Here is the current situation.
Some churches are just focused on preserving themselves. Others are willing to slowly cease to exist in an effort to resist any kind of change. But there also has been a recent push to revitalize churches…meaning to help churches that are struggling to get new life again and become a healthy local church once again. There has also been a push for church planting in the USA…mainly because churches are dying, new areas are changing because of business shifts, culture changes, etc. And for the most part, church revitalization and planting is good. I wholeheartedly support church planting in America and helping struggling churches become thriving churches again.
But there is a problem.
I do see a problem within our Independent Baptist movement. While we are focused on holding on to the old paths, replanting churches or planting new churches in the fastest growing parts of our towns, there are thousands if not millions dying around the world without ever having a church planted among them. The thought of the lost, dying, hopeless, and unreached around the world use to burden our souls and permeate our churches.
Our churches do preach the gospel. We are blessed with hearing the gospel over and over again. We are blessed with churches that care about properly adapting to our culture and yet still standing firmly on the truth of God’s Word! But there is a missionary conundrum and it has nothing to do raising support. The missionary problem is this: local churches are slowly loosing their passion for world evangelism. That is not to say that we don’t have a financial budget for missions, but do we truly have a heart for missions. How interconnected is reaching our Jerusalem with reaching the uttermost?
“Any church that is not seriously involved in helping fulfill the Great Commission has forfeited its biblical right to exist.”Oswald J. Smith
The solution is to revitalize missions.
The solution is simple, yet hard. The solution is a call to revitalize missions; to renew a passion for world evangelism; to restore a vision for reaching the world in our generation; to risk everything so that all nations, kindreds, people, and tongues will be able to cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:9-10)
“There is nothing in the world or the Church — except the church’s disobedience — to render the evangelization of the world in this generation an impossibility.”Robert Speer, Student Volunteer Movement
The solution is simple: “Both”
Generally, the first objection to missions ironically comes from the Bible. I think a misapplication of a principle from Acts 1:8 has caused us to focus on part of the mission, but not the whole mission. In the book of Acts, we see the great commission lived out. In Acts 1:8 we see the reiteration of the mission: “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. ” In this verse, we are given a geographical pattern that is worked out in the following chapters: Jerusalem 1–7; Judaea and Samaria 8–12; the uttermost part of the earth 13–28; but I don’ think this is a command to follow. I think the take away from this verse is the same as when we read: Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-18; Luke 24:46-49; John 20:19-23…meaning that our goal is the entire world. If there is a principle to be taken from this verse, it would seem to say, “Start where you are, but run to where aren’t.” Thus, I think it is wrong when we apply it to mean that we need to reach our Jerusalem first and only then can we focus on reaching the rest of the world. We must have an established world vision that focuses on both our Jerusalem and the world at the same time. We are to go to everyone, all the time. Consider the following thoughts:
- The Great Commission is the task of the church to be continuously making disciples of the “people of the world” until Jesus’ return. It says to go: to “all nations”; to “all the world”; “among all nations”; and to “whose soever”. We can conclude that Jesus is sending us to make disciples of all people of every nation, country, people group—“whosoever will”. We have the responsibility to go preach the gospel and send around the world those willing to witness of Jesus. We are local and global ambassadors for Jesus—this is the purpose of the church on earth until Jesus returns.
- “Nations” which is used twice in two of the great commission passages generally means a large group of people that are associated with each other based on language, culture, location or other various common factors. The use of this term in the great commission is to emphasize that Jesus is sending us to every single person—no matter their language, culture, location, etc. (This term was not used in the great commission to make enthroned-linguistic lists of peoples based on arbitrary criteria so that we can focus on getting a small percentage of as many diverse kinds of peoples saved or to usher in Jesus’ return. This is often misleading and can cause us to focus on a small portion of people while ignoring a large portion of people.) The formula is simple: every person, every place.
“People who don’t believe in missions have not read the New Testament. Right from the beginning Jesus said the field is the world. The early church took Him at His word and went East, West, North and South.”J. Howard Edington
Don’t be that guy who misunderstands everything.
Don’t misunderstand! Yes, we need strong churches to be strong senders and to raise up a strong generation of goers, but without a passion for world evangelism and with an overemphasized focus on reaching only our Jerusalem first, we fall into the trap of never seeing our churches as healthy enough or mature enough to reach into the countless dark places around the world who are yet to have the gospel. As the great commission is lived out in the book of Acts, it is messy, churches aren’t perfect, they don’t have the best programs, the largest buildings and everything is not meticulously put into place before they go to the next place.
“It is possible for the most obscure person in a church, with a heart right toward God, to exercise as much power for the evangelization of the world, as it is for those who stand in the most prominent positions.”John R. Mott
Summing it all up.
We need to revitalize missions in our Independent Baptist churches. We need to re-establish our passion for world evangelism. This means that we live within that tension of reaching both our Jerusalem and the world at the same time. And the pastors must lead this charge in his congregation, he is the key to the missionary problem.
“The mission of the church is missions.”Oswald J. Smith
Questions To Consider
- What is your church’s plan to reach your local community?
- What is your church’s plan to reach China and India?
- How much of your budget is spent on your Jerusalem?
- How much of your budget is spent on the rest of the world?
- How many people go on your church’s behalf to reach your community?
- How many people go on your church’s behalf to reach other countries?
- How do we live this out? How do we properly live in this tension?
- How can we make missions more than just a budget item?
- How do we make missions, not just another program but the actual plan?
- If your church already “gets it”, what are you doing to help others “get it”?
- How does discipleship and training men help accomplish this goal?