Posts Tagged ‘Missionaries’
I ask you to join me in praying for brother Caleb Fielding who is going to England to be a missionary. Pray for the Lord to use Caleb to preach the gospel and to disciple those who repent and believe the gospel (Matthew 28:19-20). Pray for souls to hear the gospel and be saved (Romans 10:14-17). Pray for Caleb to be a man of God, a man of holiness toward the sinners in England (2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1). Pray for the Church of Jesus Christ in England to experience revival and see souls saved for the glory of God.
For more information on brother Caleb, please see http://www.calebfielding.com
I have mixed feelings about missions trips. On the one hand, I was part of a missions trip when I was a young disciple that forced me to see the need for the gospel in other nations. I witnessed first hand the poverty of spirit that is found in many nations. I saw the poverty of needs as well and saw the good that our missionaries from the United States were doing for the gospel. I witnessed the strength that came from unity among brethren who were from different denominations in the USA but were united under the gospel in another nation. I came back forever changed by my experience.
Yet on the other hand, I often fear that we in the United States use missions trips to do two things. First, we provide comfort for our guilty consciences for not making disciples in our own towns. I know of people who are passionate to go on missions trips and will work hard to save up money for their missions trips but they never share the gospel here where they are at. I have watched missionaries in training go from church to church trying to earn money to go to the mission field but they are not sharing the gospel with people all around them here who are just as needy for Christ as people overseas. I have watched people train and get ready for missions trips but never bother to go out here where we are and share the gospel with the lost. How can we take Matthew 28:19 and not see that it applies to where we are at now and not in the future?
Secondly, I have watched people view missions trips as nothing more than glorified vacations. You get to visit another nation (or even our own but in another part of the nation) and do so in the name of the gospel. Instead of actually going to do evangelism (and by that I mean share the gospel with the lost), people go on missions trips to see others do the ministry. They go to visit our American missionaries there and watch them do the work while they just sit back and enjoy their glorified vacation that others paid for.
But let me add some grace here as well. I repeat again that my first missions trip blessed me. It opened my eyes to going beyond my own borders to the lost in the world. The United States is indeed a post-Christian nation and we are full of paganism but despite our sins, we have many solid disciples in our nation still preaching the gospel. I don’t believe God is done with us yet. He may be done with the United States government and their idolatry but He has a remnant in this nation and I believe He always will. Nothing can stop the gospel. Nothing (Matthew 16:18). Jesus will save sinners in the United States as the gospel is preached even if the government makes it illegal (and this is coming). Jesus will win (Psalm 110:1). Yet I know that there are many other nations who also need the gospel. Thank God for missions and sending people to those nations for the gospel (Mark 16:15).
Missions trips can do much in the heart of disciples. It can even open people’s eyes to their own salvation. When I went on my first missions trip, I think the entire youth who came got “saved” at some point. Of course that meant praying the “sinner’s prayer” and nearly all of them are lost today but missions trips often show people how lost they are as well. Some truly repent. Others just play games and give lip service to God but came back to their sins when home. God knows those who are His (2 Timothy 2:19).
One final point about this. I am torn because when I went on my first missions trip, I was a very young disciple. I was a disciple but knew so little. I thank God that the people let me go. I did have a heart for the Lord though my evangelism in those days was just to get people to say the “sinner’s prayer” and move on. I knew little of the true gospel that demands repentance and total surrender to the Lordship of Christ (Matthew 7:21-23; 1 John 2:3-6). I have often wondered if we do a disservice to missions by taking people who just want a glorified vacation and who are not serious about Christ, who know nothing of the gospel, who never share their faith (or simply think of evangelism as getting people to say the “prayer”). I have noticed that few missions trips make strict guidelines for being a true disciple and often allow people who know little of the gospel or never display a radical desire to preach the truth. We just allow whoever can pay to go and then stick them doing jobs that often have nothing to do with the gospel.
Yet nonetheless I am torn because my first missions trip was an eye-opener and when I came back, I did take serious the command of Christ to go and preach the gospel. I begin to support missions financially and I also saw that I needed to preach the gospel in my Jerusalem as well (Acts 1:8). I pray that others will do the same and go and preach the gospel in all places especially where they live (Luke 24:47; Romans 10:14-17).
