Posts Tagged ‘World Missions’
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 previously written on missions trips and my thoughts on them. My mixed feelings on them are that they can be both a blessing and a curse. The gospel that is preached by missions groups is often the American gospel of “God wants to bless you, make you happy, He loves you endlessly. So pray this prayer and you are in forever!” The poor gospel that is often preached in the evangelical churches is carried over in missions trips and so missionaries spend their time when mission groups depart having to clean up the mess (and not just the physical mess). The spiritual mess is worse. It leaves behind people thinking that the way to God is through praying a “sinner’s prayer” that has no biblical basis and they think that God wants to bless their socks off. Like those in Matthew 13:20-21, they turn away from Christ as soon as disappointments come.
The problem with the American gospel goes deeper than just missions groups. In many ways, to challenge the traditions such as the “sinner’s prayer” is often viewed with skepticism or heresy. Evangelists who do not give “altar calls” or pray “the prayer” with people are not true evangelists in the minds of those who hold to these traditions. When you challenge people over the biblical nature of “altar calls” or the “sinner’s prayer,” people will often ignore the Scriptures and leave the church. I had one lady respond to me once by saying, “I’ll go find a preacher who agrees with me and have him correct you.” She never returned of course.
The reality is that salvation is the work of God. When I use to believe in the “sinner’s prayer” I was shocked to read the works of John Wesley and see that he never used the “sinner’s prayer” nor altar calls. Wesley preached hard on justification by faith alone and he preached hard on repentance but Wesley understood correctly that salvation was the work of God. He knew that being born again was the work of the Spirit (John 3:3). He pointed to the depravity of man as proof that we needed the divine aid of the Spirit of God to be saved (Acts 16:14-15). Jesus taught in John 16:8-11 that the Spirit would do such a work. Wesley taught that we cannot earn God’s salvation by our works (Isaiah 64:6; Romans 3:10-18). We are too sinful. Too wicked in our hearts. We have too many idols. Salvation must be the work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus died to secure our salvation but the Spirit of God must aid us to be saved. Wesley avoided Calvinism by teaching prevenient grace. By the way, Calvinists also taught the same for many years but today they shun such words. Wesley taught (as did Arminius) that the Spirit frees the sinful will so that humans may believe the gospel. The Spirit does not force (or drag as R.C. Sproul contends from John 6:44) but He makes us willing. He does not make us believe nor does He make it so that we have no choice but to believe but He frees the sinful will to believe. The key difference between say the preaching of John Wesley and his friend George Whitefield on this point would be whether God places conditions upon election. Wesley argued yes while Whitefield argued no.
However, I digress. Often missions groups come back home fired up. Like teenagers from a youth camp, they come back “hungry for God” and have a zeal to “read the Word and make disciples.” Yet in just a few days, they often can be found right back to their nominal lives. This happens because of two reasons. First, while on a missions trip, people are often focused on God and His kingdom. While “serving” on missions trips, people often recognize their need to pray, to read their Bible, and their conversations center around the Lord Jesus. When they come back home, they often get comfortable again and go back to their prayerlessness, their struggle to read their Bible, and their lack of evangelism and gospel conversations. Secondly, missions trips often produce “positive peer pressure” where people around each other encourage each other on toward good deeds (Hebrews 10:24). Missions trips often draw closer together as they pray, spend time talking about the needs and what they see. This positive peer pressure leads them to pray, to witness, to be bold, to talk much about Christ and His kingdom, to believe in the power of God. Yet when they come home, those conversations end as they go back to work, back to school, back to their worlds where few talk about Christ and His glory. This leads toward apathy.
How can we prevent this? What makes consistent disciples? I would argue that first and foremost is the gospel itself. When people reduce the gospel to “steps to peace with God” or the “sinner’s prayer,” they reduce the power of the gospel. The gospel is not a plan or a pattern. The gospel is a person. The gospel focuses us upon the Lord Jesus (Romans 1:16-17). The gospel is all about Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-3). The gospel focuses on what Jesus has done for us in His death, burial, and resurrection. The reality of the cross should be our focus (Galatians 6:14). The cross empties us of self (Colossians 3:1-3). Christ must be the focus in our gospel (1 Corinthians 2:1-5; 2 Corinthians 4:5). When we love Jesus for what He has done in saving us, this takes us beyond altar calls, “sinner’s prayers,” and takes us toward true discipleship (John 14:15; cf. Matthew 28:20).
