Why Missions? Why Us? Why Now?
These are three great questions that Nancy and I have been asked since making our decision to leave the pastorate to pursue overseas missions in Cameroon for the purpose of reaching an unreached and unengaged people group with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And this morning, just 18 days away from our arriving in Cameroon for our survey/vision trip, I thought I’d go ahead and try and give you a peek into our hearts and minds so as to see why we would be so willing to leave family, friends, a great church, a wonderful and fruitful ministry here in Edgewood and in many other places via the internet, as well as our three older kids in the military—to go to a place and a people group that really until a year or so ago—we didn’t even know existed.
But my intent is not merely to tell you why we are doing this but to stimulate our thinking and our sense of sanctified imagination so that all of us would consider how God wants to use us in this great work of missions and in particular, being involved in reaching, either as a sender or a goer, an unengaged and Unreached people group where Christ is not yet known and Christians are not yet well-received and in many cases not tolerated.
The first question, “WHY MISSIONS?”, is pretty cut and dry.
Missions is near and dear to the heart of God and because we love God— whatever is near and dear to His heart is near and dear to ours as well. And the reason why missions is near and dear to the heart of God is because it is through missions that He intends to fill the earth with with His glory by filling the earth with people who having become the recipients of His grace and mercy now worship Him.
As John Piper puts so well, "Missions exists because worship doesn't." In other words, the goal of missions and sending people to unengaged and Unreached peoples with the Gospel of Jesus Christ is for a far greater reason than just seeing those people saved. Now don’t get me wrong. Seeing people who have never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ come to Christ in faith is a great goal but it is not the end goal or the final goal when it comes to missions. Missions exists and has as its ultimate and final goal—the glory of God. Again, missions exists because the worship of God in all the people groups of the world does not yet exist.
And thus the ultimate reason for missions is not evangelizing people, it is not rebuilding their homes, it is not ministering to their medical needs, and it is not teaching them how to read their own language so as to be able to read the Bible in their own language. These are all the means by which the ultimate goal of missions is accomplished. You see, the reason why missionaries go and share the gospel, and meet people’s needs, and give them the Bible in their language, and invest their lives in seeing them be brought to faith in Christ Jesus is that God would be worshipped in all the earth by people from every people group that exists on the face of the earth. So, if we want to see God worshipped in all the people groups of the earth we will be interested in missions because that is what the great task of missions is all about--engaging unreached people groups with the Gospel of Jesus Christ so God gets the glory for His mercy as He gives those who receive Him—eternal joy rather than the eternal wrath they deserve.
Look with me at Romans 15:8-12.
Here, tucked away in a section of the Gospel of Romans that is having to do with Jews and Gentiles in the church accepting one another as Christ accepted them—Paul tells us why Jesus came to earth as really—the very first missionary bringing us the Good News of God that through faith in Christ we are saved from our sins and the wrath of God for our sins so as to be given eternal life in and with God experiencing His joy forever. And in these verses in Romans 15, Paul gives us the ultimate reason why Jesus came to earth as One Who left His home in glory to travel to another world—a lost world to not only bring them the Good News of God but to be that Good News in human flesh. And this reason for which Jesus left Heaven to come to Earth is the very same reason why people should leave their homes and go to new places with the Good News of the Gospel of God as well.
Now—let’s look at this reason why we all must be involved in missions either as senders or goers. And when I say “senders”, I mean those people who by prayer and giving make it possible for others to go. Obviously, “goers” are those whom God raises up to actually leave home and go to those places where Christ’s Name is not only unknown—it is not worshipped. Let’s read the text—Romans 15:8-12.
It almost appears that Jesus became a servant of the Jews—this is what is meant by becoming a servant of the circumcision—and thus came to earth for three reasons:
1. On behalf of the truth of God (8)
2. To confirm the promises of God that had been made to the Patriarchs (8)
3. So that the Gentiles would glorify God for His mercy. (9)
But these three goals really all run together to form one ultimate reason for Christ’s coming to earth as a man. Essentially, Christ came to earth as God’s servant to the Jews so that God might fulfill His long-standing promise to make them and their spiritual descendants the lights of the world who would take the Gospel of salvation throughout the world to every people group in order for God to be glorified in all the earth for His mercy toward sinners.
