Sunday, January 05, 2014

What is a Missionary?


"I have but one candle of life to burn, and I would rather burn it out in a land filled with darkness than in a land flooded with light" John Keith Falconer

The word implies a person with a mission. Of course every follower of Jesus should be on His mission, but in the generally accepted definition a missionary is a person whose full time job is evangelism on some level. And usually we mean someone who has gone to another country to bring the gospel to people in need. They might include those who preach as well as a long list of support people who might help with their children, help with their finances, help with certain governmental issues, or even people who help with language issues. The missionary network is filled with people working together to spread the good news of Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world.

Many of these believers sacrifice a chance at lucrative careers as they surrender to a call of the Spirit which sometimes sends them to far flung corners of the world and sometimes dangerous places as well. They selflessly train and raise support and are questioned by some missionary organization. Many times their own families are confused and speak against such a fanciful adventure. You see even the preparation for going is a great challenge. But if you truly believe you have heard the Spirit’s call then you must go. And they do.

"To know the will of God, we need an open Bible and an open map."William Carey, pioneer missionary to India

Being a missionary is not like holding a great outdoor crusade and enjoying the affirmation of great crowds and many converts. In fact many missionaries do not embrace such methods since it seems they are used for fund raising and lining the pockets of American preachers. No one is filming their labors and then using that film to elicit funds. They have seen the pictures of black children shown on television screens and then the dollars come pouring in. Most missionaries want no part of that kind of “mission” efforts.

But in the pantheon of missionaries throughout the church age there are well known stories of sacrifice and courage and yet there are tens of thousands of stories that only God knows. There is Jim Elliot and the five missionaries who left everything in order to reach a lost tribe in South America and in so doing five men lost their lives. There was David Livingston who gave his heart to central Africa and died praying on his knees. There is Hudson Taylor who lost his wife to illness but who opened the door to China. There are many, many more stories.

"Sympathy is no substitute for action."David Livingstone, missionary to Africa

Just recently we have seen where a missionary in Libya was murdered. He and his family had gone to bring Jesus to that mostly Muslim country and God had imparted a love for those people. He was murdered while riding his bicycle and we watched as his widow offered forgiveness and a prayer for redemption for his killers. And then we watched as a family who had sold everything went to southern Sudan to bring Jesus to them. They had fallen in love and were ministering to ten orphans (there are millions of orphans in Africa) but civil unrest sprung up again and they were forced to leave. They were heartbroken as they left the orphans at a UN camp and were forced to leave.

There are many stories of supreme faithfulness and even martyrdom all across the world. I knew a missionary couple from my home church at the time who were called to Pakistan and share Jesus in a very dangerous country. On one Sunday morning they were in a church service singing praises to our Lord when terrorists threw a few hand grenades right into the congregation. Some people were killed, and the mother was seriously wounded and their 8 year old boy was critically wounded. His life was in the balance for months but eventually he lived. The mother will walk with a noticeable limp for the rest of her life.

"Some wish to live within the sound of a chapel bell; I wish to run a rescue mission within a yard of hell." — C. T. Studd

During a missionary conference the father stood up with his family and thanked everyone for their prayers and love and support. And he once again proclaimed the mighty grace of God. He asked for future prayers because they were returning to the mission field. Can you imagine such a thing? What kind of illogical nonsense is this? This, my friends, is not nonsense. This is the love of God in action. As Jim Elliot once wrote, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

I have been saddened by some of the responses I have read concerning the plight of missionaries. Some have suggested they should have more wisdom before going into dangerous places, and some have suggested they think about what they have here in America before giving it all up. But you see, those do not know just how sacred are these men and women of God who have the same feet of clay as do all of us but who have left comforts in order to serve Christ and His gospel.

Matt.19: 29 And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.

I hold missionaries in a special place in my heart. And I believe if we could see just how attached we are to comfortable living and just how glorious our Savior is, then we would have a missionary’s heart. God bless all true and faithful missionaries who have not only left the easy way in order to spread the Word, but who have placed their own lives in jeopardy in order to serve the Risen Christ and reach those for whom Christ died.

"We talk of the Second Coming; half the world has never heard of the first."Oswald J. Smith


Brosi said...

Philippians 2:29-30

Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness, and hold such men in esteem; because for the work of Christ he came close to death, not regarding his life, to supply what was lacking in your service toward me.

People would rather esteem those they aspire to imitate in wealth, public adulation. No one aspires to the chains that Paul and the early church considered a joy to endure for the sake of Christ. These are questions I continually ask my self as well.

Anonymous said...

Just as Brosi said, I too, continually question myself about these things.

