When I was a young believer, I heard a couple of preachers talk about how Jesus’ coming could come at any time whether tomorrow, next week, next month, etc. Even though I wasn’t a Bible scholar by any means, this statement baffled me. My thinking was: “What about all the people that haven’t heard the Good News?” I recalled Jesus’ words that this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:14). Even though I haven’t heard it mentioned very often in the context of end-time prophecy, this statement is one of several key signs given to us by the Bible.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I do believe that we are in the very last days-it’s very clear that the “birth pains” are more intense now than at any other point in history. I just believe that God would give each everyone a chance to hear the message before He returns. For example, there are so many people that haven’t heard about Jesus in the 10/40 Window. Think about all of the unreached peoples with various dialects in China alone.
I went to a missions conference a year or two ago which said that if all major Christian organizations network together (which I believe they are), the whole earth could be exposed to the Gospel within twenty years.
When Jesus said that many are called, but few are chosen (Matthew 22:16), I believe people were selected because they answered the call. The United States has historically been a blessing to the earth through its Christian heritage of sending out more missionaries than anywhere else in the world. Now, I haven’t checked the figures lately, but I wouldn’t be surprised if other nations have caught up or even surpassed us in that category. Some of them are even sending out laborers to this country. This is a sobering thought. Recently, I heard a statistic that said that the longer a person is a believer, the less he or she witnesses. Though I don’t know the details of the study, I would venture to say that such a degree of“inward focus” is not the trait of today’s persecuted church. It certainly doesn’t fit my image of the church in Acts.
The Greek word for disciple is “mathano” which literally means ”student” or “learner.” In order for people to be used effectively in the harvest, they need training and equipping. When recently watching movies on D-Day, I saw how the soldiers were given directions and repeatedly practiced drills in order to prepare for the assault. On the day they launched out, things weren’t perfect. There were challenges and errors, but they were ready to go. Can you imagine if they just went out there cold turkey? The enemy isn’t about to give up land without a fight and soldiers need the proper tools to succeed.
Now, I have nothing against “seeker-friendly” churches- I understand the concept. If you want to catch certain fish, you need to use the right bait. Paul even said, I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some (I Corinthians 9:22). I recognize the principle of relating to people, but I draw a line when a church compromises the Word. God’s people need to be properly nourished so they have enough in them to give to a hurting world.
If new believers come to church and they are truly hungry for and in pursuit of God, there should be a change taking place in their lives as they submit themselves to leadership over time. They should, for example, be receiving a heart revelation of God’s love for them, walking in greater freedom, learning to listen to God’s voice more clearly, and becoming more aware of their calling. They should be learning and/or operating in their gifts and talents- both natural and spiritual- for the glory of God. They should have a practical understanding of their identity in Christ and learning to use their God-given authority.
Yes, an individual takes responsibility for the degree of growth in his/her walk with God . But so does the leadership that the person yields to because discipleship not only affects that individual but all the people that can potentially and exponentially be impacted through that vessel. A well-trained disciple not only produces good fruit from the tree, but contains the seed to produce more trees. Therefore, I believe that pastors, apostles, teachers, evangelists, and prophets will give an account before God for what they did with the sheep that God entrusted them with. This is why it says in Ephesians 4:12-13 that the purpose of the five fold ministry is for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry. It is no wonder, for example, that James said that teachers would be held to a stricter judgment (James 3:1 ).
Christians should be utilized extensively both within and beyond the four walls of the local church. As I heard one preacher point out, Jesus’ ministry was not only in the synagogue but He went out with His disciples to take the Kingdom to the people.
When mentioning the word “ missions”, some people think of overseas and rightly so- God will call several of us to pray, support, and/ or go to foreign soil. But we all need to be reminded that missions encompasses not just a place here or there but everywhere. If any of us have a burden for a certain people group, for instance, let us remember that there are opportunities here in the United States as well because the nations have come to us. I heard the following information from a preacher on the radio and I trust that this is accurate: There are more Jews in this country than in all of Israel and more Jews in Miami than there are in Tel-Aviv. There are more Irish in America than there are in Ireland. We are second only to Poland in Polish population. The United States is the second largest country with Latino population in the world. Pittsburgh is the “U.S. Capital”, so to speak, for Serbian people. Flushing, NY is a city with a wide diversity of nations in it. And this is the tip of the iceberg of what I recalled- I did not have time to write down the rest of the information.
