by Pastor/Missionary David Cox
This article is just some ideas on missions that I have put together.
Acts 1:8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
God empowers us with the Holy Spirit so that we CAN BE WITNESSES for Christ. Our witnessing is divided in four areas which are representative. But first note that the command was given to all the disciples and followers of Christ. There are no classes left out of this command. Every Christian is to be a witness.
Acts 20:21 Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.
The goal here is that these people would hear the gospel of the Bible, and then accept Jesus Christ, believing in him (exercising faith in Christ) and would be saved.
Secondly consider the areas we are to be witnesses in. First there is Jerusalem, which is where these people lived. This is like witnessing to their own home town. We are to be actively witnessing to those people around us, that we meet day in and day out. This witnessing should basically be each and every Christian doing it themselves.
Next consider we are to be witnesses in Judaea. This is like witnessing to their own country. Those Christians who live in the United States should be witnessing to their whole country. I see this as evangelism and church planting works in the United States. This is missions. When we get so far away from actually presenting the gospel into social gospel type things we have lost it. This should basically be done by God’s people individually, and local churches. If every local church across the United States were to go out witnessing to the people around them, this commandment would be fulfilled. We can still support new church plants in the US though to help this.
Then consider we are to be witnesses in Samaria. This is like witnessing to disenfranchised peoples among themselves. The Samaritans were a mixture of Jewish blood with pagan blood. The Jews rejected and hated these people and would not have anything to do with them. There are many disenfranchised groups in the United States, racial groups, cultural groups, even drug addicts and prostitutes. Rescue missions would be what would fulfill this ministry also, although there must be a clear gospel witness present in what they do. Just giving away a warm bed and food is not fulfilling this part of the command. There should be some kind of witnessing to reach these people for Christ.
One of the elements in this idea here is that these people are usually rejected from our fellowship or outreach ministries. Most of the time we leave our “comfort zone” when we try to reach and witness to “our Samaritans”.
Finally consider we are to be witnesses unto the uttermost part of the earth. This is witnessing to the whole world. Most Christians just cannot give up several years of their life and go to another country and evangelize and plant a local church. That is very rare. But every Christian can send money and pray for a missionary.
Another element here is that God empowers this activity with the blessing of the Holy Spirit. Both the actual doing of this witnessing, the calling, and the provision of how these people are able to do this are all things that the Holy Spirit works in and through God’s people to get it done. God witnesses through us, using us. But we must give ourselves over to God’s work or it won’t happen.
Finally in this section, this command was given in a context of prophesy. In other words, Jesus on the very moment he is leaving this earth, promising to return in the near future, gave this commandment to us. There is the extreme pressure on us to complete this task because “Jesus will quickly return”. The idea is that we must be highly motivated in completing this important mandate of Christ. The timing, the situation, the circumstances, everything about Christ giving this commandment focuses on urgency.
The angels’ rebuke to the disciples gazing up into heaven is essentially, “What are you still here for? You have been given a commandment, so GO DO IT!“
Matt 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 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.
In the end analysis, you just cannot get around this singular point, God commanded us to reach the world with the gospel. There is no light desire in God’s words. It is a command that is given with divine authority.
While “missions” is great when it is a Christian radio station, a summer camp ministry, a crisis hotline ministry, putting signs up in people’s yards, etc. these things beg the question of are we reaching people with the gospel through them. Yes they are considered missions and soak up all of churches’ missions funds, but no they do not directly fall under a literal definition of being “missionary”.
It is because churches and God’s people give missions money to these things that missionaries cannot get funded to do their job. There needs to be a purity of mindset here, and while I do not think everybody should cut off money to these types of ministries, we need to separate what is for missions and keep that pure, people giving out the gospel and planting local churches (both in order to be biblical missions), and give to these other things to a lesser degree.
We must understand that God’s command is work principle that must be in effect in us, God’s people. This work principle is very simply, God saved you so that you would be instrumental in saving others.
The discipleship principle is another principle here. This principle is that every disciple “reproduces” himself or herself. In other words, you have “fruit” by being instrumental in bringing other people to Christ. This should be a verbal explanation of the gospel to the unsaved. But it goes beyond that. This also very clearly includes our prayers and petitions before God for the salvation of the lost. Paul’s burden for Israel is a notable example.
