My wife and I had the privilege of serving with the International Mission Board (IMB) for twenty-four years. During those years we labored alongside many great missionaries. Mostly, they have ministered in obscurity, but God knows their deeds and the angels rejoice.
In the past ten days two great missionaries died, and they have gone to heaven to receive their commendations from the Lord. In this post I want to remember and honor these two missionaries, realizing that they represent many others that I have not known personally.
Charles Brock served with his wife, Dottie, as a church planter in the northern Philippines. He planted clusters of churches, using a simple method. He would visit a village and walk around, asking if anyone wanted to study the Bible. When someone said yes, he would arrange a time to return to lead an evangelistic Bible study in that person’s home. He encouraged the host to invite friends, family, and neighbors. Then, Charles would meet weekly with the group, teaching them the gospel of John verse by verse. Within three months most of the folks would profess faith in Christ, and Charles would help them organize a house church. In this way he planted many churches on the island of Luzon.
When Charles and Dottie retired from missionary service, they settled in Neosho, Missouri, and established an organization called Church Growth International. Charles wrote and published an excellent book on church planting—Planting Indigenous Churches, which I’ve used many times as a textbook in courses on church planting and missions strategy. He also published booklets on how to lead evangelistic Bible studies and study guides for books of the Bible. The International Mission Board sent him all around the world to teach missionaries how to plant indigenous churches.
James (Jim) Slack served the International Mission Board for fifty (!) years along with his wife, Mary, first as a church planter in the northern Philippines, and then as a Bible teacher at Southern Baptist College in the southern Philippines. Eventually, Jim and Mary moved their family to Manila, where Jim served as the Church Growth Director for the IMB in the Philippines. Those were years of harvest in the Philippines, especially on the southern island of Mindanao. Between 1972 and 1985, the number of churches increased from 100 to 1,000. This was due in part (not to ignore the power of the Holy Spirit) to the indigenous church planting strategy that Jim helped to draft and implement. His careful analysis of growth patterns proved essential, and his research aided our planning.
Jim Slack served so well in the Philippines that the IMB home office noticed. The IMB leaders asked Jim and Mary to move to Richmond, Virginia, to serve as the Church Growth Director for the entire IMB (FMB in those days). In that role Jim led in the establishment of a Research Department at the IMB. He also grasped the value of Chronological Bible Storying, and he encouraged the IMB to embrace that method of evangelizing and discipling oral learners. (People groups that prefer learning orally comprise more than 60 percent of the world’s population.) Bible storying has provided a great breakthrough in the evangelization of animistic and Muslim peoples. In his later years Jim also helped the North American Mission Board discover the unreached people groups that live in North America.
At one time the International Mission Board had 5,800 missionaries, and the number now is about 3,500. These missionaries serve faithfully in more than one hundred nations around the world. Many of them serve in dangerous places. Two friends of mine, Randy and Kathy Arnett, died in a car accident in southern Africa earlier this year. I can’t mention all our missionaries by name, nor do I know their ministries. However, I do know about Charles Brock and Jim Slack, and it is my honor to pay tribute to their faithful service and to thank God for saving them, sending them, and empowering them to serve well. “Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me. ‘Write: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.’” (Rev 14:13, NKJV)