You see, God had promised Abraham, the Father of the Jews, long ago that in him—“all the families of the earth would be blessed”(Gen. 12:3). This was repeated in Genesis 18:18 when God said to Abraham: “. . . Abraham will surely become a great and mighty nation and in him all the nations of the earth will be blessed.” The same promise was reiterated several years later in Genesis 22:18 when the LORD told Abraham: “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed . . .”
Then the promise was then given by the LORD to Abraham’s son, Isaac in Genesis 26:4 where God says to him: “I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven and will give your descendants all these lands and by your descendants all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.” In addition, the same exact promise is given to Isaac’s son, Jacob in Genesis 28:14, in which God states to Jacob: “Your descendants will also be like the dust of the earth and you will spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed." So through the Jews, God’s plan was to bless all the nations—that is “people groups” and in “families” of the earth.
We see in Isaiah 49:6 how God is doing this and going to finish doing this. Writing about the Messiah Who was to come to earth and be born of a woman and then suffer as the “suffering servant”, Isaiah states in verses 6: “It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations—so that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” Now, remember what Paul said in Romans 15:8-9. Basically, Christ was going to become a servant—God’s Servant—to the Jews—that is to both the Southern Kingdom of Jacob and the Northern Kingdom of Israel so as to ultimately restore them and to bring God’s salvation to all of the Gentile nations who live throughout the earth so that as they hear the Gospel, believe it, put their trust in Christ, and receive God’s mercy—they will glorify God in all the earth.
You see, from the very beginning, God’s salvation was intended for all of the people groups of the earth not just the Jews. God’s intent from the very beginning was to fill the earth with His glory by filling it with people from every people group on the earth who having heard and received the Gospel became worshipers of Him. Look at Numbers 14:21. Moses quotes God as saying: “But indeed as I live, all the earth will be filled with the glory of the LORD.” And this will ultimately occur when people from all the people groups of the earth hear the Gospel, believe the Gospel, trust in Christ for salvation, receive God’s mercy, and glorify God for it.
This is what Paul is saying in Romans 15:8-12. Missions is ultimately for the glory of God. Missionaries leave home and go to foreign lands and different cultures with different languages so that God will be glorified in all the earth because right now He isn’t. And over and over again in the New Testament, we see this reason for missions—that God’s Name would be made great among the nations.
Look at Matthew 19:27-29 and note the reason why believers would leave home, family, and everything they know to serve God. It is for His Name’s sake. When God saved Paul and commissioned him as a missionary to the Gentiles in Acts 9:15-16, notice how God qualifies Paul’s commission—“For I will show him how much he must suffer for My Name’s sake.” Then when Paul himself describes his work in Romans 1:5, note that the reason why he was sent out with his team was to bring Gentiles to saving faith in Christ “for His Name’s sake”. And then finally look at 3 John 5-8. Here, the apostle John makes the point that the church is to send out and support those people who leave as missionaries “for the sake of the Name”.
Missions exists because Christ is not yet worshipped by people in every people group because His Name has not yet been made known to them. Thus, missions is all about God’s glory in sending and supporting missionaries and going as missionaries for the sake of the Name!
But everything looks so dismal doesn’t it?
I mean, when you consider that of the over 8000 people groups on the earth, who are yet to be engaged and reached by the Gospel—that the majority of them are Muslims who are hostile to the Gospel—is it even feasible to think that the Gospel will successfully engage these people so that they will believe in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation and God will be worshipped among them?
And when you consider that out of these more than 8000 unreached and unengaged people groups that over 2200 do not have the Scriptures available to them in their own language—the task seems terribly unrealistic.
And when you consider that the missionary pool in the West is drying up so that fewer and fewer western Christians are willing to leave their homes to go to a country that puts Christian missionaries in jail or at best deports them as soon as they are found out—you have to ask--is this goal of engaging and reaching people for Christ in these 8000 plus people groups really attainable?
Well, lets take a quick look at the end of the story and see.
Go to Revelation 5:9. As the 24 elders and the four angelic beings known as the four living creatures worship The Lamb of God—Jesus Christ—while they are in heaven—they make the point that He is worthy to break the seals on the scroll given to Him by God the Father because—He was slain on the cross and purchased or redeemed by His blood people from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation.
And if you look over at Revelation 7:9, we get a glimpse of a great worship service in Heaven and note that worshipping God the Father and the Lamb—God the Son—is an uncountable multitude of people from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues.
In other words, when you get to the end of history—there will be people from these 8000 plus unengaged and Unreached people groups in Heaven worshipping God because they heard the Gospel and believed—in spite of how impossible that may seem to us.
