A New Day in Missions
In NT 2 on Wednesday we'll take a deep dive into the "Pastoral Epistles" -- a misnomer if ever there was one. We'll also look at the controversy over whether or not pastors should be paid a salary (1 Tim. 5:17) and the problem concerning the genuineness of these three letters (i.e., the question of authorship). I know that's a lot to cover but, hey, this is important stuff, especially given how tenuous many aspects of our current ecclesiology are today. As for "double honor" referring to financial remuneration -- Gordon Fee, for example, says Paul is referring to "the same honor afforded to others, plus a stipend" -- we will examine the positions of Carl Hoch, John Polhill, F. F. Bruce, Roland Allen, and Richard Lenski.
Good stewardship of our resources is really the issue here. Generally speaking, financial support in the New Testament is assigned to traveling evangelists or to prophets, not to settled local clergy. And that only makes sense. Just think of world missions today. Around the world the Holy Spirit is raising up thousands of dedicated men and women who are bringing the salvation story to their own people. These national Christians are taking the banner of the cross where colonial-era missionaries left off. Some call them the third wave of the modern missionary movement. The impact of this continues to grow. More and more believers in North America are learning to live more simply and creatively in order to support native missionaries. I believe this is the kind of faith and commitment it will take to reach the world with the Good News of Jesus Christ. I recall once reading about a church in North America that was building a new sanctuary for over $100 million dollars. My guess is that the same amount would be enough to practically guarantee that the gospel of Christ would be preached to an entire Indian state or among an entire people group in Ethiopia such as the Oromo or Amhara.
Years ago I had the privilege of having as a student a young man from Bagdogra, India. His parents had left Kerala in the south to begin a gospel ministry in the hard soil of northern India 4 decades ago. Today you can support a native missionary there for about one dollar a day. Years ago Becky and I got on board when we realized that the frontline work of missions in Asia has been taken over almost entirely by indigenous missionaries who are starting hundreds of new churches every week in the Two-Thirds World. These missionaries live simply, dress in the local clothing, and are able to share the Good News easily in the local language. And anyone can become involved. If each of us were to lay aside one dollar a day to help support a native missionary, I am convinced that there are enough potential sponsors to support all the native missionaries needed to evangelize the Two-Thirds World. When we look at the unfinished Great Commission and then compare it with our lavish lifestyles, how can we explain our lack of involvement? Undoubtedly the native missionary movement is the best hope for these unreached nations. In my many trips to Asia, the Middle East, and Asia, I have seen how God has called native missionaries to take the gospel into areas solidly controlled by traditional religions. When Africans share Christ with other Africans in a culturally acceptable way, the results are amazing. Six native missionaries Becky and I supported financially for three years in Northern Ethiopia planted four fully-indigenized churches in that period. If you're asking yourself, "Are native missionaries prepared to carry on cross-cultural evangelism?", the answer is a resounding yes -- and with great effectiveness. The transition is far easier than for someone coming from a Western culture. They often understand the culture, customs, lifestyle, and language much better than we do. And although social barriers continue to exist, they are much smaller and more easily overcome.
The upshot is this: Tens of thousands of native missionaries are being raised up by the Lord in all of these Two-Thirds World nations. Even more exciting is this: God is calling all of us to be part of what he's doing in these nations. We have it in our hands to make it possible for thousands of native missionaries to move out with the liberating gospel of Jesus Christ. They will go to the lost if Christians in the West will only help. Missions is the primary task of the local church. If this is the case, then why should so many of our dollars stay in the U.S. to support salaries and church buildings? My exhortation this week will be: For the sake of Christ, we need to review the financial and mission polices of our local churches, with every believer reconsidering his or her own stewardship practices and submit them to the Holy Spirit's guidance in how best to support the global outreach of the Body of Christ. As Roland Allen has put it, "Foreigners can never successfully direct the propagation of any faith throughout a whole country. If the faith does not become naturalized and expand among the people by its own vital power, it exercises an alarming and hateful influence, and men fear and shun it as something alien. It is then obvious that no sound missionary policy can be based upon multiplication of missionaries and mission stations" (The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, p. 19).
Friends, we are facing a new day in missions, but it requires the cooperation of Christians in both the East and the West. I don't know about you, but I am more carefully examining each dollar I send for missions and asking, "Is there waste involved here?" During World War II, Americans proved that they could make astonishing sacrifices. They lived simply. Their gas was rationed. Factories were retooled to support the war effort. Production of durable goods like vacuum cleaners and kitchen appliances were banned until war's end. Hollywood studios went all out for the war effort. Even though the battles were fought far away, the daily lives of those on the home front were drastically changed.
Today, Christians live as peacetime soldiers. We will sacrifice to buy books, to listen to groups sing Christian songs, to travel miles to hear a Christian speaker. All the while, native missionaries are waiting to go to the next village with the gospel. Even as I write this blog post, I sense God is calling me to become a better steward of what he's given me. No doubt I can do a much better job. More than 2 billion people are waiting to hear the gospel. I want to see these people reached with the Good News. I know you do too. In India alone, nearly half a million villages remain without a Christian witness. How can native missionaries go to the lost unless someone sends them? Will we join together in ministering to them?
October 25, 2020
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com.