Important Strategies for Missionary Leaders Martijn Van Tilborgh

I was standing in front of a classroom filled with a group of young ministers in Central America. I was
invited to lecture on the subject of “world missions”, a subject that is close to my heart as I had travelled,
ministered and even lived with my family in different parts of the world. The words from the book of
Matthew 28:18-19 had always inspired me to go to the nations in the power and authority that Jesus
Christ has given us:
18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven
and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the
name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

Jesus had just risen from the dead and declared to His disciples that He has given them all authority
they needed to bring about a change to the nations of the earth. The Kingdom of God had been
delivered by the Father, through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The law of sin and death
had been broken, and deliverance had come to mankind. Righteousness, peace and joy would become
the trademarks of a Kingdom that would be ever increasing from that point on. The book of Acts reports
extensively on how this Gospel had the ability to change cities, affect government and to overthrow
religious strongholds.

And here I was, standing in front of a new generation of leaders that was excited and ready to go into
the whole world to preach that gospel. Ready to run to the nations of the world, to follow in the footsteps
of those that had gone before them. In the back of the class room, there was a young man from
Jamaica. It was evident to me that this young man was called by God to do great exploits for the
Kingdom of God. He clearly had a God-given grace to become a strong leader in the body of Christ. I
remember asking him about his country. I asked him to tell us about Jamaica, “Are there any churches in
Jamaica?”. “Oh, yes of course” he answered proudly. “In fact, Jamaica has most churches per capita of
any of the Caribbean countries.” Wow, that’s great, I told him. Your country must be doing great then
with so many Christians, churches and ministries around. “Well”, he said, “Actually Jamaica has a lot of
problems”. And he started a long list of different major problems that his country was facing. Of course I
was aware of these problems, but I wanted to present the class with a point. And my point was that world
missions as we have known it has largely failed.

I asked them why it was that the countries that have been targeted the most with Christian missions,
seem to have the biggest problems? When we talk about world missions, Africa (for example) is
probably the continent that has been targeted the most by churches and ministries from all over the
world. Yet this continent seems to be cursed with tribal wars, an HIV epidemic, corruption, witchcraft and
ancestor worship. Countries like Rwanda, with churches on every corner of the street, going through
one of the largest ethnic genocide that history has ever known. Kenya, a country targeted by Christian
mission organizations like nowhere else, with tithes and offerings from western churches pumped into
numerous church building projects, all for the expansion of the Kingdom of God. Yet, a country in chaos,
political unrest, tribal aggression and corruption. If this gospel we believe in is so powerful, and if this
message supposedly has the ability to reorder nations, why is it then, that the countries that have been
exposed most to Christian activity, seem to be in the biggest turmoil. Did our message fail? Did God fail
us? Did Jesus lie to us, when he told us that we He has given us the authority to bring forth change.
Obviously our activity as the church of Jesus Christ has not given us the results that we have prayed
and hoped for.

Personally I believe that indeed OUR message has failed. Our activity has not brought the results we
anticipated. Our missions strategies haven’t brought the fruit that we were hoping for and our programs
have been proven ineffective and dysfunctional. But all of this doesn’t mean that God has failed us.
Could it be that much of what we believe and much of what we do in His name might actually not be
accurate to His will? In Matthew 7: 21-23 we read:

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he
who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have
we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in
Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who
practice lawlessness!’

There are a lot of things that we can do “in His name”. We can cast out demons, we can perform
wonders and we can even prophesy “in His name”. We can build churches or donate large sums of
money to missions. In fact we can do all kinds of great things “in His name”. However, the criteria here is
not whether or not something is done “in His name”. Often there is a huge discrepancy between what we
do in His name and what the will is of the Father in heaven. Is what we do, born out of the will of the
Father, or are we just caught up in religious activity that has been handed over to us by the customs
and habits of the generations that went before us? Are we doing what we doing simply because we have
been told that “this is how you do it!”, “This is what you teach them!” and “This is how you will be
successful”. Could it be that we have become prisoners of a habitual box that the past generations have
put us in. I personally believe that this is the case. Lot’s of what we do is assumed accurate, simply
because we have never questioned it. I believe that we are in this place, simply because we don’t
understand nor see the Kingdom of God. A lot of what we do, we do outside of a Kingdom context.

