because this is an organic structure of church which can easily be contextualized with different people groups. We believe this structure can most naturally and realistically reproduce itself in any culture (this is especially important in countries that are closed or resistant to Christianity). Secondly, we believe this structure highly fosters intimate community and the use of all peoples’ spiritual gifts and is therefore a perfect training ground for church planters and the development of leaders.
It is within the context of the house church that the ministry of baptism and communion will occur under the oversight of the recognized leaders.
House churches are simple and reproducible. Since our focus as ministry teams is to start simple, reproducible churches it is important for all teammates to fully understand and appreciate what they are seeking to reproduce. Usually our paradigms of church are shaped by our experience of church. It is for this reason that we expect all team members to be part of a simple/house church.
We believe that the environment of the church should be one of grace and mercy. We believe that grace and mercy are consistent with the New Testament concepts of confronting sin and church discipline for the purpose of restoration. Our desire is to resist legalism in its many forms. This means that we will define spiritual maturity by its definition in Scripture (see definition below) and not by a cultural list of behavioral taboos.
Culture / Contextualization
While maintaining a high commitment to teaching the essence and truth of the gospel in all its applications, we seek to demonstrate and teach that truth in a culturally relevant way. We seek to understand the cultural background of the people we are ministering to, as well as search the Scriptures to answer the specific question that confront that culture. We value being culturally relevant especially in the forms and expressions of church. We seek to disciple all new believers, regardless of their cultural or religious background, to identify themselves as believers and disciples of Christ.
We believe leadership training is the backbone to multiplication and movement. The primary place of training in discipleship is in the discovery Bible study as well as in the experience and life of a house church community. We believe that the spiritual mentoring and the training a person receives within the house church are sufficient to develop spiritually mature leaders for starting and leading house churches. We believe that everyone who is growing spiritually should be trained to reproduce. We believe in releasing ministry into the hands of normal people and new believers as early and as often as possible. We are not opposed to other more institutional forms of training for specific purposes.
Spiritual maturity on an external level is the consistent application of appropriate biblical principles to life circumstances. At a heart level, spiritual maturity is defined by one’s inner desires and affections. Spiritual maturity is internally marked by the inclination of the heart being consistently centered on God as revealed in Christ. A spiritually minded person is one whose will, as well as his intellect and affection, is set on God.
We believe spiritual maturity can be measured by character, perspective, conviction, knowledge, desire and effort to reach the lost as well as skill in the area of one’s gifting. We believe spiritual maturity is also characterized by integrity with personal sin issues, continuing spiritual growth, dependence upon God, and interdependent relationships with other Christians.
We believe that God’s will for every believer is spiritual maturity. The ultimate goal for maturity is to become like Jesus. We believe becoming like Jesus pertains to becoming like Jesus in character but also becoming like Jesus in purpose. We believe spiritual maturity requires intentionality; it takes commitment and effort to grow. We believe spiritual maturity is a process that takes time. However, believers grow faster when they are given a path on which to grow.
Spiritual maturity is not an accumulation of knowledge. One can have knowledge without being spiritual but can’t be spiritual without knowledge. Spiritual maturity is demonstrated more by behaviors than by beliefs.
We believe spiritual maturity is not only a private matter but also a community matter. It takes relationships to grow. The quality of your relationship to Christ can be seen in the quality of your relationships with other believers.
We believe spiritual maturity comes through a variety of spiritual experiences with God. As an example, spiritual maturity will not come only through Bible study but also through loving relationships with other believers, using spiritual gifts to build the body, service, worship, etc.
(Ideas for this understanding of spiritual maturity have been taken from, The Purpose Driven Church (331-340), ISBE (2845) and World Team’s Spain Field Poem)
We believe that discipleship is person’s activity and involvement in the life of another person, which moves him or her forward in his or her journey toward spiritual maturity. The focus of discipleship is not knowledge but rather obedience. We believe that discipleship should happen intentionally. Therefore we believe that all team members and leaders should be seeking to intentionally make disciples. Our goal in discipleship, and a sign that the disciple is growing in spiritual maturity, is when the disciple demonstrates desire and the taking of steps to reproduce and make other disciples.