The Bible tells us in Acts 1:8 that you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. Let us not forget our spheres of influence within our neighborhoods, workplaces, cities, states, etc. And based on our callings and giftings, we can impact change in one or more aspects of society including political, educational, economical, social, entertainment, etc.
I considered cancelling this blog entry due to the conviction I felt in not doing my part with missions. Honestly, I have been one of those “inward focused” people. Right now I can think of all the individuals whom I have not been obedient in reaching out to. Nevertheless, in my conscience, I decided to go ahead with this article with the understanding that I share about someone who exemplifies missions to me. There were so many precious family members and friends that I could have chosen to talk about, but I selected the person whom I live with every day… my wife. And in writing about Gabrielle, I hope it speaks to others- as it has done to me- of how all of us can be used by God no matter where we are or what we do:
In my block, there are at least two families where the husband left to be with another woman. To my knowledge, one of them has come back. Who knows what other family issues exist in the homes around me. Our neighbors appear to be fine money-wise, but there might be things going on that they are not telling anyone-one never knows the struggles people are going through with this economy. My wife wants to reach out. She wants to, for example, bake cookies for the holidays and take them over. She desires to invite people over to our house and would like for us to begin to put together a pantry to help those in need.
Beyond our block, I have seen her help, listen, and pray for a homeless person in need, give to churches collecting money in a street corner, etc. and helped pay someone’s bill at the grocery store.
At the local churches where we have attended over the years, I have seen her involved in organizing events, doing Bible studies, evangelistic outreaches, etc.
In the community college where she works, she prays each semester for an opportunity to help a student in need. This Fall, she was able to help a dire mother and her kids have enough for groceries and a Thanksgiving dinner. Another semester she reached out in prayer and visitation to a woman who was undergoing health issues with her family. And yet another year she planted seeds with a homosexual student who underwent epileptic attacks. We don’t know if the student is alive today or not, but we trust that if he is not, that he decided to open his heart to Jesus before he passed away.
I have listened to her heart as she talks about the city where we live. She has a desire to use a room at the local library, invite women from the area, and, for example, do a teaching using materials by John Maxwell. In the longer term she has a dream about having a center involving the participation of multiple churches and utilizing various gifts and talents to bless the community. She wants a place where people can receive assistance, training in job skills, Bible studies, and all sorts of other services.
During her university years, she had the opportunity to travel through different states with the crew from Toy-Maker’s Dream, a production with the message of the Gospel.
My wife has a heart for the nations. In fact, when I met her, she helped develop and organize an International student program at the university we attended. Thanks to her efforts, students have received economic, immigration, academic, cultural, and spiritual assistance. Over the years, she has helped support foreign missions trips and organizations through prayers and finances. She has also had the opportunity to go minister herself at such places as Costa Rica (where she also lived for four years), Peru, Argentina, and Mexico. She has a heart for children with no parents and she is appalled by the effects of sex-trafficking on women worldwide.
I have given examples from Gabrielle’s life just to illustrate the many different ways in which we can influence people for Jesus in this world. For her, missions is a regular part of her lifestyle and not a project. She sincerely cares about people and would rather go about helping others than to be doing something for the purpose of drawing attention to herself. I see Jesus’ love in action as I look at her life.
And so we all need to ask ourselves: “What is God calling me to do and am I doing it?” And none of us should say that our role is small and/or insignificant because every single person matters to God. I have heard it said that if any of us were the only person on earth, Jesus would have still come to die for us. If we take the time to open our hearts, we will see people that God has uniquely placed in our lives people for us to touch that others may not be able to do so. And the more we walk in obedience to the Holy Spirit’s leading, the more He can entrust us and then the bigger our sphere of influence will be. As the Bible says, he who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much (Luke 16:10)
The time is short. What are we going to tell Him when we stand before Him?
So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, ‘Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.’ His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ He also who had received two talents came and said, ‘Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.’ His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’
“Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’
“But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents.
‘For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. –Matthew 25:20-29
This blog entry is dedicated to family, friends, and other people who demonstrate to me daily examples of Jesus’ hands of love. Thank you.