Does the New Testament promote the idea of full-time elders (or pastors)? I know of many of my friends on this blog and outside who not only hold that it does but also they are full-time pastors. In almost all cases they applied for their pastorate like any other job complete with paperwork and interviews. In fact, the modern pastorate often resembles a CEO of a company more than taking over a church of God. In many cases the interviews are full of questions mainly about budgets, organization abilities, and of course, numbers. Attendance is a big issue for institutional churches since they operate on budgets that must be met. I know of one large church in my area that sent out their yearly budget that totaled over $7 million dollars. Less than 3% of that was going to missions. Most of that $7 million was salaries and their buildings. Since numbers drive the institutional church, the potential pastor must show that they can produce large results through various ides and organization. The masses have to be kept happy.
The house church is nothing near that. First of all, we have no budget. Each person can give their money to whatever they want. We don’t want it. We don’t need it. Occasionally we might have a family who needs money or a church planter who needs funds but we don’t regularly need your money. Second, we have no buildings to pay for. We have no mortgage. We have no bills. We offer no work insurance. We pay no taxes since we own nothing and receive nothing. Third, we have no staff. We don’t pay a pastor. We don’t pay a youth pastor. We don’t pay a music leader. We have elders who led us but they are not paid.
So what do we want you to do with the money that God gives you? We want you to do what He tells you to do with in the New Testament. First, Jesus said to give to the poor (Matthew 6:2-4; Galatians 2:10). Secondly, give to hurting Christians (Acts 4:34-35; 11:27-30; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2). Third, give to supporting apostles or church planters or missionaries (1 Corinthians 9:8-14; Philippians 4:10-20). There is no biblical mandate in the New Testament to tithe to a local church to support their paying bills, salaries, etc. Tithing is biblical but under the theocracy known as Israel. We are not a theocracy. Not once in the Epistles do the writers exhort God’s people to tithe. If failing to tithe brings one under a curse (as some teach from Malachi 3:8-10) then surely the New Testament writers would want to keep us from that curse. Sadly, those who teach this “cursed” view of Malachi 3:8-10 fail to show it this applies to Galatians 3:13.
Yet does the New Testament teach that there should be full-time elders? In Acts 20 we have Paul holding a pastors conference (v. 17). Paul the Apostle teaches these elders various things but one interesting thing that he says is in verse 35. The words here are ascribed to Jesus although the Gospels do not contain them. Using the words of Jesus, Paul tells the elders that it is more blessed to give than to receive. Can you imagine hearing a prosperity preacher saying that to his TV audience today? In fact, the thrust of Acts 20:33-35 is that Paul wants these elders to work and not seek money. He point to his own example (Acts 18:1-4) as proof that he worked hard so that he could give his money to the weak (ESV). In essence, Paul wanted these elders not to be full-time but to work so that they could give away their money. What a radical concept for our time!
The other places we find the issue of money and elders is 1 Corinthians 9. 1 Corinthians 9 is not really about elders however. In fact, elders are not found at all in 1 or 2 Corinthians. Given how important the modern pastorate is in most churches, you would think that Paul the Apostle would address the elders to correct the troubles at Corinth. He never does. He expects the Spirit of God to lead His Church and for the people of God to obey the Spirit who leads them. Not once in Corinthians does Paul address any leaders. In 1 Corinthians 9 Paul deals with missionaries receiving money for preaching the gospel. In verses 8-14 he makes the clear point that those who preach the gospel should live off the gospel. Yet then Paul turns around and says that he has not done this despite his right to do so. He tells the Corinthians that he didn’t want to be a stumbling block to them (vv. 15-18). Paul could have asked for money but he gave up his right so that he could preach the gospel without hinderance. In Acts 18:1-4 we find that Paul worked as a tent maker while preaching the gospel in Corinth. He willfully gave up his rights to being paid so that he could work hard, give away his money, and preach the gospel. How many modern pastors are doing that?