I wonder though, where we (the church) went wrong when it comes to creating "missionary" as an occupation for special christians". I don't see the word missionary in the bible. Every scripture that gave instructions to go into the ends of the earth were all directed at the early church, and to their descendents and all of us. And Jesus taught his disciples to (Mark 16:15) "And he said to them: Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature".

With that command, wouldn't that be asking us all to be 'missionaries' all the time? I think the western church has re-created it's whole model after our culture, not what the early church was taught by our Lord, or by the inspired Word of the epistles. Back then, no one was given a special title called missionary. The believer's goal was to work with the whole Body towards the goal of preaching in every capacity. I suppose today, in North America, where almost every creature has heard of the gospel, they either accept it or don't accept it. Shouldn't we, the church, all concentrate on shaking the dust off of our feet and leaving and going to where the gospel has never been preached? Are we all making excuses for not going?

Ephesians 4:11 "And he gave some apostles; and some, prophets, and some, evangelists, and some, pastors and teachers." I suppose our western culture created a new ministry called missions, but in reality, missionaries should be all of us. I know because of the culture, we are all habitually thinking that missionaries abroad are the true apostles. But, the bible clearly didn't give special credence to an apostle who went "abroad". They were all to be equipped as ONE spreader of the gospel, with the five-fold ministry. Aren't we all supposed to be missionaries, every day?

With that in mind, I start to feel convicted that I should have given up all and asked the Lord "Use me". Send me wherever. My new pastor then taught us that we could be effectual in our own communities. It came by very slowly and most times, the church hardly grew.

If I had a second chance and could do it all over again, shouldn't I have had that conviction power to do as today's missionaries do? Even now I sit here in freezing cold and pain, wondering if I had the faith to overcome my fears and just leave it all and go into the lion's den, to do what I should be doing?

Sorry, I don't want to be a Debbie downer. I am just realizing how incredibly soft we as a church, are today, here in the West. Lots to think about and pray about.


Anonymous said...

It is far easier to sit in a heated building eating donuts and drinking coffee gossiping about those who left their name brand of religious denominationalism, rather than bearing all for Christ.

Jesus, God in the flesh, spoke plainly here to His disciples and also pierces our spirits today when He said, "Then they will deliver you up to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake." "And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. "Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. "And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. "But he who endures to the end shall be saved. "And the gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come." Matthew 24:9-14

And the disciples still continued to follow our LORD, no turning back. We here in America belly ache when our donuts are missing one Sunday and the sermon goes 20 minutes overtime burdening us with missing the first half hour of the big time football game.

Then we wonder why God, the Holy Spirit is not moving in our churches according to our own putrid ways.

Please forgive me Pastor Rick, albeit stories like these put our faith to shame as we bathe in our own self righteousness. Who are we really kidding here.....I stand so ashamed, may our Father me for I am so very small. Amen.

Rick Frueh said...

I heard one preacher say that instead of asking God "Should I go?" we should start by asking "Should I stay?"

Anonymous said...

I cannot dispute your response. Perhaps you are right.

Thank-You. May Jesus be with you always.

Anonymous said...

We are called to follow Christ and not to plunge into adventures that risk overturning a promising beginning.

To leave all for Christ doesn't involve throwing away what God Himself has spent years working with us to establish.

Stop living in a "dream" world and pray for wisdom! We don't have to leave our home behind to help someone ailing in a foreign country. That way of thinking is foolishness freshly painted.

Someone with aches and pain should hold onto their home. Don't volunteer to throw yourself into a big storm if you are struggling in perfect weather.

And dear readers, if you arn't overcoming in perfect weather you certainly are in danger of not overcoming when storms lash your soul.

Blessings to you,


Rick Frueh said...

James - You are self delusional and have no ideas what it means to sacrifice for Christ. God has "worked years to establish"? What nonsense is that? You obviously are thinking of yourself and not lost and needy souls.

Cherie c. said...

I know what I said, but I cannot keep silent on this.

How dare anyone compare themselves with the men and women on the mission field! How dare you even suggest that the work they do is foolish! How dare anyone feel sorry for themselves or their family when we see families doing the work God has commanded all of us to do, Ye coward! I am included in that coward statement.

My niece went to northern Iraq during the gulf war to bring the Gospel and help the Kurds who were experiencing genocide. I could not do what she has done. I do not have the call, but I would NEVER put her down for risking all to serve those people. I Praise God for people like her! How dare anyone suggest that it is foolish. Yes, I am angry. Angry that some can sit and feel pity and some can be outright mean.

