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Missionary Material (A Retro-post by C.H. Spurgeon)

Thursday, September 7th, 2017

“The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ—He is Lord of all—that word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. And we are witnesses of all things which He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom they killed by hanging on a tree. Him God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly, not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before by God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead. To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.” Acts 10:36-43

“To crown all, our blessed Lord was one who knew how to die! Oh, when shall we have men and women sent among us who are prepared to die, in order to accomplish their life-work? I have shuddered, and all the more so because I might do no better myself, when I have heard excuses for avoiding risks of life, and reasons for escaping hardships in foreign lands. It has been even questioned in some quarters, whether a man would be right in exposing himself to danger of life in order to preach the gospel. I could say much, but would be sparing of censure. Only this I must say, until grace shall restore to us the ancient apostolic self-sacrifice, we may not expect to see the gospel conquering to any high degree. Zeal for God’s house must eat us up; love of life must yield to love of souls; trials must be counted as nothing for Christ’s sake, and death must be defied, or we shall never capture the world for Jesus. They who wear soft raiment will never win Ireland, or Africa, or India, for Christ. The man who considers himself, and makes provision for the flesh, will do little or nothing. Christ revealed the great secret when it was said of him, ‘He saved others, himself he cannot save.’ In proportion as a man saves himself he cannot save others, and only in proportion as he is carried away with self-sacrifice, willing to renounce luxuries, comforts, necessities, and even life itself, only in that proportion will he succeed. I trust that no missionary’s life may be lost, but I trust that if the church can only bring the world to Christ by the deaths of her ministers, all our lives may be sacrificed: for what are we, my brethren, what is any one of us, compared with the accomplishment of our Redeemer’s work? Our sires went to the stake with songs upon their lips. Our ancestors were confessors who dared the barbarous cruelties of Northern hordes, and the refined persecutions of Southern superstition; men who could die, but could not refrain from witnessing for the Lord. We must quit ourselves like men for Christ, and though we may not all be called to make the extreme sacrifice, we must be ready for it, and if we shrink from it we are not the men for such a time as this.

We want men who can toil, men who can pray, men who can weep, men who can die. In fact, we need for Christ’s work men all ablaze with consecrated fervour, men under a divine impulse, like arrows shot from the bow of the Almighty flashing straight to the target; men like thunderbolts launched by the Eternal to go crashing through every difficulty with irresistible energy of aim. We want a divine enthusiasm to fire us, an almighty impetus to urge us on. Only men thus filled with the Holy Ghost shall accomplish largely the work of God.” C. H. Spurgeon, “The Model Home Mission and the Model Home Missionary,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, Vol. 16. Originally preached on April 14, 1870.  (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1870), 262. [Italics original.]

Book Review: Dispatches from the Front

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

Tim Keesee, Dispatches From The Front: Stories of Gospel Advance in the World’s Difficult Places. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014.

[Note: I received a review copy from the publisher in kindle format.]

Tim Keesee has spent years visiting missionaries in difficult places around the world; this book is a digest of several articles detailing the tough conditions that are faced by Christians and those who minister to them. The stories come from former Soviet republics, Russia, China, India, and other “closed” countries that regularly disenfranchise and persecute evangelical Christians. In a lucid and “you are there” type of style, Keesee puts the reader in the thick of the action. The stories of Christian bravery inspire gratitude to God for His preserving grace and power, as well as the faithfulness of suffering saints in far-flung corners of the planet.

The reader meets Galina, a faithful Russian woman who witnesses in prison after prison in the Soviet Union, as the atheistic wardens repeatedly transfer her in a vain attempt to silence her potent testimony. The book also tells of courageous preachers like Husayn, whose church ministers to unwanted people like the mentally disabled in Azerbaijan. Keesee tells what it was like to be in Afghanistan when foreign aid workers like Cheryl Williams were murdered by the Taliban for their faithful service to Christ among the needy Afghan people.

