“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
I spoke in two church missions conferences in the same state, the same month. The churches shared many similarities. Both were widely recognized for their missions interest; in fact, one was the anchor church for the eastern end of the state, the other for the west. Both were large, vibrant, growing churches. Both had very large budgets for missions, perhaps half their total giving. “East” had 1,800 members and gave enough money to missions to support 180 missionaries. “West” was half the size and gave enough money to support those dozens of their own sons and daughters on the mission field. “West” was 150 years old, but only one of their own had ever gone to the mission field. She was now retired and present in the conference. “West” paid for the sons and daughters of others to go. Where would your church fit on a continuum between “West” and “East” so far as sending your own members into missionary service?
Whenever we begin to talk about the needs of the world, someone always chimes in with: “But the need at home is so great.” The need at home is great. Our first responsibility is for those nearby. The question is not either/or but both/and. Jesus’ command was Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth.
In America 1 out of 5 people with whom you do business or associate will be Bible-believing Christians, in Calcutta 1 of 10,000. How many Bibles are in Columbia, South Carolina? A million? Calcutta may have a few hundred Bibles, while many of the languages in that great city have none at all. I use Calcutta merely as an example of the spiritually lost half of the world where people don’t have access to the gospel. If someone doesn’t go in from the outside – if an apostolic missionary doesn’t come – they cannot even hear the gospel. Yes, our first responsibility is for “Jerusalem,” but God loves the world.
A large church contributed financial support toward 75 missionaries, including us. In fact, it was the second largest missions donor church in the nation, of any denomination. One day I walked down the long hallway in which photographs of the missionaries were displayed, studying the biographies of each. To my astonishment, not one of their missionaries was from that church! They gave lots of money to support other people’s sons and daughters. A young businessman noticed the same phenomenon and decided to do something about it. Calling himself “God’s scout,” he volunteered to teach the college-and-career Sunday School class. Within five years eleven members of that church were on the mission field – all from that class! God hadn’t called him to go as a missionary, but Frank heard the call to send. Could you become a “scout” used of God to encourage a potential missionary? Write out any strategy you think God wants you to use to help others find God’s purpose for their lives.
Do you know any boy, girl, or young adult about whom you think, “That youngster would make a great missionary? They are spiritually alive, gifted, and active in service to God.” Think over the young people in church you know and list any such possible candidates. In the past, only young people who had not yet launched into some other vocation were considered potential candidates for missionary service. Today many missionaries have joined the task force in mid-life, leaving other vocations. Most Americans change careers several times.
Perhaps God would give you the high privilege of being His ambassador to a people who have had no chance to hear the gospel. Why not begin today to ask the Holy Spirit to give you that gift? When I was 18, I began to ask God for the gift of apostleship. I wanted my life to count to the maximum for God’s purpose in this world. I found the same ambition Paul spoke of burning in my spirit-to proclaim Christ where He had never been named (Romans 15:20). We encountered many obstacles: I didn’t think I had the gift of evangelism; I had an illness the doctors said was incurable; others said we shouldn’t go because “God is blessing you where you are” (a strange logic); we had four children (several mission boards didn’t like that); and finally, after we boarded ship for Japan, my daughter was injured and we had to disembark. But we kept on obeying the command to “desire earnestly.” We kept asking God to send us and use us. I’m so glad we did. Surely no joy is quite like living among people who have never heard the gospel and watching the Holy Spirit work in giving hope to the hopeless, healing broken lives, and forming a church where there was no witness before. Perhaps God would give you that high privilege. Why not write out in your journal how you feel about the idea, or how you feel about being a sender. Then talk to Him about it. Why might short term missions fail to reach the world for the gospel?