Secondly, being a disciple of Jesus does involve disciplines. Jesus said that those who abide in His teachings are His true disciples (John 8:31-32). Jesus taught us that only those who do the will of His Father are saved (Mathew 7:21-27). As a disciple, I pray because Jesus told me to pray (Matthew 6:5). I spend time in the Word because Jesus told me to abide in His teachings. I worship and adore Jesus because I realize that I only have life in Him (John 15:1-11). Legalism believe that what I do earns God’s favor. Discipline is not legalism. I am not trying to earn God’s favor as I have that in Christ (Romans 5:1) but I am disciplined because I want to glorify my King (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).
Thirdly, it is the recognition that salvation is based on Jesus Christ and not my feelings. Feelings come and go but this does not change my salvation. My salvation is not based on how I feel. It is based on the finished work of Christ (John 19:30). In no way is salvation based on what I feel. The Bible, in fact, says that we are to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). This does not mean that we don’t have experiences or any feelings but rather that our hope is not based on these things. What we feel often doesn’t match up to what is true. This is why salvation must be in Christ alone and not what we do. The Bible continually points to the reality of 1 John 5:13. Our salvation is based on Jesus and not how I feel. This leads to the ability to always being ready to share the gospel for the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15-16). Paul the Apostle said our focus must be on that which is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
Lastly, I would challenge people coming back from missions trips to do something with their fire by going out into our own neighborhoods with the gospel. You don’t have to go 1000 miles to find lost people. They are all around us. Just as the people in Mexico need the gospel. So the person living next door needs the gospel. I am amazed that we will board a plane and go across the sea to preach the gospel to the lost but we will not even lift our voices in our own towns here to spread the gospel. Not everyone is an open air preacher but we all can have gospel conversations that point people toward Christ. Why do we get bold in other nations but are cowards here? If Proverbs 28:1 is true in Africa on our missions trips, why is it not true here? If Acts 1:8 is true when missions teams head to the coal mines of West Virginia then it is true in the streets of our towns. Don’t stop making disciples. Develop a culture of evangelism where it is just natural to share the gospel with the lost. I believe that disciples should try to use every conversation we have to point toward the gospel. This doesn’t happen though programs on evangelism but through the culture of evangelism. As a disciple, I am always looking for ways to tell others about Christ and His kingdom. Some conversations are better than others and I have failed at times but God is faithful to His promises and my heart is to just sow His Word wherever I can and as often as I can (Matthew 13:3). This is not based on a program or even one method but upon the realization that God has sent us all (who are true disciples) on a mission (Mark 16:15).
I hope these series of posts on missions trips and evangelism was helpful. My heart is burdened to see the Church spreading the gospel but not out of legalistic means but simply based on a culture of evangelism where the love of Christ compels us to go (2 Corinthians 5:14 NKJV). Our evangelism should be the overflow of devotion to Christ. We long to simply obey God because He is good toward us (Romans 2:4) and we want to make Him known among the nations (Acts 5:28-32).
I pray that many will hear His call and go (Isaiah 6:8).
Missions trips, evangelism tips, etc. have been a focus of mine for the last few posts. Let me return again to missions trips just for a moment before I dive into my point here.
Let’s take the average evangelical church. They come up when the idea that they want to go to Bolivia with on a missions trip. The trip dates are set, fliers are posted and announcements are made that they are going to Bolivia to spread the gospel. It is still many mouths away but people begin to register for the trip. Some take talking into while others join right up. In the next few months, money must be raised for each person to go on the missions trip. The cost is set at $1800 per person. This will include their flight to Bolivia, their place to stay (at a local Christian camp near the city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra. The city has over 1 million people so it’s a great place to evangelize), and their meals. Typically a group like this will have about 20 people so let’s just make it that many. They are going to do a Bible club for kids and some other forms of evangelism. They also will work with the local missionaries there to do some repairs to the church buildings. They will be there for 10 days. Usually you also have to have a day of “fun” (sometimes two days) where the Americans can be tourists.