I thoroughly recommend this stirring account of the contemporary progress of the Gospel amid staunch opposition. It moved me to pray more for the persecuted church around the world, as well as seek to be a better witness in the comparative freedom of the United States. Read it and prayerfully consider your connection to the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20.)


New Article in Missions Magazine

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

My latest article may be accessed here: http://www.cmml.us/magazine/2011-06-01/june-2011

Worldly Charity

Monday, March 1st, 2010

In yesterday’s New York Times, columnist Nicholas D. Kristof wrote an Op-ed piece on the recent humanitarian efforts of various “faith-based” mission organizations. In the article, he focuses on World Vision, which he describes as “a Seattle-based Christian organization (with strong evangelical roots) whose budget has roughly tripled over the last decade.”i He approvingly references the efforts of organizations such as this in assisting in disaster situations, combating diseases like malaria and AIDS, fighting poverty, etc. Although he is not mentioned in this article, Rick Warren is also urging the churches in his sphere of influence to devote themselves to solving these gargantuan problems.
Throughout the piece, Kristof repeatedly cites a book by Richard Stearns, World Vision’s head in the United States. One of his allusions to this work is especially conspicuous: “In one striking passage, Mr. Stearns quotes the prophet Ezekiel as saying that the great sin of the people of Sodom wasn’t so much that they were promiscuous or gay as that they were ‘arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.’ (Ezekiel 16:49.)” According to this revisionist understanding of Scripture the great sin of Sodom was apathy towards the underprivileged rather than gross moral sin. Kristof also comments on their lack of proselytizing in these words: “Some Americans assume that religious groups offer aid to entice converts. That’s incorrect. Today, groups like World Vision ban the use of aid to lure anyone into a religious conversation.” These ideas are sadly becoming more common in the professing evangelical church, revealing the worldliness that is rampant in modern Christendom.
Historic Christianity And Charity
Historically, Christian missionaries led the charge in ministering to the poor, the sick, the weak, the oppressed, and the vulnerable. The early church was noted for its care of the poor, as well as unprotected groups like widows and orphans (see Acts 2-6; 1 Tim. 5; James 1:27, etc.) In the centuries after the New Testament was completed, the church continued to extend its missionary efforts to the far reaches of the globe. Everywhere the true gospel went its hearers were bettered through hospitals, education, and development of science and technology. Whereas historic biblical Christianity used these philanthropic endeavors as a platform for preaching the good news of Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension, some prominent “evangelicals” downplay evangelism. They passionately argue that the church has a moral imperative to help the poor, eradicate disease – even save the planet from global warming! As laudable as these goals are, they actually reflect a worldly attitude.
In many Christian’s minds worldliness is usually associated with gross immorality or perhaps even connected with certain types of music and styles of dress. It is true that these things are
often worldly; nevertheless, they do not exhaust the scope of the term. To be worldly is to focus on this world at the expense of God and His glory (2 Tim. 4:10; 1 Jn. 2:15-17.) If one’s heart is set upon this world, rather than the one to come, they are held in the tyrannical grip of worldliness. If charitable deeds merely have the amelioration of present suffering in mind then they are worldly. What benefit would there be in someone being fed, healed, or educated in this life without their deepest need being touched? Far worse to humanity than AIDS, poverty, or natural disasters is the problem of sin, which separates mankind from their Creator. Any supposedly Christian organization that ignores the spiritual need and eternal destiny of their charges is worldly and inimical to the desires of the Lord Jesus Christ. He healed and did good deeds, but He did not stop there: He also saved souls by leading them to faith in His sacrificial work on the Cross and glorious resurrection (e.g. Jn. 9.)
Déjà vu All Over Again
This new “don’t preach, just help the poor” idea is not really new. It is merely a contemporary evangelical repackaging of the early twentieth century social gospel, which had its origin in the liberal theology of Schleiermacher, Ritschl, and others. That movement was adept at gutting historic Christianity of its biblical belief, leaving behind an insipid shell of Christianity with a false gospel and no lasting hope for its adherents. The modern resurgence of this error risks the destruction and marginalization of the professing church in the west. Christians should – and do – care for the poor and the weak. This philanthropy must not stop there. It must also be coupled with fearless preaching of the gospel of the crucified Christ. Our love for the weak and helpless will lead them to a hearing of the good news that can heal body, soul, and spirit for eternity.

