Missions are a vital necessity in this day and age. At this point in time, the population of the world is about four billion people. By the turn of the century, scientists believe that there will be as many as seven billion people living on planet Earth. And yet, over two thirds of the world is unevangelized. Of the one third which is evangelized, probably only four percent are saved, and at the present rate of population growth only two percent will be saved in the year 2000.(1) The need is great for men and women of God to go out and reach the lost for Jesus Christ.
Though the need for evangelism is great in the communities of America, the need is far greater in the far corners of the world. It has often been said that ninty percent of the pastors and missionaries are in America ministering to ten percent of the worId's population, while ten percent of the preachers are ministering to ninty percent of the world on the foreign field. It is for this reason that missionaries are desperately needed. Jesus Christ commanded His disciples in Matthew 28:19-20,
Go yc therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Teaching them all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and low I am with you alway, even unto the end of of the world.
Through this, the Lord was telling Christians that they must do their part to see that the entire world is evangelized.
The Bible itself is a missionary book. Throughout its pages, both in the Old Testament and New Testaments, the idea of missions and world evangelism stands out. In the Old Testament, the lives of Abraham, Joseph, and Elijah are seen. In the life of Moses, a true missionary leader is seen.(2) Moses was trained by God for the difficult Job that he had in front of him. But more than that, he was willing to sacrifice the pleasures of life in order to lead the children of Israel out of heathen Egypt. Hebrews 11:26 states that Moses was "esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt." This shows that Moses had the true missionary spirit of unselfishness and willingness to go and help others. In Jonah, another missionary is seen. Jonah went to Ninevah and preached the Gospel to the Heathen there even though it meant sacrifice on his part. So it is seen that the missionary push existed in the Old Testament.
In the New Testament the call for missions is even greater. In the life of Jesus Christ is seen the work of a missionary. At His birth, Simeon hailed Him as "a light to lighten Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel."(3) Throughout Christ's life He is seen moving from place to place throughout Judea, even into Samaria, an area which hated the Jews. Ultimately, Christ's Great Commission sums up His
view of missions. After the Gospels, the book of Acts is a complete story dealing with a missionary outreach. The life of the apostle Paul also shows a man with great missionary zeal. There can be no doubt that evangelism and missions are central to the teaching of the Bible.
Missions need not necessarily be foreign, however. "Missions is letting the world know that Jesus Christ lives."(4) It is true that when the term "missions" is mentioned, the average individual's mind immediately begins to think about the Jungles of Africa or the tropics of South America. Yet, these tribes are not the only ones which need to hear of Christ's redeeming grace. There are many large cities in modern nations such as France, Spain, Japan, and Russia, which have no Gospel witness. These nations are in desperate need of the Gospel. There are also home mission fields as well. Rescue missions in downtown metropolitan areas are an important means of reaching men with the Gospel. There are many Indian tribes within the United States which have no Gospel witness. Bible Colleges are a missionary outreach in that they train young men and women to go out and preach and teach the Gospel. Thus, the work of missions can be carried out on the home front as well.
As has been shown, missions are very necessary today. The world is crying for a Saviour, and no one is there to tell them. How can these people be reached? The local church is the key to this question.(5) The church was God's instrument for world evangelism in the book of Acts, and it still is today. In Acts chapter eight, Philip is seen as going to Samaria to preach to the people there. Now as it is known from Acts 6:5 that Philip was a deacon within the church at Jerusalem, then he must have been sent by the church to Samaria to preach. In Acts 13, the Spirit of God commands the church to separate Barnabas and Saul for the work that God had called them to. The church prayed for them, laid hands on them, and then sent them out. Again it is seen that the Lord will use the church to enact His missionary outreach.
If the key to world evangelism rests with the loca1 church, then the focal point must rest with the pastor of the church. It must be up to the pastor to set up a program within his church which will send out, support, and uplift missionaries as they struggle to see the world come to Christ. There are two qualifications which the pastor must have in order to lead his people effectively in this area. "First, the pastor himself must have the proper attitude towards world wide missions and secondly, he must fit himself for the task of instructing and leading his church."(6)
The pastor must have the proper feeling towards world evangelism. If the pastor is not impressed with the need of seeing souls saved, than his church will not be impressed with that need either. A church will never be able to rise any higher spiritually than the pastor. He sets the spiritual tone for the entire congregation. Thus, the pastor must be interested in missions if he wants his people to be interested in them.
