This is a somewhat awkward subject for a missionary, perhaps, but our convictions and actions regarding scriptural mission work should go beyond personalities. Any comments made are intended to be constructive and not just critical for criticism's sake. Missionaries and churches need each other. A church cannot do scriptural mission work without God-called men who are willing to go. God-called men cannot go without scriptural churches who are willing to send and support.
I. Why Should We Do Mission Work?
I think the answer should be apparent even without going to the Bible. Millions of souls have not heard the gospel in Africa, Asia, South America, Mexico and the islands of the sea. It has been asked "Why should we hear the gospel twice when others have not heard once?"
The most imperative reason for doing mission work is that it is clearly commanded not once, but many times in God's Word.
Matthew 28:18-20 "And Jesus came and spake unto them saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world."
Mark 16:15 "And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature."
Luke 24:47 "And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem."
John 20:21 "Then said Jesus to th-em again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you."
Acts 1:8 "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."
These scriptures are such a clear-cut command that they require no explanation.
In many instances where the command is given to carry the gospel into all the world, we are reminded that God has all power (in heaven and in earth) and that this power is available for carrying out the task given. There is no such thing as "can't" if God has commanded us to do something. However, there is very frequently "won't."
I would to God that churches and missionaries alike would realize the urgency in carrying out this command now. Occasionally you will find someone who tries to read Acts 1:8 as saying "first" at home and after you have won everybody at home then around the world. It says "both" at home and around the world at the same time.
God's Word teaches by command and example. We know we should do mission work by Bible examples such as Christ, Paul, Barnabas and many others. Even in the Old Testament we find Jonah and other men who were sent to warn men of the wrath of God on sin. This was certainly missionary work.
For some people a command is not effective without a threat. In Ezekiel 33:7-9 we find, "So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me. When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul."
The prophet of God is told that he is a watchman to the house of Israel. The church is the watchman to the world today to warn of the wrath of God and the way of escape. I think the parallel certainly holds that the blood of those whom we fail to warn will be required at our hands.
Another reason for doing mission work is that reward is promised. The promise in Matthew 28:20 "and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world" is dependent on carrying out the command which preceded it. If a church does not carry out the great commission, I do not see how they can claim the Lord's promise to be with them in strength and power to the end of the world.
Perhaps one of the most compelling reasons for doing mission work is because of the love and mercy of God, because of what He has done for us.
2 Corinthians 5:14 "For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead."
Romans 12:1 "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service."
II. Biblical Method of Mission Work
Acts 13:1-4 "Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus."
God's method of mission work is clearly set forth in these four verses. There are those who will say "Yes, but that was written 2,000 years ago and will not work today." I say to you with the same logic that John 3:16 was written 2,000 years ago. Is it still valid? Of course, it is. God deals in eternal verities. Unless God Himself supercedes it we have no right to set it aside. In the case of the tabernacle worship and animal sacrifices, God Himself clearly changed this. Such is not the case with New Testament missions.
Note in verse one, it all started with a local church, the church at Antioch. I submit to you that without a local church you cannot have scriptural mission work.
Also, it involved God-called men. Without God-called men you will not have scriptural or successful (measured by God's standards) mission work.
Not only were they God-called men, they were church-separated. The churches have been lax today in separating men and examining them morally and doctrinally as to their qualification for the work to which they are to be ordained.
Notice the church at Antioch fasted and prayed before ordaining Saul and Barnabas with the laying on of hands. Too many churches today hastily ordain novices. I watched a Baptist Church ordain a young man recently and not one question was asked as to his beliefs on the church, baptism, or the Lord's Supper.
I might insert parenthetically here that since women cannot be ordained to the ministry of the gospel, women alone obviously cannot carry out scriptural mission work. Women can be wonderful missionary helpers in teaching women and children, nursing, clerical work, etc. To send a woman alone to a field where there is no ordained Baptist preacher is unscriptural and therefore, unbaptistic.
Not only were Saul and Barnabas separated and ordained by the church, but they were sent by the church (v. 3).
After they were sent by the church they were led by the Holy Spirit. Their home church having examined them, had confidence in them and trusted them to follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit. It is obvious that a church several thousand miles away cannot supervise the day by day carrying on of the work and this is not the Biblical pattern. The church can however, and should carefully separate and examine those it sends out and maintain a general surveillance of the work as to its doctrinal soundness.
The Bible also gives us a pattern of cooperation of churches in support of missions without organization.
Philippians 4:15-17 "Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only. For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity. Not because I desire a gift; but I desire fruit that may abound to your account."
We see in these verses that even though Paul was sent out by the church at Antioch, that the church at Philippi cooperated in his support.
In Acts 14 we see that Saul and Barnabas reported back to their home church.
Acts 14:26-27 "And thence sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled. And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles."
To reiterate we see that the following eight things are important in the New Testament pattern of missions:
1. Started with a local church.
2. God-called men.
3. Church-separated men.
4. Church-ordained men.
5. Church-sent men.
6. Holy Spirit-led men.
7. Churches cooperated in their support without organization.
8. They reported back to their home church.
We have considered the New Testament method of mission work, now let us consider the message. The message is not just the gospel. The commission to the church is three-fold: (1) Evangelize, (2) Baptize and (3) Teach. If evangelism is pushed to the exclusion of the other two we are just carrying out one-third of the commission. In other words, churches must be founded on the mission field and grounded in the Word of God.