I am not here to be critical of the hearts of the people who want to go on the missions trip. Some of them truly want to make an eternal impact for the gospel. Many others just want to visit Bolivia. To them, this is a glorified vacation where they get to ask others to fund their trip to Bolivia. For the missionaries in Bolivia, many of them need the workers (even for minimal jobs) and they need the cash support from the American churches to continue their mission. If a Bolivian church where to reject Americans from coming to their churches their financial support would also be hurt by this. They are in a no-win situation when it comes to welcoming American missions trip teams.
For me, the danger is not in people raising money to go to Bolivia or even the fact that American churches want to go on missions trips because I see the good that come from missions trips in the hearts of the people who truly are broken by the Spirit of God for the lost. My problem is what gospel are we preaching to the lost people of Bolivia?
Here you take 20 people from an evangelical church and my question would be: do they understand the gospel and are they able to tell others the gospel? I have watched time after time as evangelicals in the United States prepare missions teams to go to the nations but they themselves don’t know the gospel. I have seen people sign up for mission trips who never share their own faith here in their own Jerusalem. They act like they are burdened to go to the lost in these far off places but never share the gospel right where they are and yet we trust them to go to Bolivia and preach the true gospel? Perhaps we should make sure they know the true gospel and have been preaching the true gospel before we send them to preach the gospel.
What is the gospel? This is a fundamental question. We must be able to answer this or we will never be effective witnesses for Christ. The gospel is not the “sinner’s prayer.” The gospel is not merely knowledge about Jesus or the Bible. The gospel is not about being a certain type or denomination (I have seen people think that just because a nation is primarily Catholic like Bolivia then the gospel is already there). The gospel is not about just going through some steps (the “ABC”s of the gospel). The gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-3). The gospel is faith and repentance toward God after the law of God has broken our hearts over our sins (Romans 7:7; Galatians 3:23-24). The gospel is the obedience of faith (Romans 1:5) that comes after we repent and believe. The gospel response is to be baptized (Acts 2:38; 10:48; 22:16; Colossians 2:12).
Yet we take a group of people who can’t articulate the gospel to nations and places all the time. I am not saying that good can’t come from this. Again, I think many who go on missions trips need the gospel themselves. Some think that because they are going on a missions trip, this pleases God (Isaiah 64:6). Yet they come to see their own depravity before a holy God and they soon either truly repent of their sins or they hide on the missions trip doing odd jobs and avoiding any talk about Christ with the lost (because they don’t know Christ either and have no clue how to tell others about Him).
What do we do? First, we preach the gospel to our people. We all need the gospel each and every day. The fact that Jesus is alive and at the right hand of God is necessary for me each day. I can’t be a disciple in my own power. I need His grace (1 Corinthians 15:10). Grace is what saves us (Ephesians 2:8-9) and grace is what keeps us. I need to hear His voice daily to know Him and follow Him (John 10:27-29). The gospel is not something that I did back then and now I am right with God but the gospel is an ongoing relationship with God through Christ Jesus alone (Romans 5:1). My justification before a holy God, my sanctification, my discipleship – all this is based on Christ alone (1 Corinthians 1:30-31). I depend on Christ to save me initially and forever (Titus 2:11-14; Hebrews 7:25). The gospel is not then something what we preach just at the end of our sermons but all the time. The gospel is the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 1:16-17).
Secondly, we make sure those who want to go on a missions trip understand the gospel and have truly been born again. God knows those who are His own (2 Timothy 2:19) but there are signs that we can see if the person has truly been saved by God’s grace (2 Corinthians 5:17). Repentance involves the entire person and not merely a change in mind about Jesus or acknowledgement of our sins. Biblical repentance will transform the person as they surrender to the absolute Lordship of Christ. Our heart, mind, emotions, intellect, will, etc. are broken by the gospel and Jesus rules over them and He transforms them.
This will make an impact on the nations. Can you imagine taking a team of 20 people who truly understand the gospel, know how to share their faith, and have been saved by the grace of Christ to Bolivia? What would this mean not just for the gospel but for the people going? I believe that it would strengthen them as disciples of Christ and would spread the fire of the gospel to the lost in Bolivia. It would bless the missionaries there because they wouldn’t have to clean up the evangelical mess that typical groups from the States bring. Instead, the gospel could go forth and God saves sinners by His grace (1 Corinthians 3:5-9).