Along this line, a pastor must have a local, soul winning emphasis in his church. If the pastor is not concerned with the people next door, how can he be concerned with people in the next state, the next country, or the next continent? Plus, if the people see that their pastor is not a soul winner, they will feel that if he does not need to be one, then they do not either, and they will develop a careless attitude towards the evangelism of the lost, both at home and abroad. Thus, a pastor's own position on winning the lost is extremely important to the missionary outreach of the church.
Another necessity in the life of the pastor is that he has faced in his own life the question of whether or not God wants him to be a missionary.(7) If the pastor has never personally faced God's call in his life, he will be unable to encourage his people to face God's missionary call in their lives. The pastor must have a willing heart which says, "I am willing to go to the Mission field if God wants me to go." If the pastor does not have that surrendered attitude, or did not at thc time he began his pastorale, then he will be unable to challange his people in this area.(8)
The final necessity in the life of the pastor is that he must be burdened for foreign missions. A man who is only concerned with seeing his church grow to have the largest Sunday School in the state will not be very effective in telling his people that they should support missions. The pastor who has never wept over missions, never begged God to send missionaries, will not have the type of attitude which will convince his people of their need to support missions. The pastor who has determined that his "missionary outreach" will be his bus ministry will not see many young people go off to the mission field. But the pastor who has a burden, and shows his people his sincere concern and desire for missions will see his church have the same concern and support missions.
The second qualification was that a pastor must fit himself for the task of leading his church. This will come out in many ways. First, the pastor must be a man of prayer. He must pray that his church will become a missionary minded church.(9) If a pastor prays that God will make his church to have a concern for missions, then God will do so. John 14:13 states, "and whatever ye ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son." God has promised to do "whatever" his children ask, and if a pastor requests something so righteous as a missionary minded church, the Lord
is sure to give it to him. Prayer on the part of the pastor will probably help more than anything else. James 5:16 states that, ''the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." Dr. A.C. Dixon said:
When we rely upon organization, we get what organization can do; when we rely upon education, we get what education can do; when we rely upon eloquence, we get what eloquence can do. But when we rely upon prayer, we get what God can do.(l0) Thus, the prayers of the pastor will mean much concerning the missionary ferver of his church.
Secondly, in order for the pastor to lead his church in missions, he must have a thorough knowledge and understanding of missions. It is highly desirable that the pastor should have taken a full course in missions, dealing with such subjects as the history of missions and missionary principles and practises.(11) Coupled with this, the pastor should read books and periodicals which deal with missions. The knowledge gained from these books will greatly help the pastor to present missions to his people. The books on missions today should be a particular help in that these true accounts of missionaries of the past few years, such as the massacre of Nate Saint and his companions in South America, should stir the congregation with the realization that the Gospel of Christ must be sent throughout the world.
After having done this background work, the pastor should initiate a strong missionary emphasis in his church. The first way the pastor should use in making his church missionary minded is to preach on missions from the pulpit. He should preach on topics such as the Great Commission, Philip and the Ethiopian Eunich, and Paul's vision of the man crying, "Come over into Macedonia and help us." Preaching on these and other related topics will show to the congregation that the Bible is a very missionary minded Book. As the congregation begins to see that the thrust of the Bible and the church is toward world evangelism, then they will have a desire to see their church involved. Also, the preaching of the need for missionaries will no doubt convict young people of the need to go. Thus, under the conviction of the Holy Spirit brought on by the preaching of the pastor, young people and adults from the church will go out to labor for the Lord on the mission field.
Along this line, in addition to the preaching of the pastor, missionaries themselves should be brought into the church. It would be advantageous to have missionary speakers come in as often as every month or two so as to keep the need of missions in front of the people. The people will respond under the preaching of the pastor. But yet, the realization of the need will be even greater when it is presented by someone directly associated with missions, such as a missionary or a member of a mission board. This special emphasis should prove very valuable to the missionary outreach of a church.
In addition to having periodic special missionary speakers, it is wise to have a special missionary conference for an entire week some time during the course of the year. This is probably the most significant event for the entire year within the church. The purpose of this conference is twofold. First, it gives one solid week of the year over to challenging the hearts of the people with the need of missions. Secondly, it gives occasion for the church to set a goal in missionary giving for the coming fiscal year.(13) Both of these are very necessary to the establishment of a good missionary program within the local church.
As the people of the church sit under a solid week of missionary preaching, conviction should begin to set in. Many will feel the call to service through these conferences. It is best to have missionaries from several different fields at these conferences.(14) The presence of a variety of missionaries will show the people the world wide necessity of evangelism. It will also provide more of a spectrum through which the Holy Spirit can work to speak to hearts concerning service. It could be easy to shrug off God's call in an individual's life if it was only placed in front of him once every few months. But a solid week of solid preaching should be enough to break the heart of one who might be resisting, and could ultimately lead that one to the mission field.
