Great Commission, Great Joy

posted by Dr. John Thweatt, Lead Pastor of First Baptist Church in Pell City, AL
One of the greatest joys I have in life is being involved in missions. In the last six years I have made six trips to Kenya, a trip to Tanzania, Honduras, and in March I went on a backpacking trip to Madagascar where we did survey work among several un-reached villages. I love to go and do missions. I love to see others go and do missions. One of our church members just got back from Costa Rica where his 13-year-old daughter led 40 people to Christ.

That is no doubt my greatest joy, but the greatest cause of grief comes when I hear that there are people who do not share the vision for world wide missions. From time to time I will hear people question our focus. One reason for the opposition to our spending and going overseas is the fact that there are so many needs right here where we live. I have no doubt that there are many needs right here and we should do all we can to meet them, but research shows that five out of six of the world’s non-Christians can only be reached by cross-cultural missionaries. They are found in people groups where there is no indigenous church to reach them. I live in a city where there is a church on every street corner, a Christian presence on every TV and Radio, and where they even sell Bibles at Wal-Mart and yet there are billions of people who have absolutely no opportunity to hear the Gospel. Doesn’t it make sense that we try to focus on the un-reached people groups or at least try to train those who can reach them?

We don’t feel the dreadful force of this state of affairs because we don’t look beyond America. Back in the 1980’s there was a major study which reported that in America there is 1 (so-called) evangelical for every 3 adults. There is 1 vocational Christian worker for every 296 people and there is one church for every 800 people, but in India for example, there is one Christian church for every 8,000 people and one Christian worker for every 4,500 people.

Maybe we can try to understand this by picturing ten men lifting a log; except that nine of the men are on one end of the log and one on the other. There are 190 countries in the world with proportionately fewer Christian workers than we have. Of these, 45 have less than one-tenth as many Christian workers in relation to their population as we have. Yet year in and year out, we send men and women to the wrong end of the log.

The simple fact is that the deployment of Christian troops in the world is proof that the church in America does not yet have a war-time mentality. There are many who question the number of troops we have in Iraq, but you have to send the troops to where the battle is. Think about the days before we entered WWII. What if our country had the same mindset toward war as the church does? If they shared our mindset when we drafted two million men we would send twelve hundred overseas to fight Hitler and 1.998 million to Arsenal in Anniston.

John Piper said, “One of the dangers of Arminianism is that it teaches men to usurp the place of God in conversion. One of the dangers of Calvinism is that it leads some to deny the place of man in evangelism. If the Book of Acts teaches anything it teaches that the Holy Spirit wills to reach the end of the earth through us.” It is not a question of “Has God called me to go?” The question is, “Has God called me to stay home?” God wants to use us to reach this world and the Bible clearly states that there are some who are going to go and there are those who are going to send, but we are all called to be involved in reaching lost people. To send them is to provide for their needs and to do all that you can to pave the way for them to go in your place, but it is also to be involved in reaching the man across the street while they reach the man across the ocean.

The Spirit wants the world for Christ; and a church deploying people into the world will be mightily blessed by God at home. It is time for churches to move dramatically with the Spirit in world evangelization. If you are a child of God you are a “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

I hope you see the purpose of all that you have been declared to be. God didn’t do all of that just so you could be a blessed—God did all of it so that you could “proclaim the excellences of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” You were not blessed to be personally blessed—you were blessed to be blessing.

Let me encourage you to get involved in missions here at home and across the world. The amazing thing is that if you will look around you the world is coming to you. I know Ryan shared the story of calling the 800 number to get help with his computer and talking to someone in India. This weekend I hired a couple of men to help work in our yard and they were from Mexico. In Huntsville Bill and Ora Parr taught English as a second language to countless numbers of people from China and I was privileged to baptize several of them. When you go eat a restaurant or go to a class in Birmingham you may well come across someone who was born in an un-reached people group. Why not get to know them. I can tell you from experience—being in a strange culture is a lonely experience. Look around you and reach your world one person at a time!

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