We believe that sanctification is God’s activity in moving a person toward spiritual maturity. Sanctification will happen because of one’s union with Christ. Since justification by faith unites us to Christ who is our sanctifier, justification and sanctification cannot be separated. Sanctification is rooted, not in humanity and their achievement of holiness, but in what God has done in Christ, and for us in union with Him. Sanctification is therefore the consistent practical outworking of what it means to be a new creation and united with Christ. Sanctification is not a mystical experience in which holiness is ours without effort. God sanctifies us by engaging our mind, will, emotions and actions. We are involved in the process. That is why biblical teaching on sanctification appears in both the indicative (“I the Lord sanctify you”) and the imperative (“sanctify yourselves this day”). (Ideas and quotes taken from Sinclair Ferguson in Christian Spirituality, pages 47-75)
We believe that all believers have spiritual gifts, abilities and talents that are God-given for the purpose of building up and edifying the Body as well as furthering its mission in the world. We believe that an element of spiritual maturity, and a goal of discipleship, is developing the desire and conviction to use one’s gifts for ministry to others. Many have adopted a mindset in which the purpose of going to be with the church is self-focused. We believe that a biblical and spiritually mature perspective is seeking to be with the church for the purpose of ministry. We believe that a healthy house church structure not only promotes the use of spiritual gifts but also requires the use of spiritual gifts to function properly.
We believe that the elders are the spiritual overseers of the church. We believe in a plurality of elders. We believe that elders should be men who have demonstrated that they meet the spiritual requirements as outlined in 1 Timothy 3. All elders, as well as other leaders, must be actively involved in a house church as well as in seeking to make disciples. We believe elders are raised up organically and are appointed to the function of elder because they have already demonstrated that they are viewed as leaders with spiritual authority. Elders do not have spiritual authority because they have been given a position; rather, they are appointed as Elders because they have already been recognized by the Body as having spiritual authority in the lives of the members of the church.
Based on 1 Corinthians 11 & 14, and 1 Timothy 3, as well as other passages, we believe that men should hold the position and fulfill the function as appointed Elders for the church. While recognizing and valuing the competency, spiritual giftedness and abilities of both male and female, we believe that due to God’s designed order of creation, men should hold the position of elder over the church. We do not believe that the nature or role of one gender is better than the other within the church; they are different.
Note: Women may serve as house church leaders or team leaders in International Project. They may also baptize and lead communion.
We believe the New Testament teaches that worship is something we do all the time, through at least five different modalities, of which singing is only one. Others specifically mentioned in the New Testament (using worship terminology) are:
- Financial giving (Heb. 13:16; Phil. 4:18)
- Evangelism (Rom. 15:15,16)
- Works of service (Heb. 13:16)
- Praise through prayer (Heb. 13:15) This is a praise that is “continually” being offered to God which communicates the idea of a mindset of prayer and worship.
- Devoting your whole life to Christ (Rom. 12:1).
One activity of the house church is corporate worship. Some house churches worship in song, and some just worship in prayer. The approach that a house church uses for corporate worship is up to each commmunity. When we worship through music and singing, the style used in each house church should reflect the culture and tastes of that individual community. If a particular house church represents a specific ethnic culture then they will be encouraged to worship in a way that is culturally relevant and expressive of who they are.
Baptism and communion will be celebrated within the house church community. The leaders within each house church will oversee the celebration of baptism or communion. However, any believer may baptize or facilitate communion.
Baptism: We prefer baptism by immersion because this is the mode that we believe was most likely patterned for us in the New Testament. When possible, leaders will practice baptism by immersion. However, we feel that when necessary, other modes of baptism can be practiced. We practice believer baptism.
Communion: We celebrate communion as a way to remember what Christ did on the cross. We believe that whenever you remember what Christ has done you will experience Him in a deeper way. How often a house church celebrates communion will be determined by the leaders of each house church. While showing the proper respect for the sacrament we believe that a group can use whatever elements they have available to them so long as the intent and picture image of the sacrament is maintained. We do not believe that communion is something that can only be celebrated within the presence of church leaders.
International Project and The Bridge House Church Network:
All missionaries on an International Project team are expected to be part of one of The Bridge Network house churches.