The truth is, that a lot of what we do actually keeps people from seeing the Kingdom of God. Jesus says
to the religious leadership of the day in Matthew 23: 13-15:

13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of
heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are
entering to go in. 14 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’
houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater
condemnation. 15 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and
sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as

Jesus explains here, that the Pharisees actually “shut up the kingdom of heaven against men” by what
they do. I personally believe that this is the very thing that we have been doing as the church of Jesus
Christ. This doesn’t necessarily happen on purpose, but we have been involved in a lot of things that we
do “in His name” by habit. And a lot of these things are distractions that have kept us from seeing and
entering into the Kingdom. In all the “Christian” activity that we have been involved in, we have actually
forgotten about the Kingdom. It is the Kingdom message that was the main message of Jesus Christ. It
was the Kingdom message that was prophesied through the prophets of old. It was the Kingdom that
was announced by John the Baptist. It was the Kingdom message that was explained through the
numerous parables, that Jesus told the multitudes. It was the Kingdom revelation that was foreshadowed
in the Old Testament history of God’s people. It is the Father’s good pleasure to deliver us the Kingdom.
We talk about all kind of things, we teach people all kind of truths, but we fail to show them the Kingdom.
In fact, much of what we tell them and much of what we impose on God’s people shuts up the Kingdom
of Heaven and keeps people from entering. The Kingdom is supposed to be that place of breakthrough
and deliverance. That place where righteousness, peace and joy becomes our portion. A place where
limitations are broken. A place where all other things, that other people are worrying about are actually
added unto us. Yet we shut up the very thing that the Father wants to deliver to His children by
distracting them with religious activity that gives us a false sense of accomplishment. Instead of showing
people the Kingdom we show them organizational structures. Instead of demonstrating God’s
government, we teach people how to market churches. Someone once said that if you don’t see the
Kingdom of God, you will always stay religious and I strongly believe that is true. I know that none of us
walk in a 100% revelation. But one thing I believe. The message of the Kingdom destroys religious
yokes. The Kingdom gives people space to breathe again. God’s Kingdom brings us freedom and
excitement. It removes oppression and guilt that has been placed on us with unspoken words to perform
and act a certain way. The Kingdom of God causes us to become who we are supposed to be and
delivers us from performance based Christianity. It frees us from a culture where everyone acts and
talks the same.

It is said that if you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got. If we are not
happy with the results of today, we need to change what we do in order to get different results tomorrow.
It is time to change! It is time to question everything! It is time to break out of the mold that a religious
system tries to place on us. New results require a new way of thinking. Change demands structures to
be challenged and redefined. A revelation of the Kingdom of God is what we need. We need to set our
priorities straight. Before anything else, we need to first seek the Kingdom of God.  And I believe that
when we find it, it will actually ruin our concept of church, Christianity and spiritual values to the degree
that we do not know what to do anymore, cause everything seems so irrelevant. Church structures,
philosophies, leadership definitions, our concept of ministry and church in general will totally shift.

We need that revelation of His Kingdom. We need to be ruined. There needs to be destruction first
before God can start laying a new foundation. A true revelation of the Kingdom of God is the only key to
accomplish world missions successfully. Jesus taught us how to pray: “Your Kingdom come, Your will be
done. On earth as it is in Heaven”. In other words, the Kingdom that is established in Heaven, needs to
be duplicated on earth. The only way to be able to do that is by a revelation of what that Kingdom in
Heaven looks like first. We can only duplicate accurately on earth what we have first seen in Heaven.

Everything will shift as His Kingdom is revealed in our midst. This revelation will start a process, a painful
process. A process that if you don’t recognize it will cause you to think that the devil is after you, while in
fact it is God reforming you. A process that is actually dangerous. Dangerous to a system that has been
in place for many years and dangerous to thought processes that have dominated our minds ever since
we became a Christian. But a fresh revelation of the Kingdom of God will also start a process that will
bring good news to the poor, healing to the broken hearted, sight to the blind and liberty to the captives.

Yes, we will to go to the nations. Yes, we will preach the Gospel. Yes, we will disciple the nations. But as
God releases a fresh revelation of His Kingdom to His people today, world missions might never look the