I want to post one more post on this subject and I will do that next.
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).
I heard a song this morning while working that claimed in it that all religions essentially worship the same God. The song was calling for religions then to be peaceful toward each other since we all are seeking to worship the same God. The song, along with modern culture, is oblivious to theology or they would not write nor utter such non-sense about God. Anyone can study the various religions and see that they don’t all worship the same God. Just consider Islam and Christianity for example. Both of these are the two largest religions in the world. Both claim to worship the one true and living God. Both believe the other is wrong with the exception of a few liberals among them. Now let us put this to the test.
- The God of Christianity is triune in the person of God. The false god of Islam is completely one (absolute monotheism).
- Jesus is the Son of God in Christianity, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and the Spirit. Jesus is the Messiah in Islam but just a man. Allah does not begot.
- Yahweh has revealed Himself as a loving, good, merciful, compassionate, and graceful God who saves those who have faith in His Son. Allah is said to be merciful and compassionate but there is no concept of grace in Islam because there is no understanding of personal sinfulness in Islam.
- Yahweh transforms His people from the inside out through the work of the Holy Spirit. Allah demands outward performance to worship him.
- Christianity claims the Bible is the inerrant and infallible Word of God. Islam claims the Quran is the inerrant and infallible Word of God.
So after that very brief survey of Christianity and Islam, only a foolish person would read that and then assume that these two religions worship the same God. Jesus said that He was the only way to God (John 14:6) and Paul the Apostle said that there is only one mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5-6). Islam would deny both claims. Christianity claims from Revelation 20:15; 21:27 that only those who have their names written in the Lamb’s book of life will be in heaven. The rest will be destroyed in an eternal hell (Matthew 25:46; 2 Thessalonians 1:9). Islam teaches, for the most part, that only faithful Muslims will enter into heaven.
For the disciple of Jesus, we have known this. We know just from talking to people that no two religions are the same. I have found that even people who claim to be Christians, who claim to be evangelicals, that they often worship a god of their own imagination. The great Puritan Stephen Charnock called most people “practical atheists.” Charnock noted that people often did not deny the existence of God with their lips or minds but with their lives (Titus 1:16). Charnock wrote,
“This secret atheism is the spirit of all sin. Every sinful motion practically throws off God’s law and sovereignty, declaring Him unworthy of His being. If it were allowed to be carried to its logical end, every sin of mankind would impugn, dethrone, and annihilate God, while setting up the sinner as a wiser authority.”
All sinners, whether they claim Jesus or not, operate as practical atheists when they refuse to worship and submit to the Lordship of Almighty God. You and I likewise are acting as practical atheists when we sin against God and refuse to obey Jesus as Lord (Luke 6:46-49). As Charnock goes on to note, we all want to be our own gods. This was the sin of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:5) and is still true today of us all who rebel against God and His Word.
May the Church rise up to answer the false notions of modern culture. Only Jesus saves and all who die without Him are doomed (John 3:18; 5:24-25). The Church must preach the truth of Jesus to the world (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15) and the world must hear the gospel to be saved (Romans 10:14-17). We must preach the truth of the gospel to all including the false religions such as Islam or Buddhism or any others. The world must repent or face the holy wrath of God (Acts 17:30-31; Romans 1:16-18). May we disciples of Jesus be active in preaching the gospel to the lost by the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8).
I am proud of my oldest son, Josiah. Josiah has had a heart to give Bibles to nations that lack the Word of God. He has been looking for ways to raise money to send to missions groups that give Bibles to the lost and to Christians to help them grow. He came up with the idea to sell baked goods (that my loving wife labored over) and he and my wife set up at a local produce market to sell the baked goods all for missions.
In total he raised $74 for missions! I am proud of him and his desire to give to missions. Missions is the heart of God. God Himself is the greatest missionary in sending His Son that He promised to Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:15) and fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ (John 1:14). The Spirit of God is the great convictor of sins as He convicts the world (John 16:8-11) to bring sinners to salvation through faith in Christ (John 6:44-45). Our God reaches out to us. We don’t “find Jesus” but He finds us and saves us. He draws us and He convicts us and He regenerates us. It is His work (John 1:12-13)!
I rejoice that my son is learning to have the heart of God for the lost. I pray that he will be a bold witness for the glory of Christ all his life.