A Tale of Two Jethros: A Beverly Hillbilly, the Priest of Midian, and the Wisdom of Taking on Tasks in Bite Sized Chunks

So what do Jed Clampett’s nephew and Moses’s father-in-law have to do with the price of rice in China?

Well, nothing.

But they do actually have something to do with missions strategy in China.

Now before you go clicking away from this article, I’m gonna have to insist that you stick around and set a spell, take your shoes off, and have a heapin’ helpin’ of my line of cipherin’.

Comfortable yet?

Good! Now here goes…

Jed Clampett, the poor mountaineer turned “beverly hillbilly”, of course had a nephew named Jethro who was known to have quite the appetite. Such the appetite, in fact, that he was known to be able to down all of granny’s special feed by the pot full and still proclaim himself hungry.

“And did you see the size of that pot? It was a monster!”

Are you with me so far?

Good!

Well all of that about Jethro Bodine is to say that there are those in this world, few as they may be, who like Jethro have the capacity and wherewithal to be able to take any task thrown at them, no matter the size, and in no time flat make short work of it.

It’s done.

Complete.

Finished.

Time for seconds.

But, then there are those of us (and the vast majority of us fit into this category), who would find ourselves favoring Moses more than we would Jethro Bodine. In Exodus 18, Moses found himself with a Jethro Bodine bowl sized task before him, and he was having trouble knocking it out in just one sitting.

In fact, the Bible tells us that a line of Israelites stood before Moses from morning until evening to enquire of God. Moses would then teach them, one at a time, the laws and statutes of God.

From morning until evening – that’s a long line!

There was no end in sight. Each time some new issue came up between two people, they got in the back of the line and waited their turn to hear the Word of God from the man of God.

Now that is a daunting task! Moses was overwhelmed with a huge burden!

But then in comes Jethro with a great idea.

No, not that Jethro. I’m talking about the other Jethro – the priest of Midian – Moses’s father-in-law.

Jethro steps in with a plan to take this huge task that has fallen to Moses and divide it up into smaller, more manageable chunks that can then be divvied up among “able men” to help shoulder the load.

Moses, heeding his father-in-law’s advice, does just that. He trained men who could share the work of teaching God’s Word to the people so that he could “endure” and the people could “go to their place in peace”.

Jethro, Moses’s father-in-law, saw that Moses was struggling with completing this Jethro Bodine bowl sized task all by himself and came up with this plan that divided the work into manageable, bite-sized chunks.

The priest of Midian and Moses in this account actually illustrate the New Testament principle that Paul taught Timothy in 2 Timothy 2 where he said “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.”

“Oh, now I see how the two Jethros correlate! One could knock out a huge task himself and the other used a different strategy!”

Yes, now you’re trackin’!

“But wait, I still don’t know what all this Jethro business has to do with missions strategy in China?”

Well, I’m glad you asked!

You see, China is a massive country. We’re talking nearly “1.5 billion people” massive. We’re talking “over 180 cities of 1 million+ people each” massive. We’re talking “heapin’ pot of Granny’s feed” massive!

Now let’s face it, when it comes to missions in China, there are no Jethro Bodines who are able to take the whole pot full of evangelism opportunities and knock ’em out in one sitting. That’s nearly 1.5 billion grains of feed in one bowl!

What’s that you say?  You beg to differ?

Go ahead, loosin’ your belt and give it a whirl. I’ll wait.

I’m sorry, what was that again? Having trouble after grain number 100,000 or so? Well, Elly May, you have successfully eaten 0.000067% of China Flakes.

The line of Chinese people here needing to be taught God’s Word is stretching from morning to evening by now. If you squint just right, you might can see where it ends somewhere in Hainan.

Well, I’ve got someone I’d like you to meet. He’s name is Jethro, priest of Midian, and he’s solved problems like this before.

How so, you ask?

Well, he recommends starting by training up “able men” and then divvying up China as a mission field into manageable, bite-sized chunks. Each able man is what we would term a missionary.

Jethro then assigns one missionary to each of the 180 cities mentioned above. From there, each missionary can begin to train up able Chinese men in his city as they are saved and station them in his city’s various districts and surrounding counties until each of the able men – missionary and national alike – total 18,000. That’s 100 trained nationals per missionary and 83,333 people to reach with the gospel per worker. Or, put another way, 83,333 grains per bowl.

If we follow Jethro’s advice, we could “endure” the task before us like Moses and the Chinese could “go to their place in peace”. The job would be done quickly and efficiently!

Though we would have in essence invited all of the Clampetts and Bodines to help us finish the bowl of feed, we’d get it done in relatively no time at all.

So while the task of evangelizing China certainly is a huge one, we can strategically divide the country up into manageable pieces to effectively reach the country in a relatively short period of time.