1Cor 16:9 For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries.
Col 4:3 Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds:
What we see is the New Testament Christians “laboring with” or “laboring beside” Paul in prayer. This is there obligation before God to go and make disciples, and although they did not physically go, they were “there laboring beside Paul” in prayer. So many times churches and Christians shove off missions and missionaries not really getting involved in their activities and praying for them. This is rejection of our duty to go and make disciples.
Another interesting thing is that God never separates the witnessing from the discipleship. Discipleship is done in a local church, and the entire thing breaks down when you try to disciple outside of a local church context. That is not the New Testament context for doing God’s will.
But witnessing is always with a view to disciple afterward if the person accepts Christ. Today ministries try to break witnessing from discipleship in a local church context. It doesn’t work. Both must be done together.
Rom 10:14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!
We all understand that a person comes to be saved through the process of somebody else explaining the gospel to them. People who read a tract or Bible and are saved got that tract or Bible because somebody had the foresight to have it printed up and gave the energy necessary to distribute it. But the truth of the matter is that God’s work is primarily the salvation of souls, and that is not going to be done if we (Christians and churches) do not do it.
Besides being a command that we must obey, God comments that He sees the missionary’s feet as being “beautiful”. In this case, feet represent the going of a devoted servant in obedience to his master’s desire. This is what God sees as beautiful. When you “get onboard” with this divine thrust, divine priority of missions, you enter into a place of divine blessing. God sees you as also being “beautiful” because you are helping to fulfill the very deepest, most heart-felt desire of God, the salvation of the world. But “getting onboard” isn’t mere words. It is hard work.
How do you support missions? There are a variety of things that show how you support missions. The biggest one is to actually go to another country and tell the unsaved about Christ. Short of that “big one”, it is doing the same thing where you live, in your own country. Next we see that when you sacrifice for the winning of souls, this is another very important way to support God’s evangelistic mandate. You can do this by sacrificing of yourself, your time, money, energy, resources, finances, etc. in order to see the work of evangelism done.
In today’s Christianity, everybody seems to be dedicated and busy, and everybody needs, gets, and spends a lot of money. But not everything that is done in the name of missions actually sees souls come to the Savior. Satan is busy soaking up missions funds on things that will never see a soul come to Christ. This is his strategy, sidetrack the funds, prayers, and energy that should go into the divine mandate of missions into other “good things.”
To be a purist here, we need to separate these good things (and maybe a lot of them should receive some money, but not from that designated as for missions) from what is the essence of missions, which is a person going to another country and culture and explaining the gospel to the unsaved, and organizing the converts of that evangelism into local churches that do the same. They are missions minded.
All of this starts with a “sending”, or a commissioning of an individual called to this ministry, and the people of God funding that person to do the work of the ministry. We so often have good desires toward this, but the actual sacrificing is rarely done. We give of our abundance, and we give sparsely to God’s greatest desire, the salvation of the world.
The key element to understand here is that people don’t get saved without another person giving them the gospel. God uses means to do his work, and those means are believers which are obedient to God. How did you get saved? Was it not God using some means? A tract (written by a man, printed by somebody, and put into you hand or way by somebody)? A personal testimony? A sermon challenging one to salvation? You are saved because God used a willing servant (or more than one) to get you into salvation. Although it is not so visible, there were probably a number of godly Christians praying for your salvation also.
This implies money being given, but also the committment of personnel who will write the tract, carry it to the unsaved, and people who simply stop the unsaved in their life’s course to explain the gospel to them. Preachers, evangelists, and most importantly missionaries are these people who dedicate their lives to this ministry. They are the midwives that help spiritually birth new people into the world. Without their labors and their ministry, Christianity would dry up and disappear off the face of the earth in a generation.
It has been to my great dismay and disappointment to see how missions in America has panned out over the last 40 years of my life.
Missions is when people here take the gospel over there and give it to unsaved people.
