(January 24, 2021) As we move ahead into this new year of uncertainties and changes, we rerun this 2017 article by the late missionary statesperson George Forbes, as it is an especially important reminder that missionary endeavour never changes!
Christian Missions operate in a wide range of areas of ministry internationally, service and aid!
- Some are big enough to incorporate many activities and ministries.
- Others specialise in one field of service such as humanitarian aid, education or medical.
- Significant numbers specialise in language translation and their provision to nations.
- Most missions that prioritise on evangelism, Bible training and church planting also open schools, medical clinics and other services.
Such services are crucial!
Early in my thirty years of active mission organisation leadership, I discovered that these services were often crucial to our acceptance by indigenous leaders in developing countries. Biblically they were an evidence of Christian love and compassion to people in need.
The missionary task has always been about ‘making disciples.’ Jesus commanded the early church ‘to make disciples of all nations’ (Matthew. 28:18-20). He commanded his disciples to ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel’ (Mark 16:15). Matthew adds the important dimension of the Great Commission by quoting the words of Jesus, ‘As you go, make disciples.’
This is the primary task of the missionary – because a missionary is a ‘sent one.’
In recent years…
The word ‘missionary’ has come under pressure. It is not used as much now to describe those who are truly ‘missionaries.’ Alternative terms are used for various reasons.
A major reason is simply the reality of local religions. Islam, for example, is a particular religion that is sensitive to any Christian missionary activity. New terms such as ‘Fraternal Worker’ and ‘Co-Worker’ have been introduced.
None of this really changes the reality that Jesus commanded his church to ‘Make disciples of all nations.’
Jesus said to Saul, ‘But get up and stand on your feet, for I have appeared to you for the very purpose of appointing you to be my servant and witness of what you have seen and of what I will show you. I will continue to rescue you from your people and from the nations to whom I am sending you. You will help them understand and turn them from darkness to light and from Satan’s control to God, so that their sins will be forgiven and they will receive a share among those who are sanctified by faith in me’ (Acts 26:16-18)
Where men and women are serving God as missionaries there must be the fruit of disciples, baptisms and local churches planted. Yes, there will be aid and education programs. There will be clean water and medical care; there will be care for the neglected, the forgotten and the outcastes. Orphans will be loved, housed, educated and taught skills for their future.
Wherever the gospel of Christ is preached, and Christian missionaries live out their witness in daily life, there will be fruit that will glorify God forever. Above all, there will be converts who are new believers in Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world.
Aid and religious conversion working together
Journalist Jane McGrath, writing about mission work, wrote; ‘Mission work in underdeveloped nations has largely become as much (or more) about aid as religious conversion.’
Her analysis is a challenge to Christians everywhere, who are committed to the Great Commission of Jesus Christ. We must do both, not one or the other. We must not think that humanitarian aid, education, and medical care provide all the answers – because though they are valuable, they do not answer the big questions of life and present the gospel of Jesus.
People will be greatly helped physically and materially in many cases when aid is given – but their eternal souls need the gospel to know Jesus and be saved forever.
Prayer support for faithful missionaries needed
Paul, writing to the Ephesian church wrote, ‘And pray for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel’ (Ephesians 6:19).
Faithful missionaries of the gospel need our prayer support that…
- Covers them!
- Takes them forward on the path to power with God.
- Is importunate and constant.
- Touches the heart of God.
- Is intercessory and powerful.
- Breaks bondages.
- God-glorifying and devil-defeating.
Prayer that causes the Spirit of God to move on human hearts is indeed needed today in every Christian home and local church! Therefore, the challenge today is that missionary churches would be praying churches!
- Missionaries will be faithful, even to death.
- Resistant governments will ease their laws, restrictions and penalties.
- God will protect his servants in highly resistant regions where Christian faith is despised and converts even lose their lives.
The reality of mission activity is that the missionary task has never changed! Missions and missionaries need missionary-minded praying Christians and praying churches!
Dr George Forbes was internationally recognised for his heart for the lost of the nations, those who don’t know the Lord.