So….Why Missions? Well, I think there’s three basic reasons.
1. For the glory of Christ’s Name. (3 John 5-8)
2. For the joy of God’s people—those who have been gathered and those who are still wandering in Satan’s fields. (Rom. 15:8-12)
3. Because…….It is the one endeavor in life which cannot fail. (Mt. 28:18-20
You see, just as God sent Jesus Christ to the cross to die for a multitude of people from every people group on the earth who will believe the Gospel, trust in Jesus for salvation, be given God’s mercy, and glorify God by becoming His worshipers—God is sending people like us to tell them about it! God is going to fill the earth with His glory by filling it with people from every people group on the earth—who having heard the gospel from people like us—receive His mercy and glorify Him for it.
So, back to our question, "Why Missions?"--I think the bigger question here is "Why not Missions?" I mean this is exciting stuff.
But what about the second question--Why Us?
I mean, why leave a pretty comfy pastorate, a church that we love and loves us, people who tell me they are growing under our ministry, and the place we call home within 15 years of when most people in the U.S. retire to go to a place that many have never heard of? What in the world would possess a middle-aged couple with four kids still at home to leave all that they know, are comfortable with, and enjoy, not to mention their three older kids who are in the military to go to an unreached people group to tell them about Jesus, see people come to Christ, disciple them, and start a church multiplication movement among them?
Well, I think the answer is in the question to some degree. You see, we wouldn't be asked the question if we didn't want to go and that's the answer--we want to go!
Listen, if you want to do something that not very many people want to do and in fact would not give a second thought to--maybe you should. Maybe the fact that you want to do it is indicative that God has given you a desire that is not, for lack of a better word, "natural" or "normal". You see, it is our desire to go to Cameroon and give ourselves to this challenge of reaching an Unreached and really for the most part unengaged people group with the Gospel for the glory of The NAME is the driving force behind our going.
Secondly, we have the ability to go. Many people at our age are saddled with any number of encumbrances that prevent them from considering missions. We aren't. We are not in debt. We are not caring for aging parents. We are in excellent health and we have no binding commitments that would tie us here. All-in-all, we are free to go.
But, what about the church?, some of you are thinking to yourself.
What will happen to the church when you leave?
Go to Acts 13:1-3. Here is a small church, that has only been in existence for a little over a year. They have in the course of their first year of existence seen five leaders arise in the church—two of who are Barnabas and Saul—whom we know as Paul. This means that three of these five leaders and teachers are relatively inexperienced—and in fact, have not served in any other church and have only served in the church at Antioch for one year. And given this situation, God says give me your two most experienced and influential leaders so I can send them to unengaged and Unreached people groups.
Hey—this is the biblical model. God used Paul and Barnabas to raise up and teach the church at Antioch for one year and then once leaders were recognized and functioning—it was time to go and do it all over again somewhere else. You don’t build dynasties that way—but you do further the Kingdom of God that way.
And guess what? The church in Antioch not only survived—it thrived—for over 400 years and was very instrumental in all of the early church councils that provided great clarity in the interpretation of Christian doctrine. When you really stop to think about it, we really owe our salvation to God’s providential plan in taking from the church at Antioch, her most experienced and influential leaders who then proclaimed the gospel of salvation throughout the western world.
As for the last question--Why Now?
The long and complicated answer is that whereas, Nancy and I are hopefully getting better in lots of areas of life—we are not getting younger. Given the fact that we still have to raise our monthly support, go to language school, and pursue about 10 weeks of additional training—if we want to get to the field before we are 60 we really do need to start now. The short and simple answer as to why we are pursuing missions now is because we believe God has told us to.
So with all this in mind, the real question we were left with was "Why Not Missions, Why Not Us, and What Better Time Than Now?"
(Once we return from our Vision Trip to Cameroon we will resume our place at Covenant of Grace Bible Church and begin the process of raising our monthly support. This will entail some traveling in order to connect with missions-minded churches, small groups, and individuals who are interested in hearing about, praying for, and perhaps even investing in reaching an unreached people group in Cameroon with the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ for the sake of His Great and Glorious Name. If you are interested in having us come and share this great work with you--it would be our joy to do so.)
Sunday, November 1, 2009
Pursuing the Glory of Christ as though He were the most important pursuit in all the world--Because He Is!
" Looking for the Blessed Hope and the appearing of The Glory of our Great God and Savior, Christ Jesus." Titus 2:13
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