Fine and good, but what we are seeing nowadays is foreign national Christians coming into the United States to raise money to go back to their country and do God’s work. I find this greatly in error. First of all, they should raise up a work for God based in evangelism and church planting IN THEIR OWN COUNTRY, and this means staying there, and their own group supporting their own ministry. It is unbiblical for churches to be supported wholesale from some other church somewhere. A church should support itself. (The 3 selfs of missions are biblical: Self-governing, self-supporting, and self-propogating.)
What we have today is a lame Christianity being exported to other countries where churches have become “wise” in shifting their missions money from American missionaries to nationals. This is not wise at all, but presents a crutch for that national work. They depend on America instead of trusting God and doing what they can with the resources from their own people.
I am not criticizing foreign nationals for being or wanting to be missionaries. But what happened with the churches in that foreign country supporting them instead of going back to the United States for money? Most have given up churches in their own country as the source of their income, and they want most of their income coming from the US, so that they can live better, do more, be happier, etc. Foreign churches should support and send out national missionaries. This IS MISSIONS. Making world missions dependent on US support and missions structure is not biblical though. That is what is happening.
I do not support John Piper. But he has a great article here…
in which he argues that evangelizing is not exactly the same thing as being a missionary. “Everybody is a missionary” is a wrong concept because it loses what a missionary really is according to the Bible definition (a cross cultural witnessing). His article is very short but to the point.
The key component here is the great need for missionaries.
Matt 9:37 Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Matt 9:38 Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.
1Cor 3:9 For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.
The laborers that are truly doing biblical missions are few and far between. We should esteem them highly. But the key point here is that we need to focus our missions money, prayers, energy and efforts on true biblical missionaries.
A biblical missionary is somebody that leaves their own country and culture to go into another country/culture to give the gospel witness and organize a church from his converts.
Churches need to focus on these people. Let me digress a little bit about these people. What are they? How are they? How do we identify a true missionary?
John 4:34 Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work. 35 Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. 36 And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.
Jesus saw his main mission on this earth as the salvation of men’s souls. It was “his work”, his daily meat which daily he labored for. We can do no better than to take that same attitude in our own lives. The issue is not really even money. It is vision. When God’s people see the vision of God’s work, God will supply the money. It is the lack of this vision, seeing all the unsaved around us needing the Savior, and nobody there to tell them. That is the problem.
We need to really emphasize the process of missions. To again digress, let me explain a little about how a missionary “comes to be”. First the person must have a vivid relationship with God. He must be saved, but much more than being saved, he must be a person that has engaged God, and is not going to give up, “petter out”, “poop out”, get depressed and quick. Missions is a hard task at best, and at worse, it is an activity that will destroy both life and health, and even can greatly harm your spiritual health if you are not careful.
How? Being a missionary carries the risk of being harmed spiritually? How? We are the number one targets of Satan’s attacks. When he has a large group of pagan in some foreign country all living unhappily and going to hell, and a real missionary arrives and starts laboring and a seed grows to a church, that is dangerous for him. In my 30 years of being a missionary I have seen countless missionaries come and go back home. Some had serious health problems (or their wife) and had to return. Others fell into temptation and sin with addictions, sexual encounters, and even doctrinal heresy. If Satan attacks your pastor back home (when he is doing a good job) in order to mess up your church, Satan does this dobly so for missionaries. While most missionaries do have people praying for them, they don’t have close fellowship of godly men and women to bolster their faith. Usually the couple is alone in a lonely and spiritually desolately place.
See my tract church32 on “How to pray for missionaries“.
This person is not necessarily a missionary because he is a good Christian, he must be called into missions. This is a battle within him (or her) itself, and they must be willing to give up their “rightful” lifestyle back home. They are sacrificing the easy, comfortable life for one of hardship, difference, and learning and adapting to an unending succession of new and different things. Most of these new things are usually “not likeable” to the person, so a missionary must constantly battle this which wears him down. There is always that thought, life would be simpler and more comfortable if I just quit and went back home, got a good job, and lived the life of a good Christian back home.
Once the missionary “newbie” gets his mind and spirit “in order”, he has to actually start the process. He has to get a Bible school education because without knowing the Bible and its doctrine well, he won’t stand up to the pagan’s doctrines and practices. Besides that he has to really learn how a local church functions. Some missionaries today want to distance themselves from the local church like it has the plague. But yet these same people trot up to one after the other in order to get their support.
