As I was clearing out some files in preparation for our move to Africa, I came across this 1,300 word essay that I wrote for a missions class waaaaay back in my freshman year of college. I thought some of you might enjoy the read. At times the writing sounds like a freshman, but I think there are still some worthwhile thoughts in it.
The Biblical Imperative for Missions
Webster defines imperative as an obligatory act or duty; something not to be avoided or evaded. By extension, biblical imperatives are not to be evaded. Christians cannot escape their duty to spread the gospel. Jesus says in Matthew 28:19-20, “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 always, even unto the end of the world.”
Christ’s will is for the church to tell the world of His life and teachings. The command “Go” is an imperative that applies to all ages. This command demands either obedience or disobedience. There is no other option. Consequently, this passage has become the dominant motive for missions in modern times (Culver xi).
David Livingstone said, “God only had one Son – and He was a missionary” (Dickson, Call 27). Jesus is a missionary. His mission is “to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10). His final command expresses His desire for the church to continue His work. The Bible teachers in Colossians 1:18 that the Church is the body of Christ. As the body of Christ, the Church has a responsibility to do His work (Dickson, Restoring 1). Acts 17:30 states that, “the times of ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent.” Ignorance of the Word is no longer an excuse. All will be accountable, and it is our duty to share the Gospel with those that do not have it. If we do not, then we will be accountable as well. James 4:17 says, “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”
Despite all of that, the main motivation for missions should be within the missionary. Christians should have a great desire to evangelize lost people. We are to be compassionate people. The idea of Christians being loving and compassionate is very important to God. The phrases “love thy neighbor” and “love one another” combine to appear twenty-one times in the Bible. Obviously, something with that degree of emphasis is of great importance. Being of a compassionate heart, Christians should want to help fulfill the needs of others.
What greater need does anyone have than that of God’s redeeming grace? There is an unbelievable need for the Gospel in the world. There are three million villages in the world that do not have a single person that knows about Jesus. There are two thousand tribes that do not have even one word of Scripture in their language. There are one thousand languages that the Bible has yet to be translated into. Including all “Christian” religions, 96% of church funds are being used to bring biblical teachings to 9% of the world’s population. That leaves only 4% of the funds for the remaining 91% of the world’s population (Dickson, Call 33). Clearly the need cannot be ignored.
The need for missions is easy to see, but the great need can be a discouragement. The odds may seem insurmountable. World population is reaching unbelievable heights. For instance, if we could have converted sinners at the rate of one soul per minute from the day that Jesus was resurrected until 1979, then only one billion people would have been converted. On the day of Pentecost, three thousand were added to the Church. If we could reproduce that phenomenon every day, then it would still take 5,479 years to convert the predicted six billion people that will be on Earth in the year 2,000 (Willis 86). Facing these odds, it may seem impossible to carry out the command in Mark 16:15 to “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” The missionary cannot let the apparent impossibility of the task at hand discourage him. “Anyone can see the number of apples on a tree; only a few can see the number of trees in an apple” (Willis ). In other words, if the seed is sewn, then it will reproduce itself in multiples.
Perhaps this story can best explain the way to beat the odds.
Waves from the Malaka Strait splashed below me on the rocky shore of Penang, a small island off the west coast of the Malay Peninsula. A fisherman guided his boat into the bay and began his day’s work. As is my custom, I asked God what he wanted to teach me from that situation.
He seemed to say, ‘What if you were given the task of catching every fish in the seven seas? How would you do it?’ I was overwhelmed at the thought. Impossible! ‘But that is the job I have given you.’ He responded.
‘There is no way.’ I said.
‘What if,’ He broke into my thoughts, ‘ every time the fisherman caught a fish and touched it, it changed into a man? The fisher could then explain to the fish-turned-man what had happened to him. He could tell him about the plight of his kinfish trapped in their watery prison and how they, too, can be freed by the touch of a human hand. He could teach the man to catch fish and to repeat the process. Soon their numbers would multiply.’
‘If we were doing it like most Christian training,’ I rejoined, ‘we would send the man who had been a fish to an institute of fisheries in the mountains. There he could learn about currents, sea life, oceanography, and so on. After three or four years he could return to help the first fisherman. Of course, he might not know how to throw a net or bait a hook.’
‘A much more practical way,’ the Lord whispered, ‘would be to show him immediately how to fish, thus letting him experience the joy of releasing another man from the fish condition. Then he could pass on what he had learned to the other new man. Someday he might need advanced study to help him teach others, but the immediate need would be to give him on-the-job training. If you would use this method, as I did, you could tell all the men in the world about me’ (Willis 85).
If we teach other to turn around and teach more people about the Gospel, then the Word of God will be spread much more quickly and efficiently.
Christians cannot afford to be complacent about evangelism. Gurganus call evangelism the lifeblood of the Church. Without evangelism the church is dying. We must have a passion for spreading the word. In the past, comparisons have been drawn to between the growth of the Church and the spread of Communism. People wondered why Communism grew faster than the Church. One Communist publication suggested:
“The gospel is a much more powerful weapon for the renovation of society than our Marxist view of the world. Yet it is we who shall conquer you in the end. We are only a handful, but you Christians are millions… We Communists do not play with word. Of our salaries and wages we keep only what is absolutely necessary and the rest we give up for propaganda purposes. To this same propaganda we also devote our leisure time and part of our vacation. You, however, give only a little time and scarcely any money for the spreading of Christ’s gospel. How can anyone believe in the all-surpassing value of this gospel, if you do not practice it? If you do not spread it? If you sacrifice neither your time nor your money for that purpose?” (De Jong 9).
It is sobering to read words like those. The vast majority of us ought to feel shame after reading those words. It is not enough for us to stay in our fortress of the Church and try to fend off evil. We must take the offensive. We must go out into the darkness of the world and retrieve souls for Christ.