This week long conference will also set the stage for the church's missionary budget. There are numerous ways for the church to plan its budget, but only two will be dealt with here. First of all is the Percentage Plan. Under this plan, all the church income is divided, and the missionary program gets its fixed share.(15) This method has its advantages in that the missionaries will receive a certain percentage amount of the budget, which can be raised on a yearly basis. Many newer churches will designate ten percent of their budget to go to missions. If operating under this plan, it should be the goal of the church to reach the place where it gives fifty percent of its budget to missions. One advantage to this system is that all the money goes into one fund, and then a percentage is taken out for missions. This will keep the church right where the pastor wants it in regards to the ratio of money spent within the church, money spent on home missions, and money spent on foreign missions. There is one disadvantage to this plan and that is that it involves regimentation, and percentages do not inspire people.(l6) This plan does not seem to encourage sacrificial giving, although the fault there would rest with the pastor for not showing his people the need to give sacrificially. Still, it seems that under this plan, most people would remain content to give their tithe, maybe a small offering, and be done with it.
The second plan is the Faith-Promise Plan. Under
this plan, the church member gives his regular tithe and offering to the general fund of the church. Then, on top of
that, he gives an additional offering every week to the missionary budget. This plan is good because it enables the church to set specific financial goals. At the end of the annual missions conference cards would be distributed on which the members would write the amount of money they are planning to give each week. These cards would be unsigned, so the church would not know who had promised what. At the end of the service, the cards would be added together to determine a weekly sum which will be given to missions. Multiplying this by fifty-two will give the amount which can be expected in the missionary budget for the upcoming year. Thus, the church can determine from that exactly what can be given to the missionaries they support.
In addition to this, the Faith-Promise Plan encourages sacrificial giving. People should pray to find out what God would have them to give.(17) Then, once they have made a commitment to God, they should give that amount, no matter what financial problems seem to be arising. This challenges the individual "to trust God to permit him to do something for world evangelism each week." And the Lord will bless. Luke 6:38 states:
Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together and running over shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
Thus, it is the opinion of this author that the Faith-Promise Plan is the better of the two financial plans. It is through this plan that the missionary giving will increase greatly, without possibly damaging the general budget. This plan will challenge the people to seek the mind of God and trust Him. That is why it is the better of the two plans.
Following the mission conference, numerous steps should be taken to keep the need of missions in front of the church. First of all, reminders should remain of the Faith-Promise decisions. Perhaps the best way to keep this in front of the people would be to have a large thermometer to record giving situated in a strategic place in the church. This way people would remember the promise that they made to God and would act upon it.
There are other ways which will keep the need of missions in front of the church. One of these is to have a large missionary map. This map should be placed in a conspicuous place within the church, preferably in the front or along the side of the auditorium.(19) This map should be large enough so that it can be seen throughout the church. It might also be helpful to have the respective mission fields lighted so that it is obvious where the missionaries are located. If possible, the pictures of the missionaries could be included with the map so as to make them more personalized to the church.
Another way of promoting missions would be getting missionary literature into the hands of the people. This could be done through a literature rack in the rear of the church. However, often people will not take the literature from the rack. An alternative way would be to distribute missionary news through the bulletin.(20) This can be done by either printing up inserts or printing on the bulletin itself. This way the message of missions would get into the hands of all the people. The pastor should then encourage his people to keep the inverts and use them as prayer reminders for the missionaries. Along this line, the people of the church should be encouraged to write to the missionaries. Any return correspondence to the church should be printed in the bulletin or read during the service. This will help the people to realize that they are an integral part of the mission program.
The final way to keep missions evident in the church is to pray for them. The pastor should make the requests of the missionaries known to the church on as regular a basis as is possible. Each week a certain amount of time should be set aside specifically for praying for missions. The Spirit of God will never work on the mission field unless there is prayer support on the home front. If people are reminded of this on a weekly basis, they will remember the missionaries, but not only that, they will remember their own responsibilities to missions.
The need for missions is great. God has commanded all Christians to go, and to pray, and to give.(21) It is through the local church that this ministry is carried out. And it is the responsibility of the pastor to keep the church interested in missions. If a pastor can keep his own heart hot for missions, and in turn fire the hearts of his people through preaching and promoting, then that church will be a church dedicated to the cause of Christ in reaching a lost and dying world for Him.