After that, the missionary newbie has to start deputation, and that is a horrenous experience in itself. No money, unsure money (that comes and doesn’t come, that might come, that “will” come but in the indefinite future, etc), and a lot of expenses cause the best of us to get heartburn or ulcers.
Once on the field, you have arrived! But no rest for the weary because now you must set aside deputation, supporters, prayer letters, fundraising, socializing to get people to pray for you, and now you must do the work of learning and adjusting to the culture, and winning people to Christ.
After a few years you just about have the nack of what is going on, and you are just beginning to get it right, and furlough pounces on you and now you have to “shift gears” all over again to return to US deputation mode.
All of this wears and tears a missionary to a frassle. I have been a missionary for 30 years, and I don’t see or know of any missionaries that are not well worn, or just plain worn out. You talk with them and you see the wear on them. Only the truly called will bear it out to the end, and be glad. There is only one thing that pushes me back into missions as a missionary, and that is because God wants me to do this, and I am completely happy in the center of God’s will, and I am convinced that is where I am. If a missionary ever doubts he is in God’s will, he is doomed.
So the battle for missions hinges on the worker, the missionary. He is essential, but his spiritual life, and essentially what kind of a Christian or pastor he is makes all the difference in the world. His mental and spiritual health is key in accomplishing missions. Yes money could help tremendously to keep him “upbeat”, but money is a deceptive thing at best. We all need it, but it hurts us all as it competes in our minds and souls for the place of God in our lives.
The missionary needs to keep “on track.” I am reminded here of Christ’s words about doing the work of God as being his daily meat. I have this horrible addiction that I just cannot shake off. It is eating. No matter how hard I try to not eat anything, after a half day or so, this thing called hunger comes back and I have to eat at least a little bit. That is the concept of “daily meat” here. Every little while, it comes back into the forefront of your mind, and you start looking for it again. Eating is just grabbing the focus of your life like every 6-8 hours. This is how God’s work was for Christ. Yes he needs to sleep, but no matter what he does, in just a little while, engaging in the needs and affairs of normal life, the thought of God’s work comes back to the forefront of your mind. This is what the missionary has to have as his central focus. The work of God, people getting saved, discipled in a local church, and these saved people going out doing the work of God.
Supporting a missionary is much more than just sending a check once a month. It is spiritual labor praying for their evangelism, their doctrine, their church, their converts, their marriage relationship, their family and kids, their spiritual health, their mental and emotional health. If you don’t defend all of these areas, Satan will take advantage of the weakened defenses and attack there. You must “labor beside and with them”. You must feel their pains, and rejoice over their victories.
Missionaries need “moral support”. To me, this means that there are people out there praying for my ministry and spiritual health. It means that there are people who occasionally do something to indicate they are constantly praying for us. An occasional card, letter, or email is always an uplifting help. Care packages and special one time gifts for things like special needs, or just Christmas, birthdays, or a $30 check a few weeks before our anniversary so I can take my wife out to eat is a real uplifting thing. The money is not so much the point, it is that somebody is back home remembering me. I especially like to see birthday cards or Christmas cards with a dozen signatures of the people in the church saying a word of encouragement or that they are praying for us, or keep up the good work. That encourages me to continue on.
The point is, I am not alone in this “mission.” People back home really are interested and engaged in the winning of souls to the Lord on the foreign mission field where I am laboring, and they are wanting to see gain for Christ. A church planted, people won to Christ, and mature leaders developing.
The missionary Hudson Taylor went to China, and one of his converts posed the question “Why did you not come sooner?”
First of all, there are evangelists. Don’t support “missionaries” that are not going out witnessing, and have some evidence that somebody listens to them. (i.e. if they have no fruit or converts, then be suspect. Having thousands throws them into another category.)
It irritates me to see missionaries bragging on their churches they have done. “I have planted 100 churches in Mexico.” Another says “Our church in Mexico has 6,000 members.” Another I heard was a missionary in Brazil that has 10,000 members. But these are the best ones in running around the United States gathering missions money. Would it not be logical that if he is doing his job, he would be teaching his people to tithe and give offerings beyond his tithe? These people want great sums of money for their personal support, but it is unreasonable to think that a church of 6000 or 10,000 could not ask every member to give a dollar or 5 dollars per month to support that missionary. At some point missions should move their base off of US support and begin getting supported from their own labors on the field, i.e. their work should start kicking in and helping with the expenses. This allows US based churches’ missions money to be reassigned to new and younger missionaries.