i Nicholas D. Kristof, “Learning from the sin of Sodom,” published 2/28/10, posted on nytimes.com, accessed on March 1, 2010. Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/28/opinion/28kristof.html 


Commission Minded Assemblies

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

From the beginning of Creation God has disclosed Himself to mankind. He wants to manifest Himself to the world, even if humans are unwilling to hear from Him. The Christian faith is the capstone of the Almighty’s revelation to His creatures. In engaging in missions, the Church shares in the Lord’s commitment to reach the world with the Gospel. There are numerous benefits to local churches when they are involved in foreign missionary endeavour. Believers profit from these activities, for in supporting the witness of Christ worldwide, they enjoy greater unity of purpose, dependence on the Holy Spirit, and love for the lost. The Church and Missions The Church was designed to permeate the globe. Among the last instructions that Christ gave to His followers before the ascension was the command to ‘Go [therefore] and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them to the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit’, Matt. 28. 19, JND. Acts 1. 8 adds: ‘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 Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth’. Clearly, the Lord wants His Church to be witness minded and evangelistically oriented. Christ’s message is meant to be shared, and includes all people irrespective of race, language, or socio-economic status. The dynamic replicating nature of the Church is especially highlighted in the book of Acts. After early successes in the presentation of the Gospel in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria, the apostles began to face entrenched Jewish opposition. In chapter six the gifted apologist Stephen gained notoriety for his ability to confound the Jews in theological debate. His impassioned rhetoric finally led him to a confrontation with the Sanhedrin. After masterfully retracing the history of God’s dealings with Israel, he delivered a caustic indictment of the self-righteous ruling body; this brought about the great preacher’s martyrdom, see Acts 7. Triumph Out of Tragedy
The death of such a prominent spokesman for the Way struck a blow to the early Christians. Rather than hinder the progress of the Gospel, however, Stephen’s killing actually helped spread the faith. His murder touched off persecution in Judea and Jerusalem, subsequently scattering the believers across the Near East, Acts 8. 1-4.1 These refugee witnesses ‘gossiped the Gospel’ to those that they encountered, and the seed that they sowed eventually bore fruit as far away as modern Syria, Acts 11. 19-21. Tertullian’s axiom ‘The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church’ was vindicated by the experience of these harried saints. Stephen’s death indirectly led to the establishment
1 The word ‘scattered abroad’ in vss. 1 and 4 is diaspeiro: ‘to scatter like grain, to disperse.’ A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament.
of the stalwart assembly of Antioch in the midst of Gentile territory. The Lord Jesus’ promise to build His Church is backed up by His sovereign ability to employ even tragic circumstances for the accomplishment of His will, Matt. 16. 18; Rom. 8. 28-39; Eph. 1. 11. In 1956, the murders of Jim Elliot, Pete Fleming, Ed McCully, Nate Saint, and Roger Youderian were the catalyst for the Gospel penetrating the hostile Auca tribe, as well as being the impetus for many people leaving the English-speaking world for mission work around the globe.2 Therefore, one sees that God still uses martyrdom to accomplish His purposes. Antioch: A Template for the Commission-Minded Assembly The assembly in Antioch became the springboard for the first major foreign missionary offensive of the early Church. Acts chapter 13 verse 1 describes the varied composition of the fellowship in this manner: ‘Now there were in Antioch, in the assembly which was [there], prophets and teachers: Barnabas, and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius the Cyrenian, and Manaen, foster-brother of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul’, JND. It was an assembly that had been blessed with much spiritual gift. Like many modern congregations it had a diverse membership with able men of both privileged and humble origins. The Lord saves people out of different ethnic, educational, and social backgrounds; furthermore, He unites them and uses them in His service. What other group would include an arrogant ex-Pharisee and a decadent Herodian courtier? Yet these men cooperated in the building up of the local assembly. They became the launch pad for the first modern-style pioneer evangelistic team. What Does a Missionary Look Like? As far as the type of messengers that the Holy Spirit chooses, one sees that He elected men who were already active in prophecy and teaching. God calls those who are already engaged in His work – not those who are indolent or inactive. Barnabas and Saul were integral members of the local assembly. The Antiochen Christians might have been tempted to argue that they could not spare these valuable servants. Nevertheless, the Lord handpicked these indefatigable ministers to carry the Gospel to new territory. As the brethren ministered before the Lord, it became apparent that He was selecting the two aforementioned labourers to go forth into the harvest fields, Acts 13. 