We don’t have to have Jethro Bodine’s spiritual hollow leg to be missionaries in China. We just have to learn to pass out a lot of spoons.

And that, my friends, is the parable of two Jethros.

So, are you in? Will you surrender your life to going to one of the cities of China and train men to reach it and it’s surrounding areas with the gospel?

It can be done.

It is being done.

It must be done.

Are you in?

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations: baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you…” — Jesus Christ

There Xi Goes Again: Xi, Persecution in China, and the Art of Keepin’ On Keepin’ On

In an article that you can read here, we learn that China’s president, Xi Jinping – or “Xi”, has been cracking down on religion in China and “has particular animosity against Christianity in particular”.

This has been seen in the various news stories recently coming out of China concerning persecution of Christians. First, there was the dynamiting of a church around the turn of the year (see here).

More recently, there is this story about the government no longer allowing Bibles to be sold online in China. This happened just days after the government announced that in the upcoming years it wanted to retranslate the Bible – presumably in its own image by making it more socialism-friendly.

As we travel to churches here in the states, many have asked us about these developments and what they might mean for how we are able to do ministry when we arrive back in China.

While we don’t know exactly what the coming years in China hold for believers there, we can be sure of the Christ’s words in Matthew 16:18, “I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

Our Lord will build His church, and nothing – not dynamite, not Xi, not communism, not even the very gates of hell – shall prevail against it.

This is great news! As we go to China to plant churches, we are investing in a building project that cannot be thwarted!

And Christ is building His church! Just over the last couple of months, our teammates in China have had seen multiple professions of faith in their church plant with many baptisms as well! Please read their April 2018 Prayer Letter for the details.

Despite the persecution that seems to be at hand, believers in China are still seeing God at work to change lives. They aren’t living in fear of persecution but instead are faithfully pressing on to get the gospel out. Read here about the latest plan to print John and Romans in-country. They are keepin’ on keepin’ on!

I am reminded of Daniel, who when learning that a law was passed in Persia that made it illegal for him to pray, went into his house, opened his windows, and prayed “as he did aforetime” (see Daniel 6:10). He just kept on keepin’ on doing what he had always done. He just kept on worshipping and obeying the Lord. He didn’t let fear of being thrown into a lion’s den get to him.

So, you may ask, are we having second thoughts about starting churches in China? No! Taking our cue from Daniel and the believers currently over there, we have every intention of keepin’ on keepin’ on with our deputation and plans to start churches, trusting that even if we get thrown in a tiger’s den, we serve a God who is known to send angels to stop mouths, and He has promised to be with us until the end of the world (Matt. 28:20).

Project China: A Growing Trust

“China ramps up persecution of Christians”

“China removing crosses from hundreds of churches”

“Chinese authorities dynamite Christian megachurch”

For any Christian with a heart for world evangelism, keeping up with news stories coming out of China can certainly be disheartening. It seems like no more than a couple of months can go by without seeing another story of persecution in China popping up in our newsfeeds.

As I travel to churches raising support, I am frequently met with concerns about such headlines and how myself and the rest of Project China intend to start churches in China given its climate of hostility toward Christians.

“Can you actually start churches in China?”

“Aren’t you afraid?”

“What will happen to you and your family if you’re caught?”

All of these are legitimate questions. I sometimes think on questions like these myself. However, I think that they are oftentimes asked with an eye that is more keen on headlines and news bites than on the Word of God.

Jesus, when commissioning us, promised us His presence as we fulfill it:

“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth, Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matt. 28:18-20)

He didn’t say He would only be with us until we reached the borders of certain countries. He said He would be with us always.

Granted, that doesn’t mean that as Christians we are exempt from persecution. Far from it.

“Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” (Matt. 10:16)

“It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?” (Matt. 10:25)

Jesus was very clear that persecution should be expected. He suffered even unto death. Who are we to expect any different when following after Him?

Is there risk of persecution while planting churches in China? Certainly. In fact, two on our Project China team have been kicked out of the country and now serve in Taiwan, and another has previously dealt with encounters with police. 

There is real risk, and yet there is the commission of Christ to obey.

In 2 Samuel 23, David’s men risked their lives breaking through a Philistine garrison to retrieve a drink of water that the king longed to have. How much more should we, as servants of Christ, be willing to do whatever it takes for our King, “Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4)?

In the face of growing persecution, we must have a growing trust. A growing trust in the promises of Christ. A growing trust in the One who said:

“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad; for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” (Matt. 5:10-12)

This is part of a series of articles about our growing team of missionaries, Project China. To learn more about Project China and find subsequent links to the websites of its missionaries, please visit our website at www.projectchina.org.