We need to understand that missions will not be done without missionaries.
But what biblical missionaries are doing is to “kickstart Christianity” in a pagan land.
They do this with God moving on Christians hearts to support their efforts. These Christians are people in churches that direct missions monies to their efforts.
Missionaries depend on churches
It is sad to see missions in such a sad state of affairs. Missions have their fair share of charlatans that make a big splash (of all that they do), and ruin missions for everybody else. If you are as a pastor have a small church of 50 or 100 people that you have built up over half a dozen or dozen years, and a missionary charlatan comes in and says he has planted 4-5 churches in 4 years, or has a church of 2000 in 4 years, what does that say about you? Are you lazy? Are you incapable of doing God’s work as well?
Truth of the matter is that NOBODY CAN PLANT 4 CHURCHES IN A FEW YEARS, nor can they get a church of thousands in no time.
God’s work is slow, and the Bible reflects that. It is hard, the work is laborious and beset with set backs. It is very costly, both in terms of money and personal sacrifice. Satan attacks God’s work, and these attacks cause damage on God’s work, sometimes even shutting it down completely in some place or another.
2Thess 3:3 But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil.
So churches have to understand this (they do), and they have to get behind missionaries. Financial support is very important, but prayer is even more crucial.
2Thess 3:1 Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you: 2 And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith.
Paul’s observation was that this work he was doing for God is a struggle, a battle, a spiritual war. There are enemies of the cross, and they are very active and energetic against everything done for the cause of Christ.
Paul wanted to enlist the believers in the Thessalonian church to fight beside him in prayer. He specifically asks them “pray for us” that the word of God would have a free course (not be hindered). He also specifically identified objects for them to pray for, that unreasonable and wicked men would not fall upon Paul to hinder his work.
Phil 4:10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. 12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. 14 Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction. 15 Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only. 16 For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity.
Paul’s words speak of a “communicating” between his supporting churches and Paul’s ministry. Surely Paul also lived of the gifts that he received, but more importantly, he used these gifts for the work of the Lord.
Scripture makes churches squarely in the center of missions through their funding of missionaries.
There are two sides to this “funding”. On the first side, the missionary has to have liberty to make decisions as God decides, and sometimes, like Paul wanting to go up into Asia Minor and God directly him elsewhere, even the missionary didn’t really do what he wanted. One the other hand, churches need to get involved in the spending of money (and providing of money) in modern missions. It should not be a difficult thing for any church that sends money to a missionary to ask for an accountly.
Rom 12:17 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.
We should do things “honestly” as a way of ministering. What this means is that we do not do things underhandedly, hiding a taking away of money for one’s personal luxury.
Churches need to resist the urge to just send a set amount of money and “write off” the missionary needs. It started with car insurance and life insurance, and then got worse with health insurance. But today’s typical person wants to throw off any resolving or helping of people’s needs by saying they should “buy insurance” for that or save up and be prepared. God’s way is not that way.
Matt 10:9 Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, Matt 10:10 Nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat.
When Christ sent out the apostles on a missionary journey, he set the method and spirit. It is to be by faith, and that means no big cash saving up, but go as far as you can with what God gives you, and then look to God for further provision. Paul did this, and at some point he came “home”. Again God called and he left again in faith. Without churches sending support money to him, he could not have done what he did.
But the key point here is simply that God’s example is that of churches bankrolling what the missionaries are doing. Churches support missionaries.
Some speak of Paul’s tentmaking as though Paul supported himself throughout his missionary journeys through making tents. That is not what the Bible teaches, nor what Paul himself taught.
1Cor 9:13 Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? 1Cor 9:14 Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.
This is the principle of missions. We are laborers, and our “work” is to preach the gospel, not do secular work to pay the bills. God commands this, and this is the example of the Old Testament (priests) and the New Testament. God’s people are moved by God to fully support God’s ministers.