III. What's Wrong With Boards?
In the first place it's "tainted" doctrine. It just "taint" in the Bible. (Incidentally, calling a board a "committee" or "clearing house" doesn't change a thing.) Boards are not even hinted at in the Bible and no examples are given. It seems I hear someone saying, "Oh, but Sunday School is not in the Bible." The commission to teach is in the Bible and the Sunday School is a teaching ministry of the church. Christ and the apostles were always gathering groups of people together and teaching them.
Boards take away the autonomy of the local church and make it subservient to a man-made organization.
Ephesians 1:22-23 "And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all."
Christ is the Head of the church and the church is the organization authorized by Christ to carry out His work here on earth. The church is not one of many organizations left here on earth to do God's work, but is the only organization mentioned in the New Testament as having authority to carry out the Lord's work.
Boards take away the glory of the church. Ephesians 3:21 "Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end." Boards usurp the work of the Holy Spirit in the call, financing and leading of a missionary.
John 16:13 "Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsover he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come."
The church should be led by the Holy Spirit in its foreign mission work and giving as in all its endeavors.
Boards misappropriate and waste money. Many boards were founded by sincere men, but you can be sincerely wrong and they were when they went outside the local church to do God's work. It has been my observation that the older boards become, the more money they waste and misappropriate.
Boards are much more subject to doctrinal error than a local church. They are more prone to compromise doctrinally for financial expediency.
What are some of the advantages of boards? None, really, that I know of. Financial security is touted as a great advantage to boards. I believe my God is more dependable than a mission board. I find all the financial security I need in Philippians 4:19 "But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus."
One supposed advantage of a mission board is ease of getting visas to enter a foreign country. Most boards promulgate the falsehood that you can't get a visa to enter a foreign country without a board, but this is not true. If God has called you to a country He will make it possible for you to enter that country without resorting to unscriptural means.
IV. What's Wrong With the Independent Baptist Way of Missions?
Nothing, except our practice of it. Doctrinal soundness is not a chair to sit on, it's a foundation on which to build, it's a base from which to work. Orthodoxy is not a substitute for action. Faith without works is dead.
James 2:20 "But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?"
Knowing the truth and failing to practice it increases our sin.
James 4:17 "Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin."
V. Faults in Our Practice of the Bible Way Both Real and Imagined
We have already touched on one fault, the failure of churches to separate and examine missionaries before ordaining them and sending them out. Churches sometimes send out uncalled, unqualified men.
Another problem is failure to trust the recommendation of sister churches concerning missionaries. We trust them in baptism and accept members from them. Why don't we trust them more concerning missionaries? Certainly the recommendation of a missionary's home church where he has lived and worked is worth more than that of a board which has talked with him a few minutes or hours or days.
Not all of the failures in the practice of the Bible plan of missions fall upon the churches. Many of them can be traced to the missionary. Outstanding among these is the failure to adequately prepare himself for the work. Certainly a truly called missionary will have a burden on his heart for the field and an eagerness to get there, but this should not preclude adequate preparation. God's work is the most important work in the world and deserves adequate preparation.
Of course, many people fail to answer God's call to become missionaries. God does not fail to call enough people to do His work.
A charge that is frequently leveled at scriptural mission work is lack of "financial control." This is not true. It is simply that the financial control is in the hands of the churches and the Holy Spirit and not in some board.
Sometimes a church that sends out a missionary fails to keep herself and sister churches properly informed about the mission work. This may be due to lack of interest on the part of the home church or failure of the missionary to keep his home church informed about the work.
One of the most obvious faults in our practice of the Bible plan of missions is failure to adequately support mission work. Pastors bear a large portion of this responsibility. A church will never be any more missionary than its pastor. A pastor who never preaches about missions is neglecting a large portion of the New Testament. The same can be said for a Sunday School that never teaches about the need for mission work.
How can we encourage missionary zeal in our church? Preach on it! Teach on it! Have mission conferences! Have missionaries speak at our church! Read missionary letters and reports to the church and put them on the bulletin board along with pictures. Pray for missionaries! Support missionaries regularly and faithfully. Don't make mission giving the first thing to go when financial adversity hits the church. Just as an individual can't afford not to tithe, so a church cannot afford not to contribute regularly to the carrying out of the great commission.
Take special offerings for missions and make missions personal. Give people an opportunity to give specifically to missions. It has been proven time and again that this will not decrease your regular offerings, but will usually increase them.
Have a world-wide vision, not just the back yard.
Don't think in terms of saturation in mission giving, but always plan to expand it as the church grows.
Don't judge missionary work and results by United States standards. Don't judge one field by another. If you have questions or criticisms, write and make them known.
The last failure or fault in our practice of the Bible plan of missions that we would like to consider is that of supporting unscriptural mission work.
The word "missionary" is no magical guarantee of dedication or doctrinal soundness. A church is obligated in its use of the Lord's money to see that it is used to support scriptural work. Many sound independent Baptist Churches support unscriptural work. If we support unsound work, we become guilty also.
2 John 10-11 "If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: for he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds."
God has a way for His work to be done.
Psalm 18:30 "As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the Lord is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him."
Since we have God's perfect way recorded in His word, let's follow it more vigorously and diligently.