2. The commending assembly was blessed, because they followed the Spirit’s leading. In so doing, they were drawn closer to God, and participated in what was dear to His heart. The sending forth of the missionaries was preceded by activities like prayer and fasting, which indicated a strong dependence on the leading of the Holy Spirit, verse 3. In evaluating the Lord’s leading of missionary candidates, the assembly and the prospective worker are united in prayerful seeking of God’s will. It goes beyond a mere analysis of the need of a particular country to a careful inquiry: ‘Is the Lord calling this brother or sister to go to a foreign field? What can the assembly do to facilitate them getting to the field and carrying out the Great Commission?’
2 The Aucas are now known as the Huaoranis.
The Missionary Contribution to the Home Assembly
When Barnabas and Saul returned from their first missionary journey they called the assembly together to hear what the Lord had performed through them, Acts 14. 27. Both before and after their mission, the assembly was linked with them by mutual interest and prayer. The assembly was interested in the mission and the workers were concerned for their home church. Upon returning, the intrepid pioneers kept the assembly enthralled with tales of God’s grace to the Gentiles. One assumes that this would move the believers to praise the Lord for His dealings with the lost who heard the Gospel through their missionaries.
As a further benefit to the assemblies on the home front, the experiences of the missionaries from the foreign field were used to help sort out a doctrinal dispute in Jerusalem. Acts chapter 15 tells of Paul and Barnabas’ crucial role in clarifying the position of Gentile believers and their relationship to the Law. Coupled with Peter and James’ testimonies, the Divine blessing that accompanied the missionaries’ labours proved that the Lord had received Gentiles on the basis of Christ’s work without any need for circumcision, observing Jewish customs, or any other ritual. The missionary endeavour upheld the integrity of the Gospel by showing how the Lord dealt with the new converts.
Principles for Modern Commission-Minded Assemblies
Like their ancient counterpart in Antioch, modern assemblies stand to benefit from engagement in foreign missions. The following are activities that should be prayerfully considered by assemblies in the United Kingdom and North America:
-In praying for and financially supporting labourers overseas, Christians in the homeland participate in the work of God all over the world; thereby, reaping eternal rewards. By sending material support to missionaries and praying for their efforts, local believers cooperate in the common purpose of spreading the Gospel worldwide; moreover, this unity of purpose draws them closer together in their own fellowship. Both the universal and the local aspects of the church count towards ‘church growth’.
-By corresponding with missionaries the local saints are encouraged in their personal witness to emulate the foreign worker in ‘enduring hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ’, 2 Tim. 2. 3.
-Establishing missionary classes where young people study the needs of different countries, as well as write to workers, is a boon to their spiritual interest. Numerous veteran missionaries first developed an interest in doing the Lord’s work in such classes; others were attracted to foreign service by attending missionary prayer meetings or listening to missionary reports in the local assembly.
-Supporting missions in the home assembly helps believers cultivate their love for the lost. As they pray for specific countries, cities, foreign assemblies, and the like, the Holy Spirit develops their interest in souls.
There are many advantages to being a commission-minded assembly, not the least of which, is emulating the ultimate missionary, the Lord Jesus. He left heaven ‘…to seek and to save that which was lost’, Luke 19. 10. No worker has ever gone farther or done more to reach the unsaved. Even today our Lord continues to guide His church in the accomplishment of the Great Commission globally.

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Commission Minded Assemblies