The final place we find elders and money is in 1 Timothy 5:17-18. A couple of points are in order. First, verse 17 does not use the word “money.” I believe many read into verse 17 way too much about “double honor” as to teach that elders should be paid double what they would earn outside of the church. The word “honor” here does not denote money. The word is never used in the New Testament as a substitute for the word money. Yet I have no trouble with honoring an elder who leads with much grace and ability in teaching the Word of God. This honor can come in various ways including giving them money. I don’t think we should isolate this verse and make it teach only money but we can give money to elders who fit this picture of verse 17. Yet I don’t see in this verse that it teaches that elders should receive a regular salary. Gifts? Yes. Salary? No. There is a big difference.
Frankly, I am weary of paying an elder very often since this could lead to one elder being exalted above others and can lead to this elder becoming a typical CEO type pastor only in a house church setting. The plurality of leaders in the house church (Titus 1:5) helps to offset one elder dominating the others. It also helps because elders are gifted in various ways other than teaching. A full-time elder also would have a hard time fulfilling Acts 20:35 if in fact their income comes from the house church.
Lastly, if a house church is large enough to support a full-time elder, they are probably too large. It’s time to split that house church. House churches are strong because of personal relationships with one another. This can’t happen if the house church is too large. I recommend that house churches be no larger than a living room. If everyone can comfortably be in a living room to worship God, pray, sing, eat, etc. then that is perfect. Keep in mind that elders are to be among the people of God and not over them (1 Peter 5:1-4).
Hard work is something that we are scarred of in the West. We need not be. How wonderful it is to work hard and then to take our money and give it away to the kingdom of God through the poor, hurting disciples, or missionaries. We are not to hoard up our funds but to give them away (Matthew 6:19-21). Our treasure is not this world or money but the Lord Himself. He is our delight and our reward.
I remember hearing the story of David Wilkerson meeting with some believers from Vietnam. These Vietnamese pastors shared how they had been beat for their faith, imprisoned, their belongings taken from them, etc. Brother Dave listened and then added to them, “Brothers, be careful never to think that what you have experienced for Jesus is your salvation. You are saved by grace! Don’t judge those in the West who have not suffered as you have for Jesus’ sake but fall on your face and be thankful for the mercy of God that saved you from sin.” What a good word.
The fact is that there is a temptation from those on the mission field or even among suffering saints of God to believe that they are saved while those living in “comfort” in the West are not truly saved. I ran across this recently with a missionary. This missionary I have known for a while and while they lived in the United States, I never knew them to be a person of prayer or of evangelism. They were typical Westerners. Working, living, and yet loving Jesus along the way. Then they moved to a foreign nation to do missions work and now they are posting on Facebook about how dead the Western Church is (and I agree) and how we are so full of consumerism (and I agree) instead of the gospel. They talk about the need for evangelizing the world and I agree. I praise God for what He is showing this missionary.
Yet I want to warn them and all of us that we must always remember that our salvation is not by works at all. We are not saved because of our sharing the gospel or our Bible reading or our missions work. We are saved by God’s grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). If not for the mercy of God, none of us could be saved. If not for the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, none of us could be saved. If not for the work of the Holy Spirit, none of us could be saved. The work of salvation is completely by God (Titus 3:5-7). He saves those who believe the gospel (Romans 1:16-17; 1 Corinthians 1:21). Jesus then becomes our salvation and our righteousness before God (Romans 3:23-25; 10:4; 1 Corinthians 1:30-31; Philippians 3:9).
I admit that the Church needs a touch from God. Much of what I see about the Church in the West is indeed dead (Revelation 3:16). I agree with this missionary that we lack a passion for God or for missions. But at the same time, I see that I need Jesus as my Savior. I am not beyond seeing that I need His grace. I am not beyond seeing that my hope, my righteousness, and my salvation is found not in any works that I do but in Jesus alone (John 6:29). We can point out the faults of the Western Church but in the end, salvation belongs totally to the Lord. If our passion is not for Jesus, we are missing the point. If our salvation is not focused entirely on Jesus then we need to run back to the cross and cry out to God and praise Him for the cross of Christ. It is only through the blood of Jesus that we are eternally saved (Acts 10:43). We need to worship God for all that He has done in setting us free (Acts 13:38-39; Romans 2:4).