Gird up your loins and be a man James! If you are not called to the mission field, so be it. But support, pray and love those who are. Your heart is cold sir, and I will pray God breaks that coldness for your eternal sake and HIS Glory. Right now all I can see bringing Glory to God is the brothers and sisters in the Lord who do what we are all called to do. I am so below them I cannot even compare myself nor would I. And I hope this is not boasting, but I am BLESSED to be able to support those brothers and sisters and I pray to God to add more as I go.

Lord, I ask mercy on your child James. I ask that you find a way to break his icy heart Lord and bring him to repentance and forgiveness.

I ask mercy on all here who are not called to the mission field as we are cowards, not faithful enough to go and preach to every creature. Have mercy on us and allow us to help those who are called by you Lord God. May you keep our brothers and sisters who go to help those in need with love, compassion, food, water, and most of all your Word dear Father.

Please keep them safe, and may they continue Lord God to bring the Glory and Honor that is rightfully yours. May You change the hearts of men and women who speak idly and encourage them to action for Your Glory. If I have spoken unkindly Father, please forgive me. In Jesus Name and with Thanksgiving I pray. Amen.

your sister in Christ Jesus

michael said...

The first mission field obviously is our own heart. The great missionary Jesus beckons us to rest our soul upon His heart! That's not complicated for babes! See Matthew 11:25-30.

The great missionary Paul wrote Timothy that their goal was to be instruments God would use to see love come out of others out of pure hearts and a good conscience and sincere faith. He then went on and wrote this to Timothy too:

1 Timothy 1:6 Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion,
7 desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.
8 Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully,
9 understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers,
10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers,[fn] liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound[fn] doctrine,
11 in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.
12 I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service,

Notice 1 Timothy 1:12! Sometimes we get out ahead of The Lord in doing the work we were called to do and suffer shipwreck!

I don't want to suffer shipwreck as Christ's missionary. Do you?

Anonymous said...

There are some that are fair weather Christians; they only sets sail when there are no storms around at all. But think about the Coast Guard when they get the call that there is a sinking vessel in the middle of a storm, they fire up the engines and point the ship directly into danger. They are looking to rescue the lost and dying, the ones sinking into the cold dark depths. There some that would run away from the gun fire that erupts when we are being attacked. Instead of standing between the gunfire and those that need defending whether they are innocent or not. That is called standing in the gap. Wouldn’t you rather be the first into the battle and the last one to leave or would rather stay in your comfortable home saying Lord where is it that you want me to go where I will not get hurt? You have forgotten that the battle belongs to the Lord and He is the one leading we are only following behind Him and we are covered in the blood of Jesus Christ which shields us from Satan’s fiery darts. So now what do you have to say. Are we not under the command of Jesus the Son of God and you want to question what He has ordered us to do?

God has already stated He will provide all that we need. We do not even have to find the support God has everything set in place.

If you are waiting for the storm clouds to disappear you are going to be waiting until you die!

There are no rewards or honors given in this life, the only reward and honor will be the everlasting life that we receive when this body finally gives out and we will lay that crown of glory at the feet of the One who gave His life for us.


Anonymous said...

I think Cherie has warm heart and James has spent too long in the fridge of self righteousness. Is he self delusional?

Anonymous said...

There is much corruption within the institutional church system.

God have mercy on us.

Anonymous said...

I have nothing but admiration for those people who have answered the 'call' to missions. I had an uncle and aunt who gave up much to go as missionaries to Africa in the 50's. I had an acquaintance who answered God's call and entered Chernobyl just after the nuclear meltdown. She died a short three years later from cancer but she ministered salvation and hope to a desperate people. I believe that she now counts the outcome as worth the cost. I've had other friends who respectively have traveled the world giving financial aid to Nepalese Christians and other third world nations, prayed in Jerusalem for the lost of Israel, and entered into great danger in China.
We do not live for ourselves if we live in Christ. Our lives are forfeit and praise God that they are. Christianity is a dead thing if we consider our lives to have value over the welfare of the lost and suffering in this world.
I am seriously disabled and have been unable to go on the mission field as I've so desired to do. I have however been able to give financially to missionaries. I've also been a support to them spiritually and emotionally over their years of service. While I do agree that it is common to designate those who go to foreign countries as missionaries, I also believe that I am on a mission field right here in the apartment complex in which I live. Many people here are lost because of their contact with cold religion and their disillusionment with institutional Christianity. We minister God's love and forgiveness and work where and how we can. There is never a moment when we aren't on 'call', no matter what our circumstances. If I can't be a missionary to a foreign nation, I can offer everything I am capable of giving toward the support of someone who is in harm's way for our Saviour. I can count on God to give me the strength to do that. There really is nothing else for a Christian but the spreading of the Gospel. We can't pick and choose what is convenient to us. We can only go forward with what He deems doable in each of our lives.