We believe that “a team is a group of people committed to a common purpose who choose to cooperate in order to achieve exceptional results.”(1) We highly value team ministry.
We believe that the six pillars to an effective team are:
- Common Philosophy of Ministry:
- International Project will not accept any new workers onto their teams who do not already agree with and share the same philosophy of ministry as outlined in this document.
- Appropriate Division of Labor:
- International Project seeks to use each team member in their area of giftedness. We believe that each team member will flourish and contribute most, and find ministry most satisfying, when operating in their specific areas of giftedness. We desire that each team member work to a significant degree within their areas of strength, gifting and calling in order to make their full and unique contribution.
- The task is the boss: This second point is in perpetual and real tension with the first point. Each team member is committed to and willing to do (and even happy to do) whatever the task demands of him or her at a given time, regardless of his or her gifting, calling or other strengths.(2)
- Accepted Leader:
- We value servant leadership. The leader is the servant of the purpose of the team. He is also a servant leader in that he helps the individual team members maximize their contribution to the team and the overall purpose of the team. A major task of leadership on our team, therefore, involves influencing by both living out a good example, persuasively communicating the truth, drawing out each member’s contribution and guiding the group to decision.(3)
- The team should empower the leader in his leadership role and submit to it.
- Agreement on the Plan:
- We seek to make major decisions, as well as develop strategic plans, by building consensus among all the members of the field. Each saint and team member has unique preferences and insights as well as limited experience and understanding. Therefore, we each have something vital to contribute to the greater team effort.(4)
- Solid Relationships:
- We seek to minister to and love each other fully as brothers and sisters in Christ.
- We seek to value the thoughts, opinions and experiences of others, recognizing that a diverse team has greater possibilities for contribution.
- Some practical ways we can keep unity and maintain solid relationships on the team are:(5)
- To recognize the call and gifts from God in all of our co-workers.
- To exercise vigilance over our unity.
- To speak well of our coworkers and publicly express appreciation for them.
- To pray diligently and fervently for the blessing of God on our teammates.
- To affirm the co-equal importance of planting, watering and supporting ministries.
- To shoulder responsibility for the ministry assigned to us and at the same time exercise prayerful concern for the field’s ministry in its entirety.
- To deal with offenses promptly and appropriately
- To listen intently in order to understand the other person’s perspective.
- To forgive others on the team without hesitation or precondition, knowing that we, too, will need frequent forgiveness for our own offenses.
- To commit ourselves to becoming better acquainted with the members of our team.
- Excellent Communication:
- We believe that effective communication is crucial for a team to effectively work together.
- We desire to create an environment in which all members feel the freedom to share their thoughts without fear of being attacked, criticized or devalued. We expect all team members to actively and deliberately contribute their ideas and thoughts for the benefit of the team.
- We believe that all team members should intentionally work to ensure that they are accurately being understood.
- We believe that all team members should intentionally work to ensure that they accurately and fully understand the person speaking.
(1) The Performance Factor; Pat MacMillan, 29.
(2) Some parts are quoted directly from Spain’s POEM
(5) Dr. Benjamin A. Sawatsky, Executive Director, EFCM, in Beacon, July, 1998
Bi-Vocational Team Members:
We highly value bi-vocational missionaries on our teams. Bi-vocational team members are those who have full-time careers but primarily view themselves as missionaries. (See our bi-vocational document that explains the difference between a missionary and a volunteer.) We believe bi-vocational team members are important because they are a vital model to new believers of what it looks like to be a follower of Jesus working a regular full time job, while doing ministry and being a church planter. Most people we are ministering among and discipling will need good models of ministry, discipleship and church planting while maintaining a career.
Only One Spouse on Team:
If only one spouse in a marriage is seeking to be on an IP team, it is necessary that the spouse who is not planning to join a team is fully supportive of and willing to engage to some extent in the ministry of the spouse who is joining a team. When appropriate, both spouses may be involved to some extent within relationships with ministry contacts and their families. In addition, it is important that the spouse who is not planning to join a team is fully supportive of International Project’s philosophy of ministry, and that the couple as a unit is fully involved in a house church as their primary expression of church.
We expect all team members to be fully supported financially and to work to maintain their support level.